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Real Love

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to access my new short story, “Real Love.”
For adults only.
Please leave comments after you read it.
Thank you all.

Untie the Knots

Dear God:
Please untie the knots
that are in my mind,
my heart and my life.
Remove the have nots,
the can nots and the do nots
that I have in my mind.

Erase the will nots,
may nots,
might nots that may find
a home in my heart.

Release me from the could nots,
would nots and
should nots that obstruct my life.

And most of all,
Dear God,
I ask that you remove from my mind,
my heart and my life all of the ‘am nots’
that I have allowed to hold me back,
especially the thought
that I am not good enough.
AMEN

AUTHOR:   UNKNOWN

Girl Unbroken

https://www.instafreebie.com/free/sIwv6

When a girl is rescued from the clutches of a human trafficker,

she faces a struggle from within. Was her life even worth saving?

What is it all for? Find out in the free Novella

 

Patricia Bell

Patricia Bell is an Arizonian, who has traveled much of the world. Growing up a military brat and joining the Navy at the age of eighteen has allowed her to experience the world. She’s served on mission trips to Uganda, Africa and it has greatly changed her perspective on life.

She has since settled down and now writes YA and Mystery Novels. She is an avid reader of Christian fiction of any kind, and sometimes dabbles into the unknown worlds of Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and John Grisham.

Patricia is married to the love of her life and has three grown children. Years of raising her teenagers has given her plenty of experience in the YA realm. As a matter of fact, if you read her stories, you may glimpse some of their characteristics within.

She would love to hear from you on Facebook or Twitter:
https://www.facebook.com/pbellauthor

 

 

 

Committed

awriterfirst

COMMITTED

No matter how hard I blow
Into the winter air
You are no longer by my side
Acting as my guide

I’m alone and petrified

Only my heart remembers you

I search for warmth
Between cold sheets
Alone in our bed

But nights haunt me
Antagonizes
Dares me to sleep

Everything around me
Rekindles thoughts of you
Unworn shoes, neckties
A razor unremoved

I really shouldn’t
But can’t help it
I dream day and night

Of massive hands
Curly strands
Warm smiles and
Snappy styles

Woodsy balm
Clasped palms
A stubbled face, indeed

A rat-a-tat-tat
For home repairs
You always in the lead

Funny how I still see you
Rolled up tight
In our linen, me naked and
Snuggling in the night

I keep hoping any day now
You’ll come ‘round the bend
To kiss me, squeeze me, fondle me
Until I have no wind

I want to feel

View original post 137 more words

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (Piano/Cello)

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

by The Piano Guys

 

Hallelujah by Justin Timberlake

 

 

 

A Betrayal of Trust

A Short Story

“Sarah, look at this.”  Linda slowed her vehicle to a crawl and nodded toward a massive house with several neat rows of miniature roses.  The woman kneeling in the garden was so absorbed with pulling weeds that she neither raised her head in acknowledgment of Linda and Sarah nor gave much thought to the wispy winds promising to dislodge her hat.  Sections of her wooden fence leaned outward.  Grass had grown ankle deep.  Pristine acreage owned by neighbors flanking both sides of her property made the woman’s land appear run-down.  Linda imagined the roses were all that remained of the woman’s former life, one once filled with love and happiness, joy and contentment, all ruined by betrayal.

Sarah stopped rummaging through her purse and stared at the figure.  “How does she do it?”

“That’s what I want to know.  If my husband had left me for another woman, especially if she were my best friend, I’d spit fire.”

Sarah unscrewed a pill bottle and popped a capsule in her mouth.  She closed her eyes, exhaled, then sat back.  “Let’s go.  It’s not fair to sit here and pick her life apart.”

“What you taking?”

Tylenol PM.  I have a terrible headache.”

Linda blew at her straggly bangs as she picked up speed and drove away.  “I’m thankful I’ve never been through anything like that.”

“We’ve all gone through something, to one degree or another.”  Sarah snapped her purse shut and struggled to see through a blob of moisture, overcome by the direction her life had taken.  A tear escaped anyway.

“What have you been through?  You have a fine home, a hunk of a husband, and three of the most beautiful children I’ve ever laid eyes on.  You’ve got everything.”  Linda eased on her brakes as she approached a stop sign then flipped her left turn signal.  “You even have a driver.”  Linda bobbed her head, wiggled her shoulders, and sung, “I’m driving Miss Daisy, ya’ll.  I’m driving Miss Daisy.”

