A Light in the Darkness, Ch. 5 & 6

Chapter 5

 

The others had gone home. Finally.  Thankfully.  It was nice to have some peace and quiet after the stress of the day.  Gabe finished up the paperwork for the day, laid out the schedule for Friday, and closed up shop.  He headed out through the dying light and jumped in the pickup.  Tonight he was sure he wouldn’t have company, so maybe he could finally get some reading done.

 

He drove the mile to the carriage house down the bumpy make-shift trail. Pulling up to the towering, gray building, memories of the night before ripped through him, but he fought to ignore them.  He went to the heavy door.  Shut tight.  Somehow his heart dipped at that understanding.  He pulled it open, stepped into the darkness beyond, and tugged on the string of the little overhead light.  His motion stopped as he stood, listening.

 

Yes, it was empty.  It even felt empty.  His gaze slid to the rug, the cup, and the blanket lying on the floor by the stone-cold stove.  Vowing not to give in to the thoughts of her, he picked up the debris and headed up the stairs.  At the top, he reached over and turned on the main light which hung high above even the second floor.

 

Familiarity and gratefulness poured through him.  This was home—more so than the other places he had spent his life.  He pitched the things onto the couch, used the bottle of water and the basin to wash out the cup and set it in its normal place on the little shelf.  Turning back to the room, his thoughts went to what to read, what to study tonight.

 

He pulled two of the books he was reading from the bookshelf and then pulled out the third that he had yet to start.  With them, he walked over to the couch and sat down.  Closing his eyes, he concentrated on centering himself and calming down the rushing emotions inside him.  “Dear Lord, cast away all fear and all demons from this place.  Help me to see what You want me to see tonight. I ask this in Your Holy Name.  Amen.”

 

Reflexively his eyes opened, and calm returned to his spirit. He reached for one of the books and grabbed a pen from the side table.  He opened the book where he’d left off, and God’s tutoring commenced.

***

She’d been so stunned by the announcement that Holly hadn’t even been able to get a protest out. Instead she sat, forking through her meal without really eating much of it. However, just before the end of the meal even that wasn’t enough to stave off the complete lack of control she had over her life.

 

“Oh, I forgot to tell you,” Luke said as their plates were taken and dessert was served. “I finally talked to Jean Paul this morning.”

 

“Oh?” Her mother sounded so excited.

 

“He had plans for tomorrow night, but I talked him into taking you out on Saturday night,” he said to Holly.  Every shred of movement in her stopped. “He and some of his friends are going out.  He didn’t have a date lined up, so it will work out perfectly.”

 

Holly had to hold down the wretch.  She stared at Luke in utter shock.

 

“Oh, isn’t that wonderful, Darling?”  Her mother shivered with excitement. “This is so right.  I can just feel it.”

 

Funny how that feeling did nothing for Holly.

***

She had fled from the table the moment it was a possibility.  In her room she closed the door and flipped the lock.  Leaning on the door, she pushed the thoughts of her mother’s machinations in her life away.  She needed some sanity, someone to tell her she wasn’t crazy for not falling into line like a good little soldier.

 

Her gaze went to the doors, down the trellis, and out into the night.  But there was no guarantee he would be there again.  Why he had even come the night before wasn’t wholly clear.  Pushing that idea down, she flopped onto the bed and grabbed her cell phone.         She dialed the number, laid her wrist over her eyes, and collapsed into the pillows.

 

“Hello?”

 

“Hey, Becca.”

 

“Holly!”  Strange how happy Becca sounded about that.  “How are you?  We’ve been worried sick.  How’s California?”

 

Holly sighed long and hard. “Great.  I went sunning by the pool today, got to show off my tan to two of the workers here.  Now I’m signed up to go to Paris in two weeks. Oh, and I have a date Saturday night with Jean Paul.”

 

There was no way Becca would be impressed by any of it.  That’s why Holly didn’t even try.

 

“Gee, she doesn’t mess around, does she?”

 

“Oh, and I’m forbidden to get a car or to ride in anything other than a limo, so working is out.  I’m stuck in my room 23 hours a day unless she drags me out for mother/daughter bonding time.  You know, shopping, sitting by the pool, showing off for the staff.  Fun stuff like that.”

 

The concern was evident in Rebecca’s voice.  “Didn’t you tell her about wanting a job and wanting your own money?”

 

The laugh dripped with sarcasm.  “Who needs money?  We’re rich.  Remember? We’ve got credit cards and frequent flyer miles and counts asking us for dates.”

 

“Counts?”

 

Holly shook her head. “It’s a long story.”

 

The other side fell silent for a long moment.  “Isn’t there anything good at all?  Nothing?”

 

A memory of standing over a young man pulling weeds drifted over her, but Holly smiled sadly. “Nothing that’s real.”

***

Every truly rich soul needs a defining vision for life, a map, an understanding of direction.  Without it, you are left adrift on a sea of ever-changing destinations—none of which hold what you are most seeking.  They are like rainbows, beautiful, inviting until you reach them and find that they have moved.

Therefore, you must seek not just the rainbow that the world holds out as success, but true success.  The success that comes when you find True Power and Real Peace.  These two, the lion and the lamb, lying together in perfect harmony are the real destination, the real yearning of every soul.  Rich souls are those who seek them, find them, and mesh their lives around the framework and structure that they provide.

To do this, you must be willing to first understand the difference between worldly power and True Power, the difference between worldly peace and Real Peace.  Those are the aims of Part I in this book.

Gabriel yawned long and hard.  He pushed the sleep back from him, but it reasserted itself more forcefully.  Reluctantly he looked at his watch. He needed to be getting home.  His mother would be worried.  He reached for the little marker, slipped it into the page, and replaced this book along with the others.

 

As he shut off the overhead light and let himself down the stairs, he wondered at the book’s message contained in its title.  True Power and Real Peace. It was the one Marvin had sent.  Yet with at least ten other yet-to-be-read books sitting on his shelves not to mention the five he was already reading, he hadn’t pulled it down until tonight.

 

The lion and the lamb, he thought as he got into the pickup.  He’d heard that phrase before but had never really understood it.  With another yawn, he backed out and drove off.  If only there were more time to read and study the masters.  If only he didn’t have work now and school in a few months.

 

“There will be time, Gabriel.”  The familiar voice drifted through him.  “Be patient, and be content with taking this step.”

 

Gabe knew better than to argue with that voice.  Tonight especially.  He was worn out, body, mind, and spirit.  Tonight there could be nothing but acceptance of his human limitations.  Yes, tonight he would rest.  Tomorrow he would learn more because he had learned to believe in tomorrow, not as a way to put off today but as a way of understanding that today held today’s lessons, and tomorrow would hold lessons of its own.

 

“It’s that grace thing again, huh God?” he asked as he pulled up to his parents’ home.  “Grace for this moment, and trusting that the grace will be there for each moment at the moment it is most needed in the future.”

 

He might not be there yet, but he was learning.

