Megan was opening the door of her tiny apartment when the mailman puffed up the stairs to give her the parcel. It was an odd shape, and it looked as if someone with less than professional experience had wrapped it. It was big, but felt light - fragile almost.
Despite her rush to get to the shower and wash away the day’s hard work, Megan’s curiosity and her penchant for presents got the better of her. After a difficult fight with some blunt scissors, and tape attaching itself to her thumb and all four fingers simultaneously, the brown paper fell away to reveal a Christmas tree star of stunning caliber. She didn’t even need to hold it up to the light. It sparkled and twinkled like a winking beau in her hand. That’s when the note caught her eye.
Megan sighed the kind of sigh one might imagine an inner-city high school principal would make after the fifteenth rebellious youth of the day reached her office. Ryan was her soon to be ex-husband, and he would not leave her alone. He was composed of a myriad of problems and shady side jobs even she couldn’t wade through. To have to have even one piece of him in her life now was one piece too many, and the glittering star was unceremoniously dumped in the trashcan.
Ryan’s star had indeed been winking at her. Ryan’s computer had provided an avid inspection of brown paper creases, the sound of thick edged scissor blades gnawing at tape, a bird’s eye view into Megan’s open mouth and, eventually, darkness, because Ryan’s star was really Ryan’s private eye.
He hadn’t quite planned on it ending this way. He’d assumed that Megan would rush to put it on top of the Christmas tree because of her adoration of pretty things. He’d been wrong. The view from the middle of a trash bag was his reward for the hours of work he had put into his fail-proof spy cam feat. He let his chin drop to his chest and closed his eyes, all hope of finding out if she really hated him gone.
At 7am the next morning, Ryan’s sleep apnea still hadn’t finished him off. Over at 201 Freeatlast Apartments, Megan stepped on the trashcan foot pedal to throw out her freshly squeezed orange skins. She took another look at the star, which was lying like a hobo on last night’s TV dinner. She reached in and withdrew the treasure, paused to second-guess herself, and then crowned her Christmas tree with the silver star of Troy.
At 9am Ryan stretched and groaned in unison with his morning gas. As he blearily groped his way over to his coffee maker, his left eye caught movement on the monitor. Caffeine no longer necessary, his racing heart sat down to watch the Christmas Eve proceedings.
Hours passed. Bernice, his mother-in-law, arrived first, shortly followed by her stoic husband, Bert. Her chatter was, as usual, full of nothing but herself. Bert helped himself generously to the bottle of Johnny Walker he had brought for the party. As his nose slowly turned an interesting shade of red, Martha and Mike showed up with the triplets. Martha got busy while the kids ran amok.
Ryan stared down at Megan’s face from his hunting post as she greeted her brother. He’d forgotten how big her smile was.
Mike searched her face for pain.
“Are you doing OK? I hear that Ryan has been vilifying you no end. Can’t he ever point a finger back at himself?”
“You know what they say. What breaks a man makes a man.” Megan smiled peacefully at her brother. “You know Mike, I’m having the best time with God! He’s going to get me through this. As for Ryan, I pray every day that his walls of self-protection will crumble and that he will trust God enough to let Him into his heart.”
“Somewhere in that heart of Ryan’s is the good part I fell in love with. I hope he let’s God help him find it and refine it, for his sake.”
Suddenly Ryan couldn’t see anymore. He wasn’t sure if it was because of the tears that filled his eyes, or the fact that his hands were desperately wiping them away, but Ryan’s private eye had not succeeded in finding out what was going on in Megan’s heart, rather it had exposed, and loosened, a little chunk of his own.
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