Drizzles and Drenches
“You’ve been listening to gossip again.” Sarah
made a conscious effort to minimize the edge of primness lurking
beside that statement.
“Of course I have and my only regret is that I didn’t
start the rumor myself,” Diane replied and swiped cookie
crumbs from the table top into a napkin. “Tell me
it’s true and I’ll be a happy woman.”
Sarah wondered if her cheeks were flushed, betraying her attempt at
nonchalance. “It’s a gross exaggeration. We
stayed later than the rest of the committee to talk about one of
the player’s shaky grades. We were having a cup of
coffee and yes, the custodian found us together, alone in the
library. How that got translated into Coach Phillips and I
dating is beyond me.”
“Oh piddle, it’s a natural assumption and it seems to
me it would be an excellent idea,” Diane countered with a teasing smile as well as no
remorse. “The photographs I’ve seen are
nice-looking enough, I’ve been told he has a sense of humor
and a winning season is expected. You can’t tell me
you’re not at least a tiny bit attracted.”
Sarah knew it was affectionate teasing, not thinly masked
mean-spiritedness. They’d been friends too long to
mistake the intent. There was no tea left in the cup to hide
behind and the cookies were gone. No recourse except to rub
the tip of her nose for momentary delay in responding.
“He’s a pleasant man and we’ve had friendly,
mostly professional conversations,” she said weakly.
“It’s silly for people to talk.”
Diane reached her wrinkled, thin, yet surprisingly strong, hand
past empty cups and patted Sarah’s forearm.
“Don’t be cross. It’s not a very big school
and the town isn’t much larger. Matchmaking is
generally a harmless activity.”
Sarah smiled wryly at the touch. “As the Old Maid
librarian, I’m a perfect candidate. Add in a
forty-something, twice-divorced baseball coach and it’s a
“Twice divorced? I was told three times,” the
older woman said with raised eyebrows. “Three is more
Sarah laughed, her humor restored. Diane was correct –
expecting people to not talk was like expecting a cookie jar to
still be full if you left a kindergarten class unattended.
“I don’t know for sure, he and I have certainly never
discussed it. What I do know is I’ve got to run.
Do you need anything else for Thursday?” She pushed the
chair away from the round table Diane used for conferences and
breaks away from her desk.
Diane stood to walk Sarah out, as was their habit. “No
thank you, dear. You’ve been a big help, as
usual. If the clouds stay away, we’ll have a lovely
full moon and the temperature is up enough for us to open the
They exited Diane’s corner office into the wide airy hallway,
the women nodding greetings as they proceeded through the lobby and
reception area of Willowgate Manor. A few visitors were
scattered around the seating groups of a love seat, two comfortable
chairs and a low table. This was a room people could think of
as a family den, color scheme reminiscent of a day in the meadow;
greens, purples, blues and yellows. The spacious dining hall
was off to one side, two activity rooms on the other. It was
a facility created by Diane’s father, an insistence on
dignity for the residents, a balance between active elders and
those in the constant care wing. Sarah had been only vaguely
aware of Willowgate three years prior when Diane retired from her
nursing position at the hospital to become the administrator after
her father’s death. As a lively Social Security
recipient, she possessed a vitality Sarah hoped she could achieve
at that stage of her life.
It had taken Diane exactly one month to mention they needed a new
pianist for the Thursday night dance and sing-along.
Reluctant at first, Sarah discovered it to be an engaging weekly
event. Her repertoire of songs expanded as people made
requests or gave her sheet music. The faithful group of a
dozen sometimes swelled to a full room and occasionally a resident
or a visitor would add an instrument for a new sound.
Diane said good-bye to Sarah on the columned front porch, a
welcoming access with hanging plants and weather-silvered rocking
chairs. Sarah waved in parting and quickened her pace when
she felt drops of what was supposed to be a late afternoon passing
shower. The layer of gray wasn’t overly threatening,
but looked as if it would refuse to yield to allow a sunset.