***

Morning slipped over the eastern horizon as if opening its eyes for a new day.  No trumpets sounded to wake Holly up.  Not even an alarm clock—just the morning itself, and that was enough.  She pulled herself from the bed, slipped on her jeans that she had readied the night before, and grabbed a sweatshirt.

 

She pulled the brush through her hair only twice but never even thought of makeup.  In minutes she was flying down the stairs, one destination in mind.

 

“Good morning,” she said to Rosa in the kitchen.

 

“Oh, good morning, Ma’am,” Rosa said in surprise.  “I’m sorry, Ma’am, I haven’t even started the breakfast yet.”

 

Holly waved her off.  “I’m fine.”  She went to the coffee pot, poured herself a cup, added a little cream, and carefully picked up the steaming cup.  Her gaze chanced on the clock.  7:15.  If she was lucky…

***

“Thank You, Dear Lord, for this day,” Gabriel prayed as he pulled on the small weed.  It came up with no effort.  “Thank You for the beauty You so willingly share with us.  Thank You for letting me be a small part of that beauty, for teaching me how to be a part of it.”  He reached deep beneath a gladiola and pulled another weed.  “Please bless my parents today.  Bless Tim and Darius.”

 

The familiar litany stopped when his senses picked up movement just behind him.  He swung around, startled.

 

“Morning,” Holly said, and like an angel appearing from nowhere, she stood there, huddled over herself and her cup.

 

“Oh, hey.”  His brain immediately stopped the prayer and began work on why she might be standing there, but it kept crashing into the vision of her instead.

 

She seemed to sense his hesitancy, and the look of confidence fell from her eyes. “I’m sorry. I’m intruding.”  A moment and she started to turn.

 

“No, hey.”  He stumbled to his feet and held out his hands. “The garden’s yours to enjoy whenever you want.  I can just go over there.”

 

“Over… No!”  Wild panic leaped into her eyes.  “No.  I mean, I’m not… I didn’t… I just thought…” The breath sounded almost fearful.  “You don’t have to change what you were doing on my account.  I just… I didn’t see you again yesterday, and I wanted, you know, to come out here and say hi.”  Her confidence was waning with every word.  “You said yesterday that you weed every morning, so I thought… I might catch you out here.”

 

The idea that she might have come solely to see him brushed across his heart like the touch of a feather.  He smiled at it and her.  Then embarrassment cascaded on him, and he scratched the side of his ear.  “Well, you caught me.”

 

They stood like that, face-to-face for a long, long moment.

 

“You can, you know… You can work,” she said, indicating the flowers. “I don’t mind.”  She took a sip of the coffee.  “I just thought it would be nice to talk for a minute, while you work, if you don’t mind.”

 

Mind?  Other than he couldn’t think straight with her watching him and he might well pull up half the garden and none of the weeds?  Why should he mind that? “Oh, well. Okay.”

 

Awkwardly he lowered himself back to the ground, conscious that she was watching.  He bent under the flowers, feeling for weeds.  Locating two, he pulled them out and added them to the little pile.  Then he scooted down the trail.

 

“So you do this every morning?” she asked.

 

“Yep.  Except Sundays.  Sundays are for church and family.”

 

“Then you have a family?  I mean someone close.”

 

He pulled out a couple more and scooted down four more feet.  That was farther than he normally went, but he went anyway in the interest of putting more distance between them.  However, in seconds she was standing right there again.  “Yeah, my mom and dad.  They live about five miles thata way.”

 

“Oh, really.”  She took a sip.  “So no wife then?  No kids?”

 

“Nope.  No wife. No kids.”  His face lit with heat, and he pulled at the collar of his shirt.  It was going to be a scorcher today the way he felt.  “You?”

 

“No, no wife for me either.”  She laughed at the joke as he looked back at her and stopped.  Her beauty outshone even the sunshine.  Bending her head, she took a sip.  “It’s just me and my mom.”  Clouds of melancholy drifted over her face.  Then she jumped. “And of course Mr. Teracini.”

 

Gabriel returned to weeding, more intrigued than he could say.  “So, I guess you’re thrilled about the wedding then.”

 

“Yeah, thrilled.”  She sounded anything but, and he took that in as well.  A moment slid into the next.  “So, you said you pray out here.  What’s that about?”

 

Confusion traipsed through him. “What’s praying about?”

 

“Yeah.  I mean, you come out here early and pray.  Why would you do that?” She took another sip.

 

Why had never really been a question he’d thought of.  “Well, it’s usually quiet.  There aren’t many people out at this hour yet.  I don’t have to think about scheduling and chores for the day yet.  It’s just me and God’s beauty.” He sat back and waved his hands around in case she didn’t know what he was talking about.

 

She nodded in appreciation.  “It is beautiful.  Did you plant it?”

 

He leaned back into his work.  “Some of it, the annuals.  My dad planted the rest.”

 

“Your dad?”

 

Gabriel worked with the weeds for another ten seconds.  “He’s the head groundskeeper.”  A knifing pain slid through him. “Or he was until…”

 

The wait stretched.

 

“Until?”

 

He took a breath to stave off the fear. “He had a heart attack a couple weeks ago.  Stress and hard work, I guess.”  He pulled a few more weeds and slid down the walk.  “I took over until he can come back.”  Oh, the thoughts that pulled up.

 

“When will that be?”

 

The breath did nothing to calm him.  “Monday.  He’s supposed to be back Monday.”

 

She stopped. “You don’t sound too thrilled about that.”

 

Was there a way to not answer that question?  He didn’t see it.  “Mom’s worried about him—that he’s going to do too much.  But that’s Pop.  He doesn’t know the meaning of slow down.”

 

Holly nodded, the concern in his voice transferring to her motions.  “So you’re worried too?”

 

Gabriel pulled two more weeds out and sat back to look at his watch.  Surprise struck him like a sledgehammer.  7:54.  He hadn’t realized it was so late.  “Wow!  I’ve got to get.”  He jumped up, swept the little pile of weeds from the walk, and looked her right in the eye, shocked at his own ability to do so.  “Take care.  I’ll see you later.”

 

“Yeah,” she said, her gaze changing as she examined his eyes.  “Later.”

 

With that, he spun and strode out of the garden.  Away from her.  She had a way of making his mind mush and his heart do weird things.  Plus, she’d totally destroyed his praying hour.  Instead of centered and ready, he felt frazzled and scattered.

 

“Morning, boss,” Darius said when Gabe stalked through the work shop and dumped the weeds in the trash.

 

“Morning.”  But today would be a struggle. Gabe knew that to the depths of his soul.

***

The fact he hadn’t answered drifted around and through Holly as she stood and watched him go.  He was worried, that much was clear.  She wondered how bad the heart attack was and if his father really was ready to come back to work.  Strange how that suddenly felt like a void in her that she had no way to fill.

 

Pushing the thoughts down, she slid her feet along the path.  The flowers stood at attention to the growing sunshine.  She wondered how he knew the weeds from the flowers.  After all, everything he pulled was tiny.  As she opened the door to go back inside, she vowed to be in the garden the next morning to find out.

