Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dearest Jane

The morning started as any other had for the past few years. Jane made coffee and Michael read the morning paper. ‘I’m in a hurry this morning Michael but I’ve got a nice supper planned.’
‘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?’

part 2
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.'

part 3

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.

part 4

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.’

part 5

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.

part 6

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.

part 7

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!

part 8

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!’

part 9

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?’
‘Very ok!’

part 10

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.

part 11

The spring turned into summer as Jane enjoyed weekends on her friends boat with Nick.  Each Saturday afternoon through evening brought gentle sea breezes and picnics on the boat.  Friday nights were special as well.  Nick always seemed to surprise Jane with a rose or a card.  Sometimes they would go for a walk downtown or drive to a nearby town and shop.  It constantly amazed Jane how much fun she was having without sex.
Her time spent with Michael had all been a prelude to the bedroom.  Yet with Nick, the dates were an investigation as to what she enjoyed or who she was.  He never gave her a list of questions to answer; rather he enjoyed everyday life with her.  They went to the Fourth of July and parade together. 
‘I made potato salad and macaroni salad.  You said you were bringing the hamburgers Nick.’  No longer did she have to do all the planning in the relationship like she did with Michael.  Often, she caught herself comparing the men without meaning to.
‘I did indeed!  Plus, I found a surprise in the bottom of this bag!’  Reaching in, he brought out four éclairs from the downtown bakery.  Nick’s eyes went wide as he made lip smacking sounds.  Jane looked at him and laughed.
‘I might eat one!  But, you’ll have to eat the rest!’ she said.    ‘Where are we going for this picnic?’
The warm sunny breeze whipped at her hair as Nick drove his convertible with the top down.  Jane noticed they were on a country road leading out of town.  ‘I thought Buck Mountain would be fun.  I have fishing poles and things in the trunk.  Would you like to go fishing after we eat?’
‘Fishing?  I haven’t done that in years!  Sure, I think I can still bait a hook!’
Nick  spread a huge blanket out on a bare piece of grass on the side of the mountain.  It was overlooking a stream where he usually went fishing.  ‘I’ve been here a lot.  I usually fish down there.  You can catch some good sized trout there.’
Soon the tiny barbecue was brought out and the hamburgers sizzled.  The warm fresh air felt good to Jane.  When they had sat down to eat Jane realized she was very hungry.  ‘Umm, I think I might have to steal two éclairs!’
‘Not a problem!’  Suddenly Nick turned a bit serious.  He continued to eat and talk but Jane could tell something was on his mind.
Jane waited until they were through eating to ask him about it. ‘Do you want to tell me what you’re thinking about?’  They were sitting on the bank of the creek with their fishing poles in the water.
Nick smiled.  ‘You have learned to read me well haven’t you?’
‘You are an honest man Nick and you don’t hide things.  Yes, I think I’ve gotten to know you pretty well.’ Jane tucked her knees up under her chin and clasped her arms around them.  ‘Is something the matter?’
‘I guess that depends on you.  I found out some news that I think you should know.  Michael is back in town.’  Nick let that set in a bit before going on.  ‘The girl he took off with was a married woman.  They are no longer together.  His job in Italy is over.  I’m not sure what his plans are but he might get in touch with you.’  Nick sighed and settled back on the blanket.  He was staring at the creek waiting for a response when he heard Jane clear her throat.
‘Nick, I’m not sure what to say or what to do.  A few months ago I would have not had a problem.  I was going to take him back no matter what.  I’m going to have to see him to make sure of what I feel.  Does that make any sense?’
Nick pulled on this fishing line as he felt a fish bite on the hook.  He took a moment and Jane watched as he reeled in his catch.  A fine looking trout dangled from the end of his line.
‘Wow, that’s huge!  I can’t believe anything that big is in this little creek!’  Jane no sooner had gotten the words out of her mouth than she too felt a tug on the line.  Her catch was just a little fish so she threw it back.
‘I guess you’ll have to see him.’ Nick finally said.  The two of them sat in silence for a while as they fished.  Nick prayed that he could be patient.  The afternoon went by fast as they steadily caught fish and stopped talking about Michael.  Nick walked Jane to her door and gave her a quick squeeze before turning away.
