“It is great to see you. How was your trip?” Curtis leaned forward with his elbows on the table as he spoke.
“Relaxing. I need to get away more often.” Rachel sipped her water after she spoke. She had enjoyed two nights of restful sleep. In Chicago there was no fear of roses appearing and noises that go bump in the night. She had shopped and ate out and enjoyed girl talk with Shannon well into the night.
“I’m glad to hear it. You’ve been pretty uptight the last few times we’ve talked.”
“I have a lot on my mind. It’s been an eventful couple of months.”
“How?” He asked and reached out to put his hand on top of hers.
She looked down at their hands as butterflies flapped in her stomach. She wanted to be comforted by his touch but right now it made her uneasy. It made no sense for them to be attracted to each other at all. Curtis was the kind of guy a woman would settle down and start a life with. Before they met she didn’t think she was ready yet to be that kind of woman.
“I find myself thinking a lot about the future these days.”
“You do?” He gently squeezed her hand. “Am I in it?”
The truth was always nice but that would require submission that was beyond her ability right now. It would mean allowing him to not only penetrate but remove the armor she wore. She couldn’t allow a man that close.
On the other hand, life without Curtis in it would be unbearable. She had figured that out while in Chicago. For all the glitter and fun she had more than once wished it was Curtis rather than Shannon at her side.
“You might be.” She made her voice playful. Coy was always best.
“Good. I want to be in your future.” He lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it, then he gently sat it back down on the table. “Rachel, I’d like you to come to church with me on Sunday.”
“Why?” She hadn’t meant for her voice to sound so disgusted but the request had surprised her.
“I want you to get to know me better.” He sounded defensive at her response.
“That is what we’re doing right now. We are taking time to know each other.”
“Yes but Rachel this is only the smallest, most superficial part of me. I want you to know who I am at my essence, my core.”
“Has this whole thing been some evangelism device for you?” It wasn’t how she planned to bring up the subject but now there it was. She wasn’t going to retract them.
“Do you think that poorly of me?” He leaned back and folded his arms. His eyes were intense. It was something she hadn’t thought he was capable of and it made her feel like a naughty child who’d gotten mud on her good clothes. “I don’t prostitute myself for the gospel.”
“I’m not sure what I think. I’m not trying to change you, Curtis, but every time I think I may have feelings for you, you throw church at me.” Her voice was steadily raising. She looked up. They were beginning to get an audience. She leaned in slightly and lowered her voice. “I want to have a good time with you but I’m not interested in church stuff.”
“Fine.” He sat up straight. She knew that pose. It was the same one she used when she knew there was no further debate.
They sat in almost complete silence until the food arrived then the silence was only broken by the occasional slurp or fork squeaking on the plate. They finished their meal, passed on dessert and walked to the parking lot.
Curtis pulled his keys out of his pocket and folded his arms. “I’m glad you got home safe.”
“I’ll call in a few days if I don’t hear from you first.” He fidgeted with his keys.
“Fine.” She wanted this fight to be over but she wasn’t going to be the one to make the first move. The fact that he wouldn’t admit that he had ruined their afternoon by brining up church again. “I’ll talk to you later then.”
“Yep.” He turned and walked away from her.
She watched him walk away. As much as her body cried out “Come back”. Her pride wouldn’t let her do it. Why couldn’t he accept her answers? Some people have reasons for not going to church. It didn’t make them bad people.
He put his car in reverse and pull out of the parking lot. In her romance novels this was the moment that her phone would chime and he’d apologize… She reached in her purse for the phone. He didn’t understand her reasons. Maybe she should apologize now, not let him go. She flipped it open. A silly picture of her and Shannon appeared on the screen. She closed the phone and climbed in her car.
She turned up the CD that on the way over had made her skin ache for Curtis’ touch. Now as the final notes played it was more a haunting reminder that some people out there were happy and in love. She brushed away a tear and pushed the back button to start the song over again.
The pain felt good, familiar and tangible. The sweet first words of the song talked about the freshness of new love. Rachel let them wash over her as she began her short drive home. Slow teardrops rolled out of the corners of her eyes. Loneliness gave way to anger and frustration. Why would she date him knowing he’d want to change a chunk of her?
When they were together she felt safe, truly alive. Curtis made her want to strive to be better, as if, in some way, all her accomplishments weren’t quite enough.
But if she wanted to change then why was she mad at him?
The song ended and she pushed the repeat button. The music cleared her thinking. He had something she wanted. He was genuine. There were no ulterior motives when she was with him. They didn’t have awkward moments because she knew that they wouldn’t spend the night. He wouldn’t give himself fully to her yet which only made her want him more.
Even with all that she wasn’t about to find religion for him. Frustration rose up in her again. Just this past spring she had it all together and now everything changed. Of the two men in her life the decision should be duh-simple. One is was successful, handsome and passionate for her. The other is was successful, cute and passionate for her soul.
As the song started up for the fourth time she turned in to her driveway and pulled behind the house into the garage. She popped the CD out of the player and carried it in the house. The evening was cool and she averted her eyes from the long shadows made by the streetlights. The dog a few houses down barked. She jumped.
“Stupid dog. Can’t they hear that thing barking every night.” There always had to be one neighbor that ruined it for the block. She knew she’d be home after dark so this time she’d left every light on in the house. She reached in and pulled the mail out of the box then felt around to be sure she hadn’t missed any and locked the door. After she placed a mug of water in the microwave she walked to the counter next to the trashcan to go through her mail. The stack of papers turned in to three bills after throwing out the solicitation and credit card offers.
She ripped open the credit card bill. Might as well get rid of the worst one first. She scanned down the page and saw the body shop charge. “There is how much in new charges? I’d better call Jeremy.” She scrolled through the contact list in her phone and pushed send after highlighting his number.
“Hi Jeremy, this is Rachel.”
“I got the car fixed and I realized when I got my credit card statement that I never mailed you the statement. Can I get your address again?”
Her call waiting beeped. She’d let it go to voicemail.
“Sure thing it’s-.”
Her other line beeped again.
“I’m sorry. Jeremy, can you hold on just one second. My other line keeps beeping.”
“Of course, no problem.” His voice had a hint of hesitation.
“Rachel, it’s Curtis.”
“I want to talk.” He sounded more like ‘Let’s see other people.’ Than ‘Let’s work things out.’ She wasn’t ready for that.
“I have someone on the other line. Can we maybe talk tomorrow?”
“I really think we should talk now.” No, she couldn’t hear this right now.
“I can’t. I’ve got to handle this on the other line.” She choked back tears.
“Fine. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” The tone in his voice didn’t give her much hope.
She punched back over.
“Do you still have my card?”
“It’s on there.” He hurried her with clipped answers. It was just as well. She wasn’t in a chatty mood.
“Okay, thank you.”
“You’re welcome. Good-bye.”
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 www.WritingCareerCoach.com
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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.
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