Courtney stood at the window of her flat, looking out and wondering why her life was so messy. She found out that Quincy had been two-timing her, Astral was downsizing so there was a possibility that she might get laid off and her car was stolen. She had gone into a bad neighborhood to drop off food and other items for a single mother and when she went back to where she had parked her car, it was gone. She had to walk to the subway, praying all the way that nothing happened to her. The next time, she decided to go there, it would be during the day. She reported her car stolen but hadn’t heard anything yet.
She pressed her forehead against the cool window pane and closing her eyes, she asked, “Lord, where are you? Right now I feel as if I’m standing in a tunnel and there’s not light at the end. What am I going to do if I get laid off? How am I going to afford to pay the rent until I find a new job which could take a while? I have to take public transportation now because I don’t have a car. Why are all of these things happening? Is it because I don’t go to church any more? You know why I stopped going. The older folks looked down their noses at me because I was having sex outside of marriage. What about Donald? He was doing the same thing with Deidre but nobody knew. I made the mistake of telling Stella about Quincy and me and then I got a call from a church elder, chastising me. Who was she to judge me? I got tired of the holier than thou attitude and stopped going to church. I think I’m doing just fine staying at home and reading my Bible. I don’t need to go to church to worship you. And even if I decide to go to church again, I wouldn’t go back there. I would find a church where the people aren’t judgmental. Lord, I wish I could restart my life from the time when things started to fall apart. What am I going to do if I lose my job? Lord, please help me to sort things out. Amen.”
Just as she opened her eyes, the doorbell rang. She moved away from the window and went to see who it was. It was Gregory, her next door neighbor. Opening the door, she forced a smile. “Hi,” she greeted him. He looked rather attractive in the white shirt and light blue jeans. He had the most incredible blue eyes.
He smiled. “Hi,” he replied. “I hope I’m not disturbing you.”
She shook her head. “You’re not. Would you like to come in?”
“Thanks.” He stepped in and she closed the door behind him. “I was wondering if you are free this evening.”
She shrugged. “I don’t have any plans.” Except to stay here and continue to wallow in self pity.
“My church is having a benefit concert at seven. It’s for HIV/AIDS awareness.”
She stared at him in surprise. “HIV/AIDS awareness?” she repeated. “Your church doesn’t have a problem addressing something that so many other churches don’t want to deal with?”
“No, we believe that caring for people infected and affected by HIV and AIDS is what it means to love your neighbor. This disease concerns all of us and as Christians we should be doing what we can combat it. And it’s very personal for me. My younger sister died from AIDS which she contracted from a guy she was seeing. She didn’t know that he was infected until it was too late. She was only twenty-five when she died.”
Courtney reached out and touched his arm, her eyes filled with compassion. “Greg, I’m so sorry. One of my cousins died from the disease too. He was a hemophiliac and he got it from contaminated blood. He was fifteen. My aunt never got over his death. Yes, I will come to the concert. Thanks for inviting me. And if there’s anything I can do to help, please let me know.”
He smiled. “Thanks. I’ll pick you up at six.”
She nodded as she opened the door. “See you then.” She closed the door and locked it, leaning against it for a moment. Suddenly, what she had been going through didn’t seem so bad. There were people out there living with HIV and AIDS. Her heart broke whenever she read about babies and children contracting the disease from parents or through blood transfusions. She had always thought of doing something to raise awareness but never got around to it. And lately, she had been preoccupied with her own problems.
As she moved away from the door, she found looking forward to going to the concert. She spent the rest of the morning cleaning her flat, doing laundry and preparing something for dinner. The time went by very quickly and it was five minutes to six when she finished getting ready.