***

He was right.  The day was a disaster from minute two.  The lawn mower broke again. They tried to tackle fixing the fence between the vineyard and the estate only to find the supplies they needed would have to be ordered.  Then, later, at home his mother had begged him to find a way to make his father slow down.  Why she even asked was beyond Gabe.  He had as much control over his father as he had over the weather.  Worse, what little control he did have slipped completely from his grasp the next morning.

 

He was working on the other side of the path, praying—but mostly that she wouldn’t show up this morning.  He couldn’t take another day like yesterday.  “Dear Lord, I’m asking…”

 

“Good morning.”  She sounded so happy about that.

 

Gabe turned a tired, weary face up to her.  “Morning.”

 

The coffee was back as was the maroon and gold Boston Central sweatshirt.  She stood there, sipping coffee, waiting for the conversation he didn’t start.  Finally she simply sat down on the walk next to him.  That was sure to make thinking and breathing impossible—to say nothing about praying.

 

“So what do you pray about anyway?” she asked, taking a sip.

 

He glanced at her, thinking if he just told her off now, she would leave.  However, he had prayed for more territory, for more people he could touch with the lessons God had given him.  He just hadn’t expected one to show up in his sanctuary.  “Everything.”  He scooted down the walk, and she scooted with him.

 

“Like what?”

 

Frustration poured into him.  “Work, school, home.”  He shrugged.  “Same things everybody prays about.”

 

There was no answer for a long minute.  “I guess that means you believe in God then.”

 

That stopped him.  He glanced over at her.  “Of course.  Don’t you?”

 

She took a sip.  “I don’t know.  I mean what’s He ever done for me?  You know?”

 

It was a question he’d never really thought about because he’d been baptized two weeks after he’d been born and had never questioned the existence of God even when he turned his back on Him.  He turned his gaze on her seriously.  “Well, are you breathing?”

 

Her look was one of confusion.  “Breathing?  Well, yeah.  Why?”

 

Gabe scooted farther away from her.  “Then He’s done something for you.  What do you think, you’re the one who gave yourself life?”

***

It was a question Holly had never really considered.  True, she wasn’t responsible for her existence, but did that necessarily mean there was a God?  “No.  I guess not.”  The coffee she sipped to look nonchalant burned all the way down.

 

“And walking, talking, being?  You did all those yourself too, right?”

 

She was starting to hate this conversation.  “Well, no. But I don’t see…”

 

“That’s just it.” He shook his head.  “It amazes me how people can take the gifts God gives them and blow them off like they are nothing. They never stop to see, to think about it.”  He sat back and looked at the white gladiolas towering above them on the walk.  “Take these for example.  I didn’t tell them how to bloom.  I didn’t tell them what to become.  They knew.  Even when they were a seed, they knew how and what to become without any help from anyone.  And now, here they are an ordinary, everyday miracle, and we walk right by them without ever realizing they’re there.”

 

He reached beneath the plant and pulled a weed.

 

“It’s a flower,” Holly said, shrugging.  “Why’s it such a miracle?”

 

That brought him to a full, all-out stop.  He looked at her for a long moment, but she couldn’t read the words in his eyes.  Then suddenly he stood.  Her gaze followed him up.

 

“Come here.”  He reached for her hand.  In confusion she let him help her to her feet.  Gently he turned her from the side they were on to the other side of the walk.

 

She glanced at him in worried confusion.  “Where are we going?”

 

“Here,” he said, and he pulled her back down to the walk in front of a clump of a green plant with about a million blossoms. He pointed to the plant strewn with the brilliant red flowers. “There.  What do you see?”

 

What was that?  A trick question?  “Umm, flowers?”

 

His face softened along with his eyes.  He lifted his chin toward it.  “What kind of flowers?”

 

She wasn’t good at botany.  “Red flowers?”

 

“Big or little?”

 

“Little.”

 

“What about the leaves?”

 

Only then did she really begin to look at the distinctiveness of the plant.  “Little ones.”

 

“Why?”

 

She looked at him.  “Why… what?”

 

“Why is it like that?”

 

How was she supposed to know?  “Because… it was made that way?”

 

“By Whom?”

 

“By…”  Hmm.  She hadn’t really thought about it.  “I don’t know.  The gardener?”

 

“No, the gardener just plants the seeds, but the seeds already know what they are to be.  The gardener puts them in the ground, waters them, and keeps the weeds from choking them out, but otherwise they know what to do.  Nobody has to teach them to grow or how to grow or what to be.  They just know.”  He stood again.  “See, come here.”

 

Once again she was being helped to her feet.  This time she left the coffee cup where she had put it on the walk.  It was too much trouble to keep up with it too. She followed him solemnly to the other side of the walk.

 

“You see this one?” He pointed out a plant with long stems supporting delicate blue and purple trumpet-like flowers.  It was beautiful in its fragility.

 

“Yeah,” she said, trying to ascertain his meaning before he stated it.

 

His hand stayed on her back for no reason that she could adequately explain. “Why is it different than the other one?”

 

She felt his gaze slide across her face and suddenly the fact that he was mere inches from her invaded every other thought.  “I don’t know because they’re different plants?”  Her heart was hammering so loudly, she couldn’t even hear her own answer.

 

His gaze was intense, like a laser. “Who made them different?”

 

Holly knew the answer he wanted.  It was right there for the taking.  However, every thought of God made her angry, and to admit He was responsible for beauty was like having to give up part of her animosity.  “Why does it matter who made them different?  They are.  That’s all we need to know.”

 

He studied her, waiting.  “Do you really believe that?”

 

Well, she had until she looked into his eyes.  That look evaporated all of the blitheness that had gotten her to this point.  She couldn’t talk, couldn’t even think.  There was a knowing, a solid understanding so deep in him it took her breath away.  Thoughts scattered in a million different directions, and she couldn’t gather a one of them to save her life.

 

“I’ve got to go,” he said softly.  “But the garden’s yours.  The flowers are His gift to you today.  Okay?”

 

“Okay.”  Why she said it other than she could think of nothing else to say, she would never know.  She nodded, not fully comprehending the spell she’d somehow fallen under.

 

“Here.”  He led her to another set of plants.  They were white with large bowl-like flowers.  “Sit.”  He helped her to sit down onto the walk.  “Look at it, and let it tell you about Him.  They say it better than I ever can anyway.”

 

For a moment Holly looked up at him in fear, but his smile came freely.

 

“It’s okay.  It’s got all the time in the world to teach you.”  With that, he scooped up the few weeds he’d pulled and strode out of the garden, glancing back only once.

 

When he was gone, Holly wondered what kind of a weird person would think listening to a plant made any sense.  She almost got up without so much as looking, but her gaze swept across the little plant before she did.  The colors of it seemed to come alive. Stopping, she let her gaze hone in on it.

 

The little plant swayed in the gentle breeze.  When it came to a stop, one of the flowers almost central to it grabbed her attention.  She narrowed her eyes, thinking she must be completely crazy.  The petals seemed to be made of velvet.  She had never bothered to look that closely at them.  It had veins of deep gray running to the center of its core of yellow.