As Jane went back into her apartment she suddenly felt alone.  The image of Nick’s back was etched in her mind’s eye.  ‘He’s not going away, just going home.  I’ll see him Monday.  Don’t be silly!’ she told herself.
Monday morning came quickly and Jane suddenly found herself with piles of old files to be dealt with.  She heard a knock on her door and looked up in time to see a familiar face.  Michael stood in the doorway staring down at her.  ‘Hello gorgeous!  They told me you’d be in here!’
Jane settled back into her chair and motioned for him to take a seat near her desk.  ‘Michael, I was told you came back to town.’  She suddenly felt a dry mouth.  His hair was a glossy black and he’d gotten a suntan.  His black leather jacket fit snug and he seemed to have gotten taller.   She’d forgotten how tan she was as well from the boat rides.  His eyes twinkled with a knowing look.  ‘Aww come on!  Give me a hug at least!  I’m not that bad am I?’
‘A what?  A hug?’  Michael, why are you even here? ‘.   She started to get irritated and tried to calm down.
‘I came to see you.’  Michael got up and leaned over the desk to kiss Jane.  She turned her head and he only got a taste of her hair. 
‘So, that’s how it is? You won’t forgive me?  Come on, I am taking you out to a steak dinner!’ 
Jane remembered that Michael never asked, he always told her what she was going to do.  ‘No thank you.  Will you please leave now?  You and I are past history and I have no intentions of repeating old mistakes!’
‘Old mistakes?  You loved every minute with me!  It hasn’t been that long, you haven’t forgotten!  Can the act babe!  I’m back to stay and I’ve all ready seen your new place.  It’s plenty room enough for two!’
Jane threw her folders down and jumped up.  ‘How dare you!  Get out this minute and if I ever see you near my place I’ll call the police!  I don’t ever want to see you again!  Do I make myself clear?’
Jane was shouting quite loud and Nick didn’t have to eavesdrop to know she might need help.  He opened the door quietly and stood in the doorway.  Micheal  felt the draft and turned to see him.
‘She’s fine, just a little lover’s quarrel!’  Michael ducked as a folder went flying at his head. 
‘Nick, get him out of here!  I will call the police if he doesn’t go on his own.’  Jane had begun to shake.
Nick spoke with authority.  ‘I think it’s time you left.  Whether you leave on your own or with my help is up to you.’  Nick stood with his shoulders back and his arms at his side.  The stance was obviously predatory.   Jane suddenly realized that Michael hadn’t gotten taller at all.  Nick stood  beside him and Michael  took a good look at him and shrugged.  Even through Nick’s suit she could see Nick’s arms were wider than Michael’s.
‘So, are you doing the boss now?  That’s a step down babe!’  Nick reached out and shoved his back.
‘Out!  Now!’  Nick walked Michael to the door.  ‘Just so we have no misunderstanding Michael…Jane and I are seeing each other and I plan to marry her.  Don’t let me see you near her place or here again.  This is your last warning.  I will call the police and get a restraining order if necessary!’
‘You can have her!  She wasn’t that good anyways!’  Michael stormed down the stairs and flung himself into his BMW.  The sounds of screeching tires were heard as he drove away.
The girls in the office began to giggle as Nick walked back in.  Nick felt embarrassed as he faced them.  ‘What was I supposed to do?  Jane is upset and he planned on…who knows?’
Mona and Kathy just smiled.  ‘I have that phone number you were looking for.’ She said.
Kathy beamed at Nick.  ‘Nick, don’t worry; you did just what had to be done.  Now, go in there and make sure Jane is all right.’
Jane was standing with her head against the window pane as Nick walked in.  ‘Jane, do you want to take the rest of the day off?’
Jane shook her head.  ‘I can’t believe I actually enjoyed his take charge attitude.  I thought he was strong and sexy.  He’s rude and thoughtless.  I tried so hard to be all he wanted and in the end he’s nothing that I want!’
Nick went to her and put his arms around her waist.  He stood behind her and just snuggled for a while without talking.  Jane saw their reflection in the pane of glass.  Nick was standing with his head bowed and eyes closed.  She felt protected and something else.
‘Did you think I was going to fall for him all over again?’ she asked.
‘I couldn’t trust my own thoughts so I relied on what the Lord’s word said.  He said his word doesn’t come back void.  He also said “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding.” ‘  He didn’t voice everything that was in his heart because he didn’t want to be the main issue just then.  He wanted to be there for Jane.
‘I just feel stupid.  But, I also feel relieved.  I was afraid of what I’d feel when I saw him again.  He’s not you Nick. ‘Jane hadn’t meant to blurt that out.
Nick’s grin lit up his face.  He suddenly squeezed Jane closer to his chest and began to laugh into her hair.  He loved the smell and texture of her hair.  ‘I’m very glad to hear that!’  Nick let go of Jane and smiled.  ‘You’re going to be ok!  I’ve got to go get some phone calls made.  See ya later?’
Jane nodded and went back to her own work.
