A seal upon your heart, p.12
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       A Seal Upon Your Heart, p.12

           Pepper Pace
 

  Tim grimaced and took the coffee out of her hands. He sat down at the breakfast bar, took a sip and then propped his elbows on the bar and proceeded to hold his head in his hands.

  Martier wrinkled her nose. He smelled like beer. No, he smelled like LOTS of beer. “I was just going to start cleaning but I can come back…”

  Tim looked up as if he was surprised to see her. He looked around the neat kitchen. “No. It’s fine. Just…don’t turn on the vacuum cleaner.”

  “Do you want me to make you some breakfast? Eggs?”

  He grimaced again. “No. No eggs.” He stood up with his coffee. “I’m going to get cleaned up. You don’t have to touch my room or my bathroom. I’ll take care of that myself.” He’d left a bit of a mess in there last night. “Then…I suppose we should go through the walk-in closet and get things sorted.”

  Once he had disappeared back up the stairs, Martier’s brow gathered. She hoped that he wasn’t a drinker. She didn’t know from personal experience but just hoped that it wasn’t that way with Tim. When he returned he had changed into khaki slacks and a fresh polo shirt. Her eyes lingered on his large frame. Out of his formal suit he was indeed every bit as well muscled as she had imagined. Tim was very broad in the shoulders and even though he had a bit of a belly, his back narrowed into a nicely formed V.

  He looked around. “It looks much better in here. Thank you.” She had just finished the dusting and had actually enjoyed running a cloth over the pretty furniture and watching the layers of dust disappear.

  “You have a beautiful home. I didn’t mind it at all.”

  Tim was watching her. Her hair was very long. It was pulled into a ponytail that fell into spiral curls down to her shoulder blades. Her face was different, prettier somehow. Maybe because she wasn’t dressed awkwardly in clothes that she wasn’t comfortable wearing or that did little to compliment her body. She had curves that he’d never seen and it surprised him. He met her eyes quickly.

  “Ready to get started?”

  “Sure.” He had boxes in the garage and she helped him carry them up. His bedroom had been recently cleaned and Jane noted that his bed was neatly made. In Corrine’s closet, Jane glanced at him trying to gauge how difficult this would be for him, yet his face was expressionless. She decided that she would make it as quick and as painless as possible. Still it took over an hour.

  “Some of these still have price tags.” He said quietly. She’d noticed that and wondered if he realized just how much this was all worth.

  “Tim?” He looked at her. “Are you sure that you want to donate these. I understand that…there is a lot of monetary value and you could sale them directly-”

  Tim shook his head. “You said the girls would need the help and that’s what Corrine would want.”

  “And then there is the tax write-off.” She said simply.

  “Yes. I’ll have to remember to keep the receipt for that.”

  And then Martier knew; Tim and Corrine had not done it for the tax write-off. This time when she watched him it was with complete respect and admiration. They got the items packed; bags and shoes and clothes in boxes as tall as her waist. By comparison, the things that she would keep were piled on Tim’s bed and were but a pitiful few. They had to load everything into the truck because it would be impossible to fit in the Cadillac.

  Tim found that as shitty as he had felt this morning, the act of touching Corrine’s possessions and putting them into the boxes had been more like therapy. Each time it began to get difficult he would remind himself that Corrine would have wanted this and it became easy. He wished Martier could have used more things and had tried to point out bags with fancy names like Fendi or Louis Vuitton. She didn’t seem to know or care about names but kept more than she wanted, he thought, just to quiet him. He was secretly glad when she kept the Bottega Veneta because he remembered Corrine being especially excited about it even though he didn’t think any bag should be worth seven grand. But she had her own money to do with as she pleased and if she wanted a seven thousand dollar bag then she bought a seven thousand dollar bag.

  They had been fairly quiet but he noted that Martier seemed even more so as they drove to St. Bartholoma.

  “Martier.” She turned to him. “You can stay in the car if you want. I can take care of-”

  “No, I think I’d like to say goodbye to some of the sisters and the little ones.” She had never liked when an aspirant had been there one day only to disappear and never return without even a goodbye. She lifted her chin. “Besides, I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m not afraid to show my face.”

  Tim smiled. It was the first time he’d done so this horrible day. They arrived at St. Bartholoma and Martier instructed him to pull around back where deliveries were dropped off.

  She rang the buzzer and after a moment a tinny voice could be heard. “Jane? Jane!”

  The door opened and a small woman rushed at the tall girl, hugging her about her waist and looking up as if she was peering at a giant. Martier was grinning broadly.

  “Sister Mary!” Otherwise known as Sister Short Mary. She hugged her back, finding it difficult to let her go.

  “Come in come in! Why are you coming through the back?” She looked at Tim and hesitated.

  “Sister Mary I came around back because I needed to make a delivery.” She gestured to Tim. “This is my boss Mr. Singleton and he has boxes of clothes to drop off for consignment.”

