A Light in the Darkness, Ch. 21 & 22

Chapter 21

 

“Gabriel’s taking you?” Luke asked the next morning as Holly sat in the breakfast nook, staring out the window.  How she would miss this place.

 

She barely came back into the room. “Yeah.  He should be here any minute.”

 

Luke sat in the chair next to her.  He studied her profile a long moment. “You know, I had no idea what having a stepdaughter might be like.”

 

Her heart lurched.  “I hope I didn’t disappoint you.”

 

He shook his head slowly.  “Never.  It’s been wonderful.”

 

Tears sprang to her eyes as she leaned over into his embrace.

 

He kissed the top of her head.  “I hope Boston knows how lucky they are.”

 

Why was she leaving again?  It was the only question her soul could ask.

***

Gabe pulled up to the mansion and slid from the pickup.  Nothing in him wanted to walk up to that door, yet he knew it was a walk he had to make.  One step, two.  He reached up and rang the doorbell.  He turned to look out over the perfectly manicured lawn.  How different everything looked from up here.

 

The door swung open, and his fear jumped front and center.

 

“Gabriel,” Mr. Teracini said, and Gabe heard the note of inevitability that was twanging through his soul ring in the older man’s voice.  “Holly…”  He turned as she stepped into the entry from the kitchen.

 

Gabe had his hands planted on his hips, all business, it was the only way he could think to get through this.  “You ready?”

 

She took a breath as her gaze fell to the floor.  Then she nodded.  Stepping to Luke, she glanced up the stairs. “Isn’t Mom coming down?”

 

Luke looked at her with a gaze that ripped Gabe’s gaze down for the apology it held. “You know your mom.”

 

Holly seemed to take that in.  Then once again she nodded.  “Well, I guess this is it then.”

 

“I guess so.”

 

She half-turned to him, and in the next instant, she was clinging to him as if she would never let go.  “Thank you, Luke.”  The words were a breath.  The connection locked between them. Then one more tight squeeze, and she let go to step back.  Wiping her eyes and sniffing the tears back, she reached down and grabbed her carry-on.  “Bye.”

 

Obedient to the task before him, Gabe picked up her other two suitcases.  Another move, another step into the great unknown.  He didn’t know how she did it.  At least he would only be an hour away.  He couldn’t imagine moving all the way across the country.

 

“Gabe,” Luke said, extending his hand, which Gabe had to transfer one suitcase under his arm to shake.  “Take care of her.”

 

“I will, Sir.”

 

They stepped out into the bright sunshine.  Luke followed to the porch.

 

“Call any time.”  It would’ve been easy to assume he was the man who had raised her from birth, standing there watching her go.  “Have a safe trip.”

 

At the pickup Gabe swung the suitcases into the back and opened the front driver’s side for her to slide in.  She waved to Luke who still stood there watching them.  Gabe got in next to her and slammed the door.  “Ready?”

 

She pulled in a long, deep breath.  “I guess so.”

***

Only halfway to the front gate, Holly reached over and grabbed Gabriel’s hand.  She needed his strength now more than ever.  Leaving felt like shredding her heart into a thousand tiny pieces.  She didn’t want to look back, but at the gate, she did.  For one more second she gazed on the mansion on the hill where her life had changed forever.  As she turned around, she only hoped that the mansion on the hill in Heaven would mean as much.

***

The trip to the airport was made in silence but for the hum of the tires.  Gabe didn’t have the heart to turn on the radio for fear of what they might play.  A sad song, a please-don’t-go song might break him right in two.  She held his hand as she had most of the trip, and her head now rested on his shoulder.  Had they been going to the movies, he would’ve felt like the luckiest man on the planet.  As it was, he was probably the saddest.

 

As they entered the city traffic and neared the airport, he forced the details over the breaking of his heart.  “You want me to let you off at the terminal?  That would be easier.  You could get in line while I park.”

 

The single word took tremendous effort for her to get out.  “Okay.”

 

Knowing it made all the sense in the world but wanting never to do it just the same, he pulled up under the awning.  He threw the pickup in park, got out, and turned to help her out, taking her hand as she did so.  “Careful.”

 

She never really looked at him, or maybe it was him not really looking at her.  In any case their gazes never came close to each other.  Gabe went into busy mode.  He yanked the two suitcases out of the back and pulled up the handle on one of them.  She took first one from him and then the other. Then she tossed her head back to get her hair untangled from the shoulder bag she carried.

 

“You got it?” Concern for every thing about her twined into him. She looked so very small under all of that baggage.

 

“Yeah.”

 

All he wanted to do was turn back time, but all he could do was to keep going forward. “I’ll just park and meet you…”

 

“K.”  Her syllables were getting shorter and shorter.

 

Seeing nothing else to do, he got in and watched her cross in front of the pickup and into the sliding glass doors.  That hair, that beautiful face. The moment she was gone, he closed his eyes.  This hurt worse than he ever thought possible.  How would he ever do this? How could he watch her get on a plane and fly out of his life?

 

The scream of a horn behind him yanked him back to reality, and he wrenched the gearshift down.  Somehow he had to be strong and get through this, for her sake if nothing else.

***

Holly didn’t want to think about any of this—not the ticket counter or checking her bags or getting the boarding pass.  So she unlatched sanity and did what she had come here to do.  In what felt like minutes, she was striding across the terminal to where he stood leaning against the back wall.  Why did he have to be so good-looking?  It was not making this any easier.

 

“Got ‘em?” he asked, straightening.

 

“Gate 60.” She held the papers up and then bent her head to dig in her purse. It was self-defense pure and simple so she wouldn’t have to look at him.  A moment of digging and they turned together toward the security checkpoints.  At the metal arch, she simply detached from her body and let it go through the motions.  It was the only way to get through this in one piece. On the other side, she retrieved her purse and resumed her digging.  She didn’t know what she was looking for, only that it gave her something else to think about.