She clicked the remote on her white Escort and slid into the seat
before the splatter began. How careless to have left the
umbrella in the car! She drove slowly along the few miles to
her bungalow, mindful of the rain, thinking about her protestations
and Coach Phillips. Wayne – she had no reason to be
She had been neither deceitful nor entirely candid with
Diane. Coffee in the teachers’ lounge, sitting next to
her in a committee meeting, a polite inquiry as to if she was going
to attend the baseball game, a request for observations about a
student were hardly the stuff of romance. Flirtation
maybe. Wishful thinking? Whose? Hers or
Wayne’s? Did one flirt at their age? She
hadn’t been proficient with flirting as a teenager, nor as a
young woman. When had she decided it wasn’t worth the
trouble? Trouble was too mild a word. It was the
humiliation of rejection she feared. Hell, had she ever
really tried or simply let imagined conversations languish inside
her head with her face bent studiously to books she could depend
The errant shower faded to a drizzle as she turned onto her short
street. It was a street devoted to brick ranchers and frame
bungalows, wooden slats given way to vinyl siding; carports and
one-car garages; front porches and back patios, trimmed lawns and
clipped shrubs; rectangular flowerbeds and not a fountain in
sight. Only a few houses changed residents periodically with
the neighborhood quiet rarely disturbed. Children old enough
for roller blades and such visited rather than lived in the starter
and empty-nest homes, too small for most people who wanted the
bedroom per child, three baths and other space to be found in the
new developments hugging the shopping centers on either end of
town. Shops around the town square had yet to feel squeezed
by recently opened large franchise grocery and retail stores.
Sarah eased into the garage, stopping when her front tire contacted
the padded bump that lay on the concrete floor. She lowered
the automatic door, collected the day’s paraphernalia of
soft-sided briefcase, purse, lunch bag and thought she heard the
telephone ringing as she fit her key into the lock. The door
would stick ever so slightly with the rain, her hands were full and
it wasn’t as if she was expecting an important call. Trying
to rush would only guarantee that she would drop something or bend
her key and probably miss the caller anyway.
She looked down to see if Buttermilk was waiting to curl around her
ankles since the back of the sofa would not be drenched in sunlight
today. A silly name for a cat she hadn’t wanted –
a piece of the stereotype she’d resisted. One of the
residents at Willowgate had been distraught at having nowhere to
place the last yellow kitten when she was forced to give up living
in her home. She cajoled Sarah into a temporary arrangement
that somehow became permanent when Sarah found herself softening to
the sound of companionable purring. In a moment of truthful
admission, what was one more checkmark in her life that broadcast ordinary from every angle?
She was the older sister who was asked to help with tests
while pretty sister, Stephanie, was asked for dates. Summers
spent in the library that segued into a natural career.
Glasses that were now bi-focal. A collection of big band and
jazz, a lack of classical music her sole degree of rebellion.
A serviceable upright piano against the wall and a smallish
television surrounded by jammed bookcases. Aunt rather than
mother, as dependable as she was predictable; refusing to become
Buttermilk’s savoir would change none of that.
The yellow cat, sleek from good care, was neither sunning nor
prowling, but instead lifted her head from the top of her favorite
overstuffed blue armchair where she was draped, gold-green eyes
watching. She yawned, stretched one leg and emitted a purr
that rivaled a healthy snore.
Sarah stroked the tawny fur in passing and deposited her belongings
in their assigned places before she checked voice mail. She
was startled and played the message from Wayne Phillips
twice. She allowed herself a smile and wondered if Diane
would laugh at her poorly smothered sense of anticipation as she
dialed the number he’d left.