“Oh, shut up.”

“You know it’s true.  You do have everything.”

“Not everything,” Sarah mumbled.

“I never hear you complain.  Why would anyone who lives in a six bedroom house that’s perched on forty acres complain anyhow?”

“I have trials.  Who doesn’t?”

“Oh, c’mon.  How would you like to sit in my seat?  I haven’t had much time to myself for a while.  Jake is always out of town, leaving me to care for Charly all by myself.  Sometimes her seizures last off and on for hours.  By the end of the day, I’m worn out.”  Linda stretched her eyes.  “You want to switch places?”

“Humph.  I don’t think you’d like to be in my seat, dear friend.”

“Please don’t go all whiny on me.  It doesn’t become you.  Besides, there’s no one in this entire town who has it as well as you do.  By the way, where do you want to have lunch?  I thought we might stop and eat a hamburger at Freddie’s Hamburger Joint before we go to your shop.”

“A hamburger sounds great.”

During the five mile stretch to Freddie’s, Sarah propped her elbow on the car’s window ledge and gnawed on a fingernail.  She reflected on her disastrous week while Linda hummed one spiritual tune after another to escape to her own corner of the world.

Sarah rubbed the bump in the bend of her arm, angry it had taken phlebotomists more than twice to tap into a vein.  All the advice offered to alleviate the painful sticks never worked.  Someone once told her to drink plenty of water the day before giving blood.  Sarah rolled her eyes as she recalled the episode.  It took almost two hours to retrieve blood because of her many trips to the bathroom.  After an acquaintance urged her to exercise and use a warm compress, she gave up because it sounded outright ridiculous.

“Have you lost your ability to hear?”

Sarah winced in pain.  “Why are you so violent?  That hurts.”  Sarah massaged her arm.  Linda had one powerful backhand.

“I’ve been talking to you for the last five minutes.”

“Guess my mind was somewhere else.”

“I was asking if you want a root beer float with your burger.  And I was hope-hope-hoping you’d have enough pity on me to invite Charly and I to dinner tonight.  It would be payback for driving all the way out here to pick you up.  Hint.  Hint.  Anyway, Jake is out of town and I’m trying to avoid the kitchen.  Charly won’t care what we eat.  And she’d love to see the kids.  I can bring the drinks if that’ll help.”

“I’ll be tuckered out by the time we get the shop cleaned up and the yarn priced and put away.  I’m expecting a large shipment and I don’t think I’ll have any energy once we’re done.  Next week I have two satellite meetings scheduled—one at eight in the morning; another at two o’clock.”  Sarah pushed against the headrest.  “If I don’t get the new girl trained on the register, I’ll be right back where I started . . . my store in a mess and my shipping and billing backed up.”

“This is really sad.  We both live smack dab in the heart of Jacksonville but seems we’re passing each other in the night.”

“Next time we’ll do something fun, okay?”  To appease her friend, Sarah added, “You’ve always wanted to go to the Tea Room in Orlando.  Let’s plan to go in early spring.  Or we can take a family vacation to Miami Beach this summer like we did three years ago.”

“I’d settle for a simple cup of coffee and good conversation, Sarah.  Is it really that hard?  Does everything need to be so detailed and well-planned out?  Coffee and conversation—how hard can it be?”

Linda pulled into the parking lot of Freddie’s Hamburger Joint and parked, but kept the engine running.  “We used to sit and have coffee for an hour every day once we got the kids off to school.  Now I’m lucky to see you once a month.  What’s going on?  And please don’t blame it on the store.  It’s a cover and I know it.”

Geez!  Sarah squeezed the door handle and started to exit the car, hoping for a quick escape, but Linda grabbed her arm.

“Oh, no.  I need you to talk to me.”  Linda folded her arms across her chest.  “I know I talk too much, but I see what’s going on here.  You’re not yourself.  You seem—what’s the word?—evasive.”  Linda gently squeezed Sarah’s forearm.  “Have I done something to offend you?  Have I put my foot in my mouth and you’re afraid to tell me?”

“I’m just tired.  Maybe I’m too preoccupied with the store, the kids, Michael, and the upkeep of the house.”

“You’re overwhelmed?”

Sarah turned away.  “I guess I am.”

“Why do I get the feeling there’s more to this?”

“Why would I lie?”