 

Finally giving up the search for whatever it was that she never found, she zipped the purse closed and resumed her walk next to him.  The sunshine from outside beat through the windows.  Another three steps and his hand bridged the gap to take hers.  That touch sucked all the air from her lungs.  Slamming her eyes closed, she willed them back open. Somehow she had to keep walking. Breathe.  In.  Out.  Step.  Step.  Breathe.  It was only those things that she could focus on.  The tears were right there on the surface, hovering, waiting for her willpower to crack.

 

Even his steps slowed as they got to the gate.  “60, right?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

He nodded and steered her into the line without question.  They didn’t say anything.  For her it was simply a matter of having no air left to use for that purpose.  At the front of the line, she went through the steps of checking in and then thanked the agent and stepped away.

 

He was right there, shadowing her every move. “When does it leave?”

 

“8:20.”

***

Gabe looked up at the clock, and the count down to disintegration began.  He pushed those thoughts away. “You want to go over there?”

 

Holly was busy with something in her purse again.  “Sure.”

 

Putting his hand on her back, he guided her through the crowd over to two seats along the wall.  She sat down next to him, abandoned the purse, and heaved a sigh.  Her gaze traced to the ceiling.  He glanced at her but could stand no more than that.

 

“Is someone picking you up at the airport?”

 

“Rebecca said she’d be there so I don’t have to take a cab.”

 

Gabe nodded, feeling the slow tearing of their souls from one another.  It was like the gut-wrenching rip of Velcro. It echoed through his spirit.  Desperate to make it stop, he reached over and took her hand.  Why did that hand have to fit so perfectly in his, those fingers feel like they were made for him? This would be so much easier if they didn’t.  With two bounces between them, he simply let their hands rest there, together, the last connection to be broken.

 

Holly leaned back in her chair and put her head back on the wall.  He couldn’t really read her face.  Sadness maybe but mostly devoid of anything.  He took her lead and put his head back.  If he could just get through this without breaking down, if he could get her on that plane without it killing him, then somehow he would go on without her.

 

“First call for passengers Flight 29 to Chicago O’Hare. Pre-boarding and first class passengers please come to the boarding gate.”

 

The breath next to him was hard as people around them slid into motion.

 

“Well.”  Holly stood up, pressing her jeans down on her legs.

 

His gaze caught the butterflies woven there.  He loved those butterflies.  They reminded him of every “Morning” he’d ever heard.          He pulled himself up next to her and adjusted his shirt at his waistband.  “Well.”

 

“I guess this is it.”  Her gaze was on the carpet not on him.

 

“I guess so.”  He glanced out across the gate where others stood saying their good-byes.  Was this as hard for them? His gaze fell back to her. “Have a safe flight.” Every word took effort. “You have my number, right?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Okay.”  He watched her, wishing she would stop digging in that purse.  He wanted to hug her, to hold her one more time.

 

“All passengers seats 50 through 100.  Please have your boarding passes ready.  We will now board passengers seats 50 through 100.”

***

Suddenly the tears were there, and Holly had no idea how to make them go away. She took a breath, but that didn’t help.  Her face crumpled over them, pushing them back, but still they spilled over her lashes and streaked down her cheeks.  She swiped them away furiously, but new ones just took their place.

 

“Hey,” Gabriel said softly.  Gently he reached down, cupped her face in his hands, and ran his thumbs over her tear-streaked cheeks.  He lifted her chin, and she could hide no longer.

 

She looked up at him, and sadness crumpled over misery.

 

“Hey,” he said again, softening the word even more.  “It’s going to be okay.”  He folded her into him, and she latched on for dear life.  He held her there, kissing her head lightly. “God has a plan, remember?”

 

She nodded even though the tears were washing down her face. Her arm was arched under his arm and up over his shoulder.  For another moment she clung there desperately. The gasps for air jammed into her.

 

“Passengers in seats 101 through 150 may now board.”

 

The breath he let out was slow and long.  He backed up.  Her grip refused to release. Tilting his head to look at her, his gaze called to hers.  “Hey.”

 

Holly lifted her gaze to his, willing herself not to completely lose it.

 

“This isn’t good-bye.  Okay?” His smile asked her to believe that.

 

Her gaze fell as she nodded.  The sniff was hard and loud. She gasped for air and looked back up at him.  Her soul searched his eyes for some assurance that when he walked out of here he wouldn’t just forget her.

 

A peace she hadn’t anticipated floated through his gaze as he took her face in his hands gently.  His gaze burrowed deeply into hers.  “I love you, Holly Jacobs.”  He nodded.  “I love you.”

 

And once again she was hugging him, holding him, crushing him to her.

 

“Passengers seats 151-200 are now cleared to board.”

 

Nodding for no reason she could really see, she backed up from him.  “That’s me.”

 

He looked over at the thinning crowd and nodded.  Then just as she expected him to let go, his gaze came to hers and his hand yanked her to him.  Their lips met like a flash of lightning from a sudden thunderstorm.  The kiss, the feel of his lips on hers raced through every part of her.  It took her knees right out from under her. Had his arm not been supporting her, she was sure she would have collapsed to the ground in a pathetic heap.

 

And then his lips were gone.

 

Stunned, she didn’t so much as move for the longest moment of her life.  Then she opened her eyes and found his, kind, gentle, hope-filled gazing back at her.  “I love you,” she whispered. She could think of nothing else.

 

A smile slid onto his face.  “I know.”  Slowly he released her, making sure she could in fact still stand.  “Now get going.”  There was a little push to get her feet moving, and once again she was walking with no real understanding as to how.

***

The Velcro started its slow rip as Gabe stood there, anchored to the spot, watching her walk away.  He’d said what he’d come here to say.  It was all up to God now.  At the door to the plane, she stopped, turned, and with a sad, soft smile, she waved.  He waved back, the clamp of pretending he knew everything would be okay was solid for one last moment. When she turned and disappeared through the door, Gabe wondered if he would ever see her again.  He let his eyes fall closed.  It was the worst moment of his life.

