JUDITH by M Teresa Clayton
“Cowardice and courage are never without a measure of affectation. Nor is love. Feelings are never true. They play with their mirrors.” -Jean Baudrillard
He was handsome. Not the striking underwear-model kind of handsome, but the clean-cut gentleman caller kind of handsome.
“You are so much prettier when you’re smiling,” he said. “Mind if I keep you company for a spell?”
“No, not at all,” Judith smiled through her tears. “I’m just a little bit emotional today.”
“I have strong shoulders and a good sense about things if you need to talk.” He was so endearing to her. She wondered why a man like this couldn’t come into her life and sweep her away from her troubles. A man like him would be so nice to care for.
“You really wouldn’t understand, but I appreciate your kindness.” Judith hung her head and lowered her eyes. The guilt and shame of the previous night was amplified by this man’s goodness.
“I won’t pry,” he responded gently. “My name is Ross, what’s yours?”
“Judith,” she answered back, still not looking up. There seemed to be a sense of disgrace attached to the name. Judith took a deep breath to cleanse the feeling and regain her composure.
“Well, Judith,” Ross began in, what seemed to be, an effort to distract her from her previous thoughts. “I see you here with your little one quite a bit. I pick up my daughter Rose and we come here to play. I want to watch her grow up and her mother and I… well, it didn’t work out so well between us.”
They talked and talked while Rose and Lily played in their imaginary world. Ross offered more information about himself, allowing enough time for Judith to offer information without intruding into her privacy. He was quick to recognize how guarded her secrets were and respectfully avoided uncomfortable questions that might cause her more anguish. “Would you like to join us for something to eat?” he asked. “It’s getting late and I know the girls must be getting hungry.”
“I don’t know.” Judith wasn’t sure she would ever be able to trust a man again, especially after last night. She was certain there would be a price to pay and she simply couldn’t afford it. “No thank you. I think it would be best if Lily and I just hung out by ourselves for a bit. I hope you understand.”
“Then, may I call you sometime?” His smile was beautiful and his eyes lit up like fireworks with the anticipation of a yes. Judith hesitated but decided a phone call couldn’t hurt. She did enjoy his company and they could continue to meet here in the park where it was safe and watch Rose and Lily play.
“I’ll call you tomorrow?” It hung somewhere between a question and a statement.
“Of course, tomorrow will be fine.” She smiled her sweetest dimpled smile.