Lindsay left Eleanor in the great room in front of the crackling fireplace. She walked toward the kitchen in a state of shock. Eleanor was here…in her house. In the house that she shared with Chad and Cook….Eleanor. She shook her head to make herself focus and loaded a silver plated tray with lemon cookies while the teapot heated on the stove. She added two cups, silverware, and napkins to the tray, and took a deep breath.
“Did I hear someone at the door?”
Lindsay jumped, startled by the sudden appearance of Cook behind her.
She turned to see her dear, short, elderly friend sporting her silver fox wig. She hadn’t felt well earlier that evening so had retired to her room.
“Yes you did, but it’s no one…special. You can go back and rest.”
Cook lifted her eyebrow and continued to stare at Lindsay. “Who is it? Is it someone that I know?”
Lindsay turned and busied herself with pouring the heated water and adding a small bowl that had a selection of sweetener packets. Lindsay debated what to tell her. She knew Cook was liable to put Eleanor out in the cold or worst.
Lindsay on the other hand was curious to know what prompted her to show up at her home after all this time and all that had occurred. She was definitely the last person she’d ever expected to show up on her doorstep—actually to ever see again, especially since her and Terrance’s divorce finalized over a year ago. But here she was.
Lindsay turned and leaned forward to kiss Cook on the cheek. Cook had been the first employee Chad had hired while she’d been hospitalized. Cook’s first name was Shirley, but she insisted on being called Cook and so they did. She’d proved to be more than that to all of them at Serenity Inn. It was as if she’d become their adopted mom—their source of wisdom in times of trouble.
She was deeply cherished and that was why Lindsay was adamant about her resting. If she never cooked another meal, she wanted her to be well so that she could be with them for many years to come.
“I told you it’s no one you need to be concerned with. Please go rest. I’m worried about you, Cook. I need you to rest so that you can help me with this baby. Besides, if anything is needed, Meredith is more than able to pitch in.”
Cook sighed resignedly. “I know. She’s a sweet thing too. I’m so glad she moved here. Though with her, you probably don’t need me as much.” She sniffed.
“Cook, I’ll always need you. If you didn’t lift a finger, you are needed because you are the backbone of this family.”
Lindsay smiled at her, hoping to convey the love she had for her within her heart. She rubbed her friend’s forearm.
“Please go rest, sweetie. You know I have to make a report to Chad when he calls this evening and should I tell him that his patient isn’t listening? You know he’s a breath away from admitting you into the hospital.”
“Don’t you threaten me, young lady.” Cook sassed.
Lindsay’s eyes widened as she giggled. “You got that, huh? Well keep it in mind then and go lay yourself down.”
Cook did an about face and fussed the entire short distance to her room.
Lindsay picked up the tray and headed back into the great room.
She busied herself serving Eleanor’s tea and cookies. It hadn’t occurred to her to offer her anything else, but then she didn’t expect her to stay long.
They each held a bone china cup, Lindsay looked across hers to the woman that had tormented her upon their very first meeting. She bore very little resemblance to the diva that she’d once known.
This woman who sat across from her, though every bit as beautiful as she ever was, was different. Lindsay took in the change in her hair color but realized it was more than that. This woman appeared hesitant and unsure—definitely not the woman she’d met nearly two years ago.
“So what brings you by, Eleanor?”
Eleanor took a cautious sip of tea and then returned the cup to it’s saucer. She wrung her fingers and glanced furtively at Lindsay but then quickly dropped her gaze.
“I came to do something that is overdue…I came to apologize for all the pain that I caused you and Chad.”
Lindsay coughed, spluttering tea out of her mouth. She quickly sat her cup down on the table before her and reached for one of the napkins. She dabbed it on the front of her top to absorb the liquid that dampened it.
Eleanor jumped up to rub her back, a gesture meant to ensure she wasn’t choking.
Lindsay looked up and was surprised to see something resembling concern in her eyes. Actually, she had nearly dismissed it, figuring she’d only imagined it. The Eleanor she’d once known wouldn’t have bothered.
“Are you okay?” Eleanor asked, as she stooped to gaze at Lindsay.
“I’m fine, truly. Please, you make yourself comfortable again.”
Eleanor shook her head. “Let’s not pretend that I could ever be comfortable in your presence, Lindsay.”
She looked away and then leveled her gaze again. “What I did to you …it was inexcusable. I could never apologize enough for what I did that evening to…Chad, you and most of all my …well, Terrance. None of you deserved that. I’d like to drive by Terrance’s and apologize as well. It would mean a lot to me.”
Lindsay’s mouth opened but no words came out. She wondered if she should agree or just nod. In the end that was what she did—just nod. Still, she couldn’t see herself giving Terrance’s address to this woman.
Despite what appeared to be a heartfelt confession, she didn’t trust her. Was it possible that she could really change from the barracuda she’d once been?
Maybe so, but Lindsay didn’t want to be responsible in the event she really intended to cause Terry some harm. In fact she was really starting to worry for herself and all in the house with her. Stranger things had happened with mental illness and she wasn’t completely sure she wasn’t staring such a case in the face right now.
“Eleanor, while I appreciate your words—well more than you will ever know, I’m not completely comfortable giving out that information to you without Terry’s permission. You two have been estranged for some time. I don’t think Terry or Chad would like me to disclose his address. I’m sure you understand.”
