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A Fresh Start

A Short Story by Author Pat Jeanne Davis

Vicky sat at the kitchen table. Since the break-up two years ago she’d tried hard to leave painful memories behind. She pulled her long, brown hair into a ponytail. She knew she was blessed to have a place with a back yard. And she’d dropped two dress sizes, placing her at the ideal weight for her frame. But still not as slim as the woman Bob left her for. Now she had no job and no husband. Just as she poured her first cup of coffee, the doorbell chimed.

A woman with gray hair and bright blue eyes stood on the step outside. “Hello. I’m Emily from across the road,” she said, smiling. “I hate to disturb you, but your dog’s barking in my back yard.”

“Sorry.” She grabbed Luke’s leash from a hook on the back of the door and extended her hand. “I’m Vicky.”

“I wouldn’t mind, but my son works nights. Are you on vacation this week?”

“No, I lost my job.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

Vicky hurried after Emily. She spotted her golden retriever sitting in the midst of Emily’s garden. Begonias scattered pink, yellow, and coral around him. She sighed, realizing she must do something about her gate.

As Vicky was leaving, Emily touched her arm. “Good luck finding work. Let me know if I can be of any help, dear.”

Vicky smiled. “Thank you.”

Back home she flopped onto the settee and drank cold coffee while Luke sprawled across her feet. “There’s still you, old fella, and a friendly neighbor.”

She hoped her melancholy would soon pass. Tears stung the back of her eyes, and she reached down to stroke Luke’s coat. “You’ll go for a run this afternoon and then I must fix that latch.”

New routines felt strange as the weeks dragged, and Vicky grappled for some semblance of normality while looking for another job. She now had time to spend with her grandmother at the nursing home and to volunteer her services there.

Leaving the house one afternoon, she spotted Emily standing at the curb. A man—not much taller than her own five-feet-eight—was unloading bags from Emily’s car. Vicky crossed the street.

“This is my son Ben. Ben, Vicky,” Emily said, jerking her head toward him.

He turned around. Vicky held out her hand and smiled.

“Er, sorry, no free hands,” he said.

Vicky’s gaze shifted from his warm brown eyes to the packages piled up in his arms.

As Ben walked away, Emily leaned over and whispered, “Not so friendly with women since his girl broke their engagement last summer.”     

She squeezed Emily’s arm and attempted a smile.“I’m off to do some shopping and then the fitness center.”

Seated in the car, Vicky watched in her rear-view mirror as Ben walked back to where his mother stood. Where had she seen him before? She searched her memory, but with no success.

Shopping done, she walked the short distance from the car to the gym, flipping through a magazine as she went.

“Can you read and open the door too?” a deep, masculine voice said.

She looked up to see Ben. He shifted a duffel bag to his shoulder and stepped back into the lobby to let her in. “Vicky, isn’t it?” He swiped his forehead with the back of his arm, perspiration running down his cheek.

She dropped the magazine into her oversized bag. “And you’re Ben.”

“We meet again,” he said, still holding the door.

Vicky smiled. “Looks like you’ve had a good workout.”

Ben glanced down at his clothes. “Need to shower and change before going into Jefferson.”

“Jefferson! The hospital? So that’s where I’ve seen you.”

His grin widened. “I thought yourface looked familiar too.”

She met his gaze, taking in his strong jaw and the small scar on his cheek. “I worked there for four years until they reorganized my department.”

“It’s six years for me on the fifth floor.”

Vicky took a deep calming breath. “So you’re a psychiatric nurse?”

Ben nodded.

She felt a tight knot in the pit of her stomach and scrambled for something more to say. Since the break-up, she’d tried with God’s help to force from her mind that brief hospital stay for depression.

“Probably saw you on one of my rare day shifts.”

Vicky threw him an anxious glance. “Possibly.”

“About the job loss. You’ll find another one I’m sure,” Ben said, flashing a captivating wide smile.

She attempted to sound cheerful. “I have an interview tomorrow.”

“Try to be optimistic.” He adjusted his cap over his tousled dark hair. “Maybe we’ll run into each other again.”

“I expect to be home most days,” she called after him, hoping they’d do more than bump into each other.

Two days later, Vicky went to open the front door, dressed in a crumpled blue robe. Who could it be at this hour?

Ben stood with Luke at his side. “Your dog likes my house.”

“I’m sorry he’s a bother.”

“No bother. I just got off work.”

“I though I’d repaired that latch,” Vicky said, regretting she hadn’t even dressed or combed her hair.

He stooped and stroked Luke’s neck. “Have you found anything yet?”

“No . . . not yet.”

Ben stood up. “Don’t lose hope.” He made to leave, then turned. “Would you like me to look at your gate now?”

She smiled. “If it wouldn’t be any trouble.”

“Sometimes it’s just a matter of having the right tools.”

“I’ll pour you a cup of coffee before you start.”

“Sounds good.”

In no time, he had repaired the latch. They watched as Luke cavorted across the lawn. Ben gave a hearty laugh. She laughed along.

“I don’t know how to thank you,” she said, grateful that her dog had a secured space to

romp.

Ben gazed into her eyes, smiling. “No need for that.” Then he cleared his throat. “Look . . . are you free this Saturday? I’m going for a hike in the hills.” He patted his waist. “Need to lose weight.”

Luke jumped up and planted his paws on Ben’s chest. He ruffed the dog’s ears. “More room there for him to run.”

Vicky’s heartbeat picked up in anticipation of spending a day with Ben. “Thanks for asking,” she said, her tone masking her excitement. If it hadn’t been for the defective latch, she might’ve never had a chance to get to know Ben.

“Well, need to get some shut-eye. The unit was busy last night.” He smiled. “You know how it goes.”

Vicky studied his intent expression and nodded. She watched him cross the street, her heart surged with the prospect of a fresh start. God continued to watch over her.

The fluttering of a curtain across the road caught her eye. She saw Emily step back from the window. Vicky pressed her nose against Luke’s snout. “So . . . who’s the matchmaker here? Emily or you?”

PAT JEANNE DAVIS  has a keen interest in 20th Century United States and British history, particularly the period of World War II. Her longtime interest in that era goes back to the real-life stories she heard about family members who served during the war. When Valleys Bloom Again is a debut inspirational romance set in WWII. She enjoys flower gardening, genealogy research and traveling with her British-born husband.  She writes from her home n Philadelphia, Pa. Pat has published essays, short stories and articles online and in print. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. 

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