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Finding Eden(9)

By:Mia Sheridan



My heart squeezed tightly. I wondered if I was ready for that. I wondered if I'd ever be ready for that. I nodded at Marissa, and smiled at her. "I'll try," I said.

She nodded back at me, offering a small, sad smile.

I tilted my head. "Will you tell me about him?" I asked. I had always wanted to know what made Felix's eyes fill with that far-off sadness he allowed through when he thought no one noticed. I wondered what had happened between him and his children.

Marissa studied me for a minute. "You remind me of her in some ways. Only you have a strength she never did."

"Her?" I asked, meeting her eyes.

Marissa looked out the window, her eyes going misty. "Lillian, Felix's wife."

I tilted my head. I'd seen her picture in the house, but no one had ever talked about her.

She was quiet for several moments and I thought she might not answer. But then, "Felix's parents were immigrants. They ingrained in him a very strong work ethic. Work came first. Supporting your family came first." She paused for a second, obviously remembering. "When he married Lillian, I immediately noticed she was a delicate girl, sweet, but always in need of reassurance. She lit up under Felix's attention. And she dimmed when he wasn't around. And he often . . . wasn't around." She pursed her lips and paused.

"Lillian made it known to Felix she felt ignored, I suppose. I heard their fights, her tears. But, for Felix at the time, work came first. His business was growing, a big success and that's what he nourished. That's what he fed. Lillian withered. So many times, I stood with her as she looked out the window when he'd promised to be home for dinner . . . her birthday, their anniversary. Their children grew, began having their own lives as well and Lillian, her loneliness grew as well. And then the diagnosis came. She had cancer. By the time they found it, she didn't have much time left. Seemingly, she was here one minute and gone the next." She shook her head, tears springing to her eyes.

"Oh no," I whispered. "I didn't know."

"He never talked about it." She turned to me. "The thing is, after that, he changed. Work wasn't his focus as much anymore. He devoted time to his family." She shrugged. "Of course, some things happen too late. His children harbored resentment. They weren't willing to forgive. Felix . . . he never quite forgave himself either." She grasped my hands in hers. "When you came along, he saw it as a second chance to nourish a wounded heart." She shook her head. "Of course, he never said that, but I . . . I saw it. You saved him, too, Eden."

I wiped at a tear that was making its way slowly down my cheek. "He was a good man," I said softly.

Marissa nodded. "Yes." She stared off into space and then breathed out on a small smile. "Isn't it funny how we're all just bouncing around in this crazy world, our own stories, our own hurts, all weaving together, changing outcomes, sometimes good, sometimes bad? Well," she patted my knee, "I'd like to think your story and Felix's story came together for a reason and you each healed a little because of the other."

I nodded. "Yes," I said, trying not to choke up. "I don't know where I'd be without him. I don't know where I'd be without you." I smiled at Marissa and wiped away the last of my tears.

Marissa smiled back warmly at me and then squeezed me tight and stood up. After she'd closed my door behind her, I fell back on the bed thinking of what she had said about our varied stories and how we were always affecting other lives—every moment of every day—whether we meant to or not. I closed my eyes and pictured people walking around trailing bright white light behind, some of those lights meeting, tangling, changing colors as they combined. And even in my mind, it was achingly beautiful.





CHAPTER TWO




Eden



I stood in front of the ornate, black door pulling air into my lungs and letting it out slowly. I was trembling slightly, my fists clenched at my sides. What if Felix was wrong? What if he was right, but she rejects me? What if? I hadn't even told Marissa my plans for that day. I'd taken the bus and walked the rest of the way to the address Felix had left for me. I'd felt like I needed to do this on my own, and if I changed my mind, only I'd know.

I stood there, staring at the brass lion's head knocker, trying to talk myself into using it. It looked intimidating in and of itself, never mind the fact that I was already shaking like a leaf, fear pulsing through my blood. I took a deep breath and used the knocker to rap twice. As I waited, I looked over my shoulder, down the long set of stairs leading to the street. This area of Cincinnati was filled with elegant, older homes, the yards lush, the trees huge and ancient, all with stories to be told. I took another deep breath and tensed my shoulders as I heard footsteps coming toward the door.

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