And, we’re back! The thing many had predicted happened last week, but most of our cheery cast of characters don’t know about it yet. They haven’t even made it back to Spokane yet.
The foursome didn’t leave Seattle until nearly three o’clock.
It was a six hour drive back to Spokane, and they would need to stop for dinner somewhere along the way.
Just probably not at the same place Gordon stopped.
They passed over Snoqualmie Pass just before four o’clock. All signs of Gordon’s wreck had been removed ninety minutes earlier.
As you’ll remember, the four of them had checked out of their hotels and had lunch overlooking the Sound before hitting I-90. They need up having supper at 7:00 in Moses Lake, at Kentucky Fried Chicken. While there, Gwen called Lynn from a pay phone and asked her to keep Casey overnight, because “she couldn’t possibly pick Casey up and get her home before ten-thirty or eleven.” I am all confusion. It’s a four and a half hour drive. They left at 3:00 and it’s going to take them until 10:30 or 11:00? They must be driving really slowly and doing a lot of talking along the way.
When they get back on the road Stan and June fall asleep and Gwen takes the opportunity to point out that it’s the end of October and Peter had promised to give her an answer. Peter is evasive.
“Gwen, can I talk to you alone when we get to your house? I don’t want to take any chance that what I have to say will be overheard. I just want to tell you—no one else, OK?”
“I guess,” Gwen answered. “I’ll just be glad when the uncertainty is over.”
“I think you’ll have an answer real soon,” Peter said forcing himself to smile.
Because that doesn’t sound ominous . . .
Gwen falls asleep too, and it’s after ten when Peter pulls up at Stan and June’s house.
He and Gwen drove in silence toward her house just seven or eight minutes away. Peter thought he would be sick to his stomach. He realized that this might be the last time he ever spoke alone with Gwen—at least outside of his office.
I don’t think that last bit comes across the way Farris wants it to.
When they pull in, they find that there are police cars at Gwen’s house. Gwen is jittery and Peter offers to talk to the police for her. She agrees. Peter introduces himself as Gwen’s lawyer.
“We’re here to notify Mrs. Landis about a traffic fatality.”
“What?” Peter said incredulously. “Who?”
“I’m supposed to tell her,” the officer replied.
“It’s not her daughter, is it? She’s spending the night at a friend’s out in the valley.”
“It’s not her daughter. Why don’t you just bring Mrs. Landis inside and I’ll tell the two of you together?”
Peter walked back to the car, with a shocked look on his face.
“Gwen, you’d better come inside. Someone’s had an accident. He won’t tell me who it is, but it’s not Casey.”
When Gwen gets out, she puts her arm in Peter’s. They all walk into the house together, along with the officer. Peter and Gwen sit on the couch, Gwen “still clutching Peter’s arm.” This is really not a heroine I’m being able to identify with. I guess we know how Farris’s ideal woman behaves, I suppose? Anyway, the officer sits opposite and delivers his news:
“Ma’am, it is my sad duty to inform you that your husband has been killed in a car accident.”
OMG, if the officer thinks Gwen’s married, this whole clutching-her-lawyer’s-arm thing must look really strange to him. Anyway, Gwen says she’s not married and the officer worries that he has the wrong address.
“Is your name Gwen Landis?”
“Who is Gordon Landis?” the officer asked.
The tears began to flow down Gwen’s cheeks. “Gordon? Dead?”
“Gordon is her ex-husband, Officer,” Peter said softly. “They’ve been divorced for a couple years.”
Always helpful, Peter.
The officer apologizes and Peter says it’s alright.
“She needed to know. They have a child, a little girl. She’ll need to know about her father.”
“But there was one strange thing. There were no signs of braking at all. The investigators suspect break failure. He didn’t leave a single mark trying to stop before plunging off the road.”
Gwen says she doesn’t want to hear any more. Peter puts his arm around her and she keeps crying. Gwen realizes that someone needs to call her parents and Gordon’s mother. Peter offers to call her parents. I realize that this is supposed to sound helpful, but honestly, I’m back to wondering why Gwen didn’t have any friends at all before this book started. Gwen says her mom should contact Gordon’s mom. Peter sets Gwen on the couch, goes to the phone, and calls Gwen’s parents.
When Peter comes back he helps Gwen to the car, because “it was decided” that she should spend the night with her parents. I want to know who decided. Did Gwen have any input? I get that in moments like this it can sometimes help to have other people making this sort of decision for her, but good god, it shouldn’t be Peter.
Stan smiled weakly at Peter as he opened the door wide enough to let his daughter and Peter in together.
June appeared and immediately embraced his daughter. They were both crying quietly. Despite all that happened, Gordon was still Casey’s father.
“I think we can handle it from here, Peter,” Stan said softly. “Thanks again.”
Thank you, Stan.
I’m going to keep going, but I need to do more summarizing, because this is getting tedious. Gwen goes to her old room in her parents’ house, in shock.
Her mind was swirling. How would Casey react? What should she say? And with increasing frequency, the thought raced into her mind, What does this mean for me and Peter? The thought gave her hope for their relationship, but as soon as she went down teat mental path, she felt guilty. As if Gordon had died because she wanted to be free from the dilemma arising from her divorce.
Why yes, that is exactly what happened.
And now Gwen starts thinking about Peter. She realizes that Gordon’s death is awfully convenient for him. Then she starts remembering the times Peter told her he sometimes wished Gordon would just die. She remembers that the night he and Gordon got into it physically, Peter had said “he made it personal tonight.” And then there was the time Peter said Gordon was “really asking for it.” The thoughts kept coming, and then Gwen remembered that just that evening Peter had said “I think you’ll have an answer real soon.”
And he had smiled. Not a reassuring smile as if he had been released by God to marry her. A sick sort of smile. A smile she couldn’t quite understand.
And then she remembers the conversation between Peter and the officer, and all of Peter’s questions, and the officer’s statement about brake failure.
Her thoughts swirled. The seeds were sown. Confusion, then doubt, then despair. Peter was somehow responsible for Gordon’s accident. He had done something to his car which caused him to crash. Maybe the brakes. Maybe something else.
The thoughts shocked her even more than Gordon’s death. But try as she might, she couldn’t shake them. Finally, around two-thirty, she passed out from pure exhaustion.
Okay, first of all, this is Peter’s fault, and by extension Farris’s fault. And second, we’re of course eventually going to learn that Gwen was wrong, and that Peter had only Godly Intentions, and that’s going to be a horrifying mixture of silly, flighty woman who jumps to assumptions and good, innocent man who was never anything but honorable.
Gordon died because Farris needed him to die, to free Gwen to marry Peter. What’s weird about this is that Gwen has, on some level, realized this. Now sure, she’s going to end up assured that that wasn’t it at all, it was just a freak accident, but in fact that was it. Period. Farris killed off Gordon so that Gwen could marry Peter, full stop.
I must say, this book highlights the messed up nature of evangelical theology on divorce and remarriage a whole lot more effectively than it does child protective services overreach.