LOVE FINDS YOU IN HUMBLE, TEXAS
Trudie Abernathy always wondered about two things. First, how was
it that some people could live charmed lives while others accumulated
troubles like those beetles that spent their time rolling up balls of dung?
And secondly, how could one person fall in love as effortlessly as a
sneeze, while another hobbled along on love as if it were a twisted ankle?
I am the dung beetle. Trudie smiled over at her sister, who sat across
from her in the limo. Lane Abernathy, her sister, was the one who lived the
breezy life. Lane was an image coach and always had a string of rich and
handsome boyfriends while Trudie had never known the joys of having a
steady anything—she was single, not-so-sexy, and somewhat sweaty.
Lane looked out the tinted window as she chatted about some new
dress shop in town. Even though Trudie felt close to her sister, they
invariably looked at life through different ends of the kaleidoscope. Lane
always saw the pretty rainbow designs—the ever-changing wonder of
being alive—while Trudie was busy turning the little contraption around
to prove the whole thing was just an illusion created out of broken glass. Yeah, that’s so me.
Lane fidgeted with her bridal pink suit—a color so fragile it looked
breakable—while Trudie concerned herself with the impracticality of
renting a limo. “I know it’s my birthday, but you really didn’t have to
go to all this trouble. And you picked the priciest restaurant in town.”
Trudie ran her fingers along the butter-cream leather on the seat,
thinking it looked good enough to melt over a bacon burger.
“But it’s your favorite, and I can afford it.” Lane got up and sat next
to her sister. “Come on now. It’s not just any birthday. It’s your thirtieth. And this year I’ve decided your gift will be a total makeover. All my
sessions for free.”
“Lane, that’s way too much.”
“No arguments. The works.”
Trudie crossed her arms over her poly-blend maroon checkered
jacket—a real find she’d managed to snatch up at a garage sale for fifty
cents. Trudie rubbed elbows with her sister like she’d done in school.
“Remember what our English teacher said about us? There’s a certain
beauty in being ugly.”
“I remember well.” Lane raised a shoulder. “We showed Mr.
Belvedere, didn’t we?”
“You showed Mr. Belvedere. If he could just see you now…all slender
and blonde and graceful.”
“Come on now, don’t be so hard on yourself.” Lane puckered her
brow. “You just need a little polish.”
“A little polish? I’d need a whole spa crew working around the clock.”
“You can be so negative.” Lane handed Trudie a mirror out of her
Prada bag. “Just look at yourself and witness all the possibilities.”
Trudie groaned. “Mirrors.” What was it she hated about mirrors? Let me count the ways. Reluctantly, she looked into the glass at her
somewhat straggly blonde hair, thinnish face, and pale skin. She was no
longer sure what potential should look like. Hmm. Mirrors. They were
like clocks—a reminder of time. Trudie didn’t mind about the fine lines
gathering around her blue eyes or her ivory plainness, but she did mind
very much about the time. Each person would only be allotted so much
of it. And now at thirty, the burning question was—had she fallen into
the rhythm of her life yet? Was she using up the minutes and the decades
wisely? “I don’t think so.”
“What did you say?” Lane shook her head. “You’re always
Trudie handed the mirror back to her sister. Shame on Lane. She
was going to force her to be dissatisfied with her appearance and make her
want to improve. “But you enjoy preening. For me, it’s a waste of time.”
Lane tugged on her sleeve while donning her puppy dog eyes. “You’ll
never guess what I did. I brought the tiara. It’s in my purse. Why don’t
you take it home and wear it?”
Like the contents of a cistern suddenly being stirred, things
unnamed deep inside rose to the surface. “I’m too old to wear that thing.
Thanks, though.” Mist stung Trudie’s eyes, but she shook off the emotion.
“Listen, I don’t mean to downplay what you do as an image coach. You’ve
helped a lot of people succeed in what they do. But wouldn’t it be better
for me to find a man who loves me this way than to remake myself
into something I’m not? I mean he might wake up the day after our
honeymoon and ask for a refund.”
“But you won’t be somebody different. You’ll be Trudie à la mode.”
She grinned, shaking her head at her sister. Then Trudie leaned
back, determined to enjoy the ride—something she had trouble doing
in a limo and in life. The jazzy velvet luxury of their cocoon felt nice
compared to her back0ring jalopy that had so many odd parts it could
no longer claim a brand name. “Sometimes I think I was born on the
“That’s what you always say when you’re wrong and I’m right. Or
you want to change the subject. Come on now, give me a chance to help
It was always hard to say no to Lane. “Let me think about it.”
Even though her logic was sometimes defective, there was something
irresistible about it too.
