She sat with her back to the beach house, writing swiftly,
without pause. A storm was brewing off the coast, and the clouds had already
begun to gather, but it was lost on the girl. For her, all that mattered
was the condition of her heart, and the pain from that was almost more
than she could bear.
I hadnt meant for this to happen, she wrote. This
isnt the way I had planned it. I never came out here with the thought
that I would be writing to tell you I was pregnant. Thats not at
all what I had in mind. But now that I am, I dont know what to do.
The plans I made hadnt included this. If there is anything, any
advice you could give me, Id appreciate it. She stopped then.
That last line didnt belong. It seemed a little late to be asking
advice. It was done. Shed gone against everything shed ever
been taught in even sleeping with the boy, but to ask for advice now seemed
terribly weak. Shed never been weak before, and she didnt
take it well.
Tearing up the letter, she let the bits travel on the wind that was picking
up. Drops began to fall from the sky, just a few at a time, until soon,
she found herself in a downpour. She picked up her pen and notebook, turning
to go back toward the beach house, when she hesitated. She really couldnt
face going back in there. Those walls, those rooms, werent the same
without him, and now, in this storm, it was the last place she wanted
to be. She made her way back to the sandy beach, the rain driving itself
into her cotton dress. She left her things beside her shoes, and began
walking the shoreline, watching the waves collapse and foam in the distance.
This was the real reason shed come to Maine. It wasnt really
to go to school, although that was the excuse shed used for her
parents. What drew her, what had always drawn her, was the sea. As far
back as she could remember, the ocean had been her place of peace. Summer
trips made to the seashore had been the highlight of her colorless childhood.
Shed rarely been allowed to actually go into the sea, since her
mothers terrible fear of water had restrained her, but shed
sit on the porch of their rented cottage and watch the waves. The incredible
rhythm had always been able to calm her troubled young soul. She
d time them, and always, no matter what the weather was, there would be
eight waves per minute. And her heart would be at rest in the knowledge
that she could always count on the sea to be constant.
The wind began to blow even faster, whipping her dress around her, and
completely undoing her hair. She barely noticed, her eyes focused on the
sea. It was almost boiling, as the water met the rain. God, it felt good
to just be here. Nobody else to answer to, no one else to deal with. Just
She stayed there for hours as the storm raged around her. Somehow, she
found comfort in it, because it was so much louder than the storm within
her. She couldnt even hear the questions that she asked herself,
so she felt as though she were not responsible for answering. Not yet
anyway. All things would come in time. Of this she was sure. Somehow shed
find her way out of this mess. Answers would come. She needed only to
The next morning, she finally made her way to her own bed. She fell in
exhaustion on the blankets, and fell asleep almost immediately. She was
wet and cold and hungry and tired, so she slept, and waited for everything
else until shed have the strength to deal with it.
She awoke sometime in the afternoon. A calm breeze played with the curtains,
sending in the briny smell of the sea. Her hunger had awakened her, and
she made her way to the kitchen, looking for anything. There wasnt
much. There never was. She hadnt been much for shopping, usually
going out with friends, or eating at the school. She managed to find some
crackers and a can of soup, and later, over her hastily made lunch, she
began to plan. Things would have to change. This way of life couldnt
last. Not with a little one on the way.
She drew her knees to her chest and rested her head on them. There wasnt
a whole lot she could count on. Her parents financial support, she
was sure, would end when they found out about her pregnancy. They werent
particularly gracious, not when they felt wronged, and she knew that this
would be the case here. The beach house had been left to her in her uncles
will, and it was hers, free and clear. That was comforting.
Her next thought was school. Her tuition had been paid for this year by
her parents, and that year was coming to an end. After that, she would
have to manage on her own. There was the matter of food, also. Could she
manage to work and go to school, and raise a child on her own? She shook
her head. Theres no way. Something will have to give.
Adoption. It was a viable solution. She could simply give the baby away.
Surely there were people out there who could do a better job of raising
her child than she could. She was barely nineteen, and without any real
financial support. Was it fair to raise a child in that kind of environment?
And without a father? Hed left her, after all, with no intention
of ever returning. Somehow, though, she knew that that wasnt the
way she should go. Her heart wanted this baby. Odd, since she had never
really thought of herself as a mother. Her own family had been so screwed
up that shed sworn shed never have one. And now, here she
was, mother and baby.
Abortion had never entered her mind. That was strange too, since it had
always been portrayed as an out. Still, it had never seemed right to her.
Why should one person decide that another had no chance at life, simply
because shed made a mistake? It was no different than killing anyone
else, in her mind, so shed rejected the idea while still in high
school. And now, she never even considered it.
She cleared away the bowl and crumbs, lighting the lantern as she worked.
The house had been wired back in the sixties, but she had always preferred
the look of the oil lamps. It was getting dark outside, and she knew that
she still hadnt really come to any conclusions. Her classes started
again on Monday, and by then, she wanted her decisions solidified.
Although shed slept for much of the day, exhaustion crept up again
in the evening. Tomorrow was Sunday, and while shed forgotten about
it in the last year, she knew that many people went to church. The idea
caused her to tremble. Her own parents would be going, like they always
did, and if they knew what terrible sin their daughter had committed,
they would forbid her to stain the church by attending. Strange that shed
never felt their condemnation so heavily before. Her college life had
been filled with doing what she wanted with no thought to how it would
affect her parents. After all, they were thousands of miles away, so what
did they care? But, by having sex, she had done it. She had made a decision
that would affect them drastically. And now, she felt the weight of all
those other choices shed made. What if they heard about all of those?
Her grades had always been good, and shed never gotten in real trouble,
so there was no need to tell them any more than what she wanted them to
know. Would she have to make a clean confession? Would they ever speak
to her again?
She lay awake for awhile, thoughts racing through her head, colliding
again and again. Tomorrow. What would she do on Sunday? And she fell asleep
at last with that thought.
Sunlight streamed into her room the next morning, and she woke up, feeling
again that heaviness on her soul. She dressed, taking pains with her appearance
that shed neglected the last few days. She knew she couldnt
stay here again, alone with the questions that hadnt any answers
yet, but she wasnt sure where shed go. She left anyway, taking
along the money that was left from her folks last check, and made
her way down the foot path that led to the road.
She didnt own a car, but the house was only a matter of minutes
from town. If shed ever needed to go to the city, there were always
groups of her friends who were driving there. She walked along the side
of the road now, enjoying the sunshine and the sound of the gulls overhead.
The season was coming on, and she noticed the number of out-of-state cars
parked in other beach houses. They were all strangers to her, people who
would come for a few weeks or maybe a few months, but would leave when
the weather got to be too cold. They were here because they liked the
beach, which was profoundly different from loving the sea. They didnt
like the storms or the windy days. They would rather play in the water
or sunbathe on the sand. In the past, she had always been a bit frustrated
with their attitude, maybe because it was so much like her parents. While
her mother hated going into the water, she liked looking at it. She liked
to sunbathe, and despised the cloudy days, when she was forced to look
for her entertainment elsewhere. Why must we always come here?
she would complain. There are so many nicer beaches down south.
Why do you always insist on staying to the north? And then an argument
would begin between her parents, her father insisting that they didnt
have the money to go south, and couldnt she see that, and her mother
becoming louder and louder in her assertions that the cold was doing more
harm then the sea air was doing good.