  Sister Mary smiled and offered her hand. “The attorney. Yes, thank you so much Mr. Singleton. Come inside, your truck will be fine.” She ushered them inside a short hall and Martier could smell lunch cooking. She peeked her head into the kitchen and saw some of the older girls finishing up with the food preparation. Several of them squealed upon seeing her and rushed to greet her with hugs.

  Tim stood back and watched as Martier greeted the girls enthusiastically, seeming to become like a big sister that had returned from college. He couldn’t stop the smile on his face. They looked at him with open curiosity until Sister Mary shooed them back into the kitchen and led him and Martier down the corridor.

  The short woman slowed her footsteps and leaned towards Martier. “We didn’t agree with Sister Louise’ decision. Sister Callista formed a protest and has moved out of the convent.” Martier’s hands flew to her mouth. “She is just living outside but returns daily. She is staying with Nicolette.”

  So it wasn’t a conspiracy. Martier had wondered if Sister Callista had gone through her things and shown them to Sister Louise in order to get her put out. It had hurt her to even wonder that because she loved rooming with Callista who never made demands and who kept to herself.

  Sister Mary knocked on a door and Tim watched as Martier’s entire demeanor changed. Her shoulders dropped and she nervously began to wring her hands. He wanted to reach out and take her hands and calm them. He had no intentions of having whomever was behind that door intimidate this poor girl. She was as good as any that he’d ever met and didn’t deserve to be made to feel bad about anything she’d done.

  A cold look of dislike crossed his face before he remembered to smooth it away. A voice could be heard inviting them in and Sister Mary opened after giving Martier an encouraging smile. She led them inside.

  “Sister. Jane and a Mr. Singleton have brought several boxes of donations for consignment.” A short, plump Italian woman stood, looking from Martier to Tim before she smiled and came forward.

  “Martier, you’re looking well. And Mr. Singleton, it’s nice to meet you, sir. Please come in. You may go Sister Mary.”

  Tim could tell that the other woman was reluctant to leave. But she did with a small departing smile.

  Martier’s chin had risen and she cleared her throat. “Mr. Singleton wanted to donate some clothing. They are very expensive and designer items so I suggested he donate them for consignment. I’ve done some research and have located several in the area that accept upscale items.” She named them quickly, rattling off the information as if
she couldn’t stop speaking so she forced herself to stop speaking.

  Tim noted that the nun was watching her steadily a sad expression in her eyes before she caught herself and forced a smile. She looked at him and he found it hard to dislike her. There was just something about her that didn’t come off as if she didn’t like this girl. Tim almost thought that she seemed happy to see her.

  “Mr. Singleton did you have a value in mind?”

  “Well it will far exceed five thousand. I assume that once you sell them for consignment you will send me a receipt for the value along with a copy of the sales slip from the store.” He knew that the IRS would accept that as a formal appraisal.

  “Certainly.” She moved to her desk and put on her glasses as she went through her Rolodex. “Is your mailing information still current Mr. Singleton?” She read what she had and he confirmed it. She drew in a slow breath.

  “So how have you been, Martier? I hear that you’ve found your own place…near Mr. Singleton.”

  A shadow fell over Martier’s face. She made it seem dirty or wrong, like she made everything seem. “I have my own place thanks to Mr. Singleton who agreed to rent me his guest house.” She stared at the only mother she could remember. “I heard Sister Callista moved out.”

  Sister Louise’s brow moved up and she looked down at her hands. “There seems to be a lot of gossip flowing.”

  “It’s to be expected. I did mean something to some of the people here,” Martier bit out, surprising Tim with the mild venom in her words. Sister Louise glanced at Tim as if apologizing for an insolent child but his expression remained cool and distant.

  “You mean something…to everyone here.” Sister Louise said while turning to straighten something on her desk, her back to them. “Some of the girls would like to say goodbye to you.” And with that they had been dismissed.

  Martier didn’t say another word as she swept out of the room with Tim following directly behind her. He followed her into the main part of the school and by her posture and because he was behind her he wondered if she was crying but when she turned to him she had a broad smile on her face.

  “Now I can show you where I grew up. Would you like to take a tour?”

  “Okay.” He said and meant it. He was just relieved that he wouldn’t have to see her cry. Also he was curious to know how she had lived her life before becoming a part of his.

  The school was big and very beautiful but definitely in need of minor repairs. It was clear where a rung on the staircase had broken and been patched into place with duct tape, or crumpling plaster that was not quite concealed by artwork.

  She explained that the younger ones would be outside playing and showed him an entertainment room where a large television was playing some type of history program. There was a ping pong table, and a small library. The room was dotted with girls that ignored the ping pong table and the television. They were doing each other’s hair or laughing and talking in groups.

  Someone squealed when they entered the room. He wasn’t sure if it was because a male had invaded their domain or at the sight of Martier who they rushed to greet. Some of the girls giggled when they looked at him and he shoved his hands in his pockets and became uncomfortable. Several of the nuns entered the room to ask her about herself and one flew past him and took Martier by the hand and whisked her away to a corner.

