Mary worked the weekends and had two days off the in the middle of the week. Asia was still her only real friend and also had off days during the week, however, they did not coincide with Mary’s. She missed her but remembered they had another neighbor she did not know. They only saw each other at the HOA meetings, but she liked her enough. Leah seemed sweet, and Mary thought she might be a good person to have as a friend.
After she got Phoenix off to school, Mary trotted down the street to call on Leah. She hoped it wasn’t too early for her. A sweet, high-pitched voice yelled for her to come in after she rapped on the door. Mary stepped into the house and looked around. The house was so plain on the outside, but the inside was stunning.
“Wow! I love what you’ve done to the place.”
“Oh! Had you seen it before?” Leah asked.
“No, but I can tell you put your mark on this house. It has a very intentional look! You’re an artist, right?”
“Oh, please…call me Mary. You make me feel old!”
Leah was around the same age as her kids, but Mary was still quite young herself and wanted to leave all the age appropriate titles in the future where they belonged.
“You seem to be doing quite well for yourself! Your parents must be proud.”
“Well, I’m just starting out, really. My daddy got me this house and pays for everything until I can do it on my own.”
Mary’s smile faltered just a bit. She and Leah had a lot more in common than she realized and wondered if it was too late for her and Mr. Jones to have a good relationship. She wasn’t even sure if she wanted one.
“What does your father do, and where is your family from?” Mary asked.
“He owns a lot of businesses in San Myshuno. That’s where we’re from,” Leah said with pride. “We used to live in one of those tiny rat holes in the spice district, and his success came slowly, but he eventually made it all the way to the top!”
She beamed as she spoke, and Mary appreciated that. It was refreshing to see children who admired their parents and appreciated the sacrifices.
“I’m sorry…would you like to sit?” Leah asked.
“So, what about you, Mary? What do you do, and where are you from?”
She hesitated. Leah was great, but was she trustworthy? Was this sweet young daddy’s girl an act? Being vulnerable was something Mary had not yet mastered.
“I’m from Newcrest, originally, and I work for the mayor,” she said carefully.
“Oh! How cool! What does your husband do? He must work very hard. I never see him!”
Mary scowled at the young woman who looked surprised by her reaction. She lifted her hand to stick her finger in the girl’s face, but the sparkle of the wedding ring she still wore caught her attention. Her jaw dropped. Had she really still been wearing that thing for the past four weeks? Putting it on was just part of the routine. She never considered taking it off.
“I’m sorry,” Leah said. “I’ve offended you! I didn’t know. I only ass–”
“It’s ok…I apologize for my reaction. I’ve only just realized that I’m still wearing this…”
Leah looked at her with such pity. Mary didn’t want that, but it was kind of nice considering how embarrassed and ashamed she felt.
She cleared her throat. “Well…as you’ve probably guessed, I’m…divorced.”
She hadn’t told too many people. Actually, she had not uttered those exact words to anyone. She went to work, took care of her child, and occasionally hung out with Asia who already knew everything. That was all she wanted in her life at the moment. More relationships added more potentially judging eyes into her personal life. She had enough of that with Eliza. Letting someone new in was already awkward enough. Sharing one of her secrets made it worse, and she wanted to turn around go back to the safety of her home. She couldn’t spend the rest of her life running from people who simply wanted to know her, however. If only there was a way to know what their intentions were before the vulnerability was needed.
“Ok…here’s the thing,” Mary said. “I don’t like talking about myself! I don’t like people in my business! I know a lot of people who would love to know about my marriage just so they can have something to gossip about and smear it all over the papers! I’m not saying I think you’re that way, at least I’d like to believe you’re not, but that’s how I am right now! Getting to know people is hard and a little bit uncomfortable, and…” She sighed. “I don’t know why I’m telling you this.”
Leah’s warm smile made her feel a strange combination of relief and discomfort.
“I’m glad you came by, Mary. I was beginning to think no one in this neighborhood liked me.”
She wanted to ask why she thought such a terrible thing, but she knew why. Asia didn’t like the way Jared acted around her. The only person Eliza ever visited was Asia. Mary had been so busy and was mired in her own drama. Poor Leah was left friendless in a neighborhood full of secrets and gossip.
“I’m sorry,” Mary said. “I can’t speak for the others, but I do apologize if I came across as unfriendly. Despite my unwillingness to make friends, I do not wish to be seen as unfriendly.”
She didn’t understand how or why she felt so comfortable around Leah and was glad the truth didn’t scare her off. She definitely needed someone in her life with whom she could be truthful.
An idea popped into Mary’s head and she gasped with excitement. “Oh! I overheard my boss talking about doing an art show for the mayor’s next fund raiser! If you would be interested, I could make sure you get in.”
“Seriously? You’d do that for me?”
“Why not? You said you wanted to get your name out there, and I will end up being the one planning the whole thing. I’ll need quality artists.” She winked.