Someone tapped gently on Rachel’s office door. She looked up from the papers she was packing up as Curtis stuck his head in the door. He stepped in and closed the door behind him. “How are you holding up?” He reached for her hand.
“I hate feeling like a burden to everyone.”
“You’re not a burden. Why would you say something like that?” He touched her cheek with his fingers.
“Because I am. You have to follow me, I live with my parents and everyone in this office-.”
“We’ve talked about this.”
“I know.” She looked away from him. “I understand your point. I didn’t do anything to deserve this.”
“And it is not you putting people out. It is this man.”
She looked back at him. Even something as vague as this man made her stomach do flip-flops. “But it is still my life that is causing this mess.”
“What can I do to make you feel better?” He scooted his chair closer to her.
“I don’t know. There are so many things on my mind right now.”
“Besides the flowers?”
She hesitated. This wasn’t the time to discuss their relationship. Curtis had changed his life and schedule to be her daily escort. There was no telling how many appointments he’d not scheduled or canceled to be able to help her. Whenever she asked he told her he’d handled it and not to worry.
She looked up at him.
“You faded out there for a second. What’s wrong?”
She took a deep breath. “Where do you see us going?”
“In our relationship?”
She nodded her head.“I don’t know yet. What about you?”
“I’m not sure. It feels like things are turning serious but.” She stopped. “I know you love me.”
“But?” He looked her in the eye and squeezed her hand.
“But there is the religion thing.” She’d said it. As much as she worried about having this conversation she couldn’t bear to be any more in love with him and then lose him.
“The religion thing.” He said as if finding the piece to a puzzle.
“Yes. I know it’s a big deal.”
“Yes, it is.” He nodded.
“So, what about it? I don’t know that I am willing to jump on board with your beliefs, although with all that’s been happening I wish there was a God who would protect me.” Since the retreat she had more than once prayed prayers that started with if you are real God…
“And what could make you take the leap from wishing he were real to believing he were real?” He let go of her hand and sat down in the chair next to him.
“I don’t know. I’ve never really thought about it.”
“You know the Bible says faith is the proof of things we don’t see.”
Rachel looked up at the ceiling to gather her thoughts before she answered. “Yes, so if only I had faith then I would have faith.”
“It’s the best I have for you right now.”
“Wait a minute.” She stopped packing for a moment and looked square at Curtis. “If you believe the Bible then why are you so freaked out about this guy hurting me?” It was easy to tell people how much they should believe stuff but then walk away and not apply it to your own life.
The room was silent for a long moment. “The best answer I have for you is we live in a fallen world. Evil things happen to wonderful people.” His voice cracked as he spoke. “What I can tell you is that the Bible tells me no matter what happens God will make things work out for good for people who love and obey God.”
He cleared his throat again before continuing. “That is why I continue to pray that you will allow Him in your heart. It is the best protection I can give you. That is using the power of God to protect you.” He smiled. “And until that happens then I will do the next best thing and I will love and protect you in my strength.”
That answer made sense. Curtis was doing the best thing he could do in his own estimation. “But can you see this relationship becoming permanent if I don’t become a Christian?”
“I try not to think about it.”
“Because I love you and I want us to have a future.” He cleared his throat. “Or as you put it ‘become permanent’.”
“And we won’t have one if I don’t accept your belief system.” It was a statement, not a question.
“All I can tell you is I love you and today I’m going to follow you to your parents house. Then after we have dinner together I am going to go home. I will pray for you before I go to bed. In the morning I’ll pray for you again.” He smiled and took both of her hands in his. “That’s enough for me to think about. Focus on today’s problems because tomorrow will have enough of its own.”
While Rachel was mulling over his answer someone knocked on her office door.
“Come in.” She said loud enough for them to hear.
The receptionist stepped in the office. “You have a delivery.” Then she quickly walked out. Word must have spread pretty fast that Rachel knew all about the office’s little meeting. A young man stepped around the corner and handed Rachel a clip board with an X on it. Rachel signed her name and he handed her the long cardboard box.
“Thank you.” She said. He nodded and walked out.
“Who is it from?” Curtis asked looking at the address label.
“I’m not sure. There is a typed P.O. box then my work address.” She cut through the tape. “It’s light. Probably a poster for one of the marketing campaigns.” She turned the tube sideways and a rose slid out with a piece of paper. She dropped the box to the floor and Curtis snatched it up.
“What does it say?” He reached for the slip of paper hooked to the rose.
“Don’t touch it.” She put her hands up to block him. With her ink pen and letter opener she pulled the folded paper open.
“See you later beautiful.” Rachel whispered.
Without a word Curtis bolted out her office door. Rachel followed him as far as the front desk but he was chasing down the delivery boy in the parking lot.
“Call the police. Tell them the Fratboy killer just contacted me again.” Rachel said to the woman at the receptionist desk. Outside Curtis was yelling at the man who had delivered the box.
“I’ve called the police.” She said when they walked back in the office.
“He says some guy approached him on campus and gave him $30 and asked him to surprise his girl friend.”
“Lady, I had nothing to do with the guy. I was trying to be nice-.”
Rachel looked at him shocked. “Do you make it a habit to deliver packages from strangers on campus? Don’t you know there could have been a bomb in there?”
The young man couldn’t have been more than nineteen or twenty. He kept his eyes down and glanced up as he spoke. “He wasn’t a total stranger. I pass him a few times a week on my way to English. We smile and nod at each other.”
“Do you know his name?”
“The police will be here soon.”
“The police.” He shot his eyes open wide and looked between Curtis and Rachel.
“They’re going to want you to give them a description.” Curtis said, taking over the conversation.
“I’m not in trouble am I?”
“I don’t think so.”
Shannon came out and looked at the group of them. “What happened?”
One of the people leaned over and whispered “The stalker sent a rose to Rachel. This guy delivered it.”
Rachel walked over to Shannon to finish. “The note said he’d see me soon.”
Shannon threw her arms around Rachel. “If he thinks he’s coming then we’ll be waiting. None of us are going to let him hurt you.”
Rachel nodded but didn’t say a word.
“I mean it Rachel. We’re going to beat this guy.”
You are reading A Face in the Shadow by Tiffany Colter.
Tiffany is a writer, speaker and writing career coach. She is a frequent contributor to print and online publications in addition to her regular marketing blog at http://www.writingcareercoach.com/
Get each new chapter delivered to you by signing up for the Tiffany Colter Fiction Blog using the link on the right.
This story is copyright Tiffany Colter. 2007. It may not be copied, distributed, sold or included in any larger work without the expressed written permission of Tiffany Colter.
Bloggers may comment on or link to this blog from their own blog. To link directly to this posting click the title, then copy the address in the browser.