The defeated puppy-dog look was replaced with a wide smile. “I’ll give you a call some time tomorrow, then.”
“That’d be fine.”
Glen opened the door and paused. “Would you be willing to see me if it weren’t for Timmy?”
Jody laughed softly. “Probably.”
She was rewarded with another warm grin that lit up his eyes. He took a small step toward her and then stopped abruptly and exhaled a long, deep breath. “I’d very much like to kiss you, but I’m afraid that might be pushing matters. We’ll do this your way, Jody. I’m a patient man, especially when the prize is one of such value. Good night and thank you for one of the most enjoyable evenings of my life.”
“ ’Night.” She stood at the door and waited until he’d reached his car. Once he pulled away, his headlights illuminating the dark street, Jody closed the door and leaned against the heavy wood.
Glen had nice eyes, she decided. The eyes of a man she could trust, who wouldn’t rush her into something she wasn’t ready for. The eyes of a man who was well acquainted with pain and disappointment himself.
After a few moments she walked over to the mantel in the family room where Jeff’s picture rested. She stared at his familiar features, the features she loved so dearly. Even after all these years, he had the power to stir her.
Reaching out, she traced her fingers over the outline of his jaw, waiting for the swell of emotion that generally accompanied such moments. To her surprise none came. Not guilt. Nor doubt. Jeff smiled benignly out at her and perhaps it was her imagination, she was sure it must be, but he seemed to approve of Glen, approve of the job she’d done raising Timmy. It seemed he was telling her that even in death he would always love her.
Leah heard the door shut. Andrew had returned after being away most of the day. She closed her eyes, and took a moment to compose herself before she faced her husband. He was right and she knew it. Having a child had become an obsession with her, so much so that she was systematically destroying the most important relationship in her life.
Stepping out of the kitchen, she watched as Andrew sat down in front of the television and reached for the remote control.
“I . . . I thought that must be you,” she said, which sounded silly since it couldn’t have been anyone else.
“As you can see, it’s me.” His words were as stark and cold as they had been earlier. It wasn’t a good sign.
“Can we talk?” she asked, tentatively stepping into the room.
“I don’t know that there’s anything more to say.”
The fact that they were having this conversation with his back to her said far more than any words they might have spoken.
“I’m sorry, Andrew,” she whispered, struggling not to break into tears. She hated any kind of discord between them. They’d always been so close, she didn’t think anything could destroy their love. She feared now that she might be wrong.
“You’ve already apologized, you don’t need to do it again.” The newsclips from the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Diego Chargers were playing and the noise of the game filled the room.
Leah, who was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, wiped her hands against her thighs. “I was hoping we could talk,” she said, lowering herself onto the far side of the sofa across from him.
“Leah, listen,” Andrew said sharply, “I’m not good company at the moment. If we’re going to talk it should be when we’re both in the right frame of mind.”
She could never remember Andrew being like this. They rarely disagreed and when they did, both were eager to resolve their differences.
“When do you think you’ll be in the right frame of mind?” she asked, swallowing her pride.
“I don’t know. I just need some time to put my thoughts together. I probably shouldn’t have come back to the house, but it’s cold and I wasn’t keen about spending the rest of the day and evening sitting in my car.”
“Of course you should have come back here. I’m glad you did. Do you want me to get you a cup of coffee? Some dinner?”
He shook his head. “What I’d appreciate more than anything is some time to myself.”
“Sure,” she said, scooting off the leather sofa, “whatever you want. Take all the time you need. I was thinking of going out anyway.”
He acknowledged her with an abrupt nod and continued to stare at the television screen. “That sounds like a good idea.”
So he wanted her to leave, was willing for her to go. Leah hadn’t realized how deeply she’d injured Andrew’s pride or how she’d weakened the foundation of their marriage. It came as a painful shock.
He didn’t say anything more to her when she left. Leah went about gathering her coat and purse as if she were going on an outing she’d looked forward to for weeks. Humming softly she called out cheerfully, “I won’t be late.”
Not knowing where to go, Leah drove around for an hour before heading toward Pam’s house. Her college friend knew there was something wrong the minute she opened the door. Not that Leah would have been able to hide it.
“Leah,” Pam said, alarm filling her eyes. “What happened?”
Unable to speak, Leah shook her head from side to side.
“Come inside. I’m sure it’s nothing a long talk and a strong cup of tea can’t help.”
This was what Leah loved about Pam—the ability to solve any problem with a cup of tea and a stiff upper lip. Now that she was here, she wasn’t keen on talking. What she really needed was a friend, not a counselor.
“It’s not all that bad,” Leah said, making light of her troubles as she followed Pam into the kitchen. The sink was stacked with dirty dishes and the cupboards were smeared with miniature fingerprints, a stark contrast to her own spotless kitchen.
