Read Echoes Online

Authors: Robin Jones Gunn

Echoes (8 page)

BOOK: Echoes
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Her letter to Brad was to the point:

R
AD
,

HELP! I
JUST LOST MY PAPER ON THE
B
ROWNINGS
. H
OW DO
I
GET IT BACK
?

W
REN

She wasn’t paying attention when she sent the letter. The instant her fingers were off the keys, Lauren realized she had zapped the letter to KC instead of Brad. She had been meaning to delete KC’s number since she had never used it. KC hadn’t written her either, so she saw no point in keeping the number. Yet there it was, and she had just sent Rad’s message to him.

“You are such a klutz!” Lauren knew she couldn’t cancel the letter. It had already taken off into cyberspace, and she knew of no way to “beam” it back home to her computer. She considered writing a note to KC explaining her mistake. However, if she let it go, he might not even notice it. At least she could still send it to Brad, and she did.

Pushing back her chair from the narrow desk, thoroughly frustrated, Lauren decided to let the paper go until tomorrow. She was not in the mood to start all over, especially if Brad might have some ideas on how to pull her hard work out of the jaws of the electronic monster.

It was 9:35. Bed sounded good; bed and her copy of Elizabeth’s
Sonnets from the Portuguese
. Once Lauren was ready for bed and settled under her crisp, cool white sheets, she opened the book at random and read:

First time he kissed me, he but only kissed
The fingers of the hand wherewith I write;
And ever since, it grew more clean and white
,
Slow to world-greetings, quick with its “Oh, list,”
When the angels speak. A ring of amethyst
I could not wear here, plainer to my sight
,
Than that first kiss …

There was more, but Lauren was content with only that portion to nibble on for awhile. The thought of a man’s first kiss being simply on her hands, or better still, as with Elizabeth, the fingers she used to write all those letters to her true love … it was such a romantic notion.

Without planning it, Lauren’s thoughts filled with Jeff and one evening they had spent together in the spring walking around Radnor Lake when all the dogwoods were at their peak. They had sat together under a wide, pink dogwood umbrella, and in the quiet of that outdoor cathedral, Jeff had run his fingers through her long hair and told her she was his “silver lining.” He said he needed her optimism, almost as if positive thoughts didn’t come to him naturally so he needed Lauren to generate them for him. They had kissed and cuddled and didn’t mind the gentle spring rain as it misted their clothes with its earth-nourishing gift. All that mattered to her at the time was that they were together and that Jeff loved her and wanted to marry her.

She had caught a cold afterwards. Perhaps it had been a sign. No matter. That was past. Her emotions refused to connect with
her memory, and she felt no anxiety or remorse.

Now Lauren knew what she wanted and what she needed: someone who would not only draw from her spirit but would also give back to her and replenish her emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and even physically. Someone who would kiss her fingers. Did such a man exist?

Closing her eyes and giving in to the sandbags weighing down her eyelids, Lauren snapped off the light and drifted into sweet slumber.

She didn’t attempt her paper again until Saturday morning and was dearly hoping she wouldn’t have to start from the beginning and reconstruct her whole paper. Fixing herself a glass of iced tea, Lauren turned on the computer and connected with the on-line service to see if she had any mail. Two letters awaited her, one from Brad and one from KC. She read Brad’s first:

W
REN
,

O
NE QUESTION
: D
ID YOU SAVE AS YOU WERE GOING
? I
F YOU DID
,
CALL ME
. W
E MIGHT BE ABLE TO RESURRECT IT
. O
THERWISE
,
EVEN A POWER SURGE CAN BLIP YOUR UNSAVED PIECES FROM HERE TO KINGDOM COME
. H
EY
,
SOUNDS LIKE A GOOD SPIRITUAL ANALOGY CAN BE DRAWN FROM THIS

BEING SAVED AND THEN RESURRECTED
. D
ID
I
TELL YOU
I
STARTED TO TEACH A
S
UNDAY SCHOOL CLASS OF BARBARIAN SEVENTH
-
GRADE BOYS
? I
NEVER BELCHED IN PUBLIC WHEN
I
WAS THIRTEEN
,
DID I
?

