Jared wondered if he’d heard her correctly. Mary’s parents had been missionaries down in South America for thirty years. Thirty years. And not once during that time had they returned to the States to see their daughter nor had she gone to see them. Outrageous.
Then he computed the numbers and realized what that meant. His heart dropped to his shoes. Thirty years ago meant that her parents had left a nine-year-old girl behind to bring the Gospel to some heathen tribe along the Amazon River. They must have dumped her with this Aunt Geraldine, who sounded not at all suitable for a young girl.
A soft sniffle snapped him out of his ruminations. He stepped closer to Mary and put his arm on her shoulder, expecting her to pull away or flinch. To his surprise, she did neither. “Are you all right?”
Mary raised a tear-streaked face and shook her head as her tears escalated into a waterfall of sorrow. She dropped the water bottle, capped, Jared was quick to notice. Mary covered her face with her hands. Jared did the only thing he could think of: He reached out and pulled the shaking figure into his arms.
Her body tensed but she didn’t pull away as the sobs tore through her frame. Jared grieved for the nine-year-old who had left the only home she had known to live with an unknown aunt while her parents went off to be missionaries. He couldn’t understand how her parents share the Gospel to an Amazonian tribe trumped being there for their only daughter. The insensitivity of never coming back, never inviting her for a visit, must cut her to the quick.
Despite his aching leg, Jared stood and held Mary. After the initial flood, the tears became a trickle and she gradually quieted in his arms. It was then he noticed how nicely she fit against his chest, her head on his shoulder, his face against her sweet-smelling hair. Just when he was thinking he could get used to this, she pulled away.
She avoided his eyes as she used a towel to wipe her face. Her expression changed to horror when she looked at the wall clock. “Four fifteen!” She turned a stricken expression to Jared. “I’m late for my chat with David. I’m sorry, I’ve got to go. He’ll be so worried.”
“Who’s David” Jared called after her, but either she didn’t hear him or didn’t want to tell him. Jared watched as she scampered off, leaving him behind with a damp shirt front and more questions than answers. It was a good thing he had taken an indefinite leave of absence from his practice. It was clear he was losing his touch.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Phantom Love is copyrighted and cannot be used in any form without permission from Sarah Hamaker.