Chapter 1

Alejia Hope Rockefeller had had enough. Practicing strict self-control as she drove, she kept her car within the speed limit range, even though her rage tempted her to floor it. “All I need is a speeding ticket right now!” she thought wryly. ” That would just give him more reason to belittle me and harass me about how much money I cause us to spend. I do NOT need that!”

She fidgeted as angry thoughts poked at her emotions, attempting to get them to rise into waves of tears, with possible bouts of random swearing. She pushed the radio power button, and chose her favorite Contemporary Christian station, even though Metallica was her go-to music when upset. Ironically, the song “Oceans” streamed around her, instantly stifling those emotion-manipulating thoughts. She felt peace as the music reached into her soul, soothing her raw, wounded heart. Now she could focus on the road and enjoy her short drive to what she called her secret refuge. The only people who knew it’s location were herself, her mom, and her most trusted friend, Osa. The sudden realization over-whelmed her: she did not trust this precious secret to Jacob. She needed this just for her self, a place she could go where the conflict could never reach her.

She forced her thoughts back on to the road, as she looked for the land mark near her turn. Her heart flipped with excitement as she found it. She eased her teal and pearl Celica down the narrow lane. It was nearly over-grown by tree branches and tall milk-weeds. Ahead of her the lake came into view, and she breathed a deep sigh of relief. “Peace and quiet, just what my spirit needs!” she thought with strong conviction.

Ten minutes later, she parked. The woods swallowed the sound of her car door alarm as she climbed out and stretched. This place was even more transcendent than she had remembered. As she walked, her eyes took in the view as her lungs would take a deep breath. She immediately felt refreshed. Why had she not come here sooner? Why did she wait until her life felt so out of control, almost hopeless?

She felt as though she had come home, after a very long journey into strange lands. The earth seemed to embrace her, the trees were like family her heart had ached to be reunited with for so long. Finding her favorite path, she neared the lake’s edge. Next to the rock jutting up that she had often in the past used for leverage in standing after just sitting and letting the water wash over her, she sank to her knees. A cry escaped her throat that startled her.

Once again, angry thoughts began provoking tender emotions, prodding, stabbing….

“Lord. I can not do this any more. I cannot stand up under the weight of all Jacob puts on me. The accusations, the insults, that horrible jealousy! I have never given him any reason to make him worry! Have I? Pleased help me. Please!”

Silence enveloped her as she felt herself immersed by her emotions, thoughts and unvoiced prayers.

In the distance a woman walking with a lion stopped just out of Alejia’s view. She spoke with quiet intrigue to the lion, as though the lion were instructing her. “Is it time”? The lion growled slightly, with a gentle-quietness– an affectionate sound. As Alejia remained focused in-ward, eyes closed, the woman and the lion walked to her, surrounding Alejia with the cloak the woman wore.

Chapter 2

Alejia opened her eyes, feeling a gentle breeze, like a familiar comforting shroud around her. In the lake just in front of Alejia’s bent knees, she noticed a deep blue stone with a white star in it. Her eyes focused on the stone curiously, the star standing out against the blue back ground as though it were above the stone, yet some how also with in it.

Alejia began looking around at what seemed like new, yet familiar, surroundings. Her beloved trees seemed to have faded into a back ground of vivid colors. Every where she looked were gems in all shapes and sizes. Even the clouds had a pearlescent hue, the sun a blindingly gold glow, almost like an unfaceted or cabachoned Topaz or Amber.  Her consciousness became aware of musical whispers– not quite songs, not really chords, more like a gentle, melodic sounding breeze that reached into the depth of her being.

Was she hearing with her ears, or her spirit?

Words echoed in her thoughts, with a quiet yet authoritative female voice– The gems represent the fulfilled promises of Providence.

Realizing she was still on her knees, she carefully stood up, balancing against the familiar old rock, that now looked a lot like Jasper.

Surprised, Alejia ran her hand over the water smoothed surface, and felt a calm wash over her. She thought, “I don’t know what is going on. But, I don’t feel afraid. Maybe that is stupid of me. I guess I will be finding out soon!”

She continued to take in her surroundings, both by sight, and touching every thing around her with her hands. “This place is so pretty! I don’t remember all these colors, or walls made of precious stone before! Maybe I have fallen asleep.” Slipping off a sandal, she inched her toes toward a crab sidling off down the beach. As she nudged it, the crab suddenly grabbed her baby toe. Startled, a spontaneous complaint of pain spilled off her tongue, “Ouch! Hey!

So. She is awake. Wait… Do crabs even live here?

She cautiously investigated the area, seeing everthing as though with new, clearer eyesight. “It looks like my secret refuge, and yet… “Hey, is that a golden road?!” The tune from a song she’d sung years before at her church popped into her memory, “We will dance on the streets that are golden…”

Whoa! This had to be a dream, or a daydream.

Her eyes were teased by a sparkle on the lake. “It looks like crystal! Like a giant, perfectly clear diamond,” she thought animatedly. In the bottom of the lake, she saw what looked like fire– no, that can’t be! She closed her eyes, then opened them– closed them, then opened them– yes, that was fire! Like from a diamond! She walked to the lake, expecting the surface to be hard, but it was not. It was liquid but it had a near ground corn silk-like feel to it. She then experienced what she could only describe as being a scented musical sound, like aromatic, melodic waves tantalizing her senses… an incense, maybe Frankincense, mixed with melodic wind chimes, perhaps? She lowered her hand into the bottom, trying to touch the nearest glimmer of fire she could reach. As soon as she moved the water, the fire was chased off, much like a rainbow after a storm.

Chapter 3

“This is seriously cool!”, Alejia thought about the water. Then she glanced up and saw a woman standing  a few feet away, with the most gorgeous lion she could have ever hoped to see in person.  She stood cautiously and started to back away into the liquid crystal, forgetting about chasing after the fires within it.

Something about that lion… was… familiar. She had never even been to a zoo, so how could that be possible? Her attention was brought to the lion’s mane, which seemed to be dancing with the slight breeze (there’s that melodic comfort-filled, spirit-cooling sensation again! Almost like the lightest, most refreshing waves washing over, cleansing, invigorating her).

Her awareness opened up even further as her eyes noticed another road, (again golden), behind the woman with the lion.

“What is this place? Where even is it, and how did I get here? How long have I been here? How can it feel familiar?”, Alejia thought the questions without speaking, not daring to make a sound… scarcely daring to breath.

The woman with the lion beckoned to Alejia to come up out of the water. She seemed gentle, trustworthy, and yet… she has a lion with her!

Alejia studied the woman, then again her attention rested on the lion. There was something…. so…. majestic. So… nonthreatening, yeah, that is the word. Nonthreatening. About a lion. Standing 3 feet in front of her. Unrestrained…

“Why am I walking towards the lion?? Have I lost control of my common sense??”, she thought to herself. “So, what? I’m distracted by this amazing, beautiful world, but have I been brought here to be fed to this lion…?” That seemed dumb, but not completely unrealistic in that moment as Alejia walked steadily towards the woman (and the lion!). Her eyes stuck to watching for sudden movements, trying to ready her senses to run if she felt endangered. But the music… “That is music I’m hearing, I’m feeling! Like a gentle mist, going, no flowing,  through… through… me. How can that even be?”

The lion’s eyes peered deeply into her own, beyond her eyes, deep into her soul. Vulnerability over took her. One might think the lion would lick its chops, roar with intimidation, then lunge as it began devouring her, delving its teeth deeply through her flesh into her marrow. Instead, its gaze pushed through her, causing her to feel exposed. As though her soul were naked. She fought the unsettling urge to cover herself as she realized, nothing about her appearance has changed. Her body was still fully clothed, though somehow her spirit had become uncovered, unhidden, no longer shrouded by her human flesh. It was as though her body, like the trees, had faded into the background of magnificence. Every thought seemed captured by the lion’s awareness, every choice laid out bare before it, it seemed to be reading her entire life, her spirit, as though it were a book.

She felt a strong under current of regret, a remorse, as memories of choices she made guided by emotional reactions, surged to the fore front of her exposure. Her earlier question in her prayer, had she done something to provoke jealousy within her husband, was being shown to her. It was as though her memories and motives were a movie her understanding was watching. She’d done things, said things that she had convinced herself were innocent. Even at the time, deep down she knew they weren’t innocent. The flirting with her co-worker Josh, joking around, seeking him out when Jacob had made her angry or hurt her feelings,  that was all intentional. Confiding in him, talking or thinking about if she had never married Jacob how she and Josh might…

Ok, that needed to stop. Those thoughts, they needed to go away. She had married Jacob, knowing he was not maybe her best option as a husband, knowing he did not believe as she did. But, she loved him, and at the time, that seemed to be the most important thing, that loyalty to her heart, to her feelings.

Marrying Jacob, she realized suddenly– that was a regret. A huge regret.

But she made a commitment to Jacob, and to God. Her growing feelings were turning into longings for a different life with Josh… No, that had to stop.

Faced with herself, she chose to turn away from what she knew was wrong. She vowed to close the connection that she had attached herself to Josh through. She had begun thinking of her time with him as interludes of being rescued from the negativity of her marriage with Jacob. That could not happen anymore.

Her heart of hearts began to swell with the desire to confess all of this to Providence. Then she realized: she already had! “I am so sorry Lord! I’ve blown it, have I not? I let my emotions carry me into a situation where my own heart has been adulterous. I allowed my emotions to be wooed by the comfort and attention of a man other than my husband.”

Her face in her hands, she sobbed quietly as her heart broke with this new realization as she sunk down into the brilliantly multi-colored sand. How had she allowed herself to be caught up in such a dangerous situation?

She became aware of a warmth over her, through her– a comfort. At first it was faint, but as she focused on the sensation, it grew stronger. It consumed her, she felt safe– emotionally warm. Deep within her, she heard…? Felt? Was it a thought? She became aware of the words, “Forgive yourself”. In her spirit, she asked, “How? How can I just let that go? I’m supposed to be better than that, smarter. I messed up! How can I be a good example for Jacob as a Christian, if I’m so weak and naive?”

She was aware of the words again, stronger this time, “Forgive yourself.”

She made a conscious effort to just let it all go– the claiming of responsibility, the guilt, and the remorse at messing up. She caught herself opening her hands, as if actually releasing something she was holding in them.

Opening her eyes, she shielded them from a blazing light coming from some where behind the girl and the lion.

As she peered into the bright light she began to see the out line of what looked like a city on a hill. It was massive. And shiny! The more she peered into the light, the more she realized it was the city that created the light. Not like electric lighting. At first she thought the city was some how reflecting the blinding light, but now she began understanding that the light wove through it all, emanating, illuminating a pure brilliance she could almost feel, almost hear… Her senses reaching out to taste it.

That light felt more real, more alive than any thing she had ever experienced or interacted with.

She felt compelled to walk towards it, to experience being part of that amazing, comforting, familiar-feeling light. She stood, preparing herself physically and mentally to walk forward.

The quiet, gentle roar of the lion pulled her attention away from the city. Then the woman with the lion began to speak, as though interpreting what the lion wanted to communicate clearly.

“It’s beautiful. It’s power draws you in to become part of it. But, you mustn’t go any closer, it’s not time for you to enter that city, yet. Providence has plans to use your life to make a mansion for another. ”

Before Alejia could even form her questions in her mind, never mind actually speak them out, the woman answered them. “He has prepared a house for you, here. This city is full of mansions, all personally prepared for each person, by Providence. Yours is ready for you, but you’re not ready for it. Not even to visit it. For, if you visit, you will never want to leave. You must leave to complete the destiny that awaits your return.”

Alejia felt emotionally torn. Every cell of her being wanted to walk forward, to ignore this woman. But, what the woman said intrigued Alejia. She made herself heed the woman’s words. The word “destiny” stuck in her thoughts like a kitten’s claws playfully clinging to a ball of yarn, teasing at her curiosity.

The woman continued.

“Humility has become a strength for you. Forgiveness a type of fortress. Your insight has deepened giving clearer sight to the eyes of your understanding. That is how you can see through the Light of Glory in our city.”

Alejia’s hair stirred by a breeze, seemed to begin a slight dancing motion. A deep brown strand fluttered past her eye, the slight mahogany hue glowed. It tickled her cheek. The silvery musical breeze swirled around her, inviting her skin to goose-bump in response, chills surging through her spirit.

The lion’s mane appeared incandescent, each feather-like fiber in a dance-like motion as it interacted with the melodic phrased breeze. She absorbed the picture into her memory as she became aware of words again resonating with in her spirit.

“Jacob’s going to need you. He’s going to need your patient love, and understanding. I have tools for you. You will not understand them, until the time when you need them, but that is ok. Know that I am going to guide your steps, and I will be a light for your path. Turn and look in to the pond.”

Alejia turned towards the pond, and stole a glance at her reflection on the fiery water’s surface.

Startled by her appearance which seemed to be glowing, not unlike the city behind the woman and lion, she was suddenly aware she was wearing a white robe.

It was so white, it was almost as if it were made out of light.

Her eyes settled on something she noticed in her hair. It was a tiara, modestly jeweled with 5 of the most beautiful gems she had ever laid eyes on. Each stone appeared to be one color, until the light danced off another facet, then it seemed to change to an iridescence. Then her eyes were directed to her neck, where a necklace rested that also contained 5 of those same type of stones. As she moved her hand up to touch the necklace, she then became aware of a bracelet. 5 stones shimmered through a design imprinted on it that reminded her of a fiery blaze. Then, a ring, also embedded with 5 of those beautifully unique stones, each stone helped form the letter P, for Providence, she thought. Around her waist, an elegant chain containing those same 5 stones, loosely hung from her form. Her attention rested on her feet. In her reflection she saw sandals with the 5 stones scattered across the top of her feet. Looking at her actual feet, she noticed she still had on her actual shoes: practical, bright-colored with a low heel.

I wonder why my reflection is so different than my actual appearance?

Again aware of words that encompassed a depth no way she could describe or understand– “I’ve given you the tools you’ll need in the future. You won’t always be aware you have them, they have become a part of who you are and how you will interact with others. It’s not necessary for you to see them, or acknowledge them. They’re part of your design. They can’t be taken from you, and you can’t give them away. This is important for you to know. There will come a time when one will attempt to trick you into thinking they are gone. But they are always with you, just as I am always with you.”

Unsure if she could approach the woman with the lion, she carefully took several steps towards them. They both watched her, yet the lion seemed to have a look of casual amusement on its face. She felt herself growing fonder of this lion. She felt a sudden urge to hug it, but did not dare! She smiled at the woman, and thought of extending her hand, but suddenly felt shy and reserved. The woman’s expression had not changed at all from Alejia’s first sight of her, open yet somehow reserved.

Then the woman and the lion faded from her view.

“Maybe I was dreaming…”

Somewhere in the distance she heard the faint gentle roar of the lion.

“Or, not…”

Chapter 5

Alejia stood tall, and decided it was time she explore more of this sparkling land of treasures while she still had the opportunity.

She moved away from the crystal waters of the lake, and the scent-filled melody faded into quietness. Soon she found her self on a familiar, favorite trail she had walked a multitude of times before. Birds sang quietly, crickets chirped with a joyfulness that quickened Alejia’s spirit. She felt lighter after forgiving herself. The sky had taken on a clear, deep sapphiric blue hue, the trees emerald tones against it. Alejia wished she had brought her camera! She had been too angry with Jacob, had rushed out without thinking of grabbing it. She made a mental note to do her best to describe it to Osa when she returned. If anyone could draw, give it justice, Osa could and would.

Alejia heard a bird calling, and looked up to watch it fly over head. It was the color of a pearl! This place gave a whole new meaning to the word “bedazzled!”

Chapter 6

Jacob paced in front of the living room window, anxiously staring into the street. Where could she be? Thoughts and worries pounded against his conscience. He was too hard on her. He went too far. Maybe she wasn’t coming back this time…

He picked up his phone for the 15th time, started to tell Siri to call Alejia, but shut it off and set it back on the coffee table he was pacing next to. “No way she’ll talk with me. She’s not going to answer for me, she probably has me blocked. I deserve that!”, he lamented, though he wouldn’t have admitted that to her.

She just made him so crazy! His jealousy was out of control, and he knew it. But deep inside, he was terrified he would lose her. He knew he wasn’t good enough for her. He couldn’t keep up with her energy, her creativity, or her popularity with everyone she met. She was like a rare jewel. Everyone noticed her, was drawn to her warmth and this light that seemed to emanate from within her. She had a beauty that could compare to no one else. Everyone saw that, wanted to know her. He was particularly sensitive to the way Rine looked at her, how he seemed to seek her out for her opinion about every thing. Her friendship with Josh made his heart feel threatened, afraid even. Jacob knew if he lost Alejia, it’d be Josh she’d go to.

Jacob had tried to connect with her, to take an interest in what she seemed interested in. He even went to church with her once. But, that just was not his “thing”. His understanding of her Providence was of cruelty, unfairness, and  destruction. Not unlike the men in his own family. Like his own dad had been. Any thing good in his life had been taken from him, destroyed or he was discouraged away from it by his dad.

Until he met Alejia. Her smile had melted all the walls around his heart. She brought brightness, happiness… a comfort he hadn’t realized he would even lacked.

He needed her.

But, he had screwed things up so badly. He didn’t know how to fix this.

Alejia was the best thing that had ever happened to him, and he had screwed it up with her. He was going to lose her.

His grease stained hand reached for his phone, and his body flinched with surprise as his Old Phone ringtone reverberated in the quiet house. His heart quickened with hope. If he were a praying man, he would have prayed that it was Alejia calling.

It was his dad. He pushed the “decline” option. He was not in the best frame of mind to deal with him right now. No way he could tell his dad about the fight with Alejia. He’d just blame Jacob. He’d be right, but Jacob did not want that opportunity for his dad to gloat over his misfortune.

Again Jacob became aware of the lack of comfort or support he craved from his family.

Jacob grabbed his phone and hit the option to call Osa, Alejia’s closest friend. He held his breath, again reaching for hope that Alejia was with her.

“Hello Jacob, what do you want?”, Osa’s impatient sarcastic tone hit his nerves like a slap in the face.

“Hey. Ummm… Hi. By chance, is Alejia there with you?”

Osa sounded surprised, but answered with vague amusement in her tone, “Nope. Haven’t heard from her today. Has she run away from home? Lol.”

Jacob didn’t know how to answer. He decided not to let her bait him this time. “Thanks.” he pushed the “end call” button, and took a deep breath in, letting it out slow.

His ring tone interrupted his controlled breathing exercise. It was Osa calling back. “Great” , he thought with annoyance, putting his defensive guard back up.

“Hey”, he spoke into the speaker.

“Hey”, Osa responded. “Is Alejia ok? It’s not like you to call me. Josh called about an hour ago, saying she didn’t show for a meeting they had planned for a client.”

Jacob snarled, then smiled slightly as he felt a wave of relief. So she wasn’t with him! Good to know. Relief washed over him.

Jacob spoke carefully in response, “She’s probably fine. Just went for a drive, or shopping. Errands, I guess. She has been gone awhile, I was just starting to worry.”

“You need to give that girl her space, Jake. Seriously!”

“Yeah, yeah. Mind your business, we are all good here,” he said, knowing full well she was right. No way he would let her know that, though. Nosy wench!

” Ok, well, some day you are going to hear me say, ‘I told you so!’ I have no doubt. You have no idea what you are doing, and it is a sad shame. You treat her horribly, Jacob, and I will tell you right now: Josh will not. He loves her, you know, and he has every intention of waiting until you finally screw things up enough to make Alejia mad enough to finally leave you. Why are you such a jerk to her, any way? You have no idea how much she must love you to put up with you! Maybe this time is the final straw. What did you do or say, anyway? She’ll tell me what happened, you know.”

Jacob ended the call, wishing he could slam a receiver down in her ear for effect.

Looking around, he sighed deeply, as guilt crept into his thoughts and emotions. She’d have to come back at some point, at the very least to get her possessions. He hoped she would soon, anyway. He would be more ready to talk with her then. He had to talk with her, to tell her how sorry he is.

Or, maybe he would go stay at a hotel. Make her wonder where he was for a change.

I wish she would just call…

Chapter 7

Osa grimaced as Jake hung up on her.  He was such a  child! If he was not careful, by the time he grew up and handled things maturely, Alejia would grow tired of him and actually leave him, for good. If she had not left him already. It certainly was not like her to not call while running errands, or avoiding Jacob out of irritation.

Maybe she had finally just grown tired of all the drama, and left him for good. Except Osa was sure Alejia would tell her all about it.

Osa and Alejia had been friends since they were children. Alejia was the only one who talked with Osa,when they first met. Osa was shy, and timid, coming from a large family that was largely dysfunctional. She seemed to get lost in all the chaos, forgotten easily. Alejia reached out to her, smiled at her, always made sure Osa was included. She was so thankful to Providence for Alejia. Osa had no doubt Alejia was put into Osa’s life for a purpose, on purpose. Osa tried to always show her appreciation for her friend who had become closer than any of her sisters and brothers had ever been.

She was so glad she finally got to tell Jacob how things are. Enough was enough! He was about to push Alejia right into the waiting arms of another man, who would treat her so much better than Jacob ever had. Well, better than he had since the incident. Alejia had referred to it as the incident the rare times she mentioned it. But she never did tell Osa exactly what it was that had happened. All Osa knew was that they had separated for a few weeks, and some thing had happened to completely change the dynamic of their marriage. Osa figured it must have been an affair, and Jacob must have been the one guilty of having it. But Alejia never mentioned another woman, nor did she ever act jealous of anyone Jacob knew. In fact, Jacob was the one demonstrating the jealousy. And, Alejia had been spending a lot of time with Josh lately. Maybe there had been another guy back then… No, Osa would have known about it.

She walked briskly through the parking lot to her car. A breeze picked up, pushing through her mid-length strawberry curls playfully. She decided not to call Alejia. Not just yet. She probably needed time to her self. If she didn’t hear from her by this time tomorrow, she’d set out to looking for her.

She said a quick prayer of safety for her friend. “Dear Providence, I do not know where Alejia is, or if she is going through a tough time. She must be really upset, it is not like her to just take off! Please keep her safe, bring her back safely. Please help her marriage, open Jacob’s eyes to the truth. He just needs you. I wish he would realize that!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jacob knew Osa was right. He had treated Alejia really rotten. No way Alejia ever deserved that. He just felt this perpetual anger that would not go away. He saw Alejia’s eyes light up when she and Josh discussed things about their work, or church. He felt he needed to compete, but he had no idea how to compete with this Josh guy, who seemed to be everything Alejia might need or want. Their friendship worried Jacob deeply, he just did not know what to do about it. He saw the attraction between then, his anger set off at times by the sparks between them. Alejia didn’t get it. She didn’t get that her interactions with Josh made Jacob worry he was losing her. Maybe it was too late maybe he had already lost her heart.

Jacob tried to pinpoint in his memory when things had changed in their marriage. What had happened. They had had the one super rocky point, but she seemed to have moved right past that. They never spoke of it, he refused to let himself think about it… Thinking about it made him feel ashamed. That was when things drastically changed. That was the point things started to deteriorate, when he started to lose her. He knew now, that he had been in the wrong. But, he had no idea how to bring it up. They fought all the time now, he did not want to add another topic to be a catalyst for fights. Maybe somewhere deep in his conscience he knew that what had happened was actually the invisible cause of their fights. It was the open door to their marriage troubles. No way he could ever talk with Alejia about it, though. He was too worried he’d make things worse and cause her to leave for good.

So, instead, he yelled at her every time she met with Josh. He did all he could to make her feel guilty, in hopes she would end that friendship with Josh. He made her feel bad about herself. He called her names… He was suddenly overwhelmed with shame. Why had he done all of that? How could he possibly think insulting and hurting his wife’s feelings could fix anything?

So far, no luck.

He suddenly saw things from a new perspective for him, and he hated it! How had he deceived himself so badly?  This time when he pushed those buttons, he realized that was probably one of the worst things he could do. Watching her walk out the door, driving angrily away, he finally got it: he had to stop being such a jerk to her. He was not causing her to want to end the friendship with Josh. Instead, he was pushing her away from himself, making her want to leave their marriage.

Osa was right, he really was a selfish idiot! He hoped it wasn’t too late to fix things. He hoped he could figure out how to fix things. If he didn’t figure it out soon, he would lose everything that meant anything to him. He could not let that happen. He did not pray to Providence. But he did resolve to treat Alejia as she deserved to be treated: with appreciation, trust and love!

Chapter 8

Alejia climbed into her Celica, tearing herself away from her safe haven, while marveling at what she had just experienced.  She was vaguely aware of an ache on her toe from the crab claw.

That had happened. It had actually happened!

Her mind was in excited shock.  She let her thoughts run wild. There was no way to explain what had just happened. Who could she even tell? No one! Not even Osa. Especially not Jacob, no way he would ever believe any of this.

Her mind wrestled with each thought, each memory, trying to make sense of it all tried to remember what she had been told about her future destiny.

There was an anxiousness in her heart to rush back there and stay. She knew she had to return to Jacob, but she felt so safe there.

Jacob would be worried. He had probably called every one she knew.

Probably even Josh…

She did not, at all, anticipate the inquiry she knew she would experience when she returned. She could not even clear her mind enough to plan her way through the interrogation ahead of time. She felt this unexplainable under current of elation and excitement, much like the first time she fell in love. As if she were glowing.

Like when she had married Jacob.

She glanced at her reflection in her rear  view mirror. Nope. Not glowing. It must be be a left over feeling from her experience.

When had this special feeling faded from her marriage? What caused it to subside? Somehow they had lost their way. Could they find their way back to this feeling, again? She was not ready to give up. Not yet. She had some corrections to make with in her self. She hoped miracles would happen and Jacob would make corrections as well. There was still an ember of love in her heart for him. She desperately needed to fan that. She did not want to remain married out of duty or obligation. Neither of them would be happy if it came down to that. If at all possible, she hoped for them both to be happy.

It had been tough for her to leave the pond. But, night did not make the place inviting and warm. Quite the opposite, in fact. Not in a physically dangerous sense. Just a bit spooky, causing heightened awareness in her that warned her to “Get out!”, so, she did.

She could spend hours remembering that amazing breeze that tickled her senses in a pleasing way, with its melodic hushes and its playful, teasing displays of making the lion’s mane dance as it brushed through each strand. And those deep eyes. It was more than the golden brown color that drew her into them. Her thoughts pirouetted around the picture her memory held. Such a magnanimous creature, if she could refer to it as a creature without offense of sacrilege. She could now picture that same lion as being the very Providence her faith had woven her life’s choices through. Most of her choices, anyway. That picture seemed accurate, though she could not dare even try to explain why. Her thoughts moved to the gorgeous array of colors and precious stones that made up the scenery. Never had she imagined such a perfect place, much less actually been to one! She felt honored and humbled at the same time– a feeling she had never before experienced by any one in her life.