 

What had he said about not having to teach a seed?  This little flower, delicate but strong, beckoned her into a new understanding of life.  He was right.  No one had to teach this flower to be what it was meant to be.  It just was.  Nurturing and care, yes.  But it knew.  Its shape and size and color were coded into it before the first shoot even broke the soil.

 

A smile of soft recognition drifted through her whole spirit.  “You are a miracle, little one.  Look at you.”  The breeze picked it up, causing the flower to dance, and Holly laughed out loud.  “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were dancing for joy.”  Peace and calm settled over the whole garden.  She let her head fall back, her face warming in the early morning sun.  It was a glorious morning.

***

“Hey, boss,” Darius said as Gabe strode through the work shed and pitched the pitiful handful of weeds into the trash.  If she didn’t stop showing up, they were going to have to waste a full day weeding that darn garden.

 

“Tim not here yet?”

 

“Not yet.”

 

Why did that not surprise him?  “I think I’ll let you two take care of the front beds this morning.  I’ve got to get this mower going.”

 

Tires crunched on gravel.

 

“There’s Tim.  We’ll get right on it.” Darius walked out, letting the door bang behind him.

 

Gabe collapsed into the chair and put his fingers to his eyes.  Everything about him felt discombobulated and distracted.  With a heave of air, he launched himself out of the chair.  “Get it together, Gabe.  She’s just a girl.”

***

All morning long Holly spent in the garden, walking slowly, sitting with each plant.  Seeing, yes, but hearing more.  It was fascinating how each and every little flower had a different story to tell.  Some were happy, some seemed sad.  All spoke of a knowing—who they were and why they were here.  She wished she could be as sure as they were.

 

The sun was a quarter of the way into the sky when she finally made her way back into the house.  It seemed decidedly cooler than outside.  She put her arms over themselves to ward off the chill.  She left her cup in the kitchen and had started up the stairs when her mother came around the corner.  Already dressed in Armani, she looked ready for a meeting—or to take over the world.

 

“There you are!  Thank Heavens.  Where have you been?”

 

Holly didn’t want her mother to know, lest she invade that small oasis as well. “I just ate.  I was headed up to take a shower.”

 

“Well, we have got some strategizing to do.” Her mother climbed to her side and laced her arm through Holly’s.

 

Uh-oh. That couldn’t be good. “Strategizing?  For what?”

 

“For tonight of course.  Jean Paul.  San Francisco.  Hello. Is any of this registering?”

 

Her wonderful, beautiful morning crashed to her feet, splintering into a thousand shards.  “Oh, yeah.”

 

It was as if her mother was dragging her into a life she had no desire to enter as they climbed to the top of the stairs.  “I was thinking.  You need to be prepared in case he has plans for after you go out.”

 

“After?”

 

“Well, his apartment’s in San Fran, silly.  And it will be late before it’s time to leave.  He might well ask you to stay the night.”

 

Stay the night? The words screamed through her.  She didn’t even know this guy and already her mother had her sleeping with him?  “I don’t know, Mom.  I think I’ll just have him bring me home.”

 

They stepped into her room. “Well, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared… in case he asks.  After all, you don’t want to do something to mess this up right out of the box. It’s the chance of a lifetime.”

 

Dread had never meant so much.

***

Somehow he’d fixed the mower although Gabe was pretty sure the Holy Spirit finally took pity on him and fixed it Himself.  He mowed the side hill and the back and was just stowing the mower when the Porsche on the front circle caught his attention.  It was little, black, and fast.

 

Knowing he shouldn’t, he got the mower in, shut it off, and went to the door.  It was probably a business associate or a buyer.  On a Saturday night?  At seven o’clock? his brain asked.

 

The guy who got out was hardly old.  In fact, if Gabe was guessing, the guy was just about his age.  Tall, blond, broad shoulders.  He looked like a hill boy from school.  Hill boy.  It was what the scrubs called the rich pretty boys with their big bank accounts and bigger egos.

 

At the door to the mansion the guy ran his fingers through his light hair and rang the doorbell.  In a moment the door opened, and he disappeared inside.  Gabe shook his head.  What should he care who came to visit?  What business was it of his?  He turned his attention to his desk and picked up next week’s schedule.  It was the first his father hadn’t completed, and Gabe knew it would look like he couldn’t handle things if it wasn’t ready on Monday morning.

 

He pulled the three prior year schedules from the file cabinet and sat down.  However, he remembered the time cards on the far wall.  He would need them too before the night was over. He got up and was halfway across the opening of the work shed when his gaze snagged on movement at the mansion’s front door.  Like being hit with a punch, he stopped.

 

The sight ripped the breath from him, and he leaned on the door so he wouldn’t fall.  On the steps, the blonde hair flowing in the breeze, Holly reached up and brushed it away.  Dressed in a white top covered by a sheer white wrap, she moved with a grace that defied logic.  It was actually like she was floating.  She smiled up at Porsche boy.

 

Gabe’s heart crashed to the concrete when he realized the guy was escorting her out.  He led her to the car and helped her inside.  They were long gone before Gabe could so much as breathe again, and then it hurt like it never had before.  Closing his eyes, he set his jaw.

 

“What kind of fantasy life were you having anyway?  Of course she’s got a boyfriend.  She’s beautiful and rich.  What guy wouldn’t kill to go out with her?”  In disgust, he turned for the wall with the time sheets.  Work.  Think about work.  She’s a fantasy that never was, Gabe.  You knew it from the moment you saw her. Get back to reality here before you screw that up too.

***

She couldn’t breathe.  It was like drowning in new car clean air.  Holly chanced a glance at Jean Paul.  He was good-looking.  Dashing would’ve described him well.  He was blond instead of the deep ebony hair his uncle had.  It was thick and had a small wave to it.  He had a straight nose and an air of confidence that was impossible to miss.

 

“So, you’re here for the summer?” he asked, glancing over at her. There was a hint of an accent gracing the edges of the words.

 

“Yeah.  Just the summer though.”  She didn’t want him to get the idea that this would ever be permanent.  “I’ll be heading back to Boston in August.”

 

“Boston.  Wow.  You’re in college then?”

 

She wrapped her arms over themselves. “I’m a junior.”

 

He nodded in approval.  “Majoring in?”

 

She hated this part.  Her gaze chanced over to him, and she could hear her mother screaming at her to impress him. “Political science.”

 

“Really?” He sounded impressed.  It sent daggers through her.  “What do you plan to do with that?”

 

“Oh, you know.” She shrugged. “Take over the world.”

 

Jean Paul laughed.  He laid his hand on the gearshift in invitation to hers.  “My kind of girl.”

 

She knew the drill better than she knew her own name.  Pretending it was the invitation she’d wanted her whole life, she put her hand in his.  The touch made her want to throw up, but she held that back.  Why did she go down this stupid road every time?  Even when she swore she wouldn’t.  It must be woven into her DNA.

 

Sitting with a flower slipped into her consciousness, and she cringed at the parallel.  Maybe Gabriel was right.  Maybe you couldn’t fight what you were supposed to be.  She glanced over at Jean Paul.  A girl could do much worse, and if this was her destiny, then she needed to find a way to be happy about that.