Later that night she sat on the back porch with a glass of iced tea.  Joe Pelkey came down to check on his flowers.  ‘Do you have time to talk?’ She asked.
Joe turned around and smiled.  ‘Well, hello there!  Sure I have time.  Do you have any more iced tea?’
Jane took out a glass and sat down enjoying the late summer evening with Mr. Pelkey.  ‘I have been wondering about your book.’
Mr. Pelkey smiled and nodded.  ‘Well, I guess that’s a sign someone reads my work.’
‘What did you mean by that cemented foundation that doesn’t crumble in a marriage? You said it’s the reason most people who just live together find themselves more like room mates.’
Joe stretched his legs out and relaxed in the chair.  ‘Well Jane, that foundation would be Almighty God.  You see he gave us an instruction book for marriage in his word.  When we follow the basics, the marriage is cemented.’
‘But, I’ve seen a lot of older couples that are happily married but never set foot in a church.’  She wasn’t trying to argue but wanted to see all sides.
‘That’s true, yet it’s not the marriage that God intended.  You see, God’s plans work even when we don’t follow him.  It’s like making a cake with someone else’s recipe.  We might change a few things but if we follow the basic recipe it will work.  Yet, it won’t be the same cake.  The secret ingredient I was talking about is the Holy Spirit.  When two people are following God’s plan and have that same Spirit; they will naturally become more than two people.  They will take part in a three corded marriage.  A strong rope that has three cords seldom breaks.  I found that with my wife.  We often disagreed on things, but we shared the same spirit of God that caused us to become one.  Our belief system is stronger than most people think.  Many marriages break up because of it.  When you share the same God, you find yourself sharing more of each other.  No longer being two but one.  The focus is at one place.  That place is not on the wife or the husband’s needs but on obedience to God.’
Jane nodded and asked another question.  ‘Did you ever worry that you were trapped with someone?’
‘No, I felt freedom!  I could be totally myself with my wife.  There were no secrets or hidden agendas.  We shared everything from checking accounts to tooth paste.  Yet, I was free to grow and find more of myself as I was devoted to her.  We went on a long road together with the guidance of our Lord.  We found that we weren’t together because we needed each other.’  The sun was beginning to set and yet Jane still had questions.
Mr. Pelkey answered a few more of her questions.  ‘In today’s world we see a lot people who have basic needs.  There is a  need to be accepted and loved.  Yet, we had all ready found that in Christ so we didn’t have to cling to each other for it.  Before we decided to get married we knew that we both were imperfect.  I didn’t expect for her to meet all of my needs.   She had no way of doing it and I couldn’t do it for her either. ‘
He waited to see her response.  ‘Too often sex is confused with intimacy and love. It’s not the same thing.   We crave intimacy and substitute it for sex.  When the sex is over and there is still no intimacy we are disappointed with the substitute.  Yet, if we truly want to find that intimacy we need only to look to Christ.  He is more vital to a marriage than food and air.  Now, don’t get me wrong…sex is a wonderful part of a marriage.  Yet, Satan has always tried to fool people with a false substitute.
According to the bible there is no substitute for a real marriage.  If that were so, God would have had it written in.  Yet, I hate it when folks always give you the ‘Thou shalt nots’ and don’t tell you ‘Guess what you get to haves’.  Imagine a life without guilt or fear of exposure.  Imagine a life with someone who has the same foundation and you get to hear from God together?  You learn about life together through God’s eyes!  Oh, my wife and I found so much fun when we traveled the bible together and weathered each storm together too.  God is always closest then.’
Jane had forgotten how Mr. Pelkey had taken care of his wife before she died.  ‘It must have been so hard to lose her.’
‘Yes, it was very painful and I still have days of longing.  Yet, I have a comforter too.  The same Spirit that was with me all through my marriage is still there.  Plus, I didn’t really lose my wife.  I know where she is.’
Jane finally said good night to Mr. Pelkey and made her way into her downstairs apartment.  She thought of all that Mr. Pelkey had said and also found it written between the pages of his book.  She sat in her window box and thought of her life with Michael.
It occurred to her that they had lived to separate lives under the same roof.  She had tried to live in his world yet couldn’t.  He had no intention of sharing her world.  They had separate vacations, separate bank accounts, separate Gods, separate friends and yet shared the bed.  In the end, the bed had been the crumbling  foundation of her relationship.  ‘Never again!’ she said.
Just then the phone rang.  ‘Are you ready for dinner?’
‘Nick, sure come get me.’  She had been so engrossed with her talk with Mr. Pelkey that she’d forgotten her date. 

