Melissa Stover kissed her eleven year-old daughter, Sienna. Melancholy bathed her insides as her daughter left for the weekend with her father. Visitation had been routine since Sienna could walk. She had no memories of her parents together or how she cried when her daddy left. Melissa wondered if he ever regretted that choice. She closed the front door.
Ben came in from watering the vegetable garden. He saw the expression on her face and gave her a hug. “It never gets any easier, does it, honey?” He stroked her long, auburn hair hanging loosely around her shoulders.
“Old gunk,” she said, smiling, “but I’m grateful for my loving husband.”
“You make it easy,” he said, kissing her. “Speaking of old gunk, I need some steel wool to clean the barbecue grill.”
“Under the kitchen sink.” Melissa opened a cupboard, dug out a box and handed it to him. “Thanks for cooking the chicken, hon. Kelli’s always raving about it.”
Kelli Rayburn located her cell phone on the hallway credenza below an over-sized, scroll leaf, gold mirror on the wall. She straightened her new, French blue “Juicy Couture” top, admiring her recent increase in bust size before punching in a phone number.
April answered in two rings. “Hold on, conferencing in Melissa,” Kelli said.
In seconds, the three women were chatting about food for the Saturday afternoon game of Mexican Train--a version of Dominoes Kelli’s parents had learned via their travel club.
“I picked up a prawn platter and coleslaw at Costco,” April said.
“I have a fruit tray from Franco’s Deli,” Kelli said. “Anyone bringing pasta salad?”
“I made a cold penne pasta last night,” Melissa said, laughing at their barbs about her being “such a Martha Stewart”.
“With three hours to kill, how about pedicures?” April's voice faded into the roar of a lawn mower.
Kelli peered outside. “It’s the Barkers,” she said. “They’re across the street doing yard work.”
April raised her voice. “Why would they be mowing Tina Prince’s lawn?”
“Who knows why the Barkers do what they do,” Kelli said, laughing.
“Must be better things to do on Saturday than somebody’s lawn,” April said.
“I haven’t seen Tina since Jim left her,” said Melissa. “I hope she’s alright.”
“Probably embarrassed about Jim’s cheating,” April said. “How about that pedicure girlfriends?”
In ten minutes, they were climbing into Kelli’s shiny black Escalade. The Barkers smiled and waved as they headed for the salon.
April sat in front, examining her cuticles. “Maybe a manicure, too. What do you think of this color, Melissa?” She held up her fingers so her friend could see them from the back seat.
“Too dark for me, but looks like you,” Melissa said, distracted. “I think the Barker’s are generous to help Tina. What Jim did really reeks.”
April shoved Kelli’s shoulder. “You should’ve referred Tina to your surgeon. Maybe Jim wouldn’t have strayed.”
Melissa exhaled loudly. “That’s ridiculous.” She couldn’t make light of Tina’s suffering.
The next morning, Meg Barker opened her door, greeting Melissa with a warm hug. Her rosy cheeks were highlighted by a pink cotton blouse.
They sat in a cozy, yellow breakfast nook with a sunny window. On the table, Meg’s glasses perched on top of and open Bible. Melissa admired a handmade quilt draped over a chair arm.
“Each fabric square came from my late mother’s dresses,” Meg said, smiling. “It’s like draping her arms around me.”
Melissa smiled, and said, “Tina must be grateful for your help yesterday.”
“My gracious,” Meg said. “We are glad to do it. She’s working two jobs and caring for twins.”
“I was once divorced,” Melissa said. “It was the worst time of my life.”
“Did your friends disappear, too?”
Melissa blinked, and then nodded. “People fear getting involved.”
“How did that make you feel?” Meg patted her hand.
“Abandoned by the world.”
Meg nodded. “But not by God. He sent you a loving husband.”
“Yes, an answer to prayer,” Melissa said.
“Sweetie, what’s on your heart?”
“I remember when any gesture of kindness made a big difference in my life. Do you think that I can help Tina?”
1Peter 3:3-4 (New Living Translation) Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.
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