Trees rushed by as she continued down the high way (add name later**). On the radio, Inspirational music stopped as the testimony programming time began. Alejia was not sure if she was in the mindset to listen, she really wanted to ponder more over what she had just been through. Her attention was suddenly grabbed by the voice of a man beginning to share, excitedly, about what Providence had recently done in his life. She was surprised as he began to talk about his marriage,  and how he had treated his wife. How she had been patient, and bold in telling him she was praying for him, continuously, even though she knew he hated everything about her religion. He stated bluntly– he never believed that prayers did anything but make the person saying and believing them look foolish. He talked about how he hated when people who prayed out loud, and specifically one woman who would stop every thing, in public no less, and just pray, out loud. He said it angered him, because she was  telling every one around them his private business, and that was what had really pushed him away from pursuing his wife’s faith. Until Providence answered his wife’s prayers, that is. He was driving home from work, late, in the rain. Tired–exhausted, the rain was unusually heavy that night. He had a tough time seeing past blinding vehicle lights coming at him from oncoming traffic, and missed the road curving to the right. Heading straight, he nearly hit the guard rail, but he became aware of words that seemed loud, a warning: Stop Now! So, with quick reflexes, he stopped. He made a quick call home to his wife, to let her know he would be home a little later than planned, and she told him then that Providence had just impressed her to urgently pray for his safety. That got his attention, and for the first time ever, he thanked her for praying. He hung up his phone, and climbed out of his car. Making his way, nearly wading through deep puddles in worn through, pot-holed asphalt, he saw the guard rail ahead of him with the flash light of his cell phone. On the guard rail, the sign said, “Scenic Over watch’. He walked over to investigate, and just behind the guard rail, was the drop off of a very deep valley. He took a picture of both the sign and the drop off, to both remember and show it to his wife when he told her how Providence answered her prayers. For him. He did not deserve that, he knew. He had been so ugly to her, so mean. She had had every right to hate him, to give up on him, but she never did. He dropped to his knees, under the weight of realization, and prayed to Providence, thanking Him and surrendering to Him.

The man’s voice sounded so much like Jacob’s. That was unnerving, and suddenly her heart was flooded with divine hope. Maybe, if she didn’t give up on Jacob, maybe Providence would reach his heart, too. She began to cry. Please, she cried out in her heart, please use me like You used that man’s wife. Help me to bring him to You. Help him to trust You. Please don’t give up on him, and please help me to not give up on him, or give in to anger and frustration.

Alejia thanked Providence for saving the man on the radio, and thanked Providence for restoring her hope for Jacob.

Music flooded through the car as she continued on towards her home. She would get back late. She doubted Jacob would be awake, but who knew? He might be super angry. Was she ready for that? She did not feel ready. Maybe she should stop for the night at a hotel, then continue home fresh and rested. She had no peace in her heart about stopping, though. So, she drove on, ignoring her tired body begging for sleep. It is just another hour, I can do this, she encouraged herself.

The next hour, her mind was filled with every thing from prayers, to the music on the radio, and then to planning how to respond to every scenario she could think of for interacting with Jacob.

No matter how much she planned, though, she was not prepared for what actually happened after she arrived home.

Chapter 9

Jacob heard the gravel under Alejia’s tires as she pulled up, and his heart flooded with relief. For the first time in as long as he could remember, he had to fight back tears. What in the world is going on with me? he scolded himself. No way he was crying in front of his wife. No way!

He felt unsure of where to be when she walked in, or even what to say. He was at a total loss for words. He had not expected her to come back tonight. He had not been sure he could ever expect her to come back to him. Maybe she had decided to leave him. Maybe she was just returning to get her things, and she would be leaving again. He could not bear the thought of her leaving again. He needed her. Could he tell her that? Could he open up to her and be vulnerable with her like that? Did he trust her? You just do not tell women those kinds of things, or any one. Ever!

He felt a fight with in him, trying to convince him to either open up completely, or clam up and shut up. He did not know what to do. He decided to gauge her reaction as she came inside before he even said a word.

He heard her foot steps on the front step, and his heart rushed with excitement. How could he not open up to her and show her the depth of his appreciation for coming back to him? He caught a glimpse of her face through the window as she reached towards the front door. She looked radiant… What did that mean? She had met some one else? She was happy to return?

The door creaked low as Alejia turned the knob and opened it. She was caught off-guard with surprise that Jacob was awake. Suddenly an awkward silence stood between them. What could she say to him that she had not already said? Should she apologize? Tell him where she had been? Could she tell him what she had experienced? He would think her insane!

She stepped inside the house, and attempted to prepare herself to face him. She was not prepared, though. Was that tears she saw? Was he crying? Smiling? He looked relieved!

She started to speak, to apologize for being away so long, but his words stopped her.

“I am sorry I made you want to leave.”

Flabbergasted, she tried to find words to respond. He is apologizing to me? Have I entered the Twilight Zone?

“I called Osa, and she told me what an idiot I have been being.” He left out the part about knowing how Alejia had missed an appointment with Josh. He was not ready to talk about Josh. He did not think he could keep his jealousy under control yet.

Alejia walked over to him, wrapped her arms around him and drew him close. She did not know what to say. She dared not speak, dared not ruin this important moment. He had never spoken to her so honestly about being wrong before. A tiny part of her wanted to gloat, as he had at times when she admitted to being wrong. She squelched that,and instead hugged him closer. Her heart felt an overwhelming love, a gratefulness for him. It had been such a long time since she’d felt that with him. It felt strange, almost new with a touch of melancholy. Had she fallen out of love with him? How did she get the love back in her heart for him, to stay?

All of a sudden,she was no longer sure she could work things out with him. This feeling, it should not be a strange, new or nearly forgotten feeling. Things between them had become more distant than she had even realized.

Her memory tugged at her thoughts. She remembered her reflection on the pond’s surface, with these words penetrating through her consciousness: “Jacob is going to need you. He’s going to need your patient love, and understanding. I have tools for you. You won’t understand them, until the time when you need them, but that’s ok. Know that I’m going to guide your steps, and I’ll be a light for your path.” She took a deep, concentrated breath. She had no doubt Providence’s plan was for her to stay with Jacob.

Jacob’s emotions had taken over. He stopped trying to fight them. He needed Alejia. There was no reason to not show her that. All his fears that made up his “tough guy” thick outer skin evaporated as he saw her walk back into his life. He did not want to go back to how things were. He had no idea how to hold on to her, he had always known she was out of is league. But, he was not giving her up without a fight. He just had to learn a new way to fight– with out his fists, with out his anger, with out raising his voice. He felt a new desperation with in his heart to change. He fought the urge to examine that and talk himself out of it. This mattered, Alejia mattered.

His marriage was suddenly the most important thing in his life.

Alejia pulled back a little, and looked into his eyes. What she saw melted her last bit of defensiveness. There was that same tenderness she had craved for so long, the same tenderness that had been there in the beginning of their marriage.

Before the incident.

She had to look away, could not bear to show him what was in her heart right now.

She fought against the hardening of her heart as she remembered that pain, the situation and then the tragedy that had caused the cold change. She remembered what she had forced herself to forget. Pain flooded her heart, and she struggled to hold back tears of anger and pain. Why was this happening now? How could this be the best time for this?

She looked away as she regained control of her near emotional out-burst. She prayed silently, “Help me. Please. I can not do this alone.”

Jacob felt her stiffen, and anxiousness swept over him. He clung to her tighter, held her as close as absolutely possible. The words, “I love you” escaped his throat, softly, with no way for him to stop them. She let him hold her, but her body felt limp, the feeling pouring out of her limbs as the familiar numbness tried to creep over, tried to take over again.

No! I can not let that happen! Not this time.

She took another deep breath, stirred up her courage and her resolve, looked Jacob in the eyes, and said, “I love you too.”

Chapter 10

The incident.

Alejia’s thoughts spun around in her head, leaving her heart reeling in painful regrets and tormenting memories.

She and Jacob had talked a bit more, holding each other, then they reconnected physically. Jacob laid next to her, lightly snoring, a look of peace and relief still covering his face.

Alejia had no doubt he was sorry, and he planned to change. She did begin to doubt that she would be able to change, as well. To forgive.

They had been married close to 10 years, the incident happening in the third year of their marriage.

When they married, they both had been in agreement they did not want children. They took every precaution, out side of altering their bodies with surgery, to be sure no children would forever change their happy, simple, agreeable marriage.

Then it happened. Alejia got pregnant. She was afraid to tell Jacob, but bravely stepped forward and shared the news. Though she wasn’t sure what to expect, she had no idea anger, and then his nearly walking out on their marriage would be the end result. He told her to get an abortion, or he would not come back. Alejia stood her ground. Abortion was not some thing she could ever willingly bring herself to do. She planned to carry the baby full term, to have the baby, and if it were a girl, she would name her Sarah. Stress and the hard work of her job as a home decorator made the decision for her. She lost the baby at around 7 weeks. She took her time grieving and healing before she told Jacob 2 weeks later. The look of almost elation on his face when she told him she was no longer carrying their child made her sick. Kids were not part of their life-sharing plans, but to purposely terminate a life growing within her, that was the most cruel hatred for new, innocent, vulnerable life she ever believed she could experience.

She never told Jacob what happened. Only that she was no longer carrying his child. They never spoke of that again.

She resolved to forgive him. She didn’t now why he was so opposed to having children. Maybe she could ask him… did she dare? Would that upset the new balance in their relationship?

She was tired of feeling afraid to talk with him about anything. That fear had to go away. How could she make it go away? maybe now wasn’t the time to discuss that.

She watched him sleep, her thoughts whirling about. She knew she was not going to sleep tonight. Not even a wink. She pulled her Bible out of her bedside table drawer, and opened it randomly to Isaiah 54. She cried, nearly cried out, as she read, ” (New International Version)
“Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the LORD.

Her mind worked its way through that verse, thinking, contemplating each word, each idea.

Then she thought about what could possibly make her burst into a song of joy.

I have a husband, she thought. But, would he ever step up to be a dad? Even if it meant her happiness? She doubted it.

Yet, she felt this strong, almost burning urge to wake Jacob up and talk with him. Apprehension took over, and she felt frozen… numb.

No! No more numbness! I am talking to him!

“Jacob. Jacob, can you wake up? Can we talk? Please?”

Jacob stirred, mumbled something, rolled over, and began snoring again.

Great. I can not sleep, and he will not wake up.

Alejia sat up, and gingerly got up off the bed. If we can’t talk, I am going for a drive to clear my thoughts. As she started dressing, Jacob stirred once again, opened his eyes, and saw her putting her clothes on.

“Good morning! Is it time for you to go to work already?”

Holding her breath, she thought her way through her response.

“No. I can not sleep. I tried to wake you, to talk with you, but you would not wake.” She sat back down on the bed. “Do you think we could talk now?”

Jacob sat up, feeling fear rise up within him, and swallowed a reactive response from the defensiveness moving to shield his heart.

“Sure”.

Alejia caught a glimpse of the old Jacob, and she knew in her heart, this was not going to go well. She swallowed hard, trying to keep the anxiety level from clinging to her vocal cords.

“Is this not a good time?” she asked, cautiously.

“It is probably a better time than any.” He braced himself for a fight. She was going to walk out on him, he just knew it! He never should have opened up to her and shown that vulnerable part of himself. She was going to trample over it!

Alejia scratched nervously at the back of her hand, and she mustered the courage to speak.

“Do you remember when we had our first major fight? Do you remember what that was about?”

Jacob hesitated, thinking back, remembering with regret what had happened. “Yeah. I remember.”

She looked into his eyes, seeming to try to read what was in them. “Jacob, how do you feel about all of that, now?”

Jacob looked away. He felt shame. Anger at his own actions and reactions. Could he admit that to her?

He chose the simplest answer, hoping it would be enough. “Not good.”

“Not good like it was my fault? Not good like kids are not good? Can you tell me what you mean by ‘Not good’?”

Jacob hated blunt confrontation. He hated feeling backed into a corner to talk about feeling and deeply personal things. But, Alejia was more important to him than how he felt about talking this through. He braved his way through his response.

“Not good like I was a stupid, idiotic, selfish jerk. I never should have reacted like that. I shouldn’t have treated you so harshly or awful.”

Whoa! Alejia had not expected that! Her eyes could no longer hold back her tears. Was this real? Had he really said that? Surely she was dreaming!

Jacob saw the tears burst from Alejia’s eyes, and he swallowed hard to fight back his own tears. Is this what I have done to her? To us?

“Alejia. Honey. I’m so sorry. I had no idea I had hurt you so much. You never said any thing. I thought you had moved on, that it had not affected you.” Jacob grabbed a tissue and tenderly blotted at the tears around her eyes.

“I never told you what happened. I couldn’t… I could not talk about it. I was so angry with you, and then I was so sure you would never want to hear it, to now about it. So I never explained.”

Jacob cupped her face in his hands.”You can tell me. It will be ok. I don’t know if I want to know, but I will listen. I do not want to keep you from telling me what ever you need to tell me.”

“I lost the baby, Jacob. I lost our baby. I could not bring my self to get that abortion. I know you wanted me to, but I was carrying a life you and I had created, together, and I could not be a part of destroying it. But, I lost the baby, any way.” Alejia broke down into deep sobs of distress and pain. Jacob’s heart ached. I caused this. I caused her to feel this pain. This is my fault.

“What have I done? It’s my fault you lost the baby! And you have carried this all these years while I’ve barely thought anything about it. What kind of a man am I?”

Alejia became aware of the words rebounding in her thoughts, Tell him you forgive him.

“Jacob,” Alejia spoke quietly, just above a whisper, “I forgive you.”

“You forgive me. How can you forgive me? I was so horrible! I’ve been so selfish!”

Alejia reached over and hugged him close to her. “I forgive you because I love you.” It seemed so simple to say, to practice.

It was Jacob’s turn to break down. He was crying. Openly. Begging Alejia to know how sorry he was.

As she held him and comforted him, letting him know it is all ok, she couldn’t help but think, I have stepped into the Twilight Zone!

Chapter 11

Alejia woke to the distant sounds of birds flying over head. Squinting she looked at the alarm clock on her night stand. 7:oo a.m. It was Sunday morning, she realized. There would be a church service today. She felt an  excited stir in her heart. She loved her church services!

She and Jacob had fallen asleep in each others arms. He had been wonderful! She fought had fought the urge to pinch herself as they talked. Maybe that really had been a dream, maybe all of it had been. She searched Jacob’s face for some hint, some clue of reality. She saw that same peace. There was definitely a difference! She wondered if she should try to wake him and ask him to go to her service with her. She decided not to. He never seemed comfortable there, and she realized it would be the perfect time to talk with Ryne, quietly, and get things set straight again. Plus, she needed prayer today for the strength to be the wife Providence was calling upon her to be for Jacob.

Alejia’s phone, set to vibrate, buzzed, and startled her. She felt her body flinch with surprise. Jacob stirred. It would be nice to let him sleep in today, Alejia thought. Rest would do him some good!

She picked up her phone to see it was Osa. Alejia climbed out of bed, and headed into the kitchen to get a cup of tea, answering as she walked.

“Hey!” Alejia whispered.

“Hey your self. Are you going to the service today?”

“I am planning to go today. I just woke up, but I need prayer today, and Pastor Paul always has the perfect message. I’m excited to hear what Providence will have him speak about today.”

“What happened to you yesterday? Where were you? You had both those men in your life worried sick yesterday! ” Osa chastised her. “Even I was starting to feel concerned!”

“You know how it is. I got upset, and went for a drive. I just needed to clear my thoughts, gain some perspective. Then, when I got home, Jacob and I talked. I feel a lot better about things today.” Alejia realized she had a peace in her heart that she had not felt since the beginning of their marriage.

“You know, Jacob was really worried. I can not think of any other time he has called me.”

“He called you? I thought, for some reason, that you had called him. What did he say?”

“He was worried, Jia. I do not think I have ever heard him worried. And, like I said, he never, ever calls me, for any reason. I did give him what for, though. I told him he had better stop treating you bad. And I told him how Josh feels about you. I also told him he needs to wake up because he is going to push you away if he does not knock it off.”

“You told him all of that? Wow,” Alejia soaked in all Osa said. “I went to my place. I needed to take a time out, to get away and think. I needed to pray. I am glad I went. I think it was good for both of us. Things are better, Osa. So much better. I think we are going to be ok.”

Alejia could hear Jacob walking around at the other end of the house. “He’s awake now. I need to get going. Thank for the update, and for praying.”

Alejia barely heard Osa’s “You are welcome!” before she ended the call and set her phone down.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jacob woke to the sound of Alejia whispering into her phone as she walked out of their room. He could feel that fear and jealousy starting to rise up. He wanted to ask her who she was talking with, but he held back. She would tell him, more than likely. He had to start trusting her. Last night, they had talked about so many things, personal things they never spoke of. Things they needed to get out in the open. Jacob has let his guard down, had shown Alejia his feelings. Should he not have done that? Was that a mistake? He hoped things would change, for the better. It was time for him to begin trusting Alejia again he knew. He had to, he didn’t want to lose her. He got up and walked to the window, the floor boards creaking under his feet. He gazed out into the bright morning sky, and pondered this new feeling he was experiencing. Surprised, he realized what he was feeling was hope. When had he started feeling hopeless? His mind wandered over the memories of their history together. Walking hand-in-hand, talking about everything. They had been so happy! They had so many things in common. What had changed? Why had he become such a horrible jerk to her, so worried she’d cheat on him or leave him. Or both.

He thought about all they had been through together, and then he realized: all of the negative had been caused by him. It was his fault. He had made her feel bad about wanting their baby. He had tried to make her get rid of it, like it was a pest or something that could just be thrown out. Over the years he had felt his heart soften and he had changed his mind about what he thought and felt concerning abortion. He no longer saw it as an easy “fix” to a problem that needed fixing. He understood more now what it was, how it was a love baby being tortured to its death. That made him feel a sadness deep in his heart. He had tried to make Alejia kill their baby in her womb. What kind of horrible person was he? He felt a darkness overwhelm his thoughts. Distraught, he turned, walked back over to the bed, and laid back down. It’d been years since he experienced this crippling frustration. There was no way he could ever be everything Alejia needed him to be. He might as well just give up. Just give in to the despair… He wasn’t good enough for her, and he never would be. No matter what he said or did. He might as well face the facts– she was going to leave him for this other guy. That is probably who she was on the phone with, the reason she was whispering to begin with.

Jacob would never stand a chance.

He could hear her walking back towards him, no longer whispering in to her phone. He decided to pretend to be asleep, in order to give himself time to process all these thoughts. They were so heavy, he did not want to bother his wife with them. That’s all she needed from him, yet another reason to leave him for good. He realized: he had no idea how to make her want to stay.

He felt lost and unsure of what to do next.

Alejia walked into their room, and saw him laying in bed, in what looked like the same position he had been in before she went to the kitchen. She was so sure she had heard him walking around back here. Was he pretending? Why would he do that? She looked at his face and with sadness realized the peace was no longer there. Something had happened, but she had no idea what, or what to do about it.

She walked over to him, and tenderly kissed his fore head, something she realized she had not done in quite some time. She whispered “I love you, Jacob”, then walked over to her bureau. She dressed and got ready for her church service. She needed the service today. She needed to pray and focus once again on Providence. Perhaps He would, once again, give her some helpful direction.

Jacob tried to lie still and waited for Alejia to leave the room. It was an effort to hold back tears of relief as she kissed his fore head and told him she loved him. It had bee such a long time since she had done that. He hadn’t even realized that he missed it! He needed to get his act together, and quick!

He wondered where Alejia was getting ready to go, and then he remembered. It was Sunday. She would be headed to church. He felt sad at the realization that she had not asked him to go with her. Of course she did not ask him to go. He had thrown a fit and been such a jerk to her in the past about it, no way she would ask him to go, today. He felt that twinge of regret again, and his stomach knotted at the thought that Ryne would be there. He wanted to get up and go after her, to stop her, or offer to go with her today. But, instead, he lay there, frozen in place, as he let worry over took his thoughts and actions.

This is stupid, he thought as he made himself get up out of bed. He was going to her church service today. He hoped she wouldn’t be upset, that it would be a good surprise for Alejia for him to walk in, even though he would be late by this time. He didn’t much like the music, anyway.

He felt a nervous flutter in his heart as he stumbled over to the closet to find a suit. This was such a rare occasion, he sarcastically thought about putting on his tux. Now, that would be a sight! He chuckled to him self quietly.

He went over the route to the church in his mind, hoped he could remember where it was. When was the last time, the actual only time he had gone with her to her church service? It’d been Christmas, maybe 8 years ago. Wow. All these years and he really knew nothing about this part of her life. It was a pretty big part, too. She was involved in the community through different programs and charities. He had always admired her cheerful attitude as she helped widows and children who had lost their dad or mom, though he often told her it was just a waste of her time. He missed her when she was at the homeless shelter, feeding them over the holidays, or reaching out to them in various ways throughout the year. He realized, he had been missing out on the things that mattered to her. He had been stubborn, refused to take an interest, or volunteer his own precious time with her.

The actions of a full-fledged jerk, he thought to him self.

He pulled a shirt off of a hangar, unbuttoned it, and slid the sleeves over his arms. It was Alejia’s favorite of his. He hoped this would help her see how important she was to him.

He felt like a schoolboy, nervous about his first date to the prom. His fingers clumsy as he buttoned the deep, emerald green shirt. I wonder if I should wear a tie? Maybe that would be too much. Or just enough? He pulled a silvery-grey colored tie from the door of the closet. Alejia had kept things so organized. He had taken that for granted, often getting annoyed when she moved things around, or tried out her home decorating and organizational ideas here before she presented them to her clients.

She was a brilliant designer, creative and clever. Why had he never told her that? He thought it often.

I have got to start telling her these things! Ryne probably told her those things all the time. In his stubbornness, he had practically handed his wife over to this man to be flattered and wooed. I am such an idiot, he thought. Such a freaking idiot!

He hoped he wasn’t too late, or that he would not be pushing her away by going to the church service today. What if he made a mistake by going? If he did nothing at all, he would lose her. Going today was a chance he would have to take. He just hoped he would not lose his temper if he saw Alejia with Ryne. That wouldn’t be a good thing at all!

He finished the elaborate tie knot, straightened his tie, ran a comb through his hair, and slipped his wing-tips over his socked feet, tying them quickly, then he rushed out the door.

Just as he reached the front door, his phone vibrated annoyingly. He reached into his pocket to get it, and looked at the screen. It was his dad. He chose “decline”, and put the phone back into his pocket. No way he would get into it with his dad right now. He would freak out if Jacob told him he was on his way to church. He would never hear the end of it! It was best if he just did not talk with his dad right now.

He locked the door behind him, got into his vintage black Trans Am, and tore off down the road, rushing to get to the church before he was too late to make any of the service at all.

Chapter 12

Alejia pulled  into the church parking lot, feeling a bit flustered. She knew the first thing she had to do was find Ryne and talk with him. She needed to apologize to him for leading him on. She felt certain Providence was impressing on her the importance of making this a priority today, as soon as possible.

Realization hit hard as she thought about all the times in recent months she had come here with the intention of seeking Josh out to talk with him, or ask his advice as an architect about one of her decorating or organizational ideas. He had always been so easy to talk with, and he definitely was easy on the eyes! A recent divorce had made him popularly sought after by the single and divorced or widowed women in the congregation. Alejia realized how selfish she was being by seeking his attention and time for her self. She had not been able to help her self, though. They seemed to have so much in common, and he was easy to laugh with. He gave her the attention, and the respect, even appreciation, that Jacob did not. Josh had only witnessed Alejia with Jacob one time, when Jacob showed up unexpectedly as Alejia was having a business lunch with Josh and a client. That was before Alejia and Josh had even started getting to know one another. Jacob had acted like a jealous jerk, accusing Alejia of cheating on him. She still had no idea how Jacob had come to that conclusion. Maybe there were sparks between Alejia and Josh back then that she had been unaware of. She doubted it, though. They were going over design plans, complimenting each other on their ideas and creativity, building up one another in front of the client, so as to encourage a friendly environment. The client, a member of their congregation, had hired them separately. Alejia and Josh had not even met before this. The client had actually been surprised that Alejia was married to Jacob. Maybe there had been another intention behind the business lunch on the client’s part. This left Alejia’s curiosity flitting about, trying to make sense of it all, looking for clues she had missed.

Alejia dismissed that all from her thoughts as she caught sight of Josh walking into the building. She took a deep breath, said a quick prayer to Providence, and rushed up to the front door.

As she stepped through the door way, she was reminded of that familiar feeling she got every time she came here. The feeling of comfort, of safety. This was her sanctuary away from all of the troubles within her marriage. She would never tell this to Jacob, or anyone else, not even Osa, but she was secretly relieved that Jacob did not want to come to church with her some days. This was her place, away from the troubles, away from his mean spiritedness and jealousy.

She smiled at a few familiar faces that walked past her as she walked briskly towards Josh. He turned and watched closely as she walked closer to him.

“Josh, hi. Can we talk for a minute?” she asked in a rush.

“Hi there. Sure!” His face brightened, as he gestured towards an open table in the coffee house a few feet away. “Can I get you some coffee this morning? You look gorgeous today, by the way.”

Alejia’s heart threatened to melt at his words, but she forced it to remain strong and resolute. This had to be addressed. “Sure, I would love a cup of coffee. You know how I like it.” She smiled at him casually, trying to be more reserved than she had been in the past. He did not seem to notice.

Josh could not help but hope she wanted to let him know she was done with her marriage. He would never encourage divorce, but if Jacob was stupid enough to let her go, well, Josh would be right there to snatch her up before some one else realized how amazing she was. He walked up to the coffee counter, and gave the attendee his order for himself and Alejia. He had taken to drinking what Alejia ordered, an iced Americano with no sweetener or cream.

He walked back over to the table with their coffees, as Alejia was checking over her appearance in the small compact she kept with her, making sure there were no shiny spots on her face.

“See? I am not lying. You look gorgeous, just as I told you!” Josh spoke with a gentle teasing voice, warm with affection.

“You are too kind! And, you are making what I need to say difficult.” Alejia swallowed hard, trying to get the lump out of her throat.

“Yesterday was a difficult day for me”, Alejia started out.

Josh covered her hand, resting on the table, with his own, in an attempt to comfort her. She gently pulled her hand away, not wanting to upset him, but knowing she could not encourage him to think they could ever be more than good friends and colleagues.

“Oh”, he reacted with disappointed surprise as she pulled her hand away. “Does this have to do with the reason you missed our meeting yesterday?”

Alejia couldn’t quite get a read on him. For the first time since she had met him, he seemed closed off from her. She felt surprised by the cold, distant attitude that had suddenly presented itself through him. Oh no, she thought. She was about to hurt him. How could she have missed how much he had grown to care for her? This was completely unfair to him. She felt horrible.

