Authors: Mary Eason
“Oh, I’m definitely staying.”
He let go of the breath he he’d been holding.
“Oh yeah? When did you make that decision? Because I could have sworn you weren’t so sure just a little while ago.”
grinned at him as she sipped her water. “Just now. I’ve just now decided you really need my help. You, Matt Stevens, need me desperately. It’s just lucky for you that I came along when I did.”
Her confidence startled him. She'd grown since moving to
Silver Mountain. She wasn't the same frightened woman he'd first met.
“You think so, do you?”
She was right about one thing. He desperately needed her.
He had been hanging onto life by the smallest of threads. Teetering somewhere between living again and merely existing. He’d unconsciously taken a step forward out of the past when he met her. She might not ever convince him to believe in God again, but he was willing to let Kate do anything she wanted as long as it wasn’t leaving him.
e wanted to live again.
“How can you not like to ski? You live in
Colorado.” Kate’s question struck him as far funnier than it would have coming at any other hour besides three in the morning.
He hadn’t wanted to admit to her that he was still awake, but when he’d answered the phone after the first ring, she’d guessed.
Now, sitting in front of the fire in his office, lights out, computer off and nothing but the sound of Kate’s sweet soft voice coming through the line he was three quarters of the way asleep when she’d asked that oddly hilarious question.
Kate was wide-awake and had been since she’d been awakened from sleep by a bad dream. She hadn’t realized just how late it was until after she’d dialed his number. He liked the fact that he'd been the first one she thought about calling.
Matt tried to stop laughing long enough to answer. “Sp
oken like a truly obnoxious Texan. It’s not that I don’t like to ski—I do. Or at least I did until I broke my leg when I was seventeen. After that, I kind of avoided it. What about you, wise guy? You like to ski, or are you all tough talk?”
A loud crunching sound
was his answer.
“What was that?” he asked.
“Chips. Sorry, but I’m hungry and yes, I love to ski, thank you very much. Grandma Rachel taught me when I was barely old enough to walk. You should let me take you out some time. I’ll make sure you don’t fall and hurt yourself.” He heard her laugh.
“You realize it’s almost four in the morning, right? How can you be hungry at four in the morning? And, no
, thanks. I’ll take your word for it. Besides, I think you’re making that part up about your grandmother. I just can’t picture Rachel on skis.”
“Shows what you know. She was an excellent skier and if I’m
awake, I’m hungry. It comes with the territory.”
Matt made a noncommittal noise, drifting a little closer to sleep.
“I’m hanging up now before you start snoring in my ear. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
“Are you sure you’re
okay now? Can you go back to sleep, or do you want me to come over? I can be there in twenty minutes.” He yawned and heard her laugh again.
“No, I’m fine now, really.
Thanks for being there. Get some sleep.” She blew a kiss into the receiver before hanging up, and Matt closed his eyes again, but this time it had nothing to do with sleepiness.
The soft sound of Kate’s kiss against his ear did terrible things to self-control.
Thank God, she had no clue what he was thinking most of the time. He wasn't sure how much longer he'd be able to keep up the front of just wanting friendship when every fiber inside of him wanted so much more.
and decided sleep wasn’t even a possibility. He put on a pot of coffee and waited for it to pour though. He kept thinking about Kate and the insane idea that had been popping into his thoughts a lot lately.
He was going out of his mind. He’d been alone too long. He didn’t like the thought of losing her.
All good excuses for why he was thinking so hard about marriage. Still, he wondered what Kate’s reaction would be if he was ever foolish enough to pop the question. Would she see beyond all his well-rehearsed reasons why it was a good idea and finally know the truth? He couldn’t answer any of those questions yet, and until he could, he’d have to keep all of those crazy ideas to himself.
Still it didn’t hurt to think about it
Matt was still sitting at his desk, eyes closed, his third cup of coffee sitting untouched. He was actually considering how to convince Kate to accept his marriage proposition when Denny called.
“So, have you heard the latest?”
“What latest? What are you talking about?” Matt forced his heavy eyes open. “Why are you calling so early, anyway?”
“Someone’s in a good mood this morning.
I’m on my way back to Silver Mountain, just coming in from Denver. Anyway, back to the latest.”
wondered how they’d sunk to this point. Denny was worse than any old woman when it came to gossip. He absolutely loved it.
Okay, let’s have it. I have a feeling I’m not going to like it.”
He heard Denny snicker. “Guess who the latest rumor mill has as the father of Kate’s baby?”
It took longer than it should have to register. “Oh no.” Matt ground out through clenched teeth. He wasn’t surprised really. They’d been spending so much time together. But didn’t people have better things to do with their life than spread ridiculous gossip? He wondered if Kate knew.
, Denny, can’t people find other things to talk about?”
're kidding, right? You and Kate are probably the hottest topic around right now. Not that anyone who really knows the two of you would believe it, but still, I thought you should know what some of the less Christian population are saying.”
“Go home, Denny. It doesn’t matter to me one little bit what people say about me. I just wish they’d leave Kate out of it.”
The following Sunday morning he was careful not to sit too close or give the impression there was anything but friendship between them. If Kate noticed his newfound
anxiety, she didn’t say anything about it.