  “I never told Sister Louise about your books.” Sister Callista said. “I was surprised when she asked me about them. I’m so sorry, Jane. I did not want you to go-”

  “I know.” She hugged the older woman. “It worked out for the best.” She dragged the woman to Tim and introduced them. And then seeing the lost look on his face she quickly led him up the stairs and away from the crowd. She just had one more place to visit.

  “I just want to see the babies and then we can leave.” She absently pointed out the dormitories which were separated by age group. Tim saw military style sleeping, about ten beds to a room. It left so much to be desired. In the nursery Martier gestured for him to follow her quietly. A nun was reading in a rocker and her face brightened but she didn’t speak, indicating that the little ones were napping.

  “All except Miles,” She whispered.

  Martier grinned. “Of course.” Martier led them to an adjoining room filled with toddler toys. Tim saw a lone tot playing by himself, using one toy to slam against another.

  “Is that a little boy?”

  Martier’s lips were turned up into a grin as she came down on her knees before the child. “Hi Miles.” The baby recognized her and began to get excited and indicate that he wanted to be picked up. Martier swept him up in her arms and carried him to Tim.

  “He is the only boy that’s ever been here. He’s a twin and he and his sister are both foster to adopt. They shouldn’t be here long but there is trouble locating their parents and legalities that keep them from being placed.”

  Tim reached out and touched the boy’s straight black hair. He looked up with slanted eyes and gave Tim a curious look.

  “Tsunami?”

  “Yes.”

  “Miles isn’t his real name, is it?”

  “No one knows his real name.”

  “And their parents?”

  “No one knows that either.”

  Tim sighed, and then ducked down to look at the child closely. “Hi little Tyke. You’re a cutie.” Miles seemed to approve of him and placed his fat opened palm on Tim’s cheek or maybe he was just trying to get at his blue eyes. Whatever it was both Tim and Martier went, ‘Awwww.’ In unison. It was sad to leave him because he started to cry but the sister took him while they left.

  “I miss the little ones,” she said quietly. He almost placed his hand on her shoulders before he stopped himself. They went outside while she waved goodbye or hugged whoever they passed. He could tell that it was hard for her. Poor thing. He was happy that they hugged her, someone should. They got the boxes unloaded with the help of some of the sisters and Martier seemed more than ready to leave. She didn’t go over to the younger ones playing outside, afraid that they might start crying. But he suspected that in truth it was she that was afraid of crying.

  They drove in silence and Tim realized that as much as he had thought he knew, he had actually been very clueless.

  CHAPTER 16

  Too emotionally drained to do anything but go home Jane offered to make them both lunch. Tim said that he could thaw out the steaks and they could have an early dinner. Martier seemed excited about having steak again and intrigued when he said that he was a master on the grill.

  He hadn’t eaten anything all day and snuck a quick sandwich knowing that it wouldn’t wreck his appetite. Then he showed her the shed and together they pulled out some of the outdoor furniture so that they could enjoy the nice weather. Tim indicated that the yard was wired for sound and went inside to turn on the radio. Tim listened to vintage rock and Martier liked anything that didn’t consist of Gregorian chanting. Tim laughed for a long time at that one.

  Waiting for the grill to heat and the meat to thaw they talked and checked out the garden. Tim was enthusiastic about her fixing it and he promised to have the pool man come out in time for Memorial Day. He discussed the lawn work that he’d do and then followed her into the cottage as she prepared a simple tomato and cucumber salad with the vegetables she’d picked earlier. Tim mentioned that there was basil out there somewhere and they went foraging for the herb and lucked up on fresh rosemary for the steak.

  Afterwards she watched him roast the potatoes and prepare the steak for the grill. He moved about the kitchen comfortably and her imagination drifted as she envisioned a day when it would be like this with her very own husband. But unlike Tim, maybe he would lean forward and kiss her when he paused in seasoning the food. And then she thought of something crazy.

  What would it be like to kiss Tim?

  A zip of excitement coursed through her and she quickly suppressed it. That was the last thing that she should be thinking about! Ti
m was her boss! But Martier couldn’t stop the way she watched him concentrating on his task. They had moved back to his kitchen and he was explaining to her the art of seasoning.

  “A good steak needs nothing more than salt and pepper and a bit of olive oil drizzled on it.” He grabbed the olive oil and drizzled on a few drops and then rubbing it liberally into the huge cuts of steak. He wiped his hands on a paper towel than dipped his fingertips into a dish containing kosher salt. “A bit of kosher or sea salt, but not too much.”

  His low spoken words were doing something to the way her heart was beating; making it speed up as she listened to it reverberate from his chest. What if he touched her like that with his finger tips?

  “Cracked black pepper and because we found this rosemary we’ll take an entire sprig and lay it on top.” He turned to her with a grin that sent her heart racing. “Normally I’m a purist and no green should ever touch steak unless it’s my salad that got too close. But I’ll hand it to the chefs. Rosemary is a fine compliment to beef. So we’ll consider this the coup de grace. And viola. Steak ala Tim.”

 
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