Shelby Falls, Ohio - 2016
Kozy Hanner's head buzzed with a rat-a-tat rhythm as she let herself in the kitchen door and kicked off her shoes.Words bounced through her mind. Late, late, it's already time for my date...oh! In the bathroom she inspected her face in the mirror and pinched her freshly washed cheeks. Then she grabbed a brush and ran it through her mop of disheveled, honey-blond locks. Within moments she heard a chirp from her phone and huffed out a frustrated breath. Her friends were already waiting in the driveway. The voice in her head continued as she slipped her shoes back on and rushed out the door. Run and run and run... She plastered a smile on her face before opening the car door and tumbling into the backseat.
"Hope we didn't rush you too much," her friend Nikki said from the front passenger seat, "but the concert starts in a half hour." She faced Kozy with a slight smirk. "I wanted to make sure you have a few minutes to get acquainted with Nolan." She turned her attention back to the huge purse on her lap and began rummaging through it. "Now where are you hiding, little tickets? Oh- there you are!"
Nikki's husband Ben turned to face Kozy with a benign look and gave her a quick wink. After two years of marriage he had resigned himself to the fact that his wife was a hopeless romantic. She was not going to be satisfied until she had found a perfect match for all of her single friends. "Humor her, please," he mouthed silently to Kozy.
Kozy lifted her hands in mock defeat and mildly asked, "How've you been feeling, Nikki?"
"Now that the morning sickness is over, I've never felt better!" she enthused as she shoved her purse to the floor and rubbed her palms over her gently rounded middle. Not to be deterred, she continued. "I don't know why it never occurred to me to get you two together before this. You are going to love Nolan! He's perfect for you."
"Hmmm" was Kozy's non-committal reply. As were each of the other three guys you set me up with, she was tempted to say. But Nikki meant well, so why not be a good sport? At least she wouldn't be spending Friday night alone. She wiggled her back to ease the tension, determined to enjoy the coming evening as Ben backed out of the driveway and headed the car toward the Performing Arts Center. As the couple chatted together in the front seat, Kozy's thoughts returned to the parent-teacher conference that had made her late getting home. She had almost given up by the time Shaina's mother finally made her appearance. From the very first day of classes three weeks ago, Kozy had sensed that the little third grader was struggling. The meeting today had only intensified her concern. Something was not right in the little girl's home; she was sure of it. If only she had the power to help. She closed her eyes. My precious heavenly Father. "Abba," she whispered faintly. I ask you to protect each of my little ones, especially Shaina. I don't know all that's going on with her but You do. Watch over her. Show me how to be a blessing to her. Give me the wisdom I need to show her Your love for her.
Nolan Calderon straightened his tie and bent to check his hair in the side mirror as he waited in the parking lot. He promised himself that this would be the final time he would agree to be set up for a blind date. It was only his long term friendship with Ben that had made him give in to Nikki's persistent wheedling. It made him feel foolish, as though at twenty-six he wasn't fully capable of finding a date of his own choosing. He hated the idea of making small talk with someone he felt must be sizing him up as a potential mate. Pushing the annoying feelings aside, he forced himself to think of other things.
He contemplated the good fortune that had landed him a decent job back in Shelby Falls after having worked out of state for several years. He fully appreciated the good life to be had in the small Ohio city that had been his hometown since early childhood. Living within a mile of his father, stepmother, and younger brother and sister was a blessing he never failed to be grateful for. He enjoyed nearly every aspect of his job in the accounting office of Marley Financial Services. Working for the small company gave him the chance to learn more aspects of the business than his former job at a large corporation had allowed. He was providing a much needed service to his clients. It gave him a sense of satisfaction when he knew he was using his God-given talents to help people. In spite of his pep talk Nolan frowned.
Life is never perfect. Just handle it.