***

He stayed to watch the plane take off for no other reason than he had the absurd hope that maybe she wouldn’t go through with it, that maybe she would realize she couldn’t leave and get off the plane and run into his arms.  But as the big bird lifted into the sky and disappeared onto the horizon, he knew that a fantasy, a pipe dream he’d somehow talked himself into believing would happen if he ever really let himself love her.

 

Turning from the window as desolation overtook him, he stalked back through the airport.  Even the air stank now—the divergent smells cramming together in a head-spinning crush.  He pushed that thought and every other one away from him as he jammed his hands into his pockets.  In the parking garage, he found his pickup and slid inside.  Only then… Only then did he let his heart really begin to feel what had just happened, what he had just let go of, what he had just walked away from.

 

How could he ever stop loving her?  At that moment nothing seemed more impossible.  He laid his face into his elbow arched on the steering wheel and let the tears take him. “God, be with her… wherever she goes from here.”

***

“In preparation for our final descent, please make sure your seatbacks and tray tables are in their upright and locked positions, and welcome to Boston.”

 

Exhaustion gripped Holly as her gaze went to the overhead speaker.  She had thought so many times about how nice it would be to be in Boston again. Somehow it never felt like this.  When the plane came to the full and complete stop, she pushed herself up, hoping she could keep upright long enough to get off the plane and back on solid ground.  She retrieved her carry on from the luggage bin above and made her way slowly up the aisle with the other jostling passengers.

 

In the causeway she pushed the wayward strand of hair back. A shower sounded really good as did a bed.  She walked into the terminal and stood for a moment both to get her bearings and to see if she could locate her ride.  One scan and then two, and she began to wonder what she should do if Rebecca hadn’t come.  How would she ever know if her friend was simply waiting somewhere else or had decided in fact not to come?

 

“There she is!”

 

“Holly!”

 

Holly turned to the voices and found Rebecca and Eric striding up, looking even happier than she had left them.  Eric got to her first and pulled her into a hug.  She still couldn’t get over how nice he was even though she had been so horrible to him.  It was then as she backed up that she noticed his new silver, wire-framed glasses.  “Hey, nice specs.”

 

He smiled widened as he lifted them up for emphasis.  “The better to see you with, my dear.”

 

With a laugh, Holly turned to Rebecca.

 

“I’m so glad you’re home,” Rebecca said, wrapping her into a hug.  Her friend was a good four inches shorter and smaller in every way.  She stepped back and looked at Holly, her hands still on Holly’s arms.  “How you doing?”  There was concern there and also compassion.

 

“Starving.  All I’ve had is airplane peanuts and Sprite.”

 

“Well, then let’s get this girl some real food.”  Rebecca spun so her arms linked on either side of her with Holly and Eric.  They started through the terminal.  “How was your trip?”

 

It was the beginning of a thousand questions.  Napa, summer, the job, upcoming school—until Holly thought they’d covered every subject other than the only one crowding her mind.  Rebecca thankfully waited for that subject until Eric had said goodnight at their apartment.  And then, like she’d been shot out of a cannon, Rebecca raced to the couch in their new living area where Holly and Emily were talking.

 

The apartment was nice.  Weird, but nice.  And now suddenly here the three of them sat—Holly, Rebecca, and Emily.

 

“We should’ve made some popcorn,” Emily said in her little girl voice that was at once excited and sweet.

 

“Popcorn can wait,” Rebecca said, grabbing a pillow.  “I’ve got to hear about this Gabriel guy.”  She turned directly to Holly.  “Tell us everything.”

 

At first Holly thought she would never be able to tell them anything without the story knifing her to the core.  However, as she talked about him, about their time together, somehow it felt like pulling him closer.  She left out a few parts, like exactly how they met and the disaster beach date with Jean Paul.  Otherwise, it was a pretty faithful telling of the events of her summer.

 

“So, is he coming out here to see you then?  Are you going back there?” Rebecca was still all questions.

 

Slowly Holly shook her head as her gaze fell.  “He doesn’t have the money, and neither do I.”  She fought to quell the rising emotion.  “It’ll probably be Christmas if it even works out then.”

 

Both faces fell into concern.

 

“What do you mean?” Rebecca asked.  “Why wouldn’t you see him then?”

 

Holly shrugged.  “It’s going to take a miracle for us to stay together.  That’s 18 months of only talking on the phone. I don’t know if I can do that.”

 

Emily nodded.  “Well, then we start praying for miracles.”

 

At that moment Holly’s cell beeped.  In surprise, she looked down at it.  She didn’t recognize the number.  Flipping it open, she put it to her ear. “Hello?”

 

“I know.  You’re probably not even home yet, but I had to call and make sure you’re all right.”

 

“Gabriel,” Holly said with a lift to her voice.  She stood as the other two squealed in joy.  She waved her hand to shush them.  “What are you doing?”

 

“Laying here thinking about you.  Did you get there all right?  Was your friend there to get you?”

 

Holly laughed at the barrage of questions, sensing she would be doing a lot of keeping the various pieces of her life up-to-date on what was happening with the others.  “Yeah.  I made it okay, and Rebecca hasn’t stopped talking since I got off the plane.”

 

“Hey!” Rebecca said from behind her.

 

“Well, I’m glad.  Listen, I don’t want to burn your minutes.  I just wanted to make sure.”

 

“Thanks.”  She wanted to say so much more.  “I’ll talk to you again?”

 

“Count on it.”

 

She nodded and signed off.  Then she turned to her friends.  “You guys don’t waste any time praying those miracles down now do you?”

 

The two faces beamed at her.

 

“Ah!” Holly collapsed into the chair.  “This is crazy!  How did I ever get so lucky?”

***

Their conversations were never long, but they were enough just so Gabe could hear her voice and know she was all right.  Three days later he finished his own packing, said good-bye to his mother, and went to set up his own new life.  Moving on wasn’t what it was the first time he’d left home.  This time, he couldn’t help but think he was missing something, someone.  “God, please be with Holly.”

***

“We’re having Bible Study downstairs in a little while,” Rebecca said as she sat at her desk, the computer on and books everywhere.  “The guys are coming, and maybe a couple other people.”  She never really looked up.  “You’re welcome to join us if you want.”

