“I remember the summer after Anna was born. I was going to turn six that August.” Quinn spoke quietly amidst the hustle of people around us.
“Once school was let out I had to spend my days outside with my father. I am not sure if it was his idea or my mum’s, but I had no options. Anna stayed in to be coddled and enjoyed by my mum and I was cast outdoors to be harassed and chided by my father.
“I thought I knew how mean my father was, until I saw firsthand how he treated the sheep. There were times when it made me feel better; that at least he didn’t love them more than me. But most of the time I just hated him.”
Quinn looked at me shamefaced. I reached my hand over to join it with his as he mangled his fingers together in a mass. He accepted my fingers and gently caressed them.
“You aren’t going to like the rest of my story, Cherie.”
“Not everyone had the privilege of a storybook childhood, Quinn. I don’t judge you.”
He squeezed my hand and continued on with his story. “Later that summer, our neighbour Mr. Petheridge, was found dead in his barn. Apparently he had a heart attack and no one knew. His wife was accustomed to him wandering off to the local pub sometimes and not telling her so she didn’t think anything of it when he wasn’t at dinner. She found him the next day.” Quinn released my hand and cupped his head into his shaky hands.
Scooting over closer on the bench, I wrapped my arms around him for comfort but he pushed me away.
“Cathie, you don’t understand. I was not sad for my neighbour. I was six years old; I could have cared less about him. All I wanted was for my father to die the same way. I prayed that God would let him die outside in the cold all alone. I prayed and hoped for it.”
Naturally I was shocked by his admission. I struggled not to show it and condemn him for his honesty.
“I prayed for it every day for a year or more. I couldn’t understand why God wouldn’t listen. My father was a mean man. He treated us all with contempt. Even my mum. I always figured God didn’t respond because my father was so horrible that even God, himself, didn’t want him.” As Quinn lifted his face to see me, there was a tear clinging to the edge of his right eye. When he blinked it lost its hold and slid down the tip of his cheek. He wiped it away furiously.
Standing and offering me his hand, he flicked his strong emotions off and replaced them with a smile. “God doesn’t love everybody Cathie.” A large sigh caused Quinn’s chest to rise and fall chasing out anymore pain that was lingering. “He only wants the good people in heaven with him. That is why he took my mum instead of my father. That’s also why he'll take Anna but he won't take me.”
I couldn’t take his outstretched hand. It would mean my acceptance that this conversation was over. “Quinn, I –“.
He squatted in front of me. His eyes twinkled with residual moisture. His smile was soft and sweet. “Let’s go find you a dress just for fun.” He pulled me up to standing against his chest. “Then tonight when we are alone,” he glanced in both directions at the crowds passing by. “Then I will tell you everything else you want to know.” He shook his head ever so slightly. “Not here. Okay?”
How could I refuse him? “Okay.”
He spun around on his heels and nearly skipped in through the doors of the ladies wear store. Unfortunately my feet were not as exuberant. A young woman with a golden name tag greeted him almost instantly. They exchanged words in French and then Quinn turned to me. Together they watched me while he chatted on about something I could not hear.
My progress still had not reached the store entrance. The reluctance weighing my heart finally came out in a prayer. ‘Lord, now would be a good time for another vision. I know there is little chance Dean would be shopping in this mall, but perhaps you have a bomb I need to diffuse or even rescue a child from a runaway escalator?’
“Are you going to stand out there talking to yourself all afternoon?” Quinn’s joyful wink and smile were irresistible to my weakened emotions. I shook my head and walked right into his awaiting embrace. He grabbed my hand and led me towards the changing area at the back of the store.
The clerk approached me with several pieces thrown across her arm. “I assume you are an American size eight?”
“Um, yes, I am. But you don’t have to find the clothes for me.” I was a little worried about what she had hanging over her arm, but at first glance I didn’t see any black silk tea towels.
She winked at Quinn and then spoke to me. “The gentleman suggested a few ‘modest’ dresses to start with.”
I turned to Quinn who was grinning like a school boy. “He did, did he?” I said.
His hand snaked its way around my waist. “Cherie, I may not agree with everything you say, but I am paying attention.” He winked and I melted.
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