Their conversation was functionally brief and when she cradled the
receiver gently, she felt a ridiculous twinge of giddiness at the
thought of a date for Saturday night. She stared into an
antique mirror mounted near the telephone, silently mouthing
Wayne’s invitation. She wasn’t concerned about
silvery sprinkles in her short chestnut hair, but she was overdue a
cut and deep conditioner. The russet jersey dress she’d
found on a great sale that picked up her brown eyes would be
perfect and since Wayne was almost six feet tall, she could wear
pumps and come about to his nose. She shook her head at the
sudden rush of ideas. It was a single date that might turn
out to be a complete mistake for all she knew. Well, if that
was the case, it should certainly grind the rumor mill to a
“Spring break at last,” Diane said cheerily.
“Do you and Wayne have plans?” She focused her
attention on delicately spreading white icing on a bunny shaped
cookie. She needed four dozen to make an atheistically
“No, he left for North Carolina yesterday. His oldest
daughter is getting married and he promised to help his parents
move into a retirement community. Their house sold and
he’s going to handle some loose ends for them.
I’ll follow my usual routine.”
Sarah wiped spilled flour from the sand colored granite counter and
knew what question would come next.
“Sunrise service and Easter brunch at
Steffie’s?” Diane surveyed her handiwork and
nodded approvingly before she met Sarah’s calm
expression. “Are you disappointed?”
Sarah paused and reached for her glass of sangria. It was
such a colorful drink with citrus slices in red wine.
“I don’t think so. I mean, I guess I might have
entertained the idea of sharing vacation with him, but I knew about
his daughter’s wedding and well, it’s probably easier
that we have our own commitments.”
“An interesting choice of words.” The older woman
settled a clear plastic cover over the silver coated deli-style
round tray. “Let’s sit for a minute and enjoy our
Sarah took the cane bottom, under-the-counter stool closest to
her. “Is there a lecture in this? A pep
talk? A query?” She was trying for a light tone.
Diane laughed as she perched on the end stool. “Maybe
all of the above, maybe none. I think I’ve been rather
circumspect in not quizzing you for the last two months. You
must admit your descriptions of dinner engagements haven’t
been terribly detailed. I try to curb my nosiness, but if you
want to talk about anything, I’m here.”
Sarah exhaled thoughtfully. Where to begin? She and
Wayne were simply progressing as a more mature couple might,
weren’t they? Dinner every week or so, her place or on
the town, lunch together when their schedules allowed, a limited
exchange of truly personal information, certainly no discussion of
the relationship itself. Was it a relationship? Or a
friendship between a man and woman?
“This is still new for me, you know,” she acknowledged
slowly. “We have a good time when we’re together
and I’ve gotten to where I just assume I’ll see him
“It sounds like there’s a but in
there.” Diane’s wrinkled face was soft, caring
more than curious.
Sarah felt the flush she wanted to control. “Well,
it’s just that we, I mean I, or maybe him, too, although
being a man, one wouldn’t think….” Damn,
this wasn’t what she meant!
Diane titled her head, brown eyes meltingly sympathetic.
“Sarah, my dear friend,
are we talking about intimacy?”
Not exactly. Sarah nodded and sipped wine in defense. Oh for God’s sake, how schoolgirlish could she be?
“If you promise not to laugh and I told you I haven’t
been with a man for fifteen years since my divorce, would that
Sarah choked back the automatic laugh. “Really?”
“It’s not something I discuss in general, but yes, really.” She giggled, a terribly undignified
sound for a woman of her years.
Sarah couldn’t keep a straight face either and grinned in
release. “Lord, listen to us. We’re
supposed to be past this stage.”
“Oh piddle.” Diane glanced over her shoulder at
the green glass pitcher. “Let’s have a refill and
you can tell me what’s bothering you.”
“I’ll get it,” Sarah said as she slipped from her
stool. She felt less awkward being engaged in a task.
“When Wayne and I started seeing each other, I suppose I
didn’t expect it to go beyond one date. Not truly, not
deep down. Even though we had a good time, I guess I thought
he was just new in town, didn’t know anyone and I was the
easiest target.” She carefully handed the brimming
glass to Diane and re-took her seat.
