The coolness awakened my senses and allowed me to think coherently. Yes, I remember now. I am visiting my sister in France. This is the first trip I’ve ventured out on in years. Stacie had gently prodded me for years to stop hiding in my job and my home. She says, now it is time to live again. Is this what living feels like?
I reached for a paper towel to dry my face. Burying my fear and insecurities in the towel, I dried away all the moisture. Both the water drops and the teardrops. As I hid behind my shield I confessed to God my desperate feelings. ‘Lord, I need you more today than yesterday. Or the day before. Or the day before that. This is more than I feel ready for. I know You have a purpose for this trip and a purpose for me. Will you please help me to see it? Then Lord, help me to do it. Use me somehow.’
“Are you alright Dear?”
Her rich English words startled me slightly. I pulled the paper towel away from my face to see the older woman leaning near to me. Her eyes were soft pools of grey caressed by her long eyelashes.
“Sont vous d'accord?” She spoke again. This time she tried it in French.
I nodded. “Yes. Oui”
A twinkle set into her eyes that made all my anxieties fade. “I thought you might speak English. So I tried it first.”
“Yes, I speak English mostly.” I tossed my towel into the receptacle under the counter. “But I know French too.” I wasn’t about to confess to her how it pained me to speak it these last few years.
She nudged my arm. “Your magazine gave it away.”
For a moment I did not know what she meant but then I remembered the Reader’s Digest tucked into the vinyl pocket of my travel bag. I looked at the culprit wondering what else this woman could read about me at a glance.
“Don’t worry Dear. It is alright to prefer one language over the other. As long as you don’t let your heart forget it. ” She winked a sweet Grandmotherly wink and I felt her reach into my soul. It felt like she knew me – only I was sure she didn’t.
She reached into her purse and pulled out a long black comb. She offered it to me. “I am certain a young available woman like you can’t possibly be travelling alone.” Her glance down at my hand tore through my chest like a scalpel.
'See God', I sneeredto myself. 'My bare finger is like a neon beacon for all to see.' I kindly gestured ‘no thank you’ to her offer of a comb and then turned my face to the mirror.
I was a wreck. Not that I had any reason to be anything else considering my last twenty-four hours. My hand rushed to my hair and tried to organize the messy mass at the back of my head.
My new-found friend chuckled and offered a new item to save me from myself. It was a tube of ruby red lipstick. I tried to envision this proper English woman well into her seventies wearing that particular shade.
“You can’t catch a man looking like that my Dear." She said with her delightful smile. "Try this one. It always worked for me.” She exaggerated her wink. "It is a fun, party colour."
How could I explain to her I wasn’t looking for a man? Would she understand that my life was still trying to recover from the last one? However, as I gazed at myself in the mirror I heard a gentle breeze of a whisper. It spoke in a voice that resonated with familiarity to my heart. I have a plan for you.
As the words coated my tired and aching heart I felt renewed. A surge of purpose covered me as I watched my tattered reflection. Without another thought I released the elastic holding my unruly curls captive and let them tumble down my shoulders.
The woman to my right radiated with a smile of accomplishment. “Now that is the way you do it Dear.”
I became immune to her penetrating eyes as I primped my hair bringing it back to life.
She nudged the lipstick back in my direction. “Put this on for the handsome man you must have waiting for you outside.”
“Oh, no thank you. I do appreciate your offer but it is not my colour. Besides, I am only meeting my sister.”
For a moment her facial expression dropped as though she were devastated by the news. Then she perked back up and began searching in her purse again. “Well, you need something on those ghastly white lips.” She responded with gusto.
I wasn’t about to shatter her perceptions of the world by confessing that I, personally have never owned a tube of lipstick. Not to mention the fact that other than my wedding day, I have never worn lipstick. So I lied. Sort of.
“My sister will have some I could borrow.”
She nodded her head in satisfaction and then we said our brief good-byes. As I turned to go I felt her hand on my shoulder. “Be ready for whatever the Good Lord sees fit to put in your path Dear. You never know who He plans on you meeting.”
She winked a final goodbye and I felt certain she was still fixated on me having a man to drape off of. However as I walked out of the restroom and turned down the corridor I wrestled with the nagging feeling that there was more to her words of wisdom. It felt like she knew something that I didn’t.
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