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Unjust Suspicions

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Unjust Suspicions
by
Caseytlk

     

Chapter Fourteen

The days drifted into weeks and the weeks into months and gradually everybody gave up the search for Sheridan. Everybody, that is, except Luis. Not a day went by that he didn't spend hours on the computer and telephone, trying every possible thing he could think of to find her. He was a man obsessed and people were really starting to worry about him. His job, his home life, his health... they were all suffering because of his urgent need to find her. He wasn't sleeping much and he was only eating when someone reminded him and put food in front of him. He looked pale and his face was starting to get thin. Everytime he walked into a room now people stopped talking and stared. He was miserable and it showed.

Sheridan had promised in her note that she would let Ethan know she was alright, and from time to time the Harmony Herald printed a personal ad from her. The ads were mailed into the paper, along with payment, from post offices all over the United States and as of yet they'd been untraceable. The ads were very simple... saying only that Sheridan was well, and nobody should worry. Well, everyone did worry, but they all resigned themselves to the fact that she might never be found. Luis scanned the paper daily and collected the ads in a little stack on his dresser.

Luis looked through the morning paper... pretending for Mama and Theresa's sake to be reading it. In reality he was just making an effort to appear normal, when he really wanted to flip directly to the personal section. It was time for another ad any day now. Then Mama went off to work and Theresa left the room to phone Whitney and he turned to the ad section. There it was, at the bottom of the second column...

Dear Ethan,
I am well and, as usual I miss you terribly. Give my love to those who care...
Sheridan

As usual there were no hints or clues to her whereabouts and Luis had long since given up harassing the people at the Herald for information. They had promised that if any of the ads ever came from the same place twice they would contact Luis. Not that it would matter... Luis knew that Sheridan would never be foolish enough to send the ad from anyplace she actually was. Luis sighed and went to find the laptop. He brought it into the kitchen and plugged it into the phone jack, going online. Every day he did this... and he pulled up the list of papers he'd sent his ad to. Chicago... he hadn't sent one there yet. He sent the ad and his credit card number to the Chicago Tribune and signed off. He closed the laptop and leaned back in his chair. It had to work... one day she would see his ad. He just hoped that she would respond to it instead of crumpling it up into a ball and setting fire to it.

Thousands of miles away, just outside of Seattle, in the town of Port Orchard, Angela Baker was starting her day. She'd intended to stay in the city, but now after living in the small town for a couple months she was so glad she'd changed her mind. She climbed out of bed and gathered up the little cat that was winding its way around her legs. "Good morning Snowy." She nuzzled the white cats fur. The name wasn't very imaginative, but as a child she'd always wanted a white cat to name Snowball. Now she had one. She set the cat on the floor and wandered through her rambling house to the kitchen where her coffee was already waiting in the machine. She poured her coffee and stepped out onto the patio to drink it. Snowy followed her out and skittered down the steps to chase a butterfly in the garden. Angela smiled as she watched her pet's antics.

She used the time on the patio to reflect on her life. She had this lovely house and garden, her pet, many new friends and a job she enjoyed in the towns library. She was happy... wasn't she? Most times she would answer yes, if asked that question, but in the morning on her patio and late at night in bed the answers would be different.

She missed Harmony. She hadn't lived there all that long, but it was home to her and she missed it. She missed Ethan, Pilar, Gwen, Ivy... and even Julian a little. But most of all she missed Luis. She missed him day and night, and even here, so far away, everything reminded her of him. She no longer ate ice cream or listened to tango music. She couldn't pass a pool hall or a pub without thinking of him. The very mention of the cities of Boston, Paris and Santa Fe brought tears to her eyes.

To the town of Port Orchard she was Angela Baker...a happy, friendly, slightly secretive woman that everybody liked. Inside she was still Sheridan Crane... sad, lonely and afraid that she'd never be normal. She'd been sure that once she was somewhere where nobody knew her she would be happy. What a joke! Granted, she wasn't quite as miserable as she'd been in Harmony, but it wasn't much better.

A soft thud from the front of the house stirred her from her reflections and she drained her coffee mug and went back in the house. The thud, she knew from experience, was the Seattle Times hitting the front door as the papergirl flung it onto the porch. Angela read the paper cover to cover every morning before she went in to the library. It was a habit she'd gotten into while working at the Youth Center with Luis. He always read the Harmony Herald in its entirety each day and she'd often sat in the office with him reading the sections as he finished them.

This morning Angela wondered what Luis was doing. Of course it was late morning in Harmony, so he would be long done with the paper. He was probably at the station, joking with the other officers and scarfing down coffee and donuts. One thing was for sure... he wasn't thinking about her. She had no doubt that Sheridan Crane was pretty much a distant memory in Harmony. Probably the only person who even thought of her at all was Ethan. Luis was probably living with Beth by now. Beth would be about five or six months pregnant, and getting big. Getting big with Luis' baby.... Angela mentally berated herself and wiped a lone tear from her eye. "Stop it! You've got to get over him! He belongs to Beth now... actually he always did." She thought about the woman she worked with at the library, Kelly. Kelly had a brother that she wanted Angela to meet. Up until now she'd managed to convince Kelly that she wasn't interested in dating, but perhaps it was time. She knew she'd never forget Luis or stop loving him, but maybe this man could help ease her pain a little.

Three days later Angela sat across the table from Chris Rathborne. He was good looking, and well dressed. He was witty and charming and polite. He was attentive to her and he didn't spend the evening talking about himself. All of these traits combined to make him the perfect date. So why was she miserable? She smiled at his jokes and listened as he told her about his job and family, but inside she was counting the seconds until she could feasibly ask him to take her home.

Angela felt bad, because Chris really was a great guy and she should've been having a wonderful time with him. She just couldn't stop comparing the man to Luis in her mind. The guy didn't even have a chance... he couldn't live up to Luis in any way. The only thing he might have beaten Luis in was loyalty, but she wouldn't know him long enough to find out about that. Ten minutes into the date she decided it was their first and last date.

Chris was simply too nice a guy for her to string along while she pretended that she was ever going to get over Luis. Angela would not be dating anybody again. She would spend her days at the library, smiling at the patrons and reading to pre-schoolers and she'd spend her evenings and nights at home, reading with her cat.

It wasn't a bad life...

chapter 15

       
     

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