Pocketful of Pearls

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Authors: Shelley Bates
not its length, would allow
     you to use my given name. I went and got your robe. It’s on the door handle.”
    She unlocked the door and kept her body behind it while she felt the handle outside. Her fingers encountered soft cotton and
     she dragged it into the bathroom. She re-locked the door and wrapped the pink-and-white sprigged dressing gown tightly around
     herself.
    She didn’t want to go out there. The bathroom was a steamy, warm little haven, and it had a lock. Outside was a man who had
     ignored her wishes and made her take back her life, and she hadn’t forgiven him for it or figured out why he’d done it.
    “Dinah?” he called. Closer. He was in the kitchen. “Are you all right? I’m making a pot of tea if you’d like some.”
    Tea? Hunger hollowed her belly. She could consume an entire steak dinner and ask for seconds. But tea did sound warm and comforting.
    “Dinah?”
    “Yes. Please.”
    “And since neither of us has eaten, I took the liberty of warming up the last of this excellent casserole.”
    That brought her out of the bathroom. He had pushed the correct buttons on the microwave without even asking her how. In less
     time than it took to think about it, she and her hired hand were facing each other across the kitchen table. Matthew bowed
     his head.
    “Lord, I’m very thankful for this food, and especially that Dinah is still here to eat it with me. Bless us both, and give
     us the strength to endure. Amen.”
    What an odd grace. But he was a worldly man, so it was to be expected.
    He passed her the casserole and poured a mug of tea, stirring in milk and two spoonfuls of sugar before he handed it to her.
     “Now, would you like to talk about what took you down there, or are we going to be frightfully British and ignore the whole
     thing?”
    Despite herself, she smiled. “In the most polite manner possible, I’m going to say ‘Mind your own business.’”
    He shook his head, and dished up his own meal. “Fishing people out of rivers makes them my business. It would be terribly
     unfair of you to make me go to all that work and not tell me what caused it. Was it your mother?”
    Her fork paused in midair. “My mother?”
    “Yes, wasn’t it she who went away in the ambulance? You’ll notice I’m making no comment whatsoever on your not going away
     with it.”
    “I told her something she didn’t want to hear and she collapsed.”
    He gazed at her for several long seconds. “Your mother collapsed because of something you said?” he asked at last. “Do you
     mind sharing what it was?”
    “Yes.”
    Her own chewing sounded like an army marching in her head, compared to the silent kitchen.
    “Sometimes it’s best to talk to an objective third party. It prevents painful things from lodging in one’s insides.”
    “You sound experienced.”
    “I am.”
    “Tell me about it.”
    “I’m not the one in the river.”
    “Neither am I, no thanks to you. Give me that casserole, please.” She eyed it, the yawning emptiness inside her demanding
     that she eliminate everything on the table.
    He handed it to her, and she scraped what was left onto her plate.
    “I’m not going to apologize for pulling you out of there, no matter how much you resent me for it.”
    “Just don’t do it again. More tea, please.”
    He poured her another cup, added milk and sugar, and gave her a lie-detector sort of look. She’d never actually seen a lie
     detector, but a look like this demanded honesty.
    “Again? Are you likely to try?”
    “That’s my choice, isn’t it?”
    He nodded, and turned back to his food. She wondered if he was going to eat it all. “Unfortunately, it’s always our choice
     to turn our backs on God.”
    She snorted. “I’ve been staring at his back for so long I doubt he’d notice.”
    “You feel God has turned his back on you?”
    “I don’t just feel. I know.”
    “How?”
    She set her fork down with a clatter. “Let me count the ways. He gives me my parents.

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