Betty hounded Sharon so much she wanted to throw the phone against the wall when her answering machine failed to dissuade her neighbor. She couldn’t even jog to the corner store without Betty running her down. How many times did she have to tell her she didn’t want to go to her ladies’ Bible study?
“Sharon, are you busy Thursday night? My friends are having a quilting bee. Poor Susie’s daughter is pregnant and the boy won’t marry her but maybe it’s just as well. He’d bring nothing but trouble, don’t you know.” Clicking her teeth together, Betty reminded Sharon of her grandfather when food got stuck in his dentures. Sharon glanced at her watch remembering her doctor’s warning.
“Reduce the stress in your life, Mrs. Harris.” Raising the back of her shirt, Doctor Parker placed the cold stethoscope against her bare back. “You’ll never live to be an old lady if you don’t.”
“I jog every day.” She took another deep breath.
“Not enough. Get out and relax. Go to church. Take up a hobby.” He spun back around in front of her on his stool. He meant well. Rick had been gone two years but she still couldn’t sleep a full night.
But Sharon knew hanging out with Betty and her cronies wasn’t the answer. Swerving into the parking lot of the mall, she reached for her purse on the seat beside her. Coffee – a tall one would taste good- she’d had only three so far today. Sharon made straight for the counter and felt herself calm as soon as the warmth from the cup touched her hand. With a magazine from the stand, she settled into the chair closest to the street.
“Could I have that paper?” A deep voice startled her from her self-imposed reverie.
Sharon looked up into steel-blue eyes which mirrored her mood. “Of course.” Handing her intruder the crumpled newspaper, she pulled back on her hair. “Sorry …” He smiled at her like the nurse did at the doctor’s office. Was it that obvious?
“Sharon Harris … am I right?” Her stranger pulled out the chair across from her and slid into it. Drawing in her feet, Sharon glanced at the counter. No one turned her way.
“You know me?” she asked with a stab of annoyance.
“I knew your husband. I know you from the picture he kept on his bookcase behind his desk.” That picture … their Paris vacation ... she’d hated the way she’d posed for the camera. She’d been exhausted from the hike to the cathedral but Rick wanted a picture. So long ago. She looked into his smile below those eyes.
“Rick and I sometimes met for Bible study at lunch. Did he tell you? We had some great conversations.” He laughed like he expected her to join him only she couldn’t because she didn’t know what he was talking about. Rick and a Bible study?
“I’m sorry – it’s been awhile.” Sharon sipped her coffee hoping this man would take his paper and memories with him.
“Sharon, I’m sorry about what happened to Rick. I know the accident was horrible. I wish I could have attended the funeral but I was out of town when I heard.” He studied his hands then her face. “But I know where Rick is today.”
His words rattled her heart. “You don’t know anything for sure. Nobody does.” An image of Betty and her lady friends almost made her choke on her next words. “Rick died – The End.”
A look settled between his eyes – forcing one of her long buried memories to swim to the surface. “I spoke with Rick two days before I left town. He died trusting Jesus as his Savior, Sharon." He closed the space between them. “Didn’t he tell you?”
Her sudden tears blurred the look she knew her stranger now wore. “He tried, but I didn’t listen.”
The next morning, Sharon tied her sneakers in a double knot prepared for a long run. Betty waited at her curb like she did every day. “Mornin’ Sharon. Want some company? The girls and I are meeting later…”
Breaking into a smile, Sharon slowed her pace. “Sure Betty, I’d love some company today.”
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