“Oh, Josh. How could I be so ignorant? I am so sorry. Yesterday Jacob and I had this terrible argument. Worse than we have had in years! I went for a drive, and while I was out, I prayed. Providence impressed upon my heart, deeply, that I needed to apologize to you. I have never meant to lead you on! I care for you, more than I have the right to, and this is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. But, I have to work things out with Jacob. I hope you won’t hate me. I won’t put any obligation on you to remain my friend, though I hope you will be. You have grown to be so important to me.” Alejia brushed the tears from her eyes, impatiently. The last thing she wanted to do was tempt the gossips to pay attention to them.

Josh took a deep breath, then let it out slowly. Alejia was surprised by the amount of emotions she was able to read as he struggled to regain his composure. Was that anger she was detecting? Anger, really? It was not as though she never told him about her husband. He knew she was married, even if it was not a happy, fairy tale marriage. Surely Josh could not expect her to walk away from her marriage. What kind of a woman would she be, if she walked away from her life long committed with so much ease?

Josh smiled at her, a sadness in his eyes she had never seen. Was he in love with her? He spoke in a calm, quiet tone, his voice masking his true emotions. “You are an amazing woman, Alejia. I would be lying if I told you I don’t have feelings for you, and had hoped that some how you and I could end up together. Of course, that would be wrong. Certainly Providence would never bless such a union. I should have distanced myself a long time ago, but I fell for the hope that maybe it could some how, some day, become a reality for you and I to be together. Of course, we can still work together, and hopefully we can be friends.”

Relieved by his words and how well he seemed to be taking things, Alejia glanced around, nervously, hoping no one was paying attention, or even close enough to hear them. She could hear the music from the auditorium, and realized the service had already begun. No one was around them. She smiled at Josh, and thanked him for listening to her, and for being such a great friend. “Friends have never been an easy thing for me to come by”, Alejia told him.”I hope you realize that friendship, to me, is more valuable than maybe it is to most people.”

Josh nodded, but could not stop the disappointment from stabbing at his heart.

He stood and helped her out of her chair. He was always such a gentleman!  Alejia stepped away from the table, suddenly overwhelmed with awkwardness. Do I hug him now? Shake his hand? She stuck her hand out in a businesslike fashion, and shook his hand. “Thank you. You are an amazing man, Josh, and I don’t want to stand in the way of who ever Providence wants to bring into your life. I hope you will trust Him to guide you.”

Josh tried to hide his skepticism from her,”Yeah, ok. Sure,” he said, unconvincingly.

“I mean it.”

“I know you do. You better get into the service. I am going to go grab some fresh air.” And with that, Josh walked over to the front door, and left the building.

Chapter 14

Alejia took a deep breath and entered the auditorium quietly. She instantly surrendered her thoughts over and let the music from the song, “Oh How He Loves” fill her head.

She had not known what to expect as she talked with Josh, but she was thankful it was past her now. He seemed to handle things maturely. She would feel a hole at the loss of their close friendship, but she knew she did what had to be done. Plus, she was not giving up on her marriage.

The music began dying down, as the pastor stood up and began to speak. Alejia found her seat as the pastor started reading from Scripture:

Matthew 18, verses 21 and 22, in the New American Standard Version say,

“Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven...”

Alejia hoped Josh would be able to forgive her. But, she just was not sure.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jacob swore under his breath as he turned down the wrong road. Where was this church? He decided to try one more road before calling and finding out the directions. He wanted to surprise Alejia. He fought the urge to think, and surprise Alejia and catch her with Josh.

Jacob expertly turned his car around, and went back out onto the main road. He turned down the street marked as Road 100. He was not as familiar with this rural area as he was with the city they lived in.

In the distance, he made out the out line of a building that looked like it could be Alejia’s church. Good! he thought strongly. I made it in time for some of the service! Hopefully Alejia would be happy to see him. No doubt she would be surprised!

Jacob continued down the gravelly road, hating that little rocks were bouncing off of his paint, probably putting chips in it. This was one of the deterrents that kept him from coming here, actually. She would have to know how important she is to him, just from this fact alone.

He hoped he was not too late to make changes. He was not looking forward to the actual church service, but he really wanted to be with Alejia. He needed to be with her. He had been such a fool. He needed to make things right, make sure things were still better since last night.

He hated how insecure this was all making him feel, but he could not help that.

He pulled into the parking lot, and began looking for a place to park his precious car.

He noticed a man sitting outside by him self. As he walked nearer, the man waved politely towards him. Was that Josh? And he was waving towards Jacob? What in the world could that even mean?

Jacob looked around, but did not see Alejia any where. Jacob’s heart flooded with relief.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Josh sat down outside of the church, on one of the low concrete tiers. His mind, maybe his heart, reeling from all Alejia had just said. How could he be angry with her? This was not her fault. He had sought her out more often than she sought him. He had done every thing he could to try to be for her what he saw her husband had been lacking in. He had hoped to draw her away from a negative marriage where Providence seemed forbidden by Jacob to work. As if that could actually keep Providence out. Josh felt a chuckle leave his throat, despite the pain he was feeling. He had lost. He knew, he had lost out on the woman his heart desired more than any woman he had ever met. Including his ex-wife.

Josh’s attention was drawn to a car pulling into the parking lot. He knew that black Trans Am from some where. Where had he seen it before? He stared at it, trying to make out the person driving it. As the car parked, a man stepped out, his green shirt glowing with the sun light shining through it. That was Jacob! Wow! Maybe this was evidence that Providence was at work in Alejia’s marriage.

Jacob walked smoothly up to the front of the church, and then Josh caught his eye. Jacob was surprised, as well as relieved to see him outside, and not inside sitting some where near Alejia. Should he go talk with him? He really did not want to. Ryne stood and waved politely to Jacob. Keeping his composure, Jacob walked over to Josh, and shook his hand in greeting. Should he tell him he knew all about him? Jacob thought, as he felt Josh’s firm grip meet his own.

Josh spoke first, and said, “Alejia is inside the auditorium. Would you like help finding where she is?” Jacob shook his head, slightly. “No, that’s ok. I think I can figure it out.”

Ryne decided to take that opportunity to tell Jacob, “Alejia is a very special lady. Of course, I am sure that you are aware of that, being as you are her husband. She is valued here, treasured by those she interacts with. I’m not sure you know how much she is appreciated and loved here.”

Jacob looked intently into Josh’s face, and he realized the meaning behind his words. “I can imagine”, Jacob said evenly. “She’s a very busy lady, full of love and concern for others. I may not be involved with all she does, or even aware of everything she does, but I definitely appreciate who she is.”

Josh looked away, unable to hide his emotion. “You are a lucky man, Jacob. A very lucky man. Hang on to her tight. Someone will be waiting to catch her, if you do not.”

Jacob caught a hint of sadness as well as resolved promise to Josh’s tone, and his words hit him with surprise. Was this a surrender, or maybe a warning? Had Alejia said some thing to Josh that caused that sadness?

Jacob struggled to control his jealousy at the thought of Alejia meeting with Josh without Jacob’s knowledge.

Jacob politely agreed, and excused himself to go find Alejia. No way he was letting Alejia go to be caught by a waiting in the wings, Josh, poised ready for him fail. He had to get things right, and keep them right. He knew what he would be losing if he did not.

Chapter 15

Alejia meditated on the words the pastor spoke as he read the Scriptures.

Matthew 18, verses 21 and 22, in the New American Standard Version,

“Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven...”

Alejia felt a freedom from the burden of unforgiveness, for the first time in a very long time. She opened her own Bible to turn to the Scripture her pastor was speaking about, and as she opened it, she read,

Romans 8:28 (NASV)
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Alejia could not help but wonder if that meant for her marriage, as well. She hoped it did.

As she found the Scriptures in Matthew, she became aware of some one sitting next to her, quietly, accidentally bumping her leg. She looked up, half expecting to see Osa, or maybe even Josh, and was stunned. It was Jacob! Wearing her favorite shirt and tie combination! She never, in a million years, would have expected Jacob to join her at her church service. She barely dared to even ask Providence for such a request.

Yet, there he sat! Without her even having asked! She smiled at him, tears welling in her green eyes, and she smiled at him as she took his hand.

“Hi.” She whispered to him, leaning in close to his ear.

“Hi.” he whispered back.

She moved her Bible over to share with him. He looked down, and appeared to be reading as the pastor continued.

Oh, what am I doing? Why am I here? This is not my kind of thing. I have to make myself behave, now. I should have thought this through more. I don’t fit in here. All these thoughts assaulted him, as he sat stiffly, trying to make himself focus on what the man in the front was saying. He expected the leader to be dressed different, in robes or some thing, with a white wig thingy…  This man was wearing a shirt and tie, similar to what Jacob wore, and of all things, cowboy boots! He spoke with a slight Texan accent,  like John Wayne, Jacob’s favorite actor. Jacob was surprised to note his voice wasn’t making him want to sleep. There was an edge to it, of excitement, or some thing, that made Jacob want to hear what he said. The man told a few jokes, and even made light fun of some of his wife’s habits. His wife, sitting in the front row laughed, and her face turned pinkish,but she never seemed to get upset. Only nodded in agreement, that what he was saying was true.

Jacob finally understood what that interaction was all about– the man was talking about the things he had to forgive his wife for, and some things he had to ask her forgiveness about as well.

One thing stuck out to him– an instance where he had to seek her forgiveness, had to forgive her, and he had to forgive himself. The man talked about how there had been a time, when they first married. He had recently finished his Seminary classes, and he was gung-ho to jump right in to work for Providence. In his zeal, he began to neglect his wife. he left her home alone, or even volunteered her for things she despised doing, thinking since it was in service to Him, she would be fine with it. But, not only had that led to their first major fight, and them nearly splitting apart, the loneliness of neglect left an opening for another man to try to steal her away from him.

Jacob breathed evenly to fight the back tears threatening to burst forth. Is that what he had done to Alejia? Had he neglected her by not taking an interest in the things she was interested in doing and volunteered to do? He stole a side glance at Alejia. She looked so beautiful. When was the last time he had told her that? Sure, she had put on a few pounds over the years, who did not after nearly 10 years of marriage?

Jacob watched the man speaking, half expecting him to point at Jacob and say some thing like, “This message is for you. I know every thing. Change your ways.” But, the man did not single him out. He made eye contact the same as he did with every one. No, Jacob was convinced this story was a coincidence that just happened to told while he was there, after Alejia and he had had some troubles…

Jacob turned to study Alejia’s face, to see if there were some hint of some kind of coded, pre-planned set-up. But, what he saw, was a vulnerable sadness he’d never before seen on her face. Had he caused that?

He’d so much to make up for!

Normally Jacob felt uncomfortable, antsy, like a boy wanting to rush back out to play. He always had some kind of work he was doing on his car-baby. Today, though, some thing was different. Today he wanted to stay. He wanted to hear the end of the story. He wanted to talk with the man speaking. He hoped the man speaking would talk with him.

Music began, and Jacob recognized the words to “It Is Well”. His grandma used too sing that as she worked around the house. Jacob never realized it as a church song. He liked this song. As the people in the front with microphones began too sing, and the instruments played the music quietly while the man spoke, Jacob thought about the words. He might actually be able to sing this. Maybe.

“It is well. (It is well.) In my soul. In my soul.) It is well. It is well, in my soul.”

Alejia thought she heard Jacob singing quietly, under his breath. She stopped and listened closely. Had today been set aside for miracles? Jacob was singing! How could he possibly know this song? She tried very hard to contain her elation. She didn’t want to startle him, or cause him to back away. She was thrilled!! She told herself not to make a big deal about this all.

Pastor Paul gave his usual invitation for anyone who wanted prayer, or to talk with him or someone on the staff, to come forward.

Jacob stepped to the side, and Alejia thought he might think she wanted to go forward. While often times she did, today, she was content to wait for later today. She was excited to talk with Jacob.

Instead, Jacob continued to step side-ways until he reached the aisle, and then Jacob did the most out of character thing she had ever seen him do– he walked to the front of the church and began talking with Pastor Paul. He let him pray for him! Alejia caught herself blinking a few times to make  sure  she wasn’t just seeing things.

Nope. There was Jacob, right there. With her Pastor. Getting prayed for. Talking.

Apparently she had once again stumbled in to the Twilight Zone.

Chapter 16

Jacob stood, his legs shaking with nerves, and he slowly moved sideways down the aisle. He saw Alejia look in his direction, her face alight with surprise. He thought about changing his mind, that maybe she would be embarrassed for him to go forward. But, he kept making his legs carry him to the front. This was his chance to talk with the man who was speaking, it felt like speaking directly to him.

Jacob walked to the middle of the front, where the man was standing, speaking and praying. There were several other people coming forward now. Some praying on their own, some looking for some one to talk with, and then Jacob noticed there were a few that were praying for others.

The man spoke to Jacob, asking him what he needed today. Jacob stammered, suddenly his mouth was dry, nearly numb, as though he had never spoken out loud before.

“I’m new here. I mean, I’ve been to this church once, but I’ve never been here.” Jacob pointed down to his feet, trying to figure out how to explain he had no idea what to do, he’d never been at the altar of a church in his life, had barely ever been in any church in his life.

The man put his hand on Jacob’s shoulder, and with his other hand, shook Jacob’s hand, and introduced himself. “I am Pastor Paul Larson, but you can call me Paul. What is your name?”

Jacob leaned in, and told him his name. “Jacob Rockefeller.”

“Jacob, we have all been where you are standing now, for the very first time. I promise there is nothing to be afraid of. What can I do for you today?” His smile seemed relaxed, and real. Nothing like those weirdo’s on the cable channels.

Jacob started to tell him how the story of his neglecting his wife had been close to his own experience. I can’t believe I’m telling this to a stranger! He gave a brief description of his experience, and the remorse that was revealing itself more and more as of late.

Pastor Paul asked, “Jacob, do you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior?” Jacob felt confused. What did that have to do with all of this?

Jacob took a step back, ready to walk away if he needed to, and he said, “No. That’s not why I’m here. That has nothing to do with why I walked up here. I just want to talk with you, because you seem to understand. And, I don’t know who else I could talk to. Can we just talk?”

Pastor Paul hesitated, and seemed deep in thought for just a moment, almost as though he were listening, or trying to find an answer within himself. “Absolutely! Come, sit down over here, away from everyone else, and we can talk.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Alejia watched as Jacob and her Pastor stepped away, and went behind the stage to the Pastor’s office. She wasn’t sure what was happening, but she didn’t want to interfere. She said a quick prayer for her husband, “Please help him. Please show Him Your truth, and help him to accept it. Thank You, in Jesus Name, amen.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jacob cautiously followed Paul. He was not sure where they were going, but privacy would be a good thing. They walked back behind the stage area, into a short hall way that had 4 or 5 doors with name plates on them.

“Here we are”, Paul said as he unlocked the door, and opened it to reveal a small room with a desk. Paul turned on the light. Even though the curtains were drawn open, the room was pretty dark.

“So, Jacob, what brings you here today?”

Jacob fidgeted. Suddenly he was no longer sure about any of this. “Maybe it’s a dumb idea, my being here.”

“Why would you say that?

“I don’t know. Ok, well, my wife comes here. And, well, I don’t. Because I don’t like this religion stuff. But, what you said today, it got me thinking. Because what you said is so close to what I’ve done and has happened to me, I thought maybe I could talk with you. But I don’t want you to tell my wife. You  have to promise you won’t say anything, or I’m just going to leave now.”

“I won’t say a word to her. Or anyone else. I promise. You mentioned the neglect of your wife. Can you tell me more? Is this a recent experience, or something that happened awhile ago? Can I ask who your wife is?

“Yeah, I guess. My wife is Alejia Rockefeller.”

“Oh! Ok. She’s quite a reliable volunteer for our community out reach programs! I’m sorry, I didn’t put your last name with her face.”

“That’s ok. I haven’t been the best, or even the nicest and attentive husband. I want to change. I’m hoping it’s not too late for me to fix what I have done. I think things are starting to get better, but I don’t want to mess it all up again.”

“Can I  pray for you, Jacob?”

Jacob looked confused. “No. Why? Can you not just talk to me, maybe give me some tips that can help me not mess it all up again?”

“Sure. I asked about praying for you, because in my experience, Providence helps us make better decisions.”

“Oh, well I guess if I believed all of that, I might agree. I just want to talk. Is that ok?”

“That’s perfectly ok. You want tips on how to not mess things up… The first thing I would say is, always be honest, in a non-confrontational, non-insulting way. If you open up to her, talk with her about what’s going on, just be real– she’ll respond the same way.”

Jacob took a moment to absorb what the pastor was saying. Then he pulled out his phone, opened his note pad and jotted down some notes.

Pastor Paul continued.

“The second tip would be to take notice of her, and tell her you are noticing. Compliment her. Take a real interest in what she’s doing. Flirt with her. Take her on dates. Be romantic. Our women, they need that special attention from us. Chances are, if they don’t get that kind of attention from us, some one else will be more than happy to step up and give it to them. This is why so many marriages end up in divorce. Husbands drop the ball, stop appreciating and start taking wives for granted.”

Jacob wrote this all down. It seemed like such an easy thing to do. He didn’t know why he had been such a jerk about all of this before.

“The last tip I will give you right now, because I think this is a lot to both absorb today and start putting into practice– Listen to her. Just listen. Do not try to fix things. Do not give her help or advice. Do not roll your eyes when she comes home in a bad mood upset at how some one treated he wrong, or cut her off on the high way. Do not give her partial attention while you are distracted with your phone or hobbies. Stop what you are doing, whenever possible, and give her your complete attention. If that’s not possible, make an appointment with her so you can give her your full attention. But, don’t make a habit of that. Our women need to know they’re our priority.”

Jacob let out a low whistle. “This all seems so easy to do, so practical. Why didn’t anyone ever tell me this before we got married? Why hasn’t told me herself?”

“Not everyone realizes this kind of stuff. Even the women in our lives do not. Or they do not know how to explain it.”

Jacob stood up, getting ready to leave.

“Thank you. Thank you. I feel like maybe you’ve helped, and given me some great advice!”

Pastor Paul stood and walked Jacob to the door. “You are welcome. I am often here, if you’d like to talk again. You can call ahead, or just stop by.”

“Thank you. I can at least let you know how this is helping. If you are interested.”

Pastor Paul extended his hand to give Jacob a fare well hand shake. “Absolutely! I would love to hear how it all works out! It was nice to meet you, Jacob.”

“Like wise! Thanks again.” Jacob hurried down the hall,  wondering if Alejia has waited around. Maybe she was irritated and went home ahead of him. He’d certainly done that enough times to her, he deserved that.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Alejia picked up her things and walked out to the foyer. She saw Osa, and waved. Osa, talking with a parent of a problem child in her nursery, finished her conversation quickly, and rushed over to Alejia.

“Was that Jacob sitting next to you today? And, weren’t you just talking with Josh earlier? Did he leave?” Osa asked the questions quickly.

Alejia shifted uncomfortably. She really didn’t want to get into everything here. The walls had ears, and the ears had mouths that enjoyed talking a little too much, to too many people.

She answered slowly, carefully. “Yeah, that was Jacob. He surprised me! And, I’ll talk to you later about every thing. Ok?”

Osa nodded, understanding the need for caution. “Sure. Maybe we could meet for lunch tomorrow?”

Alejia looked at her calendar on her phone, and said, “Sure. Sounds great! How about 12:30 at our hang out?”

“See you then. Do not forget!!”

“I won’t. Promise!”

Osa rushed off to close up the nursery, and make sure no child was left behind.

Alejia sat at a table, and nursed her Americano slowly, and waited for Jacob.

Chapter 17

Jacob left Pastor Paul’s office feeling better than he had in years. He felt as though there was hope for him. This week end he had woken up as if he had been in a deep drugged sleep, unaware of what he was causing.

He walked out into the foyer, and he couldn’t believe Alejia was sitting there. Was she waiting for him? Or for some one else? Maybe she was avoiding going home. He walked over to the table she sat at, hands deep in his pockets, trying desperately to appear casual. Inside he felt anxious and worried. He had so much at stake.

Alejia smiled warmly, and his heart melted.

“Hey you! Wow! Today is awesome! Did you like the service?” Her words tumbled out too fast. She made her self stop talking, then made the conscious effort to slow down. One question at a time!

Jacob nodded, unsure where to start. It was as if they had not seen each other in a long time. When did things become so awkward between us? “The service was nice, I guess. I mean, I don’t really know what to expect, and it’s not really my kind of thing. But I guess as for as this kind of thing goes, it was pretty nice.” Stop rambling, dang it!

“Pastor Paul seems pretty down to earth. He’s been here maybe 2 years now, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone complain about him or his preaching.” She hesitated before asking, “Did you guys have a nice chat?”

Jacob dug his hands deeper into his pockets. Could he tell her now, or should he wait? He decided to tell her a little, and see how things went from there. “I think it went pretty well. He gave me some good advice. He seems like a nice enough guy.”

Alejia wanted to ask what kind of advice, but she decided to hold back. Maybe he did not want to talk about it right now, in such a public setting.

It struck Alejia, suddenly, that they were like two polite strangers trying to say every thing carefully, to not upset one another. Is this really the way marriage is supposed to be?

As if she had spoken aloud, Jacob offered, “Your pastor, Paul, he offered to pray for me. I didn’t think that was really necessary. I mean, I do not believe the same thing as you, so what would praying for me actually accomplish, any way? It just seemed like a wasted action. He also asked me something about if I met Jesus or some thing like that… How can I meet someone who died a long time ago? Doesn’t that seem like an odd question to you? Or, is it code for some thing?”

Alejia’s heart deflated. Oh. So, that hadn’t changed. Why is he here then?

“No not code. It is how we describe when our relationship with Jesus begins. He died, yes, but Providence brought Him back to life and then took Him in to Heaven alive. Because Jesus never belonged here on earth. Providence sent Him to us in human form to reach out to mankind and help us find the better way He has for us. Then when Jesus was taken up into Heaven to sit at His right hand, the Spirit of Providence was loosed on earth to help us learn more about Providence, and to help us do the right things. To help us find our way to the relationship with Him that He created us to have.”

Alejia stopped at this point. Jacob seemed to be staring right through her, but she wasn’t sure if he’d even heard a word she’d just spoken.

Jacob was looking at her, with a strange, curious look on his face. He said, “You glow when you talk about your Providence. Did you know that you glow? You’re the most beautiful woman I have ever laid eyes on.”

Alejia was stunned silent. What was he saying? Had he been listening to her? Was Providence using her to help reach out to him, to help him under stand the truth? She was seeing and hearing so many miracles today! Maybe she was dreaming of the perfect day and the perfect conversation with Jacob. She dug her nails into her hand. Nope, that was painful! Definitely awake.

She felt her cheeks get warm with a flattered embarrassment. “Thank you. I’m not sure what to say.”

Now it was Jacob’s turn to blush. “Oh, I embarrassed you. I did not mean to do that.”

“No, no. It is all good. I like it when you compliment me.” She flashed him a huge, appreciative grin. “No need to stop,” she giggled.

“Are you hungry? Would you like to go get some lunch with me?” Jacob asked, wistfully.

“Yes!” Alejia replied, maybe a little too quickly.”I’m so hungry! Where would you like to go”

He thought for a second, “How about some place we have not been in a long time. Maybe that Mexican food restaurant we used to go to? With the tasty margarita’s?”

“That sounds amazing! Let’s go!” Alejia smacked her lips loudly.

“Should we take both cars and meet there, or drive together?

“I’ll drive,” Jacob said. He never wanted anyone, not even Alejia, in his car-baby!

“How can I say no to that offer! Let’s go!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Around the corner, Josh had stood, hoping for a moment alone with Alejia. When he saw Jacob approach her, he hung back, staying just out of sight. He could hear them talking, quietly. It sounded like they were happy again, making small talk, then making plans to go to lunch.

He realized it was too late. He would not get the chance with Alejia that he had hoped for. The last few months had been a waste of his time.

Angry disappointment filled his thoughts. If only Jacob were no longer in the picture, then he could some how get Alejia back with him. He couldn’t just let her go, not without some kind of  fight to try to win her back.

He needed a plan.

Chapter 18

Alejia felt like she was dancing on the clouds. It was as if she had her old Jacob back, the man she fell in love with. He was attentive, nice, and even a bit silly. As they sat together, and ate their favorite menu items, Alejia could feel the awkwardness melting away from their conversation. It became easier to talk. Had it really been such a long time since they just sat down together at a restaurant and talked while enjoying food and each others company?

Alejia thought hard, but she couldn’t remember the last time they had gone anywhere, together, just for fun. Sure, they went to visit family together, that had become an expected thing. They visited his dad on occasion, but they was so much arguing between them, no one enjoyed those visits. So, they happened less, and less. Visiting her family was always a stiff, proper, boring time. They got a long alright, but it wasn’t much fun. Not enough laughter, for either side. They both needed more laughter. I guess at some point, that stopped. because they both got too busy to remember to make it a priority. Things got serious, feelings got hurt, schedules got full– awkwardness crept in and took over.

Alejia’s eyes moved to the window when she thought, for just a split second, she saw Josh peering in at them. She had to be imagining things. What was she even doing thinking about Josh, anyway? She wanted to put all of her attention and focus on to Jacob, on to repairing their marriage.

She needed her marriage to work.

She concentrated on listening to Jacob as he told her about a vacation he’d like to take with her. Just like they used to talk about back before all their troubles began. She moved closer to him, and snuggled close, pulling his arm over her shoulder, grabbing hold of his fingers. She closed her eyes, and tried to imagine Ireland as he described it. He knew that was her soft spot, as well as one of his own. Both had direct ancestors from Ireland. Alejia had seen the most in depth, beautiful picture of the green lands, the trees, the water… she held her breath as she imagined flying over head and getting a bird’s eye view of what had to be the most beautiful country Providence had ever created. The color of Jacob’s shirt…

She lightly touched the soft, almost flannel-like material. Oh how she adored him in this shirt!

“Thank you for wearing this shirt, Jacob. It still looks just as amazing on you as ever.” She tried to keep herself from gushing, the margarita was starting to go to her head.

Jacob smiled at her with that boyish charm that had stolen her heart when they first met. He purposely did a bad John Wayne impression, “Now, see here, Little Missy– Life is tough, even tougher if I am stupid enough not to wear your favorite shirt.”

“Wow. A new achievement for you. That was both a really bad impression, and pretty good.” Alejia leaned forward and kissed him. She could not help herself. She was just so… happy. Yes, this was what happy felt like.

Once again, Alejia’s attention was drawn to the window out by the street. She was positive that was Josh she had seen, again. Was he spying on them? She never would have pegged him as a stalker. This was creepy.