“As you said though, it’s been a couple of months and I
haven’t the slightest notion as to what I’m supposed to
do. In a way, I’m glad he won’t be around for a
while. It’s been a bit confusing.”
She poked a protruding ice cube with the tip of her finger, working
up to the embarrassing part. “He’s been very polite, I guess is a good word, with no mention of, well,
you know.” Oh come on, she could do this.
“It hasn’t been fifteen years for me, but it’s
hardly like I have a great deal of experience either. I
don’t know if Wayne is expecting more, if I should do
something first or if all he wants is someone to have dinner
with. For all I know, he’s got women lined up all over
Diane smiled. “Should we talk about how you feel about
“How couch-like,” Sarah said.
“Do you know how you feel?”
Right on target. The drawback of perspective friends.
“Perhaps more strongly than I should,” she said, a
little too quickly. Oh hell, if she couldn’t trust
Diane, who could she trust?
“I like being with him. He loves sports, yet he’s
not so consumed by them he doesn’t care about anything
else. He’s actually a good dancer and he prefers
Country and Western, but he appreciates big band and jazz. He
does refer to classic literature as written by old, dead Greek
guys, but he reads contemporary works and is fun to talk to.
I guess what I mean is that he’s got more depth than I
“Are you concerned about reciprocity of feelings?”
Sarah grinned. Of course. Or equitability. Or not
being the needy one. Or not being to made look like a fool if
she was wrong. What if he did view her only as a
friend? “Essentially. I suppose what it gets down
to is that I halfway expect him to come back and decide I
wasn’t what he was after. Or maybe he’ll see his
ex-wife at the wedding and they’ll reconcile. And if
none of that happens, should I give him some kind of signal that I
want to be, well, you know. If we do, though, then
what? I’m forty-one and have never been in a long term,
serious relationship in my life.”
Diane set her wine glass aside and did the hand-pat thing.
“Unless you’re trying to deceive me, it sounds as if
you haven’t fallen madly in love, but you certainly have
reasons to keep the relationship going. Two months
isn’t a terribly long time and if you want to spice things
up, I say you should. I don’t think it matters these
days who takes the lead. After all, if you find you’re
not compatible in that manner, it usually affects the entire
“Diplomatically put,” Sarah agreed, ready to change the
subject. “That’s enough about my life,
though. Tell me about your new Easter outfit.”
Sarah lingered for another hour in easy exchanges of unromantic
matters. She made her farewell and held thoughts of Wayne at
bay until she finished her nightly chores.
Settled into bed, an empty bed, as it had been for most of her
adult life, she couldn’t concentrate on the book she was
trying to read. Diane had been without sex longer than she
had. Some comfort, if one discounted the fact Diane was in
her sixties. She knew that wasn’t supposed to make a
difference, yet the thought of senior citizens’ sex lives was
truly beyond what she wished to dwell on. Her sex life,
however, seemed to have awakened from the compartment she’d
stuffed it into after an embarrassing fling with, of all things, a
book distribution representative – so much nicer a term than
traveling salesman – during a summer session she’d
attended in Atlanta the year before. What had that been
about? A temptation because she was away from a town where
too many people knew her? A genuine attraction to a man who
flattered her with attention? A reaching out because she was
tired of being alone? When the month was over, his promise to
call had been as insincere as her declaration that she wanted him
to. It had taken a remarkably short time to have trouble
remembering his name.
No, Wayne was the cause of emotional whisperings rising in volume,
seeking a voice in her orchestrated life. She’d
discretely researched some old newspaper articles about him from
his other coaching jobs. He had gained weight and lost hair
since the early interviews and years in the sun had lined his
tanned skin, but he had probably changed no more than she two
decades past her college graduation. Only one photograph, one
when he was newly hired to a position and interviewed by the local
sports reporter, showed his smile and eyes. A smile of
crooked bottom teeth and green eyes that were forthcoming and
confident without arrogance.
