‘No problem Jane, I’m just going to relax before I get on the computer this afternoon.’ Michael worked in advertising from home. He seldom had to go into the office except for Tuesdays when there was a board meeting. He sat in his pajamas sipping coffee as Jane got ready and gave him a quick peck on the cheek before dashing out to her car.
Jane went off to work and came home per usual. She opened the door expecting to hear Michael on the computer. He was not home so Jane got busy with her surprise roast dinner. She became involved in preparing a special night for a Wednesday. The radio played soft music as she peeled potatoes and carrots.
Their little two bedroom apartment was decorated by Jane. Michael didn’t seem to mind the frilly curtains of white or the red flowered front room furniture with doilies. One wall was painted red and the other walls of the living room were left beige. Dainty lamps graced the marble topped end tables.
The kitchen was small and cozy. A kitchenette really, that opened to a small dining area. The sliding glass doors off the dining room gave extra light. Jane had gone shopping with Michael and found some beautiful artwork that hung on a wall in the dining area.
Jane had stopped by the bakery on her way home and bought a chocolate cake for dessert. ‘Michael will be so surprised.’
They had been so busy with their jobs over the past few months that they hardly had time for each other. Jane was trying to do something to show her love for Michael.
Jane looked over the dinner table with a critical eye. The candles were lit. Mom’s lace tablecloth lay beneath red satin placemats with white linen napkins. The china gleamed and the silverware was polished to the point that you could see yourself in the reflection of the knives. Just one more hour and Michael would be at the door.
It was just an ordinary week night but Jane wanted to make it special. No reason at all except she loved Michael. They had been living together for over two years. Her mother was a Christian and frowned on the idea but did not shun her. She did tell her what she thought though.
The rant never changed so Jane had closed her ears off to it all. She was happy and that is all that mattered. Suddenly she heard the mailman and went out to get the mail.
The cool autumn breeze blew up her jacket as she walked to the mailbox. Old Edgar was waving from the mail truck as he pulled out.
Jane opened the box and took out a single white manila envelope. It had her name on it and she would have recognized the writing anywhere. ‘Why Michael! You are so romantic!’ She said as she walked inside with the envelope.
She sat down after checking her roast. ‘Dearest Jane’ she read. ‘By the time you get this letter I will be flying across the Atlantic. There is no easy way to say this and I wanted to avoid a scene. Things just aren’t happening for me in this relationship….’ Jane’s mouth flew open as she read how Michael had decided to take a job in Italy. He left no address. ‘I hate to break this to you like this. I really do. But, I’ve been seeing someone. She is with me now. Take care and don’t hate me too much.’
Jane became silent and then suddenly she jumped up and ran to the bedroom. Michael’s side of the closet was completely empty. His laptop was gone as well. He had left the pictures and furniture and the few gifts she had given him for the past Christmases.
His toiletries in the bathroom were cleaned out as well.
Jane sat on the bed and reopened the letter with shaky hands. Tears began to form as she read. The words became blurry. She tried to think of a reason for this. ‘He must have been planning this for a long time. Why? What am I lacking?’
Jane stood up and looked in the mirror. She was average height and not skinny or fat. Her hair was neatly combed and in style. She cooked and cleaned the apartment. She did the laundry. She did everything any normal wife would do.
She was committed to this relationship. They shared the bills. They gave each other space to see their family and friends. Jane never begrudged him time at the sport’s lounge with his friends. She seldom asked where he was going. Wasn’t she the perfect girlfriend?
Jane was shaking and sobbing by the time she walked back to the kitchen. She wouldn’t call her mother just to hear ‘I told you so’. She put away the dishes and candles and turned off the roast. When everything was cleared away, she made herself some hot chocolate and sat in the living room.
‘Somehow, I just wasn’t good enough.’ She said out loud. Her soft overstuffed couch and her cat Thimble were the only ones who heard her.
She sat in the living room until three a.m. and woke up on the couch when the telephone rang.
‘Jane, your late for work. Are you all right?’ Mr. Jameson was her boss at the insurance company. ‘
“What?’ Jane tried to wake up. ‘Oh, no! Well, I think I better stay home. I’m not feeling well…I don’t know…’ she stammered.
Jane didn’t know what she said to her boss but as she hung up the phone she knew she was staying home. She turned on the television and that’s when she heard the news.
‘A jet has crashed over the Altantic , there were no survivors’ Jane sat in silence and then grabbed the phone.
‘Mom, can you come over?’
The rain was pouring down when Jane’s parents knocked on her door. Jane rushed to open the door and flung herself in her father’s arms.
Jack Petry was mystified at the reason for this distress. ‘Hi honey, let me just take off this wet raincoat and we’ll sit down and talk. OK?’ He gently wiped her tears with his big hands. Jane nodded as her mother and father hung their coats on the hook near the door.
Lisa took her daughter’s hand on the couch as she sat next to her. Her father pulled up a chair and sat across from his daughter. Jane gulped and tried to speak to her parents through tears and shaking.
‘I'm so glad you came too Dad! Michael left me. He gave me this letter…’ she held it out to her father with shaky hands. Jack saw that it was crumpled. Jack read as his daughter wept in her mother’s arms. ‘That’s n-not a-all! The news said there was a plane down in the a-atlant-ic! N-no survivors! ‘ Jack stared across his daughter’s head at his wife and shook his head.
He handed his wife the letter and she read it with one arm around Jane. Jack suddenly stood up and paced the floor. The beige carpet glowed pink with the lamps on in the room. ‘I’ll be right back’ he left the room with his cell phone.
In a few minutes Jack was on the phone with Michael’s father. ‘Hey, Tim! Hi, listen have you heard from Michael?’
‘Yes, as a matter of fact. He just phoned to let me know he is fine. There was a jet crash and he wanted to make sure I knew he was ok. It wasn’t his flight. Say, did you know he broke up with Jane? I was totally shocked. Is everything ok?’
Jack breathed a sigh of relief. ‘I’m so glad to hear he’s ok. No, things are not good here. I have to go Tim. My daughter isn’t handling this break up well and she was afraid the jet was indeed Michael’s! I’ll chat later.’
Jack walked back into the living room and took his seat across from Jane. ‘Jane, I just phoned Tim Jenkins. That jet wasn’t Michael’s flight. His son called and let him know.’
Jane nodded and stared at her father. ‘I never thought to call him. Thanks Dad.’ No one mentioned the fact that Michael never phoned to let Jane know.
Jane’s mother pulled away for a moment and said…’I think I’ll go make some tea. Then we can try to talk if you want to Jane.’ Jane nodded.
Jack scooted over and reached for his daughter. By the time Lisa returned with a tray of tea cups, Jane was in her father’s arms and quietly crying.
‘Well, at least he isn’t dead.’ She said quietly. Lisa handed her a mug of tea and she began to sip it. The three of them sat quietly for a while. Lisa and Jack prayed silently as Jane stared into the fireplace.
‘I made a roast for supper. I wanted to make last night a special day since we hardly see each other. I wanted to surprise him. But, I was the one who got surprised. He must have planned this for a long time. I know he mentioned a promotion but he never said a word about it involving him going to Italy. Plus, I wonder how long he had that new girlfriend. I wonder who else knows…I wonder…’
Jack and Lisa let her talk for a while. Lisa touched Jane’s hair and tried to comfort her. Jack reached out and took his daughter’s hands. ‘I know this might sound strange but we should pray and ask for guidance.’
Jane shook her head. ‘I can’t think of anything to pray about.’
‘That’s ok darling, would you mind if I prayed for you?’ he said.
Jane sniffed and shifted her body into a sitting position from the leaning on her mother position. ‘No, it’s ok.’
‘Dear heavenly Father..’ he began. ‘First of all, I want to thank you that Michael is still alive. I pray for those families who have lost loved ones today. Now Lord, I pray you touch our daughter and comfort her as only you know how. Guide her Lord. Her heart is broken as she has strong feelings for Michael that have not been returned. We ask that you do a mighty work of healing here. Let her see you in a whole new way. Amen.’ Jack decided to keep the prayer short and to the point.
Lisa asked Jane if she had eaten anything. When she shook her head, Lisa asked…’when have you last eaten?’
‘I think it was yesterday lunch. Don’t worry about it Mom.’ She took her mother’s hand and clung to her.
Jack suddenly realized that they had been there a few hours. ‘Listen princess, you have had a horrible shock yesterday and today. I don’t think you should be alone right now. How about if you pack an overnight bag and come over to the house for the week end? Can you call in tomorrow?’
The idea of being alone in what was once a place where Michael had been with her felt dismal. ‘Ok, I’ll just go call my boss again.’
‘Tell you what, I know Nick Jameson quite well. How about if I phone him while you go put your toothbrush and stuff together?’ her father said.
Jane absently stepped into his arms and clung to her father. ‘Your wonderful Dad.’
Jack kissed the top of head and gave her a hug. ‘Go on now princess. I have a call to make.’
Lisa followed her up the stairs as Jack dialed the phone again. ‘Nicolas Jameson, may I help you?’
‘Hi Nick’ Jack answered. ‘Look, my daughter is going to need tomorrow off. Can you do without her for tomorrow?’
Nick put his pencil down and leaned back in the chair. ‘Why sure, but what’s the matter? I mean, I am kinda worried since she made no sense this morning when I phoned. I know it’s not my business Jack…’
Jack didn’t hesitate. ‘Oh, Nick I can’t explain right now but I will get back to you. I’ll be over at one, ok?’
‘Well, ok’ Nick said. Jack had been a friend of Nick Jameson since Nick volunteered to help him with the church maintenance. Jane knew it and also knew her father had mentioned to Nick when she was looking for a job. Jane always saw Nick with his suit and tie on and glasses. He usually had a phone at each ear and mounds of papers on his desk. She was the one who answered the phones and tried to sort out those papers.
In her mind Nick was about forty and never did anything but sit at a desk. Nick was actually thirty three and went running every chance he got. He also coached his nephew’s little league. Jack got him involved with helping him mow the church lawn, paint, and do handiwork at their church. He liked Jack and they frequently went out for coffee.
Upstairs Jane took out her small suitcase and piled some clothes and toothbrush inside. She grabbed her purse and turned around in time to see her mother tidy up the bed. ‘You just can’t stand to see an unmade bed can you Mom?’
Lisa smiled. ‘Just habit I guess.’
‘Listen Mom, I hate to have that roast just go to waste. How would you like to take it home with us?’
‘Why sure sweetheart. Let’s go wrap it up and then go see Jingles!’ She reached over and hugged her daughter again.