part 12

Nick’s feelings for Jane were growing stronger.  It was getting more difficult to say good night.  He stared down at Jane toward the end of August as he said good night at her door.  ‘Jane, I don’t wish to push you into anything.  However, I need to tell you how I feel.  Can we sit on the swing a moment before you go in?’
Jane agreed and sat next to Nick.  Nick wasted no time in speaking.  ‘I want you to know that I have strong feelings for you Jane.  It’s the kind that a man feels when he knows the world is full just because you are near.  I told you that I wanted to show you love other than in the bedroom.  I want to know, have I done that?’
Nick watched Jane’s face explode into a genuine smile.  In fact, she was beaming.  ‘Yes Nick, I wouldn’t have believed it but you have shown me love that I have never experienced or thought was possible.  You are thoughtful of my feelings.  I watch you protect me in many ways.  You know, it’s like an old fashioned movie where the knight throws down his cape for the lady to walk on.  You make sure I remember a sweater, or explain something new on the menu when we go out.  You remember the foods that make me a little sick.  You know I love sunsets.  You remembered my birthday with my favorite flowers.  I don’t know how you know these things but it means so much that you do.  Then there is the way that you teach me without making me feel less.  I know more of the bible now than ever before.  I know more of my job because you took the time to show me slowly.  You are honest, and I know I can trust you. ‘  Jane stopped for a moment.  ‘I love you Nick.  You have showed me what love really is.’
Nick let out a long sigh and stretched out his legs.  ‘Jane, I love you more than I know how.  I want you to marry me.’
Nick laughed.  ‘I was thinking you’d say yes or no.   I hadn’t thought that far ahead.’
‘Oh, well I always think two steps ahead.’  Jane was glad it was dark so he wouldn’t know her face went crimson.
‘I always thought a Christmas wedding would be nice.’ She said.
Nick thought for a moment.  ‘That’s four months away.  That gives us plenty of time.  How about December 20?  I’d like to be married before Christmas.’
The two agreed happily and Nick stood up.  Jane thought he was getting ready to leave and said ‘Good night.’
Nick stayed her arm.  ‘I want to give this to you first. ‘  He reached into his pocket and took out a diamond solitaire ring.  
Jane’s mouth opened wide and Nick reached under her chin to close it.  ‘Let’s put this on and close the deal?’  He slipped the ring on her finger.  Slowly, he bent down and kissed her lips.  Suddenly, he heard a cough and realized Mr. Pelkey was closing his upstairs window.
‘Do you think he’ll squeal on us?’ Nick asked.
Jane shook her head.  ‘He sleeps in his chair and wakes up after the eleven o clock news.  It’s the same routine each night.  I am going to tell the world though.  Do you want to announce it Sunday?’
Nick hesitated.  ‘Let’s tell your parents and our family first.  Then, I would like to make arrangements to meet with Mr. Pelkey for premarriage counsel.  What do you think?’
‘What is that?’ Jane asked.
‘Mr. Pelkey goes over some really important bases of marriage.  It will give us a step up before we enter into this new life.  I intend for this to be my only marriage.  How about you?’  Nick grinned down at his new fiancé.
‘I do too!’
‘That’s a good rehearsal line Jane!’ Nick found himself laughing foolishly as he went home.
The following day Nick and Jane announced their engagement to the family.  Everyone was pleased and wished them well.  Jane’s mother went into wedding planner mode.  ‘Let’s see, I’ll have to find out where you want to have the engagement party, the wedding reception, and the wedding colors will have to be decided…’
Jane walked out with Nick as she rattled a list of plans.  ‘I guess we now have to ask Mr. Pelkey if he has time for us.’
The next few weeks were spent with Mr. Pelkey in the church office.  Each Tuesday and Friday night they spent an hour going over what the word says about marriage.  Rather than being a boring time, Jane looked forward to Mr. Pelkey’s animated way of explaining marriage. 
He went over some basics first.   He again talked about the foundation of a marriage.  Nick and Jane agreed that Christ was the foundation.  Every situation would be handled according to what the word of God said.  ‘ I want you each to sit down and write out how much you financially owe.  Before going into a union, you each should know what your joined financial statement will be.  Let there be no secrets in a marriage.’
Next, he talked about the idea of having children.  He spoke about challenging subjects like raising children.  ‘You have to understand now what you expect from each other when the time comes.  The bible tells us to train up a child in the way he should go.  Are we in agreement with raising your children as the bible says?  He spent  two nights talking about this.
Mr. Pelkey carefully outlined Ephesians 5:22  ‘So many love to quote ‘Wives, submit  to your husbands’  but that is not all it says.  In fact, it says to ‘submit to your husbands as to the Lord.
 A Christian is one who has stopped doing what he or she wants to do and does what Christ wants them to do.  It’s a quote from William Barclay, and the best way to describe a Christian as I know of. 
Remember the rest of that passage fro Ephesians 5:23  ‘For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.’  But the passage goes on and I want you both to know the real meaning.
Verse 25 says, ‘Husbands love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.  In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his wife loves himself.  After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church…’
I want you to study that passage for the next few weeks together.  Also, I want to make sure you know that Christ sees you both as equals yet with different roles in this marriage.  Many have the mistaken idea that women are so beneath a man that she is a worthless bed partner.  Not so!’
Nick and Jane listened as Mr. Pelkey explained how God had made woman to be a help meet for man.  He in turn is supposed to care for her as he cares for his own body.  Never abusing her physically or mentally, or emotionally.  He explained that a woman should be thought of as a precious gift.  ‘Nick, if you remember to treat Jane in this fashion, she will submit out of love and not duty.  Yet, if you mistreat her or try to be selfish and controlling she will submit, but out of fear and resentment.  You can create a rebellious wife when you mistreat her.  Or, you can stroke a woman by loving understanding and careful  attention. 
The word of God never meant for a man to just take over a woman through marriage.  He meant for the two to become one and focus on Him.  You are equal in the spirit with different functions in the marriage.
Through the weeks Mr. Pelkey explained that sex was a gift from God to be used to consummate the marriage and procreate, and to have a feeling of oneness.   Your bodies will no longer be just your own but they will belong to each other.  That means that you can’t use sex as a manipulation tactic.  That is how the world does things with sex.  It is used to sell or flaunt.  Satan makes sex look cheap.  Yet, God meant it for a beautiful gift between the married couple.  Remember, this is not an old fashioned idea that comes from old folks like me.  It’s in the very word of God.’
Mr. Pelkey went over some of the problems of marriage.  He outlined several problems and sent them home with homework on some nights.  ‘Without asking each other, write down how you would handle theses problems and we will go over it next week.’ He said.
The problems were many. 
Nick is working late for two weeks and comes home to find the house filled with people.  There was a leaky pipe and his wife didn’t want to bother him.  It burst while he was at work and she called  friends over to fix it.  Did she do the wrong thing?  How should Nick respond?
Jane’s brother wants to borrow money and asks Jane while Nick is away.  What should she do?

There is a church board meeting to decide about a possible problem.  It is scheduled the same day as Jane’s parent’s anniversary party.  What should Nick do?
They have 3 teen age kids and one brings home drugs.  They wake up to find their children doing drugs at 3 a.m.  What do they do?
The insurance company finds itself with a lawsuit that might drain their bank account.  Jane wants to find another job.  What should they do?

