“Thanks for having me over tonight. Calvin’s out with his buddies and I wasn’t looking forward to watching whatever movie my roommate brought home.” Amy Donavan embraced Mary in a cloud of perfume and love. “Mmm, smells good in here. What’s for dinner?”
“Barley lamb shanks and vegetables.” Mary surveyed her friend. “What’s going on? You look positively glowing.”
Amy smiled and waved her left hand around in the air.
Mary caught the sparkle of a diamond on the ring finger and squealed. “Calvin finally asked you to marry him?”
“Two days ago.”
Mary grabbed her friend in a hug. “Congratulations! This is wonderful news. Come in the kitchen and tell me all about it while I dish up dinner.”
Amy followed her into the kitchen and settled herself on a bar stool by the island. “Do you remember I sent you a text a few days ago that it was the worst day of my life? Calvin and I had a dinner reservation but my boss made me stay late and redo the cover letter to the fundraising packet that had to go out the next day. I had to cancel our plans.” She shook her head, brushing back a strand of hair. “To give him credit, Calvin didn’t snap at me for ruining his plans. He said that was okay and to call him when I was heading home, no matter the time.”
Mary set the small kitchen table. “What happened next?”
“I got into my car close to eight and called him. I told him I was too bushed to go out and could I have a rain check on our dinner. All I wanted to do was go home and crash. He told me he understood and he’d call me in the morning.” Amy grinned. “He called my roommate and got her to leave the apartment for a few hours. He brought in dinner from the restaurant where we were supposed to eat. When I walked into my apartment, he had candles burning, soft music playing, and the table set. I cried when he dropped down on one knee right there in the foyer and asked me to be his wife.”
“I gather you said yes.” Mary poured sangria into two glasses and handed one to Amy, who had been her friend for two decades. They had met at a small women’s Bible study group Mary had attended after Geraldine died. She smiled at her friend, tamping down the sprig of jealously that struggled to take root. Amy and Calvin were a lovely couple, but she couldn’t help feeling her chance at love had passed her by already, that soon she would be an old maid like her Aunt Geraldine.
“Of course I said yes.”
“I forget how long you two had been dating.”
Amy rolled her eyes. “Five years, if you can believe that.”
“I’m so happy for you both. Calvin’s a great guy.” Mary dished up the meal. “Come on, let’s eat.”
As the two women sat down at the table, Amy said, “Now I’ve just got to get him to set a date in the not-so-distant future.”
Mary said grace and the two began to eat. Amy shook her fork at Mary before spearing a piece of lamb. “You need to get out there, you know. You won’t meet a man staying around here.”
Mary thought of David just a click away online. Best friend or not, she wasn’t ready to share David with anyone, even Amy. Time to change the subject. “I guess you won’t be interested to know about the man who’s living in my carriage house as of today.”
Amy put down her fork and stared at Mary. “Wow, there are hidden depths to you that I am only just beginning to plumb. It’s your turn to spill the beans.”
Mary laughed. “Let me preface this story by saying it was all Pastor Smith’s idea. The city slapped me with a fine for my property’s grass length because I forgot about mowing the grass.” Mary paused. She didn’t want to share that her depression about her lack of a love life had meant some days she hadn’t bothered to even get dressed, much less worry about her lawn. “Now it’s a jungle out there and you know how I hate yard work of any sort.”
Amy nodded, sipping her sangria. “Go on.”
“So I asked Pastor Smith for recommendations of someone who would be willing to get the yard into some semblance of order and do a few minor household repairs in exchange for free rent in the carriage house apartment.”
“I see. So who’s the man?”
“Details, girlfriend!” She narrowed her eyes at Mary. “It will go easier on you if I don’t have to pull every piece of information out from you bit by bit.” She twirled a pretend mustache and put on a horrible German accent. “I have ways of making you talk.”
“Okay, I’ll tell. Please don’t hurt me.” Mary took a bite of carrots as she marshaled her thoughts. She had never told Amy much about her childhood and she wanted to avoid answering more questions tonight.
“He’s my age, tall with a medium build. He has white-blond hair, and has a disability in his left leg that needs physical exercise to get better.” She forked another bite into her mouth and chewed slowly, swallowing before continuing. “The funny part of it is, we knew each other as children. He lived next door to me for a few years before I moved in with my aunt here.”
Amy shook her head. “Just goes to show what a small world we live in after all.”
Mary wondered what Amy would say if she knew about why she had never seen Jared again until a few days ago. And why David’s moving to Peru had brought back so many painful memories.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Phantom Love is copyrighted and cannot be used in any form without permission from Sarah Hamaker.1