‘Jingles will think it odd for me to be in my old room again!’ Jingles was a calico cat who Lisa had bought as a kitten. She was now five years old. She loved to sit in Jane’s old bedroom’s box window.
Downstairs, Jack was sitting and appeared to be relaxed. Actually, he wasn’t. He was praying and asking for guidance on what to do to help his daughter. He had two children. John was 30 and working in a pharmacy. He also was recently married. Over the years Jack was constantly drawing a complete blank on fatherhood. It never ceased to amaze him how he’d just learn one thing and then another thing would pop up that he knew nothing about.
He thought of putting his kid’s bicycles together, and swing set. Then life jumped to teaching his children how to drive. Next, he was shuffling them off to college and promising his wife they would return. Next, they returned but never stayed home. These past two years he was amazed to find an open bathroom after a lifetime of having two bathrooms occupied.
‘Lord, why did you let a guy like me have children when you knew I had no idea what to do with them?’ He let the question go unanswered as he looked at the stairs and his girls descended.
As he was driving home, Jane spoke to him. ‘You always seem to know just what to do Dad.’
Jack smiled as he drove. ‘If you only knew.’ He thought.
At two a.m. the next morning in a dark empty apartment…the phone rang. Michael was not surprised. His father had guilted him into calling after Jane's father had spoken to him. 'There, now I can tell my Dad I called.'
After Jane had spoken to her father getting in the car, she became silent the rest of way. Her mind went to many different places. ‘What was Michael doing now? Would she go home tomorrow? How could she afford the condo on her own? She would have to go home to get her car at least. She would only stay the at her parent’s home until Sunday.’ Yet, although her mind wandered she spoke not a word.
Jack and Lisa understood their daughter’s silence. Jack parked the car in the garage and took the little overnight suitcase out of the trunk. He put his arm around Jane as they went up the steps and into his home.
‘I’ll go put this roast in the kitchen. Supper will be ready in about an hour. I’m making spaghetti for tonight, but we’ll eat this roast tomorrow.’ She looked at her daughter and gave a small smile. Jane nodded and headed upstairs to her old room.
She got a surprise as she walked in and “Jingles” jumped up at her. ‘Oh, hello there fella! I forgot about you. My goodness, what have they done in here?’ Jane looked around and found her old room had disappeared and a guest bedroom had emerged.
The walls were painted a soft brown and white curtains and bedspread graced the room. Her old posters and knick knacks were gone. A basket of flowers lay on one end of the dresser. A white linen runner lay beneath it. Her grandmother’s needlework graced the runner’s edges.
A new dark brown carpet lay beneath her feet. She kicked off her shoes and went to the window seat. Scattered brown and white pillows graced either end of the seat. She looked out the window at the crabapple tree in full bloom.
‘Well, some things haven’t changed have they Jingles?’ For a moment Jane just relaxed and watched the old neighborhood down below. Her mother’s white picket fence needed painting again. Her rose bush looked wonderful and the smells wafted all the way upstairs through the partially open window. Down the street the Baxter children were now in junior high. She used to baby sit them as babies.
Jane let out a sigh. ‘I guess you can’t really go home again.’
Jack stood for a moment watching his daughter. Her chestnut brown shoulder length hair glowed much the same as his did when he was younger. She got her height from him and her eyes from her mother. That turned up nose was a mystery though. She was a beautiful woman with green eyes and long legs. ‘What’s that?’ She turned her head as her father’s low voice entered the room.
‘Oh, I was just thinking how everything seems to have changed since I left. The Baxter kids are growing up, this room is now all new…’
Jack sat down on the bed facing the window seat. ‘Jane, everything changes a little but some things never change. You are always welcome here. Your mother and I will always love you. The Lord will always love you too.’
Jane was waiting for the speech. She sighed and leaned against the pillows hoping her father would just get on with it. ‘Yeah,’
Jack spoke softly, ‘I just came up to tell you that your mother misspoke earlier. It’s only just before lunch, not suppertime. Listen, I have a luncheon engagement so your mother is making some tuna sandwiches for you and her. She’s making the kind with the minced celery that you like so much. I’ll be back later. OK?’
A strange sensation came over Jane. It was silly really. After all, she was twenty four years old. Yet, she didn’t want her father to take off just yet. ‘Get a hold of you Jane!’ she told herself. She tried to smile at her father.
He saw through her into the vulnerable daughter he knew so well. He reached out his arms and she was in them in a flash. He spoke gently. ‘It’s going to be all right Jane. It’ll take time but your heart will heal.’
Jane was glad for her father. At fifty six he was still a strapping man with broad shoulders and a deep voice that cut through the worst of days. His brown eyes looked so worried as she looked at him. She tried to smile again and just nodded her head. The lump in her through wouldn’t allow words to come out.
Jack slowly let go of Jane. ‘I really need to go sweetie. Will you be all right?’ He almost thought he should call Nick to cancel their meeting.
After she cleared her throat she said ‘I’ll be ok. I’ll go downstairs and see if I can help Mom.’
‘I’m sure she has a pot of tea on. That’s what you two used to do all the time, drink tea and talk about men right?’ He gave his daughter a lopsided smile to lighten things.
Jane laughed. ‘Oh, yes. We used to solve the world’s problems over a cup of tea!’
Jack stood up and followed Jane downstairs. He kissed his wife and whispered something in her ear. A quick nod and Lisa said ‘I’ll see you for supper.’
Jane sat down at the old kitchen table. She often wondered why her mother insisted on keeping that old table with the metal all around it and metal legs. The top was white with a few notches left over from many knives and forks over the years. It was her grandmother’s back in the fifties. Her mother had put new cushions on the chairs and kept it for years. Jane looked up at the red and white kitchen. No matter what had been remodeled over the years, the kitchen’s colors seldom varied. They had been yellow and white, blue and white or red and white. It always looked cheerful and always dated back in the fifties. ‘Mom, I always wondered about something.’
Lisa brought two mugs of tea to the table and sat down. ‘What’s that dear?’
‘Why do you always keep the kitchen looking like it did back in the nineteen fifties?’ She gazed at her mother. It occurred to her that her mother had never changed much over the years. Perhaps she just didn’t like change. Her hair was still dark blonde although she might be dyeing it, Jane thought. She still dressed up to go out but seldom wore anything but jeans and a sweater at home. She looked down and sure enough, she had pink fuzzy slippers on. Her father always called her a ‘perfect handful.’ Not too tall, not too short, not to fat and not too skinny. She remembered when she had grown three inches taller than her. It seemed such an accomplishment then, but now who cared?
Lisa broke out in loud laughter. ‘Oh Jane, you are so funny! I thought this was going to be a soul searching conversation and I wasn’t ready! Let’s see, I was always partial to that era. I was a young child and my mother had this house brand new then. I guess it brings back happy memories and your father likes it too. Course, that’s probably because it’s very little upkeep for him. I still wax the old stove and although we added a dishwasher and microwave; it’s pretty much the same. I just redo the walls curtains and chair cushions every few years. The refrigerator is new though. I’m surprised you didn’t notice?
Jane looked over and discovered a new refrigerator. ‘Oh, wow! It’s got the freezer on the bottom and an icemaker too! Well, aren’t you fancy smanshy!’ The two women laughed for a while as they sipped their tea.
Lisa suddenly got up and brought over the sandwiches and chips she had prepared. ‘I know this old house was never your style, but it brings your father and I a lot of joy. We used to sit on the front porch swing on our date nights. My father would always clear his throat around nine thirty as a hint for him to go home. Poor guy, never got a proper kiss until the week before we married. Oh well, you don’t want to hear about all that stuff I am sure.’
The image of her parents dating flashed through her mind. Times were so different back in those days. She ate her sandwich and listened to her mother chat for a while.
‘You want to watch me make sauce or would you like to go lay down? You look so tired Jane.’ Her mother went to her and just held her shoulders quietly.
‘Thanks mom, I’ ll go up and stretch out for a while.’
Meanwhile, Jack was seated at the ‘Family Diner’ with Nick. He had explained the whole story to him.
Nick sat back with a serious look on his face. ‘I’m so sorry Jack. One of the girls in the office came to me a few weeks ago telling me she thought she saw Michael with some blonde but I told her it was best to stay out of it. I didn’t want gossip to go around the office. Maybe I did the wrong thing.’
‘No, you were right. Either way, it would have hurt her. I was just wondering if it’s ok she comes back to work Monday? I doubt hanging around her parent’s house is going to appeal to her for longer than a week end. Truth is, I am going to talk to her Sunday and try to get her to make some plans. It’s too soon right now. She just needs a few days pampering is all.’
Nick stirred his coffee and nodded. ‘That sounds reasonable. Well, I appreciate you keeping me in the loop. I realize I’m only her boss…’
‘Nonsense! You know Lisa and I think the world of you! We’ve been prayer partners for a long time. Plus, I don’t want you to think my daughter is daffy. She’ll be an emotional roller coaster for a few weeks.’
Nick smiled and suddenly thought of something. ‘You know, I might just have a perfect solution for her the next few weeks at work. I’ve got to get that back filing room organized. I can’t find anything since Mildred quit. Usually your daughter does the phone calls and straightens the office. I might incorporate that into her routine. It’ll keep her busy and none of the rest of the staff bother going into that room.’
‘I remember that room! Isn’t that where you used to store your golf clubs?’
Nick laughed and remembered the time they had gone golfing. ‘Oh that’s right, you have been there! Now, I’ve got more toys! Dad gave me this insurance business so I thought I could use all the rooms!’
The men laughed as they finished their lunch. Jack went home light hearted that night.
Jack sat across from his daughter and watched her pick at her spaghetti. Knowing the hurt that filled her heart, he didn’t say a lot. Lisa decided it was best to carry on a conversation with Jack about his golfing. ‘It won’t be long before you’ll want to get out to the golf course again. I suppose the spring air makes you think of those lush greens eh?’
‘I must admit I’m glad to have spring finally here. It was a long winter. My dear, your supper is superb! Can you pass the garlic bread please?’
Jane reached over and handed her father the toasted garlic bread. It was true; her mother was a wonderful cook. She had taught her everything she knew in the kitchen. Jane thought of the nights Michael had devoured her dinners. ‘Well, don’t go there.’ She told herself.
Later that evening Jane sat petting the cat on the sofa as her parents did the dishes. ‘No, you go relax while your father and I clean up. We enjoy doing this.’