Nick and Jane spent a long time with Mr. Pelkey and found out that many things can go wrong in a Godly marriage.  Mr. Pelkey taught them that prayer together and communication is a key to a good marriage.  ‘My wife and I had many spats.  But we never went to bed angry.  The bible says ‘Never let the sun go down on your wrath.’  If you can’t agree, at least agree on what you can.  Tell each other you love them.  Sometimes the answers to a problem are simple and sometimes they have a way of taking time.  Remember, ‘Love covers a multitude of sins’.
Jane and her mother put together a red and white wedding.   White streamers cascaded down the isles while red roses filled vases.  Jane wore her mother’s wedding gown. It was a long sleeved white satin gown with mother of pearl beads trailing down the front.  Jack could hardly breathe as he escorted Jane down the isle.  He met Nick at the end and placed his daughter’s hand in his. 
The reception was held in the church pavilion.  They had decided on 300 guests or so.  Within hours of the wedding, the couple was in a plane bound for Ireland.
A week after they returned, Nick was moved into her apartment.  They had decided to stay there until they found a house.  Neither was in a big hurry.
When Nick was late getting home one night, Jane didn’t notice.  She was busy doing the laundry.  The phone rang and the news made her drop the receiver.  Nick had been in a head on collision and he was in a coma at Emergency General Hospital.

part 13

Jane did not remember how she got to the hospital. She sat in the emergency room waiting room with her parents and Mr. Pelkey. He explained that he had answered his door to a frantic Jane and had phoned her parents before bringing her to the hospital himself.

The four sat praying silently as they waited for the doctor to bring more news. A middle aged man wearing green scrubs walked into the room and spoke to the receptionist. The receptionist motioned towards Jane and the doctor went to her.

'Hello, I am Dr. Barns. May I sit down? I want to update you on Nick's condition.' Jane nodded and waited for the doctor to sit.

'First of all, I want to tell you the good news. He did not sever any major arteries. His left leg is broken in three places. His left arm is also broken. He has two broken ribs and lost a tooth. He suffered a severe head blow however. We could not wait to operate because he had swelling on the brain and we needed to release the pressure surgically.'

The doctor did not want to be too graphic. A hole had been bored into the skull to release the pressure. He explained that was why he had phoned to get verbal permission via phone. Jane did not remember speaking to him on the phone but she nodded her head.

'Is he going to be all right?' she asked.

“I will have a better idea of what we are dealing with after he wakes up. He may be partially paralyzed or not able to speak. I want to prepare you so you won't be shocked. I have no idea what I am going o find in 24 hours. However, he is young and very healthy. That will be in his favor. If he does have trouble speaking it might only be temporary and if there is any paralysis he might need physical therapy. But, there is no way I can predict until at least 24 hours.'

Lisa put her arm around her daughter's shoulders. 'When can I see him?' Jane asked.

'He is in a private room. You can go in now. But the rest of you will only be able to stay a short while. Only immediate family is allowed to stay.'

The rest of the little group understood. They walked behind the doctor to the intensive care unit rooms. Jane nearly collapsed when she saw her newlywed husband. His head had a huge bandage, looking like a white turban. He was breathing with oxygen tubes in his nose. He had a chest tube extending from his lung. His left leg was in a cast and suspended with the help of a metal pole. An IV drip was attached to his right arm. His skin was pale and Jane wondered if he could hear her.

'Nick? I'm here Nick.' She reached for his hand and gently put it into her own. Her parents and Mr. Pelkey prayed quietly and then said good night to Jane. Her father told her he would come check on her in the morning. Lisa asked her for the apartment key so that she could bring fresh change of clothes. All of these things were done and Jane remembered nothing. Her only thoughts were talking to Nick and talking to the Lord on Nick's behalf.

Mr. Pelkey took out his pocket bible and put it in her hand. 'There is some scriptures underlined there Jane.' Jane stood up and hugged him and her parents. She couldn’t think of anything to say but just hung on to them for a few minutes. 'Thank you.' She then turned back to her chair and to Nick.

During the night she let go of Nick's hand as the nurse came in to take care of him. Jane watched as the catheter bag was emptied and the urine measured. She noticed that the urine was dark. The nurse smiled and said 'This is normal, don't worry.'

Jane had left the small lamp on so she could read the bible. She found verses on healing but more than that she found verses about prayer. Suddenly, she asked the Lord for help. 'Lord, when Jesus was here he healed the sick. He said that we were going to do even greater miracles. I am asking that you heal Nick. Also, help me to take on the role as Nick's earthly intercessor. Use my hands to help in his healing process. Magnify yourself through me. I do not want any glory...but I want to see your glory. Let the accident simply be a testimony for who YOU are! I believe you can heal, I believe you want to heal and I believe that you let me be his wife for such a time as this. I will not believe that my prayers will go unanswered. Jesus said we could do even greater things. Make me usable to do greater things for YOUR glory and let Nick speak of the glory of God!'

A shining light enveloped the room and Jane watched as it settled on her hand where it was clasped with Nick. It was an answer to prayer. Jane understood the significance of the miracle. God would use her hands as a tool in the healing process of Nick. She in turn would give God all the glory.

'I will pray without ceasing and I will sing praises to your name.' Suddenly, Jane felt like rejoicing and speaking out loud to her God. 'I am nothing except what you are in me. My faith in you is just a measure and you know it. Nothing is hidden in my heart from your eyes. You know the love I have for Nick. He told me to put you above him though. Therefore, I will magnify your name. I will believe in more miracles. You said in the bible that we have not because we ask not and when we do ask....we ask amiss. Help me to ask for the right things. I will not make promises or boast to you Lord. For, you know all of my tomorrows. But, I would ask for your strength and guidance through these next few weeks. I would ask to see my husbands eyes open and for him to speak my name. I hope that is ok to ask. It is the cry of my heart.'