She ignored her suspicions, and turned her attention back to Jacob. But he was looking down at his phone, seeming to not notice her attention was drawn away for a short time. His dad was calling him. Again. He wanted to choose the decline option, again, but realized it was odd for his dad to try to call him in the first place. He hated cell phones, or any phones for that matter. Jacob apologized to Alejia, and answered the call.

“Hey dad, what’s up?” Jacob didn’t try to hide the annoyance in his tone. “Wait. What? Why are you calling me from dad’s phone? What’s going on?

Alejia waited patiently, noticing a concerned look shadow over Jacob’s face. “Yeah. Ok. I’ll get there as soon as I can. Stay with him until I get there, please?” Jacob hung up, and looked around for the waitress to bring him their check.

“Leej, Honey, I have to go. I’m sorry.” Alejia hadn’t heard him use that nick-name in such along time, it almost sounded strange.

“Did you forget you drove me here? Let me go with you. Please.” Jacob stared at her, contemplating the possibility of taking her with him. “No, I’m sorry. I can’t take you with me. Dad’s in bad shape, drank hisself into another pass out. Devlin is there with him now. I can’t bring you into the middle of all of that. Not while we’re just getting you and I back to being right. I’m sorry.”

Alejia kissed him gently, and told him it was fine. She would grab a cab home, or call Osa to pick her up.

“Thank you Darlin’. I will call you soon as things get back to normal. I promise.”

Alejia watched him rush out to his car. He climbed in, and started to drive away. But, something wasn’t right. As Jacob started to rush out of the restaurant’s parking lot, his rear tire exploded. Panic struck Alejia as a startled Jacob lost control, and began fish-tailing out into traffic. No time to react, an oncoming car slammed into the passenger side with tremendous force. Alejia watch, horrified, as Jacob’s head bounced from the driver side window, to the headrest, and into the steering wheel. Alejia had nagged him for months to get an airbag installed, but Jacob insisted on keeping his car in mint, vintage condition. No one expected something like this to happen.

Suddenly, Alejia remembered thinking she had seen Ryne. Surely he wouldn’t have done some thing to Jacob’s car? Especially know Alejia would also be in it.

Or, had he?

Chapter 19

Alejia rushed over to Jacob’s car, screaming his name.

Oh please, oh please, let him be ok. Please! She prayed over and over in her mind. Please, don’t take him from me now, we’re just getting back what we lost!

Alejia noticed someone on the phone, talking with 911, explaining what they had just witnessed.

Alejia glanced around, full of suspicion, looking for evidence of Josh having been there. That seems so crazy! Josh would never… could never… could he?

Alejia pushed that far out of her mind as she remembered the call that had caused Jacob to try to leave so suddenly.

She searched through their shared contacts, and found his dad’s phone number. Taking a deep breath, hoping Jacob wouldn’t be mad at her for calling them, she pushed the call button.

After 3 rings, Devlin answered. “Hello? Who is calling?

Alejia spoke calmly, trying to keep the panic and fear out of her voice. “Hi Devlin, this is Alejia, Jacob’s wife.” Silence met her. Did Devlin even know Jacob had married? “Are you there?” Alejia heard a sharp breath, and then a near whisper response of, “Yes. Why are you calling, please?”

“Devlin, listen to me carefully. There’s been an accident. Jacob was leaving to go see his dad, and something happened to his tire. He lost control, and another car ran into him. I don’t know if he’s ok, I’m waiting for the 911 response team now. Are you ok if I don’t make it there for awhile? I just want to make sure Jacob is going to be ok…” a sob escaped, as Alejia broke down, trying to keep Devlin from hearing her over the phone.

“Devlin, can you get a neighbor to help you? Should I send a friend over?”

Alejia could hear Devlin beginning to shake. “Please send a friend, and please come if you can.” And with that, Devlin hung up.

Alejia banged on Jacob’s window, trying to get him to wake up. He had locked his doors, so she couldn’t reach in to touch him. She wanted to stroke his face, to feel the warmth of his skin, to let him know she was right there. She didn’t have a key for his car, he would not give her one. At that moment, she realized how strained things had become for them, and how much they were starting to get back again.

She heard the wail of the ambulance and police, and she set her phone in her purse. Devlin would just have to be ok for a few minutes. She needed to know how Jacob was, she couldn’t think about anything else right now.

As the ambulance pulled up, she rushed over to talk with the paramedics, trying to stay out of the way so they could safely pull Jacob out of the car. She felt a rush of panic as they tried to pry open his door. He’d done a good job with the anti-theft stuff– nearly too good. They finally managed to get the door open, and they pulled him carefully out after checking his wounds. On the exterior, he seemed ok. Not too much damage, nothing appeared to be broken, but they couldn’t get him to wake up. His breathing was stable. They put him on the stretcher, and she asked if she could go with him. They let her into the back, and she rode with him, holding his hand, praying the entire time for Providence to intervene and heal him, to bring him back to her.

She thought about calling Osa, but realized her phone probably would not work on the ambulance, so she waited until she got to the hospital, when he was whisked away into surgery.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Across the street, hidden from view, Josh stood by, helplessly watching what he had caused. He hadn’t meant to hurt Jacob, just wanted to annoy him. He thought, maybe, if he annoyed him enough, Jacob would turn back into that jerk he was, and push Alejia away once and for all. This was not supposed to happen. What could he do? Now he was the jerk. He was positive Alejia had seen him,What if she told someone he was there? What if someone else had seen him? He needed to get away for awhile, play it safe, just until Jacob was better. Then, he would start his plan back up. Alejia would fall for him again, would trust him. She’d turn to him.

Yeah. That was what he needed to do. Stay out of sight, out of mind, and wait for the right opportunity to strike again, this time with much more safety precautions.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Osa was quiet. “Let me get this straight– Jacob was rushing home to help to help his dad, and Devlin is there with him now? So, now you need me to go to his dad’s house to help Devlin deal with the drunk, passed out old punk of a man… Is that what you’re saying?”

Alejia knew she was asking too much, but she didn’t know who else to turn to. “Please? Jacob wouldn’t wake up, Osa, he was just limp, on the stretcher, hooked up to all these machines and tubes… He didn’t even want me to go to his dad’s with him. Which is why I wasn’t in that accident. Jacob may have saved my life by being so freaking stubborn.”

“Oh, Jia, of course I’ll go. I’m sorry for giving you a hard time. I didn’t realize Jacob had been hurt so badly. Give me the address, and I  will go right now.”

Alejia gave her the address, and Jacob’s dad’s phone number, then hung up.

She would owe Osa big time. She prayed for peace between Osa and Devlin, remembering they had a pretty wicked and violent history of hating one another.

That is all any one needed right now, those two going at it again. It’d taken years to get some semblance of peace between them. Let’s just hope this will not rip those efforts all to shreds!

Chapter 20

Osa swore under her breath. Why me? Why now? Why this? Osa was not in the mood to deal Devlin. If it were for any one else but Jia, no way I’d be be helping with this. Osa forced her way out to her car. For one fleeting moment, she felt the temptation to call Josh. Oh no. No way I’m getting into the middle of all of that!

She started to back out of her driveway, only to be cut short by a car stopping at edge of the drive. Who the h-e-double-hockey-sticks was that? She started to yell out her window in her best Eliza Doolittle Cockney accent, while banging on her horn “Move yer bloomin’ arse!”

She stopped hitting the horn, suddenly, as she recognized the person who was now getting out of the car.

Josh?

What the he– “Hey there Josh, what in the world are you doing here, blocking my car? Is everything ok?”

He rushed to her driver’s side door. “I’m fine, but I’m worried about Alejia. Her vehicle is still at church, but I didn’t see her anywhere. Do you think she’s in some kind of trouble?’

Osa thought it odd that he hadn’t just called Alejia. “Why are you here, though? How do you even know where I live?”

“Oh, Alejia and I drove near here once, when we met with a client. She told me where you live, and I recognize your car from church. I hope it’s ok that I stopped by instead of calling. I just want to be sure Alejia is ok. I thought, maybe, she might be with you, then I could see her for myself.”

Wow. This guy was as smooth a talker as they come. “No, she isn’t with me. She’s actually at the hospital. Jacob was in a terrible car accident.” What was that look she saw on his face, for a brief moment. Was that guilt? Fear? Maybe worry for Alejia… Weird. She made a mental not to mention it to Alejia later when she called to berate her about this whole helping Devlin business.

“Oh. Are you on the way to the hospital now? I could go with you.”

That was a very interesting offer.

“No, actually, I’m on my way to help out anther fr– someone I know. Sorry. Why don’t you just call her? She’s waiting for the doctors to let her know how Jacob is, now. Maybe you can help get her mind off of her worries about him.” There, now she felt like she and Alejia were even.

“I just may do that. Thanks Osa.” Josh walked quickly back to his car, and sped away.

Osa could not help thinking he had acted odd. She turned her thoughts back to preparing to  deal with Devlin.

Yuck. Not at all what I wanted to be doing today. I guess when Providence calls, it’s not always at the times, or in the way, you want to answer!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Josh tried to get his fear controlled thoughts back under his own control. He’d had to talk with Osa, to see what, if anything, she knew. Alejia hadn’t said anything to her, it seemed. Maybe Alejia had no suspicions, maybe he was in he clear, and he wouldn’t need to go anywhere for awhile.

At any rate, he needed to relax. Even he thought he was acting suspiciously! Maybe he would get a plane ticket and go to his vacationing home on the east coast. He needed to get away,to clear his head. Alejia was making him crazy with heart sickness.

Maybe he would stop by the hospital, and just check on her. Maybe she would talk with him and he could comfort her.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Alejia couldn’t take it anymore. Why had no one told her anything yet? She walked over to the nurses station, and asked, again, how Jacob was doing. The nurse held her finger up, signaling she needed a moment to deal with some one over the phone. As she hung up, she responded, “I’m so sorry, Mrs Rockefeller, there is still no news. The doctor has him in surgery, they’re trying to figure out why that stubborn man of yours still is not waking up. Please have a  seat, try to get comfortable. Can I get you something from the cafeteria? I promise it won’t be pureed.” Alejia smiled at the nurse in appreciation. It was nice of her to try to help Alejia relax, maybe even smile, but Alejia felt she had no right to be smiling right now. Some how this had been her fault, Maybe Josh had done some thing petty out of jealousy, though she never would have believed he would be capable of such juvenile behaviors.

She drew in a deep breath, afraid to let it out as the doctor approached her carefully, but quickly.

“Mrs. Rockefeller, we have discovered the problem. Jacob has suffered from a severe concussion from more than one bump on the head. His brain is swollen, and we discovered a tiny hemorrhage that we were able to successfully repair. I’m afraid it will just take time now for the anti-inflammatory meds to kick in, and that should wake him up. You’re welcome to wait here. It’ll be a few hours before he will be allowed to have visitors. We want to keep him in the critical care unit for close observation, to watch for any signs of seizures or other dangerous symptoms.”

Alejia decided she was not staying there.It would drive her crazy with worry. She was going for a drive.

“Thank you Dr. Allang. I’ll leave my number here for you, will you call me if there is any change?”

“Of course Mrs. Rockefeller. For now all we can do is watch him closely, and wait.”

Alejia jotted don her number, and left it with the nurse in charge. She went to the elevator, and pushed the lobby button. In the door reflection, she thought she saw Ryne’s face. She quickly turned, but no one was there.

So odd! She must just be exhausted, feeling some guilt about telling Josh things had to be stopped.

She climbed into the elevator as the door opened, and made plans to drive to her special place.

While down in the lobby, she didn’t notice Josh peek his head out of the stair well door. He thought about following her, or “accidentally” bumping in to her. but thought better of it.

Off to get my plane ticket and disappear from here for awhile…

Chapter 21

Osa followed the road into their old stompin’ grounds. Alejia had given her the address, and must have forgotten Osa knew it well. She grew up in the area. She probably still knew most of the people living their, too. This was not an easy area to escape from.Osa was fortunate her family moved away when she was a sophomore.

She pulled her car her the trailer park where Jacob’s dad still lived. Once upon a time, Osa was friends with the whole Rockefeller family. Her whole family and their family spent a lot of time together as she grew up. She and Devlin were once best friends.

A lot had happened since then. They’d fought over a boy, one Osa was dating but had cheated with Devlin. Devlin knew how much she loved Toby. That’d been the end of their friendship. Osa’s heart was broken by both of them. She never talked to either of them again. Well, until she had to, today.

I just want to get this over with.

Osa tapped lightly on the door, halfway hoping it wouldn’t be heard, so she could say she showed up but she could just leave.

No such luck.

Osa heard steps coming to the door. And, here we go…

Devlin answered the door. Osa tried not to stare as she noticed the scar over Devlin’s right cheek down to her nose. She managed a smile.

“Hi, I am the help Alejia sent.” At first, Devlin stared, as if she thought Osa looked familiar. Then, as recognition hit her, she tried to shut the door, but Osa was too quick. She wedged her body through the door, and insisted Devlin let her in.

“Look. I know we have some bad blood, but that was years ago. Let me in, Alejia said you need help. I can help.”

Devlin hesitated, then flung the door open. “Fine! He’s back here. He’s a stinkin’ mess. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!”

Osa gagged as she tried to make her way through the crowded, filthy trailer. Beer cans, cigarette butts and trash covered every surface, piles of things were everywhere.

What happened here? Osa wanted to ask the question out loud, but Devlin appeared to be in no mood to talk.

“He hasn’t been the same since mom left.”

“Oh,” was all the response Osa could muster.

“Yeah. It’s a sad, cryin’ shame. Wah wah wah.” No sympathy coming from Devlin, that was for certain.

Osa made her way back to the bed room where Jacob’s dad had passed out. She checked his wrist and throat, to feel for his pulse. It seemed pretty weak, even for drunken stupor. “How long has he been passed out?” Osa counted to ten, and heard no response from Devlin. “Devlin! How long has he been out?” Osa asked in an urgent tone.

“I’m not sure. He was like that when I came in about 3 hours ago, or so.”

Osa was put off by her seeming lack of any caring or emotion.

“Aren’t you worried about him? Devlin? Why didn’t you call for an ambulance”

“He does this all the time. It’s just how it is, just what he does. Do you think he needs to go to the hospital? It’s up to you. Go ahead and call if you think they need to help. But, no one is going to want to come into this junkyard garbage dump. You know that, right?

“Yeah, you are right. Ok. Help me get him outside. I’ll figure out what to do next, then.”

They worked together to carry Devlin’s dad out to the front yard, and Osa called the ambulance. “What do you mean it will take an hour or more to get here?! You do understand that this is an emergency, right? Fine! I will drive him there my self!”

“I guess I just got volunteered to be an ambulance, minus everything ambulances have on them. Will you ride with him in the back of my car?”

Devlin thought for a moment, then answered with a curt, “Sure. Why not?”

Again, they worked together to get Jacob’s dad into Osa’s back seat. “Can you run in and find him a clean pillow to rest his head back on?”

Devlin seemed to want to resist, but instead she went in, found a decent pillow, locked up the trailer, and climbed into the back seat next to her dad.

As she put the pillow behind his head, she quietly said, “Thank you for helping us.”

Osa, caught her eye in the rear-view mirror,and nodded. She couldn’t believe how bad things had gotten for these people. She wanted to ask about the scar on Devlin’s face, but she knew now was not the time. Maybe there would be a chance another time. Maybe amends could be made, and they could become friends once again. That didn’t seem beyond the range of hope.

Osa drove in silence, a million thoughts flitting around in her head. Too much is going on today. Way too much. I need to take a step back. I think it is time I start praying again. I never should have stopped!

Devlin watched her dad carefully, making sure his head was propped up by the pillow. The stench of his house followed them into Osa’s car. Osa gagged, then opened her window and Devlin’s window. That should help, some. Maybe… The air was not much better out side of the car. They were driving through the industrial area.

Soon they would be at the hospital, where Osa would drop them off and go home to a nice, hot, quiet, relaxing bath.

She just wanted this day to be done.

She drove her car to the emergency entrance, and an EMT rushed out to tell her she had to move her car. Stubbornly, she stopped, threw her car into ‘park’, got out, grabbed the ENT’s hand, and dragged the poor guy over to where Devlin’s dad was still out cold.

“Look. I called an ambulance, and they gave me some song and dance about how it would be an hour or more wait. So, here we are, here I am, with this man who probably has alcohol poisoning. This here is his daughter. His name is Mr. Rockefeller. Not the Mr. Rockefeller, as I guess you could gather just by looking at him. He needs emergency attention, and admittance into this hospital. Capiche?”

The EMT ran inside and grabbed a stretcher and some help, and took Jacob’s dad inside.

Devlin looked lost, a little frightened. “Umm would you mind staying here with me? I don’t know what to do, and I hate hospitals. Please?”

Osa sighed. So much for that amazing bath she’d been day dreaming about all day long.

“Ok, Sure.”

Chapter 22

Alejia focused on the road ahead, trying to see the lines on the high way. The lights from on coming traffic were blinding. I can not believe how many people there are out driving tonight! Her mind worked hard trying to make sense of the events from the past 2 days, as her car sped towards her place of refuge. She held tightly to the steering wheel as she passed a semi truck, then another. Maybe this was the wrong time. But, she needed to get away, and she hoped she could see the lady and the lion again. She was not exactly sure how it worked, how she was able to see them the last time. Things were falling a part in her world right now. She could not go through all of this on her own, alone.

She watched the tree line on her right, looking for the land marks to help her find her refuge place. There! She found the sign, then the turn. She slowed her car as she flipped on her blinker, and jumped as a semi blew past, blaring its air horn in her ears. She fought the urge to flip him off, he or she could not see her gestures, anyway. Plus, well, that just was not something she would do. That was some thing Jacob would do… Tears pushed at her ducts, causing a throbbing ache around her eyes. I am not going to cry any more! Enough tears already!

She steered her car down the newly familiar road, surprised by how dark it had gotten. This place looks so much creepier at night, she thought warily. Maybe I should have waited until tomorrow to come. But, I need to get back to the hospital. I hope the doctor calls me soon with good news. She remembered her phone was set to silent, but she decided to leave it on the setting. She didn’t want her prayer time, or her time in the beautiful city, if she were able to return there, to be limited or interrupted.

She decided not to get out of her Celica, yet. She was not quite that brave. If there was a lion here before, who knew what lurked in the dark shadows now? Alejia turned on the interior light, and she opened her glove box, and pulled her Bible out. Her mind started reciting Psalm 23:

The LORD is my shepherd,
            I shall not want.

Her mind thought about all the things she wanted. She wanted Jacob to be ok. She wanted him to share her understanding of Providence, and her faith in His ability to hear and answer their prayers. She wanted them to be happy again. She wanted a baby….

Right there, it was out. She never let that thought make its way into her conscious awareness. But, there it was. She refused to examine that rabbit trail right now. She continued thinking about the words in the Psalm:

      He makes me lie down in green pastures;
            He leads me beside quiet waters.

He certainly does this! Here she was in her refuge, her favorite place, and it was full of green with the most beautiful still waters she believed even the earth had ever seen! More beautiful than even her fantasies of visiting Ireland and how she imagined it would be.

      He restores my soul;
            He guides me in the paths of righteousness
            For His name’s sake.

Oh, how she needed her soul to be restored right now. She needed Providence to restore Jacob’s soul, to heal his body. To wake him back up. She needed His guidance to help her be what Jacob needed her to be. Was that considered the path of righteousness, she wondered? Her thoughts rested on that for a moment, thinking about what a path of righteousness would look like, or sound like, or even feel like. For Providence’s name’s sake, for the sake of Jesus. She thought of the lion, and remembered how Jesus is often referred to as the Lamb of God, then she remembered Scripture about the lion and the lamb laying down together. Oh, that must be about Providence and Jesus, what a peaceful, beautiful picture she had in her mind.

      Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
            I fear no evil, for You are with me;
            Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

She tried to picture what the valley of the shadow of death could look like, but her mind cringed at the idea, and refused to work on imagining it. That sounds like a dreadfully, horrible place, she thought. She thought about how Providence is always there, with her, beside her, before her, even watching her back. She rarely ever felt afraid, not since she gave her life over to His protective watch. She thought about the things that brought her comfort in her relationship and trust of Providence; Prayer was definitely one of the main comforts. No matter what, she could always pray. In her thoughts, in her heart, in her spirit, even out loud. She could even pray in song. All of those belonged to Providence. His answers gave her comfort, as did feeling His presence with her. Knowing she could always prayer, always ask for help, that was her comfort.

      You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
            You have anointed my head with oil;
            My cup overflows.

This made her think of her last moments with Jacob today. They were laughing! It had been such a long time since they had laughed together! They ate their favorite foods, and enjoyed each others company. Suddenly the memory of catching a glimpse of Josh looking in at them from the front window, his face contorted in an angry, or was it jealous, grimace as he rushed away. She had seen him there! What had he been doing there?

Her thoughts went back to Jacob, and his silly behavior, and how he pretended to dump the left over carne asada grease over her head. She had feigned anger and punched his shoulder when a drop accidentally landed in the middle of her scalp. She reached up and touched the place it had landed. It was still greasy. She had forgotten about it in all the traumatic events. We were so happy, my cup of happiness was over flowing this afternoon. Will it ever feel that way again? Would she lose Jacob?

      Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
            And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

She prayed silently, asking Providence to please make this true for her. That the goodness of her and Jacob will follow her all the days of her life, that Jacob will become healthy, strong once again, and that He would save him– both his life, and his soul. Oh, I just want him to know, to know he can trust You, too. Please Save him, please help him. She thought about how she longed to go to church with him, to serve in the community, bringing the light of Providence, and the healing and happiness of a relationship with Him, to others– with Jacob. She wanted that more than anything else she could think of. Her heart hurt, she wanted that so desperately.

She opened her eyes, wasn’t sure exactly when she had closed them, and saw some thing in the distance. Was it the lady with the lion? Her heart jumped in excitement at that thought. Would she be able to go back, to see them, to ask them questions– to dare to touch the mane of  the lion, as it danced in the light of the melodic breeze?

She squinted her eyes, and looked carefully into the darkening thicket. What had she seen, what was out there? Was she in danger? was it a wold animal? She felt a panic try to paralyze her, but she dismissed it, Providence would protect her, she suddenly thought. I don’t need to be afraid.

She looked into the growing darkness, and saw what looked like a soft glowing light, a white glow. Then she realized, she was looking at a lamb! A lamb, out here, at night?

She felt a surge of energy burst through her, an adrenaline rush, as she realized, she needed to try to catch that lamb, to try to save it from any unknown dangers out there.

She opened her car door, shutting off the interior light as she rushed out into the near-night, rushing out to get the lamb.

Chapter 23

Osa reluctantly walked to the elevators with Devlin. She had no idea what they could talk about. She wanted to help, but she still hated Devlin for stealing Toby away from her in high school. That had been the final straw for Osa’s parents, the reason they decided to move away during Osa’s sophomore year of high school.

What had she been thinking by agreeing to come here with Devlin? As the memories forced their way back into Osa’s thoughts, she excused her self to go to the rest room. No way she was showing any emotion to Devlin, no way she’d give her the satisfaction of seeing her cry, if that is what it came down to.

Osa took a few minutes, composed herself, straightened her clothing, and took deep breaths, letting them out slowly. She had to put on her big girl britches, and go back out there to face Devlin again. Her nerves calm again, her head cool, thoughts collected, she reached for the door knob to open it, and was startled as it was pushed towards her. It was Devlin. Osa struggled to keep her newly gained composure, hoping hey eyes were no red and puffy. I forgot to touch them up with powder, she thought, annoyed with herself. She did not usually forget such important details!

Devlin stepped back in surprise, as she realized Osa was there. “Oh! I was worried maybe you had decided to leave, and just did not want to say any thing! I  am glad you are still here.” Devlin smiled with a knowing appreciation. Now, why had Osa not thought of that?! She could have just snuck out, and could be well on her way to getting that hot bath she really, really wanted.

She must realize this is not easy for me, Osa thought. Well, at least she understands that!

Osa forced a smile on her face. “I am fine, really. This is no problem at all.” Osa’s mind scolded her thoughts for calling her a liar. “I will just be out here”, she said as she went through the door and out into the lobby.

As she walked to the nearest set of chairs, a doctor came out with a clipboard. “Ms. Rockefeller?” he asked, looking in her direction. Had Devlin never married, Osa wondered?

Osa walked over to the doctor, and said, “She is in the ladies room. I am the one who drove them here, can you talk with me?”

The doctor looked at her closely, then said, “I can not give you much information, but I can tell you he is in stable condition. I will wait here a few moments until she returns, to give her his updated news. Do you happen to know Mr. Rockefeller’s full name, by any chance?”

Osa thought back to when they were younger, and his wife would call out for him to come in to dinner. He was always tinkering with his cars, rebuilding engine blocks, restoring the bodies… always had filthy hands.

“Desmond. Desmond Jacob Rockefeller”, Osa was surprised she could remember his full name.

The doctor wrote down his name. “Thank you, his files will be updated into our system”.

Just then, Devlin came out of the rest room. She saw the doctor, but made no effort to hurry, or approach him. Osa waved her over, surprised by the look of annoyed resistance she saw cross Devlin’s face. What is going on with that girl?

Devlin walked slow, but finally stood in front of the doctor, but avoided eye contact with either of them.

The doctor spoke softly, “Ms. Rockefeller, your dad is going to be ok. You both got him here just in time. His heart was close to failing. Right now he has alcohol poisoning. We have him hooked up to IV’s to flush the alcohol toxins out of his blood. As soon as his system is flushed out, we will need to operate. He needs open heart surgery. I need you to sign these release forms, stating if any thing happens, such as him dying during surgery, you won’t hold us libel.” Devlin looked up, startled.

“What do you mean he has to get open heart surgery? He is an alcoholic, Should he not just be left alone to die?”

Osa could not believe what she was hearing! How could Devlin speak about her own father in such an awful way? What had happened in this family that caused so much hatred, so much animosity? What has Osa missed by moving away?

The doctor recovered from his own shock at her blunt words, and said, “It’s our job to do everything for our patients possible to ensure they have quality of life. Once they are brought to us, they are left up to our care.”

“What if I don’t sign your forms? What then? Will you have to forget about the surgery? I won’t sign them.” Devlin crossed her arms in front of her chest, like a defiant rebellious child telling their parents no!

“Well, we will have to try to find another family member to sign them, then.” The doctor sighed, a deep perplexed shadow crossing his facial expression. “I have to say, I have never experienced this reaction before. Let me have our hospital chaplain come and talk with you. Would you agree to that?”

“No. No thank you. Good luck finding some one else to sign them. My brother is here, in some type of coma. My mom disappeared. I suppose my brother’s wife might be talked in to it, if she happens to be around some where…”

Osa had forgotten in all this excitement, that Jacob was also here. She decided to go look for Alejia.

Osa grabbed her phone from her bra-strap, and pushed the home button. “Siri, call Jia!” she barked into her phone.

