Hands reached out to steady her then immediately pulled back, but not before Tia caught the look of distress on Adam Guthry’s face.
“Oh!” Tia reached up to straighten her hat as Toby tugged on her sleeve. She looked down at him while he stared at Adam.
“Mama, that’s the mad-sad man.” His whisper carried loudly through the still morning air.
Adam raised a questioning eyebrow as he glared at Tia. “Mad-sad man?”
Embarrassed by her son’s words and unsettled by Adam’s proximity, she released a nervous laugh. “Toby noticed you at the service yesterday and asked if I knew the mad-sad man.”
Much to her surprise, Adam hunkered down and removed his glove. He held out his hand to her son. “Toby, is it?”
The little boy tugged off a mitten and shook his hand, clearly pleased the big man offered it to him.
“It’s nice to meet you, Toby. My name is Adam. I used to live here and knew your mama back then.”
“You did?” Toby’s voice held a hint of curiosity while his eyes widened with interest. “Did you know Mr. Carl?”
Adam nodded his head. “I sure did. He was my very best friend. I’m sad that he’s gone.”
Toby took a step forward and placed his small hand on Adam’s shoulder, patting it gently. “It’s okay. Mama and I are sad he’s gone, too. Maybe he and my father will meet each other in heaven. Do you think they’ll remember me?”
“I’m sure of it.” Adam smiled at the child, unable to resist his innocent, tender spirit. “What are you and your mama doing out on such a cold frosty morning.”
“Mama has to run errands,” Toby said, then leaned closer to Adam. “That means she’s going to visit Miss Abby, go to the post office, and the mercantile. I like to go to the mercantile but sometimes Miss Abby lets me stay to play with Erin.”
“Is that right?” Adam asked as he helped Toby put on his mitten and pulled his own glove back on his hand. “Well, I best let you get on your way. It was nice to meet you, Toby.”
Toby smiled broadly and yanked on his mother’s hand again. “Come on, Mama. I want to see if Erin’s in the store.”
“You run on ahead, baby. I’ll be there in just a moment,” Tia said, watching as Toby skipped partway down the block and opened the door to Abby Dodd’s dress shop. She turned her gaze to Adam, taking in the sadness around his eyes and the disappointment bracketing his mouth. “I’m truly sorry about Carl, Adam. I’m sorry about… when I left…” Her voice caught and she found it impossible to speak.
“Just forget about it, Tia. If you think I’ve spent all this time missing you, what might have been, you’re kidding yourself. I left you and all those memories behind a long time ago. You don’t mean a thing to me.”