 

On the bed Holly heard the offer.  It was as if she hung suspended between who she was and who she was becoming.  They only knew her as old Holly, and she wasn’t completely sure new Holly had followed her across the country.  Closing her eyes, she took a breath.

 

Do not be afraid. Have courage.

 

“Okay. It sounds like fun.”

 

Rebecca’s gaze snapped to her.

 

“What?” Holly asked.

 

Slowly Rebecca shook her head and smiled.  “God is so awesome.”

 

Holly’s smile met her friend’s.  “Yes, He is.”

***

As good as this sounded Holly questioned her sanity when she was seated in the living room with seven other people.  They were going to think she was an idiot.  What could she possibly add to the discussion?  She’d only been doing the God thing for a couple months, and even then, it was more Gabriel than her.

 

“Let’s get started,” Emily said as she sat on her knees next to Holly’s chair.  Flipping her long, dark hair over her shoulder, Emily held out her hands to Holly and to her fiancé, Jeremy, on the other side.

 

Holly bowed her head, hoping she could get through this.

 

“Dear Lord,” Emily said like a cool breeze on a warm day, “thank You so much for bringing us here together again.  We are so grateful for the summers we’ve each had and all the blessings in our lives.  Thank You so much for bringing our new friends to us.”

 

The squeeze on Holly’s hand could not have been a coincidence.

 

“Please help us open ourselves to You—Your grace, Your peace, Your hope, and Your love.”

 

Why had she waited so long to do this?  Holly couldn’t clearly recall.

 

“Amen.”

 

“Amen,” the others echoed.

 

Emily let Holly’s hand go.  Holly sat back and cleared her throat.  Once again fear clutched her, and she hated that.  Why wouldn’t it leave her alone?  Then like a long forgotten echo, she remembered.  Without really closing her eyes, she sank into herself. Satan, you are hereby banished from this place by the Blood of Jesus Christ.  Fear, you too.  Get!  Be gone!  Now.  Jesus fill the gap with You.

“I think you all know how much I prayed for my roommate last year,” Rebecca said, and Holly’s gaze snapped to her.  Around them, heads nodded.  “Well, over the summer, Jesus came through.  I’d like you all to meet my roommate and my friend, Holly Jacobs.”

 

Holly tried to smile, but it felt more like tears.

 

“We’re so glad you’re here,” Rebecca said.

 

It was strange how much peace glowed back at her from those faces.  They seemed like reflections of the sun itself.

 

“Thanks for inviting me,” Holly said, and grateful didn’t touch how she felt.

 

“Tonight we’re going to talk about miracles,” Emily said, and Holly turned her attention that direction.  “Big ones.  Little ones.  And the ones that totally blow us out of the water.”

 

Jeremy laughed. “Oh, my gosh. We could be here all night.”

 

“And that would be a bad thing?” Eric asked from his spot by Rebecca.

 

Jeremy’s smile was wide and full. “Never.”

***

Holly had thought they were teasing, but when she looked at her watch after the final prayer, she was stunned to see that it was nearly 11 o’clock.  Where had that much time gone?  The others stood and stretched, gave each other hugs and started toward the door.  Unsure what to do, Holly stepped with them.

 

“So, Friday night then?” Eric asked the others.

 

“Student Union?” Emily asked, her arm under and around Jeremy’s.

 

“What like 8 o’clock?” Jeremy asked.

 

Eric nodded. “Yeah, that sounds good.”  Then suddenly his glance landed squarely on Holly.  “Get your cue stick ready, Holly girl.  We’ll play the three of you against the two of us.”

 

“Ah, that hardly sounds fair,” Rebecca said.  “You guys will be so out-matched.”

 

Eric rolled his gaze heavenward.  “Oh, you’re so funny. She’s so funny.  Don’t you think she’s funny, Jeremy?”

 

“Like I’m going to get into the middle of that one.” Jeremy held up his hands in surrender.  “I’m afraid of her, remember?”

 

“Yeah,” Rebecca said, pointing at him although none of them thought she was particularly menacing.  “And don’t you forget it.”

 

The laughter encompassed all of them.  Then it was time for good nights.  Holly carefully made her way to the hallway.  “Good night, everybody.”

 

“Good night, Holly” came from every direction.

 

She slipped down the hallway, wishing only that Gabriel could’ve been there to share the night with her.  In her room she pulled out her cell phone and dialed his number.  It was the five minutes every day she most looked forward to.

 

His phone clicked.  “Hello, love of my life.”

 

Happiness drifted through her.  “Have I told you how cool God is?”

 

He laughed.  “What’d He do now?”

 

Telling him about her night, about her new friends was like reliving a dream.  As always Gabriel was thrilled for her.  Even long after she crawled into bed, his words seeped into her soul. “I told you God has a plan.”

 

Yes, He did, and she was beginning to love that plan.

***

August faded into September and then into October.  For Holly life could only have been better if Gabriel was right there rather on the phone each night.  Otherwise, she was happier than she ever had been.  She’d officially enrolled in the Early Childhood program, had gotten a part time job at the campus daycare facility, and had even started going to church with Emily and Jeremy every Sunday.  It was opening her world in ways she never would’ve thought possible.

 

Rebecca and Eric went to a different church, and although that had seemed weird at first, Holly had begun to see and accept that they were each where God put them.  It wasn’t a matter of fighting over whose religion was the best. It was a matter of accepting and loving each other where they were.  It was Bible Study Wednesday the first week in October when she got those thoughts into words.

 

“You know, I’ve been thinking,” she said and stopped for a minute when the other gazes turned to her.  Gathering her courage, she worked to put it into words. “We all are so different.  Some of us go to one church, some to another.  We all came at this thing and come at this thing so differently, and yet it’s like, wherever you are with it, you’re accepted here.”  She brushed a strand of hair back off her forehead. “I’ve never really had that before.  Where I went to school, you had to wear the right clothes, be in the right groups, do the things everybody else did to really be accepted.

