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Meeting Her Match
By Debra Clopton
Steeple HillCopyright © 2007 Debra Clopton
All right reserved.
Says the Lord, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."
Sheri Marsh stared in wide–eyed amazement at the three women around the table with her at Sam's Diner. They were her official nightmare come a–calling.
Oh yes, it was true. These deceptively innocent–looking little old ladies were the infamous "Matchmaking Posse" of Mule Hollow. And they'd just informed Sheri that they had a plan to wipe her woes away. Whether she wanted them to or not!
"Okay," Esther Mae Wilcox was saying, her hands held out in front of her as if she were about to deliver the biggest punch line of all time. "So, are you ready? Here's the plan." She paused, as if waiting for an imaginary drumroll. "Me and Norma Sue made up a list last night. And Sheri, you are just going to love it!"
Well, Sheri thought, looking at the bright side, at least the truth was on the table now–no more hints, no more hemming and hawing. The posse had come clean. They'd admitted what she'd already deduced was going on behind her back.
They were setting her up!
Tamping down her escalating temper, Sheri leveled her gaze at each of the women at the table.
First she zeroed in on Esther Mae. The woman was like Lucille Ball and hersidekick, Ethel, rolled into one.
Then Sheri shot her gaze to Esther Mae's partner in mayhem, Norma Sue Jenkins. She had a very full figure and the willpower of a steamroller. Sheri could just see herself looking like a flattened Gumby after Norma Sue got through plowing over her with her matchmaking notion.
Last but not least, Sheri settled her gaze on Adela Ledbetter, a wisp of a woman who balanced the other two out with her serenity and godly wisdom. Okay, she usually balanced them out. At the moment, to Sheri's dismay, she wasn't balancing anything with that soft smile and twinkling eyes! Nope, Sheri could tell that obviously Adela had more important personal things on her mind, like the cute–as–a–wrinkled–raisin Sam, owner of the only diner in the rustic town of Mule Hollow, Texas.
Yep, Adela was just sitting there letting Sam place a steaming cup of coffee in front of her, in the special china cup that Sam used only for Adela. It was no secret that there was romance in the air between the spry proprietor and the truly special lady. In fact, nobody seemed to understand what was keeping them from taking the trip to the wedding altar. Plus, unlike the way they'd latched on to Sheri, her cohorts didn't seem in any hurry to tie Adela and Sam up in a neat little match–made–in–Mule–Hollow–heaven package. And as far as Sheri was concerned Adela and Sam needed some help. At the pace they were going they'd be batting eyes at each other forever. They'd never experience wedding bliss unless someone stepped up and lit a fire beneath them.
Sheri bit her lip. Was it too much to ask that the focus be taken off her single status and applied to Adela?
Lastly, Sheri glared at her best friend, Lacy, who was sitting on a stool at the counter and had spun to face them. She was just as intent as the senior posse on trying to find Sheri a husband. Her mischievous grin and laughing eyes proved it as she met Sheri's glare.
"What we did," Norma Sue continued, drawing the words out as if she were about to make a major proclamation, "was make a list of all the single cowboys. Then we listed all their truly wonderful attributes. Let me tell you, Sheri, there's still some great pickin's out there. You need not be worried that you'll get the runt of the litter."
"That's right," Esther Mae broke in. "After all, love is a very idiosyncratic view—"
"A what?" Norma Sue exclaimed.
The previously full–figured Esther Mae threw her recently achieved size–twelve shoulders back and looked down her nose at Norma Sue. "I–dio–syn–cratic," she said slowly, as if pronouncing it to a child. "It means subjective." She smiled proudly, ignoring Norma Sue's frown. "I'm learning new words out of the Reader's Digest. It's supposed to keep my mind alert, so y'all get ready. I'm gonna be bustin'them out on occasion. You know, when the opportunity arises."
Sheri joined everyone in staring open–mouthed at Esther Mae. It was a known fact that Esther Mae couldn't get the words she already knew into the right context. Where she'd go with bigger, better words was anybody's guess.