Siri repeated, “Calling Jia now.” She listened to the ringing, and then heard the voicemail message, “You have reached Alejia Rockefeller, home designer at large. I am with a client, or I am screening your calls. Please call back or leave a message with your phone number information, and I will probably call you back. Unless I don’t.” Osa cracked a smile, she had forgotten about that message.

“Jia, I need to see you. Are you still here at the hospital? I am coming to find you, girl, no way you can avoid me! Oh, and you know my number better than I do!”

Osa went to the front desk and asked about where Jacob Rockefeller would be. “He is still in critical condition, I am afraid,” a stout, happy faced nurse informed her. “They’re keeping him in the Critical Care Unit for now. I’m afraid he is not allowed to have any visitors at this time.”

Osa swore under her breath. Fiddle sticks!

What was she going to do now? She decided to call Pastor Paul and ask for his advice. She wondered if in all the chaos, anyone else had thought to call him?

She scrolled through her contact list, and found his home, “emergencies only please“, number. He pulse quickened as he answered, “Hello? is everything ok?”

“Pastor Paul, this is Osa. I am afraid every thing is not ok. I need your help at the hospital. Do you have time to come over here? Alejia’s husband is in the critical care unit, her father-in-law was just admitted as well, and I am not sure where she is at the moment. This is all too much for me to handle alone right now. Would you be willing to come down here?”

“I’m on my way. Just give me a few minutes to get myself all sorted out.”

“Thank you, Sir. Thank you so much!”

Osa walked over to the critical care unit and looked around for Alejia. She was nowhere to be seen. Osa walked over to the nurses station and asked the nurse sitting behind the desk, “I’m looking for Jacob Rockerfeller’s wife. Have you seen her, did she tell you if she was going somewhere?”

The nurse looked up at Osa and smiled with a calm reassurance at Osa.”She left her number here for the doctor to call as needed. Maybe she went to the cafeteria? Or she could be waiting at home? Sometimes people just do not feel comfortable waiting here for news of their loved ones.”

Osa thanked the nurse, and walked over to the seating. It certainly looked comfortable enough. Suddenly Osa realized, she hadn’t told Devlin where she was going. She walked back over to the emergency room area, and sat next to Devlin.

“Listen. Your brother is in the critical care unit. I just called my Pastor, and he is coming here to meet me, to wait. Come with me. You should be there when there is news about his condition.”

Devlin looked into Osa’s eyes, and tears spilled out. “I don’t know if I can handle this. But, Ok. I’ll go over with you.”

They walked together, and sat on the comfortable chairs. Almost immediately Devlin’s eyes closed, and she fell asleep, her head resting on the back of her chair, feet on the chair in front of her.

Osa sighed, again just longing for that nice, hot bubbly bath.  It was going to be a very long night.

Chapter 24

Paul Larson ran a comb through his hair and grabbed his coat, scarf and hat. He did not want to think about the fact that he had let some one leave his office, his church building, with out making sure they knew all they needed to know about the importance of Salvation, Jesus, the cross and eternity with or with out God.

What had he done? Left a man to seal his own fate because of stubbornness? No matter how many times some one throws out a life line, if the drowning person will not take hold of it, they will continue the process of drowning. Sometimes, it would be nice if we could just grab that life line on their behalf, and put it around them to bring them on to the shore of safety. He wished he could have helped him more. He did not know how to get someone to experience a deep hunger for the things of Providence. That was one of the great mysteries of the Almighty. Only He could draw a soul out from the muck and the mire into His amazing Light to receive, accept, take hold of completely, all of His wonder-filled promises.

He rushed out the door, steeling himself against the brisk cold. Thankful he had a car, knowing full well he did not deserve such luxuries, he climbed into his front seat, started the engine and let it warm for a few minutes. As he pulled out of his garage, he blinked in response as car head lights reflected off of the snow.

He needed to hurry. But he needed to get there safe.

He eased to a stop as the corner light turned red, testing his tires. Black ice was always a danger this time of year.

His thoughts returned to his conversation with Jacob earlier. He wondered what he could have done in a different way, said that would have had a different impact and out come. He began praying, hoping Providence had forgiven him for his missing the mark with Jacob. He knew people had a choice, of course. But, he also knew that when the Message was presented just right, that people responded to it, they did not reject it or push it away. Jacob had walked a way from it. Some how Jacob had never heard the Message in the way that was just right for him to have the eyes of his understanding opened up. Some how it had not grasped even a tiny bit of Jacobs heart or understanding.

Well, he thought, that just won’t do. I have to go and keep trying to get the message through to him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Osa sat quietly as Devlin snored softly. What had this girl been through, Osa wondered? Osa grabbed her phone and told Siri to call Jia again, for maybe the tenth time. The phone rang several times, then went again to her voice mail. I know she has been through H.E.double hockey sticks today, but surely she knew people, like the doctor, needed to be able to get a hold of her.

Osa was deep in thought when Pastor Paul walked in. She glanced up, catching his form out of the corner of her eye as he walked towards her away from the elevators.

“Pastor Paul! Thank you so much  for coming!”

He walked over and shook her hand in greeting. “You’re welcome. Is his wife here? I’d like to talk with her.”

“Oh, no. I can’t find her. I have tried calling her, and left her multiple messages, but she has not gotten back to me yet. I am starting to worry.” Osa covered her face in her hands, suddenly overwhelmed with worry for her friend.

“Don’t let worry take over. Providence will help. He knows exactly where she is. We just need to pray for her safety, and that she will return here soon. Or, at the very least, return your call.” The Pastor put a comforting hand on Osa’s shoulder.

Devlin stirred next to Osa. Pastor Paul gestured towards her. “Is this a friend of yours? A friend of Alejia’s or Jacob’s?” Osa started to respond, then stopped for a moment and thought her answer through. “This is Jacob’s sister, and the daughter of the other man, Jacob’s father, who is in the emergency section here.”

“Oh, right. You mentioned that. Ok, tell me what happened.” Paul realized he had not heard any of the details, had no idea what the condition was of either man, or the causes of the conditions.

Osa looked up as she tried to recall the details of Jacob’s accident. “Alejia and Jacob were at lunch, which was a miracle in and of itself. They have been having some troubles, Jacob was so horrible to her– anyway. They were at their favorite restaurant having lunch, and I guess Jacob got a call from his sister, Devlin– right next to me here. She told him she’d found their dad was passed out from drinking when she stopped by to check in on him, and could he, Jacob, please come by and help her deal with it all? So, he was on his way there, and something happened to his car… something about his back tire exploding, or something. He lost control of it, and someone rammed into him. So, Alejia called me and asked me to go to his dad’s and try to help. But, when I got there, his dad’s pulse was really weak. I called the ambulance, but they would take forever to get there, so I had Devlin help me get him in to the car, and I drove him here myself. Now he is needing open heart surgery, but Devlin refuses to sign the paper work releasing the hospital in case something happens. I need Alejia to sign the paperwork. But, I can’t get a hold of her…” Osa’s voice trailed off. She was exhausted. She couldn’t take much more of all of this. Not today, not right now..

Pastor Paul nodded his understanding, compassion covering his face.

“Bitch! What are you telling this man about me and my family?!” Oh good, Devlin was awake…

Chapter 25

Devlin heard Osa talking through the deep fog of sleep. Talking a lot. Who was she talking to? Then she heard a man’s voice. Devlin sat there and listened, trying to make out the words, the subject. Oh, she was talking about me! About my family!

She snapped at Osa, and Osa, shocked, and stopped talking, glaring at Devlin but apologized to Pastor Paul.

Pastor Paul stood up and walked over in front of Devlin. “My name is Paul, Paul Larson. I’m the lead Pastor for Osa and Alejia’s church.” He extended a hand, hoping to shake her hand in greeting. She gave his hand an angry look, and ignored his polite gesture of introduction.

“Yeah, yeah. Ain’t no Pastor gonna help us. You might as well go back to the hole you crawled out of!”

Osa could not believe what Devlin had said! What had made her such an angry, ugly person, especially towards a man of the Clergy?

“Devlin! You have no business talking to Pastor Paul in such an ugly way. He has not done any thing but come here at my request to be here for all of us! Please, apologize to him.”

Paul stood tall and said, “No no, it is ok. She does not owe me any thing. Whatever I can do to help, that is helpful, please just let me know.” He expected Devlin to take a step back and regroup her attitude, but instead she became even more angry.

“You want to do some thing to help? Really! Where were you when my mother walked out on us? Or when this one’s,” (she pointed sharply at Osa), “boyfriend raped me and got me pregnant?” Osa gasped sharply, painfully. “How about when my dad beat me when he found out about the baby? Or when I lost the baby because of the beatings? Where were you then?!” She was screaming angrily, her eyes full of rage, face as red as blood. Then, she turned white as a sheet, took a step back, and fell into a chair sobbing hysterically. She’d gone too far, she knew. She just couldn’t take anymore. No more.

Pastor Paul sat down quietly on the seat in front of Devlin, and watched as the pain from with in her clawed it’s way out in to the open. This was a family full of scars and open wounds. He was needed here, he just did not know how to begin.

So, he prayed. Please provide me with guidance, and an opening to work in here, so You can begin healing this family torn apart because of a terrible act of selfishness.

Pastor Paul spoke quietly. “Devlin. I know you do not know me. And, you are right, I was not there when all of those horrible things happened to you and to your family. But, Devlin, I am here now. And you can talk to me. I will help in every way I know how to help. I promise. If you will let me”

Devlin looked up at his face, and in to his deep blue eyes, and for the first time in her life, she saw, and felt, what compassion looked like when it looked at her. She wanted to tell him off, to swear loudly to offend him, but– then that compassion would be gone too. She needed that compassion. So, she just said, “Ok.”

Osa felt the full impact of Devlin’s words. Toby had done– what? Her Toby? No. No! There had to be some mistake! Maybe Devlin had gotten drunk and just thought it was Toby. Surely Toby would never do any thing like that? He’d always been so nice to Osa, never pushed her in to any thing. There had to be a mistake! Osa stayed silent, trying desperately to process all she had just heard. Why would Toby do some thing like that, any way?

Osa swallowed hard. She couldn’t speak. She stood and rushed to the rest room. She needed to be alone. Once in the rest room, Osa leaned against the door, and let the emotions of what had just happened, what she had just heard, wrack through her body. Thank goodness there was not many people around here tonight. Devlin was like a ticking time bomb with sensitive information, it seemed.

Suddenly, Osa felt horrible. Maybe all of that did actually happen. Poor Devlin. So many terrible things to deal with, and every thing spilling out today when so many other horrible things were going on.

Today felt like a night mare that just will not end.

Osa managed to hold her self together as she walked back out of the rest room. Devlin did not look at her, not even in her direction. Osas did not know what to say, or do. So, she sat down, grabbed a magazine off of the table in front of her, and began flipping through the pages, thankful she had some thing to use as a distraction.

They all sat in silence, listening to the busy hospital sounds around them. Finally a doctor came out, and called for “Mrs. Rockefeller”.  Devlin looked over at Osa with a panicked expression, Osa nodded towards the doctor. Devlin stood up and walked over to where he stood, writing some thing on his clip board.

The doctor extended his hand as Devlin walked up, “Hi, I’m Dr. Walker. I am one who has been attending to Mr. Rockefeller. And you are…?”

Devlin hesitated, then reached out and gingerly shook the doctor’s hand. “I am Devlin Rockefeller, Jacob’s sister.”

“Ok, well, Jacob still has not woken up as of yet. We are monitoring his vitals closely, and we have run multiple tests. Everything seems good. The bumps on his head have caused a severe concussion, his brain is swollen. We think it will respond to the anti-inflammatory drugs we put in his IV. He just needs time. We want to keep him in the critical care unit until he wakes up, and we can run a few other tests on him.”

Devlin seemed unsure of how to react. She stood there, frozen. The doctor asked, “Ms. Rockefeller, are you ok? Can I get you something?” Osa walked over to Devlin, and put her arm around her to comfort her. “Come sit down, Hon. Thank you doctor, she has us here to help her.”

Dr. Walker said, “Ok, well, we’ll let you know as soon as anything changes.”

“Thank you. Come on Devlin, back over this way.”

Devlin sat down. Pastor Paul stood and stretched. Suddenly, Devlin got tears in her eyes and said quietly, “Paul. Please stay with me.”

Chapter 26

Pastor Paul Stood and paced. He had promised to stay for Devlin, but he knew he needed to try to go back and pray with Jacob.

He walked over to the nurses station and spoke with the nurse there. “I was wondering if it would be possible for me to go and sit with Jacob for a few minutes? I am the pastor of the church he was visiting today, his wife’s pastor.”

The nurse said, “I will go ask the doctor, and let you know.”

Paul nodded, then walked back over to the chairs to try to relax.

The nurse came back out a few minutes later, and called over to him. As he walked to the nurses station, the nurse said, “The doctor said you can come back. But, you have to wash up and wear scrubs with a mask and gloves.”

“No problem!” Pastor Paul walked back with the nurse, gesturing to both Osa and Devlin that he would be right back.

The nurse took him to the sink area, and handed him the scrubs, gloves and mask.  He put on the scrubs and mask, then the gloves. She walked back with him, showing him the room where Jacob lay quietly.

Pastor Paul sat carefully in the chair that had been placed next to the head of Jacob’s bed, on the right hand side. He asked the nurse if it would be ok for him to hold Jacob’s hand. “Yes, just watch out for the IV.”

He took hold of Jacob’s hand, and he held it loosely. He began to pray quietly.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Alejia had rushed out of the car to try to catch the lamb before it was hurt somehow. In her hurry, she forgot her phone. Dang it! How can any one get a hold of me now? Hopefully this will be quick!

She walked towards where she had last seen the lamb, but it was no no where in sight. She started to turn and go back towards her car, but a noise caught her attention. Was that the lion?

Curious, forgetting every thing, she walked towards the sound, hoping to see the lion. She suddenly remembered the verse, 1 Peter 5:8 that said:

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Alejia felt unprepared. But, she suddenly realized, not afraid.

She continued forward.

At once she noticed it looked different, again. The trees faded in to the back ground, and she realized she was walking in some thing like a desert land, or dry valley.

Huh, she thought.

She continued walking, even though she felt like turning around and going back to her car. Then, she became aware of words again: Jacob needs your help. Here.

Wait, what? What does that mean?

She walked over to the water’s edge, hoping to see the fiery water. Instead she saw what looked like a dried out lake, with a few puddles in it. She could make out her reflection in one of the puddles– It was just her. No jewelry.

Had she lost it? Had it been taken from her? She began to feel a panic, she was not prepared to be here! Where was this place?

Then Alejia remembered– she had been warned something like this would happen. The words she heard from the last time she was here resounded in her heart:

“I have given you the tools you will need in the future. You will not always be aware you have them, they have become a part of who you are and how you will interact with others. It is not necessary for you to see them, or acknowledge them. They simply just are part of your design. They can not be taken from you, and you can not give them away. This is important for you to know. There will come a time when one will attempt to trick you into thinking they are gone. But they are always with you, just as I am always with you.”

She knew– she was ready because Providence had made her ready.

She stepped forward again, unafraid. She looked around, cautiously, again wondering where she was this time. Some thing startled her as it whizzed past her. What in the world was that? Again, some thing else whizzed past her head. Her eye caught sight of a flame as another flew by her. Another one hit her, square in the chest. Instead of going in to her, it bounced off of her.

As another one came at her, she caught a faint glimpse of what looked like a breast plate. Then, she barely made out a shield as her arm rose up in reflex to shield her face form another flaming arrow...? One bounced off of her waist, and she notice a faint out line of a belt.

She began to pray for Jacob, that Providence would move on his behalf, would heal his mind and his body, and most of all would draw him in to the light of His Salvation. She felt a dart hit near her head, but bounce off, and in the reflection of a puddle, she saw the glimmer of a helmet on her head.

As she prayed, the arrows stopped farther away from her. She continued praying, thanking Providence for Jacob. Thanking Providence for the gift of Salvation through Jesus. She could feel a heavy weight, some thing invisible, trying to force her to stop moving forward. She fought back, praying, thanking Providence for the strength to fight, and win, this battle. She didn’t understand, at this point, the significance of what was happening. But, she knew she needed to continue.

She walked forward, a strong wind pushing against her, trying to force her back. She looked down, and noticed the dirt was not touching her feet. She could barely make out a pair of sandals over her feet.  She prayed, “I thank you for Your still small voice in the strongest of storms. I thank you that through Jesus I can do any thing, because He is my strength. You are the rock of my Salvation, because of You I can stand strong. You lead my by still waters, and by Your stripes we are healed. Please heal Jacob from his injuries. Please heal Jacob from all of his hurts. Please heal our marriage. Please, Save his soul.”

The wind died down, and she could hear birds singing happily. As she began to relax, she became aware of a dark presence. Common sense told her she should run, but she stood her ground, and looked around. she felt an impulse to hold her hands together, and swing at some thing she sensed was coming at her. She swung her arms with all of her might, and caught sight of the flash of what appeared to be a sword.

Alejia began to speak out God’s Word:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

She saw a bolt of lightning flash against the sky.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Alejia felt the rain begin to lightly bounce on her head. She looked up, and wondered if her battle had ended. She stood to her feet and asked Providence to guide her, to help her know what she needed to do next.

In her  spirit, she became aware of words once again, “Go back to the hospital. Jacob needs you.”

Chapter 27

Pastor Paul sat with Jacob for a few minutes after he finished praying. He thought he felt a muscle twitch in Jacob’s hand. He waited, then thought, maybe I just imagined it. Wait. Was that– another twitch! Yes!

He began to to talk to Jacob excitedly. “Jacob, can you hear me? Jacob! I am right here, are you awake?”

Jacob’s toes and feet began to move slowly. He opened his eyes, and blinked as the light blinded him.

“Nurse!! Hey! Some one come quick! Jacob is waking up!!”

Jacob cringed at all the yelling. Pastor Paul ran out into the hall way, down to the nurses station. “Hey, he woke up!!”

He followed the nurse back to Jacob’s room, as she rushed down the hall way. She walked over to Jacob, and smiled cheerfully.

“So. Mr. Rockefeller, you’re awake! You gave us all quite a scare!”

Jacob slurred his careful words, “Whrris Leej?” he asked weakly.

Pastor Paul assumed he was asking for his wife, so he responded quickly with, “She will be here soon.”

The nurse began to check Jacob’s vitals. “You are lookin’ pretty good, for having been in a car accident. You’re a very lucky man, Mr. Rockefeller. A lucky man indeed!”

“Whrrris Leej?” he asked again. The nurse responded with, “On her way. She will be here very soon, just lie back and relax. Let us get all your tests finished so you can enjoy your visit when she is able to come back here.

The nurse looked at Pastor Paul and said, “He seems a bit confused, but that’s normal, given his type of injuries. I think he will be fine, but let’s hear what the doctor has to say. I think maybe it would be best for you to wait with the ladies in the waiting room, until the doctor has the chance to give him the full examination.”

“Sure. I understand.” As he turned to leave, Jacob noticed him. “Hey, you are the Jesus guy!”

Pastor Paul nodded and smiled at him. Maybe some thing he had said or done will plant a seed of faith or understanding. He hoped. “It’s good to see you awake, Jacob. You and I will talk again later, ok?”

“Sure.”

Paul left the room, and began praying again. “Oh Lord, please don’t let this one go.”

As he walked into the lobby, Osa and Devlin looked up with surprise. They had heard some sort of hubbub, but they didn’t yet know Jacob had woken up.

“Jacob is awake now. He’s a little confused, and I think he is asking for his wife. They want to check him over and run some tests, and then we can go back and see him.”

“Oh, thank Providence!” Osa exclaimed! Devlin gave her a funny look, but said, “Oh good!” with relief.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Alejia tried not to speed, and had to squint her eyes against the blinding lights of the traffic. Maybe Jacob had woken up by now. Oh, she so hoped he had! In her rush to come back, she had forgotten to look at her phone.

The trip going back seemed to take forever! Usually she was able to relax, and just enjoy the view and the fresh air. But, not tonight. She needed to get back to that hospital and see her husband, to make sure he was ok.

Her thoughts wen over her recent experience. She had no idea what had happened, but it left her feeling stronger– empowered. Confident. She hoped her prayers for Jacob would be answered quickly by Providence.

The trip back so far was uneventful, almost boring, except for the excitement she had left behind, and the excitement of Jacob getting well again.

It seemed like hours, but she finally pulled into the hospital parking lot. She parked inside the parking garage, hoping her car would not be too clod when she came back out again. Hoping she would come out with Jacob, so she could take him home with her!

She walked across the parking garage into the overly warm hospital, and pushed the button for the critical care unit floor level. It had been such a long day. She was supposed to meet with a client tomorrow morning. She wondered if she would be able to reschedule that? She hoped so.

She stepped out of the elevator, and was shocked to see Devlin there. Talking calmly with Osa and Pastor Paul, no less! Wow, Providence is at work all over the place tonight, she realized!

As she walked over to her friends, the nurse grabbed her attention, and waved her over.

“Oh, Mrs. Rockefeller, there you are! We need you to sign the release forms for your father-in-law to have his opene heart surgery, right away. Please come with me.

“What? Oh! He needs surgery? Why did his daughter not sign them?”

The nurse sighed heavily. “I’m sorry, Ma’am, I am not going to get in to that, or in the middle of it.”

What has happened while I have been gone, Alejia wondered, wildly.

She walked over the the emergency wing, and signed the paperwork. “Your father-in-law will be in surgery in a matter of minutes, We have everything prepped, just needed your signature to get it going!”

Chapter 28

Alejia walked back over to the Critical care Unit lobby. She felt exhausted, but she was eager to hear good news about Jacob’s condition.

She sat down next to Osa, and gently rubbed her shoulder.

“Oh! Hey! Where have you been? Did you get any of my messages?”

Alejia reached in to her purse, and pulled out her phone. “Oh no! I’m so sorry! I was distracted, I completely forgot to check my messages!”

“Where were you, Jia?” Osa asked her again.

“I took a drive out to my place, to pray. I shut the sound off so I could concentrate. I forgot to turn it back on again.” Alejia closed her eyes, and braced herself for Osa’s sarcastic comments.

“That is alright. You have had an impossibly difficult day. You had to handle it your own way. Things have been fine here, and you came back just in time.” Alejia was waiting for more. She knew that couldn’t be all Osa had to say to her. Maybe the other people here helped Osa hold back.

“What have you heard about Jacob? The doctor never called, I left him my number.”

“Oh yeah! While Pastor Paul was back with him, praying for him I think, Jacob woke up! He has been asking for you. The nurse said they have to check him over, and run some tests, but after that we can all go back and see him. You should go first, we can all wait.”Osa said politely. Oh man, she’s really pissed off at me. I am going to hear it later, for sure!

“Thanks.” Alejia reached over to give Osa a hug but Osa shrugged her away. “Thank you for every thing you have done to help today. I can never repay you.” Alejia said, as tears sprang to her eyes. Osa looked at her friend square in the eyes and said evenly, “You got that right. But I will think of some way you can.”

Yikes! Ouch! Alejia had never seen Osa so angry with her. Some thing pretty major must have happened.

But Alejia could not think about all of that right now. She needed to keep her head clear. She had no idea what to expect from Jacob when she saw him. She looked Pastor Paul in the eyes and said, “Thank you for being here.”

Pastor Paul had a guarded look on his face when he responded, “I am glad I could be. It is good that Osa called me and asked me to come and sit with her. And, it has been good to get to know Devlin.”

Alejia had been so caught up in trying to read Osa’s mood she had forgotten to talk with Devlin. She does not like me, any way. It will not even matter to her.

“How are you holding up, Devlin? It’s been such a long time since I’ve seen you.”

Devlin shrugged nonchalantly, and said, “I’m fine. Better since they told us that Jacob is doing better, and since Paul showed up to help us through this.” Alejia raised her eyebrows in surprise. “Really! That is wonderful! Thank you, Pastor Paul. I’m so glad you are here!”

Pastor Paul smiled graciously, but he was masking something. Was that annoyance? Oh no, what had Devlin done? She wasn’t at all looking forward to finding out, but she had no doubt Osa would tell her everything!

Alejia stood and walked to the nurses station. “Excuse me. Do you know how long it will be until I can see my husband? Do I have time to go check on my father-in-law, by any chance?”

The nurse looked up and said, “Let me go check for you. I’ll be right back, Hon.”

As the nurse went through the door behind here, Alejia could hear Jacob saying loudly, “I need to see my wife. Leej! Where are you? Please, just let me see my…” the doors swung shut, and Alejia couldn’t hear Jacob anymore.

She tried to wait patiently, fought the urge to walk back there without permission.

The nurse came back, looking flustered. “Go ahead and come with me. That man of yours isn’t going to give us a moment’s peace until he sees you!”

“Thank you”, Alejia said courteously. She followed the nurse. As she walked in to the room where Jacob was being taken care of, Alejia thought she could sense a darkness. Quietly, she began to recite the Lord’s Prayer:

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory, for ever.
Amen.

She finished before she walked into Jacob’s room. The presence seemed to be gone.

Jacob’s face lit up as he saw Alejia walk into the room. Alejia felt distraught by all the tubes  and needles stuck in Jacob. He was pretty banged up. His face was bruised, with a few cuts stitched as glass had split his skin.

Alejia walked over to his bed side, leaned over and gave him a careful hug. “I’m so glad you are ok! I was so afraid!:

Jacob stared at her curiously and said,”You are glowing again. Leej I saw you in a dream. I saw you. You were being shot at with flames, and a huge wind storm tried to push you away. I saw you fight back, you had armor on, really bright armor, and she used a huge sword to fight of something really horrible. It was black, ugly, and huge! But you fought it with the amazing sword, and you made it run away! And, I heard you praying for me. Leej, you were a total badass! It was a great dream! But, it seemed so real, it felt like I was right there, watching, while standing right where you were. Isn’t that insane?!”

Chapter 29

Alejia was at a loss for words. Jacob had seen what I just went through? Providence was up to something pretty amazing here!

Alejia prayed for wisdom in how to respond. She did not want to discourage Jacob from reaching out to Providence. Should she tell Jacob all of that actually happened? Should she lead him to believe it was all just a dream?

She decided not to address it at all yet. She smiled at him, reached a hand to his hair to smooth it away from his eyes.

“I was so worried, Jacob. I am so thankful you are ok!.”

Alejia noticed the nurse was watching them, curiosity in her eyes. No way this was the time for Aejia to get in to all Providence had been showing her. Or was it?

She asked Providence to please help her find her way through this. She had no idea how to respond, how to acknowledge what had happened. She smiled inwardly. She knew she had to tread carefully. She did not want to mess this up, more than any thing she wanted Jacob to share her faith, and her growing understand of the things of Providence.

She made eye contact with Jacob, and she winked at him. Maybe that would be enough for now to keep him believing what he had seen in his dream.

