Her wedding ring had grown loose since the funeral. Tracey slipped it off and read the inscription: Our love—Without end. A tear crept down her face. She dabbed her eyes and popped the ring into her purse.
Circling the rim of her glass like Jay used to do, she remembered: ‘A circle: no beginning and no end, just like our love.’ She missed these things. She’d met Jay years before at this same place and loved the memories it held.
It was hard to bounce back after Jay’s horrific death. Her friends encouraged her to date again, but she wasn’t sure. She’d never find another like Jay Hendricks. To keep memories alive, she drew two invisible intersecting circles on the table. His fascination with circles caused him to see the eternal in everything. Memories at ‘their’ table were therapy for her soul. “Our love is still forever,” she whispered, unaware of a man who watched every move.“I’ll never forget.”
Jeremy Kirkland watched the attractive 30-something blonde trace something on the table. She looked sad and it made him wonder why. He rubbed the incision on his chest. She’s not the only one who’s alone, he thought.
“Learn a sport to strengthen your heart,” his surgeon advised.
Tennis intrigued him, but why? His game was bad, and he needed a coffee. Spotting the little restaurant, he felt drawn in.
The next weekend, he stopped again and was delighted to see ‘her’ at the restaurant again. Of slender build with curves in all the right places, there was something about her he couldn’t put a finger on. Jeremy watched her follow the ritual with the circles. He inhaled deeply of her perfume as she passed him. Something familiar about that fragrance…
“Six months since Jay died,” Tracey said to her reflection in the mirror. “Am I being silly to go back?” Collapsing on the bed in tears, she thought she’d never find love again. No one like her Jay. He’d wanted to donate his organs, but it was hard when the doctors asked. She finally agreed – with reluctance.
Convinced she wouldn’t show the next weekend, Jeremy stood to leave when he saw her come in. His heart skipped a beat. Rosy cheeks complemented her snug red cashmere sweater. Skinny jeans accentuated every curve. Her perky appearance aroused him. Nervous, Jeremy approached her table. “Hi. Expecting anyone?”
Surprised, she looked up at the handsome physique standing before her.
“Ah…just…me,” she stumbled.
“May I join you?”
Clearing her throat, she stammered, “Sure…I’m Tracey Ross.” Why did I give my maiden name?
“Jeremy Kirkland. Found this place after playing tennis…to help my heart.” He drew a circle on his chest. “Doctor’s orders. Hardly know the game.” His laugh was deep, melodious to her ears. “Seemed right, somehow.”
Tracey gasped. The circle – like Jay would do. A sign? “Jay and I used to play tennis all the time.”
“My husband, James.”
“Oh. Sorry. I thought you were single.” Embarrassed, Jeremy rose.
“Please. Stay.” Tracey reached for Jeremy’s hand, tears forming in her eyes.
Her touch was like silk. Concerned with her tears, he sat down and put his hand tenderly over hers. “What’s wrong, Tracy? Did you and Jay break apart?”
“Jay died.” Her voice caught on a sob. “We came here every weekend… so I…still do…to remember. Sorry. Still emotional…but I’m trying to move on.”
“I’m so sorry, but don’t worry. You’ll move on— in time. My new heart needs time, too.”
“More coffee? Or do you want lunch?” asked the waitress after a sixth refill.
They laughed. They had talked the morning away. “Let’s order lunch,” Tracey said. It’s good to talk to someone again.”
“Me, too,” Jeremy nodded.
“Jeremy, I feel like I already know you!” she giggled as they left.
Jeremy interlocked his index fingers and thumbs into a circle. “Me too, Tracey Ross. Next Saturday?”
Tracey’s heart fluttered. Another familiar symbol. “How about a tennis game? I’ll give you some pointers.”
Saturdays became everyday calls, and then more. Tracey swore she was with Jay.
“You’re a part of my heart, Trace,” Jeremy said one day as he drew the circle on his chest.
It was as if Jay nudged her – that was ‘his’ nickname for her. “Part of your ‘new’ heart, Jer?”
He nodded. “The old ticker was too damaged. Lucky to have another heart available after my accident.” He wrapped her in a warm embrace. “I like this new life that came with it.”
She snuggled in his arms. “When?” she dared to ask.
“…about eight months ago. A head-on collision in a bad storm. Unavoidable. Didn’t see the other guy coming….”
Tracey’s breath caught. Could it be? “Did you know your donor?”
“James Hendricks, I believe,” said Jeremy. “Ironic. He was the driver of the other car. Why?”
Tracey choked. Her voice became husky, “Because you have my husband’s heart. My married name was Tracey Hendricks.”