Andrew didn’t answer. He yanked on a pair of pants, then sat on the end of the mattress to pull on his socks and shoes. His shirt wasn’t buttoned as he stalked past her, toward the door.
“Where are you going?” Leah asked, running after him. Tears blurred her eyes and it was difficult to speak normally.
“Andrew,” she cried, “please wait.”
His hand was on the door, his back to her.
“Don’t go. You’re right. I’m sorry, so sorry. Please.”
His shoulders rose and then relaxed. For the longest time he didn’t move. She wasn’t entirely sure he was breathing—she knew she wasn’t. The only sound in the room was her soft whimper as she struggled not to weep.
“I won’t be gone long,” he said, opening the door and walking out.
Leah flinched when the door closed, the sound exploding in the otherwise quiet room. She pressed a hand to her flat stomach and for a moment she thought she was going to be physically sick.
How long she stood there, paralyzed with pain, she didn’t know. She couldn’t guess. After a while she turned and headed for their bedroom. Slumping onto the edge of her mattress, she opened the drawer of her night stand and reached for the temperature chart she faithfully kept. Staring at them, her eyes filled with tears. After a moment, she walked into the kitchen. Her feet felt heavy and made small scuffing sounds against the floor as she listlessly made her way across the other room.
She opened the garbage compactor and tossed it inside. Along with the spiral pad, Leah felt as if she were throwing away her dreams.
It took her a moment to compose herself before she drew in a deep, stabilizing breath and reached for a dirty plate from their breakfast. She rinsed it off and blindly stacked it into the dishwasher.
Chet wasn’t anywhere in the audience, at least not where Monica could see him. Relief swept through her as she looked out over the crowd of Christmas shoppers from her stance on the top riser. She hadn’t approved of this Sunday afternoon outing. To her way of thinking a performance on Sunday wasn’t proper for Christians. The way she interpreted the Bible, the Sabbath was a day of rest. Those who opted to spend their time shopping were breaking the observance of the Lord’s day. She’d tried to reason with her father and Michael when they’d first planned this performance weeks earlier, but her objection had been overridden. Her father had claimed their singing was a way of spreading the message of love and joy. As usual, Monica had no argument.
Now she was pleased it had been overridden because it gave her an opportunity to see Chet again—if she did. It didn’t feel good to admit that, but Monica was tired of fooling herself. She needed to see him again, just once more, to banish him from her mind, to prove there could never be anything between them.
The performance went well, although Monica was preoccupied searching the sea of faces for Chet’s. No doubt he was entertaining himself in the Blue Goose, the bar he chose to frequent. It would serve him right if she walked right in there and demanded to talk to him. She could embarrass him the way he had her.
Sneaking away from the others, however, proved to be more difficult than she anticipated.
“Are you coming?” Michael asked her. He was tall and so thin the first thing she thought of whenever they met was that someone should feed him.
Monica looked up at him, her mind a blank. She hadn’t been listening to the conversation and hadn’t a clue what he was talking about.
“To Sherry’s,” he elaborated when she didn’t respond right away. “She’s invited the ensemble over for hot cider and cookies.”
“I . . .” Her gaze darted to the Blue Goose. “I have an errand to run first, but I’ll be there shortly.”
“An errand,” Michael repeated. “Downtown?”
She said in a no-nonsense tone, grateful he didn’t quiz her about what she was doing, especially in light of her earlier protests about abusing the Lord’s day. “I won’t be long . . . you go on ahead with the others. I’ll be at Sherry’s within the hour.”
“You mean you aren’t going back with everyone else?”
The man seemed to have a comprehension problem. “Yes,” she said forcefully. “I already explained I have an errand I need to run.” Then feeling mildly guilty for the outburst, she added, “I won’t be long.”
“Perhaps we should wait for you.”
“No,” she said quickly. She could well imagine what the others would think if they saw her walking into a tavern. “I appreciate the offer, but that isn’t necessary.”
Michael looked as if he weren’t sure what he should do, which only served to irritate her further. “Perhaps I should stay with you.”
“Michael, please, that isn’t necessary.” The man seemed intent on thwarting her, which aggravated her so much she was barely civil. “I’ll see you within the hour.” Not waiting for any further arguments, she turned and abruptly walked across the street to the Westlake Mall.
The crowds were thick and the moment she was free to leave, she escaped the shopping mall and hurried across the street. Making certain none of the other choir members had lingered, she walked purposefully toward the Blue Goose.
Her hand was on the door when she realized what she was doing. She was willing to walk into an establishment that practiced iniquity in the lowest form, in order to locate Chet. A man who plagued her thoughts from the moment they’d met. Something was dreadfully wrong with her.
