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White-knuckled with anxiety, Hannah St. James pulled her car into the parking lot of the Marshall medical complex. She wasn't the kind to beg, but she would if she had to. She'd never needed a job as badly as she did now, and she'd do whatever it took to get one.
Her mind still on losing her job at Family Affairs, a caregiving service for the elderly, she didn't even see the Mercedes until their fenders met.
Hazel eyes wide, she slipped out of her old Kia just as an attractive, dark-haired man emerged from the obscenely shiny Mercedes and strode toward her. His broad shoulders were rigid and his handsome jaw set. Anger fairly oozed off of him.
"You drove right into me," he said in astonishment. His eyes were hidden behind sunglasses and no doubt shooting darts.
He was an undeniably good-looking man. His finely chiseled features reminded her of her late husband, Steve. She guessed he was about her own agein his early thirties. She fleetingly wished that she'd met him under different, more friendly, circumstances.
She forced that thought to the back of her mind. "I was distracted. I'm sorry." She stared at the fenders of the two cars. The Mercedes had a ding, without a doubt, but the front of her little car looked as if it had been through a trash masher. "I have insurance."
She didn't add that it was liability insurance, which would pay for the Mercedes but not for her old clunker. Now, at least, the hail damage it had suffered would not be so noticeable. All eyes would be fixed on her fender.
"This car is six weeks old," the man muttered. "Six weeks!" He took off his glasses to reveal blue eyes with long, dark lashes.
"Mine is eight years," Hannah said absently as she pulled at one of her red curls. He probably had other cars he could use while his was in the shop. She'd be taking the bus, if she had anywhere to go now that she was unemployed. Unemployed. She groaned inwardly. It would certainly be a mess getting to job interviews without a car.
"Ty, dear, is everything okay?" The car's passenger-side window opened and a white-haired woman with piercing blue eyes peered out.
"It's okay, Gram. We'll take care of it."
Hannah stared in horror at the old woman. She looked fragile. What if she'd been hurt? Hannah raced to the woman's window before she could close it.
"I am so sorry. Are you okay? How does your neck feel?" All Hannah's geriatric nursing skills flooded to the surface. "Do you need to go to the hospital?"
"Mercy no, dear. I'm fine. Besides, I'm here to see my doctor." The wizened woman gestured toward the medical building. "He can look at me. I'm sure he'll say all is well. Thank you for being so concerned."
"Well, she did hit our car," the man pointed out tersely, less forgiving than the old woman. His blue eyes were just like his grandmother's, Hannah noted. Only he had unbelievably long, dark lashes. Very nice. Actually, more than nice. She surprised herself. It had been a long time since she'd noticed much of anything about the opposite sex.
"But see how remorseful she is."
"Insurance companies don't care about remorse, Grams."
Hannah dug a piece of paper and pen from her pocket and began to scribble. "Here is my email address and the name of my insurance company."
He took it without reading it and stuffed it in his pocket. With a sigh, he pulled a business card from the inside pocket of his jacket and handed it to Hannah. TDM Imports and Exports.
"My insurance agent will be in touch," she ventured.
"He'd better be."
Hannah winced. She watched him get into the car, pull forward and park in the handicapped space nearest the door. He then lovingly extracted the tiny white-haired woman from the front seat and lifted her in his arms as a nurse from the clinic appeared with a wheelchair. Gently, he placed the old woman in the chair and they moved away.
"Be still my heart," Hannah murmured as unexpected emotions rushed through her. It wasn't because he was good-looking, though he was, or that he was tall and athletically built, a fact revealed when he shrugged out of his winter coat as he followed his grandmother's wheelchair into the building. It wasn't because his dark brown hair was the kind of hair a woman could happily run her fingers through. What made Hannah's heart go pitty-pat was the sight of a man so concerned and gentle with an elderly woman. For a geriatric nurse like Hannah, it was a joy to see.
Then the enormity of her own problems returned and her thoughts focused on more pressing issues. She'd lost her job through no fault of her own. She was behind on her bills and had no money left in savings. After this accident, her car insurance would probably go up. She'd have to find a way to repair her battered car. And her younger sister Trisha's tuition for summer school would be due before she knew it. The girl had been going to school year round in order to finish quickly. After today, there was no way Trisha could finish soon enough for Hannah.
She got back into her car, crossed her arms over the steering wheel, rested her head on her forearms and allowed the hot tears she'd been holding back to fall. Hannah allowed herself only a few moments of self-pity, however, before she wiped away her running mascara and got back out of her car. She'd have to worry about this later. Right now, she had bigger fish to fry.
When God closes a door He opens a window. A window will open, a window will open she told herself as she raced up the stairs to Dr. Phillip Harvey's office.
An internist physician who specialized in geriatrics, Doc Harvey had been a close friend of her parents and, later, of hers. The office, with its commercial-grade brown carpeting, beige walls and wildlife prints, was familiar. Little had changed since she'd worked here as a receptionist while she was in nursing school and subbed as an occasional caregiver for his aging father. He'd been very supportive when her parents died and told her more than once since that if she ever needed anything, she should call him. Hannah had never taken him up on his offer until now.
She took a chair in the waiting room, still panting a little from her shortcut up the stairs, and tried to calm her red curls by running her fingers through them. As she did so, the reception room door opened and the tall, attractive man from the Mercedes and the elderly woman in the wheelchair entered. The old woman fixed her eyes on each of Dr. Harvey's patients in turn, seeming to x-ray them with her clear blue gaze. This woman might be elderly, Hannah thought, but she had all her wits about her. Energy and intelligence fairly radiated from her.
