Chapter 6—Friday Morning, Dallas

Gloria Stoner maneuvered her silver Volvo into the alley, made a mental note to remind Will about selling some of his o-gauge train collection before it took over her side of the garage, and drove east toward Collin Creek.

On the way to the salon she needed to drop off dry cleaning, buy books at the half-priced bookstore and then pick up a strawberry-banana-yogurt smoothie to sip while Alex rolled her perm.

Alex. A real piece of work. He probably has unresolved issues with his mother, she mused, vaguely grumpy about the slight tension she felt in his presence. Gloria guessed Alex’s mother might carry a few extra pounds, too. “You think I don’t know how you feel about me, but I do,” she imagined herself saying to him. “You always talk about being tolerant. Well, that should mean that you can tolerate me as well as I tolerate you.”

“What a great witness that would be!” She scolded herself aloud.

More than tolerating him, she’d actually grown rather fond of him, and not simply because he styled her hair better than any stylist she’d ever had. She wondered how her mother had managed her elaborate coif—a 1940’s version of the French twist Gloria now wore.

Her mother, Alicia, had been 81 when she died last year, mentally sharp until the stroke a few months before her death.

Gloria remembered, with shame, that she had been barely aware of her mother’s existence during those earlier years when she and Will were raising their children. For months after the funeral she’d frantically tried to recall the last time she and her mother went shopping together, or lunched together. But she couldn’t remember. If only she hadn’t been so busy. No, it wasn’t about being busy. Not during these last years, with no children at home anymore. It was about seeing her mother as a person, someone with something unique to say.

Her mother had a great sense of humor; she knew she would never forget that. Gloria wished she had inherited her mother’s sunny disposition instead of her father’s propensity for depression. She would give anything right now to go out for lunch with her. She’d ask her about her friends and hobbies, and her mom would make amusing stories of every encounter.

No, no, no!

She suddenly realized she was doing it again, thinking of ordinary conversation, talking about mundane matters, avoiding genuine, heart-to-heart communion. What she really wanted to hear was her mother’s heart. Had the young Alicia had dreams? How had it turned out for her? Did she ever find, as Gloria had, that faith in God carried one through broken dreams and times of sorrow?

When Laura is with me these next days, I hope she and I will be able to chat about these things. I hope we can share our hearts with one another. She shook her head and smiled at her fanciful thinking. As if, with children underfoot, they’d ever have a chance to go from one end of a sentence to the other!

Nearing her first stop, her thoughts went back to Alex. He thought she hated him, she knew that. Well, she didn’t actually know that, but he often used the word “haters” when referring to Christians. It grieved her to realize he couldn’t comprehend the baseline truth that, as a follower of Christ, she couldn’t afford to hate anybody. She couldn’t pretend she approved of his lifestyle of course, but it wasn’t disapproval so much as knowing he’d been created for a richer, fuller life.

Ahmed, a handsome young Pakistani, began writing her ticket before she stepped out of the car, and when she dropped her armload of dry cleaning and laundry on the counter he had only to count Will’s shirts and hand her the claim check. When she asked about Shoab, their new baby boy, his eyes sparkled as he told her that the baby slept four hours without waking the night before. Ahmed had the prettiest eyes and the longest eyelashes she’d ever seen on anybody, male or female.

As she drove away she smiled to herself. By this time tomorrow she’d have her own babies with her. She missed them so. Where were they now? Laura said they would drive straight through—David didn’t mind driving all night. That way the kids could sleep at least half of the eleven hundred miles from Green Bay to Dallas.

Perfect Image Salon and Day Spa in Collin Creek buzzed with activity this Friday morning, its mirrored walls gleaming, reflecting neon tubes encircling center pillars. Gloria looked around as she walked in, disappointed when she couldn’t spot Tina. Gloria enjoyed the way Tina teased Alex, managing to slip in a comment about the Lord whenever she could.

“You and I, Tina,” she once told her, “will reach this arrogant young man, you mark my words. Alex needs to have the Lord in his life whether he knows it or not.”

Tina had winked at her behind Alex’s back.

When Gloria had her hair done last week she remembered thinking Tina looked happy and relaxed. Must have a new man in her life. She hoped he was a believer. Happily married herself, she was convinced that matrimony was the preferred lifestyle, and an entitlement for anyone as beautiful inside and out as Tina.

next chapter


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