At eight a.m. the next morning, Sara sat down at the breakfast table and had her toast and coffee. She was going to go back to work for the first time since she left the office to go to the hospital and find out her husband was dead. She knew that people would want to be consoling. They would want to give her hugs and tell her how sorry they were and she was really trying to mentally prepare for this. She wanted to get to a place where she wouldn’t break down and cry every time someone who didn’t know her husband at all told her how sorry they were that he was dead.
“It’s okay, Sara,” she said out loud to herself. “You will get through this. You will.”
Two hours later she thought that she was going to hyperventilate. It had taken her thirty minutes just to get from the parking lot to her desk. The hugs and arm-pats had started at her car and did not stop. At one point she went to the bathroom just to get away from the people stopping by her desk. They were all so nice, but if they didn’t stop being sorry she was going to scream.
At ten-fifteen she knocked on Mr. Hart’s door.
“Yes, Sara. Come in, come in,” Mr. Hart beckoned in his usual good-natured tone. “What is it, my dear?”
“I need a little air. I’m just going to step around the corner to the coffee shop. Linda will be taking your calls for me while I’m out. Can I get you anything before I go? Or while I’m there?”
“No, no. I have everything I need. The Petersons are coming in at eleven to do their closing on that vacation home they are buying. Do you think you can be here for that? They like you so much, I think that it will be good if you were here.”
“Oh, yes, I’ll be back before then. This will just be a quick break.” Sara backed out and closed the door behind her, heading straight for the back entrance so that she could hopefully avoid anymore hugs.
Once Sara stepped outside she felt immediately better. Though the sun beat down and the September heat was already in full force, her breathing and heart rate had slowed to normal levels. The coffee shop was just around the corner and she headed straight there.
There was a twinkling sound from an old bell above the door when Sara stepped inside. This was one of her favorite places in Savannah. The atmosphere was warm and inviting, with couches and overstuffed chairs situated on a small loft with a low ceiling. It had all the prerequisites for a coffee shop – dark painted walls, a collection of magazines and old books, and wi-fi. She walked up to the counter and ordered an iced decaf latte. Even though she wasn’t giving up caffeine altogether, she was still trying to keep the stimulant to a minimum. She went over to one of the small couches and picked up a magazine while waiting for her order.
She had only been there for a few moments when she felt a presence standing over her. She looked up.
“Mrs. Carraway,” James Overman said, looking at her and smiling.
“Oh my goodness! Mr. Overman. What in the world are you doing here?” She caught herself, realizing how she must have sounded. “I mean, not that you shouldn’t be here. It’s a free country and all. I guess I mean, what brings you here?”
James continued to smile. “Please call me James.”
“And I’m Sara.”
“Okay then, Sara. Well,” he explained. “I’m actually here in town for a job interview.”
“Oh,” Sara said, puzzled. “But I thought you worked for the mortuary back in Oden.”
“No, I was in between jobs, and had moved back home for a time waiting to find something else. I actually have a degree in Computer Engineering from Tech. SCAD has an opening for an IT job. I interviewed just around the corner. I need to go for a second interview with another person after lunch, but saw this coffee shop and decided to pass the time in here. I have some work I can get done on my laptop. And I need to look for a place to live. Thought I would check out the rental paper.”
Did he really just say he needed a place to live? Sara thought, a wild hope building inside her. Was it possible? She barely knew this man. But he knew her secret, and he was someone she could trust. She wasn’t sure how she knew this, but she did.
“When will you find out about the job?”
“Actually, the guy I interviewed with this morning said that as far as he could tell I was the most qualified applicant. I’m sure I’ll have to wait a few days to find out.”
A girl at the counter called out “Betty Boop, order up.”
Sara started to get up. “That’s me.”
“Betty Boop?” he asked, one eyebrow cocked.
“It’s just a name,” she said, smiling.
James motioned for her to sit down.
“I’ll get it for you. Will you watch my bag?”
“Sure. Thanks.” James walked down the stairs to the counter. Sara didn’t know how to proceed. Should she just ask him? What would it hurt? He knew all there was to know about the toughest parts of her life. Why not share the current situation with him? He could always say no.
