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The Prayer Seeker

wanted to. Neither was he entirely sure it was his place to enquire now, but he felt honour
bound to ask the question.
When she nodded, he could see in her eyes she was telling the truth.
“Yes,” she said. “Everything’s fine with Peter. He even knows I’ve come to see you.
His cousin doesn’t live too far from here so I dropped him off before arriving. I’ll pick
him up later. I didn’t think it would be wise to bring him.”
Michael could quite understand that. He didn’t know what the etiquette might be for
meeting his ex-wife’s new boyfriend, and he didn’t suppose it was something he’d find
the answer to in the bible or in his new routine of prayer either. It was true what he’d
always suspected; God did throw a spanner into the works every now and again.
He made a decision. “Come on, let’s go for a walk.”
Outside the air was clear though there weren’t that many people around, he assumed
because of the season. In companionable silence, he led Clare towards the end of his cul-
de-sac where the local woods began. S he slipped her hand inside his arm and the gesture
startled him for a moment before he found his stride again.
As they walked, Michael could hear the odd blackbird disturbed in the undergrowth
and the occasional distant barking of a dog. Being outside like this made him feel freer
somehow, free of past expectations, of how he should act with his ex-wife, and free to
make a new beginning, however small.
“So,” he said. “Why were you upset? What’s worrying you?”
Clare half-laughed and wiped her eyes. “You’ll laugh when I tell you.”
“No, I won’t.”
She gave him a quizzical glance. “No, perhaps you won’t. In all honesty, I think a
part of me is jealous.”
“Jealous?” Michael stumbled at a turn in the path. “Whatever for?”
“I said there was something different about you,” Clare replied. “And I was right.
When I heard about your decision to take time out, for whatever reason, I was angry. I’d
love to step away from my job and do something different with my life, but the time’s
never right or the finances aren’t quite what they ought to be. It seems a distant dream to
me, and I couldn’t believe you’ve done it.”
She stopped for a moment and looked at him again before continuing. “Have I
always been that competitive, do you think?”
Remembering back to the history of their lives together, how it had begun and how it
had ended, Michael couldn’t help but tell the truth.
“Yes, I think so, but it didn’t matter. You were always the most exciting person I
ever knew.” She laughed as he continued, “The trouble was we were also very different,
weren’t we? You wanted to advance your career, make it to the top if you could, and I
wanted to be left alone with my own measure of peace. Really, it’s a miracle you put up
with me for so long.”
At that she shook his arm and frowned. “I could say the same about you too.”
“Perhaps.” They came to the clearing in the wood Michael had been heading for and
sat down on the bench that faced the small valley. In the distance, a lone car made its way
slowly along the bypass. There would be more but the trees hid them from view. “But
what I want to say is that there’s no need to envy me because I’ve made a choice about
my life I’ve wanted to make for some time. You see, in making that choice I’ve had to
turn away from other things that might have been equa lly important, or more important,