“Are you sure you want to go out with Curtis?”
“I told you, Curtis is a friend. It’s nothing physical. I enjoy talking to him.” Rachel gathered a small stack of papers and put them in her folder to go home then followed Shannon out the door.
Shannon turned her key to lock the door to the suite their office was in. “And if you weren’t friends with Curtis you could have a real relationship with Drew.”
“I haven’t ruled Drew out completely. You’ve made it very clear you don’t approve of me hanging out with Curtis.”
“Drew may rule it out if he finds out you’ve been having friendly dinners with the mortgage broker.” They walked to their cars parked beside each other.
“I would tell him the same thing I told you.” Rachel beeped the lock open on her Toyota. “Curtis doesn’t think of me like that anyway. We enjoy talking.”
“If you’re ditching Drew I want him.” Shannon smiled and tossed her purse across her seat to the passenger seat.
“I’ll see you tomorrow.” Rachel climbed in her car and turned in the direction of the highway.
She’d been somewhat surprised when Curtis called to ask her out to dinner. They’d had a pleasant enough time eating take out on moving day but they hadn’t met socially without a family member around other than that night. Maybe she should have called Adam to see if he wanted to come along. More than likely he needed some professional advice on his business venture.
She turned in to the parking lot of the Stable and cruised up and down the full aisles looking for a spot to park. She parked finally along the back row. She pulled her thin white sweater around her arms in an attempt to block some of the evening air. Curtis was standing in front of the wooden front door with his hands in his pockets.
“Rachel you’re going to freeze in that.” He when she was a few feet away.
“I hope not.”
“Our table is ready and waiting for us.” He pulled open the front door and gently touched the small of her back as she walked ahead in of him. She walked to the podium and glanced at him nervously. He motioned to a table without saying a word then pulled her chair out for her.
Was this a date?
She placed her cloth napkin in her lap and looked around. She had been to the Stable a few times over the years. The food was excellent for the price but she mostly came to enjoy all the horse things on the wall.
“You know” She started. “This place was a nineteenth century horse stable that they converted in to a restaurant.”
“I’d heard that from someone before.”
Then they were both quiet again.
Curtis cleared his throat and looked over the menu. Neither one was saying anything.
This was a date.
How could she have agreed to a date with Curtis? Well, in reality she hadn’t. He’d called and asked if she’d like to get together for dinner and she agreed. There was really no reason to think that they would be on a date.
Was there a way she could gracefully excuse herself without hurting his feelings? She closed her menu and looked up.
“Why are you staring at me like that?” she asked covering her nervous smile with her hand.
“I was enjoying the way the light moves around your face. You look very mysterious.” He sat back in his seat and smiled.
“Yes, I’m an enigma.” She said and she reached in to the breadbasket. She didn’t like the way his looks made her feel. He wasn’t creepy, no. These were feelings she hadn’t experienced for a long time. Those were the kinds of looks and feelings that left her alone in her bedroom crying. And why would she feel them for Curtis and not Drew?
“You really are a bit of an enigma. You’re nothing like most women I know.”
“How so?” She leaned forward and put her elbows on the table. What are you doing Rachel? She was absolutely asking for trouble.
“I can’t put my finger on it quite yet. You’re an interesting combination of self-assured and searching. That’s the best way I can describe it.” He paused and put his finger to his lips. Then as if solving a puzzle he said “You’re a bubble.”
She laughed. “I’m a bubble?”
“Yes. That’s exactly what it is.”
“Why in the world do you say I’m a bubble? Am I round and air headed?” Some of the camaraderie was returning.
He shook his head and leaned on the table. “Rachel, think about a bubble.” He motioned as if there were a bubble floating by their table. “What is a bubble like?”
“Light? Full of air? Made of soap?” She had no idea what he was looking for.
He rubbed his chin then began to speak. “A bubble is beautiful and delicate. You love to watch a bubble. It floats by you and changes colors in the light. It is lifted up on the slightest of breezes-.” He smiled and looked beyond her as if watching one float by them as they spoke.
“Thank you…I guess.” What should she say when a guy called her a bubble?
“But there’s another part to a bubble and that’s the part that hurts me to see.”
“What is that?”
“Inside a bubble is hollow, empty and the slightest outside force will cause it to pop, shatter. Then there is nothing left.”
Rachel’s breath caught in her throat along with her voice. Tears burned her eyes and threatened to spill all over the table. Curtis didn’t speak with a hint of animosity but tenderness, like her daddy’s voice. He reached across the table for her hand.
“Rachel, I’m not saying this to be…well,…I’m saying it because I care about you and I want you to know that if you need someone. I’m here.”
“Are you trying to say I’m going to pop?” One tear managed to escape. Curtis saw it. He looked down at the spot on the table where it landed. He squeezed her hand just a bit.
