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He shook his head. “Everyone there’s already married.”

“I’ll bet someone you know has offered to set you up with a blind date.”

Paul dismissed that idea with a shake of his head. “No, thanks.”

Bethanne didn’t blame him. “I saw one of those decorator pillows once that read I’ve had so many blind dates I need a Seeing Eye dog.”

They both laughed, but Paul quickly sobered. “I don’t think I’m going to find anyone who can make me laugh the way you do.”

“Well, try,” she challenged, rather than allowing the compliment to sway her.

“What about you?” he asked. “When you decide you’re ready, where are you planning to meet single men? Clubs?”

“Oh, hardly,” she said, dismissing his comment with a wave of her hand. “I don’t have the shoes for it.” He laughed, as she’d wanted him to. “I’ll keep my eyes and ears open. Eventually I’ll meet someone, through a friend or my business or just by chance.”

“But you aren’t looking now?”

“No! Not yet.”

“Maybe you should.” His smile was infectious. He turned, craning his neck to take a good look around the restaurant.

“Paul! You’re being ridiculous.”

“Am I?” he teased. “What about that guy over there—the one with the baseball cap?”

“Paul, stop it,” she hissed, keeping her voice low. “Stop it right this minute. Unless you want me to introduce you to a couple of women.” Turnabout was fair play, so she caught their waitress’s eye. The young woman picked up a coffeepot and brought it over to their table. Her badge said her name was Cindy.

“Hello, Cindy,” Bethanne said warmly. “This is Paul. He’s single and available.”

Cindy smiled shyly in Paul’s direction and added a quarter inch of coffee to their mugs.

“Would you be interested in dating a man like Paul?” Bethanne asked.

“Ah, sure.”

Cindy had proven Bethanne’s point. “What did I tell you?” she cried triumphantly.

“Cindy, what are you doing tomorrow after five?” Paul asked.

Disappointment flashed in her eyes. “Working, but I get off at nine.”

Soon Paul and Cindy were discussing where they’d go.

She left, smiling, and Paul leaned closer. “I want a contingency plan. I’ll do as you suggest, but if it doesn’t work out, I want you to know I’m coming back for you.”

“Paul,” she chastised, and then just gave in. “Oh, all right.”

“Good.” He grinned and lifted his mug in silent salute.


“I do love a good yarn, fiction and fiber. The only thing that equals my joy in knitting is the pleasure of reading!”


I visited Mom Sunday afternoon, and it was such a lovely autumn day that it seemed pointless to go back to an empty apartment. Sundays were the hardest for me. This particular Sunday, for some reason, felt lonelier than most. My love for Whiskers can take me only so far.

Mom looked better than she had in months, and seeing her smile cheered me considerably. Leaving her home of nearly fifty years must have been painful. I was grateful she’d accepted the upheaval in her life without an argument. After two weeks in a nursing home, the assisted living facility probably seemed like an extended vacation.

I think Mom understood, once she entered the hospital, that everything would change from that moment on. I could tell she was grateful to have less responsibility, although I don’t expect she’ll ever admit it. I know she missed her rose garden; I did, too.

We had lunch together in the dining room, and she introduced me to her new friends. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I’d already met Ida and Francine last week and the week before that, too. Interestingly enough, Ida and Francine don’t appear to remember me, either.

Before leaving work on Friday evening, Margaret had invited me over for Sunday dinner but I’d declined. We see each other nearly every day and frankly, as much as I love my sister, I needed a break. I think she felt the same way since she readily accepted my explanation of “other plans.”

A number of subtle and not-so-subtle changes had taken place in the relationship between my sister and me. Margaret was knitting more, and I’d begun crocheting. It was almost as if we were both anxious to prove our willingness to see the other’s point of view.

With Sunday afternoon stretching before me, I drove to Green Lake. I’d missed walking the three-mile path around the lake with Brad and Cody and Chase. A dozen times or more, I’d stopped myself from driving there, but I decided not to stay away any longer. If Brad and Janice were on the path, I’d smile and greet them and simply keep going. Physical exercise is good for me and I refused to be deprived of an enjoyable walk just because there was a chance of an awkward encounter. I’d have to deal with it—and so would Brad.

It was a perfect day with the leaves just starting to turn and a light breeze coming off the water. I changed into my tennis shoes in the parking lot and stowed my purse in the trunk of my car. Carrying my car keys, I headed down the path.

I hadn’t gone more than a quarter of a mile when a golden retriever shot past me, dragging his leash. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quick enough or alert enough to grab it. Somebody would be frantic about this runaway dog. For an instant I thought it was Chase, Cody’s dog, but it couldn’t be. Chase wasn’t that big. But within a few seconds, I heard Cody’s voice and I knew I was wrong.

“Chase! Chase! Get back here.”