The nurse walked over to Alejia and gently took her arm, directing Alejia off to the side, out of Jacob’s hearing, and whispered, “Your father-in-law is out of surgery now. In a little while, you can go see him. He is still knocked-out from the anesthetic.” The nurse left the room, and Alejia’s heart quickened. Should she tell Jacob about his father now? Or, should she wait?

She decided now would be the right time.

“Listen Jacob, I need to tell you something.”

“What is it, Leej? Leej… Leeeeej… Leejjjjj… That sounds funny!”

Alejia laughed, and tried again. “Jacob, Honey, your dad is here.”

“Oh. Wait. Here? At this hospital? Is he here to see me?” Jacob’s face brightened. Alejia’s heart broke. He looked so happy! She wished his dad could see this, would understand what he had done to his family. She wished she could tell Jacob, that yes, his dad had rushed over as soon as he heard about Jacob’s accident and condition. How am I going to tell him this?

“Jacob, I wish I could tell you he is here just to see you. Honey, he just had surgery. He has been in the emergency ward.”

Jacob got quiet, his face losing his happy smile, as tears formed behind his eye lids. “Is he ok? What kind of surgery did he need?”

Alejia took a deep breath and replied, “He needed open-heart surgery. He just got out. The nurse says he is still knocked-out from the anesthetic. I am planning to go see him when he wakes. Is that ok with you?”

Jacob looked deep in to Alejia’s eyes. “Yeah. Thank you, Leej. I do not know what I would do with out you. Providence has given me a great gift in you.” Tears spilled out from Jacob’s eyes. How could I have not understood this all before? Your Providence is real. All this time I have thought you were being silly, Leej. But you never stopped believing. And then I had that dream. You were this amazing warrior. I could see Providence, hear Him telling you to come back here, that I needed you. I know now, Providence is real!”

Alejia choked back tears of joy. Jacob had seen, had heard… how? Even Alejia had found it all hard to believe, and she actually experienced it! But Providence had allowed Jacob to see it, too.

Alejia suddenly became aware that they were not alone. A doctor had come in to the room, one she had not met yet. He introduced him self to her,”Hi, I’m Dr. Walker. You must be Mrs. Rockefeller. It is good to finally get to meet you. This guy over here gave us all quite a scare!”

Jacob shook his hand, carefully, and tried to smile. “I feel ok, doc, but how is my dad?”

Doctor Walker held up his hand and said, “Sorry, one patient at a time. I don’t have any information about your dad, but if I get any,I will let you know immediately. Right now, you really just need to focus on getting better,and going home with your beautiful wife.”

Jacob’s attention was drawn back to Alejia, “You are still glowing, Leej. You are beautiful, and you were amazing before.I can’t stop thinking about that!” Jacob’s words slowed down, and he dozed off.

Doctor Walker apologized. “I’m sorry. He needs to rest, I had to give him a sedative. Your father-in-law is waking up now, if you would like to go see him.”

Alejia thought about it for a moment, but felt strongly that Jacob should not be left alone right now. “Would you ask my Pastor to stop in here for a moment?” Alejia needed to talk with him about everything she had been experiencing, and learning. But, not now. Now, she just needed to ask him to please come and stay with Jacob until she got back.

Doctor Walker said, “Sure.” though he didn’t have a smile on his face anymore. He seemed annoyed. Well, that’s odd. He must be bothered by some thing else.

A few minutes later Pastor Paul poked his head through the door. “Did someone request my presence?”

Alejia smiled, jumping up from the seat she had taken. “Pastor Paul! Thank you so much for being here! Would you be willing to sit with Jacob, just until I can come back from checking on my father-in-law?”

Pastor Paul smiled. “Of course! It will be my pleasure!”

Alejia took advantage of the doctor being out of the room to tell Pastor Paul. She pulled him off to the side and whispered excitedly, “Jacob believes in Providence now! He had a dream while he was unconscious, and he woke up believing! I have a strong feeling Jacob needs to not be left alone right now, though. The doctor kind of gave me the creeps after Jacob told me what he believes now.”

Chapter 30

Alejia rushed over to where her father-in-law was. She hadn’t talked with him in years. He was not a very friendly person, definitely not approachable, like her own father was at times.

She found a nurse who quickly found his room number, and she led Alejia to his room. Alejia walked up slowly to his door, and knocked quietly. Inside she heard a weak, “Come in”, so she hesitantly pushed the door open and stepped inside the darkened room.

“Mr. Rockefeller? It is Alejia. Do you mind if I come in for a short visit?” She heard a “grunt”, then some grumbling under his breath, but he said, “Come on in if you must!”

Alejia walked over to where he lie on the hospital bed, and she handed him a paper cup of ice chips the nurse had given her to give to him.

“How are you, sir? You look pretty good.” Alejia tried to be cheerful, while hiding her dislike for Jacob’s dad.

“How am I, you ask? How do I look? Really? I am stuck in this godforsaken bed, in this hellhole, and I just want to go have a drink with my buddies. But no, the doctor says I have to make “life changes”, that my liver might be bad, and I won’t be able to have my drink any more! I would rather have been left for dead. Thank that no good friend of yours and my daughter for me, will ya? The doc told me it was their fault I am here. Oh, and thank you, too, for signing those damned papers! You should have just left well enough alone! Why did you sign them anyway? Why not Jacob, or that idiot sister of his?”

Alejia paled. She knew this was going to more than likely be an unpleasant, maybe even uncomfortable conversation, but she was in no way prepared for this. How should she respond to him? He had so much anger built up in him! He was destroying his life! For what reason? What had happened to him to make him such an ugly behaving man?

Alejia bit her tongue, literally, choosing to hold back the harsh angry words that were eager to spill off of her tongue. Oh, I could slice that man up with my words! He needs him self a good old fashioned tongue lashing, he did! She breathed deeply, and let it our slow, feeling her pulse throb. I am not going to let this man get the best of my temper! Not again.

Forcing her words to stay calm, her voice to be even, she carefully said his name, praying to Providence as she spoke, for the strength and the guidance to handle this delicately. Please, help me, I can’t do this if You don’t help me, Alejia begged.

“Mr. Rockefeller. I have some thing I need to tell you. I need you to, please, calm down and listen.”

Jacob’s dad looked up at her, for the first time since she walked into his room. His expression softened, and he seemed startled as he looked at her, listening carefully to what she was saying.

“You. I saw you. In my dream. I saw you! You were all a-light, with these things– these bits of fire and arrows, and stones even, they were all coming near you, but bouncing away, not even touching you. You fought a monster off, large as Nessie, with a sword and with your tongue! You spoke these words, and fire came out, burning the monster, scaring it away. It fled from you! How did you do that? Even now, you’re all a-light with that same fire in you. How do you do that? Are you some kind of a witch?”

Alejia blanched. He had seen her, too? How would she respond?

“Mr. Rockefeller, you could only know those things because Providence has revealed them to you.”

“Providence?” He started to spat out His name, but suddenly stopped.”Providence, huh? What would Providence want by showing an old drunk man living a hopeless life something like that?”

“Sir, Providence wants to heal  you, and  to help you. Will you let Him?”

He stared quietly out the window, with out actually seeing any thing. “I don’t think I really have much choice. I certainly have made a mess of things with out Him, haven’t I?”

“Mr. Rockefeller, I need to tell you some thing.” He closed his eyes and nodded. “Go ahead.”

“Sir, Jacob, well, he has been in an accident. He’s better now, they’ve run tests on him, and they’ll be moving him out of the critical care unit soon.”

Jacob’s dad lay there, silent.”Mr. Rockefeller? Are you ok?”

“Yeah”, he said weakly. “How do you talk to Providence?” he asked, almost shyly.

“Would you like me to pray with you, sir?”

He nodded slightly, looking suddenly vulnerable, small and elderly. “I think so. Yes. Please pray with me.”

Alejia went over to his bedside and took hold of his hand, gently. “Is this ok?”, she asked quietly. “Yes, yes. It is fine,” he said.

“Lord, I thank You for Jacob’s father. I thank You that You were with him through his surgery, and that You have been intertwined in all of the events of today. I ask that You would bring full health back to both Jacob and his father, Lord. That You would heal them both in their bodies, in their minds, and in their spirits. I thank You for these strong men You have placed in my life. Give them both Your comfort and Your strength. Draw them nearer to You, and please continue to open up the eyes of their under standing. Give them physical strength as they recover. Please help Jacob’s father to see that You have a better way for him, and help him to not even like his drink any longer. Thank You, In Jesus Name. Amen.”

Jacob’s dad reached over and gently touched Alejia’s cheek. With great effort he said, “That glow you have. It makes you even more beautiful. Jacob sure picked a good one in you, young lady!”

Alejia smiled sincerely, and thanked him. “I think I need to go and let you get your rest, sir. But, before I do, would you like to take a moment, and pray on your own, asking Providence to come in to your heart?

“Yes, I think I would. Thank you.”

“Umm Providence, um, this is new to me. I do not know why You would show any thing to this old man. I have wasted many years of good life. But, well, would you come in to my life and change this stubborn old fool? I like my drink, but I believe You could help me to not like it any longer. I don’t think I could be worth Your time. But, if by some small chance I am, well, I would appreciate anything You would want to help me with. I remember being told about Your Son, Jesus. I haven’t been very nice in the things I’ve said about Him, or my attitude in hearing about Him. But, I believe You. I believe what the Bible has written in it about Him dying and You bringing Him back to life, and all that. Would You Save this old stubborn man, too? I’m sorry I have been such a negative person, an old coot. Thank You for listening to me. Amen.”

Alejia smiled, tried to hold back the shocked surprise of his prayer from covering her face.

“That was a very nice prayer, sir. I’m sure Providence has heard you, and will surprise you in good ways as He answers you. Would you like to talk with my Pastor? He’s sitting with Jacob right now. He came to the hospital to just sit with us all. I can go get him, if you like?”

“Sure, That would be ok. I will just be here, doing nothing, trapped in this awful bed.”

Alejia smiled at him, “I will be right back.”

A nurse came in just as Alejia was leaving. “I just need to check his vitals and our equipment, make sure every thing is still running smoothly.” Alejia nodded. “I’ll be back to talk with him again, soon.”

Chapter 31

Alejia walked across the hospital again, trying to not run. She had an excitement bubbling up with in her. As she approached the nurses station for the critical unit, the nurse began talking to her.

“Oh, Mrs. Rockefeller, I’m so glad you are here! We are ready to move that husband of yours to a recovery room! We thought, since both father and son are needing recovery, we might be able to put them in to the same room. But, before we do, we wanted to ask you if you think that would be the best course for their speedy recovery?”

Surprised by both the news and the question, Alejia took her time answering.” I think that would be ok. It might actually be good for them. If it’s possible, I mean.”

“I’ll go tell the doctor, and let their doctors work out the details. You can go back and see your husband, in the mean time.” The nurse smiled, seeming sincerely happy that Jacob was doing better.

“Thank you.”

Alejia waved over to Osa and Devlin, and walked over to let them know the news.

“Jacob is doing better! They want to move him to a recovery room!”

Osa hugged her friend, and Devlin smiled, relief flooding her face. Alejia said, “I am going back to let him know. Are you guys doing ok?” Osa nodded, and Devlin shrugged and said, “yeah, we are good I think.”

Alejia turned and walked back over to the door behind the nurses station. She walked back down the hall towards Jacob’s room, where you could hear the two men talking quietly.

“I just do not know,” Jacob was saying. “I feel different now. But can she forgive me for everything? Can we have a a strong marriage,like you and your wife have?”

Pastor Paul spoke confidently and saying, “All things are possible with God.”

“Even for me, Paul? Even despite my stubbornness, and being blind to how I have been treating her?”

Paul spoke firmly, “Yes. Despite the worst thing any of us could ever do. Providence can make those changes in our hearts, even in our habits. And Providence can help our wives to forgive, just as He can help us realize we need to ask for forgiveness.”

“Ok. I feel much better now. Thank you for talking with me.”

“Any time, Jacob. And, I do mean any time.”

Alejia counted to 20 under her breath, and then entered the room, not wanting them to know she had been listening outside of the door.

Jacob’s face lit up with what seemed like a happy excitement, as she walked in. “Hey there! So glad you’re back! How’s my dad?”

Alejia walked over to him, and gave him a gentle kiss on his fore head. “He seems to be doing well. I think the surgery went well, and he just needs time to get stronger.” She looked over at Pastor Paul and said, “He would actually like for you to go and sit with him. Would you mind? I know you have been here a long time. It’s kind of a big deal that he wants you to.”

Pastor Paul stood up and stretched. “I don’t mind at all, if Jacob is ok with me going.”

Jacob raised his eyebrows in surprise, “Sure. I’m as surprised as any one that he would want you to. Go ahead, if you do not mind.”

Pastor Paul strode across the room, and Alejia thought, Boy, Providence was sure keeping us busy!

Alejia sat in the chair Pastor Paul had just vacated.”How are you doing? How are you feeling? Do you hurt any where?”

“I feel pretty good! Maybe it is pain killers, but having you here sure does help a lot, too!” Alejia smiled.

“Did you guys have a good talk?”

“Sure! We talked more about things that have been on my mind, and I learned some about this Providence you have believed so strongly in, that I am learning now how to believe in for my self. He seems kind of unreal. But, what I saw, I can not get that out of my mind. You were so amazing! And, I could see it was because you were relying on His help. I don’t understand how to get His help, but I want to.”

Alejia’s heart quickened: she could feel an excitement over take her entire being. This is what she had most wanted!

The nurse knocked and walked in, interrupting Alejia’s thoughts. We can talk about this later, she thought happily satisfied.

The nurse took Jacob’s temperature, noting it was a little high, “Hmm, 100.3.” She went out to alert the doctor.

Alejia felt a bit of alarm, trying not to show that to Jacob. She prayed, Please heal him. Please help the doctors to find every thing that is wrong, and help them fix it, heal it, or remove it. Please take care of Jacob, Lord.

Jacob coughed into his hand, spitting blood out onto his palm. “Oh. That can not be normal,” he tried to joke.

Alejia stood, and went out to find the nurse. “Jacob is coughing up blood”, she said, worry beginning to cloud her thoughts. The nurse looked concerned, but patted Alejia’s arm. “I’m sure he’ll be fine. I’ll get the doctor now.”

The doctor walked towards her, hurriedly. “Mrs. Rockefeller, I understand Jacob coughed up some blood? It is probably just from a minor irritation. We had him hooked up to a breathing tube for a little while after he arrived. That intubator tube can cause irritation or even tiny tears in the Trachea. The elevated temperature could just be his body fighting a bit of infection because of the irritation. There is no reason to worry. I would like to ask you to please stay out here while we check him over, though, please.”

“Of course. Thank you, Doctor Walker.”

Alejia walked slowly out to the lobby. Osa looked up and smiled, a concerned worry clouding her eyes. “Is every thing ok, Jia?

“Probably. Jacob has a slight fever, and he is coughing up blood. The doctor and nurse both said it is probably nothing to worry about. I can not help but worry though.”

Osa put the magazine she had been looking at to help pass the time on to the table beside her. “Jia, you need to sit down and just relax. You’ve been like Florence Nightingale, flitting back and forth between the two. Take a time out, breath, EAT some thing. Can I get you something from the vending machine to drink? When was the last time you had any thing too eat, or to drink?”

“I haven’t had time to even think about that, “Alejia admitted. “I’d love a bottle of water, if you won’t mind. Do you think someone would deliver pizza here?” She chuckled.

Osa laughed. “At least you still have your sense of humor now. You need to hang on to that, for sure!”

Alejia turned her attention to Devlin. “How are you holding up?”

Devlin looked at her carefully, almost shyly. “Ok. I am kind of tired. Glad they both seem to be doing ok.”

Alejia nodded in agreement. “They both gave us quite a scare today, for sure!” She wanted to ask Devlin about the papers, about why she would not sign them, but she stopped her self. That could be asked at another more appropriate time.

“I haven’t seen you, or gotten to talk to you in such a long time. You look good! How have you been?” Alejia hoped for polite small talk, hoped for a chance to actually connect with Devlin.

“You don’t have to do this, Alejia. Really. You don’t have to pretend to take an interest in me or my life, just because we’re both here. I know. Just because it is expected, or whatever. We can just not do this.”

Alejia sat back, concentrating on her hands, then looked Devlin in the eye. “Look. I know I haven’t been a very good sister in law. I haven’t tried very hard to connect with you, for many reasons. But, we are both here. We have to wait for a bit longer. We might as well take advantage of this time, and talk. Maybe even talk some things out. I’m not sure how you ever got the impression that I would pretend to want to get to know you, or pretend to take an interest in you and your life. I’m not sure how you got the impression that I don’t want to take an interest in you or your life. But, I can tell you, you have gotten the wrong impression. I do care, I am interested. So, will you talk with me  now? Or, should we just sit here in silence, twiddling our thumbs, wondering why the other does not like us?”

Devlin smiled sarcastically.”Fine. You want to talk? We should chat.”

Chapter 32

Alejia knew she would regret it, but she did not want Devlin to feel like she was being left out. What she had not expected was Devlin’s hostility. What exactly had Alejia done to deserve that?

“Wow Devlin. Why are you so angry? What have I ever done to you to deserve such a response?” Alejia struggled… fought against her desire to react in kind. That would not solve or resolve any thing. Alejia needed to keep her cool. Hopefully Devlin would cool off and become civil.

“You think you’re so perfect, with your perfect car, your perfect life, and your perfect job. You have no idea of what things have been like for me. I was perfectly fine with letting my old man just die from his own undoing. But, no. You had to be all perfect, and sign those damned papers. You didn’t even talk to me first! And, your “friend” that you sent over to help me? You just had to take the opportunity to rub the past right in my face! You should have told me who you were sending over so I could not answer the door. then we would not even be here, and dad would not have gotten that surgery. You are so perfect, such a do-good-er. I hate you! I hate every thing about you! I just want you, yes you, Alejia, Ms. Perfect, to leave me the hell alone!”

Alejia felt her checks burn, as if Devlin had slapped her with more than her words. “Well. Ok. I am not sure why Osa going over would make you so angry. I knew you had past troubles, but that was 13 years ago, Devlin. Most people, well, they get over things.” “Alejia stopped short as she noticed Osa shaking her head in warning. “Fine. I will leave you alone, because that is what you want. I have never know how to talk to you, Devlin. No matter what I say, or do, or what I do not say or do not do, you hate me. I guess you have just decided to hate me, for whatever reason, and there is nothing I can do about that. I am not happy with that. I sure do not hate you. But, I guess, maybe that does not matter to you. Or, you do not care how I feel about you. Consider your self left alone by me, now.”

Alejia, shaking with frustration, anger and hurt, sat down, trying not to cry. Osa sat next to her, and whispered, “It will be ok. I will try to talk with her. Jia, she has every right to be upset, angry, furious even. You missed so much earlier, but I will fill you in when I am able to talk with you alone.” Alejia could not believe what she was hearing! What could possibly make this out burst acceptable to Osa? It must be some thing pretty huge!

Alejia walked over to the nurses station to see if Jacob could be moved soon.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Paul Larson wasn’t sure what to expect as he walked to Jacob’s dad’s hospital room. He rapped his knuckles quietly on the door, hoping his knock would not wake the man if he were sleeping. “You can come in, I’m decent.” he heard, and he chuckled.

Peeking his head in, he introduced him self. “Hello there. My name is Paul Larson, and I am the Pastor of Alejia’s church.  She mentioned to me that you might welcome a short visit from me?”

“Oh! Hello! Sure, come on in! I am Desmond Rockefeller. You can call me Des, that is what all my friends call me. Well, the friends I still have, which isn’t very many, I ‘ afraid. Alejia told me you were a nice fellow, and that you could answer my questions about Providence.”

Paul raised his eye brows with surprise. “Sure! Ask away!”

“I had this dream while they was fixing my heart, about that daughter in law of mine. She was fighting a huge monster, as big as Nessie! I saw arrows with fire being shot at her, but they all fell away before they hit her. It was like she had an invisible shield around  her, or some thing! Any ways, she swung some huge sword above her head, and I saw fire come out of her mouth, and that scared the monster away. I could hear her, in this dream, talking to Providence, and it sure seemed like she could some how hear Him answer her. She knew exactly what to do, what to say, when to move– it was the most amazing thing I have ever seen. I know it was a dream, but it sure did seem to be real! Then she comes in her all shiny, with a glow to her. I can see that her Providence is real! I prayed with her, and asked Him to help me, like He helps her. But, I do not know any thing about how to know what Providence wants me to do. How can I hear Him, or see Him, or what ever it is that happens for Alejia? How can I know what things I need to read in that Bible of His?”

Pastor Paul spoke slowly, taking his time to answer while he processed every thing this man just told him. “You say you saw Alejia in a dream? What you have told me is pretty amazing! I want to make sure I answer all of your questions as carefully as possible. Can we start from where you asked Providence to lead your life?”

“Of course! Alejia asked me if I would like to pray with her, so I did. I did n’t know what words to say, so I just told Him I am an old fool, and I asked Him to come in to my life and change me. Do you think that was ok to ask Him to do?

“Absolutely! The Lord will never turn away any one who sincerely asks Him for help. I can help you find and learn some verses in the Bible that will help you to learn more about Providence and how He works, and wants to work, in all of our lives. Des, the Bible tells us that no one is perfect, every person has and does fall short of the glory of God. But, because Jesus died on the cross, in our place, even though He never did even one thing wrong because He actually came to earth as a human, but He’s also God, we can be cleaned up from all of our wrong doings. Jesus has made that way for us, but with out Jesus, there is no way to have a relationship with God. It’s like with you and your son, Jacob. Alejia has a relationship with you because she has a relationship with Jacob, as his wife. Her friend Osa doesn’tt have that same relationship, because she and Jacob don’t have the same kind of relationship that Jacob and Alejia have. Does that make sense?”

“That does make sense! I understand it so much better Please, tell me more!”

Paul settled in to the chair next to the bed, and prepared to just talk as Providence led the conversation.

Thank you, Lord. This is wonderful to be a part of!

Chapter 33

Alejia was back in Jacob’s hospital  room. It is now or never! Osa took a deep breath and mentally pulled up her big girl britches. It was time to talk with Devlin. She had to talk with her now, because who knew when she would have another opportunity like right now? She may never see her again. Devlin sure would not open any doors she knocked on, this Osa was positive of.

“Devlin. Look. We need to get every thing out in the open. I did not know what Toby did to you. I did not know about the baby, or how both of your parents reacted to the baby. Did they know what he had done to you?

“Seriously? You really want to do this? Right now?” Devlin glared at Osa. “My brother and my dad are both in this place, and it has been one hell of a day. And, now I am stuck here with you, because, well, you drove me to this hospital! It is not like I am rich and can afford a taxi, and I am certainly not stupid enough to try to get on a bus. So, what? I have to talk, too? About things I do not even let my self think about? I’m sorry I ruined your perfect memory of that jerk boy friend of yours. I am sorry I embarrassed you in front of your pastor Paul Larson and who ever else happened to be here when I lost it.”

“Devlin, stop. Do you want me to take you home now?”

“No. Actually, this place is more comfortable than where I am living right now. If you want to go now, I’m fine with that. I will sleep here in these chairs. They can not kick me out when I have some one in here that I know, right?” She shrugged, defiantly.

Osa had no idea how to talk with this person any more. She struggled to remember what things had been like, before Toby had ruined them. “I had no idea, Devlin. No idea what horrible thing Toby had done to  you. I am so sorry I was not there for you to talk to. I wish I could say I would have listened, would have been the friend you needed me to be, but I am afraid I would not have been. I was a stupid girl with no idea about how horrible people could be. I am sorry, Devlin. I hope you can believe me.”

Devlin just stared at her. Didn’t say a word. Osa couldn’t read er expression. At least she does not seem so angry with me any more! Osa thought.

“I thought I could trust him. Toby, I mean. My car broke down, and Toby happened to drive by. He stopped and asked me if he could help me. I was on my way to work, and I was running really late so I was in a rush. Toby offered me a ride in his car. Instead of taking me to my job, he took me to the over look. I thought maybe he needed to talk or something, but then… He forced me to… ” Devlin broke down. “I never had any interest in him. I never even liked him. I do not know why he did that. He made me promise to never say a word to any one, especially to you, or he would tell the school that I put out for him. No matter what, I was trapped in his lie. I did not know how to tell you. And, when he told you that we slept together… I knew I had lost you as my friend, that you’d never believe that he had made me do all those horrible things. A few weeks later, my mom found my pregnancy test.  She told my dad. No one expected him to flip out the way he did. But, he lost it. He beat me, gave me this scar. Made me lose the baby. He said he hated me, that I had brought shame on to our family. He never let me tell him what had actually happened to me. He hit my mom that night, too. She packed her bags and left us. Never even told me good bye. I’ve never heard from her since then. I never under tood what I did to make Toby think I was interested in him like that, or interested in any of all of that. I hated my self, and I hate him. I never got to tell you I was sorry, but, Osa, I am. I never wanted to ruin your relationship with Toby. Honest.” Devlin stopped talking, her emotions too strong to form any more words.

Tears streamed freely down Osa’s face. She thought this was her fault? Devlin had done nothing wrong. She had only trusted some one she should have been able, by all rights, to trust.

Osa wanted to find Toby and knock his block off, to show him what he had caused by his selfish, horrible actions!

“Devlin, listen to me, ok? This was never your fault. You were caught in the middle of something so awful, and it was handled so badly. By all of us. I’m so sorry I wasn’t there for you, that I didn’t ask you what actually happened. I’m sorry. Will you forgive me, Devlin, for not being a better friend? For blaming you, and listening to Toby and not listening to you?”

“What? You are asking me to forgive you? Why do you not hate me? I do not understand!”

“Because it was not your fault, Devlin. He trapped you, and he made you do that. He did not give you a choice, and he did not stop when you told him to stop. This was all his fault.It is not your fault, not at all.”

Devlin sat back and put her hands over her face. “This is really this easy to work through? You’re not going to punch me, or drop me off some where unsafe?You really don’t hate me anymore?”

“No, Devlin, I definitely don’t hate you. I don’t think I ever really hated you. I was angry for awhile, but I got over it. The years helped me forget how much it all hurt. Now, it hurts, but that isn’t because of you. It’s because now I know the truth. And, I needed to be told what the truth is. This is important.”

I’m going to find that jerk and punch his lights out, Osa vowed under her breath.

Chapter 34

Alejia helped Jacob and his dad both get settled in their new room together.

“This’ll be good for you both! It has been such a long time since you have both had time to talk to each other.” Alejia felt cheerful, despite the reasons they both were in the hospital to begin with.

“Leej, would you mind getting me some water? I am so thirsty!” Jacob asked, flashing his boyishly charming smile at her.

“Well, how can I resist that amazing smile? Mr. Rockefeller, would you like me to get you some water, as well?”