“Only you know if you’re about to pop.” He smiled just a bit. “I see a delicate, beautiful woman who has everything going for her but you don’t feel complete. You wonder if there isn’t more than this.”
Now she understood. She straightened a bit. “Is this your lead-in to try and get me saved?” She cursed herself. Stupid Rachel always following her heart around like a doggy on a leash. She thought about getting up and storming out.
“No. Not at all. I promise-.”
“You know nothing about me.” There was that old spunk she’d had. “How can you presume to know all the-.”
“Here are your salads.” The server reached in to the middle of their conversation and placed white ceramic plates full of lettuce down on the table. “Can I get you anything else while I’m here?” She looked between the two of them. How was it possible for this woman to be so dense as to not see they were in the middle of something?
“No, thank you.” Curtis said and she walked away. “Rachel-.”
“What?” She picked up her fork and began stabbing at uncooperative lettuce leaves.
“I promise I only invited you because I had so much helping you move and eating take out in your dining room.”
Images of the two of them than night softened her armor a bit but she was still ready. “Okay but I want you to know I like my life. I really do.”
“I’m sure you do.” He still hadn’t picked up his fork.
“I, unlike you, don’t seem to feel the need to find a deeper meaning in everything. I’m happy to live for the moment, enjoy today and not worry about tomorrow.”
“What are you feeling at this moment?” His voice was gentle.
Scared and vulnerable were the first words to come to mind but she wouldn’t say those. “Hungry comes to mind.”
Curtis relaxed and picked up his fork. “Well we came here to eat so let’s do that.”
She picked at the lettuce leaves looking for the cucumbers and tomatoes. That bubble thing was-. Well, everyone was a bubble. We all clean up the outside to look great but inside we’re different people with secrets that hurt people.
“So Curtis. Are you a bubble too?”
He put down his fork and wiped his mouth with the cloth napkin. “Do you believe in God Rachel?”
“Do you believe in right and wrong?”
“Of course.” She picked up a sugar packet and flipped it with her fingers then remembered she was drinking Coffee and not tea. She put it back with the other white, blue, pink and yellow packets.
“How do you know what is right and wrong?”
“What does that have to do with being a bubble?”
“Answer my question.” He kept his voice calm. It was inquisitive, not the least bit confrontational.
“You just know, in your gut.”
“Tell me some things that are right and wrong.”
“Helping poor people is good and killing is bad.”
“Is that always true?”
“Yes.” Then she stopped. “Wait, why am I on the hot seat? What about you?”
“You already know I believe the Bible is true and everything else is false.”
“Yes and what does that have to do with being a bubble?”
“I was a bubble when I used to go with the flow. I bobbed up and down with every new trend but inside I was empty.”
“Then you found Jesus and it was all fine.” She’d heard this tired worn out story a million times. Life falling apart with no hope for anything, homeless and hungry then a street preacher gave them a Bible and life is perfect.
“Nope. My life got so much worse.”
“Really.” She stifled a laugh but a bit of it trickled out.
“It got better for a few months but after that there were a couple years of hell on earth.”
“Then why do you still go and try to get other people to go to church.”
For a moment he seemed to be thinking, formulating an answer. “Because this time…I knew there was someone rooting for me and even if things got worse they’d turn out in the end.”
“Have they gotten better yet?”
“A little but they still aren’t quite to where I was before I let Jesus get a hold of my life.”
She no longer tried to hide her shock. “Then why do you still do it? Go to church I mean.”
“I’m not talking about church. A church is just a bunch of people. I’m talking about the church, the body of Christ. I have peace. I sleep better at night. I don’t worry. I may be thirty-something, single with some financial woes but now I have hope that things will get better.”
“I guess it’s not enough for me to hope something will be better when I die. I want it to work here or I ain’t buying. I don’t believe in a God who would send me to hell if I slept in on Sunday mornings.”
“What if you’re wrong?”
What did some financially struggling, plain looking man have to tell her about her life. He had no idea what she believed or why and here he was judging her. “What if you’re wrong? It would shatter your world.” A voice inside told her to stop, not to say the words bubbling inside her but it would feel so good to let them out. “The little perfect land you’ve created for yourself where you are the right ones with your big floppy Bibles and old men in flowing robes. If you would open yourself for just a moment to the idea that there could be another way to look at things it would make your head spin.” She was starting to spit as she spoke.
“And if you’re wrong, and I’m right, then you’re headed straight for hell.” His voice was somber.
“I’ve had enough of this conversation. I wanted to have a nice evening but…”
“Wait…” He reached forward for her. “I’m sorry. I don’t often get to have stimulating conversations with beautiful women. I’m sorry I got carried away. Please stay. Let’s have a nice evening.”
She looked down at his hand, still on top of hers. “Okay. Why don’t you tell me about you?”
“Umm, I think that’s what got us in trouble in the first place. Let’s talk about Adam.”
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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