After her first day of work, Kristin decided to explore the shopping plaza the computer center abided in. The mini-plaza contained a video store, a grocery store, several restaurants, and a laundromat. Kristin was pleased to find these businesses so close together. That was the one thing she missed the most about
Where she and Jana lived now was more rural. There were shopping centers being built in their area, but for now they had to travel some distance to get the supplies they needed. Taking the supplies back to her car and locking them in the trunk, Kristin saw her new boss coming out of the computer center. She waved goodbye to him as she started to unlock the driver’s door.
Seeing her, Van gestured for Kristin to come over. “I thought you were gone home by now,” he said when she finally approached him after relocking her car door. Noticing her twilight silhouette on the concrete, Van thought of the shadow puppets he used to make as a child. I wonder if Kristin ever made shadow puppets.
Just then, Kristin turned to the side and put two well-manicured hands together and formed a perfect shadow puppet bunny rabbit. She looked at her accomplishment and smiled, before turning back to Van.
“I’m sorry, but I couldn’t resist. I love shadow puppets. I used to have contests with my sister all the time as a kid.” Kristin chuckled. The laughter in her throat suddenly turned off like a faucet as she gazed upon Van’s stunned expressed. He must think I’m silly, she mused, feeling a bit self-conscious now. She quickly put her hands to her sides.
Van looked flabbergasted. He blinked rapidly in an attempt to refocus his eyes. Lord, did I just see what I thought I saw?
Instead of questioning him about his reaction, Kristin addressed Van’s previous statement. “No, I called and told Mama Gray that I was going to pick up a few things before I came home. Having stores this close to my job saves us a trip in town. She’s riding to Bible study with
“Well in that case, you should let me buy you dinner, considering the fact that you gave me half of your lunch today,” Van insisted, still amazed by what just happened. This girl seems made just for me. Can I have her, Lord? he prayed, believing that he’d get that answer soon enough.
“Are you sure, Mr. Rogers? I…don’t want to hold you up or anything,” she stammered out. Although she was giving him a way out of this request, Kristin actually hoped that Van wouldn’t take it. She wasn’t really looking forward to being in that big house all by herself. Jana would’ve been long gone by now and it was too late to try to make it to Bible study herself. It only lasted an hour and a half and by the time she got there, they’d be getting ready to let out. Yes, having dinner with Van was an excellent idea.
“You’re not holding me up from anything. And you can call me ‘Van’ after hours, Kristin. I think you understand why ‘Mr. Rogers’ is necessary during office hours,” he reassured her, his brilliant smile melting her resolve. “Besides, we can have our own shadow puppet contest,” Van added laughingly, presenting an open challenge to her.
“I guess it’s a date then, Van,” Kristin said, putting emphasis on his name. Then linking her arm through his, she walked with Van in the direction of the restaurants while engaging in a rousing shadow puppet battle.
I wish it were a real date, Van mused, thinking that then he could have looked forward to a goodnight kiss at the end of the evening. “Let’s go to that Chinese place over there,” he said, pointing to the restaurant’s red and black sign, before making a fierce dove in flight with his hands. She smells sweet like lavender, Van thought, glad to be so close to Kristin.
“I love Chinese food,” she said smiling, countering with a ferocious dinosaur design. Her hands went from position to position with ease, making it clear that she was no amateur in this event.
Kristin felt strange relaxing and smiling again. It was even stranger to discover that it was Van that affected her this way. With him being so easy to talk to, it seemed as if she’d known him forever. Kristin especially loved the way he allowed her to talk about anything, including Sammy.
I need a friend like Van in my life, Kristin mused, suddenly deciding to ignore Claudia’s obvious obsession with him as well as her own attraction to him. For now, she would take every minute of reprieve she could get from her grief.
* * *
On the way to the restaurant, Van smiled to himself. It amazed him how friendly and easygoing Kristin was. She was not like some of the other city girls he’d dated. They’d been more calculating and hard-bitten. Kristin still had a naiveté about her that intrigued him. But the engaging impromptu shadow puppet duel was what really set her over the top. She seemed to be a woman after his own heart.
Over shrimp fried rice and sweet and sour meatballs; Van listened as Kristin talked about many things, including her strict upbringing. How her mother had kept her and her sister off the streets by keeping them involved in church and other social activities. She also divulged how because of her upbringing, she’d waited until she was married to have sex. Now that really impressed Van. That was proof positive that Kristin was different from any other woman he’d met. Even Laura hadn’t been a virgin on their wedding night. But then again, neither had he.
“Sometimes I regret that decision to wait, because if we had been intimate sooner, I might have had a child by now – Sammy’s child,” she said among free tears, reaching for her napkin to wipe her face.
“No, Kristin, you made the right decision to wait. I’m sure that Sammy respected you for it, too. Besides, just think how much harder it would’ve been to raise a child alone, try to compensate for his or her loss, and at the same time have to deal with your own grief.” He reached across the table and held her hands gently.
“Maybe you’re right, Van. It would have been extremely hard, but still I wonder sometimes.” Kristin removed her hands from his and wiped her eyes again, hating how easily she cried these days. When will the tears stop, Lord?
Her wounds are still too fresh, Van observed. Although a deep part of him wanted more with Kristin, for now her friendship had to be enough. He didn’t think she could handle much more than that right now. And Van couldn’t handle overtaxing her already overwhelmed heart.
Later that night, Jana and Kristin discussed how their days went over two bowls of strawberry ice cream. When Kristin talked about her evening with Van, she seemed to glow from the inside out. She seems to like Van a lot, Jana observed, even more pleased with the possibility of those two getting together.
Although she loved her son dearly, Jana knew that she couldn’t bring him or her husband back. Kristin was still young and she deserved to be happy again, to one day have children to love and care for. Besides, she and Van would be so good together. That night, both women slept better than they had in months.
© 2007 by Suprina Frazier