In those times, the girl would slip out onto the beach, and find a place
far enough away so that she couldnt hear them anymore. Shed
stay there for awhile, then go back toward the cottage, knowing that if
she was gone too long, they would notice and punish her for running away.
It was an insane cycle, and had never done any good, except cause her
to have a wonderful appreciation for the sea.
Now, as she walked toward town, she realized that she was no longer irritated
by these season people. Let them take whatever enjoyment they could out
of the beach. It made no difference to her. There were more important
things on her mind.
She found a little cafe, one that shed passed over many times before
in favor of classier places, where she and her friends would be recognized.
Today, she just wanted to remain a stranger, and as she sat at a table
in the corner, she knew that shed chosen the perfect place to do
She ordered a coffee, and a small breakfast, then sat with the mug in
her hands, watching the locals drift in. She hadnt thought of it
before, but her uncle must have known these people. After all, hed
lived here for the last ten years of his life. He must have had a life
that included some of these folks.
As she waited for her meal, she realized that this was it for her. She
and her child were going to have to have roots, and why not here? There
was nowhere else that she could go, and she didnt want to either.
Once school was finished for the year, she knew that shed need to
find work, and build a life for herself.
Her education consisted of four years of high school, and one year of
college, majoring in Liberal Arts. There wasnt a whole lot of marketable
talent there. She was young, and she learned quickly, but thats
not a lot to put on a resume. Once again, she felt her options weighing
on her. What exactly was she qualified to do? Jobs with little or no skills
required came to mind: waitress, receptionist, store clerk. It wasnt
much, and in such a small town, she wasnt sure what kind of market
she was looking at. Did anyone even need help?
Looking around the small cafe, she studied the other customers. Was there
anyone here who could possibly help her? She noticed several old men in
one corner, talking loudly, and laughing about old times. It was hard
to know if they would be helpful or not. It was then that her waitress
came back to clear her plate. Excuse me, maam, but who are
those gentlemen in the corner? she asked.
The waitress shook her head slightly. Oh, just a group of old fellas
who have nothing to do but come here. Dont let them bother you,
dear. They dont mean any harm.
No, no. Theyre no bother. I was simply wondering if they...well,
what I mean is, Im looking for work, and I didnt know if those
folks would know of anything around here.
The waitress grew thoughtful, studying her. Funny you should say
that. Old Doc Henry mentioned just yesterday that he was looking for someone
to come clean for him, maybe do some shopping. Cant remember the
details. Hes a dear. Wife died four years ago, and hes finding
it harder to manage without her. You interested in that sort of thing,
or you looking for something more in an office?
She shook her head. Right now, I think Im interested in anything.
I dont know exactly...well, Im just checking things out before
You want me to talk to him for you? Maybe get him to talk to you?
Sure, that would be great. She said it before she even thought
it through. It just seemed like a good idea, the thing to do. My
name is Nathalie. Nathalie Verone. She held out her hand, and the
waitress took it.
Im Gina. She grinned. Its a pleasure to
Nathalie left soon after, her feet already feeling lighter. She had hope,
suddenly. That thought came with a shock. Had she actually been hopeless?
She didnt think that shed ever begun to despair. She had tried
to just think things through, remembering that it will always work out
in the end. Even when hed left, and when she had seen the results
of her pregnancy test, she hadnt really despaired. She just kept
doing, kept on breathing and thinking.
The more she thought about it, the more she realized that even though
she hadnt lost hope, she had been getting overwhelmed. Shed
felt as though she were about to burst from the pressures she could see
coming, the intensity she was anticipating in the next few months. And
now, with the possibility, however far it seemed, of employment, she felt
as though a ray of light had passed into this storm shed been in.
She spent the rest of the day in town, walking down side streets, and
into small shops, dodging kids on bicycles, and avoiding barking dogs
on chains. For the first time since she arrived nine months ago, she made
an effort to get to know this town that she lived in.
She bought an ice cream in the afternoon, and ate it on the walk home.
She needed something cheerful before she could accomplish the grim task
before her, and the ice cream seemed the easiest and cheapest way to get
it. Because today she must write to her parents. There was no more delaying
Shed known for a week that it must be done, ever since shed
learned the truth. There seemed no point in putting it off any longer.
Of all the things she was sure they would accuse her of, she didnt
want one to be that she had hidden it from them. She had hidden too much
already. Anymore, and her chances of gaining acceptance from them would
be completely lost.
When she reached the house, she found her notebook, now dried and wrinkled
from that day in the storm. Still, it would do. She went out to the back
porch, facing the ocean, and watched the sunset from her favorite rocking
chair. She breathed deeply as the sun slipped behind the sea, lit the
hurricane lantern on the table next to her, and began to write once again.
She didnt make excuses for her actions. Shed learned at a
young age that excuses just made the punishment last longer. She simply
explained what had happened, and also what she intended to do about it.
She did not ask for any money or for any advice, only for their forgiveness,
and in doing so, knew that she was asking for what they would most loathe
It was all said in a page and a half, and she signed it and addressed
the envelope. She didnt have a stamp, but that could be bought tomorrow,
before school, and mailed out that day. She counted it out. That would
mean that they would receive the news on Thursday. And she began to dread
She managed to pay attention through her classes the next day, but
it all seemed terribly unreal. She didnt know what she would tell
her friends, or if she even wanted to tell them. They had known that
shed had a boyfriend, and a few of them had met him, but in terms
of real time, the two of them had only been together for about a month.
It hadnt been her first relationship, but it had been her first
time. Shed never slept with anyone but him, and looking back,
she wasnt entirely sure why she had even then. Hed dropped
the line about loving her, and although there was a voice screaming
that he couldnt be trusted, she hadnt wanted to listen.
Shed plowed ahead, partly in rebellion to her parents, mostly
to prove something to herself: that she was capable of making her own
decisions, that she didnt have to live up to someone elses
The irony wasnt lost on her. She was now the only one who could
make her decisions, and there was no one else who had any expectations
of her. Hed packed up and moved sometime last week, with no word
where he would be, and by the end of the week, she knew she was going
to have his baby.
They say hindsight is 20/20, but she couldnt see it. She still
didnt know why theyd broken up, only that he wasnt
happy. Hed lived at the beach house for two weeks, and then, he
left. It was confusing, and it hurt, mostly because she realized that
she really had meant nothing to him. Hed used her, and when he
had her doing whatever he wanted, he became bored, and left.
By the end of the day, when her friends mentioned going to a few of
the local bars, and did she want to go with them, she knew that it was
over for her. Shed get through the next few weeks, pass her finals,
and then that was it. These kids she went to college with were just
that...kids. Shed been just like them two weeks ago, but she would
never be like them again. And so she knew that she could not tell them.
Thursday finally came, and with it, the pit in her stomach became worse.
She had not experienced morning sickness, but that morning she felt
nauseous. There was no telling what herparents reaction would
be. The beach house, like many of the houses along the coast, did not
have a phone, but she knew that wouldnt stop them if they wanted
to find her.
Nothing happened Thursday or Friday. Saturday came, and she made her
way back into town. There was still the matter of a job to clear up.