 

“And that’s the way I always saw church too.  I didn’t really understand it at the time, but I noticed there was a Baptist Student Union and a Catholic Student Union and a Methodist Student Union, and I always kind of thought they were separate groups.  I never really thought of them all as Christians.  It was more, this group was here and that group was there, and never the two shall meet.

 

“But you guys are so different.  I mean you’re Baptists and Catholics and Pentecostals and whatever else, but nobody runs the other one’s faith down.  You just let each other be where you are.  I think that’s very rare in our world.”  Her voice left a void for a long minute.

 

“I don’t know if this is why,” Emily finally said, and all the gazes thankfully swung to her, “but in the Bible I know that Paul talks about how some Christians were saying Peter was their teacher and others were saying Paul was theirs… or something like that.  I don’t remember exactly.  Anyway, Paul basically says, ‘Stop it already.  We’re not this group and that group.  We’re one group under Jesus Christ.  Start there, and all the little, petty differences just don’t matter so much any more.’”

 

“I think it’s the whole competition thing that kills so many of us and scares those who really need Jesus away,” Jeremy said.  “I know it did me.  I was like, ‘I don’t want any part of people who proclaim they love you and then talk about how you’re never going to make it behind your back.’”

 

Eric nodded in agreement.  “I just wish everyone could feel as accepted as I have with you all.”  His gaze fell to the carpet. “When I first came, I didn’t know Genesis from Revelations.  But that didn’t bother you guys at all.  You took me in and let me be who I was and where I was.  Then you came under me and lifted me up to who I am now.”

 

Taylor, one of the non-coupled guys, sat forward. “I think that’s just it. I read the other day about the phrase coming under, and it’s like we’ve talked about, not that you put yourself under someone like they now run your life, but like you come under them to lift them up and support them.”

 

“Like the stem under a flower.  It comes under and holds the flower up so it can become what it’s meant to be,” Emily said. “I like that.”

 

“And it’s so cool to have too,” Rebecca said.  “It gives me so much strength and peace to know that even when I’m freaking out about something, I can call one of you, and you’ll say, ‘Wait. Wait. Wait. Stop. What does your heart say?’  You don’t let me stay stuck in yuck like I would’ve been before.”

 

Holly took a breath.  “You know, I don’t know what I thought you all did at these things.  I always knew, or thought I knew, that I could never fit in here.  But I think I was really wrong—even back then.  I think you would’ve taken me in and loved me where I was.  I wish I had done this sooner.”

 

“Hey, I’m just glad you did it now,” Rebecca said, and when Holly looked at her, there was true love shining from her eyes.

 

“Yeah, so am I.”

 

Chapter 22

 

Holly’s feet hadn’t touched the ground.  Ever since the night before at Bible Study, all she wanted to do was shout God’s love to the world.  She saw now how many people were so hungry for it, how they were dying in deserts of destructive behavior and hurt.  “Lord,” she prayed as she headed across campus after work, “please help me learn to be a light for others.”

 

In her purse her cell phone beeped.  She dug it out and clicked it on.  “Hello?”

 

“Holly?”

 

Her name crashed through her like a wrecking ball.  “Mom, what’s wrong?”

 

“I just wanted you to know.”  Tears overtook the words.  Then she sniffed them back hard. “It’s over.  I just filed the divorce papers.”

 

Under her, Holly’s legs wobbled, and she slowed her steps. “What?” It was as if her entire world tilted away from her.  People walked by her, brushing past, even as she ducked her head into the call and put her finger to her ear.  “Mom, what are you talking about?”

 

“I’m talking about I should’ve known it would never work.  I moved out last night.”

 

“Moved out?” The wobbling of her legs was such that it pulled her down onto the hard concrete of the steps of some building she’d never realized was there.  “But…”

 

“I went through your room too, but I didn’t see anything you’d left.”

 

Holly’s mind was spinning, spinning, spinning in and through her mother’s words which were suddenly making no sense.  “I don’t understand.”

 

“I’m on my way to Oregon.”

 

She fought to stay rational. “What’s in Oregon?”

 

“Brian’s there.  He said I could come.”

 

The shaking of her head did nothing to get sense to start.  “Brian?  Who’s Brian?”

 

Her mother sniffled, but it was clear she’d composed herself by a remarkable degree.  “Didn’t I tell you about Brian?  He’s the one I met when I went with Luke to Paris.  The CEO of that big bottling company.  Of course, he’s married, but at least he offered me a place to stay until I can figure out what to do next.”

 

Holly’s heart slammed into her ribcage, and her breathing hurt.  “What… about Luke?”

 

“What about him?”

 

“Well, what does he have to say about all this?”

 

“He said it’d probably be better if I just left, that he couldn’t make life the way I needed it to be.” There was a sniff.  “You know, the usual stuff.” It was as if she could see her mother shake the upsetting thoughts away. “But that’s in the past. Time to move on now.”

 

“Move on…?”  There was only space in the center of those words.

 

“Listen, I’ve got to go. I’ll call you when I get somewhere.”

 

Holly couldn’t move.  “Okay.”  She didn’t really hear the end of the conversation, just clicked off the phone and dropped it between her knees.  Just like that, they were gone.  Swept right out of her life as if they had never been there at all.  The thought of losing Luke and his fatherly presence hurt to be sure, but never before had there been such a hole as was left by the thought that her mother would string her up and let her rot if she ever so much as went back to Napa Valley.

 

It probably didn’t matter.  She could never face Gabriel or Luke again.  What could she say?  My mother’s unstable.  She’s insane and selfish? Of course that was all true, but underneath that was the distinct understanding of what it said about her.  Ache piled on ache.  She should’ve done something, something to keep them together, something to keep her mother from being the wreck that she was.

 

Suddenly thoughts of “now what” slid through her.  With Luke out of the picture as Dan had been and Jack before him… Jack.  She’d done everything she could to forget him since she’d left Springfield with every last thing she owned packed into the two suitcases she brought with her.  Disgusting images crowded through her, yanking up her belief that things could ever get any better.

