Loneliness lasts. It never completely goes away. It is the one emotion that seems to make its way into the hearts of almost every man and woman sometime during a lifetime. Sure, it can be masked. Other people and interests partially fill the void, but now and then loneliness seems to find its way back when least expected.
Claire Paletta knew all about loneliness, and for some reason, it had just dawned on her that an anniversary was approaching, an anniversary she would just as soon forget. Aug. 4, 1998, would mark one year to the day since Claire moved to Lennox Valley to be with her soulmate, Chris Rhodehouse. And as soulmates often do, Chris soon left her to be with his soulmate, a younger woman he met while attending a national leadership conference for book dealers in Des Moines, Iowa.
Claire was no stranger to loneliness. Married at 21, she found herself 32 and single with no children 11 years later. In the 12 years since the divorce, Claire had tried dating a few times. This was before computer dating became the rage, and it was a little harder to find potential suitors.
At one point, she thought she had found the one. That all changed when she learned the one she was so sure about had secretly planned a romantic cruise for two to Hawaii, and she wasn’t invited. To make matters worse, she found about the trip on her own, four days before the happy couple set sail on Hawaiian Cruise Line’s ship, appropriately named Independence.
Claire thought she would never get over the experience, but time is a funny thing. As William Shakespeare once wrote, "Better three hours too soon than a minute too late."
Eventually, she chalked up what she later called "the Hawaii event" to experience, thankful that she found out before it was too late and she was married to a man who might secretly take other women on ocean voyages.
A year later, she met Chris Rhodehouse. Blond and blue-eyed with a big smile, he looked the part of a future soulmate. They met, interestingly enough, at a personal growth conference in Nashville, Tennessee. Claire was there to hear her favorite self-help guru speak on "Attracting the Positive and Deflecting the Negative." Chris was working at a vendor’s booth, selling copies of the speaker’s latest book to excited buyers.
Fresh from a session titled "Finding Your Soulmate," Claire stood five-deep in line, waiting for her turn to buy a copy of "Colossal Steps." She felt sure she would return two hours later when, for $10, she would meet the author as he signed her just-purchased copy.
Little did she know that less than a year later, she would be packing almost everything she owned and moving to a small town three states away to be with her real soulmate. After all those years, Chris was worth the wait, or so she thought.
Claire sat in her living room, shades partially pulled so the room was a bit dark, listening to her favorite singer from her teen years:
There’s something in my eyes, you
know it happens every time
I think about a love that I thought
would save me.
While Claire thought about the past, Iris Long was busy finalizing the pages for the next day’s edition of Hometown News. After writing and rewriting the headline more than a dozen times, Iris finally settled on, "Cooper lays an egg following price fiasco."
On the Opinion page, Iris penned an 800-word editorial titled, "Is There Anyone Out There?" In paragraph three, she wrote, "Surely there is someone worthy of leading our Valley into the future without lies, tricks and deceit."
She added that Dick Bland was a "fine man," but would have a hard time defeating Cooper.
She reminded the voters it wasn’t too late. The statute for mayoral elections allowed candidates to place their names on the ballot as late as 21 days before the election. That meant there were two days before the deadline.
"The qualifications are as follows: At least 28 years of age, no felony convictions, and a resident of Lennox Valley for 12 months."
Each week, "The Good Folks of Lennox Valley" chronicles the happenings of a fictional American small town.