Buttermilk cat-sauntered in and leapt onto the foot of the bed,
purr set to medium volume. She padded on top of the burgundy
paisley comforter and butted Sarah’s hand for
She attended to the golden head. “What do you think,
Purr Box? Invite him for a fancier than usual dinner when he
comes back? Candles and fresh flowers, pull out the red dress
that buttons down the front? Act seductive if I can remember
how and see if he responds?”
Buttermilk flicked her tongue against the heel of her hand.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” Sarah said. Not
a bad plan, not a bad plan at all. She gave up on the book,
switched off the light and reminded herself to be content with
Buttermilk as her bedmate.
Spring Break dissolved in a mix of domestic and professional
get-around-to-it tasks and a pleasurable day trip that involved
antiquing and Sarah’s favorite used bookstore. She
leafed through her small collection of cookbooks at night, trying
to decide on a perfect menu. She knew Wayne didn’t like
oysters, but chocolate was high on the list. She finally
decided safe was better than risking new recipes. French
onion soup from scratch, pork roast, scalloped potatoes, green bean
casserole and chocolate pecan pie. A man’s meal, no
chance of failure on the cooking side.
She hadn’t seen Diane long enough to divulge her plan and
wasn’t certain she wanted to anyway. After all, Wayne
might not even call when he returned – one step at a time was
a better approach.
She spent Thursday darting about town with errands and treated
herself to lunch at Abigail’s; a café/caterer’s
filled with plants and designer touches that made it a ladies
luncheon gathering spot. They featured lighter dishes such as
daily quiche and salad specials to permit diners to feel less
guilty about indulging in gorgeous desserts. The hefty
sandwich and chicken fried steak crowd could be found across the
town square. She’d promised Diane she’d come to
Willowgate early to help her look over paint and fabric choices for
refurbishing the dining hall.
Sarah was seated in the next to the last booth, the back of her
head barely showing. Two other women were in the booth in
front of her, one with a voice that carried above clinking
silverware and more subtle conversations. Sarah ignored the
unbidden recounting of the woman’s family issues until a name
caught her unawares.
“George said Coach Phillips said Paul, that’s
Miranda’s oldest, has improved so much, he’s thinking
about making him starting pitcher the next game.”
“How nice. Now that Coach Phillips, I think he’s
been a great find and he’s not bad looking either, you
Sarah wasn’t an eavesdropper. Of course not.
Well, it wasn’t her fault the women weren’t keeping
their voices down. If she pressed only a tiny bit harder into
the seat and turned her head ever so slightly…
“Oh, I agree and he’s pleasant to be around;
doesn’t chew tobacco or smoke those smelly cigars.
It’s a shame he can’t get his personal life taken care
“What on earth are you talking about, Evelyn? I did
hear he was divorced more than once.”
Yes, Evelyn, what are you talking about?
“Oh honey, he’s divorced from his first two wives;
it’s number three that’s giving him problems.”
Three? What three?
“Divorced three times? I can see how that would cause
“No, not divorced three times. Folks don’t know,
but it’s really divorced twice and wife number three, whom he
is estranged from, is apparently giving him all sorts of troubles
about a final settlement. Or maybe it’s over some
property they shared. Well, I don’t remember the story
exactly, but Helen Perry, who works in Jim Kirby’s law
office, swears he’s been in and out lately with all kinds of
paperwork. Helen doesn’t usually talk about their
clients, but her son, Bart is on the baseball team,
“Can I get you a refill, ma’am?”
Sarah looked at the perky waitress, who beamed a smile of whitened
teeth. Perhaps Sarah’s dismay wasn’t outwardly
projected after all. A lifetime of reigning in one’s
emotions could trigger a benign facade.