 

Chase in high school.  Gabriel.  They were all destined to be caught up and shredded by her life, her past, her sins.  How could anyone ever truly love her?  They didn’t even know her.  Not the real her.  Not the her that found herself in bed with her stepfather.  That memory ripped all the others loose, and she stumbled to her feet.  There was really no decision, only the need to get away from the memories, to drown them out once and for all.

 

She wondered as she disconnected from herself if happy hour had started yet.

***

Gabe had just walked into his apartment when the phone rang.  It was going to be for one of his roommates, of that he was sure.  Grabbing a piece of paper and a pen, he answered it.  “Hello?”

 

“Gabriel.  Oh, good. I caught you.”

 

“Hey, Mama.  What’s up?”  He pushed the paper back to its spot and dropped the pen into the holder with a clank.

 

“Listen, I hate to interrupt, but Rosa just called.” The pause was odd as if she was afraid of saying her next thought. “I was wondering if you’ve talked to Holly today.”

 

Nothing in him liked the tone in her voice.  “No, not since Monday. Why?”

 

“Oh.”  Nothing else.

 

“Why?  What’s going on?”  Fear crept into him even as the prayers started flowing from his heart.

 

Still she didn’t start for another five seconds. “Well, it seems that Mrs. Teracini moved out last night.  I don’t know the details, but the gossip is she had a boyfriend upstate somewhere.  Mr. Teracini caught them together.”

 

“What?” Gabe grabbed for the back of a chair to keep him standing.  “Are you sure?”

 

“I just thought you should know in case you talk to her.”

 

“Yeah, okay.  Thanks, Mama.”

 

“Tell Holly she’s in my prayers.”

 

“Okay.  I will.  Listen.  I’ve got to go.”  He clicked off the phone and speed dialed her cell phone with his finger.  “Come on.  Pick up.  Pick up, Holly.”  The phone rang and rang and rang again.

 

“The customer you have called has traveled outside the service area or…”

 

He snapped off the phone and raced to his room to find her Boston number.

***

Holly felt the appreciative looks of the other patrons as she slid up to the bar at Ace’s.  “Double vodka on the rocks.”  Seeing the look of the bartender, she flipped out her wallet.  Legal wasn’t going to stop her tonight.

 

He nodded and went to pour the drink.  Holly let her gaze glide around the room as the cell phone in her purse buzzed again.  It had been doing that, but she was too intent on the mission of deleting all that had gone before that she didn’t even bother to shut it off. Link by link she consciously disconnected from all she knew would never be again. The Bible study group?  They wouldn’t be surprised.  This was what they had always known her to be.  Her mother?  Innocence had ceased to be even a fantasy the moment her mother had walked into that bedroom.  The feel of Jack’s hands on her body shrieked through her.  Where was that bartender anyway?  She swung back to the bar.

 

Setting the glass in front of her, he looked at her like they all did.

 

“What?” she barked.

 

He held up his hands and backed away.

 

Those stupid pearls.  If she just hadn’t wanted to wear those pearls to impress Chase.  With a tip of the glass she downed the stinging liquid.  She held the glass up to get the bartender’s attention.  “Another please.”

***

“Hello?”

 

Gabe had been trying for nearly 45 minutes, and this was the first actual voice he’d gotten to pick up.  “Hi. Is Holly there?”

 

“She should be. Just a sec.”  The phone clanked before he had a chance to say more.  Minutes piled up on minutes as he waited, his chest constricting further with each one that passed.  “Hello?” the voice came back on.  “I’m sorry.  I don’t know where Holly is.  She’s usually here by now.”

 

That did nothing to calm his panic.  “Umm, who—who is this?”

 

“This is Emily. Emily Vasquez.  Holly’s roommate.”

 

It was crazy.  He didn’t even know Emily, but this was serious.  “Emily.  This is Gabriel Cabrelos from California.”

 

“Oh, Gabriel! Hi.  I’ve heard so much about you.”

 

That should’ve been comforting.  It wasn’t.  “Listen, Emily, do you know where Holly is?”

 

“No.”  She seemed to pick up on the panic.  “Why? Is something wrong?”

 

“Well, I just got a call from my mom.  She works at the mansion where…”  Boy, he didn’t know how to finish that sentence.  He put his hand up to his head in frustration.  “Umm, do you know if Holly has talked to her mom today?”

 

“Umm, no.  I don’t know. She didn’t say anything about it.  Why?”

 

With a long exhale, Gabe decided to go for broke.  “Well, apparently her mom moved out of the mansion last night.”

 

That hit its target. “Oh, no.”

 

“Yeah, do you know where Holly is?  I can’t get her on her cell phone.”

 

“No.” The words stopped. “Let me think.  She usually works on Thursdays until 5.  She should be home by now.”

 

Gabe sensed he was frightening Emily. That wasn’t what he wanted to do. “Okay.  Well, if she comes in in the next few minutes or so, have her give me a call.”

 

“Yeah.  Okay.  Does she have your number?”

 

“Yeah, but I can give it to you just in case.”  He transferred the number.

 

“Okay.  I’ll tell her.”

 

When they hung up, Gabe could think of not one other thing to do.  “God, please, please be with Holly.  Satan, you get away from her…”

***

The second Emily got off the phone with Gabriel, she dialed Rebecca who was probably headed home anyway.  However, this couldn’t wait.

 

“Hello?”

 

“Becca, have you talked to Holly today?” Emily asked, the concern twining through her spirit.

 

It transferred instantly to Rebecca. “No. Why?”

 

The news slipped across the lines. In the span of two sentences, Becca sounded as panicked at Emily felt.  “Okay, Em, you call Jeremy.  I’ll call Eric. Then call me back.  Got it?”

 

“Yeah. Okay.”

The phone calls began in earnest then.  Emily to Jeremy.  Jeremy to Eric.  Eric to Rebecca who was still talking to him when she walked in the front door.  “Yeah, okay.  K.  We’ll head over there right now.”  She beeped the phone off.

