THOUGH IT WAS THE MIDDLE OF JUNE AND SUMMER WAS ALMOSTofficially upon them, the day itself seemed as drab and colorless as Lynn Myers’s shoulder-length hair before her Clairol touch-up, and she had no reason to believe that tomorrow would be any different, which for the most part suited her just fine. Sameness represented security to Lynn, and she thrived on it—even pursued it with passion. But opposites attract, as they say, and life with Daniel had contained little, if any, sameness from day to day.
However, Daniel was gone now, and Lynn instinctively had resorted to routine to carry her through. So far, it appeared to anyone who didn’t look too closely that her efforts had succeeded—until the day she returned from grocery shopping and spotted the official-looking letter protruding from the white metal mailbox on the outside wall next to her front door.
She snagged the envelope, along with three nondescript occupant offerings, on the way inside. Smiling, she offered a brief hello to her ten-year-old cocker spaniel, Beasley, who lay in his customary spot on the braided rug next to Lynn’s favorite chair. Beasley opened one eye and wagged his stub of a tail in greeting, and Lynn proceeded to the kitchen and set her groceries on the table. Still holding the envelope, she flipped it from front to back twice and even held it up to the light, as if she could determine its contents in the process. Why didn’t she just open it? She started to, several times, but instead decided to put her groceries away first. No sense deviating from her usual method of doing everything “decently and in order,” as the Bible dictated. But what was it about that envelope that jacked up her heart rate and dampened the palms of her hands?
Lynn’s aversion to change was nothing new. Born and raised in a small town where the annual Spring Fling Festival was the biggest event on the calendar, Lynn grew up believing she would always live in Bloomfield, surrounded by the same familiar friends and walking the same familiar streets. Then she met Daniel, a man too handsome for his own good—and hers, too, she’d been warned—but her heart hadn’t listened. And because Daniel was only in Bloomfield to visit relatives for the summer before returning to his home a few hundred miles away, eighteen-year-old Lynn had a decision to make.
Admittedly, she’d been torn. Her avoidance of change, combined with her loyalty to family and friends in Bloomfield, beckoned her to do the sensible thing and say good-bye to the good-looking young man who had blown in and out of town, capturing her heart in the process. But the letters and phone calls he sent her way once he returned home drew her in a way she’d been helpless to resist. She’d prayed, she’d worried, she’d even argued with herself. Why leave a perfectly good little town with nice people and comfortable surroundings to live in a sprawling metropolis of nearly 100,000 residents, none of whom she’d ever met? She wouldn’t even know which grocery store had the best bargains or the freshest meat, or which stoplights were preprogrammed and which could be tripped by the weight of a car idling in just the right spot. Why not continue to live at home and attend the nearby junior college, as she’d originally planned, and hope that one of the few sensible and eligible bachelors in town would one day notice her and pop the question so she wouldn’t have to make so many adjustments?
But ultimately she acted in a way many in Bloomfield had described as “completely out of character,” and she accepted Daniel’s romantic and urgent proposal of marriage, following him “to the ends of the earth.” When people asked her why—and many did—she simply told them she was in love. She’d known the moment her best friend introduced her to Daniel Myers on that bright June day less than a week after her high school graduation that her heart would never again be her own. And for some unimaginable reason, he felt the same about her. They met in the gentle heat of early summer and were married less than six months later, while the cold, harsh wind of winter blew outside the little church where their friends and family had gathered to wish them well and to place silent wagers on how long they would last.
Thirty-five years, Lynn thought as she reached to slide the new box of baking soda onto its proper place on the spice shelf. We lasted thirty-five years—and then You took him home, Lord. She sighed. I know You have a right, and I know You never make mistakes, and I’m grateful for the time we had together; truly I am. But, oh, Father, You know my heart. You know how much I miss him and wish we’d had just a few more years together.
Blinking away tears, she turned back to let her eyes settle on the old butcher block table in the middle of the room. That table had hosted so many family meals and discussions over the years, but it now appeared as lonely as Lynn felt. The envelope lay where she’d left it, right next to the final bag of groceries. Should she give in and open it? No, she’d finish her task and put away the last of her small purchases first.
She ignored the temptation to sit down and rest, something she never grappled with before Daniel died. Was this nagging sense of exhaustion part of her grief process? She’d heard somewhere that it could be, and since she was only in her midfifties and relatively healthy, why else would she feel this ongoing need to crawl into bed, pull the covers over her head, and just sleep?
She reached inside the bag, emptying the items one by one and placing them in a neat row before transporting them to a more permanent, predetermined spot where they would wait, neatly and quietly, until she needed them.
One loaf of whole wheat bread, which will last for a month if I keep it in the refrigerator. It wouldn’t have lasted a week if Daniel were still around and Rachel lived at home. She shook her head. They’re gone now, she reminded herself. Both of them. So finish what you’re doing and stop daydreaming. You’ll just end up crying again.