“No,” she said quietly. “The check,
“Why, Becky Smith, I haven’t seen you in a month of
Sarah’s chance for more information disappeared as a rotund
women she vaguely recognized squealed greetings with the chatty
Not divorced from his third wife? Oh my, God! Was it
true? Could the woman be right? Diane had said
she’d heard three divorces. It’s not like
she’d asked Wayne directly, but when he obliquely or overtly
made comments about his two ex-wives, she’d naturally
assumed, well, what any rational person would assume.
Estranged from a third? Well, damn!
Sarah reached inside for the familiar stoicism that she’d
decided long ago was a better choice than bitterness. There
were moments when she wished genuine flexibility was a part of her
character, but breezy-let-it-all-roll-off was not her style.
No, it would take a few days to tuck this hurt beneath a protective
layer of should-have-known-better. She selected an assortment
of four lovely individual size fruit tarts before she left.
Her own disappointment didn’t mean that she should deprive
She cranked up the radio, focused intently on traffic, noticed the
freshly painted street markings – distraction was a marvelous
She sustained her composure through greeting Diane, offering the
pastries for later and opening the first of three bulging fabric
swatch books. Diane paused at Shrimp Bisque Chenille and looked closely at her face.
“My word, what burst your bubble today? And don’t
tell me I’m wrong.”
“Noth…, oh hell, Diane, I think Wayne has been lying
to me.” Sarah felt the gasp yanked from her
chest. She wasn’t going to cry, damn it!
Diane snatched tissues from a nearby box and passed them to
her. “About what, dear?”
Sarah blew into the wad and caught the one treacherous tear before
it reached her chin. “I don’t know for sure if
it’s true, but when I was in Abigail’s…”
Half an hour later, Sarah straightened her shoulders, her anger
talked out, self-pity not allowed. Diane spent the time
brewing tea and nodding her head at appropriate intervals.
“I mean, okay, if one is truly in the process of getting a
divorce, that isn’t as bad as being married, but it
isn’t the same as being single.” Sarah accepted
the mug – no delicate cups for this conversation.
“True,” Diane said thoughtfully. “Although
it might explain him taking the relationship slowly. Perhaps
he was searching for a way to tell you. Men can be rather
dense about these things. If the procedure has been nasty,
he might not want to discuss it.”
Sarah clutched her hands around hot ceramic and exhaled
sharply. “I suppose so.” She sipped
tentatively and stared toward the window for a moment.
“I really thought Wayne could have potential for a
relationship, that maybe I wasn’t too old for this. I
guess I was wrong.”
Diane’s smile was the warm, gentle one Sarah had come to
appreciate. “You know how I’ve come to think
about love? I’ve decided it’s like rain
“What?” The absurd sounding statement almost made
“Oh, you know, like how rainfall affects the land. A
lot of places get enough rain to keep things green, rain forests
get drenched nearly every day, deserts get very little. Too
much rain and you get floods. Love is sort of like
that. Some people get the right amount, some seem to have
more than their share, some get swept away in swirling
Sarah lifted her mug part way to her mouth. “And for
those of us who don’t get enough, we have the term dried
up Old Maid?”
“I hadn’t thought quite that far,” Diane replied
with a sheepish smile.
“That’s okay,” Sarah said. “I spent
part of one summer in the Painted Desert and found it quite
scenic.” She managed a real smile.
“I’m fine now, I really am. I was upset, but
let’s face it, at least I can cut my losses.”
Thank God she hadn’t carried through with the great seduction
“You’re not going to talk to Wayne at all about
this? Won’t that be awkward at work?”
“Oh, I’ll find a way to tell him.” Sarah
shifted in the chair. “Look, you, as well as anyone,
know you shouldn’t be in a relationship immediately after a
divorce. For the sake of argument, let’s say it becomes
final next week and that’s part of why he didn’t bother
to mention it. He still needs to recover, or put it behind
him, or whatever.”
Diane made a sound as if she might be stifling a laugh.
“Maybe it’s easier after the third one.”