 

Emily stood, hands on her hips, trying to get a handle on what to do next.

 

“Jeremy and Eric will meet us at Avalon in ten minutes.  They think we should start there and work our way out.”

 

Nothing in Emily liked that thought. “You think she went to the bar?”

 

Rebecca sighed. “Well, she’s not here.”

 

As hard as she tried to push it away, Emily’s mind kept going to the hunched over figure who had sat on that dryer eight months before, pouring her grief out but never really finding the bottom.  They had to find her, and they had to do it quick before she did something really stupid.

***

Minutes had begun to look good in comparison to the hours that were beginning to slide by.  Gabe paced, thought, and paced some more.  But what could he do all the way across the country?  Nothing but worry and pray.  At six-thirty his time, he called back.  This time there was no answer even at the apartment.  Where were they?  It was nine-thirty there. Full-blown panic fell on him.

 

Seeing nothing else to do, he picked up the phone and dialed the mansion.  It made no sense to call there, but it was the only thing he could think to do.  It took a conversation with Rosa and then one with Yuri to get Mr. Teracini to the phone.  As he waited for the older man to come on the line, Gabe had to keep himself from hanging up.

 

“Hello?”

 

Gabe spun the receiver to his mouth. “Hi, um, Mr. Teracini.  I’m sorry to bother you, Sir.  This is Gabriel.”

 

“Oh, Gabriel.  Nice to hear from you.”

 

“Yes, Sir.” He cleared his throat.  “Listen, I hate to ask this, but have you heard from Holly?”

 

“Holly?  No.  I haven’t.”  The words brought a dawning that Gabriel heard.  “Is she all right?”

 

“I don’t know, Sir.  I’ve been trying to contact her all evening.  Her roommate said she was out three hours ago, and I haven’t been able to get anyone since then.  I’m really getting worried about her.”

 

“Yes.  Yes.  I hadn’t thought about calling her myself… I suppose you heard.”

 

“Yes, Sir.  I’m terribly sorry.”

 

“Yes, well.  These things happen.  But Holly… Holly.  I’m afraid she hasn’t called here.  She probably didn’t take the news well.”

 

Gabe knew that was an understatement.  “Well, Sir.  If you don’t mind, please give me a call if you hear something.”

 

“I will, son. I will.”

 

They signed off, and once again, Gabriel was left with no real course of action.  He hated that.  He really, really did.

***

Rebecca and Eric were headed to Fire and Ice, Emily and Jeremy to Ace’s.  It was abundantly clear to Rebecca how outmatched they were.  Four of them and how many bars in Boston?  It wasn’t at all a fair fight.  “I’m calling Taylor.”

 

Eric nodded.  “Tell him to call Sam and have them head back to Avalon. He can call us if she shows up. I just have this feeling that’s where she’ll go eventually.  But if she’s not there, we can’t waste time waiting for her to show up there either.”

 

Forcing the rising panic down, Rebecca dialed the number and glanced out at the darkened night dotted with neon and white lights.  “Holly, where are you?” She reangled her attention to the phone. “Taylor, hi, this is Becca.”  It seemed like shorthand to her by now.  He promised to head over to Avalon and to call if he found any trace of her.  Rebecca clicked off the phone, and put her head back.  “God, please help us find her.”

***

All propriety had been ditched at the door to Avalon.  It was Holly’s third stop, and by the time she got there, she could hardly stand up.  She managed to pull herself together enough to get in the door, but once inside, her only thought was to find a warm body and get wasted in whichever order that happened.  She didn’t care anymore about anything.  It didn’t really matter who it was or even what he looked like—just someone to spend her last night on the earth with.

 

“Well, lookie what we have here.”  In the alcohol and ache haze she couldn’t locate the memory of that voice. The answer of who it was kept jerking away from her at the last possible second.

 

Turning on her charm, she spun so she could plant both elbows on the dance floor railing behind her.  “Hi, there.”  The room spun around that face.  Gabriel.  His name went through her first.  No, it wasn’t Gabriel, but it was a G… Greg. No. Gavin.  No.  Gus.  Yeah.  That was it.  Gus.

***

“Where are they?”  Gabriel had been calling non-stop for an hour.  It was now past midnight there, on a school night.  He wished he had thought to get Emily’s cell number or someone’s number.  In exasperation, he hit the off-button.  Knowing it would do no good, he turned it back on and called her cell phone.  Closing his eyes, he pleaded, “God, please, please, let her pick up.”

 

The rings went through him, one at a time.  “Where is she?”

 

“The customer you have called…”

 

He hit the off button and seriously considered throwing the phone across the room.  However, that wouldn’t help.  If he could just get a hold of her friends, if he just knew where they were, knew what was going on… “God, please, I’m asking You here, please let her be okay. Send Your angels to protect her, God.  Send every angel You have available. She needs You, Lord.  She needs You now!”

***

They were dancing.  The lights spun around them, making Holly have to hang onto Gus’s shoulders to keep from falling.  The alcohol was finally working its magic, blocking out every memory that threatened to get in. Gus held her just like the others had, that pawing thing which used to make her so nauseous, but that she now recognized as part of this game.  It was a game she knew well. There was a memory in her that floated through her consciousness. He had a gun. Gus had a gun. Somehow, she remembered that part.  When he asked to take her home later, which he would, she could carry out her plan then.  No one would care.  One less problem to have to worry about without her around.

***

“Satan, get away from Holly by the Holy Blood of Jesus Christ,” Gabriel said more vehemently than he’d ever said anything.  “You cannot have her.  She is a child of the King. He has claimed her for His, and He will not let her go… ever.  God, send Your warring angels to protect Holly from harm—even from herself.”

 

His mouth went dry at that thought.  What if… What if like those nights in the carriage house, Satan convinced her that would be the answer?  His heart twisted at the thought, and he dropped to his knees.  “God, please, please.  One light.  One tiny light. Something. Anything.  Please. God.  She needs You, Lord. Please.”

