Harper felt someone slip into the chair beside her. She didn’t open her eyes, though, until she felt a hand pat her knee softly. When she looked up, she was surprised to see Ava. She felt herself immediately stiffen. Typically, Ava announced her presence with perfume that wafted before and after. Her flamboyance in aroma and dress was only outshone by her attention-grabbing flounces and pronouncements, demanding the attention of the room. But this Ava wore a simple peasant top with a pair of jeans and sneakers. Her makeup and hair were the most understated that Harper could ever remember Ava having worn. When Blaise announced a short break for people to greet one another, Ava turned to Harper and smiled. “I was hoping I’d see you here tonight. How have you been?”
“I’ve been okay, How about you? I haven’t seen you in a while.”
“I’m sure you haven’t missed me that much.” Ava not so much smiled but grimaced.
Harper hesitated, feeling uncomfortable. “No, it’s just that . . .”
“It’s fine really. I’ve been going through a lot, actually; and if I were you, I would have been avoiding me, too.” Harper would have liked to contradict her, but if she was candid, she would have had to say that not having her around had been a huge relief. But she didn’t want to say that.
Since the picture of Ava and her ex had fallen from Harper’s shelf, she had kept it as a marker in her Bible to remind her to pray. The weird dream had also been a part of that compulsion to pray; but honestly, it was difficult since Ava had, more times than not, been the proverbial thorn in Harper’s side. She prayed because she felt she had to rather than out of sincere desire.
“Are you still going to The Gathering Place for the Faithful? If that’s what they’re still calling it.” Harper steered the conversation in another direction.
“They’ve shortened it to The Gathering in the bulletins, but the sign still has the long name. I’ve been going off and on—actually, mostly off. I’ve been meeting with the group here since Christmas. There are some good folks at the church, don’t get me wrong; but I have too much history there. And since you aren’t there, well . . . Anyways, I meet with a couple of ladies for coffee now and then; but for the most part, I go here. I’ve needed a fresh start, of sorts.”
Blaise walked to the front and prepared to give his message, so Ava and Harper stopped their conversation. Ava leaned in and whispered, “Could we get together soon and talk? I’d like to let you know what’s been going on with me and hear about you. And Blaise.”
Harper felt her face blush, but she mouthed, “Of course. And there’s nothing going . . .” Ava smiled and raised her fingers to her lips. Harper swallowed her words and turned to the front. Part of her wanted to find an excuse to maintain safe distance, but her curiosity was peaked and exceeded her conflicting feelings toward her old friend that would have put her in avoidance mode.
They both bowed their heads as Blaise prayed for the message.