I turned to look over my shoulder and saw that Cody was fast gaining on me. When he noticed me he halted abruptly, looked back, forward and then back again.

“Lydia,” he shouted and ran toward me, his arms open wide.

I caught him and hugged him close.

“I have to catch Chase,” he said, his eyes pleading with mine.

“Go,” I urged.

“Don’t leave, okay?” he pleaded, half running.

“I won’t,” I promised, but I wasn’t convinced, despite my earlier determination, that I was ready to see Brad and Janice together.

If I did come face to face with Janice, she’d probably gloat. It hadn’t taken me long to discover that she was completely self-absorbed and had little interest in being a mother. I suspected that if I did find her with Brad, she’d be delighted to let me know she could have her husband and son back any time she wanted. She’d certainly proved that to be true. One snap of her fingers, and Brad was there.

I hated myself for being so negative. I felt like returning to the parking lot and making my escape, but I didn’t want to break my promise to Cody.

Before I was ready to deal with it, I heard Brad shouting for his son. “Cody!” He didn’t sound too pleased to be chasing after him.

I glanced over my shoulder, surprised—and grateful—to see that he was alone. Janice was nowhere in sight. Intent on catching up with Cody, Brad jogged past me, eyes straight ahead, and had gone two or three feet before he looked back. Like Cody, he stopped, mentally debated what to do, then started toward me. But his arms weren’t open and waiting for a hug.

“Lydia.” My name was breathless as if he’d jogged a lengthy distance.

“I assume you’re looking for Cody and Chase.” Polite conversation was all I could manage.

“What are you—”

“Doing here?” I finished for him. “Walking,” I said, answering my own question.

He seemed dumbstruck.

“Cody’s about three minutes ahead of you, and Chase about half a minute ahead of Cody,” I said, pointing down the path. He didn’t need to waste time chatting with me when he had a son and a dog to catch.

Brad continued walking backward, facing me. The way he stared made me uncomfortable. I looked away, almost wishing Janice would hurry so we could get this whole awkward scene over with.

“Chase got away from him,” Brad stated, as if I hadn’t figured that out.

“He’s grown,” I murmured.

“Chase or Cody?”

“Both.” I was walking at a clipped pace; he’d begun to walk parallel to me along the narrow path.

He nodded. “Cody’s grown a full inch this summer. His jeans are all high waters. When I took him school-shopping, I—” He stopped abruptly.

Sure enough, Chase was loping toward me, with Cody behind him, holding tight to the retriever’s leash.

“Lydia,” the boy cried, almost too excited to speak. “I was afraid you’d leave.”

“I wouldn’t do that,” I told him.

“I wish no one would ever do that again.” Cody ran up to me and wrapped both arms around my waist. Brad was now holding the leash; he had far more control over the dog. Chase was actually sitting quietly, tongue lolling.

“Where’s your mother?” I asked, not wanting to be caught unawares. If Janice walked up now, there might be some explaining to do.

Cody shrugged. “You know Mom.”

I didn’t, not really.

“She’s out of our lives again.” Brad filled in the blanks for me.

“When did this happen?” He hadn’t mentioned it earlier, and that hurt. If he’d cared even a little for me, the fact that Janice had changed her mind was worth a mention, even casually.

“Not long ago. I planned on letting you know.”

“But you didn’t.” I kept my tone as cool and even as possible.

“Dad felt bad,” Cody said. “And I did, too.”

Bad that Janice had left? Or—

“I suppose you’d like to know what happened,” Brad said, his voice defiant.

“No—you don’t have to—”

“Let’s talk,” he suggested.

“Perhaps later,” I said, my head spinning. “I need to think about this….”

“We can walk with you,” Cody inserted, eager to be with me. “Did you come here every week? We didn’t,” he said. “Mom thinks the wind and sun aren’t good for her skin, and she didn’t think Dad and I should come without her.”

“No, I stayed away, too.” This wasn’t the first time Cody had alluded to his mother. “Maybe you should tell me what happened,” I said, looking at Brad.

“Cody,” Brad said to his son, handing over the leash. “Go on ahead with Chase. Make him heel, okay?”

The boy showed his disappointment. “I want to talk to Lydia, too, Dad. I missed her.”

“You’ll get your chance, I promise.”

Cody looked at me, and I nodded in agreement. He gave a boyish grin and took off, walking sedately. “Heel, Chase. Heel!”

We both watched them for a minute and I smiled at Cody’s earnest effort to restrain the dog.

“It didn’t work out,” Brad said flatly. “Janice is gone.”

That was a pretty minimal explanation. “Could you give me a few details?”

Brad pushed his hands into his pants pockets. “You were right. Janice didn’t want me back, nor was she particularly interested in being a mother to Cody. She just didn’t want you and me together.”