Delilah Goodnight is a grieving WW11 widow when Nathan McCarthy rents a room from her in wartime Portland, Oregon. While he’s trying to complete his doctoral thesis on Roman History, he finds his mind and his work detoured by a growing passion for the beautiful, mysterious woman who ignites his sexual longings.
Tragedies of wartime intrude on their lives as they try to cope with their heartbreaks. As Nathan begins to write an impassioned novel to mirror his wishful desires, his imagination takes precedence over his academics until the virtual love affair consumes him. A dark history interrupts his fantasy with an unsolved house fire, a casualty at sea, illicit affairs and a road ending up between reality, truth and the dark side of sanity.
She had the saddest eyes I’ve ever seen. They shone like twin Earths rising over a lunar landscape, evoking a pulse of longing and remorse in a stranded traveler’s soul. I had never seen eyes like those, the color of Delft china, as brilliantly blue as drugstore glass, deep enough to wade in. And every once in a while when you caught her staring at the photograph on the Philco console, they sparkled like a Hollywood close-up. Not lit by tears, just memories breaching the light of day. That’s how I remember her. First the eyes. And lastly a melancholy burning in my brain that smolders still.
Delilah was thirty-three-years old when I met her. Not met her actually in the formal sense as people did in those days. We weren’t even introduced. I saw the sign in the front window, set my bag down on the sidewalk and rang her bell. It was a Tuesday, and I had slept on the oak benches at the Bus Depot on Fifth Avenue rather than cross the river and catch a streetcar to my father’s bungalow on Fremont Street. Ever since my sister Carla had snagged a good paying job with The Boeing in Seattle and left home in March, Pop was alone in the house. My abandonment was especially hard on my father. I felt the guilt weighing on my shoulders as I hunched against the light rainfall, determined to cut the tether and seek my future.
Delilah came to the door with a white turban wrapped around her hair and those bold, blue eyes staring out at me. I didn’t even notice her mouth, how sofa-cushion soft it was as it widened into an aloof gesture not unlike a regret. She wasn’t wearing any lipstick or rouge, just those incredible eyes shining like Streamliner headlights. There was no compassion in her gaze. I felt as if she were seeing right through me. I even turned to look back down the steps to
discover who was pressing on my trail, hot after the furnished room I wanted. No one there. No one I could see anyway.
“Are you here about the room?”
“Yes,” I said. “I saw the sign.”
“Well, I’m sorry, but I just showed it to a lady who wants it.”
I was driven to persistence by a pain in my backbone, stinky socks and a crick in my neck from using my duffle bag as a pillow. “Could I just take a look?”
When she looked up, her gaze caused a spark in my brain. Not much in itself, but in that second, my life changed course.