Promptly at six, Gregory went for her and they rode down in the lift. He was wearing a brown jacket, checkered shirt and brown pants. Without thinking, she reached up and fixed the left lapel of his jacket. Their eyes met and held briefly before she looked away, thinking to herself, That was very forward of me but he didn’t seem to mind. She had noticed the way he had looked at her when she opened the door. She was wearing a black blouse and a brocade skirt with low heel slingback shoes. Her hair was pulled back at her nape with a clasp. Even though it was a concert she was attending and not a church service, she still wanted to look presentable. And she could tell from his expression that he approved.
“So, how have you been?” he asked after they pulled out of the parking lot.
“Not so good,” she sighed. “I’ve been going through a tough time. I found out that Quincy was cheating on me so I ended our relationship. My car got stolen and I could lose my job.”
“Wow,” he exclaimed. “When did all of this happen?”
“Well, I found out about Quincy a couple of months ago. Last week I found out that my company is downsizing which means I could lose my job. And it was two weeks ago when my car was stolen. I was asking God why all of these were happening to me and then I begged him to help me.”
“I’m sorry that you’re having such a rough time but God never allows us to deal with more than we can bear. I noticed that I wasn’t seeing your boyfriend around anymore and now I know why. It’s hard when someone you care about betrays your trust. Trust once it’s broken it’s hard to get it back. As far as getting to work, I can give you a lift, if you like. And I hope that you don’t lose your job but if you do, I can help you to find something else.”
She looked at him. “You’re a Godsend,” she told him. “I think you’re the help God sent me. Rather than allowing me to stay home and mope, he sent you to invite me to the concert. And telling you about my problems has helped. I really enjoy talking to you because you are so easy to talk to. I feel really comfortable opening up to you. We’ve been neighbors for about eight years now. I remember when we used to ride the lift together and go jogging together in the park. Afterwards, we would pop into the cafe and have hot chocolates on the way home.”
“Yes,” he said quietly. “All of that changed when Quincy came into your life. I used to watch the two of you together and tried to be happy for you because you had found someone special but deep down inside I was disappointed. I wanted that someone to be me. I prayed to God about it, asking him to remove you from my heart but for some reason, He didn’t answer my prayer. I kept asking Him why He was allowing me to continue to have feelings for a woman who was in love with someone else but all He kept bringing to my mind was this verse from Psalm 27, Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!“
Her heart was racing now. “I didn’t know you felt this way,” she said.
He glanced at her then. “Would it have made a difference if you did?”
She nodded. “Yes. If I had known I wouldn’t have gotten involved with Quincy. I thought you were just being a friendly neighbor.”
“I wanted to be more than a neighbor and a friend. From the moment we met, I was attracted to you but I wasn’t sure that you felt the same way. I wanted to ask you out so many times but I didn’t have the courage. I guess I was afraid of being rejected. And when I saw you with Quincy, I took it as confirmation that you didn’t feel the same way about me.”
“All the time I was with Quincy, I kept thinking how different you and he were. I kept comparing him to you. I found myself wishing that he was more like you.”
“If he weren’t cheating on you, would you still be with him?”
She thought about it for a moment. “I don’t think so,” she said. “It wouldn’t have worked out anyway because I didn’t love him and I was hung up on someone else.”
“If you didn’t love him why were you so upset when you found out about him and the other woman?”
“I guess I was upset because I had invested a lot of time and effort in the relationship. I know it sounds silly but that was my rationale.”
“You said that you were hung up on someone else…”
“Yes, I was hung up on you while I was with Quincy. I felt guilty about it and that’s probably why I was trying so hard to make things work between us.”
“Are you still hung up on me?” he asked, looking at her. They were at a traffic light. His expression was tense as he waited for her answer.
She swallowed hard. “Yes.”
His eyes darkened and he reached for her hand. “Now I know why God didn’t remove you from my heart,” he said huskily. “He knew what was in yours.” He reached over and kissed her.
She kissed him back. Yes, she thought, He knew that my heart belonged to you even when I was with someone else. Thank You, Lord, for showing me that all the bad things that happened to me was not You punishing me but You preparing me for the place where You want me to be and the person You want me to be with.