Jacob’s dad fidgeted in his bed, trying to get him self comfortable. “Sure! And, can you ask a nurse to help me get this blasted bed adjusted?” Alejia nodded at him. “Yeah. I will be right back. Now, you two boys behave in here, do you hear me?” She pretended to scold them, winking as she turned to walk out of the room. “Jacob threw a pillow in her direction, but hit the door after it closed. “Great! Now I have thrown away my pillow!” he chuckled.

Jacob’s dad studied his son. He had grown in to quite a young man! Handsome, hard working, successful marriage… How had Jacob even managed all of that? No way he got any of that from him. “She is quite a special young lady! You are one of the lucky ones, Jace.”

Jace. Now, if that was not a blast from the past! When was the last time his dad had called him any thing, besides, “hey, you there!”?

“I know I am. I have no idea what she sees in me, or why she has even stayed with me. But, I sure am glad that she has!.” Jacob answered more candidly than he had intended. Must be the meds, he thought wryly.

“I know I’ve been a terrible father. After your mother left… ” his dad took a deep breath and steadied his emotions to keep his voice from shaking, his eyes from allowing the tears to break forth. “After your mother left, “he started again, “I lost my way. She was my world, your mom was. She was the bright spot in my darkness. She helped me keep my head a-float. Your girl, Alejia, she reminds me so much of your mother when she was younger. Hang on to her, Jace, don’t screw things up  with her like I did with your mother.”

Jacob bit back an angry, sarcastic response, and instead said, “yeah dad, I know. Thanks.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Hello?” Alejia answered her phone, the ringtone sounded shrill in the quiet hospital hallway.

“Mrs. Rockefeller? This is Sergeant Gonzales from the WSP. I need you to come to the station and give your statement, Ma’am. Do you have time today to do that? We can send an officer over to where you are, if needed.”

“Oh. No, I can come in there. I’ll be there in a little while.”

“Thank you Ma’am. Have a nice day.” The officer hung up abruptly.

Alejia realized it had been some time since she had eaten or slept.

Walking back in to the room, she handed both Jacob and his dad their ice waters, and told his dad, “The nurse will be right back in here to help you adjust that bed of yours. Will you boys be ok if I go home and get a little sleep? I won’t be away too long, I promise.”

Jacob said, “Oh Honey, you’ve probably been awake since this all first happened, have you not? Please, go home. Get some sleep. We’ll still be here when you return. Scouts honor,” he said in a mocking tone.

“You can’t fool me, mister. I know full well that you were never actually a boyscout!” Alejia stuck her tongue out at Jacob.

“Yeah, yeah, ok, You caught me! Go home and get some good sleep.We have a whole hospital full of nurses and doctors to bother.”

Alejia kissed Jacob and left the room, saying a quick good bye to Jacob’s dad.

“See you boys later, hopefully feeling a lot better!”

Alejia stopped and grabbed a coffee out of the vending machine, and said a quick good bye to Osa and Devlin. She was shocked to see the two of them talking, and was Devlin actually smiling and laughing? “Well, you two are certainly getting a long well now! Good, I am so glad! The boys are all settled in to their new room, you should go ahead and go back there. At least tell them hi,” Alejia encouraged Devlin.

Devlin surprised her. “Yeah, I just might do that. Where are you off to right now?”

“I’m going home to get a little bit of sleep, maybe grab a couple of bites to eat. I’ll be back in a little while, I promise. Do you need, or have a ride home, Devlin?”

Osa surprised Alejia by answering for her. “She’s going to come and stay with me for a few days.”

Whoa! Alejia could not keep up with anything going on with her friends and family these days!

“Great! I guess I’ll talk with you soon, right? You’ll call me?” Alejia made a phone shape with her fingers, and put them up to her ear.

“Oh, I do not know. Are you actually going to answer if I do call?”

“Yes! I promise! I’ll even take my phone off of igno– um, I mean silent, just so I won’t miss your call.” Osa stuck her tongue out at Alejia. “See? I always knew you were just ignoring my calls on purpose! The truth finally comes out! You should actually listen to my voice mails! You never know, I may have said something of actual importance! I bet you have not even listened to them in over six months, hve you!”

“I might have, you do not know. I will check them when I get out to my car, Hopefully I won’t fall asleep before I even start driving, or while I am driving. I have coffee to my rescue!”

“Be safe, Jia. If you are too tired to drive, please, get a cab. Ok? Promise me?”

“I promise! See you later! Bye Devlin, talk to you both soon!” and wit that she left the hospital to go to the WSP Department to give her statement.

She had a lot of thinking to do before giving that statement, though. maybe she would go home and take a nap before she gave the statement. That might be the wisest thing to do.

Chapter 35

Alejia sat in her car, listening to all of her voice mail messages.

“Jia, Osa here. Devlin and I have been talking! Can you believe that? I invited her to come and stay with me for a  couple of days so we can hopefully repair some of what has been so messed up for so long. Call me when you get this!”

“Jia, Osa Here. Um, where are you? Devlin and I had to bring Jacob’s dad in to the hospital. I expected to find you here, too. He’s bad, Jia. Hi heart beat is so weak, and Devlin has no idea how long he has been passed out here. His place is so filthy… what happened to this family Jia? Do you have any idea? Call me!”

“Jia, Osa here. How could you do this to me? Help Devlin, of all people?! Have you forgotten that we hate each other? Call me when you get this so I can chew you out! Bye!”

“Alejia, this is Josh. I just wanted to let you know I have no hard feelings about our talk today. Of course we can still be friends. I hope you’ll call me when you get this. Um… bye.”

Josh. How was she going to handle all of this now? She was positive she had seen Josh at the restaurant. It was hard to believe that was pure coincidence! The way Jacob’s tire had just exploded… some one had to have done something to it to make that happen. Jacob checked his tire pressure constantly, no way he would have missed that normally, when he was not in a rush. He would have seen something was wrong with it.But, would Josh really do some thing like that? Was he capable of some thing so immature and foolishly dangerous.

Alejia remembered that he had been recently divorced. She tried to recall the details of the divorce. Had he acted in a creepy, stalker-ish way towards his ex-wife? Should Alejia get a restraining order against him?

She struggled to recall any thing that had stood out as odd, or caused a red flag, but she could not think of any thing at all. She definitely needed to get some rest. She decided to go home before going to give her statement. Maybe she would call and ask them to come to her house to get the statement. She would see how she was feeling in a couple of hours.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Josh sat at the airport, trying to make up his mind about going. Maybe it would be unnecessary. Alejia had not called him back, that could be a good sign. Or, it could be a very bad sign. She could be very angry with him, not wanting to talk with him at all.

He didn’t know what he should do.

He thought about admitting to her what he had done. It was just an accident, but he had gotten careless. He had no idea he could cause an accident, it seemed like such a harmless prank of annoyance.

Whatever he decided to do, he needed to hurry up and make up his mind. Unless he wanted to sleep in the air port while he tried to make up his mind, the last plane of the day going to where he needed to go, if he went, was leaving in an hour. He had to make up his mind quickly!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Alejia slept peacefully, her alarm clock set for a two hour long nap. Josh sat across from her, admiring her beauty while she slept. He knew he shouldn’t have let himself in, but he just had to see her again. Maybe she would be happy to see him. Maybe she had changed her mind about him.

He knew he was acting crazy. He decided to leave. He stood up to go, and accidentally knocked her Bible she had set on her night stand, on to the floor, with a loud, echoing thump! Alejia stirred, Josh froze in fear. She soon settled back in to a restful sleep, and Josh stealthily slipped back out. He was being such an idiot! What was he even thinking? Obviously he wasn’t thinking. He pulled his car away from the curb, finally letting his breath fully out of his lungs.

He hoped Alejia would not realize what he had done, or that he’d even been there. He had to stop this crazy behavior! He was not thinking clearly, or acting right.

Maybe tomorrow he would call Alejia and see if she would meet with him, so he could tell her the truth. The whole truth. Including how he had convinced their first client to hire Alejia,so he could meet her. He had seen her at church, and he just had to meet her, but he lacked the confidence to do that. So, he found a mutual friend who would be willing to go along with a charade, in order for them to meet. Josh was not actually an architect. He worked for a local contractor as a carpenter. But, he could not have introduced himself as a carpenter. Surely she had no interest in an average, everyday unimportant person. He’d told her he was divorced recently, but in fact, he’d never married. He had never found the right person. Until he met Alejia. He thought she was also unmarried, because her husband was never at church with her. Jacob showing up at that first luncheon had thrown him way off of his guard! He decided to try to win Alejia’s heart by being her friend, listening to her frustrations about Jacob being such a jerk. Except she never told him any thing about Jacob. He’d tried to get her to talk about him, about their marriage, but all she talked with him about were her design ideas, which were always really good. He was even more impressed by her as he got to know her. Which made him feel horrible, because she did not really know any thing about him. He lied about every detail of his life. Because his life was so boring. Now he wished he had been honest, because at least he wouldn’t have to tell her about all of his lies.

What a freaking mess he had made of every thing! There was no way–NO WAY– she would ever forgive him, and certainly no way he could ever forgive him self for being such an awful, deceptive person.

He had never hated himself more than right now.

I have to make this right. Somehow.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Alejia woke up before her alarm went off. She suddenly had the feeling she hadn’t been alone. She caught a faint scent of men’s cologne and deodorant mixed. She bolted upright in shock. Josh had been here! Inside of her home. In her bedroom, while she was asleep! She couldn’t help but feel creeped out. He Bible lay on the floor, opened to the page Pastor Paul had just preached about. The words fro Matthew 18: 21-22 jumped out at her:

“Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven...”

She had to forgive him. Would Providence protect her from him, though? Because the thought of being around Josh,or him being around with her not realizing it, didn’t make her feel safe at all.

She decided she needed to talk with the police about Josh. It was time for her to go and give her statement. She hadn’t quite made up her mind, but she thought she’d better go ahead and look in to getting a restraining order against Josh. She might need that right now. At least until he got over her. Why was he acting so crazy, any way?

She reached down to pick up her Bible, and she noticed a business card that had fallen out from some where, under the chair by her night stand. It was a business card from the restaurant she had first met Josh at. Can this get any creepier? she wondered.

She fixed her hair, freshened up  her make-up, and started to head out the front door. Thinking twice, she went back over to her bed room window to make sure it was locked closed tightly. How had Josh gotten in here, she wondered. Then she remembered the extra key. She had mentioned it to him, offhandedly, during one of their meetings. Can I be anymore dumb than that?

She walked through the house, checking each window and door. Everything seemed securely locked. She punched in her security code for her house alarm, just in case. She hadn’t turned that on in several months. Now, she was thankful she still had it.

Walking out the front door, she walked over to where she kept the spare key. It was missing! Panic settled over her.

Restraining order, it is!

Chapter 36

Alejia walked in to the busy police station, and found the front desk. The man behind it was talking on the phone. He glanced up as she approached the desk, gesturing to her to have a seat and wait, he would be with her in a moment.

I shouldn’t have slept longer, she yawned, stretching, her watery eyes threatening to make her mascara run. Then she remembered how Josh had been inside of her house while she was asleep, and she cringed. That was just so creepy. She realized, she really knew nothing about him. She didn’t know any of his family or his friends out side of their church. Looking at things in this new, creepier light, she realized that was a bit odd.

She glanced up at the officer behind the desk. He was still on the phone, writing down some information. She decided to make a quick call to Jacob’s room, to see how her man and his dad were doing.

Dialing the number of the phone in side of the room closest to Jacob, she felt a rush of excitement as Jacob answered “Rockefeller’s Pub, we got what ale’s ya!” It had been so long since he had answered the phone like that, Alejia’s eyes shone with happy tears. “Hey there! How are you boys doing? Are you behaving nice for the nurses?” Alejia teased in to the phone.

Jacob laughed, and said, “Leej! There is my  bright gal! Did you get some rest and some food?”

Alejia realized she still needed to eat. “I’m about to eat in a bit, maybe I can smuggle a little food in to you, but you can’t tell that dad of yours, because he has to watch what he eats right now. And no, I don’t mean watch it go in to his mouth.” Jacob laughed, and whispered in to the phone, “I need a bacon burger. My lack of bacon is making me a weak and cranky old man.”

“Oh, I think I can get that for you, Mr. Rockefeller. One bacon, cheese with mushroom burger on its way!”

“Ew! Don’t even think about putting those evil slimy things on my burger.”

Alejia laughed, “Fine, no cheese then.”

Jacob laughed and said, “You know very well I mean those nasty mushrooms. Keep them away from my perfect burger, do you hear me?”

“Aye aye, Capitone! Seriously, I need to get going.  I will see you in a bit, burger in hand, ok?” Alejia noticed the desk sergeant waving towards her.

“Bye Leej. Um… I love you. Hurry please, I am wasting away here.”

“Bye, I love you too. Oh no, we can’t have that! One rush order coming up! Bye!” Alejia pushed the end call button, and walked over to the desk. “I was called a little while ago to come in and fill out a statement for an accident that happened yesterday afternoon. I’m Alejia Rockefeller.”

The desk sergeant looked at her face and smiled. Follow me, and I’ll get you all set up. Alejia started to ask about what she needed to do  to get a restraining order put against some one, but decided to wait until after she filled out her statement. She still hadn’t decided whether she would mention the suspicion of Josh, or not.

She stepped in side of a small room with a desk and a chair in the middle of it. The window glass was frosted for privacy, she guessed. There was a fan above the desk moving the papers corners and the blades of the fan sped around quickly. “Can the fan be turned down a bit? I’m chilly.”

“Sure, sure, what ever you need. Can I get you a glass of water or a pop from the vending machine down the hall?

Alejia thought, then asked for the water. “Thank you,” she said.

She sat in the chair, thinking about what she would say. She decided to ask what information they already had, before she began filling out her set of forms.

As the officer came back in and handed her the water, she asked, “Is there any official word on what happened with my husband’s accident?”

The officer looked at her curiously. “I can’t really say at this time. Once we get your statement we can get more of a determination for what actually happened. It does seem a  little fishy that his tire would blow up like that, especially on the type of car he was driving, it’s obviously well taken care of. Is that your husband’s main car?” Alejia nodded, and said, “He loves that car. I can barely get him away from it for meal times.”

“Yeah. So, we’re looking in to that. Your statement will help us make a more detailed determination. Be sure you don’t leave out any details, Mrs. Rockefeller. Even the smallest detail, the ones that seem unimportant could turn out to be important. I can’t give you any more information at this time, we need your statement to be clear, and not tainted by our own thoughts, suspicions or conclusions. Ok? Do you need anything else?”

“No. I am good. I am ready to write it all down, as I remember it.”

“Ok, if you are ready, I need you to write this in pen, with this pen here. Write here in this space. If you make a mistake, draw one line through the mistake, no scribbling out, please, it can cause ink smudges and mess up other parts of the report. Initial your mistakes after you put one line through them. When you’re finished, initial after the last word, and before the first word. Write your words fairly close together, so there is no way your statement can be added to or tampered with. I know, this seems strict, but it has to be this way. You would be surprised at the amount of times some one has tried to make changes, or remove important information to hamper our investigations in to the matter the statement is about.”

“I can imagine! Ok. I think I got all of that. Thank you, Sir.”

“Oh, you don’t need to call me Sir. My name is Sergeant Wheeler.” He smiled at Alejia, and she said, “Thank you, Sergeant Wheeler.”

“I’ll be in to check on you in a little bit, and to collect the statement once you’re finished writing it all out.”

“Ok, thank you.”

Alejia started writing.

A.H.R I saw Jacob Rockefeller, my husband, drive towards the exit of the parking lot. He was on the way to help his dad, so he was driving a little urgently but not wrecklessly A.H.R recklessly at all. He’s always careful with his car, he calls it his car-baby, and he never wants rocks to bounce off of the paint and chip it from loose gravel, like in the parking lot at the Mexican Restaurant on 5th street. Jacob stopped at the end of the parking lot. His rear driver’s side tire exploded out of the blue after he began driving forward on to Oak Drive. The explosion was loud, I thought a small bomb had gone off, and was worried the car itself had exploded. His car fish-tailed, and he started to get it back under control when an oncoming vehicle slammed in to the passenger side. I could see Jacob’s head bounce from he driver’s side window, to the head rest, and hit his steering wheel. Jacob checks his tires every time he drives any where, normally, but this time he was trying to hurry to go help his dad who was sick, so he didn’t. He is meticulous about the amount of air, and wear and tear on his tires, and he’s obsessive about his car being in mint condition. While Jacob and I were eating, I thought I saw a man who has feelings for me, out side the front window of the Mexican Restaurant, looking in at us through the window, twice. I only thought I caught a glimpse, so I’m not positive. His name is Josh Reardon, he is a member of my Church, The First Assemblies of God on 4th street. He’s an architect that works for him self at the Skyler building on West 24th Avenue down town.

Alejia waved to the officer as he walked in to check on her progress. “I think I am finished”, she said to him. He walked over to her, and looked over her statement. If you are finished writing, please initial the end of your statement, here. She did. He drew a diagonal line across the empty space of the paperwork, “Is there any thing else I can help you with today, Mrs. Rockefeller?”

“Actually, yes, I think you can. I hope you can. The man I mentioned in my statement, he broke in to my house earlier today. He was there while I was taking a nap. I want to get a restraining order put on him. He took my extra house key.”

The officer looked over her statement, and said, “Do you mean this Ryne Reardon you mentioned here?” He pointed to the name in her statement he was now holding in his hands. “I can have an officer look into this matter for you. To get a restraining order, I’ll need you to fill out a separate report, and again tell us everything you can, every single detail, no matter how unimportant it might seem to be. Please use the same format: initials before, one line for mistakes, initial after each and every mistake, initials at the end after I look it over, before you give it to me. Does that all makes sense?”

Alejia nodded, bracing herself for what she was about to do.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

At the airport, Josh stepped up to the ticket counter, and prepared to buy his one way plane ticket to Nantucket. As he pulled out his driver’s license and handed it to the ticket agent, he felt a flutter of excitement about returning to his parent’s summer home. He was sure they wouldn’t mind at all if he stayed there for a few days, maybe a couple of weeks. The ticket agent took the driver’s license he offered, and punched in his name into their system. She typed his name in again, and then held up a finger, gesturing that she would be just a moment. Josh felt a panicky feeling start to tighten in his chest. The ticket agent walked to another desk, picked up a phone and made a call, looking in Josh’s direction as if to make sure he did not go any where.

“Crap!” Josh swore under his breath. What could this all be about? Maybe his driver’s license had expired. He made a mental note to be sure to check the date when it was handed back over to him. He tapped the toe of his shoe against the bottom of the ticket counter, attempting to wait patiently. This was taking a lot longer than he has anticipated. No one had been at the counter when he walked over to it, he was sure this would be a quick process. Now, he might have to miss his flight if she did not hurry up. His thoughts turned to Nantucket, and the beach house his parents had gotten when he was a young boy. He had loved going their for family vacations, getting away from the snow some times.

A man stepped up to the counter, and stood close to really him, almost too close. Josh started to step away from him, to give himself more space, and the man held up a security badge. “Mr. Josh Reardon? Please come with me, I have some questions I need to ask you.”

Chapter 37

Alejia carefully wrote out her statement about Ryne, her hand shaking. She could not believe it had come down to this. 2 days ago she was feeling guilty because she had feelings for him, and now, she was afraid of him. She focused her thoughts back to the statement she was writing.

A.H.R .I went home around 11:30 a.m to garb a short nap. after being at the hospital over night with my husband Jacob Rockefeller, and his father Desmond Rockefeller, who were both in need of care. I woke up feeling like someone had been in the room with me, but I didn’t see any one there. I did, however, smell the scent of the cologne and deodorant combination Mr. Josh Alexander Reardon often wears, it’s a unique scent of Old Spice deodorant with Clairborne cologne. I got out of bed to find my Bible had been dropped onto my floor, and I found a business card from a restaurant Mr. Josh Alexander Reardon and I had once met a mutual client at. I don’t have one of their business cards, there is no reason it should have been on the floor under the chair next to my nightstand. I checked all of my windows and doors, and realized he must have used my hidden key. I set my house alarm as I left. I checked where I keep it hidden, intending to remove it, and it wasn’t there. Mr. Josh Alexander Reardon has stolen my house key. I want to get a restraining order against himA.H.R.

Alejia looked over her statement, making sure she had not left any thing out, or forgotten something important. She waved over to the police officer to come over and check her statement over before she initialed it at the end. He looked  it over, and nodded. “I think we can get that restraining order issued right now against Mr. Ryne Alexander Reardon. Do you happen to have that business card on you? We could dust it for his prints, to be sure it came from him.”

Alejia reached into her coat pocket and pulled out the card. She hoped they could get his finger prints. But, even if they couldn’t, just knowing he could not come near her made a huge difference.

Alejia breathed a sigh of relief as the police officer told her he had just entered all of Josh’s information in to their system. “It seems he may have just been picked up at the airport. Security was flagged after we put in a BOLO report after you gave us your statement about your husband’s accident. He’s being detained right now for questioning.”

“Wow! You guys really move fast!”

“Well Ma’am, we’ve learned the hard way that we need to take these kinds of situations serious.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Josh tried to hold his temper back. He was in hand cuffs, being dragged through the airport to some back room. What was going on? Surely Alejia would not have reported him? he was so careful, he doubted she could even know he had been in her bed room watching her sleep, or that he had been to the restaurant today while Alejia and Jacob were there eating lunch.

He tried to ask what was going on, but the security guard just pushed him ahead, and in to a room he opened the door for.

“Mr. Josh Alexander Reardon, if you will please just have a seat. This shouldn’t take much time. We just have some questions we need to ask you.”

“What questions could you possibly have for me? I have done nothing wrong. I was just going to visit friends on the East Coast, and take a short vacation. Do I need to tell some one before I buy plane tickets, or something?”

“Sir, Mr. Reardon sir, we have a flag in our system that has you placed on our “no fly” list. You are not allowed to fly, at this point, until we can figure out how to get your name cleared. I am sorry, Sir. But you have to stay here. We have some detectives on their way over here to ask you some questions. I suggest you take this time to get your thoughts straightened out, so you can give us the clearest answers possible.”

“Great!” Josh was in no mood to deal with this malarkey. “Do I get to make my one phone call? I would like to make a phone call, please.To my Pastor. He can help get all of this all cleared up.

“Just sit still, there, Mr.Reardon. You are not under arrest. You’re just being detained for questioning at time.”

“Well, this should be interesting, seeing as I have done absolutely nothing wrong!”

“Sir, that’s what they all say. Just wait here. I promise you we’ll have this done in no time. We just need your cooperation and patience. And, of course, we’ll need you to answer every question honestly and forthrightly.”

“Of course I’ll answer every question honestly.”

Josh caught his breath as he caught sight of the detective walking towards the security room he was in. A tall man, with an impatiently angry look on his face stomped in to the room. “Who’s interrupting my dinner break, now?! Let us make this quick, my wife is here to eat dinner with me. Who do we have here? He grabbed the file, roughly, out of the hands of the started security guard.

“Well, Agent Oliver, it seems this man has just acquired a restraining order against him. He was on our “no fly” list, and this restraining order with a BOLO report was added about 5 minutes ago.

“Well now. This is an interesting turn of events. What are you running away from, Mr. “I’m Innocent”?” he asked, sarcastically.

Chapter 38

Josh could not believe it. How had she known? She was too smart for his own good, he thought to himself. He was so sure he had been undetected. How had she known? He was starting to believe Providence was working against him.

The Security guard had made him dump out his pockets, and give every thing to him before he put the hand cuffs on his wrists. He wondered where all of his stuff had gone? He had Alejia’s phone number in his favorite contacts list. Maybe even a voice mail from her from last week. He wished he had thought to delete all of that earlier, before coming to the air port. He should’ve just flown out yesterday. Why had he been so stupid? He always made lousy decisions!

“So, Mr. Reardon. We have a report of a stolen key that was reported to us as possibly being in your possession. We have that key, from your own pocket. We had one of our officers take it to the home it was reported as being taken from, and it unlocks the front and back door. We have a witness verifying that a Mrs. Alejia Rockefeller was seen, upset, out side looking for what the witness believed would be the extra key that the witness knew about having been at the location Mrs. Rockefeller specified it is missing from. What do you have to say in response to all of this? We have a report of you entering the home without the permission of the owner, also witnessed by a nearby neighbor who happened to have called it in at the time of the occurrence. We also have a report of a witness having seen you at the scene of an accident yesterday afternoon.”

Josh clamped his mouth shut. “Am I being charged with something? I want a lawyer.”

“Are you saying, sir, that you want me to read you your rights? To arrest you and keep you in custody? Just answer our questions, and if we can verify them and you are innocent, then you will be free to go.”

Josh sat back, his arms crossed tightly across his chest. He clenched his mouth, annoyed– no, angry. Irate! It was a very good thing Alejia was not there right now. Not only did he not want her to see him angry, he did not want to lose control. He would only say things he would later regret– do things he would regret.. No, it was definitely best that she was no where near him at this time.

He took his time answering, thinking about what he could say. How could he throw the suspicion off of him, and on to some one, or some where else…

Suddenly he had an idea. His mind turned over the thoughts that were speeding through his mind, trying to filter out the ones that seemed most helpful for him to hopefully get out of this.

“Fine! I was at Mrs. Rockefeller’s home, yes. She had asked me to stop by. I knew about the key, because she told me about it. I don’t know why she appeared to be upset looking for it. She must have forgotten that she had told me about it. She must have forgotten that she asked me to come by and check on her home while she was out. I did happen to be at a restaurant yesterday where I noticed she was, as well. I saw an accident, but not enough to give any details about it. Was that accident significant? Was someone killed?” He tried hard to keep calm, and not break out in to a nervous sweat.

“I can’t give you that information at this time. So, you claim she gave you permission to go in to her house, while she was taking a nap? Are you saying that she knew you were in her home, she had invited you to enter her home, and she even gave you the key, or the information of the whereabouts of the key, to get inside of her home, while she was there, sleeping, while her husband was in the hospital in the Critical Care Unit?” The officer peered deeply in to his face, watching his reaction closely.

“Well, yes. She and I have been kind of seeing each other. But, she didn’t want her husband to know.” The officer raised his eye brows in surprise.

“Really! So, while her husband, who we’ve been told, was near death, she invited you into her home, where a neighbor could see you enter? And that does not at all seem to be odd to you?”

“No. Because it’s what happened. She was upset, and said she wanted company.”

“We’ll check in to this matter. In the meantime, we’ll need to bring you down to the station, and keep you there until further investigating can be finalized. “Oh, by the way, Mr. Reardon, you should know– we looked in to your current employment status. It seems you have been a bit deceptive. We could find no evidence of your as an architect working out of the Skyler building. So, we did a little more digging. Turns out you work as a carpenter for B&B construction. One lie equals one strike against you. You do realize that makes it pretty close to impossible to believe even one word of what you say from now on, right? I have zero, Z E R O, patience for any person that lies to me, or a woman, trying to make it seem like he is some thing or some one he is not! Oh, and we also looked in your vehicle. We found an interesting item in the floor of your back seat: a tire pump. The accident in question, the man nearly died,also just happens to  be Mrs. Rockefeller’s husband. The rear tire on his carefully maintained vehicle exploded. Care to explain any of that to us?”