Sarah shook her head and tapped a finger against the open book of
fabric squares. “My life was well-ordered before
Wayne Phillips came to this town and it’s not as if
he’s shaken my entire universe. I admit I was a little
upset, not to mention disappointed, but what’s done is done
and now let’s get back to business.”
“So you enjoyed the Painted Desert,” Diane said wryly
and resumed her place. “I trust you’ll remember
that prickly cacti bear flowers as well as
Sarah coolly, firmly stated her position to Wayne when he called to
ask her to dinner. She was grateful not to have the
conversation in person. His profuse apologies and assurances
that he thought the matter would have been finished months before
salvaged her pride to a degree. No, she thought it best if
they reverted to being colleagues. Yes, they could maintain a
friendship. She ended the call as graciously as one could and
bit her bottom lip harder than she intended. No matter, she
had made herself clear and it was over.
It’s not that she avoided Wayne the following week; she was
busy and it’s not like she had to go to the faculty lounge
every single day. Well, perhaps she was avoiding him, but a
week’s worth should allow possible mutual embarrassment to
dissipate. If people wanted to speculate, that was up to
She barricaded herself behind work she usually put off until the
end of the school year and volunteered to help prepare for the
spring school recital when the piano accompanist sprained her
wrist. She would be healed in time for the big show, but as
always, the chorale needed as much practice as they could get.
Sarah stayed late on Friday when one of the juniors rushed in to
tearfully admit she’d been more concerned about the prom
committee than a paper that was due Monday morning. Could
Miss Giles please give her some advice on nineteenth century women
At noon the weatherman had announced a weather system brewing to
the south was flinging scattered thunderstorms around the region
and when Sarah glanced out her office window she saw a band of dark
gray clouds swath across the mostly bright blue. Sky. She
locked up, confident she could make it downstairs and across the
nearly empty parking lot before rain began.
She would have been correct, if it had started with a faint
drizzle, but no, this was a spring torrent that blew screens of
water, splashing forcefully from the pavement. Sarah stepped
out of the main doors into the covered entryway and felt cooled,
wet wind against her hair.
“It shouldn’t last long.”
She pivoted to see Wayne standing behind her. He was wearing
khaki slacks and a school emblazoned polo shirt, green with white
stitching. He’d taken off his habitual baseball cap,
his eyes a green that reminded her of clover.
“I noticed your car was still here and was hoping I could
catch you before you left,” he said without preamble.
It was the first time she’d really looked at him all
week. Where was the anger she should be feeling?
“I didn’t know we had anything else to talk
He cleared his throat, but didn’t avert his gaze.
“I’m not going to apologize again because I think
you’re too sensible to be one of these women who prefer
groveling to rational discussion.”
“Excuse me?” Sarah wasn’t sure exactly what that
was supposed to mean. Oh hell, she could just dash for her
car and get wet – it’s not like she would melt.
“Sarah, I’d like to tell you something important and I
wasn’t sure you’d stay on the phone long enough to
listen. All I’m asking is five minutes.”
“This is probably not the place,” she primly
excused. Why weren’t there other people clustered with
them to make a personal conversation inappropriate?
“I know I screwed up and I’m not usually very good at
this, but for starters, I received the final divorce papers
He was careful not to close in on her and she couldn’t read
the expression on his face.
“That must be a relief for you,” she said weakly.
She brushed away a strand of hair plastered against her cheek.
“I told you before I got married too young the first time and
the second time was just a wrong choice,” he said
softly. “You’d think I had learned by number
“One would,” Sarah couldn’t stop herself from
responding. For god’s sake, she’d never been
married once, how could anyone get it wrong three times?
“The irony is that my sister is a pretty successful marriage
counselor and she warned me that if I didn’t stop looking for
all the wrong things I would never figure out what the real problem
Sarah stared at him, a half smile on his face that she recognized
as self-enlightenment, or at least a damn good imitation if he was
faking it. Another gust sent them both back a step.