Eleanor fluttered her lashes in an attempt to hold back the tears that threatened to fall, but they streamed nonetheless. “I guess I felt he would be able to see my sincerity better looking me in the face rather than over a phone call or a note in the mail. I put him through so much pain and he didn’t deserve it. All he ever did was love me and I betrayed him. It…it was just important to me to make amends in person is all.”
Lindsay knew if she opened her mouth, her tongue would roll out. She blinked her eyes a few times but still she could not bring a single word to mind. Still she couldn’t believe she was looking at the same woman who nearly terrorized her in Chad’s home. Her tummy began to squirm as the baby did somersaults within. Lindsay figured the baby was in shock too.
Finally, she leaned forward and grasped her tea-cup and took a few sips as she wrangled within her mind with what to do. The grandfather clock chimed the six o’clock hour and she smiled.
“I think I should give this more thought. Why don’t you leave me your cell number and I’ll get back to you in the morning after some more consideration…and maybe prayer.” She flashed a small smile. “Besides, you probably want to get on the road now. You’ll have to ride a bit to find another hotel.”
“I don’t know why you just don’t let your first no mean no Linds. You’re too soft to say it, but I’m not.”
Cook’s body finally caught up with her voice and she now stood imposing as ever in the center of the room, her eyes glaring at Eleanor. “The answer is no. There is no way we will ever give you Terrance’s address. Are you kidding?”
Eleanor scrambled to stand and clear some distance between her and the imposing woman. “Please you have it all wrong. I’ve changed—“
“Wait a minute. You think we’re supposed to believe you changed just because you said so? Oh nooo missy.”
“Wait Cook,” Lindsay called out trying to grab her arm. “I do think she has changed…some,” she added her gaze swinging to Eleanor then back to Cook.
Eleanor nodded. “I don’t expect you to take my word for it. I just wanted to try…”She paused to take a breath. “Please forgive me, Lindsay. I-I know that I don’t deserve it from you or Chad. I don’t expect it from Terry, but I …” her voice trailed off in a whisper as she caught her bottom lip in between her teeth. But even that couldn’t keep the sobs from erupting. Her body seemed to collapse beneath her onto the sofa behind her.
For the second time that evening Lindsay was completely shocked, she moved toward her. Hesitantly, she placed a hand on her shoulder. Her eyes shifted to Cook, who’d crossed her arms, silently watching the woman Lindsay sought to comfort.
As the sobs continued to rack Eleanor’s body, Lindsay tried to soothe her and gently rubbed her back.
Cook relented and sat in the chair across from them. Her expression was bland as aged, brown eyes settled on Eleanor. “Tears don’t tell the whole story Lindsay. But so that you aren’t further distressed along with that baby I won’t keep fussing.”
Lindsay felt her eyes fill with tears over the sobbing woman and her plea for forgiveness. “Cook wasn’t it you that showed me in the bible what James 4:6 says? Didn’t you tell me there are times we all feel we aren’t deserving of God’s forgiveness explaining that’s why it’s called undeserved? Wasn’t it you that helped me to appreciate that is what indeed makes it a gift?”
“Yes, Lindsay but…”
“She asked for our forgiveness, Cook. We don’t have to give her Terrance’s address, but we can give her that.”
“Really? You can easily forgive this woman who attempted to seduce your husband in the same house with her husband and while you, his then fiancé were visiting?”
Lindsay looked from Cook to Eleanor who was slowly managing to compose herself. Could she? Her heart thumped, her baby’s heartbeat echoed hers only in staccato. It was a reminder of her blessing and that’s when she knew. Slowly she smiled and looked at the woman beside her, “Yes. I can forgive you. It will take a while to forget for sure, Eleanor. But I’ve decided to forgive you and I will pray for you because your future steps will be full of challenges, but if you persist, at the end of your journey you will find peace. I’m sure of it.”
“Thank you Lindsay,” she said as she grasped both her hands between them. “Having you forgive me from the heart means the world to me.”
Cook’s gaze settled on Eleanor and softened along with her tone, “If you indeed are sincere…then you did a good thing to come and apologize—in person. But to ask anything more…well that’s too much, too soon. Repentance takes effort. If you want to find your ex, well you can pay for that information, you can search online for it. You can do more than merely dropping by to ask for it from this woman who owes you nothing. You may have changed. You might be sincere—but asking something on the back of your apology, well it almost undermines it completely.”
Cook then walked to the door and looked pointedly at her. “I think you should go. It’s already started to sleet and as Lindsay said, it will take you a while to find lodging.”
Shakily Eleanor stood and walked toward her watching closely as Cook held out her coat toward her.
Cook’s shrewd eyes didn’t miss the woman tense in fear. A couple of years ago she might have felt triumph over the arrogant woman. But now with despair crowning in this same woman’s eyes and bearing, she felt nothing but sympathy. “I mean you no harm, child. I too wish you well in your journey.”
Eleanor’s lips lifted into a small smile. “Having you hesitate to forgive me only reminds me of how much pain I have caused. I can come here and claim I am an apple tree but if all you see is an orange tree, the telling of it is in the fruitage.”
She now grasped her coat and slid into it. Her gaze took in the two ladies. “Thank you so much for your hospitality.” Lifting a trembly smile at them, she pulled the door toward her, gasping as the brutal cold seemed to steal her breath. A flurry of flakes danced beyond the threshold before the porch light, stippling her face with its hardened bits. Pulling her infinity scarf closer around her face and throat, she braved the harsh wind as she walked toward her car.