“Remember what happened two years ago?”

“And you said you’d forgiven me for that.  Are you gonna beat me up all over again?”

“Look, smarty pants, I wouldn’t dare bring it up if I thought you were being straight with me.”

“Oh, c’mon, Linda.”

“You’ve been acting strange and you know it.  You’re not leveling with me and—”

“I’m not keeping anything from you.  Why would I?”

“You had no reason to keep secrets from me the last time.  Why you couldn’t tell me your mother was dying is beyond me.  I’ll never understand it.  And if you’ll recall, Sarah, you never offered an explanation.  I’m supposed to be your best friend, remember?”

“Didn’t I apologize?”

“You did, but only after I confronted you about it when a pharmaceutical tech mentioned your mother’s death to Jake.  Jacksonville isn’t a big city.  People talk.  You have any idea how it felt to find out about your mother from someone else?”

“You’ve made it very clear to me.”

“It’s a sore spot with me and you know it.  I’ve got this nagging feeling you’re doing it again.”

“Linda, can we drop this?”

“So, are you keeping something from me?  Why do you always seem distracted?  It’s like you’re in another world.”  Linda dramatically waved her hands in the air to demonstrate her disgust.

“It’s nothing I can’t handle.  Life will return to normal soon.”

“Let me help.  I think I’m a good listener.  If I’m not, teach me.  I’m willing to change.”  Linda stared at the roof of her car and made a face.  “It’ll be hard, but I can change.  And I’m not too proud to help clean your house, if that’s what you need me to do.  I can even be your cashier.  Whatever you need, I’m here for you.”

“What in the world would I do without you?”  Sarah patted Linda’s knee.  “You’ve got your hands full.  You’re doing enough with Charly.  Matter of fact, being here with me today is exactly what I need.  Now let’s eat.  I’m starved.”

Linda shut off the engine, slid out of her SUV then waited for it to shimmy, pop, and sizzle before she slammed the door and mumbled, “I really need a new car.”  She proceeded to follow Sarah inside the restaurant, but stopped and tilted her head.  “Are you losing weight?”

Sarah faced Linda before pulling at her sweat pants.  “Why do you ask?”

“You’re not as full in the hips as you used to be.”  Linda winked.  “I bet Michael is loving this.”

Sarah rushed toward Linda and looped their arms together.  “What goes on in my bedroom stays in my bedroom.  Now, let’s eat so we can get to the shop and unload the yarn.”

“If you say so, skinny woman.”

*   *   *   *   *

For four hours, the women barely spoke, each working on opposite ends of the boutique, putting away yarn and accessories in Sarah’s knitting store.  In the bottom half of those four hours, Sarah escaped to the bathroom where she turned on her noisy vent and ran water to drown out the retching created each time nausea threatened to overtake her.

Between rubbing watery eyes and blowing her nose from the effects of the dye, Linda was too preoccupied with new skeins of yarn and knitting patterns to notice Sarah’s pale skin or droopy eyes . . .

Until she dropped her home.

*   *   *   *   *

“Let me help you take those things inside,” Linda said as she exited the car.  “You look like you’re about to collapse.”

“No, I can manage.”

Before Sarah protested a second time, Linda slid two boxes off the back seat, stumbled on a broken piece of concrete, and spilled the contents of one box on the ground.  Tiny balls of scrap yarn rolled along the grass.  Knitting needles clanged and flipped in the air before spiraling out of sight.  Markers, wig heads, and several old scarves Sarah knitted last year lay strewn on the walkway.

But only one thing grabbed Linda’s attention.

In slow motion, Linda sat the second box on the concrete and in a zombie-like stare removed a blood-soaked towel off the ground.  Tears welled in her eyes.  When she met Sarah’s frightful gaze, pain and hurt, anger and sorrow swelled inside her.  After closing in on her friend of sixteen years, she moved even closer, nose-to-nose, and held the towel inches from Sarah’s face.  Her nostrils flared.  Hot rapid breathing seemed to jeopardize every strand of hair on Sarah’s body.

“You’re sick, aren’t you?” Linda asked.  “And this is how I find out?”