“Does that mean you figured out the problem?”
“Sure, I’ve been looking for the wrong things.”
Sarah almost laughed at his deadpan delivery.
“Seriously,” he continued. “When it became
obvious the third marriage wasn’t going to make it, my sister
told me that if I would bother to slow down and actually get to
know a woman instead of jumping in with both feet and understand
that a real basis starts with friendship, I might stand a
It was something in his voice as well as the words. It
wasn’t precisely vulnerability. Honesty? A
truthful revelation that couldn’t be easy to make.
“Sarah, you don’t know how special I think you
are. Right after I met you, I wanted to spend time with you,
but I figured you’d tell me to take a leap if I told you the
“I certainly would have.” Sarah wanted to be more
indignant. The rain must be affecting her judgment.
There, it was staring to slack a bit; another two minutes.
“I thought I would try my sister’s advice about going
slowly and when I told her about you last week, she agreed with
Sarah snapped her head back to look into his face. Warmth, a
shade of hope? Was that right?
“You talked to your sister about me?”
He nodded. “She didn’t believe me at first and
the more I described you, explained we’d spent two months
taking it easy, explained how I enjoy even just having a cup of
coffee with you, do you know what she said?”
Sarah couldn’t find the right sentence. He said those
things to another person? He described her in a flattering
way when she wasn’t around to hear it?
“She said I had a long way to go, but I might finally be on
the right track.”
“Wayne, I…, I’m not sure…”
He moved forward a bit, not quite far enough to signal
intimacy. “Sarah, I don’t blame you for being
pissed. I thought about a big bouquet of roses or something,
but I wasn’t sure if you’d think I was sincere.
I’ve almost come to the library more times than you can
imagine this week and kept losing my nerve. Look, if we
weren’t having as much fun together as I thought we were,
okay, then I’ll drop it and we can forget this
conversation. But if you could give me another chance, if we
could start with all this in the open, then we can see what
He waited silently, a siren sounding in the distance as the rain
slowed and wind dropped noticeably. Sarah hesitated, aware of
the smell of wet grass and damp concrete, the sun trying to force
it’s way through what was only a mist now.
“I don’t know what to say. I’d be lying if
I said I didn’t have a good time with you, but I’m not
used to this. I don’t know what I’m supposed to
do with what you’re telling me.”
“You could let me take you for a cup of coffee,” he
suggested almost shyly. “I’d say go for a drink,
but I wouldn’t want you to think I was trying to ply you with
Sarah couldn’t stop the smile, but she held it in
check. “Why, Wayne? There are lots of women out
there, women with much more experience than me. I don’t
have any delusions about that.”
He shook his head slowly. “You don’t realize how
special you are,” he repeated. “I’d like a chance
to show you I mean that.”
“I didn’t have much lunch. I want a Fudge
Brownie Delight to go with that cup of coffee,” Sarah said in
reference to the signature dessert of the nearby Honeysuckle
Wayne grinned and patted his belly. “I’ll brave
high cholesterol to prove my point. Do you want to ride with
me or take your car, too?”
“I’ll take my own,” Sarah said and stepped with
him from underneath the cover. Faint tendrils of steam rose
from shallow puddles as water rushed into the storm drains.
“Fair enough. Hey look, a rainbow.”
Sarah looked up. Three-quarters of a rainbow arced toward the
ground, the other end disappearing into puffed out clouds.
The color bands were crisp, not muted; the kind that wouldn’t
fade before you had a chance to really see it.
“How pretty,” Sarah agreed and paused at her car,
searching Wayne’s face. “By the way, I want to
hear more about your sister. She sounds like a smart
He grinned. “She is. Glad I decided to listen to
her for a change. See you at the Honeysuckle.”
Sarah watched him walk away, cranked her car and carefully backed
from the parking space, the rainbow shimmering in the rapidly