She turned, practically running in her eagerness to escape, stopping only when she came to the street. She felt someone move behind her.
“I thought as much. You were looking for me, weren’t you?”
There could be no mistaking the voice. It belonged to Chet Costello.
It must have taken Jody forty-five minutes to persuade Timmy to go to bed, and then only after Glen agreed to help her tuck him in.
“I’m not tired,” Timmy insisted as Jody pulled back the sheets of his twin bed. “I want to talk to Glen.”
“About what?” Jody knew the instant the words escaped her lips that she’d walked right into that with both feet.
“All kinds of stuff. I need to know what kind of dad he’s going to be. After all, God sent him, didn’t He?”
A gigantic hole for her to fall in would have been welcome just then. Her son had a knack of knowing exactly what to say that would embarrass her the most. “Timmy, please.”
“I don’t really need to be tucked in,” Timmy told Glen, sounding mature for his years. “I just wanted to show you my stuff.” Something that he’d spent every available moment doing since Glen had arrived. Timmy had dragged out his baseball mitt and bat and his beloved baseball card collection for Glen to inspect. The poor man hadn’t had a moment’s peace in over an hour.
“Good night, Tim,” Jody said sternly, standing in the doorway, her hand on the light switch.
“ ’Night, Mom. ’Night, Glen.”
Jody felt as though her cheeks were red enough to guide ships lost in the fog. She barely knew Glen and already her son was announcing what a great father he’d make. There was no help for it, she was forced to explain.
“I’ll get you that coffee now,” she said, leading the way into the compact kitchen and reaching for a mug. Her back ached from holding it so straight and stiff. She didn’t know how she could possibly explain. “I apologize for what Timmy said earlier.”
“You know, about you making him a great father. He’s at the age now where he misses a man in his life.”
“I imagine his friends talk about their dads.”
Jody nodded. “Recently Timmy wrote a letter in school to God asking for a father. Apparently he looks at you as the answer to his prayer because . . . well, because you’re the first man I’ve dated in a long while and . . .”
“That explains the comment about God sending me,” Glen said as he carried the two steaming coffee mugs to the table.
“I suppose.” Jody reluctantly admitted that much. “I didn’t want you to feel pressure because of what he’d said and I certainly didn’t want you to think that . . . that I’d put him up to it.”
“I didn’t.” Glen sat down and crossed his legs, relaxing against the chair. He appeared more amused than concerned. “He’s a wonderful boy. You’ve done a good job raising him.”
“Thank you.” His words made her proud, but at the same time she realized that she’d failed her son in some way, otherwise she would have recognized his need for a man in his life. Her father had served that purpose for Timmy until his death and the void had been deeply felt by her young son.
“I’m honored that Timmy thinks I’m good father material,” Glen added between sips of coffee.
“It helped that you had a signed Ken Griffey, Jr. baseball card,” Jody teased, then grew serious. “I thought I should explain why Timmy’s so eager for us to get to know each other better.”
The lines that fanned out from Glen’s eyes relaxed as he set aside his mug and reached for her hand. “I’m just as eager to know you and Timmy better, but I’m an adult and it wouldn’t be considered cool to let it show. I realize we’ve only been acquainted a short while, and it’s much too soon to be thinking along the lines Timmy is, but . . .” He hesitated and his eyes studied hers, his look intense. He seemed to be weighing his words carefully, then shrugged and added, “Oh, what the hell, you can think what you want, but I like you, Jody, I like you a lot, and I think Timmy’s a great kid. I haven’t made it a secret that I’m strongly attracted to you.
“As far as I’m concerned the fact that you have a son who’s looking for a father is an added bonus. I want a family, and have for some time. I’d be pleased if we both started thinking along those lines.
“There, I’ve said it and I’ve probably shocked you, but we’re both mature adults, capable of handling the truth, don’t you think?”
Jody didn’t know what to say. She felt overwhelmed and apprehensive. She stood abruptly, nearly toppling her chair in her haste. “I’m flattered, really flattered, but . . . it’s too soon, much too soon for us to be thinking along those lines.”
“Of course it is,” Glen agreed patiently. “I’m sorry, Jody, I didn’t mean to upset you. You’re right, of course, I got caught up in Timmy’s enthusiasm. Forgive me.”
“There’s nothing to forgive.”
Glen hadn’t done anything more than sample his coffee, but he stood and carried the mug to the sink. “I should be going.”
Jody nodded, but immediately felt guilty. Glen looked a little like Timmy after she’d had to tell him no when it was something he really wanted.
“Would you be willing to see me again, or have I completely terrified you?” he asked when he reached the front door.
Jody couldn’t see how she could refuse. “I’d enjoy going out with you again.”