Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Remedy

I felt sure my heart would never heal. But Aunt Phoebe, my mom's older sister, apparently thought she had a magic remedy.
When I stopped by her apartment for Sunday dinner, she said, "Emily, I'd like you to meet my friend and neighbor, Luke McAllister."
A tall, handsome, blonde young man with blue eyes and a surprised smile strolled from Aunt Phoebe's kitchen into the living room, wiping his hands on a towel. "Hi," he said. "Your aunt's drain in the kitchen sink was plugged." He cast a glance at Aunt Phoebe. "It's fine now. Wasn't much of anything."
"Hi," I said, trying to smile back. For Aunt Phoebe's sake. "I'm glad to meet you."
        "Luke's been such big help since he moved in," Aunt Phoebe said. "Carrying in my groceries. Replacing light bulbs in ceiling lights...and I don't know what all."
"Just little things," Luke said, looking sheepish.
"You two chat," Aunt Phoebe said, and scurried off. "I've got things to look after in the kitchen."
Luke's eyes lowered. I realized he probably felt as awkward as I did. "This is a setup," I told him.
He nodded. "Your aunt called about the drain. Then she asked me to stay for dinner. I said I really shouldn't. I didn't know..."
"That her niece would be here."
I explained my mom and dad always had Aunt Phoebe and me over for Sunday dinner—a tradition for years—but when they went on vacation, like now, Aunt Phoebe did the honors, inviting me to her place.
Luke decided to stay—because of me, I'm not sure. I have to admit a tiny part of me was glad. Besides being quite handsome, Luke seemed down to earth and easy to talk to. We were both the same age, thirty-one. Like me, he'd never married. His job as the new city planner brought him to Longville. I wondered if like me, he suffered from a broken heart.
After we'd eaten and were finally talked out, Luke said he had to leave. He thanked Aunt Phoebe for her hospitality and a tremendous meal. Then he turned to me, smiled a beautiful smile, and said, "Maybe we can see each other again sometime...if that's all right."
His words unnerved me. This was the situation I'd successfully avoided for over a year now. "Um...I'm not dating," I said, my eyes dipping. "I'm sorry..."
He nodded. He seemed to understand. Gentleman that he was, he didn't pressure me. Strangely, I felt an unexpected twinge of sadness. He thanked Aunt Phoebe again, said it was nice to have meet me, and then bid us goodbye.
Aunt Phoebe turned on me immediately. "Emily, you should've said you'd be delighted to see him again. You should've given him your cell phone number."
"Not everyone's destined to find a perfect guy and have a perfect marriage like you had before Uncle Charlie died. Or a perfect marriage like Mom and Dad."
"I have a great job"—I'm a legal secretary—"and I'm happy by myself."
"Nonsense," Aunt Phoebe said again. "You think you're the only one who's ever been lied to and jilted."
"Of course not."
"Then listen to me."
Aunt Phoebe told me her high school sweetheart, Arthur, and she talked about marriage endlessly. But Korea happened. He went off to the Marines. She wrote to him every day. He wrote when he could. He came home a decorated hero and promptly married the daughter of the town banker. She'd be writing to him, too.
My mouth dropped open. "I had no idea. You never said anything. Mom didn't..."
"Of course not. Took awhile but I got over it. Like you should get over your disappointment."
"It was more than a disappointment. It was a betrayal."
"Emily dear, I opened my heart again—that's the remedy. Charlie and I found each other. We had fifty wonderful years together. Arthur's betrayal was a gift."
"A gift?"
"A gift. Do you understand that, Emily? A beautiful gift."
A half hour later, my heart hammering, I knocked on the door to Luke's apartment. The door opened; his eyes widened. "Emily—"
I tried to swallow. "I hope I'm not interrupting anything."
"Of course not." He stared at the foil-covered platter I cradled in the crook of my right arm.
"Leftovers," I said. "Aunt Phoebe insisted..."
"Come in," he said, beaming.
"Um...I don't mean to intrude."
"I'm watching TV." He took the platter from me.
"You're not intruding at all." His huge smile warmed my heart like it hadn't been warmed in a long while. "Please," he added. "I enjoy your company."
I stepped inside, he closed the door, and I realized Aunt Phoebe's remedy was already working its magic. 
The End 

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