Jared turned on the hot water and added dish soap to the sponge. He attacked the griddle with more force than necessary. Soapy water splashed up, soaking the bottom of his shirt. Great, now he had a wet shirt. He didn’t want to think about why Mary’s abrupt departure irked him. He rolled his shoulders and finished the dishes at a more sedate pace. He was drying his hands on the kitchen towel when his cell phone buzzed on the counter. He leaned over and saw it was Will.
“I need to see you.”
Jared leaned against the counter. “Hello to you, too. What’s up?”
“Sorry, I haven’t slept much over the past few days. I think we’ve caught a break in the case. But it’s not something I can discuss on the phone.”
“I’m going out on a limb for you with what I’ve agreed to already. This isn’t—”
“No, it’s nothing like the last time.”
Jared heard the apology in his voice. He had been friends with Will since Jared started his residency at an inner city clinic. If Will thought Jared would forget that it was Will who had roped him into the previous case, he was mistaken. On the other hand, Will’s hunches usually turned out to be right, and if Jared had listened to Will’s advice on the last case, a bullet might not have ended up in his leg.
Jared lowered his head and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Okay. I’m without wheels, so you’ll have to come to me.”
“Thanks. Are you free tonight?”
“I’m free every night. I’m out in Culpepper.”
“Culpepper? Give me the address and I’ll enter it into my phone’s GPS for directions.”
Jared rattled off the address.
“I’ll be there around seven-thirty.”
“It’s the carriage house at the back of the property. Just keep going down the driveway and it’ll dead end at the house. The apartment’s above it with the stairs on the right hand side.”
“Okay, got it. See you then.”
Jared hung up the phone. “I hope I don’t regret this,” he said aloud to the empty kitchen.
# # #
Mary flexed her fingers. She had managed to make it to the chat only two minutes late, but in cyberspace time, that might as well have been two hours.
David: Glad you’re here now. I might have to scoot out early today because I have an important meeting w/ my pastor to discuss support for my missionary work in Peru.
Mary: So soon? I thought you had training to do first.
David: The organization I’m going with wants me to get started right away on the fundraising so there’s no delay between the end of training and going to the mission field.
Mary: That sounds like a lot of work. Do you have help?
David: Sort of. I get some advice from the group but I have to do all the legwork. The monthly pledges will be the hardest I think.
Mary: How much do you need to raise again?
David: At least $30K before going & $2K in monthly pledges.
David: Yikes is right. It’s going to be tough, as I doubt I’ll be any good at fundraising. I wish there was someone who could help me, but God has called me to Peru & I know He’ll help me make it there.
Mary deflated against the back of her chair. She really liked David but the thought of him going to Peru twisted her stomach. David had come across as nothing like her parents, but she couldn’t separate the two in reality. If she didn’t offer to help David when he really needed it, he would find someone else who supported his calling fully. She tapped her fingers against the smooth wood of the desktop. Her easy conversation with Jared gave her courage to go out on a limb. If she could feel at ease in his company, then she could help someone she had grown to respect. She would take the plunge and see where it led her.
Mary: Is there anything I could do too help you?
She clicked send before she chickened out. David’s reply popped up before she had even moved her hands from her keyboard.
David: Mary, you are the most amazing woman. That u would offer to help someone you’ve never even met face-to-face with raising support shows your kind & gentle spirit. You are truly a woman of God. I would be honored if u would help me.
Mary: Truth be told, I’m terrified. This is definitely out of my comfort zone.
David: I’ll be w/you every step of the way. We can do this together.
Mary: U lead, I’ll follow. J
David: Let me talk w/ Bringing Christ to Latin America, the organization I’ll be w/ as a missionary, & see what they recommend. I’m sitting here typing w/ tears of gratitude for your offer. I was feeling a bit down, thinking of all the work I had to do b4 leaving for Peru, but you have lightened my load. Now I’m smiling like an idiot. JJJJ I’m glad I’ll have you by my cyberside helping me.
Mary thought his words were overly sweet, but she basked in the expressed sentiment nonetheless.
Mary: I’m happy to help in any way. Just let me know what I can do.
David: I will, sweet, sweet Mary. Now I must run to my meeting. OOO, and, dare I write it?, XX, with the fondest of hearts.
Mary sat for a long time staring at those words, her heart filled to bursting with joy before deflating at the realization that this man was heading to another country soon. Her cell phone chirped, interrupting her thoughts.
Distracted by thoughts of David, she picked it up and answered without checking caller ID.
“Mary? It’s Jared.”
“What’s up?” She twirled a strand of hair around her finger.
“I just wanted to let you know I will be having a visitor tonight around seven-thirty. He’ll drive straight back to the carriage house, so you shouldn’t be bothered. But I thought you would like to know.”
Mary’s eyes strayed to the chat transcript still glowing on her computer screen. She reread David’s last chat entry again and again, barely registering Jared’s words.
“Are you still there? Hello?”
Mary blinked. “Sorry, Jared. I was distracted.”
“That was all I wanted to say. Bye.”
Mary shut her phone, her eyes never leaving the words David had written. No matter what happened, she had received her first cyber-kiss. She sighed, knowing that might be the only type of kiss a man would ever give her.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Phantom Love is copyrighted and cannot be used in any form without permission from Sarah Hamaker.