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Shannon Miller sat on the lawn watching the large gathering through amused eyes. Who are these people? Her mouth quirked as the thought went through her mind again. They were her family, but she didn’t know half of them. The cousins she had grown up with were familiar, but the rest were … relative strangers. The curve of her lips threatened to grow as the words entered her mind. She turned her head and grinned at her sister.
“Who are these people?”
Megan grinned back and shrugged.
Their humor was self-directed. Even though it was a fairly large crowd, she felt ridiculous not knowing her own family.
The sound of another car drew her attention to the driveway and she watched three more strangers walk across the yard. The little boy ran ahead, running straight to some of those unknown relatives. Her amusement grew at this. He was perhaps three, but he knew her relatives better than she did. Her eyes moved over the woman as she followed the child, and came to rest on the man.
Many things were immediately obvious. There was a tension between the two adults that spoke of barely suppressed anger. She was a short distance ahead of him, and he was in no hurry to walk beside her. Shannon got the impression that the distance between these two was more than the short physical space that separated them, and that they were both responsible for it. Theirs was not a happy relationship.
She studied him, taking in his faded blue jeans and white t-shirt, his short brown hair and mustache. He looked quite a bit older than the woman did, but that could have been due to the short military-style hair cut and the hard, set expression that seemed carved into his face. He wasn’t really tall, but he had the kind of hard, muscular build most men only dreamed of having.
She followed the man’s progress to the side porch, studying him as he sat on the porch steps, only barely aware that the woman had joined the group that the child had run to. He seemed so withdrawn and apart from the rest of the crowd as he sat there, as if he were deliberately distancing himself from everyone else. It was obvious he did not want to be there.
She turned to look at the woman, already involved in the conversation of the group she had joined, showing no concern toward the man she had arrived with. It was as if there was an invisible wall between the two and she couldn’t help but wonder what had put it there. Shannon herself seemed more connected to him than his companion did.
Was it the bond of one unhappy person to another, the shared pain of an empty relationship? Was she picking up his feelings because she was also trapped in a miserable life with no way out? She couldn’t be sure, but she knew that the sadness and angry frustration she saw in him were reflections of her own soul.
She had been existing in an empty marriage for years, trapped in a life full of anger, hatred and suspicion. Was it possible that her own deep unhappiness made her more aware of someone else’s? If so, why had she never felt this empathy with anyone else? Why now with this man?
She looked back at him, still sitting silently alone, and felt a strange twist of something unnamable move inside her, almost as if his self-imposed solitude was her own. She could feel his anger and pain, his unhappiness and loneliness, settle deep inside. It made her want to go to him and try to help. It made her ache to sit down next to him and talk to him. She wanted to take his pain and unhappiness and make it disappear.
The yearning for something unknown swelled inside her. It was a need for something she didn’t have and didn’t really understand. It brought an aching emptiness into her that desperately needed filling; a silent cry for something she wasn’t even sure existed. Something clicked in her mind, a shadowy memory of something that she could not put her finger on. She tried to remember, to draw up the elusive memory, but it stayed stubbornly hidden from her thoughts. Slowly she relaxed her mind, hoping to will the memory into place.
© Drusilla Mott and https://drusillamott.wordpress.com, 2019