Jane was surprised that no one had sat her down to lecture her on her past mistakes. Her parents were Christians and she knew that they disapproved of living together without marriage. She had been so sure they were going to bring up some scripture that would make her cringe. But, to her surprise her parents just went about their normal routine. She was treated with loving kindness and not made to feel like an outcast. She liked that, but was waiting for the left shoe to drop just the same.
She got up off the couch just as her mother brought a tray of tea into the living room. ‘I thought we’d have our dessert in here while watching the news. Is that all right dear?’
Jane smiled. ‘My goodness, you two sure have a routine now that the house is empty. I could never imagine you eating in the living room years ago.’
‘Well, we’re all grown up now and if Jack spills something I don’t care! The important thing is that we’re together and enjoying our dessert. I made apple cinnamon tarts.’ She said as she put the tray down on the coffee table.
Jack settled in his lounger and put his feet up. He sipped his tea and picked up the television remote. ‘I’m going to check the stock market first Lisa and then I’ll turn it to where ever you want.’ He then sat in silence munching his apple cinnamon tart.
‘Stocks took a nose dive today. Oil prices remain the same however gold is up.’ The television stated what Jack had wanted to know.
‘Well, they’ll probably go back up tomorrow. This economy is so unpredictable! I was wondering about investing more in our 401 K program. I mean, I am retiring in three years but I think I’ll leave it alone.’
Lisa had food in her mouth as she sat on one end of the couch. Jack handed her the remote and she switched the television to a local news channel. As the three of them sat in silence, it dawned on Jane that peace filled the air. No one was forcing a conversation. She had always had to work to get Michael to talk like that.
She sat back and relaxed with her dessert. When she finished, she told her parents she would wash up the few dishes from their dessert. She gathered up the dishes on the tray and went to the kitchen.
That evening, the three of them watched a few old sit-coms and then said good night to each other. Jane went up to her old bedroom and sat on her window seat in her pajamas. The moon was out and someone was walking their dog outside.
‘It’s so peaceful. But, I miss my apartment I think.’ She thought. She sat thinking and realized that it wasn’t exactly her apartment she missed. She missed Michael. ‘What happened to us? Why wasn’t I enough? Who are you with now?’
The moon didn’t answer Jane and she sat there for a few hours in reflective thought. No answers came to her. Finally, she decided she would take the plunge and talk to her mother the next day.
The last thought she had before climbing into the four poster bed was, ‘I’m just so tired.’
The smell of pancakes drifted upstairs and woke Jane up. She rolled over and glanced at the clock. It was 8 a.m. At first she jumped, but then she remember that she wasn’t going to work this day. She climbed out of bed and went to the bathroom. After a shower, she felt more like breakfast.
Her father spoke as she entered the kitchen. ‘Do we have any orange juice? Oh, there you are sweetie!’ he addressed his daughter. Jane reached out and hugged her dad before being seated.
‘The coffee is usually all I scarf down in the morning. But, when someone else is cooking I won’t say no!’ She was amazed at how good pancakes and sausage could look. ‘I didn’t realize I was so hungry!’
Lisa laughed remembered how little she had eaten the day before. ‘I am glad to hear it Jane! Enjoy!’
Breakfast was hectic with the phone ringing for her father and the paperboy coming in to get paid. Jingles was swirling around her mother’s feet until she was fed. Yet, it was a typical Friday morning that she remembered. Her father grabbed his coat and kissed his wife. ‘I’ll see ya around 4 Jane. You two girls have fun today!’
Lisa smiled at her husband of 35 years. It never grew old to enjoy watching him. He was tall and still walked like he owned the world. ‘Call me if you get a moment!’ she hollered out per usual. Jane sat and watched it as if for the first time.
The women sat in silence as they sipped their coffee and ate. Jane wasn’t sure how to approach the subject. ‘Mom, I guess I’ll go home tomorrow. I’ve got to pay some bills and…’
‘That’s fine dear! We’re here if you need us. Just call if you want something.’ Lisa reached over with a reassuring pat on Jane’s hand.
‘He’s really gone! Why do you think he left Mom?’ Jane felt the lump in her throat but tried to ask more questions. ‘I thought everything was going well. I paid my share of the rent, I never touched his things, I kept everything clean…he just left. No talk, no fighting, nothing.’
Lisa held her daughter’s hand. ‘I really do not have all the answers dear. I do have a few questions though. You do not have to tell me. What I ask you, your father wants to know as well. As you know, there are no secrets between your father and I.’
Lisa waited for her daughter to answer. She nodded her head. ‘What?’
‘Well, first of all we were wondering if you can afford that condo on just your paycheck.’
Lisa thought for a moment. ‘I’m probably going to have to move into something less expensive.’ She felt rather glum thinking about moving. She had put a lot into the decorating of that place.
Lisa nodded. ‘Your father and I want to help you with the moving expenses. Also, we have a few friends who could actually do the moving for you if you like. Now, I know you’ll have to look it over but we know of an apartment you might consider. It’s not far from where you work. It’s a two bedroom place that my friend Amy has just finished getting ready to rent out. The previous tenants had lived there for years and went into a nursing home. There is a garden out back and a nice glider swing on the front porch. Would you like to go look at it today? We could stop for lunch at the Family Diner if you want. The place is around the corner of it.’
Jane thought for a moment. ‘That’s Amy Travers isn’t it? I remember her from church. That’s a nice neighborhood there. It always seemed odd to have an insurance company in the middle of a nice neighborhood. I mean, you’d think it would be downtown or something. But, yeah I’d like to take a look at it.’
Lisa put a forkful of pancake into her mouth and nodded her head. When she had swallowed she asked the second question. ‘The other question is rather personal. Is there any chance of you being pregnant dear? We’d help out of course.’
‘No, I’m on birth control. Besides, it’s been a while since we were together. He’s been working odd hours. Working at home by day and then meetings at night…’ Suddenly Jane realized that those odd hours were probably spent with another woman. ‘I’m such a jerk!’ She began to shake and Lisa put her arms around her.
‘I was wondering how you and Dad stayed together all these years. I mean, you talk easily and he’d never dump you like this. Why wasn’t I good enough?’ Jane realized she sounded pathetic.
‘Well, I guess this isn’t going to help.’ Jane wiped her face with her napkin.
Lisa was quiet a moment in case her daughter wanted to say more. ‘Jane, do not ever think that you aren’t good enough for any man. This break up is so hurtful. But, what you see with your father and I is from a lifetime of commitment to each other. We put the other’s needs above our own on a continual basis. We share everything in our lives. We share ideas, hopes, dreams, projects, bank accounts, and yes…even tears. We disagree and get angry and always know that we will always be there for each other. It was from a teaching we had long ago in church that taught us about marriage. But, I’m not going to preach at you darling. The time is coming soon though when you will want to know how we learned. We will gladly share our knowledge with you. But, we will wait until you come to us and ask.’
Jane watched her mother smile gently and return to eating. Her heart lifted a bit and she wasn’t sure why. The two women cleaned their plates and sipped their coffee in silence. Lisa was praying silently for the Lord to show her the best way to help her daughter. It was going to be a while for her heart to heal.
Lisa knew that her daughter wanted very much to be in a relationship. Perhaps the Lord would teach her what that entailed. Best for her and Jack to shower her with love and not a cloak of shame. For now, they were content to know the word of God had been instilled from an early age. It was up to the Lord to make those seeds grow.
Lisa prayed silently. ‘Lord, let her heart soften so those words can fertilize. Keep her safe. Help us to show her your kind of love. When the time is your time, let her recieve the word in due season.’
The apartment was indeed just around the corner from where Jane worked. She fell in love with place as soon as she saw the big bay window framed with a flower box in front of it. The glider on the porch gave it a homey look. Amy Travers walked up the sidewalk just as they pulled into the driveway.
‘Lisa! Hello! Hello to you too my dear! I haven’t seen you in a long time. Is it you that wants to see my little doll house? That’s what we call it. It’s small but so cute. Well, listen to me go on. Let’s go in and have a look see!’ She hugged Jane and opened the door.
Jane was amazed to see the bay window with the flower box was on the other side of a window seat. The white molding gave way to satin and rose colored pinstriped wallpaper with pale green leaves in it. The hardwood floors spread throughout the apartment except in the kitchen. Jane toured the apartment as Lisa and Amy spent some time talking.
The bathroom was a simple shower and bath combined in colors of mint green and white. Jane noticed white painted wainscot half way up the walls. There was a window in the bathroom that looked out to the back yard.
Jane checked the kitchen and found a stainless steel sink with white appliances that looked fairly new. The kitchen was painted a soft shade of yellow that went well with the white cupboards. A stackable washer and dryer stood in one corner of the room. One bedroom was large and the other small. It would make a good office for her she thought. The tiled floor in the kitchen was white ceramic and she could picture her furniture in there.
She walked back into the front room to ask about the price. Lisa was laughing with Amy as she came in. ‘I was wondering what you are asking.’
‘You like it? We are asking seven hundred a month but that includes the heat and air conditioning.’ She smiled at Jane waiting to see her reaction.
Jane was amazed. ‘I’ll take it! Well, can you hold it for me if I give you a deposit? I should give my landlady some notice.’
‘Of course dear. How does next month sound?’ Lisa was glad this apartment was open. Her daughter would be close to work and closer to her parents as well.
When the arrangements had been made, Amy went out back with her. An older man was outside puttering with a flower bed. ‘Joe, I want you to meet our new neighbor. Jane, do you remember Joe Pelkey?’ Joe Pelkey was her former Sunday school teacher. His wife had died a few years back.
‘Well of course! How are you? I promise I’ll be quiet and I rarely play loud music.’ She smiled into his blue twinkling eyes.
‘Well, that sounds wonderful. You don’t mind if I practice my tap dancing though upstairs do you?’ He laughed and told her he was joking.
That night they ate the roast that Jane had made the previous Wednesday. Jack listened as they told him of their plans. He nodded and said. ‘I have a few friends who will help with the move Jane. Don’t bother with anything but packing. By the way, this is delicious!’ He ate his supper with gusto.
‘I guess I don’t need to tell you how thankful I am for all of your help. I’ll be going home tomorrow and make some phone calls. I’ll have to make plans now.’ She looked at her plate with a look of trepidation. The thought of facing her condo without Michael was difficult.
Lisa handed her the potatoes. ‘Jane, there is no rush for you to take off. Consider this a mini vacation until Monday. Just go over and do what you want and then come back with your clothes if you like.’
‘It’s tempting Mom, but I really need to do this. Besides, I want to take down the photos and start cleaning the apartment before I leave it. I have to repaint the walls so that they are left in their original state.’
Jack drove his daughter home the next day after breakfast. ‘Do you want me to come in for a while?’ he asked.
‘No, I’ll be ok Dad. But, thanks for everything. You and Mom have been wonderful.’ She hugged her father and got out of the car.
‘Just remember, I’m paying all the moving expenses so all you have to do is get yourself packed. Ok sweet heart?’
‘All right Dad! Thanks! Bye!’ Jane turned around and walked into the condo. She waved at her dad from the open doorway. After he left she put her over night bag down and began to look over the condo.
She noticed the light blinking on her phone and went to check her messages. All she heard was a click. She spent the rest of the evening making a list of who to call and what to do. Jane was an organized person and began to make plans for her future.
Nick was surprised to hear from Jack before Sunday. ‘Hello how is everything?’
‘Great Nick! Hey, can I ask a favor of you? My daughter is going to have to move out of that fancy condo. She can’t afford it now. She found a place just around the corner from you. Amy’s apartment is empty and so I was hoping... ’
‘Say no more! I’ll get Ken and Harvey and we’ll get her moved. No problem!’
Jack breathed a sigh of relief! ‘I knew you’d come through my friend! I’ll let you know when...or for that matter she can tell you.’
Nick hung up and didn’t think any more about it. He was busy in the storage room trying to make some sense out of it before Jane tried to straighten it. He had removed his clubs, and any excess jackets, boxes and whatever else he had thrown in there. ‘How did I get all this junk?’
Meanwhile Jane was having a difficult time coping with knowing Michael was gone for good. She paced the condo and then went for a walk. She tossed and turned for two nights and was glad to go back to work Monday.
Nick opened the door with his usual smile. ‘Glad to have you back!’ He stood back as Jane hung her jacket in its usual place.
Jane nodded her head. ‘So, I guess I have to get back to work.’
Nick smiled. ‘Your father said you had a rough few days. I’m sorry to hear that. I understand you’ll be moving. I’d like to help out.’
Jane smiled. ‘Oh, Nick that’s very nice of you…but I have some pretty heavy stuff and my dad said it was all taken care of anyways.’
‘Heavy stuff huh? Well, never mind.’ Nick held back a grin and walked over to his desk. ‘Uh, Jane I hate to add to your work load but I am going to need you to organize the back store room. Things are getting heavier around here…I mean the work load. What I mean is, well…follow me!’
Jane followed Nick to the back store room. Papers were strung everywhere. The filing cabinets looked like they were stuffed to explosion level. ‘What exactly am I supposed to do with this?’
Nick stood back and folded his arms. ‘Well, I have no idea. Do you think you could get it organized so I can find the files again? I would do it, but I really do not have the time and the other girls are about as organized as I am. They probably are weak too.’ He tried to keep a straight face as he looked out the window. ‘Hmm, I didn’t know there was a window in here. Can you see about putting a curtain or something on it so folks won’t see what’s in here?’
‘It’s been open for this long. What’s the difference?’ Jane asked.
‘Well, I thought I’d put your desk in here. It’s just off my office and you’d be close enough to do your other jobs and still be on top of this.’ He smiled at her. ‘What do you think? There are two exits to this room too. That door over there opens up to the main entrance so you can chat with the girls too. You won’t be caged in with just my office to escape by.’
‘My desk in here? Can you wait until I clear a space for it?’
‘Well, maybe I could wait a day or two.’ The phone rang just then and the day began per usual for Nick Jameson. Every once in a while he would glance at Jane and remember her remark about her heavy furniture. ‘She thinks I’m some old man or a wimp or something. Won’t she be surprised when I show up to help her move?’
He couldn’t help but smile at the thought. Meanwhile, Jane began to sort and throw out things from the storage room.
Two weeks went by and Nick moved her desk into the room one evening after everyone went home. He set up her computer as well. The phone and intercom were all installed before Jane came in the next morning.
‘Good morning Jane!’
Jane answered him with a smile. Her red rimmed eyes told him that she hadn’t slept well. ‘I have a surprise for you! Come on in!’
Nick had bought a small bouquet of flowers and put them on her desk. ‘I thought since you worked so hard I would try to make this space look nice. The flowers are a one time deal though. The florist kept making wise cracks at me. Do you like it?’ Nick was never one to be suave with the ladies. In fact, he had no idea how to court a girl.
Jane’s eyes began to water at the flowers. ‘They’re beautiful and so thoughtful! Thank you. I’ll get a plant or something when they die off so you won’t be pestered by the florist again.’ She laughed a little and then took off her coat.
‘Wait, I put a coat hook in here too!’ Nick showed her the neat row of hooks on the wall near the door.
‘Well, aren’t I just the special one! The job isn’t easy though Nick! I found things from way back in 1962! Your father began this storage room didn’t he? Also, I found petrified food that I think might have been pizza long ago! So, I think the hook and flowers are in order!’ She smiled as she teased him.
Nick took a step back as he’d never seen her when she was teasing. She started the job as a shy girl fresh out of college. Even though her eyes were red rimmed, it seemed she was enjoying this organizing job. He liked seeing her this way.
Her green eyes sparkled as she bent over to sniff the flowers. Nick’s hunch had been right. She deserved a nice gesture and he was the one getting a good worker. ‘So, how’s the packing coming?’
‘I need more boxes. Is it ok if I take some of these?’ She pointed to the boxes stacked in the back of the room.
‘Sure, take whatever you need. I can get you more too if it’s necessary. Just ask.’ He walked back to his desk. The girls in the foyer were happy to have one less desk. It meant they had more room to do their work.
When lunch time came, Mona and Cathy asked if Jane wanted to go to the diner with them. ‘No thanks, I’ll just grab a sandwich later.’
Nick usually went upstairs to his apartment for lunch. When the girls took off, he wandered into the store room. ‘Hey, it’s none of my business but I haven’t seen you take a lunch break in weeks. I don’t need to have everything organized in a month. I expect this job to be ongoing. In fact, I’m going to give you a slight raise. It’s extra work. But, lunch is a must. How about if I take you to a really nice place? The cook invited me for lunch and I think you’ll like her tuna fish sandwiches.’
Jane was a little fuzzy headed from not having any breakfast. The idea of tuna sandwiches sounded good. ‘Ok, but it’s Dutch treat!’
Nick smiled. ‘She’ll get a kick out of that! Come on, it’s just two blocks away. We can walk it!’
Jane was stunned when Nick walked to her mother’s house. ‘Why you! I didn’t realize you were friends with my mother!’
‘Actually, I am friends with them both! Your father is home and it was he who invited me. I hear there’s cherry pie on the menu as well.’
Lisa was pleased to see her daughter laughing as she walked in the door.
The time seemed to slip away as Jane busied herself in sorting out what to pack and what to bring to Michael’s parents house. She found some photo albums and business papers that belonged to him. Some of the furniture had been family heirlooms from his family. A side table and a cedar chest were set aside to bring to his parents. She accumulated a box of papers as well. While going through the desk, she came across several signs of his plans. Some stubs and receipts left over from expensive restaurants as well. She came to realize that Michael had been living a duel life for some time.
Work was a welcome change from packing for Jane. The storage room was far from completely organized but now she could see the tops of the filing cabinets. She took several boxes and emptied a few filing cabinets so that she could refile some papers. She laughed when she opened up one filing cabinet and came across socks and a sweatshirt from the college where Nick must have gone.
‘Do you want these filed under ‘memories?’ she asked. Nick looked up from his desk as Jane walked in holding his old clothes at arms length.
He was startled at first and then got up and took them from her outstretched hands. ‘Sorry, I really don’t remember how these got there!’
Jane laughed. ‘You are a piece of work Nick Jameson! Are there any more like you at home?’
Nick realized she was smiling again. He had never really watched her before that day Jack had met him for lunch to tell him of her problems. He thought she was an attractive girl but never really looked at her. Now, each time she smiled he thought he had won something. He shrugged. ‘Well, no…I mean I have a sister but she is nothing like me. I guess I inherited my father’s ways. But, I’m not a slob. I just sort of push things away and forget them at times. By the way, do you see any folders marked ‘Benson’?
Jane pointed to the table next to his desk. ‘I found them on the floor. They are put together and on that tray near your desk. I know now why you’re giving me a raise!’ She laughed again as she walked back into the store room.
Nick scratched his head. ‘Well, at least she’s happy.’ He was busy poring over the Benson files when she returned.
‘Oh, I should probably tell you I won’t be at work Friday. My father has everything all set to move me to my new apartment and I’ll need the extra time to finish packing.’ She waited for Nick’s reply.
Nick stifled a smile. The reason he had packed so much work together was so he could be gone to help her move. She had no idea. ‘Well, sure I understand.’ He kept his head bowed over the folder in case he began to smile. ‘Uh, let me know if there is anything I can do to help.’
Jane nodded and said thank you. ‘He sure gets absorbed in paperwork. No wonder he wears those thick glasses.’ She smiled as she pictured him as ‘Clark Kent’ and then laughed out loud as she sat back at her desk. ‘Clark Kent…no more like ‘Where’s Waldo’!
That evening she and her father put Michael’s things together and went to his parent’s home. Michael’s father was the only one at home. ‘I really appreciate this Jack. I could have helped out Jane. I’m still your friend no matter what happened with you and my son.’
They had a brief conversation and then left. ‘That was nice of him wasn’t it Dad?’ Jane regretted that he would not be her father in law.
Jack smiled and reached over to squeeze his daughter’s shoulder. ‘He knows his son really blew it with the best gal in town.’
Friday came and Jane was all ready. She had bought a dozen donuts and coffee was all set. Jack and three other men arrived promptly at 9 a.m. Jane didn’t notice Nick at first. He was wearing jeans and a sleeveless t-shirt. When she turned with the tray of donuts she couldn’t believe her eyes.
‘Nick! What are you doing here? ‘ She was surprised to see such big arms on him. He looked like her brother’s body with Nick’s head.
Jack was a little confused. ‘Didn’t he tell you he’d be moving you? Your brother, Nick, and these other guys and I will have you moved in a jiffy!’
Suddenly Jane remembered her remarks to him not once but twice. Her face was quite red and she turned around to hide while pouring coffee. ‘No, he didn’t say a word.’
Nick kept a straight face as he told Jack. ‘I tried to tell her. She told me her stuff was heavy and you had a team all ready.’
Jack broke out in laughter. ‘Well, her stuff is heavy all right! That’s precisely why I asked YOU!’
‘Well how was I supposed to know he was the one you asked? I never get told anything. I just thought you couldn’t…oh never mind! I’m sorry, ok? You guys are awful!’ Jane was so embarrassed she wanted to hide in the boxes.
After the donuts had disappeared she took care of the Styrofoam cups and stood back. In about an hour her furniture was packed into the moving van along with her boxes. She kept the vacuum out to vacuum up after everything was gone. A cleaning rag was in the sink and she wiped down the counters one last time. She took a tour of the condo to make sure she didn’t leave anything behind. The echo of her shoes followed her out the door.
By the time Jane drove to the new apartment, everyone else was all ready there. Her mother met her and watched as everything was moved in. Jane and her mother cleaned the cupboards and put the kitchen together as the men brought in the bed and set it up. Nick moved the boxes marked bedroom and front room to their proper places.
He noticed that Jane looked very tired. They were almost through unloading and it was four p.m. Lisa had helped to arrange the bedroom while Jane sat on the couch opening boxes of books and papers.
‘Mom, you and Dad can take off if you want. Nick offered to take the moving van back and I can follow him and drive him home.’
‘Well, if your sure it’s all right.’ Jack said.
‘Sure, thanks so much you guys!’ She said to them all. Ken and Harvey waved good bye and took off in Ken’s truck.
‘Well, I’ll get Jack home and start his dinner. Did you want to eat with us tonight?’
Jane thought for a moment and said no. ‘I think I’ll just grab a pot pie. I brought stuff from the other fridge and I’d just like to relax and go to sleep.’
Lisa kissed her daughter and left with Jack. Jane yawned and remained on the couch sorting books as Nick continued to bring in boxes. Suddenly her eyes closed and she leaned back.
Nick came in with the last of the boxes to find she was sound asleep amongst the books and papers. Her feet bare and her head against the pillow on the couch. She was right, the couch was heavy but he had no trouble lifting it. Suddenly, her foot moved off the couch and she shifted in her sleep. Her hair seemed to shimmer like satin water. The dark circles were still there under her eyes. He’d never noticed how thick her eyelashes wee. Even without make up she appeared like a china doll. Her lips were relaxed and slightly parted in sleep. Nick sat on the floor and just stared at her. Without thinking, Nick leaned down and lightly kissed the arch of her tiny foot. Desire ran through him like a steam locomotive. Quickly he stood and shook his head to clear it. He reached down and shook her shoulder. ‘Oh, sorry…I must have dozed off.’
‘No problem. Everything is in. I’m just heading out. See you Monday!’ His vice was strained and sounded almost angry.
Jane was confused at first but attributed it to being tired. She sat up and yawned as she stretched. ‘OK, Nick, thanks again.’
Nick stared and his mind went blank.
Her voice snapped him out of it. ‘Night Jane.’ He quickly turned and exited the apartment wondering what had come over him.
He was still walking towards the van when he realized that he didn’t have his car. He stood wondering what to do.
‘You ok Nick? I was planning on following you so as to give you a lift home.’ Jane’s hair was messed up and she stood barefooted in the doorway.
‘Oh, I forgot. Of course Jane. I’ll meet you over there.’ The picture of her standing barefoot with her hair messed up kept creeping into his mind.
Jane went inside and retrieved her purse and her shoes. ‘He sure is a funny one at times.’ She thought.
Meanwhile Nick was praying while driving. ‘Lord, I’m so sorry! What happened to me? Some Christian guy I turned out to be. As soon as everyone leaves I’m crazy! I’m tired and I need a sandwich or something.’ He looked down and saw that his hands were shaking. ‘Must be I’m low on sugar.’ Nick wasn’t a diabetic but he was trying to reason out his bizarre reactions to Jane.
Jack sat on the side of the bed removing his shoes. ‘Can you believe that Jane, practically calling Nick a weakling? She never looked at anyone besides Michael. I’ll never be a grandfather this way!’
Lisa was slipping into her slippers and tying her robe. She began to giggle. ‘Oh, she noticed Nick today my dear. She came into the kitchen talking to herself. ‘Who would have believed he’s got arms like Goliath when all I see him in is a loose fitting suit and tie!’ It was hilarious!’
‘Is there any more pumpkin cake downstairs?’ Jack asked.
‘You bet there is. I’m having some tea, why don’t you join me. I’m not giving you any unless you show me your muscles though!’ The couple laughed all the way down to the kitchen.
After Nick dropped off the moving van he sat waiting for Jane. Jane drove up and he got in the car. ‘I was thinking, would you like to share a pizza? I’m going to pick one up on the way home. We could eat it there or at my place.’
Nick cleared his throat. ‘Well, I am hungry. Pizza sounds good. Let’s eat it at the restaurant though.’ He didn’t want to be alone in her apartment with her.
The two of them sat drinking a soft drink as they awaited their pizza. ‘I love these places that you can eat outside. This screened in section of the restaurant is nice. Doesn’t that breeze feel great?’
Nick sat back and began to relax. ‘It sure does.’
‘Say, I never asked. How did you and my parents get to be such good friends?’ she asked.
Nick took a second to scratch his head. ‘Well, I go to the same church as they do. I’m surprised I never saw you there. Anyways, your father heads up the maintenance department and he asked me if I had time to help him trim hedges and things. I said sure and we’ve been best of buds ever since. He’s a great guy! He sometimes helps me out with the little leagers too.’
Jane was surprised but thought someone had told her he went to church long ago. She would bypass the question of her church attendance. ‘You coach little league?’
‘Well yeah! My nephew is on the team. His coach came down with a back injury and Cody asked if I’d fill in. That was last year. It’s hilarious! You should come out some time and see these kids. They try so hard. I have a lot of fun with it!’
Just then the pizza came to the table. ‘I hope you like pizza with the works! I ordered it before I thought of you eating with me.’
‘I love pizza with anything!’ Nick dished out a slice for her and handed it to her. He then took a piece for himself.
Jane sat quietly thinking that Michael just dove in to the pizza and being served never happened with him. ‘I guess it’s just nice manners.’ She thought.
Nick continued to speak of Jane’s parents. ‘My Mom died a long time ago. My dad and we kids did fine. But, watching your mother and father is really something. They are the couple that Joe Pelkey talked about I think in his book. Or, maybe it was he and his wife.’ Nick laughed.
Jane had no idea what he was talking about. ‘I know Joe Pelkey was a Sunday school teacher. I didn’t know he wrote a book.’
‘Oh, well you should ask him then. Ask him if the couple in the book was about his wife and him or your parents.’ Nick became absorbed in his dinner as Jane sat with a blank look on her face.
‘I’m sure it’s some Christian book. Would you mind giving me a heads up on what it’s about though? I mean, before I ask Mr. Pelkey.’
Nick suddenly thought he’d stuck his foot in it. ‘Well, it’s about the difference between marriage and just living together.’
Jane looked at her plate. ‘oh’
‘Say, this is weird. I’m sorry Jane. But this book is really good. It’s not about ‘Thou shalt not’ this and that. It’s about ‘You now have this and that’ sort of. Do you want to read it? I have two copies. I was going to give one to my dad.
Jane was tired and didn’t feel too threatened by Nick’s account of the book. ‘Sure, I’ll borrow it. I can’t say as I’ll read it cover to cover but if he wrote about my parents it might be fun.’
By the time Nick was dropped off at his place he was ready to call it a day. ‘See you Monday!’
‘Thanks a lot for everything! Here, take this left over pizza with you! I won’t eat it!’ Jane said as she handed it over to him.
‘I never say no to food!’ Nick winked and turned around.
Jane was tired by the time she got home. She tried out her new shower and then sat sipping hot cocoa and sorting through her boxes. She soon covered herself with an afghan and fell asleep on the couch. She dreamed someone kissed her on the arch of her foot. ‘I am my beloved’s and he is mine’ a soft voice said in her dream.
Jane had always enjoyed the simple ways of housework. She stood at her kitchen sink wiping cups and saucers and gazed out the window above the sink to Mr. Pelkey’s garden outdoors. The sun was just peeking through the trees and yet there he kneeled. His coveralls and muddy shoes were a testimony of many days of kneeling on the wet grass.
Jane opened the window a little to catch the spring morning air. She then heard a faint humming from Mr. Pelkey. She couldn’t quite place the tune but knew it was an old hymn of some sort. She continued washing her dishes and putting things away.
She had lived in her new place for almost a week now. The linens were put in their place and all her knick knacks were displayed where she wanted them. Her small curio cabinet fit snugly in a corner of the living room that caught the afternoon sun. She enjoyed watching the glint of the sun as it caught her glass knick knacks. The little things that others didn’t care about meant something to Jane.
She wiped her hands on a towel and tied her sneakers on. She was so glad to have week ends off on her job. The back door opened and she walked through it to the garden. ‘Well hello pretty lady!’ Mr. Pelkey called out. ‘Come on over and sit a spell as I pluck up these remnant weeds! I have a folding chair right there.’ He pointed to his stairwell at the chair leaning against it. ‘I bring it down in case I get dizzy from too much kneeling.’
Jane smiled and retrieved the chair. She sat a while enjoying the morning sun. ‘My wife used to love to garden with me years ago. Every morning after our coffee we’d come down and spend an hour or so in this garden.’
‘Do you mean you always lived upstairs?’ She had thought he moved in after his wife passed on.
Joe Pelkey smiled. ‘Well, this house used to be a two story single family. We raised three kids here. When they moved away we decided to make a little extra income by renting out the downstairs. We had a grand time renovating it all. We had a lot of garage sales to get rid of things we didn’t need. It was a wonderful investment. We hired Amy to take care of the business end. She’s my niece you know.’
Jane was puzzled. ‘No, I had no idea. I just thought the building belonged to her.’
‘It will go to her when I am gone. A lot of people mistake that idea. I just didn’t want to have to bother with maintenance and screening renters. I like to putter here and there, but if something needs fixing Amy sees to it. She knows all the best electricians and plumbers and stuff. Millie got sick about three years after we renovated the place. I wanted to spend all my time with her. She had a weak heart and tired easily.’ Joe removed his gloves and wiped a handkerchief over his forehead. He leaned back and surveyed his work.
‘I was wondering if you might like some marigolds in those flower boxes downstairs. I have a lot of them here and I could put them in for you.’ He said.
‘Oh, I’d love that! Do you need me to buy some potting soil or anything?’
‘No, I’ve got plenty. I’ll have them set up before the day is out then. I didn’t want to just stick them in if you wanted something fancier.’
