You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Doug watched Summer sashay away along down the hallway, vanishing into the maze of grey-walled cubes that hid his keyboard-tapping coworkers, a thoughtful frown creasing his windblown face. He remembered her from Friday; who forgets somebody after three days, especially when they came with such a strange, unlikely story? Today she seemed changed from the Summer Robertson he had met on Friday. Last week he had felt drawn to her, to wipe the helpless, confused look from her pretty face. He had felt, totally irrationally, the desire to see her eyes clear and her countenance joyful and confident. So he had stood up, offered his services, and met her. Summer Robertson, trapped XXX years in the obit department, a ray of sunshine in the cloudiness of The Herald’s backbiting, get-ahead culture. Doug couldn’t explain it, but he had felt an affinity to her, more than any woman since Joanna’s death.
Today, though, when Summer had walked into his office, all processional and confident, Doug’s excellent eye for faces had almost failed him. She looked like she needed nobody. She wore a brown faux-business suit that emphasized her breasts and legs—two areas Doug didn’t want his attention drawn to at the moment. Or ever, if this was the true Summer, and Friday had been a moment of weakness on her part. She had introduced herself as if he was an idiot who couldn’t remember three days before, and she omitted the circumstances of their first meeting, a decision that did not sit well with Doug. He would have admired her had she unashamedly admitted she’d met him while lost and flustered, for Doug valued honesty and thought nothing of getting lost in The Herald’s offices. He’d done it enough himself to know that a couple wrong turnings could land a wanderer in totally unfamiliar territory with little hope of finding a way out without expert guidance, and perhaps a small sacrifice to the gods of fortune.
No; Doug, whose memory worked like a steel trap, thought that Summer’s omission suggested that she had something to hide, although he couldn’t for the life of him imagine what. That, combined with her new attitude, definitely rubbed the down-to-earth Home and Garden manager the wrong way. He would have to remain as impartial as he could for an interview with her, and who knew—if she reverted to the earlier Summer, he thought she could fit very well in his department. Only time would tell.
Continue reading.Turning back to his computer, Doug pondered. He’d been alone with only Savannah for company in the years since Joanna had passed on, and his friends had started telling him he should consider dating again. A man couldn’t spend his life alone, they told him, but Doug just replied, “Watch me.” He and Savannah went for long runs down deserted roads where he would stop, all alone, and weep, remembering. Strong men didn’t cry, but his golden retriever wouldn’t spill the beans and Doug felt better afterwards. The purifying consistency of running, its repetitious movement and mindless movement brought him peace as well. In the months following losing his wife, Doug had retreated until his parents feared for him, calling him every day, only to find him wrapped in misery or too drunk to remember anything. Hiding in a deep blackness, Doug had barely hung on to his job as he performed his responsibilities with mechanical, heartless motions.
No amount of sorrow brought Joanna back, nor did it resurrect their unborn son. Eventually Doug cleaned up, with the help of a good friend and a therapist, getting his life back on track—life as a single man not interested in any other life. So the years had gone by, passing in a haze of routine and loneliness, unalleviated loneliness Doug had clung to like a blanket. Certainly his friends called, dropped by, invited him out. He went out with them, mountain climbing with his manly friends and gardening with the few women he had come to respect, unable to spend every day by himself with only Savannah’s too-knowing eyes following him.
The community garden had drawn Doug into the world of light and laughter more effectively than anything else. Now in its second year, the acre-sized plot of green space within walking distance of Doug’s small, cluttered apartment had become the true love of his life. His job at The Herald paid his few expenses, but all his free time went to administering the land as well as tending his own vegetable garden. Well-behaved Savannah followed him, guarding vigilantly against squirrels and anything with wings.
Then on Friday, this tall brown-haired woman with a generous face had appeared, wandering the maze of his domain. Seeing her, something within Doug melted a tiny bit, the first melt of a vast iceberg that had been his heart for many years. Oh, he smiled and laughed, he participated in the joys of friendship and life, watched his siblings’ children grow with only deep, mostly-buried pangs at the knowledge that his son should have romped among them. Doug had resurfaced as much as he ever expected to, but Summer’s appearance had changed his definition of the surface. It had seemed as if he’d actually remained submerged all these years, and she had shown him the many fathoms between him and true, fresh air. A quiet, unassuming interest had risen in Doug, who had begun wondering how he could meet her again without seeming pushy or creepy.
Snapping back to present, Doug glanced at the clock. Only 8:59 on Monday, September 18th, 2006, the fifth anniversary of Joanna’s untimely death. He had spent the weekend thinking, gardening, walking, and looking at photo albums and digital pictures of the diminutive, black-haired woman to whom he had given his heart and future. A weekend full of memories and sorrow, cut with deep bitterness and blame that he had never fully been able to shake. If he hadn’t suggested she go for a walk that night…
Taking his mourning in hand, Doug shook himself. Here at The Herald he could hardly indulge in a misery-wallowing and he had a full day ahead of him. No sense in drowning in memories or fantasizing about a woman who, based on the evidence from this morning, apparently didn’t actually exist. With a swift click of his mouse, Doug checked his email and remembered that one of his writers had asked him on Friday about space for an article on the plantings in roads… Work wrapped its tendrils around Doug, and he forgot about Summer, her resume, and the change that had worked in her over the weekend. Or: My NaNoWriMo profile.