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When a white feather falls to the ground beside you, someone once told Faith, it means an angel is close by, watching over you. At the time, she’d thought it just an old wives’ tale. In those days, Danny had still been alive. Now, she watched the tiny scrap falling from a clear sky and held out her free hand to catch it. She needed the reassurance.
"Are you all right there, Mrs Reed?" James Belknapp asked. "I’m not walking too fast for you, am I?"
"No, I’m fine." She slipped the feather quickly into her raincoat pocket, hoping he hadn’t noticed. He was already making enough allowances for her. The last thing she wanted was to make him think he was inviting some helpless invalid to live in his home while he was away.
Even as she spoke the words, her calf muscle cramped up. Despite the many hours of physiotherapy she’d endured, the doctors had warned that her left leg was never going to be as strong as before the accident. It had suffered too much trauma—tibia and fibula shattered in the impact of the crash. More than once, she’d been told it was a miracle she hadn’t lost the limb. Every time, the same thought came to her. I’d rather have lost that than my husband.
Resting on the thick oak cane she used for support, Faith took a moment to catch her breath.
Belknapp must have noticed the discomfort on her face, though he couldn’t have known it had as much to do with her lingering grief for Danny as the pain stabbing through her leg. Instead of leading Faith any farther along the path down to the beach, he turned back towards the house. "Might as well leave you something to explore on your own. Cataloguing the books will take up most of your time, I should imagine, but don’t feel you have to shut yourself away in the library all day every day. The beach is particularly beautiful at sunset."
"So I’ve got the post?"
"Don’t sound so surprised. Out of all the applications I received, yours was by far the most appropriate to my needs. I just needed to meet you to make sure you really were the one. And I’m happy to say you are."
"Thank you so much." Faith wanted to hug him, but held back. Even though Belknapp was only in his early thirties, no more than a couple of years older than her, he seemed to come from a different generation entirely—stiff and reserved, uncomfortable with physical contact. It wouldn’t have surprised her in the least to learn he’d been packed off to boarding school at an early age. "You don’t know what this means to me."
"I think I can guess. You mentioned something in your résumé about being let go from your previous job."
"That’s right." Faith had worked for a second-hand bookseller on Charing Cross Road. The place had been a treasure trove of rare items, crammed with first editions and novels long out of print. She’d loved the job, priding herself on knowing where any book could be found on the jumble of shelves, but Martin, her boss, hadn’t been able to keep it open for her after the accident.
"I’m so sorry, Faith," he’d said when he’d broken the news to her, regret evident in his tone, "but even when you are able to come back and work for me...to be honest, I’m not sure how you’ll cope."