Jane remembered how she enjoyed Mr. Pelkey when she was nine years old. His wife always took care of the nursery back then. She couldn’t remember all of his children as they were a lot older than she. They might have been in college she thought. ‘I’d be very grateful. I’m on a budget now that I’m living alone. I’m afraid flowers aren’t a necessity. I’m not poor mind you, just careful.’
Joe nodded. He knew the story all too well. Jack and he had shared much over the last two years.
‘I understand you wrote a book. Nick was telling me about it. I guess he is going to loan me a copy. I haven’t got it yet. We were wondering if the book about the couple was about you or my parents.’ She wondered if she had said too much. Mr. Pelkey took a moment to answer.
‘Well, I have written four books actually. But, I think the one Nick is talking about is ‘Great Foundations’. It’s funny you’d ask who the couple was. I used a little of many people to write that book. You could say it’s a tapestry of people that I was fond of. It’s a teaching book really. It doesn’t have a plot or story line. Let me know what you think.’ He continued to lean over the garden and pull weeds.
‘Nick said the book was about the difference between living together as a married couple or living together unmarried.’ Jane spoke quietly trying to figure out if she really wanted to read this book.
Joe chuckled. ‘Well, I didn’t start out with that thought in mind. I was just amazed at the joy and marvel of living in a relationship ordained by God. It’s really not a how to book. But, rather than tell you what it’s not I’ll have to let you decide for yourself. But I don’t want you worried at hurting my feelings over your reaction to my book Jane.’
‘I was just surprised that you wrote a book is all. I shouldn’t have been, since you taught Sunday school and had lived a long life married to the same woman. I guess you had a lot to write about.’
She watched as Mr. Pelkey sat up slowly and began to gather up all the weeds into a basket. ‘Well, you don’t have to borrow Nick’s copy. I have a few upstairs. I’ll bring one down later when I get your window boxes set up pretty. OK?’
‘Sure, I’m off today and I just might check it out. Well, I could help you bring that stuff out to the curb if you like.’ The city picked up leaves and clippings each Saturday.
Joe nodded his thanks and took his time to get up. ‘Well, I believe I’ll go get some breakfast and then start the window box project after a nap. See you later dear!’
‘Bye! Thanks again!’ she said.
Jane took the grass clippings to the curb and then went back inside. Mr. Pelkey had always been a sweet man. His book would probably be a bunch of old memories and would put her to sleep but she would be polite. Jane spent the rest of her morning doing laundry and ironing her work clothes. Mr. Pelkey hadn’t come back downstairs so she didn’t wait for him. She left a note on her empty window box telling him she would be right back. She went to her mother’s and had a cup of tea.
‘It’s so peaceful on this side of town. I’d forgotten how peaceful it felt. It’s so different from the other side of town with all the condo’s overlooking the harbor. I mean, it was beautiful but always busy. Here, the yards are trim with picket fences and everyone seems to have a contest which yard will have the prettiest flowers. It’s weird to see clothes on a clothesline too. I can still smell your bread baking as I walk down the street. I can’t explain it.’ She sat back and sipped her blackberry tea.
‘Goodness, you make us sound like Mayberry! We have crime here just like everywhere. It’s just an old neighborhood that is kept up nice. Plus, you know most everyone around.’ Lisa thought of her housework as she sat having tea. She planned to buff her hardwood floors that day and begin sanding on her porch swing in preparation for repainting. ‘What do you think of me painting the front porch swing white with red roses on the back headrest? Maybe just three. I’m getting pretty good at that one stroke painting.’
Jane laughed. ‘See, that’s what I mean! I never would hear my old neighbors talk like that. It was always, hi and bye. Or, if I knew them better they would ask about something on TV like ‘Champion Dance’.
‘Huh? Well, never mind people are different all over the world.’
‘I guess, well I better go back. Mr. Pelkey is planting flowers in my flower boxes and I thought I’d watch. He’s really nice.’
Lisa hugged her daughter and said good bye. After she had gotten out her floor buffer she began to think of what her daughter had said.
‘Lord, I’m so thankful for your peace. I have no idea what the doctor will say next week at my check up. I don’t know why my son and his daughter are fighting. I have no idea what will happen with Jane. I only know that your word says in Romans 8:6
‘The mind set on the flesh is death but the mind set on the spirit is life and peace.’ My trust is in you!
Joe Pelkey was just finishing his watering when Jane walked down the sidewalk. ‘Oh, Mr. Pelkey! They look so beautiful!’ The yellow and orange marigolds brightened up the white siding along with the green flower boxes they were in.
‘Hi, I was just getting ready to put my stuff away. I’m glad you like them! I save the seeds each year and they grow fast.’ Joe reached down and put his watering can in the wheel barrel.
Jane walked over to the window boxes and gazed in. Joe could see her smile from the reflection off the window. ‘You are welcome to do a little gardening too if you like. The back yard belongs to both of us.’
‘Oh, I don’t mind doing some weeding now and then but I’m not much of a gardener. Do you plant vegetables too?’ Jane stood back and watched him turn the wheel barrel around.
‘No, I’m not that ambitious.’ He smiled and said. ‘I left that book on your back doorstep. ‘
‘Oh, thanks! Well, I guess I better get my own work done. See you later.’ She walked inside and turned around. The marigolds looked wonderful from the inside too. She walked to her back door and retrieved the book. Jane laid it on the counter and began her laundry.
As the clothes were put in the dryer she remembered the book. ‘I guess I’ll sit in the window seat and enjoy my flowers. ‘ She took the book and perched herself against a few pillows she had placed there. It was the cool of the afternoon and the shady window seat was perfect for relaxing.
The first page began with…‘I came across several old diaries the other day. Some were my late wife’s and some my own. I was surprised to find how much we had grown together in our thinking. Yet, when I thought about it…our relationship began with the same foundation so it was no mystery that our thoughts resembled one another.’
Jane took a sip of her tea and set it on the coaster nearby. She looked back on the page and continued her reading.
‘I have a friend who is a contractor. He builds homes for a living. Before he thinks about the blueprints for the kitchen or the outline of windows, he creates a firm foundation. When I think of the many years I spent with my wife, I am reminded of the foundation that was laid first. I am thinking of what our foundation was built on. I’m glad it wasn’t built on just our eyesight . What I mean is, our physical attraction was not the main foundation of our life together. The attraction was there. At least I thought SHE was a real dish. But no, I am reminded that our foundation for the life we shared was built on something much stronger. We decided to make a commitment to each other. It was a union that was one in God’s spirit of truth. ’
Jane put the book down on her lap a moment and grimaced. ‘Oh, here we go!’ She didn’t know what propelled her to keep reading but she read quite a bit more.
On page 43 she read…’I was having coffee with some friends of mine and got on the subject of marriage versus just living together. My friend never drew out arrows to throw at those who just live together without the bonds of matrimony and I am not doing that either. I'm not here to judge the world, only to represent Christ. Yet, he reminded me of a few treasures we both have known within the boundaries of God’s plan for marriage. The marriage contract is meant to be a representation of the marriage between the church and Jesus Christ. The bridegroom is coming to receive his bride, not a live in companion. When we enter into a relationship we suddenly leave behind two individuals and become one. It’s more than playing house and having a pretend marriage. There is a joy unspeakable when we are obeying God’s laws and living according to his plan.
We share the same checking account with our wives. Although it is said that money is a big problem for any relationship, we found that as we share the responsibility of spending money we aren’t so apt to fight over it. We never spend money without telling each other. No secret buys and cover ups.
We have found that we do not have a lot of disagreements when we consider our focus. When our focus is on ourselves we tend to be thoughtless of the other. Yet, when our focus is on our mutual spirit of faith we lean into the bible’s manual for a healthy relationship.’
Jane sat the book down and stared out the window. She had been reading for almost a half hour. She put a book mark on the page and put the book down. ‘What constitutes a marriage she thought.’ She had always thought that you were automatically seen of God as being married if you had sex.
The evening was spent watching an old sit com on television and yet her questions kept coming back to haunt her. ‘Adam and Eve didn’t have a ceremony. Some countries don’t even have marriage papers.’
Then she thought, ‘if sex equals marriage than if I got raped I’d be married to that guy in the eyes of the church?’ Somehow, it didn’t seem right.
The following Monday Jane found herself under a pile of papers as she sat on the floor in front of one of the filing cabinets. All thoughts of the book were gone.
‘Hello down there!’ Nick looked down at Jane.
‘Hi yourself! I’m working in files from the 1970’s. I wonder if we have any bell bottom pants photos in here!’ she laughed.
Nick smiled. ‘Actually, I have a reason for bothering you. I hired a guy to come in and run the air conditioning into this room. I saw the fan you brought in. I seriously never opened this door much and it didn’t dawn on me that it was so hot in here. So, if you hear someone outside or downstairs that’s who it is.’
‘Sounds great!’ Jane had a sleeveless yellow blouse on with light brown slacks. She had left her matching blazer over the back of a chair.
‘Hey, I forgot that book again. Sorry.’
‘No, that’s fine. Mr. Pelkey had a copy and I’m sort of reading parts of it.’ She filed a couple of papers away before continuing. ‘It’s weird though, I mean it’s not a demeaning book but it leaves me with more questions.’
Nick sat in a nearby chair. ‘I have a minute, what sort of questions?’
‘Oh, I don’t know. Well, I do sort of know the questions. What exactly is the biblical difference between living together and a marriage? I know here in our country you have legal documents and stuff but not every country has that. Also, I always thought if you had sex than you were all ready married in the eyes of the Lord. Also, what about rape?’ She suddenly got red in the face.
A quick gasp was heard from Nick. ‘Rape?’
‘Well, if someone got raped would that mean they were married in the eyes of the church?’ She piled her folders and put them on her lap. She looked up at Nick and smiled. ‘I sound crazy huh?’
‘No, it’s a good question. Many people think that sex consummates the marriage. But it only consummates the physical principal. Think of it this way, what if two people got married and were unable to have a physical relationship? Maybe an old war wound or something. Would they still be married?’ He thought she would understand that better.
‘Oh, so sex isn’t the main ingredient in being married?’
Nick looked down at her and thought she was beautiful with her carefully painted long fingers and glasses perched on the end of her nose. ‘Sex is meant to be a good part of marriage if you are able, but in answer to your first question…just cause you have sex doesn’t mean the Lord sees you as married. In fact, there is another word for it. Adultery or rape victim.’
Jane shook her head. I believe you but it doesn’t answer all my questions.