 

He glanced over at her, and she smiled back.  Yes, she knew how to play the game as well.

 

Chapter 6

 

Thankfully Jean Paul didn’t invite her to stay.  It was nice enough being with him.  He held the doors for her and included her in every conversation.  He got drinks for her and stayed close the whole night.  Okay, so the talk about foreign posts and international events bored her to tears, and by the end he’d really had too much to drink for him to be driving her home.  Still, she of all people knew it could have been so, so much worse.

 

“I had a nice time,” he said as they sat in the circle drive under the gaze of the mansion.  His eyes were heavy with the latent alcohol and the late night.

 

“Me too,” she said, the nerves of ‘what next’ attacking her.  She swung her hair just so over her shoulder.  “Thanks for taking me even if you did get suckered into it.”

 

He slid his arm over her shoulders and took her hand in his other.  “I didn’t mind.”  His gaze searched hers, and the moment hung between them.  Then, carefully he leaned toward her.  Although the alcohol could have clouded more than his judgment, the kiss was sweet, not demanding or pressing.  In a heartbeat it was gone.  “Well, we’d better get you in.”

 

“Yeah,” she breathed.  He really was good-looking, and on par with her other dates he hadn’t been that bad.

 

In the next moment he was out of the car and around to her side.  He helped her out and walked her up the steps.  At the front door she stopped because he did.

 

“So, can I call you again?” he asked, sounding like it was possible she would say no.  He leaned on the doorframe, partly to block her exit, partly to stay standing.

 

Everything in her screamed no.  Why she wasn’t really sure because the truth was he was nice, and that was far better than any of the other guys her mother had set her up with.  “Sure.”

***

Gabe got nothing out of Mass on Sunday.  He considered going to the carriage house to get a book, but the thought of running into her was enough to keep him away.  Instead he spent the day mapping and remapping the last of his classes.  The next semester’s schedule was already set.  It was the following two that kept him up at nights.

 

What was the best way, the best electives to get him a leg up when he got out?  To own a vineyard, you needed business skills second to none.  It was a huge operation, and one whose success hinged on so many factors.  The why of wanting to own one drifted through him along with the ever-present admonition:  A strong enough why will drive the effort to find the how.

 

A strong enough why.

 

He heard the voices down the hall, and his planning stopped.  He’d heard it all before, but somehow with the approach of tomorrow, it seemed more critical today.

 

“I just wish you would listen to Dr. Hodges,” his mother said.  “Find something different.  Something that doesn’t involve so much lifting and hard work.”

 

“Hard work is all I know how to do, Re.  You know that.  Besides, I’d rather die doing something I love than to sit at a desk all day.”

 

“But, Carlos…”

 

“But nothing.  I’m going to work.  End of discussion.”

 

The thumping of the boots followed by silence told Gabriel his mother was alone again, sitting in the kitchen, fighting not to cry. He’d seen her like that many, many times growing up.  At the time he didn’t understand it.  Now he did.

 

His father’s job was not glamorous.  There was really no ladder to climb once you got where he had been for 20 years.  Worse, raises were few and far between.  He took odd jobs on the side to keep up with the bills, and when even that wasn’t enough, he’d suffered the indignity of having his wife get a job.

 

She had cleaned an office building in town until two years before when she hurt her back.  It had been solid and paid pretty well, but Gabe knew his father felt like a failure because of it.  And now, here they were facing the sunset of their lives, with little more than Social Security to fall back upon.

 

Gabe turned his attention back to his school schedule.  In a year and a half, he would have a new future, one his parents could only dream of, and he had done it without going to them for a penny.  He worked.  He found scholarships.  He studied his brains out.  He’d made the Dean’s List every semester and the President’s List three.

 

But he was under no illusions.  Good grades and hard work guaranteed nothing.  He would need a lot of good breaks and divine intervention to avoid the fate his parents had found.  However, his heart beat every beat toward something different, something better, for himself and for the family he wanted to have someday.  They would be counting on him, and with the last breath in him, he would never leave his wife crying in the kitchen because he couldn’t provide.  It was a solemn vow he’d made with the universe, and one he was determined to keep.

***

On Sunday morning Holly wandered the garden for two full hours waiting for him, but he never came.  It felt like a hole in the middle of her soul.  She thought about going out to the carriage house to look there, but she still had no idea why he’d even come that first night.  Bored and searching for something to hold her heart, she walked out to the gazebo as the sun arched into the sky.

 

She sat down and let her thoughts go.  This place, this garden seemed so magical, almost like the wardrobe that led to Narnia.  She put her arms over themselves and leaned back on the rough wood.  Narnia.  It had been her favorite book growing up.  Okay, one of her favorites along with Charlotte’s Web and Bridge to Terabithia.  They all held keys to worlds other than the one she occupied.  Had it not been for those books, her world would have been much smaller and even darker than it was.

 

Somehow when she went on the adventures with Lucy and the others, the details of her own life seemed less stifling.  In those far away lands, kids and pigs could battle even the wickedest of the wicked and not only survive but thrive.  They could step into their rightful places as princes and princesses and sit on thrones to rule over all the kingdom.

 

She had so wanted to do that—to rule over her whole kingdom.  In her kingdom the wicked would be punished, and the wise and good would be honored and revered.  The best of the best would never die, and all little children would grow up in peace, never even suspecting that darkness dominated the rest of the world.

 

Her gaze took in the sweeping vista of the vineyard below.  It was quiet and peaceful, much like the visions in her heart of her own kingdom.  A breeze streamed by, snagging her hair and sending it skittering across her face.  She brushed it back.  Why did, sitting here, everything she’d ever dreamed even in the most secret places of her suddenly seem possible. She had no idea, but it did.

***

“Well, you got in mighty late last night,” her mother said as they sat over a feast of roast beef and carrots.

 

“We had fun,” Holly said, stabbing a carrot.  She did not want to talk about her love life in front of Luke, but there wasn’t much of a choice.

 

“So, when are you going out again?”  Her mother’s expectant look drilled through Holly.

 

“He said he’d call me.”

 

“When?”

 

Exasperation slammed into her.  “I don’t know, Mom.  We had a nice time. He said he’d call.  What do you want, an engraved invitation to the wedding?” She regretted it the moment it was out of her mouth.

 

“A wedding?  Really?  So you really like this one.”  The knowing in her mother’s eyes made Holly sick.

 

“I was being sarcastic, Mom.”

 

“I think Holly is trying to keep the details to herself,” Luke said with a raise of his glass to her.  “And I think we should respect her privacy and let events take their appointed course.”

 

Holly wanted to say thank you.  Not being able to say it out loud, she said it with her eyes, and Luke responded in kind. Instantly she dropped her gaze lest he read more into her thank you than was there.

 

“Well,” her mother said, cutting her carrot with a fork and knife, “I don’t see what’s wrong with asking.  Is it so wrong for a mother to be curious?”

 

Again Holly glanced at Luke, who smiled.  At least he wasn’t going to drill her into the ground too.

