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For Marietta, with Love

When Reynolds Ernst, cynical and damaged of heart, returns to the little community of his birth after thirty years’ knocking about, little does he know that he’s about to rediscover the love of his life—only to be faced with the prospect of losing her forever. This is the story of how two people search for, and find, healing and peace in the midst of loss.

How they come to believe with all their hearts that love and family are worth the risk….

He must feel her eyes on him, for he lifts his head and looks at her questioningly. She jerks her gaze away, then looks back slowly….

“What?” he says. “What is it?”

“Oh, not a thing.” She gives a little, nervous laugh. It wouldn’t do to ask him how he’s kept such good manners, given how he lives. “I was just thinking how nice it is to have someone—no, not someone—you. It’s nice to have you sitting across from me, having breakfast this morning.” She watches something come and go in his eyes, a kind of pleasant curiosity, and disquiet moves through her. She needs to remember to guard herself, not let him see how scared and alone she feels.

A bit flustered, she looks down at her near empty plate, then lays her napkin beside it and dusts her fingers together. She stands and reaches for the coffeepot. “Another drop?”

He holds up a hand. “No, thanks, I’ve had plenty. Sure was good, though. Specially the blueberry preserves. Dad and I used to go over past Hedrick’s pond of a Sunday afternoon and pick the berries and Mom would work ‘em up that night. Sometimes she’d get, oh, twenty pints or so.” His leathery face takes on a sad, dreamy look, and she thinks of the tragic fire that took his parents, and him so young. She remembers the Ernsts, how they seemed to have fun even while they worked in that grocery. And the younger boy—Jamie, was that his name? A shame such nice people had to have an afflicted child. Better them, though, than her parents. Oh, Dad would have been all right, he could cope with most things, but poor Mother would have killed herself sooner than she did—

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