“You and Jared seem to be getting along better,” Faith ventured.
So. Not an AA-type intervention. “We are.” Jessica held the coffee mug to her mouth, attempting to hide the grin tugging at her lips. “I guess we reached an understanding.” She took another sip.
“Did you?” Faith’s head tilted and her brow arched. “That’s good.” The toaster popped, and she turned away to butter the toast while it was hot. When she came back to the counter and set the plate in front of Jessica, she had a question more curious than her observation. “Do you believe things happen for a reason?”
A slight frown formed on Jessica’s face, and she rubbed at the back of her neck. “You mean, like fate?”
Faith considered the term before nodding approval. “I suppose you could call it that.” She picked up a piece of toast and smeared it with a light layer of fruit preserves then handed it to Jessica. “People have different words for it. God. Fate. The Universe. Some don’t like thinking there’s a plan and we’re all playing a part. But sometimes seemingly random things happen too perfectly.” She pointed the knife at Jessica. “In the midst of it, it can feel chaotic and we can’t see any rhyme or reason to it.” She picked up another piece of toast and set about spreading jam over it with intricate care. “Then, once the dust settles, it’s obvious everything happened the way it was supposed to. If we’re aware of that, sometimes we can recognize the why of it all and make our way to solid ground sooner rather than later.”
Faith paused, took a bite of toast, chewed it thoughtfully while keeping her eyes on Jessica. “So, even though the dust hasn’t settled yet, have you thought about why you’re here?” Setting the knife on the plate, she held her hand out, palm turned upward. “Not just in Cedar Ridge, but here.”
Apprehensive about what Faith was getting at, Jessica’s shoulder came up in a feeble shrug. “I guess there could be a reason.” She studied the slice of toast in her hand, picking crumb-sized pieces from the edge and flicking furtive glances at Faith.
Faith was nodding her head, a gleam in her eye. “No guessing about it. There’s an important reason.”
Hell. She’d figured out why Jessica was there. Here it comes …
“I’m not one to go buttin’ into people’s business, and I know we’ve got a complicated situation here.”
Bemused, Jessica’s eyebrows drew together, climbed upward.
Faith sighed, deflated a bit. “It’s just … I see how it is between you two. You and Jared.”
Jessica froze, afraid to swallow the mouthful of coffee she’d taken for fear she’d choke.
“I don’t know much about your relationship with your man, and I’m not prying. Don’t need to.” Faith nodded at Jessica’s left hand, curled around her coffee cup, still conspicuously bare of a diamond. “I suspect things were coming undone long before you landed in Cedar Ridge. But it’s none of my business, and I’m not asking.”
That was a relief. How could Jessica explain it all without going into dark, dirty specifics she didn’t want to share with Faith?
“And Jared. He went through a rough patch a few years back. Had his heart broke pretty thoroughly. It was right after Kase died, so he was already in a bad place.”
Jessica swallowed hard, winced, but kept quiet.
“I was sure he’d get over it eventually,” Faith continued on. “Meet someone new, start fresh. It’s been a few years, though, and I got to thinkin’ he’d been hurt too bad. It was like he decided to hole up here, forget all about being happy again.”
Ah. That’s why the chemistry between Abby and Jared was so weird, and why he didn’t want to talk about it. An ache flared in Jessica’s chest at the thought of pain so bad Jared would rather spend the rest of his life alone.
“It all changed the day you came to town.” Faith reached over to give Jessica’s hand a squeeze. “You bet he acted all put out at first. But I saw his face when he got a look at you, out there on the side of the road, dragging your luggage along behind you.”
The memory made Jessica blush again, and her lips curved in a self-conscious smile.
Faith grinned, too. “Then it turned out you needed help and you ended up here with us and I started seeing some cracks in the wall my boy built up.”
Jessica’s gaze dropped. “Faith, I—”
“We haven’t known each other long—” Faith held up a hand, cutting her off, “—but I care about what happens to you as much as I care about my own son. And I can see the feelings you have for each other.” When Jessica opened her mouth again, Faith said, “Both of you. I know there’s complications. Worthwhile things never are easy. Sometimes we think we know where our lives are going. Even have the arrogance to think we have control over the direction. But I think the Universe, Fate, however you want to see it, has its reasons for bringing you here.”
The distant sound of the landline ringing in the office interrupted the discussion. Faith started to go answer it, then stopped. “You got a lotta things to iron out, but maybe you should stay open to possibilities.” She patted Jessica’s hand before she turned to attend to the phone, calling over her shoulder, “Something to think about.”
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish