Chapter 23, The Return To Friends
Sitting before me were three curious faces. From left to right: Todd, Stella, Ava. What did I have to share? I didn’t know how to process what I had learned, let alone communicate it. So, I did what I have come used to doing these past couple of days. I leaned on God’s strength. I took a deep breath, about to explain myself, and my apparent disregard for the others in this room, shown by my departure, when Ava pierced the air with her words, running them together, seemingly afraid of my reaction to her starting. What she is unaware of, the time God has just gifted me with in sorting through my own scraps of information.
“I’m sorry. I see you are fine. Todd followed you when you left, returning when he saw that you were talking to the owners of Reticence Unlocked. Figuring you needed to do that alone, he returned and the three of us figured out a plan of gathering information. I must say, I can’t keep it in anymore.” Then she took a deep breath looking at me expectantly, as if awaiting my approval. She was sitting in an arm chair under the window, hands in her lap with fidgety fingers. Her knees were closed, though they bounced, peeking out from under a flowing purple skirt. I looked up to her face, noting the deep blue sweater that brought the plum out of the skirt in a striking way, her eyes wide, pools of insight within.
“Shoot.” I was more than happy to have the focus off of me, for a change. Plus, there is the potential that what they have collectively found might help me sort through my recent experiences. Lord, please give me continued strength in absorbing all I am meant to learn. Help guide my understanding of all of the pieces about to come together. Amen.
She sent a furtive glance to her right – Todd. He was sitting on the edge of the couch; feet planted firmly apart, knees supporting his elbows. His shoulders were tense, and he too was fiddling with his hands. Shifting my gaze between the two of them, overlooking Stella in the middle on the coffee table, I realize that I am about to get pummeled with facts, and that they are concerned with how I may react.
Interesting…though, I must say my heart expands in warmth at their love for me.
“I hope you don’t mind…but I went to my mom,” she cringed, and then relaxed when she saw I wasn’t going to respond negatively, and continued, “She recalled Lillian taking in a boarder after Rosemarie went to college–”
“Did she remember her name?” I interrupted. Really? That was rude of me. “I’m sorry, continue.”
“Actually, she doesn’t, though she believes it began with a B. She did say that she had red hair and wore purple glasses, residing at the apartment above the store.”
“It seems odd she would remember her hair and glasses but not her name.” I questioned. Again, rude! I looked at Ava apologetically. She waved it off. Clearly she is not bothered by my outbursts. Though, my thoughts immediately went to the vision I had of the woman with red hair and purple glasses from the hidden cabin. Peculiar…
“Well, that’s what I said, and Mom said that it was hard to forget because the colors were so striking. Anyhow, I guess the boarder also worked at Reticence Unlocked, filling in for Rosemarie in her absence.”
“I looked up Reticence Unlocked employee records for that time period, along with the utilities for that apartment,” Todd cut in. “Unfortunately, the utilities remained in Lillian’s name, and there is no one on the books for employment during the years your mother was in college. I am wondering if part of the rental agreement was work for room and board.”
“That’s feasible…” My head was swimming. “When I had left the bookstore, I ended up at this cabin hidden in the woods. It is old and severely dilapidated, but on my trek through the woods, I had images of what I am assuming are memories. I was holding the hand of a man that I believe to be my father, and when we approached the door to the cabin, a woman with red hair and purple glasses opened it. I was afraid of her, not recognizing who she was, and wondering why she was in our cabin…I wonder if it is the same woman.”
“Could be…” It was apparent Todd had more to say.
“I was just wondering: did you see his face?”
“My father’s?” He nodded. “No, I didn’t. I saw his arm, the one that was holding my hand. I saw the back of his legs, but I didn’t see his face or the color of his hair…” I hesitated. The letters, do I share the letters yet?
“Ivy, what is it?” He leaned forward, reaching out to move the strand of hair that had covered my face, tracing the line of my jaw until I looked at him. His eyes exuded affection. I felt him bore into my being searching for what was causing me turmoil.
“I…” I realized in that moment that I wanted to be alone with Todd. As much as Stella was my best friend, right now, I needed Todd. Reading the need in me, he turned his attention to the other two women in the room.
“You know what; it’s been a grueling day for all of us. Am I correct in saying, none of us have had a decent thing to eat since this morning?” Everyone nodded, relief settling in at the thought of food, and a break. “Alright, Stella and Ava, do you mind preparing a meal while Ivy and I go upstairs? I want to show her something.”
Stella was already up on her feet heading to the kitchen. “I’m sure you do,” she said with a wink, as Ava said, “On it!” following close behind her.
Todd led me up the stairs to the locked room. Once we were inside, he closed the door. I moved passed him into the lavender room, the bookshelves still open. I plopped down in one of the arm chairs, Todd choosing to occupy the other.
We sat in silence for a time, Todd patient in my collecting of thoughts and emotions. Tears ran down my eyes, I made no effort to wipe them away. Todd’s fingers threaded mine, warmth spread up my arm to my heart. I closed my eyes, sinking into the cushions. So much of me melted into the upholstery. I became liquid…
And before I knew it, I was rambling, talking as if in a speed race, afraid of running out of time before finishing. I don’t remember feeling emotions, just words expelling from my mouth. What I did notice: I kept the details of my grandmother and the necklace, only sharing memories and the content of the letters.
“Wow.” Yep…way to sum it up Todd;
Not that I could blame him.
What was there to say?
“Chet, his name is Chet.”
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