Jane felt spent after talking to the Lord. The bright light was gone and she fell asleep. At four o clock in the morning, she awoke as if someone shook her. Looking over at Nick she was amazed to see his eyes open. She stood up and leaned over.

'Nick, I don't want you to be afraid. I prayed to our Father last night. He sent me an answer in the form of a bright light that shined on my hand as I held your right hand. He is going to heal you and He is going to let my hands on you be part of that healing process. I don't know if you understood all that I said. But, can you say my name?'

Nick followed Jane with his eyes and seemed to have recognition. He tried to speak but his throat was dry. He swallowed and tried again. A soft choking word came from his lips. 'Jane'.

part 14

The doctor came into Nick's room at exactly 7a.m. He was greeted to the scene of Nick with his eyes open and scanning the room. Jane was still holding his hand and sound asleep in the lounge chair next to the bed.

'Well, I guess you are awake.' The doctor said. He waited for a reaction.

Nick looked at him and nodded his head. 'Yes.' He said. His voice was still soft and crackly since he'd had nothing in his mouth for over 24 hours. Nick detested the thick film he felt on his tongue.
'Can I have something to drink now?' he asked.

Dr. Barnes was glad for the response. 'Let me check you over and I'll see about some water.'

Jane woke up just then. 'Oh, hello. I'll just go to the rest room and freshen up while you check him out.' She leaned over and kissed Nick's forehead before she left.

The corridor was busy with medicine carts and nurses dispensing pills. Housekeepers were busy damp mopping parts of the hall floors. The silver breakfast tray cart was sitting in the middle of the hall as well. Dietary aides were busy bringing patients their trays of food. The bright florescent lights nearly blinded Jane as she made her way to the hall ladies room.

Jane noticed the light green walls were painted halfway up the hall corridors and then a soft white was painted to the ceiling. 'I suppose it is supposed to be calming but it's so drab.' The nurses station was just to the left of her and she noticed a group of hospital staff all grouped together listening to someone speaking in soft tones.'

The hall clock said it was 7 a.m. The night shift was over and the day shift had begun their work. Jane entered the ladies room and used the toilet. After looking into the mirror she realized she needed to fix herself up a bit. She took her time and fished around in her purse for her travel tooth brush. It was always there in case she was out to a restaurant and got food stuck in her teeth. She always carried dental floss, a small tube of paste and her tooth brush. She brushed her teeth and then washed her face with a damp paper towel. Her make up kit was handy so she applied some light lip gloss and eye brow pencil with eye liner. She brushed her hair and put all of her things away.

Meanwhile the doctor checked Nick's eye reactions with a small penlight. His pupils reacted well to the light. He asked if Nick knew what year it was, who the president was and if he knew where he was. Nick answered slow but accurately. Dr. Banks was glad to see that Nick was alert and oriented. Nick knew who he was and what had happened. 'I remember the truck seemed to have lost control and I had no where to go. The next thing I remember was waking up in the dark with Jane holding my hand and talking, or praying.'

Dr. Banks smiled. ' I understand you are recently married.'

Nick smiled and nodded slowly. 'My head feels like it weighs a ton.'

'You have a huge bandage on your head. Because of the swelling, we had to operate to relieve the pressure. You were banged up pretty bad. Just having you awake and alert is a miracle. You have some broken ribs and as you can see, your arm and leg are broken. I think the leg is going to take the longest to heal. I'll be having you remain here for a day or two for observation. After that I'm transferring you to the orthopedic floor where you will get more care on the bones. I hope hospital food won't bother you too much. You are going to need at least six weeks in here. After that, you can go to out patient therapy. But for now, just be happy you woke up. I'll go order a light breakfast.'

Nick said thanks and the doctor left as Jane entered the room. Nick smiled at her and she noticed he needed a shave.

'I'm getting breakfast. I would imagine it's a doozy.' He said.

As it turned out, the tray was jello and tea. The nurse brought in a pitcher of ice and styrofoam cups. 'You are on a liquid diet for 24 hours. We don't want you to throw up and put pressure on the head injury stitches. Meanwhile, you can and should sip ice water. Your IV will remain in but we still want you to have fluids by mouth. It will get rid of that pastey feeling..'

Jane and Nick were not surprised at this. Nick settled back and Jane watched as he tried to open the jello lid. His cast on the left arm made things difficult. Jane reached over and removed the lid. 'I know you will be able to manage to feed yourself. Let me help with a few things though.'

Nick sipped the tea and ate the jello. He was glad to see the nurse come in with pain medicine. She put a piggy back IV bag alongside his other bag. 'For a while your pain medicine will be either a shot or in the IV.'

Nick slept most of the day. Jane left him when her father came with a change of clothes. 'He's alert and oriented Dad.' Jane told him about her night and how the Lord had answered her prayer.

The two of them walked to the hospital cafeteria and sat down with a cup of coffee. Just then Jack looked up and motioned to Jane. 'Nick's Dad and his brother Joe are here.'