R
AD

After muttering to herself about how she should have known better and should have saved the paper as she was
working on it, Lauren punched in a response to Brad:

R
AD
,

I
DIDN

T SAVE IT AS
I
WAS WORKING ON IT
. I
KNOW
, I
KNOW
. A
ND THE ANSWER TO YOUR BELCHING QUESTION IS
,
OH YES
,
YOU DID
. M
UST GO
. I
HAVE A HUGE PAPER TO WRITE
.

L
OVE
, W
REN
.

She sent the letter and was about to sign off when she remembered the letter from KC. To her surprise, her heart began to pound a little faster as she read his words:

W
REN
,

B
Y NOW YOU

VE CERTAINLY REALIZED YOU SENT ME THE WRONG LETTER
. I
T WAS NICE TO HEAR FROM YOU ANYWAY
. D
ID YOU SOLVE YOUR COMPUTER PROBLEM
? B
Y ANY CHANCE WERE YOU REFERRING TO
R
OBERT
B
ROWNING
? I
DID A PAPER ON HIM IN COLLEGE
. O
NLY GOT A
B+,
BUT
I
DID LOTS OF RESEARCH ON THE GUY
. I
EVEN HAVE SEVERAL BOOKS ON HIM STORED IN A BOX SOMEWHERE
. I
F
I
CAN BE OF ANY ASSISTANCE
,
PLEASE HOLLER
. D
ID YOU KNOW THAT
R
OBERT TAUGHT HIMSELF THE BASICS OF HOMEOPATHIC MEDICINE
? H
E GAVE UP TEA
,
COFFEE
,
AND WINE AND TOOK A TINY DOSE OF STRYCHNINE EVERY DAY
. I
WOULDN

T HAVE A PROBLEM GIVING UP COFFEE OR WINE
,
BUT FORGET THE STRYCHNINE
. I
DO LOVE TEA
. I
RISH
B
REAKFAST
. W
ITH CREAM AND SUGAR
. A
DDICTING
. H
OPE ALL GOES WELL WITH YOUR PAPER
. I
S IT FOR A CLASS
?”

P
EACE
, KC

If she had thought about it, Lauren probably never would have responded to this stranger’s note. As it was, she started to write a long letter back, opening herself up to KC. She was thrilled to know another person who had “met” one of her Victorian friends. Her fingers flew over the keyboard as she composed line after line, telling KC all about her class on Victorian literature and her favorite facts about Robert and Elizabeth. With a tap on the “send” button, her letter was mailed. Then she went to work on her paper, the words coming effortlessly.

Lauren received an A on the paper and an A in the class, which so excited her that she e-mailed KC to tell him, even though he hadn’t yet responded to her long letter earlier that week.

She didn’t hear from him at all until Labor Day weekend. His words were worth the wait:

W
REN
,

G
OOD FOR YOU
! W
HAT NEXT
? R
ENAISSANCE LITERATURE
? I’
M ASSUMING YOU

RE AN
E
NGLISH LIT MAJOR
. I
MAJORED IN JOURNALISM
,
SO
I
ONLY GOT IN ON A FEW OF THOSE ENLIGHTENING CLASSES LIKE
V
ICTORIAN LITERATURE
. I
HAVE AN INTERESTING ASSIGNMENT COMING UP IN A FEW DAYS
. I’
M GOING
T
O
E
GYPT
. I
T

LL BE GOOD TO GET OUT OF THIS ROOM CLUTTERED WITH PAPER AND TAKE IN SOME FRESH AIR
. I
HAVEN

T BEEN ANYWHERE SINCE MY BROTHER

S WEDDING IN
J
UNE
. I’
VE NEVER BEEN TO
E
GYPT
. H
AVE YOU
? O
H
,
BY THE WAY
, I
FOUND ONE OF MY
B
ROWNING BOOKS
. T
HIS ONE IS ALL ABOUT THE HOUSE THEY LIVED IN IN
F
LORENCE
: C
ASA
G
UIDI
. T
HEY WERE THERE FOR FOURTEEN YEARS
. D
ID YOU KNOW THAT
R
OBERT REGULARLY STALKED THE FLEA MARKETS FOR FURNITURE AND ENDED UP WITH SOME VALUABLE PIECES
FOR ONLY A FEW POUNDS
? M
Y KIND OF GUY
.
C
ONGRATS AGAIN ON THE
A. K
EEP UP THE GOOD WORK
.