“Linda, let me explain.  I’ve been meaning to tell you, but I just didn’t know how to—”

“You meant to tell me?  You meant to tell me!  It’s a little too late, don’t you think?  How ’bout this.  How ’bout I leave you to deal with this all by your lying self?  How ’bout that?  Huh?  Hello world!  Let me introduce you to Mrs. Sarah Bannister, superwoman of the year.  The town’s hero with the powers to handle any and everything all by her lonesome.”  Linda smirked.  “Hope Hollywood is paying you well for this gig.”  Linda shoved the bloody towel in Sarah’s hand and left in a huff.

“Linda, stop it.”

In a quick about-face, Linda said, “No, you stop it.  Best of luck BEST friend.  Give me a call before you take your last breath, why don’t you!”

“Linda, wait!  Please.  Linda, don’t do this.  I didn’t mean anything by it.  I didn’t think you could handle it.  I couldn’t handle it!”

Linda left Sarah standing in the driveway breathing in fumes of burnt rubber as she violently backed out and went home.

For nearly two weeks, Sarah phoned Linda three times a day, but never received a response.  She saw her friend once in the grocery store and tried to talk to her, but Linda responded only by saying, “You’re done?  Good, cause I’ve got better things to do.”

In the course of three weeks, Sarah’s health worsened.  Though the cancer was curable, it baffled doctors why Sarah wasn’t responding to treatment.  When one of the nurses suggested Sarah might be depressed, the doctor spoke privately with Michael and together they concocted a plan.

*   *   *   *   *

“I know you don’t want to sit outside, honey,” Michael said to Sarah, “but you won’t be out here long.  After I spray the kitchen for ants, it’ll only take an hour for the air to clear.  I’ll bring you iced tea before I get started.”

“Only an hour?” Sarah asked.

“That’s it.  Now, relax.  Soon the kids will be home from soccer practice, so enjoy the peace while you can.”

“Well, alright.”

“Hi, Mrs. Bannister.”

Startled by the interruption, Sarah looked past Michael and saw a young girl drop her scooter to the ground as she tried to balance a large bouquet in her hand.  “Good morning, Helen.  Who are those pretty roses for?”

“They’re for you.”  Helen mounted the steps and placed the roses on a table next to Sarah.

“For me?  Why would you buy me roses?  They look expensive.”

“I didn’t buy them,” Helen said.

“Then where did you get them?  Did your mother buy them?”

“Nope.  Momma didn’t buy them either.  A little birdie told me to deliver them.”  Helen snickered.  It wasn’t often a ten-year-old was privy to a grownup’s secret.

Sarah looked over her shoulder at her husband.  “A little birdie, huh?”

Michael hunched his shoulders and raised his hands.  “Not me.  I had nothing to do with it.  You might take a look at the card.”

“See you, Mrs. Bannister.”

“Bye, Helen.”  Sarah removed the card and flipped it over several times.  It was slightly larger than most and there was writing on every inch of it, in a handwriting Sarah didn’t recognize.  There was no logo; no address or phone number.

Jesus’ greatest gift to us was the forgiveness of sin.  For no man has ever gone a day in his life without sinning against God and mankind.  Isn’t it nice to know he’s forgiven you?

On the opposite side, someone had scribbled:

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”  (John 15:13)

Sarah looked behind her and discovered Michael had gone inside the house.  If he hadn’t sent the flowers, then who had been so bold, so thoughtful?

Once every two weeks thereafter, Michael found an excuse to have Sarah sit on the porch, even on misty days.  And each time he did so, little Helen brought a fresh bouquet of roses, reaffirming in her sweet innocent voice that she had no idea who was sending her this gift.  She did tell Sarah the florist, with her mother’s permission, paid her ten dollars to deliver them.  No doubt whoever was behind this kind gesture wanted to remain anonymous.

The flowers lifted her spirits and gave her something to look forward to.  Over time Sarah’s health improved and she was finally able to drive again.  She attended school activities for her children, cooked, cleaned, and caught up on her reading.  Though she still had difficulty keeping her hands steady enough to begin a new knitting project, she reviewed store orders and paid the bills.  When her days became unbearably lonely, playing the piano brought a small measure of comfort.  And whenever she thought of Linda, she’d grow anxious for the arrival of a new bouquet of roses.

She’d placed the fresh flowers on a table in the hallway, neatly arranging the Bible verses next to them.  God’s word had a way of softening her heart and unveiling her wrong without leaving her with feelings of worthlessness.  Sarah didn’t fully understand how God did this, but she welcomed his intervention.  With each passing day, an increased craving for that kind of love grew inside her.

Then something peculiar happened.