‘Jane, every culture has some method of ceremony for marriage. Here is another angle to this though, Jesus was very much an advocate to follow the governments laws if they did not interfere with your relationship to God. He went to many wedding ceremonies so I’m sure he advocated them. In every culture there is an event, action, covenant, or proclamation that is recognized as declaring a man and woman to be married.’
‘I see.’ She said. She began to get antsy and Nick noticed it.
‘Well, this was in the book but I’m not sure where…’ “As long as the legal system’s form of marriage requirement does not go against what it says in the bible, a couple should seek whatever formal governmental recognition is available. The people should follow whatever cultural and familial practices to recognize a couple as “officially married. If possible, a couple should consummate the marriage sexually, as this is the physical aspect of the “one flesh” principle.” ‘ Well, I have to get back to my papers.’
Jane nodded and Nick left. She remembered an old saying she used to use. ‘I don’t see anywhere in the bible that says…’ and she would fill in the blanks that suited her situation. That night Jane went home with a lot on her mind.
She sat at her table in the kitchen and began to smile. ‘Well, how much do I really buy in to this bible stuff anyhow? Why should I let what it says bother me? I don’t have to have my parent’s religion.’
Just then she heard Mr. Pelkey walk around upstairs. He’d apparently turned on the TV or radio. ‘You do not get to heaven on the coat strings of someone else’s faith! You stand before God alone and answer. He doesn’t want to know what you did in His name. He’ll ask how obedient you were to His word!’
Jane put the book away and phoned a few of her friends. She hadn’t seen them much since she had moved in with Michael. It never really occurred to her to phone them.
She spent a half hour looking for her old address book and when she did, she realized that her old friends all went to church with her mother. That’s when she remembered why she didn’t call them. She thought of the new friends she had made with Michael. ‘We didn’t have any.’ She said out loud. Other than his parents, she never met any of Michael’s friends.
She went to fix her supper and thought about it. She had met Michael when they had each worked part time at a local deli. That was before they each had landed their full time positions. Jane suddenly jumped when the bell went off. The chicken entrée was done and she took it out of the microwave.
She sat looking out the bay window of her living room as she ate her meal on the window seat. It dawned on her that she was lonely and didn’t have anyone to talk to. Suddenly, a thought popped into her head. ‘What about Nick?’ She finished her dinner and picked up the phone.
Nick answered on the first ring. He had caller identification and was shocked to find Jane calling him.
‘Jane! Is everything all right?’
Jane was surprised at first and then remembered he had the caller ID. ‘Yes, I was just wondering if you are busy. You were so nice to move me in here and I’d like to pay you back somehow.’
A smile came across Nick’s face. ‘Well, I’d love that. Do you like boats?’
‘Sure, I didn’t know you had one.’ She began to get excited thinking of going out on the lake.
‘Well, I don’t. However, a couple of friends of mine invited me to go for a ride tonight. I’ve been saying no because I was busy but maybe tonight we could go together. ‘
Jane leaped at the chance to do something other than sit around the apartment. ‘That sounds like fun!’
‘Ok, I’ll pick you up in an hour then. Bring a sweater or light jacket. It gets breezy in the middle of the lake. I hope you like hamburgers; they are fixing burgers and slaw.’
‘Can’t wait!’ Jane got off the phone and realized that she meant it. Usually she ate health food frozen dinners alone. Now that Michael was not here to cook for she didn’t feel like fussing.
Soon, Nick arrived and Jane opened the door. She was astonished to see him again without the suit and tie. He wore jeans and deck shoes with a light sweater. The air was in the seventies with a light breeze that lifted his light brown hair. Jane realized he was staring at her with huge brown eyes. ‘Why haven’t I noticed the color of those eyes before.’ She thought. She smiled without realizing it.
Nick had phoned his best friend Jack right after he hung up the phone. ‘Jack, can I talk to you?’ he’d said.
Jack laughed. ‘Since when don’t I have time for you?’
‘Your daughter just phoned me. I’m going to pick her up and go sailing with Sophia and Ned. What do you think?’ Nick suddenly got very nervous.
Jack began to laugh. ‘Why, I think it’s great! She needs friends and hasn’t been around anyone for almost two years. Are you asking my permission to date her?’
Nick’s tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. ‘Well, no not really. Uh, I just thought it would be good to have her get to know us.’ He hoped he was telling the truth. Jack said goodbye and Nick had jumped into the car to go get the salad he’d promised to bring. By the time he arrived at Jane’s apartment he had talked himself out of getting her three times and then came up with a dozen reasons to take her.
He opened the car door for Jane and stood back as she settled in to the passenger seat. He then closed the door of his car and vaulted to the driver’s side. The ride to the marina was a bit awkward for him.
‘Do you remember Ned and Sophia Berringer?’ he asked.
Jane drew a blank at first and then remembered Ned had gotten married to Sophia Larson. ‘They are from church right? ‘
‘Yes, it’s their boat! They love to entertain.’ He drove in silence wondering what she was thinking.
Jane decided to enjoy the night. It had been almost a month and a half since Michael had left. She needed someone new to talk to.
Nick pulled into the marina’s parking lot and waved to Ned. Ned stood at the helm of his small craft. ‘You are right on time! Come aboard mate!’
Nick escorted Jane to the boat and helped her aboard. The smell of fish and salt water always invigorated Jane. There were two couples all ready there. Jane was amazed to find her old friend Janice and her husband Mickey.
Sophia came over first. ‘Hello! How are you? I’m so glad you could make it Jane! Nick phoned to finally say yes to our invitation and we just couldn’t believe we’d get to see you too! This is great!’
Jane smiled and said ‘thanks’ Sophia smiled and said she had to go downstairs.
Ned came down from above them and quickly drew Jane into a light hug. ‘So, you better behave or you have to walk the plank!’
Sophia came up from the small galley. ‘Ned! We don’t have that kind of plank!’
‘Oh, well how about you swab the deck then?’ The laughter started and to Jane’s amazement she relaxed and traded humor most of the late afternoon into the early evening. The supper had been served above deck. The cozy booth seated six with a swivel captain’s chair at each end. All was nailed down to the deck so nothing moved as the boat swayed on the water. Jane loved the feel of the air through her hair as she ate burgers and watched the lights from other boaters.
‘A girl could get used to this!’ she said.
Janice agreed and Sophia smiled. ‘Well, how about we make a plan to do this every week end then? The season isn’t going to last forever and we could have a wonderful time together like this. What do you say Jane? Do you still make that awesome potato salad? I’m afraid you’ll have to bring it or I’ll seriously be disappointed!’
‘Ah ha!’ said Ned. ‘She’ll have to swab the decks without it!’ Everyone began to laugh and Jane agreed to bring it.
A silence came over the group and Ned spoke up. ‘Lord, we just want to thank you for this wonderful time together. We’re making new memories and savoring the old ones. Amen’
Jane felt odd but not real uncomfortable with Ned’s prayer. He often did that years ago. Without any pretext he would just talk to God.
The women scooped up the paper cups and plates and bagged them for Sophia. Soon, the booth was clean. Jane offered to help Sophia with coffee. They stood in the little galley for a moment. Jane was lost in her thoughts. She felt Sophia’s hand on her arm.
‘I am leading a little bible study tonight. I know it’s been a while since you came to church but I hope you will speak your mind like you used to. Remember all the lively studies we used to have? No one could make Mr. Pelkey sweat like you could with your questions.’
The invitation had been given softly and Jane found herself relaxed and willing to listen to whatever her old friend had to say. ‘That’s fine Sophie. Don’t worry; I’ll talk if something comes to my head.’
Sophia grinned. ‘That’s my Jane!’
The six of them enjoyed their coffee in the cool of the spring evening with the sounds of the waves all around them. Janice opened up the cookies and put them on the table. Jane noticed that only Sophia had her bible out. When everyone had their coffee and the carafe of coffee was put on the table, Sophia began.
‘Tonight I want to talk about absolutes. What do we absolutely believe about the bible? All of us are friends. Nick, you are new with us but we consider you family. Jane hasn’t been with us lately but we still consider her family. So, we can be comfortable with sharing. First question. Do you believe Jesus is the son of God?’
Nick nodded and heard Jane say ‘Of course’.
Sophia smiled and asked another question. ‘Well, we are establishing one absolute in our own mind then. Jesus was not just a teacher or a great prophet. He is the son of God! I’m going to share in a few words what that means to me and then you all have the opportunity to do the same.’
Jane shuddered as she had no idea what she was going to say. Suddenly she began to wish she hadn’t come here at all. Despite the wonderful time she was having. This stuff gave her the creeps.
‘To me, it means that Jesus was telling the truth in everything he said and did.’ Silence came over the boat.
Ned went next. ‘On top of that, to me it means He gave his life to make it possible for someone like me to enter a perfect heaven. I know that heaven would not have remained perfect if my sin entered in, so therefore I had to way in. But, through Jesus and my belief in him, I can go to him and be forgiven. Therefore, my sins are washed away…just like that old song.’
Mickey spoke his idea. ‘Knowing that he was the son of God and still willing to die like that when he didn’t have to will forever amaze me. No one took his life; he gave it as an offering on our behalf.’
Jane took the challenge. ‘I know in my heart that Jesus is real. I just do not understand everything. I remember as a kid saying the sinner’s prayer. But, I will be honest here…there are a lot of blanks.’
Janice nodded her head. ‘We understand. Do you understand your need to be forgiven before you ever enter heaven?’
Jane crossed her legs and sat back. ‘I remember the salvation message.’
Nick took a sip of coffee and prayed for wisdom before he spoke. ‘Too often we look at sin on a scale from one to ten. The truth is, when we lie it’s just as bad as any other sin.’
‘I just don’t think God is concerned with some trifle that I do. I see him as an all loving God.’ She said.
‘He is that, but he is also righteous.’ Said Ned. ‘He wants obedience as well. We can’t just believe in him. The demons believe and they have a future in hell. The thing is, we believe and also obey.’
‘Well, I think you are a little over the top.’ She was starting to get uncomfortable but refused to back down.
Nick spoke up. ‘Well, Sophia started out with the word…absolutes. Let’s go back to that. You are absolutely convinced that Jesus is the son of God. You are convinced that God exists. Right?’
‘Yes’ Jane answered.
‘What are you basing that on?’ he asked.
‘I don’t understand.’ Jane answered.
‘Do you believe the God of the bible or a God that you make up?’ asked Nick.
Nick leaned forward and spoke gently. ‘We can’t create ourselves a God who fits into our mold. He isn’t going to fit into our mold. We have to submit to his authority and take everything we think and put it on a shelf. Then, we can be free to accept who He really is. The God of the bible is the only God there is.’