James had returned with both of their coffee cups. He sat hers on the table in front of her and sat across from her in one of the easy chairs. They were the only two people up there in the nook. Sara sat up and took a sip of her coffee.
James looked at her. “So, how are things, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Okay, I guess. I started back at work this morning. Everyone is too nice. Too sympathetic. Iknow they mean well, but how can I get on with my life if no one lets me forget that he’s gone.” Sara stopped, closed her mouth and looked at James in embarassment. For some unknown reason she felt completely at ease with this relative stranger.
“Well, like you said, they mean well. I guess there’s no way around it. Not for the first few days anyway.” He looked down at his coffee. “Have you told anyone else about your…ah…other problem?”
“No. I left Oden after the burial on Wednesday. There wasn’t any time to tell Eve. That’s my sister.”
“Yea,” he replied. “I remember her.”
And I have some friends here, but no one I feel close enough to spill this to.” She looked at him with a sheepish grin. “I mean – I didn’t mean to tell you. But now that you know, it feels okay to talk to you about it. I hope that’s okay.”
“I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t care. Honestly. If there’s ever anything I can do, you only have to ask.”
He didn’t mean it like that, Sara thought. Don’t even think it!
But it was too late. There was no way that she could survive without a roommate and here was one hand-delivered to her, as if in answer to a prayer.
“Well, now that you mention it…” Sara looked over at James who was staring back, that eyebrow up again in a questioning expression.
“Yes?” James asked.
“You say you need a place to live. Well, I need someone to live with me.”
The statement just sat there between them for a moment. Sara didn’t know if James was going to bolt or what.
“Wow. Do you mind me asking why?”
Sara felt like she wanted to sink into the floor. What was she thinking?
“Yeah, sure. I…William didn’t leave any life insurance. And on my salary alone, I can’t afford my bills. I’m going to lose the house unless I can get someone to live with me, or sell the house. But I would only have a few months to sell the house. The money will run out after that.” Sara felt the tears come to her eyes at the thought of having to move right now. “And I can’t. I can’t leave that house right now. I need time to let go of him.” And then she couldn’t say anymore without breaking down. So she didn’t.
How did I get here? James thought to himself, as Sara finished her plea and looked away from him to compose herself. The job at SCAD had just come open last week. He actually had already applied online when he met Sara at the funeral home, so he couldn’t claim to be in Savannah in hopes of meeting her.
And then there she had been, just sitting in the chair looking just as beautiful and sad as she did last week. After he helped her to bury her husband and she drove away from the cemetary, he couldn’t stop thinking about her. Driving down to Savannah today, he had played their moments together over and over again, wondering what she was going to do about her pregnancy. He almost left the coffee shop when he saw her because it seemed too unreal to even be possible. Yet here she was and she was asking him to move in with her.
But worst of all was that she was asking him to help her. There was no way that he could deny help to this woman. The request she made must have cost her a lot, considering that her husband had only been dead two weeks, and that she was pregnant. He had stepped right into this mess and he was going to have to live in it. He looked up from his thoughts when he realized that she was getting up to leave.
“Hey, where are you going?”
“Look, I shouldn’t have even asked. I don’t know why I did. Please don’t feel obligated to say yes. It’s terrible of me to put you in this position.” Sara put out her hand to James who stood up when she did and blocked her way down the stairs.
“Sara, please wait. You just surprised me that’s all. I needed a minute to think. Can I ask a couple of questions about the house?”
She looked up at him now. She had forgotten how tall he was compared to her.
“Sure. Yes. Of, course.”
“So – where is your house?”
“Oh, um, it’s in Ardsley Park, about 10 minutes uptown from here.”
“Would I have my own bathroom?”
“Yes. There are two bathrooms. One is attached to the master bedroom, and the other is off of a hallway.”
“Can I see the house before I say yes?”
Sara hadn’t even considered that he might want to see the house first. It was a perfectly reasonable request. “Oh, well, sure. Would you want to see it at lunch, or could you wait until after five? I get off at five and could meet you there at five-thirty?”
This was all happening so fast, but if he said yes, Sara would have