The wind howled around the side of the building, and Kera shivered, as much from the sound as from the cold. She looked at her watch again. Darn, Matt had said to meet him in front of the bookstore at 6:00, and it was already quarter after. Kera had been waiting for 15 minutes in the cold wind and she was beginning to shiver. Snowflakes were starting to fall. Just a few yet, but the wind racing down the block and around the corner was tossing them around in swirling maelstroms, until instead of hitting the pavement, they were caught up again into the light of the streetlamp. Lights inside the stores looked warm and inviting, but Kera was afraid she’d miss Matt if she went inside. Another few minutes, she told herself.
Just then the owner of the bookstore stepped outside and motioned Kera inside. Kera followed her into the store and the warmth was like a welcoming hug. The owner was a woman of indiscriminate age, the kind who looked neither young nor old. Her eyes were kind and her manner soothing and gentle. She motioned Kera to a chair in the reading nook near the front window.
“Sit here, dear. You look frozen to death. Are you waiting for someone?”
“Well, you can watch from here. I was just having some tea. Would you care for some? It’ll warm you.”
Kera nodded, and took the hot mug with thanks. She buried her face in the steamy warmth of the tea, watching the street outside.
“Waiting for your husband?” the owner asked, noting Kera’s wedding band.
Kera shook her head.
“Just a friend,” she replied, but her nervous manner and blush gave her away.
They sat quietly for a moment.
“I lost mine a couple years ago,” the woman said. “My husband, that is. I thought I’d never get over his dying and leaving me.”
Kera looked at the woman and made sympathetic sounds.
“Yes, forty years together. That many years together make a bond that isn’t easy to break. How many years have you been married?”
“Three,” Kera mumbled.
“Oh, you have so much to look forward to, yet. So many memories to make, so much love to share.”
Kera looked at the wedding band on her finger that she had been absently turning round and round.
“Do you have children?” the woman asked.
“No,” Kera shook her head, and glanced outside again. Where was Matt? Had he ever meant to come? Kera huddled inside her coat, filled with anger with herself. Why had she let Matt talk her into this meeting? She had only met him a few months ago. He was a salesman who often came to the office where she worked. Lately, she hadn’t been able to get him out of her mind. She thought about him all the time, and desire would wash over her when she saw him. She had never meant for it to go this far.
The woman was talking, her voice a backdrop for Kera’s thoughts.
“Are you planning on having children?” the woman asked kindly.
“Yes,” Kera said quickly. Now where did that come from?
“Oh, children can be wonderful. Well now, are you feeling better, dear?” the woman asked.
“Yes, thank you.”
“I guess your friend isn’t going to make it. The weather is getting worse,” the woman said, looking out the window.
“Yes, I’d better get going,” Kera said rising. “Thank you.”
She moved toward the door, pulling her gloves on.
“Oh, you’re welcome,” the woman said with a smile. “Your husband will be glad to see you get home safely,” she added.
“Yes, yes he will,” Kera replied. Suddenly she thought of John, waiting at home for her. He was so good and loving. Kera suddenly turned to the woman and gave her a hug.
“Thank you,” she said. “Thank you for everything. I’m going home now.”
She went out the door into the snow swept night and walked quickly toward her car.
The woman watched her go, a smile on her face.
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