“Ella, how long has it been since we’ve met for a cup of coffee?” her voice, my best friend, has an edge to it.
“I wish I could, Kelly, but Scottie is waiting for me.” I keep my gaze level, masking my emotions with the subterfuge of an addict. “Keeping everyone happy is making my ‘big day’ one I wish I could forget before it happens!”
“Sorry, Ella, I know your hands are full—working full time; making time for Scottie-- and Brad, too. Becoming an instant family, no time to be a couple, is a big order to fill. But if anyone can do it, you can!”
Ella throws a kiss to Kelly as she slides behind the wheel of her Toyota. She sits quietly for a moment; her shoulders droop. She is in no hurry to face her husband-to-be…and his child. Ella shakes her head with self-loathing--after all Brad is only seven and he’s a nice kid and he deserves a mother he can count on—not a woman like his birth mother who left home without a word. What kind of attitude will Brad have about women if I don’t show him love and steadfastness?
With that question, silence hangs in the air like an accusation; then Ella notices an object on the pavement.
“Shoot! Did I drop that?” Ella asks herself when she steps out of the car to retrieve the manila envelop that caught her attention.
The envelop feels chunky and is surprisingly heavy; Ella frowns and then peeks inside. Confused, Ella dumps the contents in the front seat and stares. “Wow! Money! Lots of money!” After moments of indecision, Ella decides she should return the lost money to its rightful owner and hope for a generous reward. But try as she will she can find no clues to its origin. Defeated in her efforts, she starts the car and pulls out into the traffic. “I bet Scottie can help me figure out what to do with this money. It’s not marked. It was in a public parking lot—no clue-- Nine thousand dollars! Wow, Scottie will want us to put the money on a down payment for a house. He’ll say, “‘It’s ours; a wedding present from the Giver of all good and perfect gifts.’”
Imagining a tug-of-war over the money, Ella needs time to think. She slows her car, moving cautiously to hug the guard rail of the emergency lane she brings her car to a stop. She reaches up and pushes her wet hair from her forehead; her breathing is short and heavy. She reaches for the envelop beside her and presses it against her face; then emptying the money into her hands she inhales the dankness of the bills. For a moment she smells the haystack, that last day with Joey, both of them nineteen and full of dreams and love. In a flash Joey was “Gone to a better place,’’ Reverend Fuller said--but she was left with empty dreams and loneliness.
“Miss, anything wrong?” Sheriff Deputy Poole speaks kindly but authoritatively as he shifts his flash light from my face to make a cautionary inventory of the belongings inside my vehicle. Ella controls her urge to grab the brown envelop and slip it under her butt. She takes a long slow breath for voice control, “Officer, thank you for checking. Having a little trouble with my contact lens—blasted aggravation!”
“Drive safely, you hear!” Office Poole says as he pats the top of my car and walks away.
“That lie was quite convincing,” Ella smiles at the thought--and a plan begins to form in her mind. “This money is mine…it’s my ticket to a new life. If Joey can go to a better place, just like that,” Ella says as she snaps her finger, “then I can go on to a better life here on earth—and stop with the “make do” love named Scottie and living other people’s dreams. I’ll reinvent myself!