She returned to the cafe for breakfast, and noticed the same waittress
there. Gina came over and told her that if she was interested, Doc Henry
would like to meet her. She gave her his address, then left with her
It wasnt until later that afternoon that Nathalie worked up the
courage to go to Docs house and see him. Although this was something
that she really wanted, it was still a bit terrifying. The waitress
had called him a dear, but maybe...Finally, shed put aside those
thoughts, and made her way to his place.
The house wasnt far from her own, a five minute walk, but no more.
It was a bit further from the sea, but still with a glorious view. The
homes on this road were either handed down from generation to generation,
or they were sold for a mint. From the look of this house, it had been
in the family for years.
She knocked at the front door, but there was no answer. On a whim, she
went around to the back porch. Sure enough, she saw an old man sitting
on the porch swing, holding some kind of a dog. He spotted her, and
stood up to receive her company.
Well, hello miss. You wouldnt happen to be Miss Verone would
you? She nodded. Oh, good. Ive been looking forward
to meeting you all day. Gina told me a bit about you, and you sounded
just like someone Id want to meet. Have a seat, miss, have a seat.
Dont mind Oliver, hes just greeting you the only way he
The dog, evidently Oliver, was circling her, sniffing, and making very
odd, deep throated noises. He wont bite, will he?
She was a little concerned about this. Shed never been terribly
fond of dogs.
Oh, my dear, no. Oliver is a very friendly sort of creature. Hes
a pug, miss, one of the friendliest dogs around. He does have a bit
of a hard time breathing. His nose, as you can see, is, well, smashed
into his face. That makes a difference to his respiratory system.
Well what happened? Did a car hit him? The idea of something
doing that to a dog was just cruel, she thought.
At that, Doc began to chuckle. Miss Verone...Miss Verone, Oliver
was born that way. All pugs have faces like that. Gods little
clowns, some say. Oliver is show quality. In fact, my wife, Lucy, did
show him, and won some pretty fancy ribbons. Hes a first rate
Nathalie considered that for a moment, and then looked at the old man.
He seemed genuinely proud of this dog, and for some reason, she didnt
want to disappoint him in any way. At that instant, she made her decision.
Yes, sir, he does seem to be.
Doc motioned her to sit down on the seat next to him. For a time, there
was silence as the swing rocked back and forth. She wasnt sure
exactly what to do or say, but since he was her potential employer,
she was just going to let him lead the conversation. Eventually, the
I have been dreading the time when I would need to do this, hire
someone, he said, his voice barely above a whisper. When
Lucy died, it hurt desperately, but I was determined that I would take
care of myself. I just didnt want anyone else in her kitchen,
using her pans, washing her dishes, setting her table. Its been
four years now, and Im starting to wind down. Im seventy-five,
and although I still feel pretty good, I have my bad days.
There was another length of silence before he began again. Miss
Verone, I need someone to help me three days a week. I understand that
these days, the going rate is between ten and fifteen dollars an hour,
so I was considering thirteen. The job would consist of cleaning, grocery
shopping, and perhaps cooking, if I need it. Im afraid Im
really asking for a part-time caregiver. You barely know me, so I completely
understand if these arrangements arent what you have in mind.
Nathalie never took her eyes off the water, her voice matching his in
its softness. Sir, I would very much appreciate working
here. My options are very small right now...and I really do need this
job. If you think you want to try this arrangement for a while, you
know, see how it works, I would like that.
Doc turned slightly toward her, and extended his hand. She took his
hand, her eyes meeting his, and in that instant, knew that she was accepted.
Miss Verone, it would be a pleasure.
They spent the next hour discussing the specifics of the job, and at
the end, decided that she would begin work the week after her finals.
That was three weeks away, and in the meantime, Doc invited her over
as often as she could come. It will be a wonderful time to get
to know one another, he said, and Nathalie found comfort in this.
She left as the sun was setting, and in the glow, considered all that
had happened. True, she still hadnt heard from her parents, but
it was possible that she had just made a good and trustworthy friend.
While that could never replace her own parents, it made a piece of her
heart whole again. For a time, she allowed that sense of wholeness place,
without doubting it.
She made herself dinner, using a few of the fresh ingredients shed
picked up over the last week. It felt good to make a meal for herself,
knowing how it all came together, putting the effort into creating something.
Rarely in her life had she been allowed that freedom. As a child, everything
was always done for her, in the conviction that she wouldnt be
able to do it well enough, or fast enough. In moving to Maine, that
had begun to change. Responsibility became reality, and cleaning was
no longer a chore, but a necessity. Shed decided not to have any
room mates, determined to enjoy her solitude and freedom. So she had
learned in private. Watching her mother all those years had taught her
much, even if shed never been allowed to put it into practice.
And so the home that shed made for herself was neat and clean,
the meal that she ate was good and nutritious.
Concern clouded her evening. There still was no word from her parents.
Had her letter been lost? Were they actually going to be flying out
here to confront her to her face? Had they decided to respond in kind,
and a letter would yet arrive for her? So many questions again. It was
disheartening. Just when one question had found an answer, a dozen more
came to take its place.
She kept to her house the rest of the weekend, studying for her exams,
walking along the beach, trying anything to stay busy so that anxiety
wouldnt consume her. When Monday finally came, she walked to town
first, determined to know the truth as soon as possible. But no letter
waited for her. She asked the clerk when the mail came in, and was informed
that the days mail arrived at four-thirty in the morning. Disheartened
and confused, she took the bus to school, and went through the day mechanically.
A note was delivered by courier in the middle of her last class, asking
that she stop by the Business Office. Her heart grew terribly heavy,
and she found it difficult to breathe. Not another word from her professor
did she hear during the next hour, leaving as soon as the class was
dismissed. She hurried to the office, and was greeted by the cool, smiling
face of the receptionist. She gave her name, and was told that the financial
advisor would be with her in a moment, would she mind taking a seat
An eternity passed before she was summoned into the next room, where
her fate was to be decided. The plaque on the desk had the name Stephen
J. Timons, and Nathalie focused on that while the man finished rustling
through some papers on his desk.
Ahem. Miss Verone. Yes, Im glad you were able to come.
Stephen J. Timons, leaning back in his chair and entwining his fingers
together, didnt appear to be in any hurry to explain why she was
asked to be here. How have your classes been going? Are you enjoying
your first year? Everything all right?
Nathalie took her eyes off the plaque and looked at the odd man in front
of her. He seemed to possess a lot of nervous energy, fidgeting with
his hands too much. Frankly, she had enought nervous energy right now
without dealing with his also. Sir, why did you wish to see me?
Surely, with less than three weeks left to the year, this is not the
Ah, yes. Well, we have been notified that, ah...well, it has come
to our attention...That is, you see, your parents have...How do I say
this tactfully? No more money will be provided for your education by
your parents. And I wanted to know if you would be enrolling here next
year. Yes, that is it. He sat back, relieved at finally having
said what hed dreaded since hed received the letter that
Nathalie sat back, hurt and betrayal playing on her face and heart.
All of the scenarios that shed thought about her parents
reaction to her news had never included this. Shed known that
they would despise her for what shed done, that they would never
forgive her, but never had she thought that she would be cut off, and
they would not communicate with her in any way. They had somehow contacted
the school about the money, but they had made no attempt whatsoever
to contact her.
