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Comfort Where You Find It
When two people lose someone they both love, they take comfort where they find it. But what if they find more than they bargained for? This is my first effort - please let me know what you think.
[1,159 words]
A J Jones
A J Jones lives in west Tennessee with her husband, four-year-old son, three cats, and a dachshund. She finds inspiration for her stories in the small town southern life around her.
[October 2005]
Comfort Where You Find It
A J Jones

When Mark drove up, Grace was sitting in the porch swing, swaying slowly back and forth watching the sunset. Even from a distance he could tell she had lost weight, which was not something she needed to do. As he drew closer he could see that she was pale and slouching, with no makeup on her pretty face, unusual for a woman who usually carried herself so well and was meticulous about her appearance. But the last three months had been so hard on her. Lee had been her soul mate, and his sudden death in a car accident had left her alone in the world except for their four-year-old son. There was no sign of Ben around just now. Mark figured he was visiting with Lee�s parents. Lee had been their only child, so spending time with Ben now was important to them.

Grace was lost in thought, and she didn�t even hear Mark until he stepped onto the porch, but then her eyes lit up and she smiled, reaching out to take his hand. �Hey there, good to see you. Come sit with me. The sunset�s beautiful.�

�How are you doing, Grace? I�m sorry it�s been a while since I stopped by.�

Grace hesitated, staring down at her hand still holding his. �I guess I�m as well as can be expected. I know I look a mess.� She ran her fingers through her short blond hair and tried to straighten it a bit. Then she looked into Mark�s eyes and saw a reflection of her own pain. �But how are you? I know you miss him too.�

It was true. Mark had known Lee for over 30 years. They had grown up next door to each other, been college roommates, and were as close as brothers. Lee�s death had stunned him like nothing else. It still seemed like a bad dream. But that was just like Grace to worry about others, and she had enough to deal with. �I�m hanging in there. Don�t worry about me. Ben at Jim and Gloria�s?�

�Yeah, they asked if he could spend the weekend. Poor baby misses his daddy like crazy. I am hoping this weekend will do him good, change of scenery and all that. Besides they�re struggling too. Having Ben around helps. He�ll be sorry he missed you though. He loves his Uncle Mark.�

Mark and Grace chatted on for a few more minutes, and the more she talked, the more he worried. There was something so vacant and sad in her voice, even beyond what Mark would have expected. She seemed to be talking from far away and had trouble staying focused on what she way saying. Finally, he tipped her face up so that he could look into her eyes. �Grace, I�ve known you too long. Tell me the truth. You�re not doing very well, are you? When did you eat last?�

�I don�t know, yesterday, maybe the day before? I cooked for Ben before he left this morning, but I wasn�t hungry myself. If I put some pasta on, would you stay and have dinner?�

�I�ll stay to make sure you eat. Grace, you�ve got to take care of yourself, if not for you, then for Ben. Lee would raise hell if he saw you like this.�

That brought a smile. �You�re right. He would.�

They moved inside to the kitchen then, and Mark helped her fumble together a salad, pasta, and bread. She came alive a little more as he talked about things going on around town and funny stories from his job. Then as they cleared away the plates, she flipped on the radio and soothing notes flowed through the room. �Oh, I love George Strait. Come dance with me.� She reached for his hand.

Though it made his heart beat faster, Mark didn�t argue. He was just so glad to see her smile, if even for only a moment. Holding her he could feel that she had lost more weight than he had initially realized. She leaned her head on his chest as they moved together there in the kitchen. He felt her take a deep breath. �The worst part is the nights. When Ben�s in bed and the house is quiet, I�m just so damn lonely. I just want to feel something that doesn�t hurt.� She looked up so that she could see his eyes when she asked her next question. She�d read more there than in his words. She touched his face gently. �Mark, would you stay with me tonight?� She saw the surprise register in his face. �I need to feel someone touch me. I need to feel someone next to me. I promise, no strings. I just need to feel alive and real again instead of this awful numbness.�

Mark caught his breath. He didn�t know how to answer. This was the wife of his best friend, but she was also the woman he�d loved in secret for more than ten years. He�d never told a soul, but there were times he�d have sworn that she knew. She could promise him no strings, but he knew that it wouldn�t be so easy for him. At the same time he knew that she�d never have asked if she didn�t trust him completely, and at least this way he�d have one beautiful night of memories. �I�ll stay, Grace, as long as you need me.�

The first touch of his lips to hers was electric. She poured all of the pain and need of the last few months into that first kiss. The power of it left him breathless. There would be no turning back, so he had to be sure. �Are you sure that this is what you want? Another kiss like that, and I won�t be able to stop.�

�Yes, just please make me forget, just for tonight.�

He scooped her up then, setting her on the kitchen counter. They were center to center, and she could feel him hard against her. They scrambled for buttons and zippers and finally stumbled down the hallway to her bedroom. It entered his mind that this was the bed she�d shared with Lee, but he blocked the thought out quickly. He�d made her a promise that he'd help her forget, and he meant to keep it.

They made love again and again throughout the night. Sometimes he caught tears on her face, and he would kiss them away and hold her a little closer. Finally as the sun began to rise the next morning, she slept peacefully at his side, and he knew without asking that it was the first time since Lee�s death. He didn�t know what to do now. Probably he should just slip out before she woke up to save her the embarrassment in case the morning light left her regretting what they�d done. But he found that he couldn�t. Somewhere during the night, amidst the sweat and tangled sheets and whispered words, he�d given her more than pleasure and peace. He�d given her his heart.


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© 2005 A J Jones
October 2005

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