Throughout the service, Matt tried to ignore the usual guilt that plagued him. He’d continued to attend each week, but he did it for all the wrong reasons.
The woman sitting beside him wanted to bring him back, but he’d shut his heart away from that possibility a long time ago. There was no coming back to what one didn’t believe in the first place.
“Will you show me Sammy’s grave?” Her gentle
question cut through his thoughts. The service had ended and he hadn’t heard a single word.
They were the only two people still left in the sanctuary. How long had he been sitting there?
Kate reached for his hand. All of her compassion was focused on him.
Matt nodded silently and they walked together across frozen ground to the gates of the cemetery. He could have found the way to the tiny headstone with his eyes shut. Yet
seeing his son’s grave now, he felt nothing.
Kate knelt in front of Sammy’s headstone, her fingers touching it gently. Something in her sincerity made him want to tell her what he’d never shared with another soul, not even Rachel, about that terrible night.
He spoke softly startling her, his voice devoid of all emotion. “The night Sammy died Caroline told me she wasn’t sure he was my son.” He focused on Kate's expression. She was shocked by his admission. He nodded bitterly.
“The night she left I told you we’d had a terrible argument, but I didn’t tell you everything. She was hurt when I told her I wanted a divorce. She threw her affair in my face and told me she wasn’t even sure I was Sammy’s father. I think I could have killed her that night, Kate. You can’t imagine how bad I wanted her gone. At that moment, I wanted nothing more than to wipe the triumphant
expression off her face. I heard a sound behind me. I never saw him, but I know Sammy heard us arguing. He came to see why. He overheard the terrible things we said to each other in anger. I should have gone after him. Dear God, you have no idea how many times I wish I had. I should have tried to explain what was happening, tried to comfort him but instead, I got drunk.”
, Matt.” Kate rose to her feet and laid her hand gently on his arm.
“I didn’t believe her, of course. She was only trying to hurt me the same way I’d hurt her.
But you know it didn’t matter. Even if what she told me were true, it still wouldn’t have mattered. Sammy was my son and no DNA test could ever change how much I loved him. I just wish...”
Of course he's your son. Even I can see that. He's the spitting image of you. You both said things you probably didn’t mean. You were hurting.”
oked into her sad face. “That’s true enough. I just wish I could take back my part in what happened that night. If only she hadn’t run away like that, if she’d only waited until morning. We could have talked through the hurt and she might have seen that our marriage was doomed from the beginning. We just weren’t right for each other.”
shook his head. He had so many regrets about that night. "I wish I'd handled things differently.”
“It wouldn’t have mattered
. Don’t you see? Nothing you could have done differently would have changed the outcome of things. It wasn’t your fault.”
He couldn’t keep the bitterness inside any longer at her innocent words. “
Wasn’t it? I'd say it was all my fault.”
it wasn't, ” Kate insisted. “Someday you’ll see that.” She turned back to Sammy’s headstone. “He’s with God. He’s happy and healthy and waiting for you there.”
Matt wished he could believe her. “Do you want to visit Rachel’s grave?”
Kate shook her head and reached for his hand. “No, I’ve had enough sadness for one day. I’ll see my grandmother just as you’ll see Sammy again some day. Until then I want to remember her the way she was the last time we were together. Happy.”
Matt unlocked the door to the small single story cabin that Rachel Bowers had rented from him for two years. He hadn’t removed any of Rachel’s personal possessions after her death. He’d been hoping that one day he’d find her granddaughter and return them to her. Rachel had kept very few pieces of her own furniture once her house sold. Only the things she most treasured.
Most of the furniture in the cabin had been there since Matt bought the place. He hadn’t planned to rent it until Rachel showed up on his doorstep. She’d fallen in love and wanted it just the way it was.
Rachel’s cheery presence
had brightened this gloomy place. Each time he came back here, he wondered how she’d managed to live in such a depressingly dark atmosphere.
“Rachel loved the place and wouldn’t let me change it, but I’m not sure what
she found so endearing. It always seemed depressing to me.”
Matt switched on the antiquated heating system even though he knew it would be a while before the furnace kicked in. The place smelled old, dank, and musty.
“I didn’t move any of her things. I was hoping that one day you could go through them.” Matt waited silently while Kate walked around and he realized that she wasn’t seeing the dusty furniture at all. She was lovingly touching the personal things that had belonged to her grandmother.
He didn’t want to intrude on her private moment of grief
, but he hated knowing she was fighting back emotion. Matt wasn’t even aware of reaching out. He lifted her chin to see tears glistening in her eyes.
“I’m so sorry.” He pulled her gently into his arms. “I should have realized this was going to be too hard. I shouldn’t have brought you here today.
Not after what happened in the cemetery.”
She sniffed and pulled away. “No, I’m glad you brought me. I can see my grandmother here
everywhere and I know she was happy. It’s hard for me to forgive myself for not being here when she needed me the most. Knowing she was happy and that she had you helps.”
Her simple words brought
an unexpected lump to his throat. “She’d want you to have her things.”
Kate brushed a hand across her face. “No, Grandma Rachel knew how unimportant possessions really were to being happy. There’s only one thing I want.
She cherished it a great deal. Her Bible.”
Kate reached for the worn and dusty bo
ok. A folded piece of yellowing paper escaped and floated down to the floor.