Though she was strong enough to go camping with her family on Labor Day, Michael insisted she stay and enjoy the solitude.  A bit miffed by his over protection, she convinced herself perhaps her family just didn’t want her spoiling their weekend.  Maybe they thought a trek along the beach would tire her.  What they clearly didn’t understand was she hated to be alone.  She enjoyed the noise they made throughout the house—the sibling rivalries, witch hunts for things right under their noses.  All of it invigorated her.

Disappointed, she moped all day Friday—ignored the flowers; took no comfort in the Bible verses; wanted no part of the piano.

But early Saturday morning, the doorbell rang.  The grandfather clock chimed seven times, leaving her to wonder who in their right mind would be out and about at this hour.

In her bathrobe and slippers, Sarah begrudgingly tromped to the door.  She moved the curtains half an inch and discovered an unfamiliar gray SUV parked in the driveway.  It was difficult to see through the peep hole.  Whoever was on the other side had covered it with their finger.

“Who is it?”  Sarah pressed her ear to the door and waited.

No one answered.

She tightened her robe, glancing at the top of the china cabinet where Michael kept the shotgun.  Then she squared her shoulders, put on a brave face, and opened the door.

Stunned, Sarah gasped.  “Linda?”

Linda had two cups from Starbucks in her hands.

“I brought coffee.”

Unable to move, too afraid to say a single word, Sarah was motionless in the doorway.

“Well, aren’t you going to invite me in?” Linda asked.

“W-Why of course.”

On Linda’s way to the kitchen, she stopped and gazed at the flowers on the baroque table in the hallway.  Slightly bending at the waist, she read one of the cards.

If you want a friend, show yourself friendly. (Proverbs 18.24 – KJV)

Linda picked up another Bible verse.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)

Linda handed Sarah one of the coffee cups before carrying the flowers to the kitchen.

“I received flowers just like these,” Linda said as she centered them on the table.  “You sent them, didn’t you?”

“No,” Sarah said as she flopped in a chair, “I didn’t send them.”

“Who did?”

Sarah shrugged her shoulders.  “I have no idea.”

“Did Michael buy them?”

“He swears he didn’t.”

“They come every Thursday?” Linda asked as she arched one eyebrow in curiosity.

“Yes, they do.”  Sarah squinted.  “You don’t suppose Jake had anything to do with this?”

Linda nodded as a smile emerged.  “If you ask me, I think both our husbands had a hand in this.”

“Why are you here, Linda?  This can’t be about flowers.  I thought you were still mad at me and never wanted to see me again.”

“I am and I didn’t.”

“Ooookay.  That’s clear as a bell.”

“It’s those blasted Bible verses.  It’s God’s fault.  He really got to me.”

“I’ve tried to shake them, too, but I can’t.  Sometimes . . .  Sometimes the truth hurts.”

“I thought it was your clever way of saying you were sorry.”

“Afraid I’m not that creative.”

“This is really immature of me, I know, but I don’t want to forgive you.  I want to stay mad at you.”

“I’ve not been a good friend to you.  Linda, I’ve acted like an idiot,” Sarah admitted.  “You didn’t deserve the mean-spirited way I treated you.”

“Do you have any idea what you’ve done?”

“If I had, I wouldn’t have done it.  I don’t think I’ve ever put myself in your shoes.  Never considered how you’d feel.”

“Well, the elephant in the room won’t go away until you put a pin in it.  No matter where this leads, we’ve got to talk it out.”

Sarah bowed her head.  “I can’t begin to tell you how ashamed I am.”

“Save it for later.  Right now, I want to explain something to you.  And you need to listen real good cause I’m only gonna say this once.”

Sarah nodded in humble obedience.

“It was a betrayal of trust . . . what you did.  Here we are the best of friends, two people who have shared everything in the world together.  We’ve been there for each other through thick and thin—at each other’s wedding; at the birth of our kids; consoling each other when our husbands often lost their minds.  But when faced with the one thing that might take you from us, you up and decided to keep it hidden from me.”

“I’m—”

“Hush!  I’m not done yet.  Other than God, I thought I knew more about you than anyone else in the world.  So, I find all of this hard to believe.  You stabbed me right here!”  Linda pounded her chest with her fist.  Her face turned beet red.  Tears flowed effortlessly.  “It didn’t cross your mind that I cared?”

“It was too hard.”

