David: Did u kill the bee?
Mary: No bee. Weed trimmer was making noise in the backyard.
David: Whacking weeds by itself? LOL.
Mary stared at David’s reply. Their relationship was new enough that she wasn’t sure how he would react to the unexpected reappearance of Jared, especially given David’s remark about getting jealous this morning. She had been burned enough by other seemingly nice men who vanished into cyberspace after a few weeks of chatting.
She had surprised herself by the ease with which she navigated the online dating world. Face-to-face encounters of with strangers brought on mild-to-high panic attacks depending on the situation, but the relative anonymity of the Internet provided enough distance that she found herself stretching her social wings. Yet she still found it difficult to share personal details. Talking about Jared—and all the associated memories of that time in her life—would skate the edge of her comfort zone.
David came across as more direct, more honest than other men had in their chats. His online profile on Soul Believers listed “truthfulness” as the characteristic most important to him. In her two-year membership with the Christian Internet dating site, she had met her share of losers and pleasant-but-boring men. A few church acquaintances had shared such positive experiences of their own online dating success that she still held out hope. Currently, she chatted only with David, although she thought he probably wasn’t exclusive with her. Not that she would ask him. That would take more forwardness than she possessed.
David: U there?
Mary: Yep. Not sure how to say this, so here goes: weed whacking man is Jared.
David: From your dream?
David: Strange coincidence. I thought u hadn’t seen him for years.
Mary: I hadn’t. Jared’s new in town. My pastor knew I needed yard help, so he sent Jared. Pastor forgot to tell me.
David: Did he recognize u?
Mary: After a bit.
David: And u knew who he was, too?
Mary: Yeah. He hadn’t changed much.
David: So what happened?
Mary: Nothing. His leg hurt, so he left before finishing.
David: Is he gonna be around more?
Mary: Not jealous, r u?
David: Who, me? J
Mary: No need. Jared’s an old friend. Nothing more.
David: Good. Hey, I’ve got big news.
David: U r the first to know. I just got word myself. I’m going to Peru as a missionary.
Mary’s fingers hovered over the keyboard. The words “missionary” and “Peru” jumped off the screen. She toggled back to the Soul Believers website to open David’s profile. She must have missed something vital in it, like big, bold letters screaming MISSIONARY. If she had seen that, she never would have responded to his chat invitation. She skimmed the content, noting his church affiliation and religious beliefs. Nothing about missions or being a missionary.
Mary: I’m stunned. You never said anything b4.
She chewed on a fingernail while awaiting his reply. Of all the vocations in the world, David had a calling to be a missionary. And in Peru to boot. Any other country would be preferable to the place where her parents were. Maybe she should suggest he go to Africa instead. Lots of people there didn’t know Jesus.
David: I didn’t want to say anything b4 it was official. It usually takes 2-3 yrs for approval. Application expedited cuz missionary couple retiring sooner due to health problems.
Mary: How long b4 u go?
David: Probably a year. I need to learn the language, get shots, raise $.
Mary: I see.
Mary sat back. Maybe continuing to chat with David wasn’t such a good idea if he would be leaving within a year. Probably better for her not to get too attached to him. But she so rarely had opportunities to talk with a man she found attractive—and who seemed to like her, too—that she ignore that thought. Maybe he wasn’t serious and would change his mind about going.
David: Couldn’t wait to share w/u. Knew u would be excited 4 me.
Excited. Mary snorted. Yeah, she knew a thing or two about missionary zeal. But she shouldn’t taint David’s experience with her own. She summoned a smile, as if that would make her words read more sincerely, and typed her reply.
Mary: Then congrats. What’s the next steps?
David: I need to have a complete physical, schedule my shots. Then fund-raising @ churches, asking friends, etc.
Mary: How much $?
David: $30K for stateside training. $2K monthly pledges 4 Peru work.
David: Yeah. Feeling overwhelmed & excited, but God has called me & He will provide.
Mary: So happy 4 u.
David: I’m happy I can share w/u.
Mary’s watch alarm buzzed, alerting Pastor Smith and Jared would be arriving soon to discuss Jared’s working for her. The minister had phoned her yesterday to apologize for not telling her that he had sent Jared over to start on her yard. He suggested that the three of them meet to discuss the matter further.
Mary: Gotta sign off now. Same time tomorrow?
David: Yep. Sweet dreams, my sweet Mary.
Mary logged off and went downstairs. She had just enough time to brew something calming. Her nerves needed soothing after hearing David’s news.
As she waited for the water to boil, Mary filled a tea ball with a blend of loose-leaf jasmine and Ceylon black tea. Her thoughts centered on David and his becoming a missionary. Maybe God did have a sense of humor.
She arranged three cups and saucers, along with a creamer, sugar cup, and artificial sweetener packets on a tea tray. Her Aunt Geraldine had taught her the proper way to serve tea. Drinking tea was one of the few things that the two of them had in common. The woman, a spinster in her sixties when Mary had arrived, had no idea what to do with a sad and lonely little girl. Geraldine had done her best, made sure Mary had clean clothes and food to eat. But there was little conversation and less love between them. The two merely co-existed in this rambling old house.
Sometimes she had trouble remembering her face, since Geraldine had died twenty years ago. She had been surprised but pleased when the old woman had left her this house and a rather large bank account. Geraldine must have loved her a little to have given her such a big inheritance.
She added the teapot snuggled under a tea cozy and carried the tray into the living room and set it down.
The doorbell peeled. Now that the time had come to meet with Pastor Smith and Jared, her chest tightened and she focused her attention on deep breathing to calm down. The doorbell rang again. Mary blew out her breath, then opened the door. Pastor Smith, a large man with a full beard and twinkling brown eyes behind a pair of half-framed glasses, stood beside Jared Quinby, the man who had invaded her yard and her dreams yesterday.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Phantom Love is copyrighted and cannot be used in any form without permission from Sarah Hamaker.