On a sunny Sunday afternoon, my husband and I headed for the busy upscale mall outside town. I dressed up—trendy earrings, understated sexy blouse, tailored slacks, matching bag and shoes. We visited a few shops together, then agreed to browse separately and meet in two hours at the front entrance.
I’d been to every shop but the European baby boutique and had spent a lot of money without guilt. In both hands, I gripped my prizes—entwined handles of shiny, smart-logoed, overflowing shopping bags.
I should have felt wonderful. But my purchases barely veiled my heaviness. At the imported pen shop, my husband and I had had yet another fight. I didn’t want to admit it, but they were becoming too frequent. Each time, the anger on both our sides had been surprisingly intense and the vitriol unbridled.
Reliving my outbursts, I felt ashamed and helpless. Now, despite the new acquisitions and plush surroundings, I fell deeper into depression.
As I walked to our meeting place, I noticed each passing flawlessly coifed woman and imagined she had the perfect life, even though rationally I knew better. I considered stopping one and inviting her to sit down with me on an inviting hand-carved wooden bench in the mall center strip, surrounded by luxuriant greenery and overlooking the koi pond. Encouraged by my sympathetic smile, she would twist the Tiffany diamond and platinum rings on her left hand and pour out her saga of troubles.
I also knew that whatever she might confess wouldn’t make me feel better. My mind kept returning to the last scene with my husband of furious shouting, embarrassing the clerks who couldn’t help but hear us, and endless litany in my head of my husband’s faults.
As we had icily agreed before parting outside the pen shop, exactly on time I waited for him at the two stone lions at mall entrance near the taxi stand in the parking lot so we could get a cab home. We’d supposedly “made up,” each saying what we thought we should in apology, as if the perfunctory words would make us feel differently. But our empty declarations couldn’t erase the lingering rage and hurt. And worse, I already knew from past repetitions that what we’d thought was resolved would only reappear a few days later, sparked by the next most trivial thing.
I dreaded the cold ride home, and then unpacking everything that was supposed to have brought joy and serving an uninviting supper of leftovers. We’d eat without speaking, except for stiff requests to pass the salt, and then disappear into separate rooms, each blaring a TV to cover resentful thoughts.
Looking both ways from the entrance, I shifted from one foot to the other. Where was he? He’d promised to meet me promptly, and now he was very late. My bags heavy, I set them down and propped them against each other, getting angrier by the minute.
Pacing back and forth, I wondered irritably whether any cabs would be left and glanced to my left toward the area where they usually parked. Suddenly a man appeared on my right side.
Startled, I looked full at him. He was tall and stout, towering over me. He wore black slacks and a black shirt open at the collar. In his mid-fifties, he had a large head, somewhat sagging jowls, and lank dark brown hair. Around his neck, standing out dramatically against the black shirt, on a thin gold chain hung a huge gold cross.
I felt him staring and thought he was going to fight me for a cab or make a pass. Instead, with a small smile, he reached into a little black pouch and held out an object. “This is for you.”
Automatically and somehow without fear, I extended my hand. Something small dropped into my palm, and, not looking, I closed my fist. Then he bent closer, his eyes piercing.
“God loves you and so do I.” He leaned down and kissed my cheek.
I stood wide-eyed, No words came. Then, regaining a little composure, I said, “Thank you.” A slight afterthought, I said, “And God loves you. What denomination are you?”
He smiled more broadly. “I’m a Christian.” Without waiting for acknowledgment, he turned and strode away. I watched him unlock the door of a black car, get in, and start the engine.
Then I opened my hand. On a tie tack back, a tiny angel shone up at me. Its gold halo sparkled, and its diamond-cut glass skirt billowed with assurance.
I stared after the car pulling away, and my eyes teared. How did he know to choose me, a stylish woman looking like she had it all? How did he know that beneath the façade I felt so lonely and depressed I hardly knew what to do?
The man had sounded so sure in his declaration of God’s love for me. Could I believe him? I cradled the delicate angel. Was it really possible? Her wings, like welcoming arms, opened in unlimited love.
Somehow He know that this was exactly the reminder I needed.
All heaviness lifted and my anger dissolved. I couldn’t wait to invite my husband to dinner at our favorite restaurant, and I knew we’d really be able to talk.
He appeared from around the corner. I waved and smiled. “Hi, sweetheart. You’re just in time for the next cab.”
© 2023 Noelle Sterne