Jared lay on his bed, staring at the ceiling with his hands behind his head. He had kept to himself after, concentrating on finishing up the yard work and tightening the sagging gutters on the front of the house. He had only caught glimpses of Mary in the house while he worked, but she hadn’t come outside. She expected David to arrive tomorrow. His gut twisted at the thought of her preparing for a wedding that wouldn’t take place.
His cell phone rang, derailing that line of thought. “Hello?”
“Can’t you talk her out of it?” Amy said.
“Hi to you, too.”
“Is that all you can say? The man’s plane touches down in less than twenty-four hours. What is your plan?” She blew out a breath.
“Why do you think I have any influence with Mary? She won’t talk to me.”
Amy huffed. “Don’t be an idiot. She’s been moping around ever since the auction.”
Jared sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. “Really?”
“Why are men so dense when it comes to women?” She sighed. “Never mind. You haven’t much time. Can’t you think of some excuse to see her?” Amy paused. “I thought you cared about her.”
“I, uh, I do.” More than he was willing to admit to her best friend. And he didn’t just care about her, he loved her. Will’s warning echoed in his head, but he silenced it. If he had to, he would tell her all about David’s scam and the other women, FBI investigation or not. “Has the wire transfer come through yet for the painting?”
“I think Mary said it was due to come through this morning. Why?”
He ignored the question. “I’ve got to go. Talk to you later.” He ended the call and sat motionless for a moment, trying to think of a reason to knock on her back door. Then he glanced at the time on his cell phone: 10:58 p.m. Mary might not talk to him face-to-face, but he could always try Layla.
When he tuned in the station on the kitchen radio, Love Letters With Layla was on a commercial break. He searched on his phone for the call-in number, using the auto connect feature. He was still mulling over his approach when a woman’s voice, not Mary’s, answered. “Love Letters With Layla, what’s your request?”
“Uh,” Jared scrambled to come up with a love song that would mean something to Mary. The title that popped into his mind triggered a smile. “‘She’s the One’ by the Ramones.’” If that song didn’t get her thinking about him, he didn’t know what would. The words came faster now that he had had an idea of how to proceed. “The girl I love is going to marry someone else in a few days.”
“You haven’t told her how you feel?” The woman’s voice sounded interested.
“No. But she always listens to Layla. Maybe if she heard me on the show, I’d have a chance with her.” Jared held his breath, uttering a silent prayer that this would work.
He gripped the phone and paced the living room as the radio broadcast filtered in from the kitchen.
“You’re listening to Love Letters With Layla on WMCR, 98.6 on your FM dial. Let’s go right to the request line. Hello, you’re on the air.”
“Layla?” He wasn’t sure if he was hearing her voice in his ear or on the radio.
“Yes, who’s this?”
“Jar, uh.” He used his pajama sleeve to muffle his voice. “Jay.” Now that he was talking to Layla-Mary, he’d have a better chance to share his feelings if Mary didn’t catch on right away.
“Okay, Jay. What’s on your mind?”
He almost blurted out “you,” but recovered in time to avoid total catastrophe. If Mary suspected it was him on the line before he had a chance to say his piece, she would disconnect the call without a second thought. “There’s this woman.”
“There usually is. Tell me about her.”
Jared closed his eyes, picturing Mary with her long black hair and eyes that took on a purple hue whenever she was upset or happy. “I can’t get her out of my mind. She is the most beautiful woman in the world.”
Layla-Mary laughed softly. “Then why do you sound so sad?”
“Because she’s engaged to someone else.” He opened his eyes and moved to the window to see if Mary’s light shone upstairs.
“Have you told her how you feel?”
He stared at the light in her window and spoke from his heart. “Not in so many words. Every time I try, I end up making her mad because I don’t think the man she’s going to marry is right for her.”
“How long have you known her?”
God had made the perfect opening to bring their story into the conversation. He shot up a prayer of thanks and jumped in with both feet.
“Since we were kids,” he said holding onto hope.
# # #
Mary paused. The caller’s story reminded her of Jared. Maybe it was Jared, but she had to pretend otherwise because she wasn’t one hundred percent sure. It wouldn’t do to make a mistake like that on the air. “With that much history together, you should try again.”
“I want to, but she won’t see me or accept my calls.”
His forlorn tone tugged at her heart. “If she’s as special as you say, then isn’t she worth risking everything to see her?” An IM from her producer popped on her screen, reminding her that a long cue of callers waited. “Now, what can I play for you?”
“‘She’s the One’ by the Ramones.”
Mary asked the next question by rote. “Does that song have special meaning for the two of you?”
“Yes. It was the first song we skated to as a couple when we were nine.”
“Everyone, here’s the Ramones with ‘She’s the One’ going out to Jar, er, Jay and his girl.” Mary punched in the button to play the song, her mind on a rainy Saturday afternoon at the local skating rink when a skinny boy with white-blond hair held her hand as they circled under the disco lights.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Phantom Love is copyrighted and cannot be used in any form without permission from Sarah Hamaker.