“Well, here’s my first tip. A little peachy lip gloss will light up the face
instantly.” Lane handed her a pink wand. “Try it. I bought it just for you.”
Trudie swiped some of the slippery goop on her lips. She knew it
was supposed to be silky and exotic, but why did it smell like dirty house
“By the way, I hope it’s okay, but my 0nancial advisor is meeting us
for lunch. You remember me mentioning Mason Wimberley. I went out
with him some months ago. He’s a 0ne Christian man, and I think—”
“Yes, I remember you talking about him.” Trudie lifted her hand.
“But please tell me this isn’t a blind date.”
Lane pinked darker than her pumps.
“Oy. A blind date.” Trudie rolled her eyes. Lane never could hide
a secret from her.
“It was Mason’s idea. You know, after I told him all about you.”
“You either lied your head off about me, or he has issues you never
told me about…like he uses one of those plastic toothpicks out of an
army knife or his hair has all migrated from his head to his ears.” Trudie
raised a big sister eyebrow.
Lane gave her a gentle slug on the arm. “None of the above.”
“Then why did you stop dating him?”
“Oh, I just thought it seemed like a conflict to date my financial
advisor.” Her sister shrugged. “Kind of like dating your gynecologist.”
Trudie laughed. “Well, not quite like that.”
Lane chuckled and then stared at her sister long enough to catch her
gaze. “I think it’s time for your dreams to come true, Trudie.”
See what I mean? As smart as Lane was, she was living proof that
women who wore too much pink lost 20 percent of their reasoning
abilities. !at was how the male sex always got the edge in business. They
don’t wear pink! “Life’s not a fairy tale, Lane. It’s really just a cruel allegory
with demented little gnomes who want to turn our happy coaches of
merriment into pumpkin puree.”
Lane pulled back, gaping at Trudie. “Where did you come up with that?”
Trudie blinked. “I have no idea.”
“You used to say stuff like that all the time when we were kids.”
“I guess I did.” Trudie dug her 0ngernail into the dimple on her
chin. “But you know, life really isn’t a bedtime story or a fun comic book.
Those dreams you were talking about…they’re gone.”
Lane smoothed her already wrinkle-free skirt. “Remember on the
farm when we’d climb up on the barn roof at night? We’d stare up at the
stars as we talked about what we were going to do with our lives?”
Trudie looked at her sister. “Yeah, I do. I remember.” Perhaps she could
remember too well. She suddenly felt itchy and hot in her maroon jacket.
“Why don’t we talk about something else.”
“I followed my dream, and I never gave up. I think that last part is
She guessed that Lane wasn’t going to give up easily. Trudie looked
out the window at the pregnant blush of summer—like spring, it was
another season for optimists—and the two seasons she could never seem
to catch up with. “Yes, you did make it, but God has been smiling down
on you since the first day you showed your face.”
“He’s smiling on you too.”
Trudie patted her sister’s hand. Perhaps He had once.
“You know, over the years you’ve done a lot of good at the children’s
hospital. Don’t you think those kids would want you to do something
Lane must feel desperate since she was playing the emotional card.
“Okay. We’ll see.” Trudie cleared her throat. “So, is this Mason guy even
a little bit handsome?”
Lane cocked her head as a smidgen of smugness lit her smile. “He
dresses well, and he looks like Superman.”
“Oh, really?” She couldn’t imagine why her sister would give up
Superman. Nobody would. Unless, of course, you were Lex Luthor’s
girlfriend. Trudie chuckled to herself. Then she lifted her foot and
noticed a wad of green gum stuck to her shoe. She tried wiping it off
without making a scene, but it persisted in becoming one with her sole.
Oh, well. What could she say? Life was sticky.
The limo finished winding its way through the tree-lined streets and
came to an elegant stop in front of Gaston’s Bistro on Staitti Street.
Lane ran her tongue over her teeth and fluffed her hair. “Well, it’s
“Who’s that man coming toward us?” Trudie ignored the chewing
gum and instead scrubbed the perspiration off her hands.
“Oh, that’s Mason. I guess he decided to come meet us out here.
That’s very sweet.” Lane waved even though no one could see them
through the tinted glass.
Before the chauffeur could get to their side, the well-dressed man
called Mason opened the limo door for them. He held out his hand to
Trudie, and she followed his arm all the way up to his face. Nice. She was
so moved by his asymmetrical but compelling smile that her feet seemed
to forget how to hold up her body. She bumbled outward as her mouth
released a yelp that sounded remarkably like a newborn coyote. But the
highlight of Trudie’s descent into mortification was her hulking fall into
the waiting arms of the man who really did look just like Superman.
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