David Jameson was an older replica of his sons. He was tall with dark brown hair with a little gray hair on the sides. Nick's eyes were the color of chocolate like his father. Joe had blue eyes like their mother. A straight aquiline nose with high cheek bones betrayed their Indian heritage. They all walked with shoulders back and heads held high. The two men stood in the doorway looking a bit lost. Jane got up with her father and ushered them to their table. As Jane filled them in on Nick's progress, Jack got up and retrieved two more cups of coffee.

'Listen, Jane I have something to tell you. Nick came to me before the wedding to make sure either me or Joe here gave you this envelope in case anything happened to him.' Her father held the envelope out for Jane. 'Now, I know he is going to recover; but in the mean time Nick has provided for you.'

Jane was stunned. 'What do you mean?

Joe reached over and took her hand. 'It's nothing bad. Nick just wanted to be sure that if anything happened you would have nothing to worry about. Just open it up.'

Jack put his arm around Jane as she opened the papers. 'It states in the event that Nick is unable to make decisions...I have the final say in all business transactions. Is this a will?' she asked.

David smiled. 'Yes, sort of and yet it also is in case of an emergency like this. Nick has put down in writing all of the things that might be of help to you. In this part, ' he reached over and pointed to a paragraph. 'he has listed me and his brother as people who you can call on if you wish to help out with the business while he recovers...or if the worst happens. He just didn’t want it all to fall on your shoulders. Also, since I was the owner of this insurance company and Joe also has the other company; we can and are willing to step in by taking turns. Only if you want us to of course.' David didn't want to frighten her.

Jane reached over to the two of them. 'Yes, I never thought of anything past Nick's waking up but this is wonderful.'

David smiled at his daughter in law. 'The other pages are things to help you manage the two girls in the office. You can close the office for a week and they will still get a paycheck. His account numbers and even a special account for you to draw on if needed. He is going to be awake off and on I presume but won't have to worry if he knows you have this.'

Jack smiled. 'You see honey, a husband of Godly character provides these things. I believe the Lord guided Nick and he put your interests first as he thought of a marriage. Do you remember what Mr Pelkey said at the marriage counseling? A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. Christ provided for his 'bride' and Nick is doing the same.'

Jane's eyes watered up. 'It never crossed my mind. I do get it though.'

Joe grinned. 'I would suggest you read page 24 where it shows how to get the girls to send out a notice of the business closing for a few weeks and who to get in touch with. Our names are there. We will both meet with Nick and get updated on his clients so we can help out. That way, you can be with him. We can all do this together.'

Jack squeezed his daughter's shoulders. 'God is going to do a lot of miracles Jane.'

Joe told them that they had all ready gone to see Nick but he was asleep. 'We are going to get a bite to eat and come back later. The news on Nick is better than we thought. But, it's going to be a rough time for him. Your part is going to be much harder than ours Jane. We are here for moral support as well. You have our phone numbers. My wife Nancy said she'd be available too. We love our brother.'

Jane hugged them both as they got on the elevator. Her emotions were so full she could not speak. As she walked back to Nick's room she thought of all she had learned about a Godly marriage. Truly, it was a replica of Christ and the body of Christ...the church. Christ gave his life up for the body of Christ. Her husband made preparations to ensure she was cared for and that his family was around her.

She reached over and kissed his forehead. Nick woke up a little groggy. 'Don't worry Nick. I met with your father and I have the papers. All will be well. You did good. I'm not afraid.'

'Good' Nick said and went back to sleep with a smile.

Ephesians 5:28 - 29

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his wife loves himself.  After all, no one ever hated his own body but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church...


The next few months were more difficult than Jane had imagined for Nick...and herself.   He soon grew tired of watching television from his bed. He asked Jane to bring him some paperwork to do on his laptop. He found he could not stay awake long to focus on it though. This made him frustrated and Jane was the easiest person to vent his frustration on.

'I am sick and tired of being like this. I feel useless!' He yelled one day. 'I hate having to use a fracture pan each time my bodily functions occur. I just lay here like a lump!!!'  The time spent in bed brought bedsores. Each day he had to have bandages changed on his hips.

The bandage on his head was removed. He became upset to discover one side of his head had been shaved. 'I look like a freak!' It seemed he yelled rather than spoke. Jane discovered that her mild mannered husband had quite a temper and a short one at that. The cast on his arm itched and he tried to do as the nurse suggested by blowing through a straw at the top of the cast to relieve the itch. Jane watched as the straw took flight across the room.

Jane was always glad to see the nurse come in with medicine as that meant Nick would sleep for a while.

One day Nick woke up and his leg was hurting. His father was sitting in a chair and Nick did not realize it. Jane had brought her bible in and was reading quietly. 'Jane?' Nick said.

Jane turned to Nick with a smile. Nick to a deep breath. His ribs were a little less sore and he was able to move slightly without causing himself pain. 'How long have I got to lay here trussed up like a thanksgiving turkey?' he asked.

Jane reached over and silently prayed for Nick. 'Be patient, it won't be long.'

'Patient?' He yelled out loud. 'You aren't the one who is in this bed having nurses poke and prod every day. You don't have tubes and things all over you. You don't have to depend on others just to go to the bathroom!'

Jane reached over and kissed his forehead. Without speaking to him, she turned and left the room. Jane had realized that if she had remained in the room she would have said something mean. She went to the cafeteria and ordered a cup of coffee.