Stephen J. Timons seemed to grow even more nervous as the silence lengthened.
This girl was obviously as shocked as hed been, and he had no
idea what to do. He began fidgeting once more, until finally, she focused
on him again.
I will finish the rest of the year, but I wont be coming
back. Was that all that you needed me for? She moved as though
preparing to leave, and in his nervousness, all words fled from his
mouth. Hed originally intended to go over financial plans that
would allow her to stay for the rest of her four years, loans that could
be applied for, jobs on-campus that would help lighten the load. But
now, with her face set like granite, he found himself nodding, saying
Yes, thats all, Miss Verone, and he watched her walk
out of his office.
Nathalie left relieved to a point. Shed expected the revoking
of her funds, although the way it was done was heartbreaking. Still,
at least now she knew her future. She had a job, albeit one that was
part-time in nature, but her expenses were light. She had no car, and
her home was paid for. Water, electricity and food were really the only
things she needed, and she was pretty sure that her pay would cover
those. She wouldnt have a lot, but shed have enough, and
enough sounded pretty good right now.
Later that afternoon, she made her way to Docs house. Although
shed never been at all close to her parents, the way that they
had treated her, the fact that they so despised her, caused a loneliness
she wasnt accustomed to, and staying home wasnt comfortable.
Memories still haunted the walls, and this fresh heart ache was too
much to carry alone.
She found him on the swing again, and was greeted by Oliver, who was
barely able to hold in his excitement. Doc welcomed her like an old
friend, and it felt good to be accepted. He didnt know a whole
lot about her, but he seemed willing to give her a chance. As he went
into the house to get her some iced tea, she reflected on what he must
have been like as a father. She asked him that when he returned.
He handed her the glass, and chuckled as he sat down again on the swing.
Oh Miss Verone, Im afraid I made some terrible mistakes
when I was first a father. He shook his head, staring out at
the ocean. So many things that seemed so important at the time,
that I got so angry over, and now I look back, and I realize-they dont
mean a thing. Why do you ask?
Nathalie curled up in her wicker chair, cradling her tea in her hands.
Oh, I dont know. You just seem like youd be nice to
talk to, understanding. I was just wondering.
He nodded. I had to learn that the hard way. My wife and I had
three children, all daughters. Beautiful girls. They took after their
mother a lot, but boy, in a lot of ways, I saw myself, and frankly,
that scared me. You see, I remembered the things I had done, the mistakes
Id made, and I so desperately didnt want them to make the
same ones. I was very hard on the older two. Didnt listen to their
hearts, only judged their actions. It made it very difficult for them
to grow up. By the youngest, I had learned some things. Jackie and Debbie
thought I was too easy on their little sister, but I knew now that all
I could really do was teach her what was right and then let her choose.
Thats what our heavenly Father does for us. How could I expect
to do more than that?
Nathalie barely caught that reference to God. It had slipped in there
so easily that it was pretty shocking. Her folks had always prefaced
anything about God with a stern warning about eternal damnation and
her barely redeemable soul. To have Him referred to as our heavenly
Father was unusual.
Did you ever...say something to one of your daughters that you
really regretted later? She hadnt meant to be vague, but
she couldnt say any more without giving away her whole life, it
Doc handled it well, flowing right with her. Every parent does
and says things that that they later regret. Things that are done in
the heat of anger, words said that are mean-spirited and judgmental.
They almost always regret them, but oftentimes, they dont mend
the hurt by going back to their child and asking forgiveness. For some
reason, being wrong and admitting it is viewed as a weakness, some sort
of breach in their authority, like their children wont respect
them anymore. Thats just not true. Humility is always a good thing.
She nodded, mostly as a way to show that she understood what he was
saying. She considered it for a while, in light of her own situation.
Would her parents regret what they had done, cutting off their communication
with her and her baby? She wasnt at all sure. In all her life,
shed never seen them regret anything theyd done.
She ran over various scenes from her childhood in her mind, times when
words had been said in the heat of anger, or when actions were taken
that hurt and wounded her terribly. Sometimes the pain was deliberate,
their way of punishing her for her sins, but sometimes it seemed more
like it was a side effect of the way that they lived their lives, desperately
trying to be right in everything they did. Regret had played no part
of her parents actions, that she could remember.
What if the parents dont ever regret anything theyve
done? I mean, what if all they can do is hurt their child and thats
all? Her voice shook with betrayal and anger. Would she forever
have to carry those wounds, waiting for her parents to ask her forgiveness?
Doc leaned forward a little, looking intently at her face. Miss
Verone, God provides a way out of that.
That wasnt what she wanted to hear. She knew how God provided
ways out. Shed been taught that growing up. He only heard the
prayers of the righteous, the ones who didnt sin, who were pure
of heart and good. He helped those who helped themselves. The others,
the wicked and the idle, were cast into the sea of fire, with weeping
and gnashing of teeth. Oh yes, she knew that God provided ways out,
but only if you were good enough. His way out consisted of doing good
things. And she hadnt done anything good for a long time.
Doc watched the expression on her face harden. He didnt know what
this young woman had gone through, but he knew a broken heart when he
saw one. His spirit cried out within him, begging his God to have mercy
on this precious little one. The look she wore told him that she wasnt
accepting God as a solution to her problems, and that perhaps in some
way, she blamed Him. Either way, Doc became determined to show Miss
Verone that her Father in heaven loved her dearly.
He turned the conversation to other things, inquiring about her house,
and her uncle. Hed known Rudy a bit before hed died, and
they swapped stories back and forth for a while. As evening approached,
Nathalie moved as though to return home, but Doc asked that she stay
for dinner. It was simple, he told her, but he would love the company.
She was glad to oblige him.
When she finally left in the late evening, she walked home with a warm
feeling inside. The time had gone pretty quickly, and it had been fun.
Something inside of her that had been hungry for a long time was now
full, and with that thought, she readied herself for bed, and fell asleep
The rest of the week went quickly. Nathalie spent much of her time studying.
Even though she knew that she wouldnt ever finish college, it
was still important to her somehow that she finish this year well. It
justified her parents money in a way, her last link to them, her
way of saying that she was still there, working hard at her studies,
trying her best to do the right thing. No other tests in her life had
ever meant as much as these finals did now.
Her spare time was spent at Docs house. She listened to his stories
about his daughters and his wife, and he showed her some of the old
photo albums. Hearing him talk, she began to appreciate him. It was
wonderful to hear about his past because it made him more of a person
to her. He wasnt just a man that she would be working for, but
he was becoming a dear friend that she would be caring for. The difference
between the two ideas was incredible.
No letter arrived from her folks, and she stopped expecting one. They
had made their position perfectly clear, and she knew that they wouldnt
back down. Maybe it was that thing that Doc had been talking about,
humility, but she was positive that her parents would not be heard from
The wind began to pick up as she walked the beach at her house. Shed
taken a break from her studies, and the afternoon sun was on her back.
The house was in a wonderful spot, its property extending several hundred
feet on either side. Rudy had bought it fifteen years back, using it
for summers only for the first five years, then moving up permanently
for the next ten. Hed made his fortune in a company that made
insulation boards for enormous engines in industrial plants, and had
never been a favorite with her parents. They had always treated him
as though he had some terrible disease, Mammon, and were polite when
they had to see him, but they had never sought him out.
