Paige tried to look casual as she walked to the designated bench in the city park, but it was hard with her knees shaking so much. Although her husband had encouraged her to get out and meet new people, she had made only a few acquaintances; he just didn’t understand how difficult it was for her. If he hadn’t been convinced it was safe, and if her curiosity hadn’t been eating her alive, she would have stayed home.
Six weeks earlier a card arrived in the mail signed “Your secret friend.” Each week something had arrived from this ‘friend’ and today she was to meet her. Guessing from the graceful handwriting, her secret friend was an older woman. Paige sat down and adjusted the hat she’d been given to wear, relieved to see there was a steady trickle of people walking or jogging past and that City Hall was nearby.
“Oh, I’m so glad you’re still here. I was afraid I’d miss you! I’m sorry I’m late.” The newcomer straightened her matching hat as she hurried up. “Thank you so much for the cards, the ice cream and the violet. You’ll never know just how much they’ve meant to me!”
Paige’s eyes widened, “You’re thanking me?”
“Well, yes, you are the one who’s been my secret friend, aren’t you?”
Paige laughed despite herself. “No, but I’m here to meet my secret friend. Are you the one who’s sent me cards and ice cream and a pretty little violet?”
The other lady laughed, “No, I’m Wendy Patterson. We just moved here three months ago and I haven’t been able to meet many people yet. Sounds like we have the same secret friend, though. Do you have any idea who it might be?”
“I have no clue. I’m Paige Williams, and we just moved here about three months ago, too.” She smiled at Wendy, feeling a camaraderie she hadn’t felt since she’d left her hometown. “I’ve only briefly met a few people at church…”
Wendy jumped in as Paige paused, “What church have you been going to?”
Paige told her and commented on its friendliness. “That’s the church we were invited to! When we first arrived we went to dinner with one of my husband’s bosses and his wife and they invited us.” Wendy fiddled with the brim of her hat, “The thought of a new church really freaks me out. I do fine one-on-one, but I don’t like big groups of people I don’t know.”
Paige quietly chuckled. “I’m just the opposite. I’d rather be in a crowd where I can be invisible than to meet with people individually, unless I know them. So, do you have any idea who our friend might be?”
“Well, judging from these hats she gave us to wear here I’d say she likes hats.” Wendy reached up and adjusted her hat once again, her perkiness tended to send it sliding.
Paige smiled. “A lady down the block wears a hat when she’s out working in her flower beds. She has beautiful red hair and always looks spectacular, even when she’s grubbing around. She’s the one who invited us to church, but I can’t remember her name.”
Wendy grabbed her arm, “Red hair? So does Betty! She’s the one we went to dinner with that invited us to that church.
“Excuse me, ladies.” A jogger stopped and held an envelope toward them. “I was asked to deliver this to you.” Their names were written on the front in the familiar graceful script.
Paige and Wendy looked at each other. Paige reached for the envelope while Wendy asked the jogger, “Who gave this to you?”
The jogger laughed, “Well, a cop gave it to me and said an older lady in a hat had given it to him. That’s all I know. You ladies have a nice day!”
Inside the envelope Paige found an invitation to The Sundae Shoppe, a popular ice cream parlor near the park. Paige looked at Wendy and they shared a grin.
“Does your neighbor like ice cream as much as Betty does?” Wendy asked.
Paige laughed. “Does having a dish of ice cream every evening on the porch count as liking ice cream?”
At The Sundae Shoppe Paige spotted her neighbor’s familiar hat. “Bingo!”
Betty’s smile was brilliant, “Oh, I just knew those hats would look good on you girls. There’s nothing like pretty hats, ice cream and new friends.”
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