Mary Theresa was tired. Tired of feeling out of control; tired of feeling lost. She went out to the porch of her house on the lake and stared at the dark night. She couldn’t help but wonder why she had been put on this earth, particularly now that she was out of a job, out of a place to live in the city she loved, out of luck.
The air was chill, the smell of rain in the air. A storm was brewing off to the north and with it would come freezing temperatures. Mary Theresa pulled her coat tight across her thin shoulders and was glad that she had plenty of wood already chopped. At least she would not be cold tonight.
A sound across the lake caught her attention. It was a single whistle, long and shrill, and she knew that it was John. He must be standing on the porch of his cabin wondering if she was receiving guests tonight. She smiled to herself. John was her childhood friend who she’d seen over the years when she came to the cabin on vacation. He had been the first to welcome her when she moved in just three months back as a full-time resident. He was an old-timer; a grizzly bear kind of man who laughed too loud in the house and filled a room with his big presence. A man who was so self-sufficient that all the neighbors called him Iron John, the man on whom everyone else could lean. Yes, seeing John would surely cheer her up. She whistled back, long and low, and returned inside to put the kettle on for tea.
Fifteen minutes later, there was a knock on the door and there stood John. Mary Theresa was surprised to see, however, there was no smile on his face. Instead, his blue eyes, usually cheerful, were dull. And his voice – usually booming with such excitement – was barely loud enough for her to hear his hello.
“What’s happened,” she said as she led him into the living room.
John sat down heavily on the couch and shook his head. “My sister. A drunk driver broadsided her out in Arizona where she lives, and she died at the scene. Forty-three next week and a better driver than I am. I just can’t believe it.”
“Oh dear Lord,” Mary Theresa muttered. “John, I am so sorry.”
John put his head in his hands. “She was just about to get re-married,” he said. Her fiancé was in the car, too, but he made it out fine.”
Mary Theresa got up and went to the cupboard. “We’ll have a little supper and then you can sleep on the couch. This is not a night to be home alone.”
John shook his head. “I have Marty in the truck. I know you don’t cotton to dogs, especially big ones like golden retrievers. It’s all right. Just let me stay for a little while tonight, Mary Theresa. I’ll be fine.
“Suit yourself. But now, come to the table and let’s have a little food.”
The evening was quiet; the fire bright in the wood stove. Mary Theresa and John didn’t talk much. Instead they played hand after hand of gin rummy and drank cups of hot ginger tea. As the clock struck 10:30, John got up to leave. He waved a good-bye to Mary Theresa from across the room and then headed for his truck.
Mary watched the red tail lights bounce in the dark night as John’s truck navigated the dirt road. She shivered at the thought that his dear sister, a woman she’d met many times, was now dead and gone. A woman who had been decent and good and who had planned on living to 100, “If the good Lord is willing,” she’d said.
But her time was up now, whether the Lord was willing or not, and John was sad. She was sad, too, for the lost of a good woman in the world. A woman who never pretended to be more than she was or seemed to expect more than she had. An enviable quality, Mary Theresa thought.
Just as she was about to settle into bed for the night, Mary Theresa heard the whine of an engine on her road. She pulled back the curtain and looked outside. Sure enough, she could see far-off headlights. She slipped her robe on over her gown and slid into her house shoes. She was standing on the porch by the time the vehicle pulled into her driveway.
“I couldn’t do it,” John said as he lumbered back down the path to her cabin. “I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like to take you up on that offer.”
He walked in and stopped. The hide-a-bed was already pulled out and made up. He turned to her with a look of surprise. “How did you know I’d be back?”
“Go get Marty out of the truck,” Mary Theresa said. “I’ve made a bed for him, too, right on the floor beside you.”
John’s blue eyes filled with tears, which he wiped away with the sleeve of his corduroy jacket. “Bless you, woman,” he said, as he headed to the door.
Mary Theresa smiled as she watched him go back outside. No longer did she wonder why she’d been put on this earth. For the first time in a very long time, she understood.