"I think that's a grand idea," Lacy said at last, breaking the silence. "You learn them first then teach us."
"Are you crazy?" Norma Sue asked incredulously, finally finding her voice. "Esther Mae—"
Esther Mae harrumphed. "Now you just hush, Norma Sue Jenkins. Just because I get a word tangled up here and there is no call to get in a tizzy."
Sheri wanted to laugh, but she didn't dare call attention to herself. At least for the moment they weren't focusing on her and the list of local eligible bachelors.
"That's right, ladies," Adela chimed in, reeling her friends back in. "Nobody's crazy. Now back to the topic at hand…. Sheri, I'm sure that you know love is a lasting connection that God orchestrates between a man and a woman. We're simply nudging people in the right direction. No one can actually understand the mystery that binds couples together except the two people themselves."
Well so much for being out of the hot seat, Sheri thought drily. "True, that brings us back to our list." Norma Sue slapped Sheri on the back and smiled her mile–wide smile. "The best thing for a broken heart is to get back in the saddle, and so we think we've got the field narrowed down for you. I have to tell you that it hasn't been an easy job. You know as well as we do that there's not just any man out there who can keep up with you, Sheri Marsh."
Lacy grinned. "I think most of the guys are scared of you."
Esther Mae halted her forkful of apple pie midair. "That's probably right. I asked Simon Putts about takin' you out on a date—you all should have seen his face. He went pastier than Norma Sue's dumplings."
That did it! Sheri bolted up from the table so fast it shook. She couldn't take Esther Mae asking somebody on a date for her. And Simon Putts of all people? Why, the name fit him like a glove. "Okay, listen up," she said. "You all have had your fun, but for the last time lay off me. I am more than capable of finding my own cowboy. If and when I'm interested in finding him—"
"Well, we never said you couldn't find a cowboy," Esther Mae interrupted. "You just can't seem to find the right cowboy. You know, the one. We know your heart was broken—"
It was Sheri's turn to interrupt, frustrated beyond words. "Okay, okay. Yes, my heart is hurting because of J.P. I hope you're all satisfied that I'm admitting it." She was steadily backing toward the door, feeling as if a noose was tightening around her neck. She needed her freedom. "And since my heart was broken, that should make you realize I'm not, and I repeat once more, I am not looking for the one. I'm not looking for anything. Goodness, y'all, I'm kinda confused right now." There, she'd admitted more than she wanted, and they were still looking at her as though she was the next star of their runaway hit, How to Marry Off a Girl in Ten Days Whether She Wants to Or Not!
Just in the nick of time she bumped into the door.
"What's your hurry, Sheri? You don't have a pedicure for another hour," Lucy said.
Sheri glared at her soon–to–be former best friend Lacy, pushed the swinging door open and spun through it. Lacy's chuckles followed her out to the sidewalk.
They were out of control! Really. This was just not right. Happy single people ought to have the right to walk the streets of Mule Hollow just like everyone else. That's right, without the worry that they were going to be unduly set upon by the matchmaking posse. Somebody should do something about it. People could get hurt…like her!
Why, it just wasn't right for them to think that everyone in Mule Hollow was their own special puppet, to be led here and there as they saw fit. Sheri marched down the sidewalk indignantly. How would they like it if the tables were turned on them? They wouldn't like it one bit if a person manipulated them! Oh, no, they wouldn't. It would serve them all right if someone pretended to fall in love because of their scheming. Just when the posse began to pat each other on the back they would find out the joke was on them.
Sheri stopped dead in her tracks. Her anger dissipated as she thought about what just flashed through her thoughts.
It was a brilliant plan.
A way–past–time–for–it kind of plan.
But it seemed deceitful. The thought dimmed her initial pleasure. Then again, she told herself, this was a lesson the ladies needed to learn. And it seemed that they would only learn it through something as drastic as her budding plan…since they certainly weren't hearing what she had to say.
Excerpted from Meeting Her Match by Debra Clopton Copyright © 2007 by Debra Clopton. Excerpted by permission.
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