Nathalie, however, had always adored him. Shed never understood
her parents dislike for him, but then there was a lot about her
parents shed never understood. He had been rather young when hed
died, only fifty-two, and to the end, he was a bachelor. His money,
hed put in a trust fund for his college alma-mater, and his house,
hed given to the only child of his only sister. Perhaps hed
known that she would need to have a place of her own, away from her
She sat on the beach, absorbing the sounds and smell of the ocean. Shed
considered going over to see Doc tonight, but she decided that she needed
some time to think. School was very nearly over, with less than two
weeks till the end of the term, and there was still the matter of him
to clear up.
She forced herself to use his name: Jason. Shed met him one night
at a bar in the city. Shed gone there with two of her friends,
and theyd gotten pretty wasted. She remembered how kind hed
been, offering to drive them back to the dorm, and then taking her home.
Hed asked her for her number, and shed given him the one
at the dorm, never believing that hed really call her. He had
though, the next day, and they went out that night. They went out every
night that week, and then he told her that she was it. She was what
he had spent his life looking for. She had looked into his eyes, so
sincere, and she decided. Shed give him everything that shed
held back from the others. Jason would be the one.
They spent that next week in the throes of love, and had quickly decided
that they couldnt live without each other. He moved his few things
into the beach house, and there proceeded to take all of her. Not only
did he demand her sexually, but he also began to demand her time, her
money, her friends. The charming, handsome man who had told her that
she was everything he wanted now set out to take it. Shed wrestled
in confusion, trying to reconcile this man to the one shed fallen
in love with. She conceded to him everything, and then, one morning,
found that hed left in the middle of the night. He left a short
note telling her that it wouldnt work, and not to expect him back,
and just three days later, she discovered she was pregnant.
She stared out at the waves falling into each other, and knew that she
would have to tell Doc. Not everything, she was sure, but she would
have to tell him that she was pregnant. She hoped desperately that he
wouldnt be disappointed in her, that she wouldnt lose him
as a friend. But her track record didnt offer much hope. Everyone
that shed ever trusted had let her down somehow. She wasnt
sure how much more her heart could take.
She went to his house the next afternoon, skipping her studies one day.
They sat on the porch, sipping iced tea, with Oliver curled up on the
swing snoring. The little dog with the funny face had wormed his way
into Nathalies heart, and she always enjoyed watching him. Today,
she smiled at his snores, but then her face grew serious. It was time
Doc, I havent told you much about me, have I? It seemed
a bit lame, but at least it was a start.
No, you havent, but I figured that you had your reasons.
Would you like to tell me a bit now?
She nodded, taking a deep breath. I took this job because I needed
something immediate, something close to home. This past year, Ive
been attending college full-time, but it was paid for by my folks. However,
they wont be paying for it anymore, because I got pregnant.
She closed her eyes for a moment, thankful it was over. When she opened
them to look at Doc, she saw his eyes full of concern.
Oh my dear. Have they cut you off entirely?
He shook his head. I understand why you waited to tell me. But
have you been to see a doctor? Its so important to take care of
yourself in the first trimester. Thats when much of the baby is
being formed. Oh yes, you must see a doctor.
Nathalie smiled, even as tears began to form. She should have known
hed be kind. She shouldnt have doubted him.
Doc continued, If money is an issue for you, dont worry
about it. There are several doctors in town who owe me a favor or two,
so we will get you all set, Miss Verone. Now tell me-
For the first time, she interrupted him. Doc, please call me Nathalie.
I would really like that.
He smiled at her. Hed waited for her to say that, knowing that
when she did, shed look at him as a friend, and perhaps trust
him a little more. Her revelation hadnt shocked him. Hearing how
her parents had treated her hurt his heart terribly, but he understood
her a little better now.
All right Nathalie. Now, would you mind telling me how far along
I believe Im four to five weeks along. I dont know
Well, my dear, if you would allow me to get you an appointment
with a doctor, we will have you all checked and ready to go. I have
a few books here that may interest you, if you decide that you want
to read up on it. He sat back on the swing, the dog putting his
head on his lap, and sighing loudly. Nathalie chuckled. Doc stroked
his head, and said, Thank you for telling me, Nathalie. Im
sure that must have been a little frightening for you.
She smiled back at him. It was, but there was no reason for that.
Thank you Doc.
The rest of the evening was spent with much excitement. Shed been
laboring under such an incredible sense of guilt and responsibility
that shed forgotten that there was joy in her pregnancy. When
Doc asked if she had any ideas for names yet, she shook her head.
To be honest, I havent given it any thought at all. Everything
happened so suddenly. My boyfriend left me the week I found out, so
Ive been dealing with a lot.
Yes, that is quite a bit. Nathalie, if there is anything I can
do, any way that I can help you, will you promise to tell me? I would
really like that.
You already have, Doc.
It was the last day of classes. Nathalie had finished her final exam
for history a little earlier than several others, and rather than leave
as some had done, she just leaned back a little and closed her eyes for
a while. It was so strange, sitting here in a classroom, knowing full
well that she would never be back. Her friends didnt know yet. She
hadnt had the courage to say anything. It just seemed so terribly
complicated, too complicated to explain. She would have to somehow justify
why her parents had shut her off, explain why she wasnt getting
an abortion. So many questions. It was just simpler to say nothing and
let word get around next year that she wasnt coming back.
Still, there were aspects that she would miss. Shed enjoyed the
learning, the knowledge. She hadnt been ambitious for a career,
but shed enjoyed the general studies. Keeping her grades high hadnt
been too much of a struggle for her, but shed still miss the challenges
that happened when new ideas were presented.
And in many ways, she felt as though she were leaving her entire girlhood.
She had never thought shed be a single mother. Shed seen some
back home, girls who were around her age, struggling to raise a child
on their own. There was such a hardness about their features, as though
they blamed the baby for taking away their adolescence. They had seemed
so harsh, so full of worry. Now, as her own circumstances continued to
swirl around her, she could better understand why they were that way.
But with everything in her heart, she didnt want to take it out
on her baby.
She gathered her books, and turned in her exam to the professor, whispering
her thanks. She stopped by the bookstore, and sold back the books for
a small percentage of what theyd cost. Shed decided that the
money would be returned to her parents. They had paid for her books, after
all, and it seemed only right. In some way, she hoped that she would be
viewed in a better light for it.
That last day was filled with good-byes. Some were said verbally to professors,
and to a few friends who lived far away. Most were whispered in her heart,
as favorite spots were visited, and pleasant moments remembered.
She rode the bus to the stop in town, reflecting on the day. It hadnt
been sad. Somehow, all those good-byes hadnt been sad. It was as
though those people and that time was passed, and there was a sense of,
well, of peace. Strange that in the midst of such uncertainty in her life,
she could have peace.
She picked up a few things at the grocery store in town. Nothing heavy,
since shed have to carry it home. For the last few weeks on Saturday,
she had borrowed Docs car to pick up her groceries, but tonight,
she felt the need for something a little extravagant. Her budget had been
tight, and she hadnt allowed herself any luxuries, but this last
day of classes called for something special.
She left the store with a loaf of bread and three Cadbury Creme Eggs.
They were normally only available in the spring of the year, and they
were her weakness. In the past, she hadnt left any store without
buying one, but this year money had been scarce, so this was a treat.