The older woman wore expensive clothing appropriate for this chilly March day in Denvera wool and cashmere coat, fur-lined leather boots and a silk shawl around her shoulders that probably cost as much as Hannah's entire outfit. Every hair was in place and her makeup was expertly applied. She could have been anywhere between seventy-five and ninety, Hannah thought, because although she was frail and in a wheelchair, she looked both youthful and old at once.
Hannah returned her attention to the man pushing the wheelchair. When he laughed at something the receptionist said, his smile flashed white and even. She hadn't been privy to that smile in the parking lot, unfortunately. Still, the most noticeable things about him were the same remarkable blue eyes as those of his grandmother's.
He scanned the room for a place to sit. The only open spot was next to Hannah.
He didn't look any happier than she felt. "Do you mind if my grandmother sits here? There's a spot for her wheelchair."
"Please do." Hannah watched him as he patiently maneuvered the wheelchair into place and tenderly helped his grandmother remove her scarf and coat. In this throwaway society, some people behaved as if the elderly were dispensable, but not this man. He was irate over his car but, given the way he handled the older woman, Hannah could forgive him for that.
Settled, the old lady leaned toward Hannah, put her gnarled hand on Hannah's smooth one and whispered, "Don't mind him. You know how men are about their cars. He's been cranky lately. It's something about falling behind at work and needing to spend more time at his office. The car was just the straw that broke the camel's back. We'll have it fixed in no time."
Hannah wasn't sure it was that simple, but she smiled gratefully at the woman. "Thank you. I really am sorry."
The lady waved a dismissive hand and changed the subject. "This wheelchair is for the birds. I hope my broken foot heals quickly so I can get out of this thing.
I drove my car until I was in my eighties, you know. Unfortunately, my doctor says I'm healing more slowly than I would have when I was younger."
Hannah looked toward the cast on the elderly woman's foot. "How did it happen?"
"I tripped on a Chihuahua, of all things! My friend brought her little dog with her when she came to visit. I'm not accustomed to having a dog around and it got tangled in my feet." Her laughter was like chiming bells. "Imagine that, ninety years old and tripped up by a dog smaller than my purse! My name is Lily, by the way.
Charmed, Hannah told Lily her first name.
"Oh, Hannah, you should have seen the fuss when I tripped on Wilbur! Imagine naming a dog Wilburwhatever happened to names like Spot and Rover?" As Lily regaled Hannah with her dog incident, her grandson leaned back in his chair and wearily closed his eyes. He was asleep by the time his grandmother's name was called, Hannah knew, because his features had softened and the frown lines on his forehead were relaxed. He was even more striking in repose.
Without looking at Hannah, he jumped up and wheeled his grandmother toward the attending nurse. Lily waved goodbye to Hannah over her shoulder.
"I'll put you in room three," she heard the nurse tell them as they disappeared down the hallway toward one of Dr. Harvey's examining rooms.
Hannah picked up the daily paper on the table beside her, but her mind was focused on other things like Tri-sha's tuition, her eight-year-old son Danny's need for incidentals at school, not to mention heat, lights and food. Danny's jeans were already high-water and they were only a month old, a fact she considered a minor emergency. Kids at school had teased Danny about his too-short pants and her son had come home in tears. He also needed new shoes again. What's more, Tri-sha had been right about Hannah's clothes, they were showing their age. Some of them were old enough to have cycled back into style again.
Then there was the mortgage she and Steve had taken out on the house. She remembered how giddy with happiness they'd been. Their first homeshe'd loved it the moment she'd seen it. Small and cozy, it had two bedrooms on the first floor and a third under the eaves on the second. They'd remodeled the kitchen so it was sunny and bright. They'd drunk coffee at the small island every morning and discussed their plans for the day. She couldn't lose her house, not the one she and Steve had chosen together, the one in which she was raising her son. It was her last real physical connection to her late husband. Besides, where would they go?
She knew she shouldn't worry about her lifeeven what she would eat or drinkbecause it did no good. God already knew what she needed. Worrying couldn't add an hour to her lifespan, so why do it? That's what it said in Matthew 6.
Why had it become so difficult lately to trust this and to act on it?
The past seven years since her husband's death had tested her. Sometimes she feared she'd lost sight of God's plan for her. But, if fear was an avalanche, then God was the mountain. Here she was again, feeling fear sweep over her, blocking her vision of the future, even though she was rooted on the mountainous strength of God. Sadly, it was difficult to remember that when the surge was so wild and furious.
Dr. Harvey's nurse peeked out and beckoned her back to his office. "I'm squeezing you in," she said softly. "He can give you a couple minutes, but he's very busy so it might not be long."
"Anything is great. Thank you."
Dr. Harvey breezed into the room looking as fit as he had when Hannah had worked there. He was a little grayer, perhaps, but otherwise exactly the same.
"Hi, Hannah. It's good to see you." He shook her hand vigorously before dropping into his chair. "I have a patient waiting so I don't have much time, but I understand you are in a hurry to talk to me. My nurse used the word panicked.''''
"She was right," Hannah said ruefully and explained the situation. The more she spoke, the deeper the look of concern grew on the doctor's features.
When she was done, he grimaced. "I hate to tell you, but I don't have an opening and, frankly, don't know that many others do either. Budget cutting, belt tightening, you know what I mean. If I hear of anything, I'll make sure my nurse contacts you. Leave your information with me."
He appeared regretful as he added, "I'm sorry, Hannah. I really wanted to be more help than this."
She picked up her purse from the floor and smiled gamely at him. "I know. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me."
He opened the door for her. "Please, keep in touch. If I hear anything "
She walked down the hall to the waiting room, shoulders squared, head high. She didn't want Dr. Harvey, who'd been so kind, to know the devastation she felt.