Great. Wonderful. Just what he needed! A nosy detective getting in to his business.

Ok, Josh, how are you going to get yourself out of this one, old boy?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Detective Oliver Knocked on Osa Mathiason’s door. A petite, mahogany haired woman answered, shielding her eyes from the glaring sun light behind the detective.

Ms. Mathiason? My name is Detective Oliver, and I need to ask you some questions.”

“Umm, sure. Do you want to come in side? This sun set is bright!”

“Sure, thank you.” He ducked his head down to fit in side the door way, his 6’5″ frame squeezing through the door way in to Osa’s small, vintage home.

“Sorry about that, it seems like these homes were built for short people,” she laughed, nervously. Why was a detective needing to question her?

Detective Oliver chuckled, then pulled out his notepad. They still used paper, with two pieces of carbon paper to make 2 extra copies.

“What can you tell me about a Mr. Josh Alexander Reardon? Are you acquainted with him, or an Mrs. Alejia Hope Rockefeller?”

Osa gasped sharply, “What? Why do you need to ask me questions about them?”

“Ma’am, I can’t give you the details of our investigation. Please, I just need you to tell me what you know about them, and specifically about the type of relationship they have or have had together.”

“Well, they have been friends. Mrs. Rockefeller is my best friend. She and her husband were having some problems, but they have been working through them, things are better. Mr Reardon, Josh, he had stronger feelings for her than she had for him. Yesterday morning, Mrs. Rockefeller made it clear to him that she only thought of him as a friend.”

“Can you tell me any more information and Mr. Reardon? What is his current employment? Any known family or friends in the area we could check in with?”

“Well, he goes to our church. You might talk with Pastor Paul Larson. I think if anyone might have those answers, it could be him.”

“Have you ever witnessed any strange behavior from Mr. Reardon? Anything resembling how a stalker might behave? Anything that made you feel uncomfortable, or like your friend could have been in any kind of danger from or with him?”

“No. None of that kind of thing.” Osa wondered what in the world had happened, and why Alejia had not told her anything about any of it, at all!

“Last question, Ma’am: Have you ever known your friend to lie about the character of another person, or claim they have behaved in a harmful way, inaccurately?”

“Do you mean lie about some one else, just to get them in to some kind of trouble? No. No way. Alejia is about the most honest person I’ve ever known. Are you sure you can’t tell me what any of this is about?”

“Sorry Ma’am. You can find out after the investigation. Or, talk with your friend to have her fill you in on all the details. Thank you for your time.” Detective Oliver turned to the door, ducked his head down again, and pushed his way out into the bright sunlight again.

“If we need any thing else, we’ll be in touch. Do you have a phone number we can reach you easily at?”

“Sure.” Osa scribbled down her number oh his carbon copy pad, muttering under her breath, Alejia Hope Rockefeller, what have you gotten yourself into, this time?!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Alejia breathed a sigh of relief as she ended the call form the police officer who had taken both of her statements. “Mrs. Rockefeller, I just wanted to let you know, we picked up Mr. Ryne Alexander Reardon at the airport about 20 minutes ago. We have him locked down for questioning. So, you will not have to worry, for now. We have him in questioning, and right now we are working too validate both of your stories. We’ll let you know the final out come as soon as possible,” he had just informed her. She thanked him, and put her phone away.

As she climbed in to her car, she remembered the burger she had promised Jacob. “Oooh,  better not show up empty handed!”

She hurried down the road to the nearest fast food drive-thru. She was running so late, she did not want to cause her Jacob to worry, or get upset with her. Things were still very delicate. She wanted to be extra careful, to not upset what they were just getting back again.

Alejia pulled up to the drive-thru menu, and ordered Jacob’s food, choosing a chicken salad for her self. She asked for bleu cheese dressing, but was informed they did not have any “Make it honey mustard, then.” She sighed. They never had what she wanted here. Why did she keep coming to this one, anyway?

She glanced up at the beginning to set sun, and remembered the brilliant, almost blinding, topaz looking sun. “Goodness! That had just been a few nights ago! She could not believe how much time seemed to have passed, and yet, it was not much time at all. So many things have been happening, too many things. She hoped things were beginning to settle down and find a new, relaxed, peaceful normal.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jacob looked at the clock over the door to the room he was sharing with his dad while his dad recovered from open heart surgery. Where could she be? With all the recent events, surprises and turning of events, Jacob could not help but feel worried. He took that opportunity to try out his new relationship with Providence.”Um, well, please keep my wife safe. Thank you,” he prayed, quietly, hoping not to wake his dad from his needed rest. He hoped he had prayed the right way. He still had so much to learn!

His heart skipped a beat as he heard a quite knock on the door to the room. “Come in, and hurry with my burger, I am starv…” he stopped short, blinking his eyes several times in disbelief.

In the doorway stood his mom.

Chapter 39

Arlene Fran Rockefeller was working at getting one of her tables bused, when she glanced up at the tv. Not thinking any thing of it, she stood up to go into the back of the restaurant to get the new table  settings and cover. Some thing about the accident they were reporting on caught her attention. She looked closely at the car. That looked like it could be her son’s old car, but no way he could possibly still have that after all of these years, right? The reporter gave the details of the accident, and then the name of the driver that had been injured and taken to the hospital by ambulance, reported as being in critical condition: Jacob Rockefeller.

Arlene paled, and had to sit down. Across the restaurant, she could hear her boss starting to get agitated that she was sitting and not working, but she did not care.

Jacob was hurt, in critical condition. She needed to go to him, to see him. She stood up, fighting back tears, and walked carefully over to where her boss stood, arms folded crossly across his chest.

“Mr. Simone, that accident that is being reported, that is my son, Jacob. I need to go to the hospital.”

“You can go. But do not expect to be paid for it. I do not pay people to not work. I hope your son is ok.”

“Thank you sir, I understand,” Arlene said in appreciation. He seemed like a cross man, but he was really a teddy bear.

Arlene took off her apron, washed her hands at her waitress station, and rushed out the door, hoping to be able to catch a taxi. It would take her whole week’s tips to pay for the cab ride, but she had to go see her son. She had to see if he was ok.

She easily caught a cab, not many people were out right now.

She would have a long ride ahead to think about things. What would she say, if he were able to talk? What would he look like? She knew he had gotten married years ago. Was he still married? To the same girl? Maybe they had children. She could be a grandmother, and not even know it.

No matter what, she just wanted to see that he was ok, and then not intrude in his life. She had chosen to walk away.It had gotten too complicated, she could not be the mom they had needed. Desmond would not let her. He had gotten in to a drinking rage, and hit her.She threatened to leave, and he promised to take their children away from her, and have her declared as unfit to be their mom. She could not handle that. She could not handle being hit again, either. So, she just left. She wouldn’t stay where she wasn’t wanted. The kids had their own lives, and didn’t value her thoughts or knowledge about things, any  way. She wasn’t necessary. She had hoped to have a good relationship with Devlin, her daughter. But, she was so closed off. Arlene had not known how to break through and have a happy, fun relationship with her. It didn’t seem to matter any way. Devlin had stayed holed up in her room while Jacob was always working on that car, trying to make it “perfect”. She doubted they missed her at all.

Her thoughts stopped as she noticed they were nearing the hospital. Time had sure flown by fast on this trip, she thought.

She had the cab driver drop her off at the front door. She hoped she could find another way home, but if not, there was always the bus.

She climbed out of the cab, handing the cabby all of her tip money to cover the ride, plus a decent tip.

“Thanks! Have a good evening!”

“You’re welcome. Have a good evening, too.”

She walked over to the information desk to ask about her son, and if she could see him. “He’s in room 147, on the second floor. Would you like someone to help you find it?”

“Oh no, I think I’ll be able to figure it out. Thank you very much, though.”

She walked to the elevator, and pushed the up button. It opened quick, and then she stepped in to the plush elevator car, and chose the second floor.

As she stepped out on to the second floor, she realized her heart was pounding so loudly, she could hear it. She hesitated, and then stepped over to the nurses station, to get directions to the room.

Here I go, she thought. This is either the stupidest thing I have ever done, or it’ll be a good thing. Only one way to find out!

She followed the on duty nurse, and stopped outside of the door to catch her breath. Here goes nothing!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jacob closed his eyes, then opened them, as if to clear his vision. This couldn’t actually be happening. His mom, here? Now?

She cleared her throat nervously. “Hi Jacob. I’m so glad to see you are ok! I saw on the news how you  were in a car accident, and I… I had to come see for myself if you were ok. I will not stay long, I know I probably am not very welcome here.”

“Mom? You’re here? Mom. I’ve missed  you so much!” Jacob could not believe his eyes and ears. His mother was standing right there, in front of him, in his hospital room! This wasn’t a dream he would wake up from, crying. Not like in the past. Tears flew out of Jacob’s eyes, as he said again, “Mom, you are here? You are really here!”

Arlene sobbed in to her hands. She had not dared to expect this, knew she didn’t deserve it.

“Sit down mom. Stay. Talk to me. How have you been? What have you been up to? Are you a waitress?” Jacob asked, indicating the uniform she had not taken the time to change out of.

“Ok. If you are sure you do not mind my staying. I am a  waitress. I live near Moses Lake. It is quiet, and a nice area. The people are friendly. And, it’s not too far away from you.”

“Oh.” Jacob’s heart felt like it was in his throat. “I am glad you live not too far away. Alejia’s on her way here. You can meet her. You will like her, mom. She is amazing!”

As if on cue, Alejia rushed in to the room, a greasy bag in her hand. “Oh Jacob, I am so sor.. Oh, you have company! Who’s this?” She handed him the burger bag, a look of curiosity covering her face.

“Leej, this is my mom, Arlene. Mom, this is the amazing Leej,” Jacob had the biggest smile on his face Alejia had ever seen on him!

“Oh! Mrs. Rockefeller! It is so nice to finally get to meet you!” Alejia stuck out a greasy hand, then wiped it on her jeans, and stuck it out again to shake Arlene’s hand.

Arlene grabbed it firmly. “I could say the same thing to you, Mrs. Rockefeller!” Arlene beamed with delight. She could not believe they actually seemed happy to see her!

“Tell me about your life together. I want to know every thing!”

Alejia and Jacob suddenly felt a bit shy. They hadn’t had much time together lately.

“Oh, there’s not too much to tell, right now. We should save that for when we can be at our home, eating pie.” Alejia said with a smile. Alejia caught Jacob’s eyes, and he smiled at her.

“Leej’s right. we will have plenty of time to talk about everything later.”

A groan from the next bed startled Alejia and Jacob in to silence. Desmond was starting to wake up. They started to feel awkward, suddenly unsure of what to expect next.

“Hey Jace,” Desmond called from his bed, his eyes not yet fully opened, “You’ll never guess what I was just dreaming about. I dreamed your mom came here to see us.”

Chapter 40

Alejia and Jacob looked at each other carefully: what should they do?

Jacob spoke, trying to disguise the smile in his voice: “Hey dad. Glad you are awake. Hey, guess who stopped by to say him? Mom!”

Desmond squinted in Arlen’s direction, his eyes adjusting to the light in the room.

Arelene? My Arlene? Have you come back to me?” Desmond could not hide the thick emotion in his voice. His heart monitor started beeping angrily, and Jacob pushed the call button on his bed side. A nurse burst in to the room, rushing over to Desmond’s bed side.

“Mr. Rockefeller, can you hear me?”

Desmond answered with a faint, “Yes,” the closed his eyes.

Jacob asked, “Is he going to be ok?

The nurse said, calmly, “I think so. It seems like one of his tubes has worked itself loose from his IV. Let me fix this, and see if that resolves this.”

Arlene moved closer to the door, as if she were thinking about sneaking away.

“Mom. Stay. Please.”

“I’m not sure it it is best for me to stay. But, I’ll wait a few more minutes. What happened to your father? Was he in the accident with you? I had no idea he was in here with you. The tv only mentioned you as being in that horrible accident!”

“Mom, it’s such a long story. I’ll tell you later. But, dad had heart surgery. He needs you, mom.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Osa closed the door, after saying good by to the detective.

She had been unaware of Devlin listening from the next room.

“So, Jacob and Miss Perfect have been having problems, huh? Serves them right! Was she cheating on him? I ca not imagine her staying faithful to Jacob, she has always been so out of his league!”

Osa fought, hard, the urge to smack Devlin across her scarred cheek.

“Why do you say such ugly things like that? What has Alejia ever done to you, Devlin? Huh? Answer me.”

“Well, to start with, she did not invite me to their wedding.”

“You were not even in town for that. She tried to invite you and you blew her off. Do you even realize how much you push people away from you, Devlin? People who really want to be closer to you, who care about you. You should stop doing that.”

“Maybe so, but there is no way Alejia would ever be my friend like she is your friend. Like you used to be my friend.”

“You have never given her the chance. And besides, you sound jealous. Are you jealous? because you don’t have any reason to be.” Osa started to walk in to the kitchen when her phone rang. It was Pastor Paul.

“Hi Pastor, what’s up?”

“Osa! Hey! There was just a detective asking questions about the Rockefellers and Mr. Reardon. Can you tell me what in the world is going on? Have they arrested Mr. Reardon for stalking Mrs. Rockefeller?

“Oh my! Well, I don’t know. He didn’t say anything to me about arresting any one. He asked me about his character, and about if Alejia is honest. I thought you might know more about his background and family or friends than I know, so I mentioned you. I hope that’s ok.” Osa frowned.

“It’s fine. Of course I want to keep up with my congregants. This has just been a very full weekend of keeping up!”

Osa sighed. “I know just what you mean, sir. I hope you have a relaxing night at home tonight.”

“Thank you. I hope you do, as well!

Devlin walked across the living room. “Was that your Pastor Paul?” Osa nodded her response. “Hmm. Maybe I’ll visit that church of yours some time. He seems like a nice man. Maybe it won’t suck there.”

Osa blinked in surprise. “Sure! It’s a pretty nice church.”

“So, what’s up with Alejia and that guy the detective was asking about, anyway?”

Osa flinched, then sighed. “I honestly am not sure. But, if anything, it’s more about what’s up with him, than what’s up with Alejia. She loves your brother. And, I will tell you: he’s been horrible to her at times, mean as all get out, but she’s never wavered. She’s stuck by him and remained true to her promises to him. So, whatever’s going on, I have no doubt it’s Mr. Reardon’s fault.”

Devlin wasn’t sure she believed Osa, but she decided to change the subject. “Thank you for letting me stay here and get my head together.”

Osa smiled warmly, “It’s no problem at all!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Devlin walked down the hallway to where Osa’s computer was. She sat at the desk, and turned on the computer. Thankful it wasn’t locked, she opened the browser, and began to do a search for Toby Farnsworth. It was time she found him and made him pay for what he’d done.

She was so engrossed in her search, she didn’t notice Osa peek in and watch her with a troubled look on her face. What could that girl possibly be looking for right now? Somehow she sensed it wasn’t a good thing. The look on Devlin’s face seemed to be pure hatred, mixed with anger. Maybe she was trying to find Toby. Osa thought she had better call him and warn him.

Or, maybe she should just let Devlin handle things. After all, Toby did deserve a lot more than he had gotten. His selfishness had ruined a whole family’s lives!  He needed to be held accountable. Osa said a quick prayer:

Thank You for Your protection over me. I ask that You would protect Devlin. Help her to make wise decisions, and not decisions out of anger or hatred. Help her to find Your better way. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Chapter 41

Arlene wasn’t sure if she should stay, but she didn’t want to disappoint Jacob. She barely dared to breath as she waited to hear the verdict on Desmond’s condition.

Every one relaxed noticeably as the heart monitor fell silent, and then went back to a normal rhythm.

Arlene fidgeted with her scarf, nervously, pulling at the knots, picking off the pills and dropping them in the waste basket near her.

What was she doing here? She should go while every one is distracted. She felt so small.

Desmond opened his eyes, and coughed. “Arlene. Are you still here? Will you come over to me, please?”

Arlene stood and walked slowly over to Desmond, nervous. She stood next to him, and he grabbed her arm, searching for her hand.

“Arlene, I am sorry. I was such a stupid, foolish, stubborn man. Can you ever forgive me?”

Arlene looked at his aged face, and felt like she was looking at a stranger. Taking a deep breath to muster every bit of courage she could find, she said, “I think I can. But, that doesn’t mean I’m coming back to you, Desmond. Too much time has passed, too many hurting memories. I can forgive past wrongs, but I won’t put myself in place for new ones to have to forgive and heal from. Do you understand?”

Desmond’s eyes clouded up, and tears fell, unhindered. “I could never expect you to come back. I messed things up too badly. You forgiving me, that’s more than I deserve. I know that I understand that. I’m sorry I hurt you so badly, Arlene. I hope you can somehow feel how very, very sorry I am.”

Arlene smiled at him. “I can. Thank you, Desmond.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Osa walked silently to the living room, and gave Devlin a few minutes to finish up what she was doing. This is none of my business, Osa thought. Devlin is a big girl, and Toby made his own bed. It might be appropriate if it was Devlin that made him lie in it, the lying jerk.

Osa was still getting over the shock of what Toby had done, at every thing that had happened to Devlin and her whole family. Toby was such a jerk!

Osa thought back to when they were younger. She had felt so flattered that Toby Farnsworth had even noticed her.She swooned when ever he called her, or walked her to her classes. I was so naive back then. I had no idea of the horrible things that could happen… that did happen.

She started to feel sick to her stomach at the thought of how she was back then. She forced the memories to the back of her thoughts, and realized it was starting to get pretty late.

Osa called from the living room, “Hey Devlin, we should make a stop by the hospital. Want to go now?”

“Sure, I will be right there.” Devlin found the address and phone number, and wrote them out on a gum wrapper. She folded it carefully and put it in her pocket. Now, I will get you! she thought with satisfaction.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Osa and Devlin rode in silence to the hospital. Suddenly Osa blurted out, “You know! I’ve been thinking I need a roommate. You said you want to make some changes in your own life. Maybe you could room with me, temporarily, until you can get a new place of your own. Would you want to do that?”

Devlin felt apprehension. She had not told Osa that, at the moment, she was actually homeless. She had not been able to find a job where she had been living, and her room mate kicked her out as soon as she could not afford to pay her share of the rent.

“I’m not sure. You’ll get tired of me staying with you. I’ll think about it, though, ok?”

“Sure.” Osa could not figure her out. Just when she felt they might be getting closer, Devlin shut down.

“Just give it some thought, ok? I doubt I’ll get tired of you. The change of environment might be good for you, and maybe a change of job would be, too.”

Yeah, from jobless to working would be an enormous change, Devlin thought sarcastically. “You don’t owe me anything, you know. I hope you aren’t feeling like you have to repay me or some thing. I also hope you don’t see me as some sort of a charity case. I’m not.”

Osa chose her words carefully, “No. Not charity. As my friend. My friend I’m getting a new chance with. I can’t change the past, Devlin, but we can try to make a better future, you know?”

Yeah, well, ok. I’ll think about it, and I’ll let you know. Ok?”

Osa had her suspicions about Devlin being on the streets. Unless she was staying at her dad’s place, which was highly unlikely.

Osa turned in to the parking lot, her car lights reflecting off the newly formed ice on the pavement. She parked the car as close as possible to the front doors, so they would not have to walk as far in the cold.

“Man it got cold out here!” Osa exclaimed.

They both climbed out of the car in silence, each one remember the last time they had come here.

It was freezing out there, and both girls shivered as they hurried to the front door, Devlin slipping, nearly loosing her balance, but catching herself before she fell on her behind

“Nice save!” Osa cheered. Devlin laughed, for the first time.

They rushed over to the elevator, thankful for the warmth displacing the cold that had covered them.

Osa pushed the button for the second floor, and they stepped off, eager to get this visit over with.

Devlin walked in first,and Osa was caught off guard as she heard Devlin’s gasp in surprise.

“Mom?”

Chapter 42

Devlin could not believe her mom was there. Overwhelmed, she stepped back out of the room. Osa saw the shocked look on her face,and tied to ask her what was wrong, but Devlin could not speak. Arlene followed Devlin out of the room, and attempted to reach out and comfort her daughter, but Devlin shrunk back from her touch.”Where have you been hiding all of these years, mom? While we have been falling a part? Are you happy with your life? Because none of us are happy with our lives since you walked away from us. You disappeared! I needed you, mom, and you left me!” Devlin went from shocked surprise to flat out anger.

Arlene was not planning to try to explain. “I deserve that. I was wrong to walk away. I just… you all seemed… to not need me. And your dad was so angry with me, all of the time. I couldn’t take the hitting any more. I’m sorry. I was too weak, and I wasn’t what you needed. I saw you graduate. But, I thought you’d be too angry with me, so I didn’t let you know I was there. I’m so sorry, Devlin, you deserve so much better than me. I should go, I’m causing more problems than I’m helping any thing. I’m sorry. I just saw Jacob’s accident on the news and…” her voice trailed off. “Well, I’ll go.” She started to walk away, and Devlin stopped her.

“You’d better not walk away from me again! Yes, I’m angry! So Very Angry! But, I need you mom. You. Not someone else. Not dad instead. Not no one. No one can replace you. We probably did a lousy job of letting you know how much we needed you, how much we loved you. But, mom– not one of us expected you to just walk away from us. How could you even do that?!”

Arlene stood in front of Devlin, and cried. Nothing she could say would make any thing better.

“You know what, mom? You owe me. You owe me time with you. Don’t you dare walk away from me again! Don’t you dare!”

Arlene looked up at Devlin’s face, and she nodded. “I will not go any where. Ok? I will stay. Can I stay with you?”

Osa answered, “Devlin is staying with me. You are welcome to stay with me, too.”

After a few more minutes of crying and outbursts, they walked back in to the hospital room.

Whew! Providence had His work cut out for Him!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Devlin and her mom had so many things to talk through. Osa felt like she was living in a battle zone some days, and other days were blissfully peace-filled. Once Devlin revealed what had happened with Toby, Arlene seemed to find her natural skills nurturing again.She wished she could just remove all that pain, and that loss… She wished she hadn’t been part of the cause and loss. She wished a lot of things, truth be told.

Devlin and her dad were a different story. She had a hard time forgiving and forgetting what he’d done to her, and how horrible he’d made her feel about herself. In time, she was able to move past all that had happened, but there was always a lingering grief, a sadness so deep, it felt like nothing could heal it. Desmond deeply regretted his actions. He stopped drinking completely, and he began to work on getting his life, his home, and his family in order. He had so much to make up for. But, he was confident that with Providence’s help, he’d be able to move some of those mountains he him self had built up. Devlin wasn’t so confident, but she often went to his AA meetings with him, and even attended some ALANON meetings on her own. Alejia could see that she was growing in to a new maturity.

Arlene and Desmond didn’t work things out with in their marriage. Arlene wasn’t ready to trust him again, not yet any way. They did begin a friendship, and they began to work together on being parents to their grown children, while learning how to be a grandparent for their soon to be arriving grand child.

Arlene and Alejia began to build a special mother in law and daughter in law relationship, while taking great care to make sure Devlin did not feel left out or jealous. Both women were greatly concerned for Devlin’s emotional state, and worked hard to build a close relationship with her as individuals as well.

Jacob and his mom kind of just picked up where they had left off. It was almost as if no time had even passed, and nothing had come between them. They joked with each other lightly.

Osa and Devlin had some major things to work out. Devlin finally admitted that she did not have a job, and her mom helped her get a job as a waitress at a nearby restaurant, just down the street from were Arlene was now the manager of a restaurant. Osa was not upset, and tried to be as patient, and prayerful, as possible.  It helped when Devlin started coming to church, and actually learned helpful things from the sermons. Osa could tell Providence was working deep with in Devlin’s heart, and she was more than thankful to be a part of that.

Devlin and Jacob still had some distance between them. Some of the old family wounds were so deep, some scars so stiff, it was difficult for them to look past them, and in to the future. Devlin was not ready to trust Jacob yet. She felt let down by him, because when everything fell apart after what Toby did to her, Jacob distanced him self and stopped being a confident for her. She never under stood why, until one conversation revealed a vulnerable secret Jacob had been holding on to: he blamed him self for not protecting Devlin. Devlin never knew it, but Jacob tracked Toby down and took out his own form of vengeance on Toby’s face.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Alejia reached in to her oven, and pulled out the pot roast, the steam from the pot roast causing her bangs to curl. “Oh my goodness,that smells so amazing!” Jacob yelled from the back yard. “I bet the neighbors will start coming by, drooling, begging for some of that, any time now,” he said with a smile. Alejia smiled to her self. It felt pretty good to be appreciated!

It had been six months since the accident. Providence had been rearranging lives, and fixing all sorts of hurts and problems. Alejia could not believe it had been six months already, or that it had only been six months because so much had changed! Alejia touched her belly and felt the baby kick, smiling with anticipation. “Jacob, come here! Come feel Jacob Jr. kicking his mommy again!”

Jacob walked in to the kitchen, and strode over to Alejia, putting his strong hand on her tummy. “My baby-baby is kicking strong as he can, for sure, while my car-baby is not kicking so well at all.”

Alejia laughed. “Yeah, not so much. But, knowing you, Jacob, you’ll have that all fixed up, back in mint condition, in no time! You know you can’t stay away from that car any longer than you absolutely have to.” Alejia teased him.

“Yeah, well. You know me. What can I do? My special talent is working on my car!” Alejia’s laugh brought joy to his heart. This is what happy feels like, he thought to himself.

Jacob’s dad walked in from the back yard. “Hey, how’s that dinner coming a long? Need some help tasting it? I am an expert!” Jacob patted him on the back and said, “Nice try. No way, I’m the official taste tester around here, of all things delicious. You should go back to your grill-manning.”

“Oh yeah, I need the barbecue sauce, and the butter. Where might I find those things?”

Jacob grabbed them both off of the counter, and pushed them in to his dad’s hands. “Right there, in your hands!” Jacob’s dad laughed, a deeply joy-filled sound.

Devlin and Arlene sat in beach chairs, relaxing and enjoying the sun, discussing the church service earlier that day. “Pastor Paul’s wife looked so uncomfortable today. The baby must be due any day now. She looks like she is carrying triplets!”

Devlin laughed, “Yeah, she sure does! I guess I will have some baby sitting work a head of me soon, yeah?”

“The sermon today was really good. I loved the blooper reel movie clip they put together for today. It was so perfect! And hilarious.”

Alejia marveled at all of the changes Providence had orchestrated within their family.

Sitting in his jail cell, Josh began plotting his revenge…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s