Linda held up her hand, motioning for Sarah to stop.  “Don’t you dare lecture me about what’s hard.  After all we’ve been through, did you truly expect me to walk away and pretend nothing was wrong?  So, what was your game plan?  Was I supposed to tell you to take a pill and see you in a year or two?  Or maybe you thought so little of me and concluded I was too weak to handle your illness.

“You know, nothing you’ve done in the last few years has made any sense and it’s time you explain yourself,” Linda continued.  “I’m sick and tired of filling in the blanks, making excuses for your behavior, exerting effort to stay positive about our relationship.  So, here is your opportunity.  Explain away.”

Linda waited.  And waited.

Sarah’s face was as hard as stone, her eyes looking past Linda and deep into places far beyond the kitchen walls.  Impatience got the best of Linda and before she knew it, she snatched up her purse and rushed to the front door, a steep waterfall drenching her face, her loss deeper than the breadth of an ocean.

“Linda, wait!”

With one hand on the doorknob, Linda glanced over her shoulder.  “This is your last chance and I mean it.”

Sarah took Linda by the arm and led her back to the kitchen.  While rubbing her hands together, Sarah paced the kitchen floor, later massaging her temples before taking a seat at the table.  The coffee was cold.  She took long sips of it anyway, circling her index finger along the rim of the cup, forming words without making a sound, doing everything possible to come face-to-face with her past.

“There are things about me that you don’t know.  Deep things,” Sarah said while staring at the cup.  “Please don’t expect me to share them all.  Some things I’m entitled to keep to myself.”

“How deep?”

Sarah rubbed her brow in a nervous gesture as she searched for the right words.  “I ran away from home when I was thirteen and—”

“Noooo kidding.  What happened?”  Linda sat her purse on an empty chair, anchored her forearms on the table, and leaned forward.

“I went missing for two weeks.  The men who forced me into their truck held me captive, promising me day after day to bring me home.  Once the police found me and reunited me with my parents, everyone soon discovered I had trust issues.  Therapists kept telling my parents to give it time.”  Sarah shook her head then stared at the kitchen tile.  “I didn’t get better,” she said, weeping and wiping snot with the back of her hand.  “Over time I developed some pretty good coping skills and I usually do okay in non-life-threatening situations.  But when the doctors told me my mother was dying, I shut down and went into survival mode.  My struggle to get through my mother’s suffering ended up plunging me back in that shack with those men.”

“Is that why you shut me out?”

“I think so.  But it’s not the only reason.”  Sarah rolled the coffee cup in the palms of her hands as though the cold brew would soothe her, protect her in some way.  “I’m afraid I’m just odd when it comes to this kind of pressure.”

Linda didn’t respond, but rather searched Sarah’s eyes with great intensity.

“Needless to say, when the doctors told me I had cancer, the news thrust me back into that shack.  This time I couldn’t crawl out of that dingy place to save my life.  No matter how hard I tried, I wasn’t making any progress.  A part of me gave up and died.  Everything ran together—days, nights, dreams, the stench of that shack haunted me.

“With so much time to think,” Sarah said as she proceeded, “I realized all my coping skills had dwindled down to nothing.  I felt helpless; like a corpse waiting to breathe her last.  There was no one to hold me up.  I couldn’t stop falling.”

“Why didn’t you confide in me?”  Linda reached for Sarah’s hand, but she pulled away, her eyes sad and filled with tears.

Sarah shook her head.  “After the way I treated you, I didn’t deserve your help.  Sometimes I feel as if the scars are so deep that I don’t have the energy it takes to explain any of this.  Until today, I didn’t know how to explain it.  I was scared.  After putting on a front for the children, a positive attitude for Michael, I didn’t have anything left.”  Sarah took in her surroundings—the immaculate light fixtures in the ceiling, the pristine marbled countertops, the expensive curtains.  “Here I am in this big house with all my beautiful things, with four living and breathing family members and I’ve never felt so alone in my life.”

“Prayer didn’t comfort you?”

Sarah bowed.  “I didn’t believe.  Hope had become a distant memory for me.  Odd, though.  I didn’t feel like I was stuck on an island.  It was much worse.  I felt as if I was in the middle of traffic or on a bustling street corner with everyone bumping into me but no one taking the time to talk.”  Sarah hunched her shoulders.  “No one knew I existed.  Or maybe they did and just didn’t care.”

