Café Chocolaté

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Chapter XV

Chapter XV – Timothy Teller

Timothy hadn’t expected Adrian to pray aloud. He never would have done so. It never would have occurred to him. It almost made him uncomfortable, but he couldn’t have told why. It shouldn’t have.

I’m a Christian. Why does listening to another Christian talk to the Lord make me uncomfortable outside of church or the dinner table?

Adrian’s prayer didn’t last long. He kept it short and to the point, thanking the Lord for hearing him, asking for wisdom, guidance, and protection. Then, he ended by praying for repentance for the perpetrator, and praising God for Who He is.

A silence followed his prayer. Not awkward, really, but almost questioning. As if several in the room weren’t sure of what they just witnessed and if they were allowed to act normal at the end of it.

“Xavier and I will confer and decide our best course of action.” Adrian seemed to anticipate further questions from Ginger, as he nodded in her direction.

Timothy still shifted under his unease regarding that prayer. Anna coughed, but when he looked at her, she seemed far away in a world of her own.

Kimberly stood with a huff and joined them, dropping a cup of black coffee onto the table with rather more force than necessary. “Just what does he think he is?”

“I’m sorry?” Timothy had no idea to whom Kimberly’s words directed.

She huffed again. “Subjecting us to all that praying. Prayer never did me an ounce of good and I don’t really care to listen to anyone else waste their breath!”

Timothy swallowed, willing himself to speak, but no words came. Kimberly kept going.

“This isn’t the dark reaches of Africa or the lands of the Aborigines. If he wants to be a missionary, he should go someplace else!”

Timothy looked away. Except he literally can’t.

“His prayer didn’t sound meant for us.” Anna moved her arm gently, wincing in pain. “I thought it sounded like a genuine petition and glorification directed to God.”

“If he had no idea of witnessing, as they call it, then he should have left his prayer in his head, Anna. No need to foist it on the rest of us!”

Timothy felt like he ought to have something to say, but he didn’t. He, at least, ought not to agree with the woman, but he nearly felt inclined to. Only, he didn’t know why. The thought bothered him as much as his earlier unease.

Anna hadn’t replied either and her blank expression told little about her thoughts.

Kimberly apparently took their silence as a cue to keep talking, because after a beat or two, she moved to her next subject.

“The way that he and his cousin are coddling that little brat is going to make us all miserable before long. I can’t stand it when people baby a child who ought to be straightened out!”

“She was crying.” Timothy found his voice. “She didn’t scream or throw a fit. She was just crying.”

“Because you’re a father and know the difference?” Kimberly folded her hands around her coffee and leveled her eyes at Timothy.

“No, I’m not. I do have five younger sisters though, so I have a good idea of what little girls are like.”

Kimberly blinked rapidly, as if trying to process this new information. At last, she took a sip of her coffee. “My daughter would never have behaved in such a way.”

“Your daughter would have stuffed down every emotion she had while you were nearby, in fear of your punishment or scolding, and then cried when she found a safe place to do so.” Anna shook her head when Kimberly started to respond. “Maybe that poor child over there found someone who makes her feel safe.”

“Safe?” Kimberly slammed the coffee onto the table. Several other people in the café glanced toward her. “Anna Carpentier, my daughter never looked for a safe place or safe person to cry with in her life!”

“How would you know?” Tears glistened in the bright green eyes. “She never would have told you!”

Timothy wanted to leave the conversation. He felt like an intruder. Kimberly, however, decided to address him next.

“This is what you get.” She looked at him, using the same heartless tone that he had identified earlier. “You do your best all of your life, only to get your work twisted and thrown in your face. And by those who ought to be the first to praise you!”

Timothy had absolutely no idea what to say. He hardly knew what the woman meant.

Anna choked at the last words.

“Very good. Add disrespecting your elders to your list for today, Anna.” Kimberly huffed and picked up her coffee once more. “I should have expected it.”

“I didn’t say anything at all.” Anna squeezed her arm tighter.

“You showed plenty.” Kimberly shook her head at Timothy. “Wouldn’t you agree?”

“I would prefer not to be dragged into a conversation that I know so little about.” Timothy tried to sound respectful, but firm. “I hope that you understand.”

Kimberly shrugged. “Very diplomatic of you, but I can’t say I blame you either.” She jumped to her feet quite suddenly. “I think I’ll go sit alone again. It’s more peaceful and less painful.”

Neither Timothy nor Anna tried to stop her. Timothy almost felt relief as she moved off.

“I assume that you understood far more of what she said than I did.”

Anna nodded, still watching the woman. “She had a gentler side once. It showed at times. I’m not sure it exists anymore.”

“You’ve known her awhile then?”

Anna smiled at him just barely; a truly sad smile. “All of my life.”

“What made her change so much then?”

Anna glanced at Kimberly again. “Her husband died two years ago after a long and terrible illness.” She sighed heavily, the tears glistening again. “A few months ago, she lost her only daughter, as well.”

Timothy looked back toward the gray-haired woman, who had returned to her lonely seat, her coffee held tight between both hands.

“Everyone has a story, Timothy.” Anna waved her hand lightly to indicate the room. “No matter how unpleasant some of them – or even all of them – may be, everyone has a story. It doesn’t excuse them, but when you know their story, you can often understand the person behind it far better.”

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