***

Go.  Don’t go.  Go.  Don’t go.  The routine Monday morning was anything but normal.  If he went to the garden and she was there, his day would be shot.  But he couldn’t not go forever.  It was his job, and to add more to the list of chores that needed done would surely stress his father even further.  The plusses finally outweighed the minuses, and Gabe grabbed breakfast in one fist, coffee in the other, and headed out the door.

 

Praying like he’d never prayed before all the way there, he headed around the back of the estate.  “Dear Lord, please.  Please make her stay where she belongs.  I don’t need her here.  I’ve got things to do.”

 

Unfortunately the pleading did no good.  Ten steps down the walk, he found her sitting on the cold sidewalk, sipping her coffee.  Terrific. His steps slowed but did not stop.

 

“Good morning,” he said, picking up the stride, trying to pretend he was used to beautiful women sitting on the walk waiting for him.

 

“Oh, good morning.”  She sounded so happy about that, and her smile floated through his heart.

 

Stop it, he commanded himself. She’s got a boyfriend, remember?  A rich, Porsche-driving boyfriend. Still he let himself take one more long look. “You’re up awful early.”

 

The smile traveled to her eyes. “I couldn’t stay away.”

 

Ugh.  Did she know that she was killing him?  In desperation he flopped down onto the path and started his morning ritual, only nothing about this felt even vaguely familiar.  She watched him.  He felt it even as he dove into the bush of elephant ears.  He should say something, but he couldn’t think of anything.  Prayers and God seemed very far away.

 

“So, do you like pray in your head or what?” she asked after he’d completely stopped breathing.

 

He looked back at her from his position kneeling and leaning forward under the large gray and pink leaves.  “Huh?”

 

“You said you pray out here, right?  Well, I’ve never actually heard you, so I was wondering if you’re praying in your head or whispering it or something.”

 

The fact that he wasn’t praying at all, couldn’t pray with her sitting there, yanked frustration into him.  He took a hard breath to settle it.  “Well.”  He scooted down the path to the fall of yellow wisps of reeds and went back to work. Yanking the weeds out with a vengeance, he fought not to scream.  “Most of the time I pray in my head, and we kind of have a conversation.”  He pulled a fistful of weeds out, moved to the other side feeling more than seeing what wasn’t supposed to be there.

 

“We?” she asked, following him.

 

“We what?”  He was starting to wish he’d stayed in bed.

 

“You said, ‘We.’ ‘We have a conversation.’  Who’s we?”  She took a sip of her coffee.  He saw her even though he wasn’t really looking.  It was now a sight he knew by heart.

 

A plant wriggled at his nose, and he swiped at it.  “We.  You know, me and God.”

 

Skepticism rained down her face as he moved to the next green bush.  “You have a conversation with God?  Does He talk back to you?”

 

He would if you weren’t drowning Him out! “Yes, He talks back.”  Gabe  pricked four weeds up in quick succession.

 

“Like out loud and everything?”

 

Ugh.  How had he gotten into this conversation?  “No, it’s more like in my heart, in my head.  It’s like a feeling.”  He scooted down the path.  Oh, to have a quiet morning all to himself.  Why wouldn’t she leave him alone?

 

“A feeling?” She still sounded skeptical although he was trying not to look. “And you know what He’s saying like that?”

 

He was hardly breathing for the pent up frustration.  “Yeah, I do.”

 

For some reason she then became quiet, motionless on the walk behind him.  After a long moment of being in the midst of the plants, Gabe glanced back at her to make sure she was still there.  She was—looking at the plant in front of her, eyes focused in intense concentration.

 

That stopped his rush to get away from  her.  He laid his forearm on his knee, turned and watched her like that, listening to the flower’s whispered messages.  “What’s it saying?”

 

Nothing moved as he sat and watched her.

 

“That there’s a different way.”

 

The frustration evaporated from his body, and gentleness filled the void it left. “Different than what?”

 

“Than how I’ve been living.”  When her gaze slid to his, there was a depth of sadness he hadn’t expected. She shook her head as her gaze dropped to the path. “There’s just so much I want to do, so much I know I should be doing, that I feel I should be doing with my life, but I’m in this holding pattern waiting for something that might never come.”

 

“Something like what?”

 

This breath was long and slow.  “Permission to run my own life?”

 

His heart panged with the desperation in that question.  He tilted his head to be able to see her face.  “Who’s running it now?”

 

She looked up at him, dropped her head, sniffed, and looked off down the path. “My mother.”  She shook her head again.  “I don’t know.  Maybe it’s not even worth it.”

 

He had to know even if it meant getting nothing done the rest of the day. “Worth what?”

 

“Fighting about.”  The shrug was painful.  “Maybe I should just do it her way and forget about it.”

 

Deep worry cut into him.  “You’re serious.”

 

Her smile was one of resignation and surrender.  “She’s going to win no matter what I do.  What’s the point?”

 

He fought to come up with the words.  Then his gaze chanced on the pink quinces across the path.  “You know, if God made you to be a quince, you can’t be a tulip no matter how much you want to.”

 

She looked over at him.

 

“And no matter how much she wants you to be something else.  She doesn’t have the right to decide for you.  That’s between you and God.”

 

Holly considered that.  Then she took a breath and stood.  “I’d better let you get some work done.  Sorry I bothered you.”  In two strides she was past him, in two more she was at the bend.

 

Gabe was still working on what plans her mother had derailed, how many that might be, and what she might be derailing right now.  The moment his brain caught up with the fact that she was leaving, he scrambled to his feet.  “No, Holly. Wait.  Holly.”

 

But she kept walking.

 

“You weren’t bothering me,” he called.  However, she disappeared around the corner and was gone. He slammed the base of his thumb into his forehead and slid it upward hard.  “Well, that was great, Gabe.  Just absolutely fabulous. Way to go.”  His gaze fell to the plants at his feet.  She needed him.  She needed him, and what did he do?  He blew her off.  Why?  Because he couldn’t be bothered, because she had a boyfriend, because of his stupid pride?

 

He let his head drop backward so he was looking at the clear blue sky above him. “I’m really sorry, God.  Really.  I totally blew that one.  Please help her for me.  Please let her see what I meant.”  Short of knocking on their back door, there was nothing more he could do but hope and pray that God would send someone into her path who could say it better than he could.  She deserved that much.

 

With her sad eyes dogging his every step, he swept up the weeds and headed for the work shop.

***

Holly was ensconced on the bench seat which spanned the large bay window in the sitting room.  Her arms were woven around her knees. Her temple rested on the warm pane of glass.  Thoughts streamed over thoughts until she wasn’t sure which were even hers anymore.  She was so intent on listening to her thoughts that she never heard the footfalls enter and cross the room to the bookshelves.

 

“Oh, well hello,” Luke said in surprise when he spied her there.

 

Holly fought to smile, but it hurt.  “Hi.”

 

At first she thought he was going to find his book and leave, but when he turned, he looked at her over the top of the dark reading glasses perched on his nose.  He tilted his head to look at her, then shut the book.  “So, I guess you are all excited about Paris.”

