The traffic into the city was heavy, but Jody barely noticed. She drove by rote, her mind wandering from one inane topic to another. When she pulled into her assigned spot in the parking garage, she was surprised to realize where she was and had no memory of the commute.
At least while she was at the office she could occupy her thoughts with matters other than Jeff’s mother. Despite everything, a small part of her—no, she corrected, a very large part of her—had been wounded by the things Gloria had said.
Why should it matter that her mother-in-law would tell her dead son what a terrible wife Jody was?
Somehow it did.
It unsettled her that Gloria’s opinion of her was so important. Jody had been a good wife. No woman could have possibly loved Jeff more. No woman could have grieved harder, or longer—except, possibly, his mother.
Because of Timmy it was impossible for Jody to isolate her life the way Gloria had. Because of Timmy she was forced to deal with the present. She’d done a good job, or at least she assumed she had until her son had written his letter to God. Timmy needed her, not to look back and weep with her pain, but to stand tall and proud and to point the direction of their future.
Jody had no more than settled down at her desk, her thoughts more confused than ever, when Glen Richardson arrived. She looked up at the attorney’s warm, concerned face, and felt an immediate sense of serenity.
He had a calming affect on her and had from the first. It hadn’t taken long for him to become a good friend, and she’d never needed one more.
“How’d it go with your mother-in-law?” he asked, sitting on the edge of her desk.
Jody averted her gaze. “Not good.”
“She’s a lonely old woman.”
“I know,” Jody said, “but somehow that doesn’t make this any easier.”
Glen’s eyes were sympathetic. “I’m sure it doesn’t. How’s Timmy?”
“Great. He’s checking the water in the tree stand every morning just the way you said. I swear, he’s brought every kid in the neighborhood home to show them the Christmas tree he cut down by himself.”
“Hey, don’t I get any credit?”
“Apparently not. He’s got the neighborhood believing he’s a regular lumberjack. He wanted to wear his plaid shirt and boots to school this morning. It seems he’s got an image to live up to now.”
Glen chuckled, but then his eyes grew serious. “I hope you don’t mind, but I bought Timmy a baseball mitt for Christmas. I realize it was presumptuous of me to do something like that without talking to you first.”
Jody wasn’t sure how she felt about Glen giving them presents. It was thoughtful, yes, but baseball mitts were expensive and it seemed to imply that there was something more than mere friendship.
“The mitt he showed me is too small for his hand,” Glen explained. “I’m surprised his coach let him play with it. If Timmy’s going to pitch, and he certainly seems to have his heart set on that, then he’ll need a properly fitting mitt.”
“It was very kind of you, Glen.”
“But?” He scooted off her desk, and seemed to be waiting for her to chastise him.
“Timmy will think he’s in heaven.” Jody couldn’t make herself berate Glen. She wouldn’t have known Timmy’s mitt was too small if Glen hadn’t told her. If anything, he’d proved Timmy’s point. Her son needed a father’s loving guidance.
Glen looked at his watch. “I better get back to my office. I have to be in court later this morning.”
“Thanks for stopping by.”
“No problem. How about dinner one night this week?”
Before Jody even thought about what she was doing, she nodded.
This was a pivotal moment for her.
She’d welcomed another man into her life, calmly accepted his companionship. She had taken for granted that she would see Glen again and soon. More earth-shattering was how much she was looking forward to spending more time with him.
Some of what she was feeling must have leaked into her eyes, because Glen didn’t leave. Slowly, he walked around to her side of the desk, claimed a second chair, and sat down next to her.
“What just happened?” he asked, leaning forward and bracing his elbows on his knees. “Something clicked in your mind just now. I could see it as plain as day. Tell me what it was.”
“I realized how pleased I was that we’re dating.”
He laughed, and Jody was certain he didn’t understand the significance of what she was saying. For the last seven years she’d lived her life in limbo. The still, shadow-filled existence had become a shelter to her. It had protected her from exposing her heart to any additional pain. What she had missed in all those years, wrapped in a cocoon of safety, didn’t bear thinking about.
Now here, out of the blue, like a miracle, was a man who’d gently pushed and prodded his way past the barriers of her resolve. A man who hadn’t asked her to stop loving Jeff. He hadn’t attempted to push her dead husband out of her life. All he’d asked was that she make room for him.
“Yes.” He reached for her hand, holding it lightly in his own.
Where she found the courage, she didn’t know. Didn’t question. All at once it was there, like the warming rays of dawn at the end of a long, cold night. “Would you like to marry me?”
At first her words were met with a shock-filled silence. Glen looked at her as if he suspected he hadn’t heard her correctly. “Did you just say what I think you did?”
