“Am I interrupting something?” Claudia asked slyly, knowing full well that she had. She could see Kristin’s flushed face, Van’s ruffled shirt. It was obvious that she’d come just in time.
Just seeing Claudia caused Van’s passion to wean. It also caused Kristin to slowly retreat back into her shell of guilt. Fortunately, the guilt wasn’t quite as strong this time which, if she’d just taken the time to notice, was a good indication of how far she’d traveled from the land of grief.
Deliberately ignoring Claudia’s question, Van made a few inquiries of his own. “Claudia, what are you doing here today? Did something go wrong at the seminar?”
“No, nothing like that. I just left there and everything went fine. On my way home, I remembered you mentioning that your family was having a picnic today, so I decided to stop by for a little barbecue. Is that okay with you?” Claudia said, innocently looking at Van before turning to smirk at Kristin.
She is some little number, isn’t she? Kristin mused as neither of them answered Claudia’s second question, either. They’d already ignored her first inquiry due to the fact that they weren’t on trial here.
Then deciding that she would start her own inquiry, Kristin posed a question. “How did you know where we were in this big ol’ park?” she asked, thinking that it was becoming shameful how Claudia followed Van around.
“I asked some of the people here and they told me where to find Van,” Claudia answered, using their boss’ given name as if she did it all the time. She frowned as she remembered exactly how she’d been told of Van’s whereabouts.
One elderly woman had said, “Oh Van is wherever you find Kristin. That boy is never too far away from her. I’ll be so glad when they finally get it together. Our church is ready for another wedding. We don’t know who’s going to make it the altar first. Patricia and
Well, it definitely won’t be between Kristin and Van. Not if I have anything to do with it, Claudia thought hotly. Aloud she returned to the situation at hand. “Can I eat with you guys? This food looks so delicious.”
Then not waiting for them to answer, Claudia sat down with her plate and began to fork her food to death. She barely ate anything and later insisted that she was full and needed to watch her figure. By saying that, she really meant that she wanted Van to watch it for her.
For the next thirty minutes, Kristin suffered in silence as Claudia interrupted and dominated every attempt Van made to include her into the conversation. Suddenly very tired of Claudia’s efforts to monopolize all of Van’s attention, Kristin prepared to gracefully excuse herself.
“Well, I think I’ve had enough picnicking for one day. I’ll see you two at work on Monday,” Kristin said, reaching for her discarded plate. She could feel a headache coming on.
Not wanting to see her leave without him, Van offered to drive her. “I’ll be glad to take you home.”
“No, I rode with Mama Gray today.” Kristin stood up to leave.
Van stood, too. “Is your car acting up? Because if it is…” he said anxiously, longing to give her something of his. If not one of his many cars, then surely his heart, his body. Whatever Kristin wanted from him was hers for the taking.
“No, it’s fine,” Kristin interjected quickly, seeing the instant concern on his face. “Mama Gray and I decided to ride together today since we were both going to the same place.”
“Oh, I see,” Van said with slight disappointment. He’d wanted to do something for her. Anything. Suddenly, he had an idea. “Well, at least let me walk you back,” he said, already grabbing his plate to leave. Then not forgetting about his other employee, Van courteously said, “See you at work, Claudia.” Then he left with Kristin.
Claudia sat fuming as she watched them walk off together. If I didn’t know any better, I would’ve sworn that he was about to give her a car, too, she mused hotly. Claudia had had to pay for the one she bought from Van, at a reasonable discount of course, but still it had not been free.
And what’s with these Pocahontas hairstyles lately? Kristin needs to put that thick bush back into its bun. I got to put an end to this pack of foolishness soon, Claudia vowed from a mind riddled with jealousy.
* * *
Jana sat at a long wooden picnic table, talking and laughing with
“Kristin, you look tired. Honey, are you alright?” Jana asked.
“I‘ve got a slight headache that’s all. But I can hold on a little longer, if you’re not ready to go yet.” Kristin tried her best to turn her frown into a semblance of a smile, but it didn’t work. Smiling just felt too hard to do right now.
“I’ll take Kristin home,” Van volunteered quickly, almost too quickly. The older women at the table shared knowing looks before pretending to busy themselves with other things like folding napkins and tightening pickle jar tops.
Jana did neither. Instead she endeavored to help facilitate a solution to the youngsters’ problem. It was obvious that they needed to talk. “That sounds great, Van. Go ahead and ride with him, Kristin. He’ll take good care of you. He’ll get you home safely.”
Reluctantly, Kristin agreed and off they went. They rode in silence all the way there as she sat with her eyes closed, rubbing her temples, trying to ease the ache in her head.
When they finally arrived at her house, Van turned the jeep off and began to gently massage her neck in the car. He had to try to help somehow. “Are you alright, baby?”
Opening her eyes slowly, Kristin looked up into hazel pools of concern. Momentarily speechless, she nodded yes. The wonderful feel of his hands was having a mixed effect on her. Although Van’s touch was removing the tension in Kristin’s neck, it was creating another kind of tension altogether in other areas of her body. “Van, about what happened today...”
“I loved what happened today. I don’t regret it at all,” he interrupted, removing his hands from her neck as he gripped the steering wheel, trying to steady himself against the surge of emotions attacking his mind.
“No, Van, listen to me for a minute please. I thought I was ready for us, but the fact that I’m still feeling a little guilty about what happened shows me that I’m not.”
“Kristin, please not this again. You’re ready, baby. I can feel it on so many levels. Every time I touch you, you’re like a flower blossoming, opening up your beautiful petals to me. Don’t close up again, baby. I need you in my life so badly right now. I’ve never loved any woman as much as I love you, Kristin,” Van confessed openly. His heart was pounding loudly in his chest. This is as open as he’d ever been with a woman before, and especially in so short a time frame.
He loves me? Kristin closed her eyes again, this time, to escape the pain and anguish she saw in his glossy eyes. Hearing Van so vulnerable and exposed like this hurt her deeper than she could have ever imagined. Kristin loved him, too. But that was the problem. She loved two men. And the guilt of doing so was more than she could handle right now.
Taking a deep breath, Kristin finally opened her eyes and looked straight at him. She’d never been more serious in her life. “I love you, too, Van. But I’m just not ready to handle what all that means right now. Please give me more time.”
Although her declaration of love pleased him, the torment, uncertainty, and guilt in her eyes, didn’t. Van reluctantly consented to her wishes a second time. “I’ll give you more time, Kristin. But while you’re taking this time, I want you to read the whole book of Ruth and see if you can identify the people in that story. When I read it, I saw examples of you, me, and Jana. If you see the same, let me know and we’ll do what they did.”
“I will,” Kristin promised, forever grateful for such an understanding man. Then she let herself out of the car and waved to him as he drove away. Miraculously, her headache was gone and she didn’t even know when it left.
* * *
Van drove home in a web of sadness. I will wait on you, Kristin, but please don’t take too long. A man can only take so much, he mused, not necessarily referring to the pulsating ache in his body, but to the emotional pain in his heart.
Later that night, after taking another long cold shower and saying a heartfelt prayer, Van did something he hadn’t done in years – he cried. His tears were for himself and for the woman that sorrow and guilt wouldn’t allow him to have right now.
© 2007 by Suprina Frazier