She looked forward to going home, curling up on the porch, and watching
the waves while nibbling her chocolate.
She spent the evening as shed planned, without interruption, and
the next morning she woke up early, ready to start her job. It was a wonderful
May morning, with the sun warming up the ground, and flowers bursting
with color along the road. There werent a lot of plants that were
hardy enough to grow this close to the sea, but the beach houses were
filled with people who were willing to pay each year to plant new ones
along walkways and on their front lawns. They wanted the best of both
worlds, it seemed.
Rather than go around back, Nathalie walked in the front door at Docs
house. She was greeted by Oliver, who, after acknowledging her presence,
immediately returned to his sunspot on the porch. The aroma of fresh coffee
invited her into the kitchen, where she found the elderly man in the middle
of eating his breakfast. When he saw her, he moved as though to get up.
No, no. Sit down. Im here a bit early, I see, she said,
going to the cupboard to get a mug. Do you mind if I join you? You
can tell me where youd like me to start today.
By all means, he said, seating himself again. I do enjoy
She poured herself some coffee, pushing her purse to the far end of the
breakfast table. She took the seat across from him, checking out the days
headlines on the small-town newspaper that was spread out around him.
He shook his head. Not really. The town is still trying to figure
out what its going to do about paying for that new firetruck. It
still doesnt make sense that we had to have a brand-new one when
a used one will work just fine. Were a small town, Nathalie, and
we just dont need such a large engine.
She smiled to herself. In her hometown, things like firetrucks and school
budgets just didnt seem to be as personal as they were here. But
then, this town of 7,000 people were practically family, literally, with
first, second, and third cousins living in the same town more often than
He put down the paper. So, yesterday was the last day of classes
for you. How did it go? He was looking right at her, in a way Nathalie
was beginning to learn meant his complete attention was on what she had
to say. Such obvious attention still made her nervous and a little fidgety,
but she tried to be honest.
It was okay. I said good-bye to a few people, but I didnt
feel sad. It didnt really make a lot of sense. She shrugged.
Doc nodded. When the change is for the good, then its not
sad to say good-bye. Sometimes, its sad to know that the memories
are all thats left, but even that doesnt mean that we miss
the way things were.
Thats how I felt. I know that a lot of things are changing.
Pretty much everything is. But, even though Im scared sometimes,
Im okay with it. I think I am anyway. She got up with a smile.
So, where do you want me to start today?
How about the living room? It hasnt had a thorough cleaning
since my wife died, and Im sure it could use it. Doc stood
up then, picking up the paper and clearing his dishes. Im
going to be going over to the diner now. Ill be there for an hour
Nathalie gave him a funny look, pointing to the dishes he was taking to
the sink. Didnt you just have breakfast?
Oh yes, my dear. But every day around this time I go down for coffee
with a few of the men from around town.
She remembered then, that first time shed gone to the diner. Gina
had mentioned that the table of locals came in nearly every day. Well,
have a good time.
He left soon after, and Nathalie did up the dishes. She was glad that
shed had those few weeks to get to know Doc and his house. It made
it easier, knowing where things went. She found some cleaning supplies,
making a note that certain ones were missing. With that, she made her
way to the living room, ready to clean from the ceiling to the floor.
She worked non-stop for the next two hours, and by the time Doc got back,
she was mopping the wood floor. The curtains were down, ready to be taken
to the cleaners, but other than that, everything was back in its place.
It was an exceptional job, and he couldnt help but notice it. Yes,
he was glad that hed hired her. It felt good to have such a clean
He went into the kitchen after taking off his jacket and hat. May was
still a bit chilly on the coast, and he wore his light jacket well into
the summer. He went out to the porch, finding Oliver curled up on the
chair in the sun. He laid his hand on him, amazed at how warm he was.
Chuckling to himself, he remembered back to when he and Lucy had bought
this little guy, back seven years ago. They had wanted a dog, and finally,
after much deliberation, decided on a cocker spaniel. Theyd gone
to several breeders, looking for that perfect puppy, but hadnt seen
anything that caught their interest. When a friend had heard of their
quest, she had told them to contact a friend of hers that might have what
they were looking for: a small dog that required minimal care, but was
very intelligent and friendly. If he were to be completely honest with
himself, hed have to admit that at first sight of the pug puppies,
he had considered them the homeliest creatures hed ever seen. Lucy
had fallen in love, however. She had cooed over and cuddled each one,
finally choosing Oliver. Doc had never been able to deny his wife anything,
and they had paid for the pup on the spot, bringing him home a week later.
Their house had been a quiet one until Oliver had arrived. Their daughters
were grown now, with children of their own, and although they enjoyed
visiting, they all lived too far away to come often. With Oliver, then,
had come much laughter and some frustration. Lucy had started to show
him when he was two, and for a year they traveled all over Maine for shows.
Shed started to get sick toward the end, and they had pulled out,
staying close to home, until cancer took her a few months later.
For some reason, those memories came flooding back to Doc as he sat on
the porch that day. It didnt hurt so much anymore. He still missed
his wife, terribly. He didnt know that hed ever really stop.
Theyd been married for forty-nine years when she died, and no one
on earth knew him like she did. Theyd been through some pretty tough
times, and they had loved each other more with every passing year.
The swing creaked as he rocked, but he barely noticed anymore. He sat
by his dog and remembered for a while.
Around noon, Nathalie came out. She leaned in the doorway. Well,
the living room is done. Ill need to get the drapes to the cleaners,
but thats about it. What would you like me to make for lunch?
Doc tilted his head a bit, still looking out to sea. Sandwiches
all right with you? Thats about all Im up for. But make yourself
a good lunch. Fruit, milk. You need to get your nutrition, okay?
She smiled, and turned back inside.
Lunch was ready in just a few minutes, and she brought their plates outside.
She took her favorite chair by the swing, and curled up in it, balancing
her full plate, and putting her glass on the floor. They ate in silence,
each wrapped up in their own thoughts. With the waves on the beach, however,
it wasnt uncomfortable. Doc lived pretty close to other houses,
and the voices of the kids next door could be heard. Somehow it made memories
seem closer, just having those ambient noises.
When they were through, she took the plates into the kitchen, ready to
tackle another cleaning project. This room looked as though it too could
use a good scrubbing, and she set to work, first on the dishes, and then
on the cabinets. It felt good to work hard on something. It kept complicated
emotions and thoughts at bay.
It took another three hours to finish the kitchen, and by then, Doc came
in to say that she was welcome to go home at any time. He had decided
that she would only work until 3, 4 at the latest. Nathalie had gathered
her things, put everything to rights, and then left, feeling a bit in
the way all of a sudden.
She walked home slowly. It hadnt gone quite as she thought it would.
Shed been alone for much of the day, and when Doc had been there,
hed been almost completely silent. It was so unlike what she had
come to know him as, that she really didnt know what to do with
it. They had talked about her coming to work for him many times, and each
time, hed seemed excited about the prospect, saying how good it
would be to have company again.
By the time she reached her own house, she was bone tired. Working that
hard was unusual for her, and her body was letting her know. She made
herself something easy for dinner, not having much strength left to put
something more elaborate together. She ate at the table in the dining
area, next to the bay window. The sea was putting on a wonderful show
tonight, and after she was finished, she just sat there, watching. As
the sun went down, she made herself a cup of tea, and, taking a blanket
from the couch, sat on the back steps.