 

She didn’t have the energy to put up the charade.  “I guess.”  Her gaze traveled back outside.

 

He didn’t move.  Then slowly he stepped over to the bench seat and sat at the far side.  “You’re not very excited about Paris, huh?”

 

What she’d just said jumped into her.  She slid straight up.  “Oh. I’m sorry.  I know it’s an amazing opportunity, and I should be so excited.”

 

“But you’re not.”

 

How could she lie when he was looking at her like that?  The act deflated, and she shook her head. “No.”

 

He nodded, thinking a moment. “I guess all this,” he said, lifting his chin and flitting his gaze about the room, “must have come as quite a shock.”

 

She let out a breath but kept her arms where they were.  “Yeah. Kind of.”

 

His gaze slid back to her.  “I hope you know that I love your mother very much, and I want us all to be a family.”

 

Of course he did.  They all did.  “I know.”  But it sounded flat even to her.  Her mother would be furious, but really she was trying.  It was just impossible to keep up this charade with new family after new family.  The expectation to fall into love with them and out of love with them on cue was draining.  “I never even got to say good-bye.”

 

“Good-bye?”

 

She shouldn’t say any more.  She’d already said too much.  “To Dan, my last stepdad.  She just called and said she was moving, and that was it.  I was supposed to drop everything like it was no big deal and follow her across the country, and now…” She looked around the house.  “Don’t get me wrong.  The place is great.  Really it is, but I keep wondering how long, you know?  How long until I get another phone call?  How long until I’m supposed to hate this place too?  How long am I supposed to keep living in her shadow, hoping she doesn’t completely destroy my life in the process of finding hers?”

 

Unbelievably it was understanding and compassion, not hurt and anger she saw on Luke’s face.  “It must be hard, starting over like that all the time.”

 

Tears threatened, but she fought them.  “Not half as bad as walking away from people you really love.”  She was losing the battle, and she shook her head vehemently to keep the tears from falling.  “I think it’s easier not to love at all.”

 

“Oh, sweetheart.”  Luke reached over to her and let his hand fall on her ankle.  His gaze drilled into her.  “I promise you, right here and right now, that whatever happens between me and your mom, you can come to me for anything.  I’m your dad now… No matter what.”

 

She wanted to believe him.  She really did.  But too many promises had been made and broken.  Too many guys had said the words and forgot them at the moment of greatest impact.  When she needed them the most, they evaporated.  It was how it was in her life.  She sniffed and sat up, trying to bury the hurt and all the accompanying tears.

 

“Better?”

 

She nodded because that’s what he wanted her to do.

 

“Good.  Now about this summer.  Are you planning to sit in windows and up in that room of yours the whole time?”

 

The sniffling gave her an excuse not to answer right away.  “Well, I wanted to get a job, but…”  No more came.

 

“But…?” he asked, surveying her carefully.

 

She shrugged.  “I don’t have a car, and I don’t think anyone would hire me for six weeks anyway.”

 

“Ah.”  Luke raised his chin in understanding. “Yes, that is a problem.”  He nodded slowly.  “But maybe… maybe there is a way around that problem.”

 

Holly ran her forearm under her nose trying to stop the dripping.  “Oh, yeah?  What’s that?”

 

Luke stood, and her gaze followed him up.  “Come with me.”

 

Concern went through her, but she got to her feet anyway. The melancholy shadowed her spirit as she walked with Luke down the hallway until at the very end they went through one small room with a completely clean desk.  At the other end, Luke opened a door to a very large room with a huge desk flanked by bookcases and an enormous window that spanned the entire back wall. She gulped the awe back.

 

“Please, have a seat,” Luke said, waving her to one of the leather chairs with the gold buttons holding the upholstery to it.

 

Carefully she sat down as the concern crawled up her gut. She watched every move he made.  However, all he did was go around and sit on the other side of the desk.

 

“Now,” he said, laying his hands on the desk, “why is it that you want a job?”

 

“Oh,” she said involuntarily.  It took a minute for the wheels to spin in her head. “Well, I have three semesters of college left, and I want to save some money up so I don’t have to rely on someone else to pay for it.  That way I can make my own decisions and not be worried about if they agree with what I want to do or not.”

 

Luke nodded seriously.  “And what about your major?”

 

“My… major?”  The word stuck in her throat.

 

“Yes, you have one, right?”

 

“I… Well, not really at the moment.  I’m trying to figure out what makes the most sense to do.”

 

He leaned over the desk.  “The most sense?  I don’t think I’m following you.”

 

The words crashed in her head.  How could she tell him all the reasons her life wasn’t her own?  “Well,” she said as her gaze fell to her hands, “I would really like to get a teaching degree—early childhood, but that… doesn’t pay very well.”

 

“So you are trying to find something else you like that pays better?”

 

Her gaze never came up as she nodded.  Watching that dream slide away hurt.  “I know I should find something wonderful like interior design or nursing or engineering, and I’ve tried those, but…”

 

“But?” he coaxed.

 

She shook her head. “They’re just not me.  I love little kids.  I love being around them and watching their eyes light up when they learn.  I want to be a positive in their lives because I know how often they don’t really have many of those.”  However, that was about as likely to happen as winning the lottery. The futility of even living descended on her with a thud.

 

“I see.  And this job for the summer, how does it fit in?”

 

She brightened for no logical reason. “Well, if I could get a job, then I’d have my own money, and I could choose what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go to school.  Even though no job really pays enough to do that.  At least it would be a start.”

 

His gaze narrowed at her.  “Do you type?”

 

“Type?  Uh, yeah.  75 words a minute.  I’ve also taken several computer classes in college, so I know how to work the latest software—word processing, database, that kind of thing.”  She sighed as the hopes for a summer job deflated inside her.  “Not that I can do anything with those while I’m stuck here.”  Her gaze drifted to the ceiling.  Then she heard her own comment, and it crashed back to him.  “No offense.”

 

Luke smiled.  “None taken.”  He leaned back and surveyed her.  “I think we could make it work.”

 

Work?  Huh?  What?  She cleared her throat and sat up straighter.  “Uh, what work?”

 

His eyes narrowed further until she thought lasers might shoot out of them. “How does nine o’clock tomorrow morning sound?”

 

Panic seized her.  “Nine o’clock? For what?”

 

“For your new job of course.”

 

“My new…” Alarmed disbelief surged, and she fought not to run. “Doing what?”

 

“Being my assistant.  I’ve got stacks of invoices that need filed, my computer is a mess.  I can never keep up with the messages that need written.  I’ve got expense reports that need done from six months ago.”  He nodded.  “Yes, this could work out very nicely.”

 

The panic increased to the point she couldn’t breathe.  “Oh, I don’t know.  I’ve never done anything like that. What if I mess it up?”

 

He laughed.  “Then you’ll be human.  Tell you what, meet me here at nine in the morning, and I’ll get you started with something.  We’ll play it by ear.”

 

Fear slammed through the panic. “What about my mom?”