“You have plenty of people who care.”  Linda propped one hand under her chin.  “Tell me, what brought you out of it?”

Sarah lifted a rose and twirled it.  “These little gems.  Not knowing where they came from stirred my curiosity and distracted me from self-pity.  They gave me hope.”  As she returned the rose to the vase, she admitted, “I pretended they were from you.  Good thing, too, because if my health hadn’t improved, I think the doctors would have given up on me.  I don’t think anyone expected me to pull through.  Michael was beyond worried.”  Sarah hitched her chin toward the flowers.  “These beauties reminded me of God’s handiwork.  The Bible verses revived my soul.”

“How is your health now?”

“I’m in remission.”

“Wish you’d allowed me to experience your pain.  Seems like there’s a gigantic wall between us and I can’t move it out of the way.  I’ve been feeling that way for a long time.  It didn’t begin with your mother dying.  It began days before we stopped having our morning coffee.  I’ve spent many nights fretting over this, never fully understanding, but always dying to know what went wrong.  Always, always blaming myself.”

Sarah kept both eyes fixed on her cup as an awkward silence settled in the room.  Anxious, she rubbed her thighs, intimidated to ask the most obvious.  A large lump formed in her throat, as though a million dust mites had clogged her windpipe.  Her shoulders bobbed as she wept.  “What about us?  Will we never have family barbeques anymore?  Will I need to pretend not to see you on the street?  Have I totally ruined our friendship?”

“Yes, you have.”  There was mockery in Linda’s voice, an unapologetic snide which released small snippets of pent-up anger.

With both hands, Sarah covered her face and cried uncontrollably before saying, “So, this is it?  There’s no hope for us.”

“There’s hope.  There’s plenty of hope.”

“Then tell me what to do.  I’ll do anything.”

“Anything?” Linda asked in between her own tears.

“Absolutely.”

“I think we should start over.  Pretend we’ve just met.  Plan our wedding.  Predict how many children we’ll have.  I’ll tell you all about me and you’ll tell me all about you; about life, death, prosperity, loneliness, old boyfriends, bullies, every single thing.  But I want to end up marrying Michael.”

Both women laughed.  They reached across the kitchen table, clasped hands and squeezed tight.

“Not possible.  He’s already taken,” Sarah said with the confidence of a woman who had it all.  She felt renewed, reenergized, as if someone had thrown her a lifeline.

“Well, I tried.”  Linda dug in her purse and tossed Sarah a tissue then used another one to clean her own face.  After blowing her nose, she filled the room with laughter.  “Did I ever tell you ’bout the time I got caught kissing Stanley Peterson at lunch when I was in the sixth grade?”

“No, you didn’t.  Did you get expelled?”

“No, but momma grounded me for two weeks.  Now, tell me when the doctors first diagnosed you with cancer.  And don’t leave anything out.  Cause if you do—”

“I won’t.  I can’t afford to lose my friend for a third time.  You mean too much to me.”

“Alright, don’t go all mushy on me.  Can you make a pot of coffee and cook some eggs?  You owe me a meal.  And start talking.”

9Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.

10For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one

who falls when there is not another to lift him up.”  (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

Author’s Note:  Loving your friends and neighbors, and your sisters and brothers in Christ is a risky business, but a risk we must take or we’ll find ourselves alone, with no one to lift us up.

by Donna Comeaux

for the Ruby for Women October and November Issues

September 22, 2017

Epilogue

Though the characters and events in this short story are fictional, they resemble my real life experience with a friend who was close to me.  Linda’s feelings of betrayal are undeniably deep and painful.  Although she didn’t completely let go of Sarah’s friendship, without a doubt she understood their relationship couldn’t move forward without putting a pin in the elephant in the room.  Their differences needed a resolution.  Love required they come to an understanding and reach a new level of respect for one another.

It is important to address issues which hinder your relationships.  False pretenses are merely lies wedged between friends that end up rotting the marrow of your bones.  If these lies go unattended, they will plunge you into a lifetime of misery and heartache and spoil your walk with Jesus Christ.

Free yourself by first preparing your heart to forgive.  This comes through the reading of God’s word and your humble surrender to the Holy One.  Once you surrender, it’s then and only then that you’ll be able to offer opportunities to those who have wronged you to repent.  Either go to them, or clothe your heart and mind and countenance with godliness so they can approach you.

This is hard.

I’m still a work in progress.

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