Laurel hadn’t been back to this part of the state in three years. Not since her mother had joined her father and sister Violet at the cemetery. But a business trip had brought her here, today of all days. Ten years Violet, has it really been ten years.
Laurel forced herself to concentrate on the speaker who was trying to be entertaining in conveying his thoughts on marketing. This guy really needs to join Toastmaster’s.
Mr. double-clutch, as Laurel nicknamed him for his overuse of filler words, especially well-uh and um-um, droned on. The written material was at least informative so Laurel didn’t feel like the company totally wasted their money.
Checking her schedule she was relieved that he wasn’t scheduled to speak after lunch. Lunch was a two-hour break. “I have time to go to 7-Eleven,” she said out loud to nobody in particular.
Laurel turned around to see a tall handsome man with piercing blue eyes looking at her. “Oh I didn’t know anyone heard me. This is my hometown and I thought I’d go visit the old neighborhood.” Laurel said shyly.
“Oh, well have a nice time.”
Laurel found her rental car in the parking lot and drove the once familiar streets towards the old neighborhood. There was an empty lot where the Salvation Army used to be. Violet this trip’s for you. I don’t even like Slurpee’s anymore but I have to do this. You were a great big sister before your life fell apart and you became an alcoholic. Laurel reached up and fingered the turquoise cross Violet had given her for her thirteenth birthday. She’d clung to the faith it represented when their father died. She’d long ago accepted her sister’s death but felt like commemorating it by reliving a happier time in their lives.
Strolling the aisles she noticed their changes. Years passing by always bring changes. She didn’t know when it happened but 7-Eleven clerks stopped serving Slurpees. It was now a self-serve machine to the side of the counter instead of behind it. No way, it can’t be. Laurel frantically scanned the candy aisle again. She wasn’t planning on buying any but no Lemonheads? It can’t be, they were Violet’s favorite. She gave up her search and went and served herself a Slurpee. She was hoping for the new sugar-free Crystal Light like they had at the 7-Eleven near her home but this store didn’t have it. She went with a small Coca Cola Classic instead.
“I like your cross,” the clerk said when Laurel set her drink down so she could get out her wallet to pay for it.
“Thank you. My sister Violet gave it to me. She passed away ten years ago today. This is my way of remembering her. We used to come here when we were younger.”
“Rest in peace.” The kind dark skinned clerk with no name badge said.
“Rest, are you kidding? She’s dancing with Jesus brother.” Laurel almost reached across the counter and slapped him on the shoulder like you would a good friend. Where’d that come from? She thought. I’m the shy sister.
“Oh good, good. Well then resting with Jesus."
“Or dancing.” Laurel stubbornly replied. She wasn’t about to let go of the notion of Violet dancing for joy in the presence of her redeemer.
“Or working. We don’t really know.” A customer with a large bag of ice stepped up. Laurel moved aside so he could set his bag on the counter. Taking her change she went on her way.
Arriving back at the conference site she ditched the drink cup which she had by now emptied. Before entering the meeting room she took a piece of gum out of her purse to get rid of the syrupy aftertaste.
“Good afternoon. Today we will talk about expectations in the business world.” Mr. Piercing Eyes turned out to be the lecturer. He looked directly at Violet. “May I use you as an example?”
“I guess so?”
“This woman …’
“Violet took a little side trip at lunch today. She grew up around here and went to visit the old neighborhood. Was it everything you expected?”
“I didn’t think it would be. This world is constantly changing and business must change with it but …”
Violet didn’t hear the rest of what he said. She was thinking about the biggest change in the neighborhood—her boldness in sharing her faith.
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