Familiar Face

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Chapter 23

Chapter 23

During the fifteen-minute drive from the hotel to Anna’s condo, Mark related a couple of conversations that he overheard during the events Anna missed while she was away from work. He was aware that she collected children’s amusing misquotes and precocious sayings.

Two years ago, while searching the internet Anna read an interesting article about the need for more qualified science teachers. One of the examples the author used was the answer an eleven-year-old gave when asked what is the equator. His answer was, “Equator: A managerial lion running round the Earth through Africa.” At the foundation’s next children’s event, she began a collection of her own.

When she shared the collection with Marian, the director suggested that it would be fun to publish some of the humorous quotes. Anna was still pondering Marian’s suggestion, but she hadn’t acted on it. When appropriate, she used the stories to convince prospective donors to support the work of the foundation.

Out of curiosity and concern about Natalie’s adjustment to the foundation’s work load, Anna asked if Natalie had attended the events.

“Natalie had other plans the evening the Stinson event was held, so Julia stood in for her. Alicia wanted to help at the event at city auditorium, so Natalie observed.”

“No interaction with the kids?”

“I’m not sure that she has the same repour with children that her mother has. Her organizational skills are excellent, but her enthusiasm seems manufactured rather than spontaneous. During a moment of frustration with a whiny donor, she shared that she missed the creativity and the personal satisfaction that her part-time job offered.”

“I didn’t know she had part-time job. Who did she work for?”

“A group of realtors. She did staging for them.”

“That would be a nightmare for me, but I can see Natalie loving the job. She’s very creative. Do you think Marian realizes that Natalie isn’t cut out to run the foundation?”

“One of the traits that makes Marian such an effective director is her perception, so I’m sure she has noticed Natalie’s lack of enthusiasm. Before Natalie’s emergency surgery, Marian would have been devastated. These days she’s more concerned about Natalie’s happiness. They will work it out.”

“I hope so. Sorry, to change the subject, but there’s a Quick Mart two blocks down on the right. Do you mind stopping so I can pick up a few groceries? It won’t take long.”

“No need. Lindsey used her key to get into your condo. She restocked for you, and she put dinner in the fridge. She wasn’t sure what she was going to prepare, so dinner will be a surprise.”

“Leave it to Lindsey. I take it that you’ve been talking to her.”

“She came by the office. She was upset that you left town without telling her where you would be or when you would be returning to Raleigh. I explained that it was for her safety as well as yours. I promised to call when I could give her the time of your return.”

“Lindsey is thoughtful as well as loyal. I’m happy that she hasn’t given up on our friendship. I have been an absent friend lately.”

“You would do the same for her.”

Anna didn’t mention dinner until she put the key into the lock of her front door. “You’re going to join me for dinner, aren’t you? No matter what Lindsey prepared, it will be good. She’s a born chef.”

He set her suitcase down beside the hall table. “I’d like that if you don’t mind if I eat and run. I have an early flight tomorrow morning, and I need to complete some paper-work tonight.”

Anna had hoped to spend the evening with him, but she’d take what she could get. She tried not to let her disappointment show. “The least I can do is feed you after all that you’ve done for me over the past few months.”

“It’s been a long and emotional day for you. If you’d like to take a shower or get out of your traveling clothes, I can reheat or prepare the food Lindsey brought in. I know my way around a kitchen.”

Anna started to object, but she welcomed a few moments to organize her thoughts. She was still obsessing about the DNA findings. She had serious concerns about Beth’s reaction to the results. Would she be excited, or would she balk at the thought of sharing Ben’s affections?

"Would Ben tell her about Harrison’s involvement in their parent's deaths, or would he give her an edited version of the truth? There were still hurtles to be scaled. She grieved for the Brennen’s and she sympathized with Rusty. Good people were suffering. She wondered if the truth was worth the pain.

She pushed the unsettling thoughts aside as she stepped into the blissfully warm spray of the shower. She let her mind drift back to a Friday evening two years ago. An evening she’d never mentioned to anyone, not even Lindsey. She and Mark were working late, making last minute adjustments for a Saturday event. When she accidently brushed up against him, he reached out to steady her. Instead, they ended up in each other’s arms, and the sexual tension that sizzled between them ignited a fire that neither attempted to bring under control. Their fiery kiss left both of them shaken. She’d often wondered if the evening would have ended differently if his cell phone hadn’t rung.

They avoided each other at the Saturday function, and didn’t communicate on Sunday. Monday, they went out to lunch and discussed the incident. Both of their personal codes prohibited involvement with a co-worker. The dilemma for Anna was that she wanted to keep her job and his friendship.

Since then, there had been a few occasions when they almost crossed the line, but if things became too cozy between them, either he made himself scarce, or she did. She dreaded the dinner/dances for donors. Donors expected to see them on the dance floor. They compromised, and agreed to share one dance. The dances were bittersweet, magical but painful.

When she learned about his resignation, she was crushed. Her only consolation was that he was free to ask her out. When he didn’t, she was comforted by the fact that she didn’t see him every day.

Once again, fate intervened. Her hope for a relationship once again seemed viable when Sam assured her that Mark agreed to fill in at the foundation because of his deep concern for her safety. The question was; did he want to be her protector or her partner in life. He had been patient, kind and considerate during the time she was in Clarksville. He had given her a daily account of the foundation’s news and gossip. In addition, he had been a sounding board. Was she a fool to hope? He’d given her a passionless kiss on the cheek at the airport. If that kiss reflected the depth of his feelings, she needed to move on.

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