 

“We’ll put it to a little test.  She leaves for London this afternoon.  We just won’t tell her until she gets back on Saturday.  That should give us some time to see if this arrangement has a chance.” With that he stood, and she scrambled to her feet as well.

 

She didn’t know whether to be grateful or worried. “I’m…” Fighting not to say anything dumb, she yanked grateful to her. “Thank you, Mr. Teracini.  I promise I’ll do a good job.”

 

“It’s Luke.” He put his hand out and shook hers. “And I have no doubt that you will.”

***

“Really, Dad,” Gabe said as the sun began its final descent in the sky, “I can get this.  Why don’t you go on home? I’m sure Mom’s got supper ready.”

 

His father was hunched over the paperwork on the desk. “Have you ordered more fertilizer for the grass? I noticed we were getting low.”

 

“I ordered it last week.  It was on the schedule.”

 

The nod did nothing to make him think he’d done anything special.  “How about the pool filters?  We always run low on them during the summer.”

 

“There are five in the pool house, and I have it on the list to order at the end of the month.”

 

“I’m worried about that mower.  That ticking sound has gotten worse.”

 

“Tim’s been working on it.  I think the timing’s still a little off.”  Gabe sighed.  “Really, Dad.  Everything’s good here.  Why don’t you go on home?”

 

A moment flowed into two and then three.

 

“Well.”  His father pushed away from the desk.  “I suppose that’s about all we can do for today anyway.”  He lumbered across the room and grabbed his hat before turning. “You coming?”

 

Gabe shook his head. “Not for a while.  I’ve got some things to do.”

***

As he climbed the steps up the side of the carriage house later, Gabriel’s thoughts went from his father to her, bouncing between the two like a ball with a mind of its own.  He hadn’t seen her all day.  Not that he ever did, but it was still strange how she seemed more like a ghost than a real person. He wondered what she was doing right now.  Probably eating a fabulous dinner at a table heaped with food.  Not that she looked like she ate more than a few crumbs a day, but it was the perception of what people in her position did more than anything.

 

Pushing those thoughts away because he knew they wouldn’t lead him anywhere productive, he picked up the book he’d been reading, the one that for now had captured his attention, True Power & Real Peace.  It was strange because although it wasn’t filled with big words and convoluted reasoning, it was deep in a way that few he had read really were.  He sat back on the couch, grabbed his pen, and thumbed through it to find his place.

 

Never underestimate the strength of True Power to radically change your life.  Those things that used to stop you with fear will be but leaves on the wind—blown away and gone.  However, it will not be your strength that sends them to their fate, it will be the strength that they perceive in you.  This strength is much like a river flowing inexorably to its destination.

A river is only as powerful as its source.  The same can be said of you.  A river that begins at the base of the valley from rains only in that area will run for the time the rains are present, but the moment the rains stop, the river becomes stagnant.  It will eventually go dry and become useless to the surrounding plants and animals as it awaits the rains again.

This is much like a person whose source is how circumstances treat him.  If circumstances are good—income is up, friends are plentiful, family is good—then his river of strength and power flows.  But the moment any of the circumstances change, the beneficial, replenishing rains cease, his happiness, his power dissipates to nothing.

A man who places his faith and worth on the shifting sands of circumstances is destined to see his power dry up and become useless.  It can be no other way. If circumstances are your power source, you’re in trouble.

But there is another way.  There is another Power Source which does not go dry, a Source which does not dissipate to nothing no matter what circumstances say.  This Source is like a river source that comes from high up in the mountains, fed by the snows and the rains.  A river fed by this type of source is continually replenished from the heavens, gravity pulls the power of the water down toward its destination, the ocean, where it rejoins the source once again.

A river like this is not at the mercy of circumstances for circumstances conform to it, not it to circumstances.  Towns build up around it.  Commerce comes to it.  Its path is sure, and its power is sustainable precisely because its source is not weak and fleeting.  Because its Source is the One True Source, it becomes a source for others—not the other way around.

So it is with rich souls.  They are not dependent upon the shifting sands of circumstances.  If circumstances do not favor them, they change the circumstances by the sheer power they embody.  This Power does not arise from outside sources that are weak and unreliable.  This Power comes from above.  It is True Power that comes only from God Himself.

God’s Power is not determined by circumstances.  It just is.  It flows from Him, the One Who made all things by saying, “Let there be.”  Understand, God’s Power is not obtained by taking power from something or someone else.  God’s Power is True Power.  It is The Source, and can be the only Source of a rich soul.

Trying to derive power from a position in a company, an award, money, even hard work is a fool’s game that will leave you with a pocket full of fool’s gold.  Those things are source with a small s—the little river sources that will dry up.  They are the world’s poor substitutes for how to really gain power. The only way to attain True Power is to connect your life unswervingly to The Source.

That means seeking His Wisdom, His Answer, His Way in every thing you do.  Not just the big things, but in the seemingly small things as well.  For it is the small things that determine the ultimate direction of your life.  You can choose to go to the best college in the world, but if you sleep late and skip class, it will do you no good. His power to make right decisions must flow through every moment of your life, not just a hand-selected few.

True Power lies in following God’s lead and letting His Power flow through you at every moment, in every situation—no matter how big or small.  Doing so gives the rich soul as the Gifts of the Holy Spirit imply:  Wisdom, Knowledge, Understanding, Right Judgment, Piety, Fortitude, and Fear of the Lord.  Perpetually acknowledging His presence in you and in your life will lead you to see that His Power works.  Your power doesn’t.  The power of the world doesn’t. Only His does.

The Bible says it best:  “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.”  Seek Him, put every moment in His hands, watch how He handles them, get to know Him, and you will begin to derive your power from The Source of True Power.

 

Gabe closed the book and lay very still, letting the words seep into him.  The Source of True Power.  The One Who said, “Let it be” and there it was.  From his other reading he had gotten glimpses of how much God loved him, how personally God cared about even the smallest things in his life, how at the moment of truth God’s power defined the moment.  If that were true, coupled with this new understanding, didn’t it follow that he could step out in absolute faith?

 

He knew about putting things in God’s hands, but prior to this, it had always felt like asking for more than he deserved.  But did the river ask for more water?  No.  It was simply connected to the highest source, and it let the rest of life take its course.

 

The stillness around him grew until it seemed to be made of light itself.  “God, I see it now.  I see how much I’ve been going on my own power even now, trying to find something that would make me feel like I was on something other than shifting sand, trying to get myself on something other than shifting sand.  I see it now. To have True Power, I need only to connect to You.  Help me do that.  Show me how—even in the little things.  This I ask in Your Name. Amen.”

 

He stayed like that a few more moments, soaking in The Source.  Then he opened his eyes and rolled off the couch.  Once again it was late.  Once again his mother would be worried, but it was worth it to have this time to get quiet and learn about The Source. He smiled as he bounced down the stairs.  Yes, it was definitely worth it.

Copyright Staci Stallings, 2007

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About Staci Stallings

Staci Stallings shares her heart for God with her novels, articles, and conversations. She loves making new friends, writing, and playing piano and guitar.
This entry was posted in A Light in the Darkness, Novels and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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