Silently, Nick's father got up out of the reclining chair and walked over to the bed. He stood looking at his son. David Jameson knew Nick quite well. His son was a lot like himself. 'Nick, I want a word with you son.'

'I didn't know you were here. Sure, it's not like I am going anywhere.'

David slowly lowered himself to the chair where Jane had been sitting. 'You know son, I heard what you said to Jane just now. In fact, I have heard you clear across the hall. You are right that Jane isn't where you are. However, you have no idea what it's like trying to be a good wife and caring so much for another without any thanks.'

Nick stared at the ceiling in silence.
'Jane has helped those nurses do their work because some have become afraid of your temper. I can't believe you threw food at them. Jane cleaned up the floor with that scene. Jane sits here most days and prays and lays hands on you. You shrug her away and demand the television remote. I have watched as your young wife has tried to anticipate your every need. If I were Jane I would walk out that door and not come back. You are wallowing in self pity and taking out your frustrations on the one person who loves you the most.'

Nick's father stood silently for a moment to let his words sink in. Nick was quiet and staring at the ceiling.

'Son, I am going to take Jane out for a steak dinner tonight and then to a movie. I think it's time for you to do some thinking. Tomorrow, you are getting out of the bed I'm told. You need to know that God is going to make your healing process move along in His own time. How you respond to it will determine how you proceed. But, I will not sit by quietly and watch you react this way any longer. I love you too much for that.'

Nick's dad reached down to kiss his face and realized Nick was crying silent tears. 'I love you too.' Nick whispered.

David Jameson took his daughter in law out to a relaxing dinner and a movie. Rather than bringing her to the hospital, he suggested she get a good night's sleep to prepare for Nick's physical therapy the next day.

The following day Jane came in to Nick's room and smiled as usual. She was glad to see her husband smile back at her. Before they had time to talk, the physical therapist came in and assisted Nick into a sitting position. His arm cast had been changed to a less bulky one and he had some use of the arm. Nick was surprised to find his good leg quite weak. His work that day was to simply be able to transfer to a commode and then to a reclining chair. His left leg was still in the cast but the pins had been removed. The healing process for his leg would take time.

Nick was tired after the process but glad to be out of the bed for a while. The physical therapist said someone would be in to check on him every two hours and that they would help teach him to transfer himself with the cast. Walking with crutches would begin in another week.

When the therapist had left, Nick sat in the recliner alone with his wife. He wasn't sure how to communicate his thoughts well but knew he had to try.

'Jane, I am so glad you are here.' Jane sat in a chair near him with her hands holding his right hand. 'What a terrible way to begin a marriage. I have been horrible.' Jane made a sound but Nick shook his head. 'My father spoke to me, Dad never beats around the bush. He reminded me of what a monster I have been. Truth is,I just hate being like this Jane.'

'I know, you are usually the one to take charge of everything and here you are not able to take charge of anything.' Jane rubbed the back of his hand with her thumb. 'But,I understand.'

'I wanted you to see me strong, not like this. Remember, you didn't think I was even strong enough to move a couch. Well, now I can't.'

Jane laughed. 'Oh Nick! When you walked in that day bulging muscle and being so charming...I was so shocked! You are all man my husband. This accident would have annihilated any other man. It's going to be hard but not impossible!!'

'You were impressed that day?  I was scared, I found out I had this gorgeous girl working for me and I wanted to eat you up!'  They both laughed and then Nick continued.  'I am so sorry for giving you such a hard time these past few months.' Nick squeezed his wife's hand.

'Nick Jameson, you must listen to me. I married you, I made a lifetime covenant with you, and I am totally committed to you. We will have trials like this and we'll both respond good and bad, but we are a team. Do you remember our bible passage at the wedding​?'

Nick smiled and looked at his wife. 'We had a lot of scripture that day. Which one?'

'I Corinthians 13:4-8 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails...” I especially liked the part where it says 'love keeps no record of wrongs.' When I make a mistake you will not bring it up after I ask forgiveness. I will not keep a record of any of your wrongs either Nick.'

'Dearest Jane, who knew that when I gave you my name and shared all that I possess; I would get more than I could hold.' Silence filled the room and Jane gazed over at her sleeping husband.

His dark brown hair was partially cut off and some  covered his eyes. His hospital gown was askew. Yet, he was the priceless gift that God had molded just for her. He seemed more handsome to her than any man she had ever seen. He was more than a sex partner, though Jane longed for him to be well enough to share his body with her.  He was  more than a business partner, more than a protector and more than a live in friend. He was her husband!!


1 comment:

  1. I had many things I needed to get done tonight, however, I could not stop until I had finished reading this story. How sad that so many marriages are less then they could be because of misinformation or misinterpretation of Gods loving design for us as married couples. I could see myself so many years ago with many of the same questions and even the same disappoint of a broken relationship that was based on the liberal views of marriage and love. The Lord has been good and faithful and has forgiven me and blessed me with a wonderful Godly husband. Reading this story was a gentle but powerful reminder of the vows I made and the gift God has given me in my husband. When I pray tonight I will be asking my dear Heavenly Father to help us recommit to loving each other as He intended and allowing our marriage to bring Him Glory. Thank you for relating what you have heard from Holy Spirit to remind us all of how wonderful Gods plan of marriage for us is and what, or really Who.. it truly represents. God Bless You!