Jody had never been more embarrassed in her life. She hadn’t a clue what had prompted her to ask such a thing. All at once the thought was there, and the words had tumbled from her lips like awkward chunks of ice over the edge of a pitcher. She wanted to reach out and jerk back the question, but before she had a chance to do or say anything more, Glen spoke.
“I would consider it the greatest honor of my life to be your husband and Timmy’s stepfather.”
“I shouldn’t have—”
“You should have,” Glen interrupted with feeling. “I just never dreamed this would happen so soon.” He looked at his watch once more and she could see the regret work its way into his eyes.
“We’ll talk about it later,” she promised.
“Set the date, Jody. We can shop for an engagement ring this weekend.” How eager he sounded, how pleased.
Maybe it wasn’t such a crazy idea after all. She’d waited so long and here was an opportunity of a lifetime. Here was a chance of finding happiness and she was grabbing hold of it with both hands.
Yes, it was happening so fast, but that was the way she wanted it. If she had too much time to think about remarrying, she might find an excuse to change her mind.
“Let’s get married in January, after the holidays,” she blurted out, as Glen headed for the door.
He turned around and flashed her a smile that rivaled the noonday sun. “January it is.”
“Yes!” Shirley did a leap into the air off the filing cabinet, both hands raised in jubilation. A stack of papers went flying in all directions and Jody whirled around.
“What was that?” she asked as the papers fluttered to the ground.
Another woman in the office said, “It’s that damn heating vent. It sends out a rush of hot air every now and again.” She rolled her chair over to Jody. “Here, let me help you pick those up.”
Jody looked up and frowned. The heating vent wasn’t anywhere near the filing cabinet.
Shirley stayed plastered against the ceiling, her hands covering her mouth. “Oops,” she whispered.
“Don’t you think we should contact the maintenance man?”
“Naw,” the other woman said. “It doesn’t happen that often.”
“Hey,” Jody murmured, “look at this. It’s a feather. How do you suppose a feather got in here?”
“I haven’t got a clue,” her friend said, handing her a stack of papers.
Shirley left before she caused any further damage and ascended directly toward the golden light of heaven, exhilarated with this unexpected turn of events.
To her delight Gabriel was waiting for her.
“Come in, come in,” he greeted her. He was a magnificent angel, tall and regal looking, an impressive sight after a steady stream of men of the earth. For a fraction of a second Shirley admired the strength and power exuding from him.
“You’re here to report about Timmy Potter?” Gabriel asked in a no-nonsense tone.
“That’s right,” Shirley said, nodding. “My mission’s accomplished, Timmy’s mother became engaged to Glen Richardson this morning.”
“Glen Richardson,” Gabriel repeated. He walked over to the desk where the cumbersome volume was stored and flipped open the thick book. He ran his finger down the page until he found Glen’s name, then looked up at Shirley and frowned.
“He’s a wonderful man and will make Timmy an excellent father,” Shirley hurried to say. She strained her eyes to read what Gabriel seemed to question, but wasn’t able to see anything beyond the archangel’s massive hand.
“You need to return to earth right away,” Gabriel continued. “There’s been some misunderstanding. Jody and Timmy are going to need you. The winds of trouble are brewing.”
“You can’t tell me anything more than that?” Shirley asked. She should have known it wouldn’t be this easy, especially since she was so new at this.
“There’s nothing more I can tell you,” Gabriel said, and she heard the regret in his voice.
“But . . .”
“Go,” Gabriel said, spreading his massive wings. “You have work to do.”
For years Leah had avoided the infant sections of department stores. Now she found herself drawn to them as if a magnet were luring her in their direction.
She was supposed to be Christmas shopping, instead she wandered about looking at beautifully crafted cribs, lovingly running her hand over the polished wood railings. The joy that blossomed in her heart was strong.
She was going to have a baby.
After all these years she was about to bear a child. Her waiting, her pain had come to pass.
Andrew’s words of warning echoed harshly in the back of her mind. How she wished she could find some way to explain the deep certainty she experienced. She yearned to rub away his doubts and lend him the assurance she’d felt from that very first morning.
Soon she would be able to look him in the eye and tell him her body was nurturing his seed. For years she’d carried this dream with her, of watching her husband’s expression when she told him he would soon be a father.
Nothing could have pleased her more than to purchase a complete layette right then and there, but she didn’t want to risk another confrontation with Andrew. They had all the baby furniture they’d ever need in storage. Once Dr. Benoit had confirmed her pregnancy, there’d be plenty of time to set up a nursery.
Her appointment wasn’t until the twenty-third, but she was fortunate to get one as quickly as that, so she wasn’t complaining. Seeing the doctor that close to Christmas had its advantages. That way she wouldn’t need to wait long to make the announcement to both sets of parents. If she saw Dr. Benoit any sooner, she’d never have been able to keep the happy news to herself.