Her thoughts came again. Shed been able to keep them away all day,
but they were back now, full force. She still hadnt been to see
a doctor, but she could do the math. She figured the baby would be due
sometime in January. This being only May, that left seven months to get
ready for this little one.
About then, she felt her brain shut down. She was tired of thinking, racking
her brain for solutions to her situation. For the first time, she considered
just giving up. It wasnt easy being alone, and she was more alone
now then shed ever been in her life, which was saying a lot. Growing
up, shed been a pretty quiet child, without many friends, and pretty
wary of adults on the whole. Upon reaching high school, that didnt
change much, mostly because her parents were there, always present to
tell her where she could and couldnt go. More often than not, she
took walks by herself or found a good book to read. She could sit for
hours in one spot, with nothing to do, all alone.
But tonight on the beach, she was lonely. In all of her thoughts, her
future had loomed as the one thing that she could control. Its why
she had come to Maine in the first place. Shed needed to get away
from her home, and college was her way out. With the beach house, she
had her own place, somewhere she could retreat to.
Her friends at school were great, and theyd had fun together, but
deep inside, Nathalie was still a loner. Personal things were rarely shared,
and not living on campus contributed to that.
As she sat there on the steps, curled up in her blanket, she prayed for
the first time. It wasnt a big prayer, but coming from one who was
convinced that God wasnt interested in her tiny problems, it was
God, please send me friends."
Nathalie slept in the next morning. She and Doc had decided that she
would be going over Monday, Wednesday and Friday, giving herself a day
in between each to rest up and do the things she would need to do. But
with everything changing so suddenly, she hadnt had the time to
actually get a routine yet. So there were no plans for today.
After a late breakfast, she picked up a book that shed gotten from
Doc on pregnancy. Now seemed as good a time as any to read up on it, and
since it was a sunny day, she opted to read outside. She took her book
and a blanket, and headed down to the beach.
She read undisturbed for nearly an hour. The gulls screamed overhead,
and there were distant sounds of children playing. She laid down her book,
and watched several sail boats make their way back and forth. The smell
of salt was heavy, and the breeze was cool.
The nearest house was about fifty feet away, and she watched as an elderly
lady made her way out her back door, struggling to carry a folding chair
out to the sand. Without a thought, she ran over to help her, afraid that
the lady would fall before she got there.
Oh, thank-you so much dear, the woman said, breathing hard.
She looked to be about seventy, and was wrapped in a pretty, old-fashioned
knit shawl. I know I shouldnt carry those things, but its
such a lovely day, and I wanted to be out, really out in it. Not just
sitting on my porch.
Nathalie nodded. I completely understand. Its beautiful out.
Still, this seems awfully bulky for you to carry.
Well, my dear. Im not carrying it now, am I? and with
a wink, she led Nathalie to a spot closer to the water.
The lady settled into her chair, arranging her shawl as she did so. I
am Mrs. Gadapee. Who are you?
Her straight forward manner caught Nathalie off-guard. Im
Nathalie Verone. Nice to meet you.
She gave a curt nod. Where did you come from? Have I seen you before?
Nathalie pointed toward her house. I live over there. Ive
been living there for almost a year now. Well, nine months really. I was
going to the college.
The lady nodded again. That explains it. She looked out at
the water for a time, then said, I think I remember you now. Wasnt
there a young man living here also?
The girls heart clutched. Yes. He moved out about a month
ago. Her voice was decidedly hushed, and Mrs. Gadapee caught it.
Well, young lady, Im very glad to make your acquaintance.
Its always nice to know your neighbors. She looked at her
new friend with a smile.
Nathalie asked if she would like some company, and then went to get her
own chair to join her.
So, what are you doing, now that the school year is out? Mrs.
Im working a few days a week for Doc Henry, just down the
road a bit. I clean for him and shop too, I suppose. Im really not
sure. I started yesterday.
Ive known Doc for years. Hes a very decent sort of man.
But that garish dog of his. Honestly, creatures like that ought to be
Nathalie let out a sudden laugh at thethought of what Doc would have said
if hed heard. Actually, Ive grown rather fond of him.
Hes got a very good personality.
Dear, thats what people say about ugly things. Its
got character. Ridiculous. They only say that because they know
full well that their beloved creature is too homely for words, and they
desperately want others to overlook that fact. Im telling you, that
animal is not a dog.
Nathalie decided that it was probably time to steer the conversation away
from such a strange topic.
How about you. What do you do with your time?
I am part of the Womens Club in town, and we meet every third
Tuesday. On Fridays, a group of us meet for bridge. And every other Wednesday
night, I play at the Moose Lodge for their Bingo night.
They have music on Bingo night?
Well, its not a part of the game itself. I play during their
cocktail time, when the bar is serving. The game starts at seven.
Do you play?
Not anymore. I was always such a terrible player that I lost more
money than I ever spent, but Charlie was wonderful. He always took
home at least fifty dollars, and he didnt cheat either! I know what
youre thinking. But after he died, it seemed rather silly to keep
on playing, just losing money. Its not as though I have money to
burn, you know.
Still, I do enjoy the piano. Its always delightful to play
for an audience. I havent truly performed in years.
Nathalie was getting caught up in this womans life. You did?
Oh, around the area. I played at weddings and funerals. Graduations
were always very good money makers. Once, I even accompanied George Montel,
at the City Hall in Portland.
Nathalie had no idea who she was talking about, but she could see that
the lady wanted to impress her. Thats wonderful. It must have
been very special.
Oh it was. George was a wonderful person. Dont listen to what
anyone else tells you. He was very generous and kind.
She nodded, hoping that she wouldnt be asked any questions about
Mrs. Gadapee glanced over at her. So, what are you majoring in?
Oh, here we go, she thought. I might as well tell her now, as opposed
to later. Im not going back.
Not going back!? She sat up in her chair, the shawl slipping
off her shoulders. What on earth could possibly have possessed you
to do that?
Nathalie shifted a little uneasily in her seat. This was not the kind
of conversation she was hoping to have with this woman. It seemed as though
it was far too personal to discuss with an almost-stranger. The old lady
was not going to budge though, so Nathalie prepared herself for the worst.
Im pregnant, and my parents will not be paying for my schooling
In this day and age? Didnt you children use protection or
some such nonsense? Honestly, what do they teach them in schools these
This woman was succeeding in ripping apart all of the girls stereotypes.
She really didnt know how to take her. Was she upset because shed
gotten pregnant, or because shed had sex outside of marriage? Was
the real issue her education, or the fact that she was going to be a mother
at the age of nineteen?
They were quiet for a while, until finally the widow looked at the pregnant
young woman, and said, Forgive me dear. Even now, at the age of
eighty-five, I still have a hard time keeping a rein on my tongue. Im
sure everything will be fine. And as for school, well, if you want to
return, there are always ways to do that. She reached out as she
said that, and patted Nathalies hand.
And for the second time in two months, Nathalie felt loved and accepted.
Good morning, Doc, Nathalie called as she walked into his
house the next morning. Nathalie, Im out on the porch. Come
on through, he answered.
