There's a woman I'm looking for. Perhaps you know where she is. If you do, please help me find her again.
It's been several years since our paths crossed but the moment our eyes met, I was captivated. Her eyes told me she had a story to tell me, a life of adventure and a misadventure or two. I'm drawn toward stories but then you know that. My friends and families choose gifts for me, saying, "It has a story so she'll love it." It is always the story that is more valuable to me than the present.
That's why I have to find this woman. I have to know her story. I cannot escape from the loud whisper of her eyes. It haunts me, even taunts me by relentlessly reminding me, "You have to know. You won't be disappointed."
One evening -- oh I guess it's been five or six years now -- I was asked to dine with a friend at Sea Island's Lodge on the coast of Georgia. It is a magical place of soft lights and a fountain that sits majestically behind live oaks draped heavily with long ropes of moss. It was my first time to visit there. We valet the car and as we entered the two-story high lobby built of rock and dark wood, I saw her. She stopped me in my tracks. I was glued in place, almost swimmy-headed, as Mama liked to say, by the sheer magnetic pull of her allure, her telling eyes and the triumphs and tribulations she was eager to tell me.
My friend, Edward, approached. "Darlin'," he drawled lyrically. "Is something wrong?"
For a second or two, I was speechless, hard as that is to believe. I could only shake my head. Finally, I forced myself to call forth words. I was mesmerized. Or perhaps hypnotized. "It's that woman," I whispered, pointing toward the enormous, life-sized portrait of a handsome woman somewhere in her 30s, I suppose, clothed in a diaphanous white dress. The style led me to believe that the portrait had been painted in the early part of the twentieth century, perhaps in the 1920s or '30s.
He glanced up. "Oh, I know. She's lovely, isn't she? Come. We mustn't be late."
I couldn't move. I tried to decipher what she was telling me because her eyes screamed, "No! You can't leave yet. There's so much I have to tell you."
Finally, Edward tugged and pulled me away but later that night as he waited for the car, I hung behind in the lobby. Timidly, I approached. "What's your story?" I whispered. "You must tell me."
From then on, for the next few years, I jumped at every invitation to the Lodge, even finagling some, just to see her. With every opportunity, I would sit down on the settee facing the portrait and, in childlike wonder, stare. I suppose I thought that sooner or louder, she would speak. But never she did.
I asked employees, "Who is she? Where did this painting come from?" But no one could answer. I was desperate to know. Then, one day a couple of years ago, I went racing into the lobby to see my friend and she was gone. Vanished. Disappeared. Like the vapor that life is. I stopped suddenly, crestfallen. Tears filled my eyes. The beautiful, mahogany paneled wood was bare. Empty of her grace and beauty. It still is.
"Where, where is the portrait that was there?" I asked frantically to a Lodge employee as he crossed the lobby.
He smiled. "I don't know. They took it down a month or so ago." I've asked everywhere and no one knows.
If you know where she is, please tell her that I'm looking for her. She'll understand. She knows she has so much to tell me.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of "There's A Better Day A-Comin'." Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her weekly newsletter.