“Auntie Leah?” Scotty raced into the kitchen, clutching his stuffed dinosaur, the one she’d given him for his birthday a month earlier.
“Scotty, you’re supposed to be asleep!” Pam said, hands on her hips.
Leah scooped the three-year-old into her arms and hugged him close while he pressed happy kisses over her face. He was a sweet boy with deep blue eyes and a froth of unmanageable curls and Leah loved him as much as if he were her own.
“How’s my darling?” she asked, setting him on the countertop and brushing the curls away from his forehead.
“Look!” he said, proudly holding up his thumb.
“It’s dry,” Pam explained. “Scotty has given up sucking his thumb, isn’t that right?”
Scotty nodded eagerly and Leah carried him back into the bedroom he shared with his younger brother. Thirteen-month-old Jason was sound asleep, his knees tucked under his stomach, his small buttocks thrust into the air.
“Shhh,” Scotty said in a loud whisper as Leah set him back in his bed, after maneuvering around a stack of plastic building blocks and several wooden puzzles. Pieces were scattered all about the area.
“I’m very proud of you for not sucking your thumb,” she whispered.
Scotty beamed with the praise. She kissed his forehead and tiptoed out of the room.
Pam had the tea brewed by the time Leah returned. “Where’s Diane?” she asked about her friend’s oldest child.
“Doug had to run an errand and she wanted to go with him. As you can see I haven’t gotten around to the dinner dishes. Sit down and tell me what’s upset you so much.”
Leah didn’t know where to start, or if she should. It wasn’t easy to admit her failings. “Andrew and I had a spat, is all. We both needed some time to think matters through so I left.”
“It’s nothing serious, is it?”
Leah shook her head, discounting her concern. “I . . . I don’t think so. We’ll be fine.”
Pam brought the china teapot to the table. “You’re sure?”
“We rarely squabble and it upsets me when we do.”
A series of short horn blasts interrupted their conversation. Although the sound was irritating there seemed to be a certain rhythm to it. Leah closed her eyes and listened carefully. If she hadn’t known better she’d swear it sounded like someone was tapping out “Hit the Road, Jack.”
Pam sent a curious look Leah’s way. “Doug must need my help,” she said, “he’s certainly being clever about getting it.”
“It sounds like . . .”
“ ‘Hit the Road, Jack,’ ” Pam finished for her, snapping her fingers as she walked toward the door. She stopped abruptly and turned around, looking puzzled.
“Is it Doug?” Leah asked.
Pam shook her head. “It’s coming from your car.”
This had to be some kind of joke. She set aside her tea and followed Pam. “Are you telling me my car’s making that weird sound?”
“It’s your horn,” Pam insisted. “Just listen.”
“My horn!” She joined her friend at the doorway.
“This is the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”
“You?” Leah laughed. “I better find out what’s going on here.” She grabbed her car keys and hurried across the yard.
“Mercy, stop that right this minute.”
Mercy whirled around to find Shirley hovering over the trunk of Leah’s car, her hands braced against her hips. Knowing she’d overstepped her authority, Mercy reluctantly complied. No doubt she’d done it this time and the archangel had dispatched Shirley to send her home.
“Did Gabriel send you?” Mercy demanded defiantly. If she was going to crash, she was going down in flames.
“No, I’m here to stop you before you get yourself into even bigger trouble.”
“I had to do something fast,” Mercy cried. “Andrew’s worried because he can’t find Leah.”
Mercy should have known she’d need to explain. “Leah and Andrew argued this morning and now he feels terrible. He wants to talk to Leah but he doesn’t know where she is.”
“We’re not to get involved in any human’s life,” Shirley chastised. “By the way, what’s with that ridiculous song?”
“It was popular several years back, one Leah would recognize. I’m trying to tell her to hightail it home.”
Shirley folded her arms over her chest and impatiently tapped her foot. “You’re courting trouble with this one. By heaven, Gabriel’s going to be furious. Secular music, no less. You couldn’t have come up with something more . . . spiritual?”
“ ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’ just didn’t hack it. I was desperate. It worked, didn’t it? Look, Leah’s leaving now and two to one she’s headed home.”
“You’re placing bets now too?” Shirley said behind a smile. It wasn’t unheard-of for a prayer ambassador on earth assignment to return home with a few minor bad habits. Some angels were known to have found gambling appealing.
“Are you with the God Squad Police Patrol or something?” Mercy blurted out impatiently. Shirley had the luxury of having everything falling neatly into place with her prayer assignment. The last she’d heard, Timmy’s mother had agreed to date a fine, upstanding young man who’d make Timmy a great father.
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