Rays of light pierced Lily’s apartment window. She stood inside the door, seeing Nathanael’s face in her mind. Dust particles floated in crepuscular beams between the walls. She perceived herself a type of Dickens’ Miss Havisham again—peculiar, unwed, alone, united only to literary characters few of her friends knew. Self-pity tempted her for a moment. Nathanael understood the literary canon, she believed, as did Thomas McDavid. And Lily believed Alice felt herself an intellectual, even literary, but she (Alice) read in accordance with trends. Hence, Lily’s reluctance to read the book on hearing from God Alice had lent her. Lily lived comfortably in Dickens’ Kent, on Bronte’s moors, and within Shakespeare’s kingdoms. At the mention of a character or phrase, her soul quickened at references to Pip, Catherine Earnshaw, or Prince Hamlet.
Naomi, a particular woman at a particular time and place, her hair black as a crow’s wing in Lily’s imagination, would soon gray, after the death of her husband; Ruth, perhaps like Lily, with brown hair, battling to believe God and her mother-in-law, on the rocky, dusty, perilous roads back to Bethlehem. The details mattered to Lily; they mattered, she believed, to God.
Lily became aware of the iPhone in her right palm. Suddenly it vibrated. She could smell Nathanael’s aftershave from where he had handled it, when she raised it to her right ear.
“Are you okay, Miss Rood?”
“Yes. Tim just stepped out and told me you’d left class. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, Donald. Thank you. I just got … upset. I’m embarrassed, really.”
“Did something happen in class?” Donald asked.
“Nothing like that. It was—me. Nothing with Tim or his class. Thank you for calling, Donald. But I’m fine.”
“Will you promise to let me and the church know if you need anything?”
“I will. Thank you, Donald. I’m coming back momentarily anyway.”
“I’ll keep an eye out for you then. Goodbye for now.”
“Goodbye, Donald. Thank you.”
Lily placed her phone in her purse, retrieved her car keys, checked her face in the mirror, and prepared to return to Beulah.