Jane straightened. ‘Well, I believe that.’
Sophia offered Jane another cookie. As Jane chewed on it, Sophia spoke. ‘Jane, I think you have no trouble believing the God of the bible. But, I think the problem you face is that you never got around to reading the bible. If you want, we can share a lot of mysteries and shed some light on your questions. In turn, you can sharpen our skills with those very questions. I don’t want to make it appear that we know everything. We just realized where to look for the answers.’
Jane knew a lot of what the bible said. She knew the ten commandments and that she had gone against it. Suddenly she felt very aware of her own folly. ‘I do know a lot of what the bible says, not as well as you do though.’ She felt a little vulnerable and Nick picked up on it. He slid over and put his arm around her.
‘You’ve gone through a rough time Jane. We aren’t trying to add more on you.’
Jane nodded. ‘You all know what I’ve been up to. Let’s not beat around the bush here. I’ve been living with Michael for two years and that bible didn’t really matter to me. Now, I find out that Michael made a fool out of me. ‘ She tried to bite back the tears without success. ‘I’m such a jerk!’
Janice was sitting near her and answered. ‘Not any more than the rest of us. But, you didn’t do a thing that Jesus can’t fix! That’s the part we wanted to share here tonight. Every one of us is just a human with their own set of situations. We don’t get together to judge or condemn one another. We focus in on how we can take it to the cross and get free of it.’
‘I know other people in the church who lived together before they got married…’ she started to say.
Ned answered her. ‘Getting married does not cause God to forgive us of living in adultery. The person has to ask forgiveness from God and repent. That is turn away from the sin that comes between you and God. Can you see how living with Michael caused you to have a separation from God? I mean, you aren’t a hypocrite. I know folks who live together and go to church and pretend all is fine. But, you didn’t do that. I think it bothered you.’
Jane was still crying softly. ‘But, I loved Michael and I was trying to be happy.’
Sophia gave her a napkin to wipe her face off. ‘Jane, how about we all pray silently for you for a moment? The bible study is over. If you want to talk to the Lord with us around that’s fine, but if you want to wait until you go home that‘s fine too. You are our friend and I just don’t want to pressure you.’
‘No, you really aren’t. You can pray, it’s ok.’ She sat in silence as her friends silently petitioned the Lord on her behalf. She felt safe and sensed that the Lord was near.
She spoke her prayer outloud without any pretense. ‘Lord, forgive me. Fix this mess.’ The cloak of pain suddenly lifted and she began to giggle. ‘How about that?’
Nick asked ‘what?’
‘I don’t know how to explain it. I just feel like I am home.’ She said.
‘Does that mean you’ll bring the potato salad next week?’ asked Ned.
The waves sparkled under the light of the moon and they never looked better to Jane. ‘Yes, and I have a new recipe for it!’
Nick looked at her glow and caught himself staring. Tonight was a miracle he thought. Jane felt at home and he realized he would get to see that glow each day at work. He wondered if she would go to church with him. Before he asked, she turned to him.
‘I’d like to surprise my parents. It’s gonna feel awkward going to church alone though…’
Nick grinned. ‘I’ll pick you up at 8:30 and we’ll stop for breakfast first. OK?’
ick drove up the driveway with his heart pounding. He was excited to bring Jane to breakfast but there was so much more. Jane was changing before his eyes. Today, he was bringing her to take her place in the body of Christ. He was escorting her back to a family known by too few. For the body of Christ is a family rather than a church building. Nick knew this was to be a life changing experience for Jane. He was determined to make it special.
‘Hey Nick! I’ll be right out!’ Jane bounced off the porch and walked briskly to the passenger side door. Nick had barely enough time to open the door for her.
‘Hi! You’re looking fine in that yellow dress Jane. Is that the dress your mother bought you?’
‘Well, yes but how did you know?’ Jane looked up and met his twinkling brown eyes.
‘I was having lunch with Jack when she came home to show the dress to us. She thought you would look like a sunbeam and she was right!’ Nick reached down and gently tweaked her nose.
Jane wasn’t sure why but she suddenly felt giddy. ‘This might be more fun than I thought!’
‘What?’ Nick said as he got back into the driver’s seat.
Jane just smiled and continued to smile all through breakfast. ‘You aren’t nervous are ya?’
Nick reached over and took her hand. ‘You know most everyone and no one is going to be critical of you.’
Jane didn’t realize she was holding her breath until Nick touched her hand. She visibly relaxed as she let a breath out. ‘Well, it’s been two yrs since I stepped foot in church.’
Nick just winked and continued to eat his eggs. When their check was paid by Nick, [to Jane’s surprise] they left for the ten a.m. service.
Jane’s parents were seated in their usual place on the left hand side second row. Folks could sit anywhere but Jane’s mother thought she could hear better there. Jack noticed his daughter first and sat with his mouth open. Lisa looked in the direction of her husband’s eyes and said ‘I knew it! Nick is escorting her back in, because it was Michael who escorted her out!’
‘Oh, Lisa how you talk!’ But Jack was smiling.
Jane’s upstairs neighbor met her at the door. ‘My, how you look sweet Jane!’ He reached over and hugged her. Jane took a bulletin and followed Nick to a seat.
‘Oh, you don’t have to sit with me if you…’ she started to say.
Nick interrupted ‘If it’s all the same I’d like to sit near you. I don’t bite!’ He lowered his eyes and slanted them her way. He was encouraged to see a smiling Jane. Several people came to greet her and she soon found herself being led away from Nick. She left her purse and bulletin in his care.
‘Hi Mom and Dad.’ She wasn’t sure they would make a scene and she was hoping they would keep it calm.
Jack nodded and reached down to hug her. ‘Hi sweetie! Did you want to sit with us?’
Lisa poked her husband in the ribs.
‘Well, no. I came with Nick and we’re sitting together.’ She felt a little awkward but then laughed as she saw the grin lines in her father’s face. ‘Oh Dad!’ She gave him a huge hug and giggled a while. The worship band came to take their places just then so she went back to sit with Nick.
Jane found herself relaxing and enjoying the praise and worship. She remembered some of the songs and Nick got to hear her sing for the first time. She had a beautiful voice and forgot to be shy about it. Jane sang with all the pent up energy that she had in her. Nick gulped and found he couldn’t sing at all. The sermon began and Jane took out a pen and jotted down some notes as she used to do.
Pastor Warren spoke of how Jesus used to teach in parables. ‘Our Lord was a master story teller. Yet, he told stories that spoke into the spirit of man. He put the truth of God into a fictional form so that people could easily insert themselves into the story. Yet, Jesus never compromised the gospel. He didn’t make up stories to make people feel good or look good. Jesus never wanted the people to find themselves in a place where He couldn’t reach them. He came not to condemn the world, he came to save it!’
The pastor spoke on the parable of the prodigal. ‘The father was already looking for his son to come walking home. Jesus wanted us to realize that our heavenly father is the same way! He rejoices when we come back into his arms. He throws a celebration! His love for us is overwhelming! Jesus heart was to tell the people in a way they could relate to. ‘
Nick heard parts of the sermon but his silent prayers were going all the while. He was excited and also surprised that he cared so much for Jane. Something new was happening between him and Jane. Nothing had been said but Nick knew it.
That afternoon, while in Jane’s driveway Nick asked Jane if she’d go out to dinner with him. ‘Jane, I am going to be on the level. I’m asking for a date.’ He looked down at his feet waiting for her to answer. He waited for almost ten seconds and heard nothing. He licked his lips and kicked a stone with his foot.
Jane stood rooted to the spot. Nick had opened the car door and stood next to her on the driveway. All of a sudden she understood why she felt so excited and also relaxed at the same time. She had feelings for Nick that went beyond the work place and the bounds of friendship. Here he was asking for a date and she found herself suddenly realizing all of this. He stood with his wavy brown hair dangling as his head was bowed. His hands were in his pockets as he waited patiently.
All Jane could think of was the gentle way Nick had approached her. Michael had grabbed her arm and told her they were going out. She had thought it exciting. Yet, this was much more sincere and romantic too.
Nick glanced up and caught the huge smile and staring eyes. ‘Did you hear me?’
‘Yes, and yes! What do you think about Mexican?’
The answer came fast and he wondered if he heard her right. ‘I like everyone.’
Jane began to laugh. ‘No, I meant food!’
Nick loved to hear her laugh. ‘Oh, that’s fine!’
That evening they continued to laugh and talk over fajitas and tortilla chips. The evening ended with Nick holding her hand and walking her to the door. Yet, he didn’t try to kiss her or even hold her. He simply said ‘Good night’ as she got to her door.
Jane stood still wondering if she had gotten her wires crossed. Just as Nick was turning to walk away she reached out and grabbed him by the arm. He turned quick and she stared at him in the light of the street lamp.
‘If you don’t want to kiss me that’s fine. I’d like a hug though and I wanted to tell you…’
Jane didn’t get a chance to finish her sentence before warm lips descended in a gentle kiss and Nick’s arms took her close into his embrace. He just stood quietly with his head dipped so he could rest it on her head. ‘You smell terrific! Thanks for a great evening! I’ll see you tomorrow and hopefully we can do this a lot.’
‘This is it?’ she asked.
Nick knew he had to explain. He sat down on the porch swing with her. ‘Jane, I’m sorry if I disappoint you but I don’t go hopping into bed with women. I’ve gone that route. I made a commitment to Christ and I just don’t want to get physical until I am with my wife.’
‘Does that limit your dating prospects?’
‘You do like the direct approach don’t you? Well, I don’t date a lot. I mean, I do date but I haven’t been interested that much…until now. Have you ever been loved outside of the bedroom?’ Nick sat forward a bit to see her better.
‘I’d like to love you in a different way than Michael did. I want to treat you like a lady and a friend. I want to show my love by respecting your body as a single woman should be respected. I want to show you the love of Jesus as I date you Jane. Are you up for the challenge?’ He wasn’t sure if he had just lost her or not but he knew he had to be truthful.
‘I’d like that! But, I can still hug you right?’ She questioned.
Nick smiled. ‘I’m told I am quite huggable! But Jane, there are limits.’ He was serious and Jane understood.
Jane nodded and kissed his forehead. ‘Good night then!’
Nick rolled the window down on his way home. He sat in his own driveway for a moment thinking about the day. Jane was incredible to look at . He thought of all the things he liked about her. He closed his eyes and spoke. ‘Lord, if Jane is supposed to be the one, don’t make this a long courtship!’ After that quick prayer he went inside.