I cringed at the sight of the doorknob. “You know, it’s probably too early to be here. Why don’t we just go and get some Starbucks and come back in a few hours? I’ll treat.”
“Actually, it’s my treat, and you’ve waited long enough. Let’s go in.” I couldn’t feel a hand on my back per se, but I was being pushed inside.
“What if she’s sleeping?” I whispered. “She doesn’t even know me. What if she tries to hit me with a bat or something?”
“Move it.” Now he sounded annoyed.
My pupils strained to adjust to the darkness inside. My nerves set off an earthquake in my belly and a monsoon in my palms.
“Relax,” he said. “I wouldn’t have asked you to do this if I didn’t think you could handle it. You can do this.”
His voice was like rain on dry ground. I let it soak in and felt my shoulders untangle.
“Okay then, where is she?” I almost said with confidence.
He led me down a narrow hall void of any décor.
“There”, his voice pointed the way.
I watched as morning crept over the sill of the window seat that framed her silhouette. Her head bent sharply against the window, chestnut hair fallen like unbound curtains. Her hands knotted around her knees. An afghan pooled low around her back.
She focused on the empty street below, not on the sunrise. Her sullen expression juxtaposed to the sparrow’s song outside.
Light slowly filled the shadowed spaces of the room until no mystery remained. A green and yellow damask sofa sat flat against the wall, a wastebasket brimmed with soiled tissues, and a stack of books lay haphazard on the floor, now illuminated in dawn’s light.
“How long has she been like this?” I turned to ask, but he was gone and I was alone with her.
She looked up at me briefly and turned back to the window. Anger I expected, not indifference.
I walked to her keeping a soft and steady pace. I felt like I was about to disturb a bear instead of a young woman. I cleared my throat and laid a gentle hand on her shoulder.
“This is for you,” I said, offering her the book in my hand. “I understand you’ve been waiting for quite some time.”
Her head turned not to me, but to the book in my hand. Her delicate fingers scooped the novel from my hands to her lap. She caressed the cover, “It’s beautiful”.
She looked up. A sheen of tears washed over the deep green in her eyes. A wry smiled pulled up at the corner of her mouth. Then she returned her gaze to the book.
She opened the book cover and flipped through the pages. She looked like a new mother memorizing all her baby’s intricate features. “Yes,” she finally said, “I have been waiting a very long time.” She patted the velvety cushion beside her, bidding me to sit.
Guilt warmed my cheeks as I sat. “I’m so sorry. I should have brought it sooner. I just figured you would read someone else’s book. Someone better at saying what needed to be said.” Even I didn’t buy my excuse.
I knew the truth of it, but she spoke it. “I needed you. I needed for you to say it, to me.”
She tipped her head to the side, slipping a finger through her hair and over her ear, studying my face. She waited for my eyes to meet hers. “I’m glad it’s here now”, she smiled.
She dropped her hand and laid it on mine. “Why did you wait so long? I’ve spent years looking for your words, but…” she looked down at the pile of books on the floor, a bemused look on her face. “As you can see, they couldn’t say what you can.”
“The truth is…” the awkward words tripped out of my mouth. “ The truth is I was scared. I was scared my words wouldn’t be good enough. I was scared you would laugh. I was scared that they wouldn’t say what they ought.”
She turned and dropped her legs to the floor. “But it’s your words I prayed for”, she said gently nudging me with her shoulder.
I nodded because I knew it was true.
“Thank you,” she said, her hand gracing the cover once more. “I can’t wait to read it.”
“ 11 Then the Lord asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.” Exodus 4:11 (New Living Translation)
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