"I have a question." Barbara walked into the kitchen where her parents were having coffee.
"I've been looking through my stuff, and I don't see my plane tickets. Have you seen them?"
Ray dodged the question with one of his own. "Are you all packed and ready to go?"
"Yep, ready, except for the missing tickets. I'm not going to be able to get anywhere without them. It's been really nice visiting you here in Miami, but I need to go home and get back to work."
Her dad managed to keep his gaze steady, concealing the infinite sadness behind his eyes. "Barbara, Honey, we don't live in Miami, remember? We live in--"
Barbara cut in. "--Miami Beach! Oops, sorry."
Eileen stood and walked to her daughter's side. "Look outside. What do you see?" Her tone was gentle, but held an undercurrent of urgency.
"Snow. Deep snow."
"That's right. About three feet. Do you suppose Miami or anyplace near it gets snow like that?"
Barbara looked at her mother first, then her father. A single line furrowed the area between her eyes. "Miami. Snow? I...it's... No, that doesn't seem right. I guess I live in Miami, and you live in, um..."
Ray shot a quick glance at Eileen, and a tiny shimmer of hope ricocheted around the room. "We live in Pennsylvania, Barbie. It's New Year's Day, and we have lots of snow. We had a white Christmas a few days ago, remember?"
"You live in Pennsylvania." Digesting. Processing. She blinked many times, deliberately, laboriously. "You live in Pennsylvania."
Her parents were now standing together, breathlessly awaiting what would be their greatest Christmas present ever.
"You don't live in Miami, and I don't live in Miami. Snow. It's New Year's Day." Her fingers twisted, her eyes darted around the room.
"What year is it?"
Eileen burst into tears and buried her face in her husband's shoulder. He fought for control, fought hard, and answered that it was January 1, 2006.
Barbara calculated. "So I'm 32?"
Ray sagged, ever so slightly, and corrected her, careful to keep things light. "Well, Darlin', you might wish you were 32, but you're 45. You were born in 1960, in the summer: 06-06-60!
"We live in Pennsylvania, you live in Upstate New York, you're 45, and you've been visiting us over Christmas. You can't find your plane tickets because Tom has them. He's on his way here right now, to take you to the airport."
"Tom. Who is Tom?"
Eileen's sobs continued, unreadable. Were they the tears of a mother grieving for years lost? Or of joy at what seemed to be unfolding right there in the kitchen?
Ray wondered if he should press on or back off, and decided on the latter. "Tom is your...mentor. He'll travel with you and make sure everything is taken care of."
"So he has the tickets? To--New York, somewhere?
"Yes. He's got the tickets and will be here soon."
"Okay, then. I'll check my suitcase one more time." She left the room, muttering, "45. 06-06-60, yes, that sounds right. Tom. I have a mentor? 45. Pennsylvania. Snow."
Ray immediately got on the phone with Tom, who was only miles away. He was lucky to find a place to pull over and collect himself.
Barbara chattered with Tom about how her parents lived in Pennsylvania and she was 45 years old--can you believe it?--and wished him 'Happy New Year!' about 100 times.
He didn't mind. As the plane bound for Syracuse took off, Barbara looked at him with a clarity he hadn't seen for a long, long time. He had expected a question, but not what came out of her mouth.
"Is God real?"
Steady now, Tom. Steady. "Yes, Barb. He is very real."
She nodded seriously.
"So many people have been praying for you, Barb, so many. They pray for you every day, all the time. They've been praying--"
"--while I've been lost in the maze of my soul. Good. Yes. I'm glad."
"I think Jesus must be the answer." This declaration sounded so much like the 'old Barb' that Tom wished for just a fleeting moment that the oxygen mask would drop.
She smiled. "I need to rest now. Is that okay?"
He nodded and said, "That's fine. I'll be right here."
He watched her and his heart ballooned with gratitude. A miracle. Thank you, God!
Her eyes fluttered open and met his gaze.
She said, "Not Miami."
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