P
EACE
, KC

Surprised at the way her heart was swelling, Lauren realized KC’s praise meant more to her than the encouragement she received from Mindy and Brad put together. Here was someone who shared her interest on a much deeper level. Someone who “knew” her Victorian friends and yet remained mysterious. Someone who liked to find bargains at flea markets and was going to Egypt.

Lauren leaned back in her desk chair and read the letter again as it scrolled down the computer screen. KC said he hadn’t been anywhere since his brother’s wedding in June. She and Jeff had broken up in June. Even though she hadn’t left Nashville since then, she felt as if she had been places. Through her summer reading, she had been to Italy with Elizabeth and back to England with Robert after Elizabeth’s death. Lauren had grown this summer. Not just because of the class, but because of the new independence the breakup of her engagement had forced on her.

She started to write a letter back to KC:

KC,

T
HANKS FOR THE ENCOURAGEMENT
. I’
M GLAD TO KNOW THE NAME OF THE
B
ROWNING

S HOME IN
F
LORENCE
. I
F
I
EVER GO
T
O
I
TALY
,
THAT

S THE FIRST PLACE
I’
LL VISIT
. H
AVE YOU BEEN
T
O
I
TALY
?

Y
OUR JOB SOUNDS INTERESTING
. E
GYPT

HOW EXOTIC
! I
HOPE ALL GOES WELL FOR YOU
.

A
S YOU GUESSED
,
YES
, I’
M AN
E
NGLISH LIT MAJOR
. I
HAVE ONE MORE CLASS THIS FALL AND THEN PLAN TO FINISH UP MY TEACHING CREDENTIAL

NOT THAT
I
KNOW WHAT
I’
LL DO WITH IT
. B
Y THE WAY
, I’
M A BARGAIN HUNTER
,
TOO
.

Lauren paused and thought back on her summer. Nearly every weekend she had gone “treasure hunting” to garage sales and flea markets. Some weeks she would find only a lace doily or a cheese grater, and her total purchases after an hour of poking around would add up to a quarter. One week she had found an antique dresser with a beveled mirror. The mirror was cracked, and two of the knobs were missing on the drawers. Within two weeks she had a fabulously restored antique dresser in her room, replacing the old pine chest of drawers.

She decided to share a bit of her bargain hunting with KC:

M
Y BEST BUY OF THE SUMMER WAS AN ANTIQUE OAK DRESSER
. I
T

S LOOKING MUCH HAPPIER NOW THAN IT WAS WHEN
I
FOUND IT
.

She paused again, thinking now of a recent e-mail from Brad. She had told him about some of the changes that were taking place in her life, and Brad’s response had been, “It sounds to me as if someone has given you permission to find yourself this summer. Good. Enjoy the thrill of the hunt!” She hadn’t understood his comment at the time. Now it made sense. She was free to do the things she enjoyed without having to worry about trying to make someone else happy. A treasure hunt of her heart. Some days the amount of growth would equal little more than a twenty-five-cent doily. Other days she could see places inside her being fixed and restored like the antique dresser.

I
JUST REALIZED THAT
I’
M A LOT LIKE MY DRESSER
. I’
M HAPPIER NOW THAN
I
WAS AT THE BEGINNING OF THE SUMMER
. I
WENT THROUGH A PAINFUL BREAKUP AND DIDN

T THINK
I’
D EVER FEEL PEACEFUL AGAIN
. A
CTUALLY
,
WHAT
G
OD HAS DONE IS GIVE ME A WHOLE NEW KIND OF PEACE
. G
OD IS SO INCREDIBLE
,
ISN

T HE
? W
ELL
, I
PROBABLY SHOULDN

T BE POURING MY HEART OUT TO YOU LIKE THIS
. Y
OU HAVE A TRIP TO PACK FOR
! B
E SURE TO TAKE YOUR SUNGLASSES
. I
HEAR THE GLARE OFF THE PYRAMIDS IS PRETTY BLINDING
.

J
OY
! W
REN

Lauren clicked the “send” button and glanced at the clock on her kitchen wall. It was 12:20. She had no idea she had been absorbed with her letter to KC for more than an hour. The Labor Day picnic for the bank employees had officially started twenty minutes ago. Lauren’s taco salad was already made, waiting in the refrigerator, and the bag of accompanying tortilla chips sat on the counter.

BOOK: Echoes
11.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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