Tuesday, March 25, 2014


      "Hi, Todd. Getting the shopping done early?" Joel Randolph greeted him, appearing out of nowhere in the middle of the crowded aisles of Macy's.      "Huh?" Todd jerked, startled, and then ashamed to be caught in one of his recurring dazes. He couldn't seem to concentrate on anything lately. He had gone to Padua Mall just to get out of the house, and he had no idea how he had ended up in the department store, standing in the aisle between linens and the baby department.      "Shopping. For Katie Green and Andy Paul's wedding," Emily said, appearing from behind her husband. She looked past him. "Where's Lisa?"      "Gone." Todd tried to smile, but his mouth ached so much he wished it would fall off.      "Gone?" Joel exchanged a worried frown with his wife. "Not back to those cousins of hers? Are they sick?"      "No. We are, I guess." He looked around the store, glad to see so few people around. It was a beautiful, late March afternoon, and he felt like he was caught in a blizzard. Indoors. The last thing he needed was a heavy crowd of witnesses if he started falling apart.      "What's wrong with Lisa?" Emily asked. She put a gentle hand on Todd's arm. "We've been worried about her. We don't see her in church, she hasn't called lately, and Max said she hasn't been her usual self when she goes to the Mission. Even the children have noticed."      "Lisa's... She moved out. I... I've been a real jerk." Todd took a deep breath, positive he was going to break down crying. His father had always mocked him for crying, even when he was little. Instead of keeping him from tears, it only made them worse when they finally came. "Look," he managed to say, "can we go somewhere and talk? You know Lisa better than I do, and I really need to figure out what I did -- no, I know what I did wrong. I just need to talk to someone." A choked, half-laugh, half-sob escaped him. "Someone who won't knock my head off for being such a louse."      The three settled into a table tucked into a corner by a pillar and several potted trees in the food court of the mall. It wasn't quiet, but the acoustics were such that no one could overhear. Todd spilled the entire story. He knew he wasn't coherent at times, and Joel and Emily had to ask pointed questions to get him to backtrack and confess events and words he had hoped he could leave out. When he confessed what he had said to Lisa, which had brought all their troubles into the light, his lips actually burned with the shame of it.      How could he have said that to her? How could he ever have suspected her of being unfaithful?

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