She laid down her bag and coat, and passed through the kitchen. The day
was overcast, causing the ocean to look steely gray. Doc laid down the
book he was reading as he turned toward her.
Before you start today, I feel that I owe you an apology for the
way I acted yesterday...I mean the day before yesterday. I am so sorry.
I wasnt quite myself... He seemed to drift off, even as he
She shook her head. No, Doc, I was fine. Believe me, I barely noticed.
Think nothing of it.
Nathalie. He motioned to a chair with his hand. Please
sit down. Now, you must understand, it is very important to me that you
understand this. Wednesday I treated you badly. Maybe not horribly, but
certainly not right. I was having a difficult time, memories of my wife
and all. There are times, my dear, when they seem to flood me. Though
its been four years now, I still have days when I struggle to simply
breathe here without her. She was my dearest and closest friend, and although
I know that I shall see her once again, still, I have hard days. Wednesday
was one of them.
She tried again to make excuses for him, explaining that it was really
all right, and she knew that he hadnt meant anything by it, but
he was insistent.
Young lady, I ask your forgiveness, which you find difficult to
believe I need. Thats fine, but know that I will not treat you like
that again. If I am having a hard day, I will tell you on the outset,
and we will work together at helping me through, all right?
She nodded. I would be honored.
They discussed the plans for the day then. Doc had shopping that needed
to be done in town, and a few errands to run, so after the dishes were
washed, and the kitchen set to rights, the two drove into the village
As they walked the aisles of the grocery store, Nathalie mentioned to
him that shed met her neighbor. Doc smiled and shook his head.
Whats that supposed to mean? she asked.
Only that Ive known that woman almost as long as Ive
known myself, and she is, shall we say, independent. Ive had several
discussions with her in the past, and she never ceases to amuse me with
her insistence that she does not need anyone.
I dont think Ive ever heard you say anything quite like
that. Youre almost laughing at her!
Nathalie, Edith Gadapee is a very dear woman. But my, doesnt
she know how to spit fire! He chuckled then, and changed the subject.
Have you read any of the books that I lent you?
Yes, I started one yesterday, when I met Mrs. Gadapee.
He looked at her quizzically. Are you scared?
No...well, maybe a little. Actually, a lot. Im going through
this pretty much alone. I mean, its not like the father is here.
Theres no one around to share things with. And I have no idea what
labor is going to be like. I try not to think about it, but there doesnt
seem to be any help for it. The thoughts just keep coming, and I can feel
myself getting eaten up with worry. I am very glad that I started working.
I feel like now at least Im doing something, making my situation
better, maybe. I hate just waiting for something to happen. She
shocked herself. She hadnt opened up that much to anyone in all
her life, and then to do it in a supermarket seemed even stranger. She
could feel her face begin to heat up.
Doc turned to look at her. Young lady, there is no call for embarrassment.
I havent met a mother yet who wasnt scared at the idea of
delivery and motherhood as a whole. He patted her shoulder. Thank-you
for telling me. I shall be praying for you.
They didnt talk about anything personal for the rest of the day.
Somehow, Doc must have sensed that she was pretty uneasy at revealing
so much of her thoughts, and he didnt push. But her mind was churning
over something hed said. Over and over it came back, all through
the rest of the shopping and lunch, until finally, a few minutes before
she left, she asked him about it.
Doc. She was out on the porch, ready to say good-bye, but
she just couldnt go until she understood something. She felt ready
Oh Nathalie. Ready to go home? Well, thank-you so much for the day,
we- He stopped mid-sentence. It was suddenly obvious that something
was on her mind. What is it? Come in and sit down.
Anxiety and nervousness came in waves, and she sat in the chair, fidgeting
with the edge of her jacket. She took a deep breath, and plunged in. What
you said at the store. I dont think I understand what you mean.
Well, I mean, I know what you mean, but I dont know-oh man, I didnt
think it would be this hard.
Nathalie, I have no idea what you could be talking about, but take
your time. I am in no hurry. He sat back on the swing, and ran his
hand down Olivers back. That took Nathalies attention off
of her nervousness, and when the dog let out a long sigh, she was able
Still looking at the dog, she asked, What did you mean when you
said youd pray for me? Does it have to do with the fact that Im
not married? I mean, are you going to pray that God forgives me or that
he punishes me?
Oh my Lord, Doc thought, I dont know how much of this my poor old
heart can take. Does she really think of you that way? Of me? Help me
please, to bring comfort to this little one.
Outwardly, he showed no sign of the shock he was feeling. He waited a
few minutes, knowing that this young lady would not leave until she had
an answer, and pretty certain that he didnt know how best to give
it. Finally, he looked at her.
Nathalie, I have no idea what you were taught about God or how you
think he cares about people. But I know without a doubt that he loves
you and cares for you. He does not want to hurt you or punish you. Hes
not waiting with a big stick whenever you make a mistake.
She sat back in her chair, and watched the ocean. Through the filter of
hurt and distrust, she had heard his words and taken them for what she
understood them for. God didnt want to hurt her, but she had put
Him in a position where He had to. He hadnt killed her yet, but
that was only because He cared enough about her to give her another chance.
She determined that she would make it up to Him. She would prove that
He hadnt been wrong to spare her life. Shed be good to everyone
she could, and try as hard as she could not to displease Him again.
Doc watched her from the swing, fairly certain that she hadnt really
heard what hed said. Again his heart broke, and he prayed for her
again. Perhaps it was Gods timing that she had met Mrs. Gadapee
just now. Having known the lady nearly all his life, he knew that she
would understand the pain in this young ones heart, and perhaps
find some way to help her.
Nathalie left soon after, walking home and making several vows to herself
and to God. As she headed up the steps to the front porch, she glanced
over at Mrs. Gadapees just in time to see that lady struggle to
her own door with her arms full of groceries. Her own worries and concerns
forgotten, Nathalie ran toward her, calling, Mrs. Gadapee, what
are you doing? Wait, Im coming!
The elderly woman looked up at her with a trace of chagrin on her face,
as though shed been caught doing something that was slightly illegal.
Nathalie managed to give her an appropriately disproving look, which was
Dont look at me like that! What was I supposed to do, just
leave them in the car until someone came by that had nothing better to
do than carry my bags of groceries in? Really, Im not dead, Nathalie,
and until I am, I can take care of myself!
Nathalies expression didnt change a bit.
Well, since youre here now, take these. Theres a dear.
Ill get the door for you. Nathalie couldnt help but
smile at the way Mrs. Gadapee had handled her, and followed her into the
porch and through the foyer, into the kitchen. Putting the bags on the
counter, she turned and asked, Would you like me to put these away
Mrs. Gadapee wouldnt hear of it. As if I would allow someone
else to put my groceries away. I am quite capable of doing this on my
own, you know. Carrying the bags is a bit heavy, I grant you, but putting
away groceries is no strain whatsoever. She moved to the counter
then, her back to Nathalie and opened the tops of the bags, checking what
each one held. She peeked over her shoulder at the young woman behind
her. I wouldnt mind company, however. Unless you need to get
home right off.
Nathalie could only smile and sigh. For someone who insisted that she
didnt need anyones help, Mrs. Gadapee seemed to be mostly
bluff. She took her jacket off and laid it on a chair, then managed to
help her hostess as much as she could without looking like she was helping.