***

It must’ve been the alcohol.  That was the only explanation for it because for one second the lightheadedness lifted.  Like she was floating outside herself, Holly looked around at herself and her surroundings. “Oh, God, what am I doing?”

 

At that the darkness closed in with frightening velocity.  She felt it tightening its grip, sucking her down, down into nothingness.  “Oh, Jesus, help.”

 

Gus backed up from her, presumably to find out what she was babbling about, but all she could do was mumble the name over and over.  “Jesus.  Jesus, please help me. Please help me.”

 

“What do you think you are doing?” The voice was hard and harsh behind them.

 

Gus let go of Holly so fast, she almost toppled over.  Through the haze of alcohol and hurt, she gazed at the guy standing not two feet from her, not really recognizing him because her eyes were blurry and her brain fuzzy.

 

Stepping between them, Gus gave him a shove. “Get lost, pretty boy.”

 

“You get lost.” Eric pushed back like he was used to starting barroom brawls. Gus apparently wasn’t ready for that move as he stumbled backward toppling into several dancers.  Yells and anger came from every direction.

 

In the next breath Eric had her wrist. “Come on, Holly.”

 

With that she was moving.  The name clicked. “Eric?”

 

He pulled her behind him and then pushed her into someone there. “Take her.”

 

“You shove me like that and think you’re going to get away with it?” Gus took a menacing step forward.

 

And then like a mirage, they were all standing there—Jeremy, Sam, and six foot, five inch Taylor.  And there were others Holly didn’t recognize.  Two or maybe three, she couldn’t clearly tell.  Each pushed her one more layer back until there was a virtual human wall between her and Gus.

 

“Come on, Holly, let’s get you out of here,” Rebecca said, materializing from nowhere.  Holly looked around, the motion making her woozy.  She stumbled, tripping on her shoes as if they were six-inch heels rather than tennis shoes.

 

“Becca?  What…?  Where…?” The room tilted like a ride at the amusement park.

 

“Em, get on that side of her.”

 

Another set of arms came around the other side.  The lights spun, and the next thing Holly knew the floor was coming up to meet her.

***

“Oh, for Pete Sake’s!  This is ridiculous!”  Gabriel mashed the off button, and hit two buttons to speed dial her cell phone.  “Come on.  Pick up!”  One ring.  Two.

 

“Oh, uh, hello?”  The noise in the background was deafening.

 

“Holly?” he yelled although everyone where he was had gone to bed.  “Where are you?”

 

“This isn’t Holly.  It’s Emily!”

 

“Emily?  Where’s Holly?  Is she all right?”

 

“Well…”

 

He didn’t like that at all until he remembered that he’d called Holly’s cell number. That meant at least Emily was with Holly.  “Emily, talk to me.  What’s going on?”

 

“She’s coming to!” someone else yelled.

 

“Emily!  What’s going on?”  His heart was beginning to fill his chest.  Fear, concern, and the overwhelming need to do something battled for control.

 

“Gabriel, can I call you back?”

 

“We’ve got to get her out of here,” the voice in the background said again.

 

“No, Emily!  I want to know what’s happening.”

 

“I’ll call you right back.”  And with that, she clicked the phone off.

 

“Grrr.”  A breath, and he knew what he had to do. He’d never had a crazier idea, but he had to.  With a beep he had the phone on and he was dialing the number, trying not to really think about it.  Two rings and thankfully Mr. Teracini actually answered his own phone.

 

“Hello?”

 

“Hi, Mr. Teracini, this is Gabe.  Listen, Holly’s in trouble.  I don’t know what’s going on, but she is.  Her friends found her, but it sounds like a mess.”  The question was there, right on his tongue.  He needed the help, but the asking—that was the hard part.  “I really feel like one of us should go out there.  I don’t know where her mom is, and to be honest, I don’t think she would help much anyway.”

 

“There I happen to agree with you.” Mr. Teracini thought a moment.  “If you wait for commercial, there’s no telling when you’ll get out there. I’ll call my pilot and see what I can do.”

 

“I…”  Reality shifted around him. “So you’re not going out too?”

 

“No, unfortunately I’m buried in work right now.  But get your things together, and head out to the airport.  My pilot will meet you there.”

 

Gabe knew this was what he’d wanted to hear, but the thought choked his courage. “Sir, are you sure?”

 

“Go help Holly, Gabriel.  She needs you.”

***

Eric wasn’t at all sure who he was happier to see—the other guys or the bouncer.  Either way, they pulled his neck from the noose as Gus came at him intent on pounding him into the ground, but taking on four guys and the bouncer, that was asking a bit much. When Gus was effectively neutralized, Eric turned his attention to the knot of people around Holly.  It was worse than he’d feared. “Dear, God, we need You.” He stepped up next to Rebecca.  “How is she?”

 

At that moment Holly leaned over and vomited all over his shoes.  His stomach turned dangerously at the sight.

 

“It’s okay, Holly,” Rebecca said as Eric backed up, fighting not to be sick himself.  “Just get it out.”

 

She leaned over and heaved again.  Eric turned his head.  He couldn’t watch.

 

However, with far more courage than he possessed, Emily braved the smell and the sight to come to the other side of her friend.  She simply sat on her heels behind Holly, rubbing her back and talking to her soothingly. “It’s going to be okay.  We’re all here.  You’re safe.”

 

“What happened to Gus?” Jeremy asked, walking around the circle to Eric.

 

“He got hauled out for starting a fight.”

 

Jeremy raised his eyebrows. “Uh, didn’t you kind of start the fight?”

 

Eric wiped his shoe on the carpet still fighting the churning of his stomach. “Let’s not get technical right now. Okay?”

 

Rebecca’s movement snagged his attention. “Okay, Holly. You’re ready? She’s ready.”

 

On the floor Holly was reaching out for help to get to her feet.

 

“Get her up,” Rebecca said, standing from the floor.  Without question Eric got on one side of Holly, Jeremy on the other.  She was standing if it could be called that.

 

Never, in a gazillion years would Eric have thought Jeremy would look so unfazed much less how together he himself seemed.  He’d almost started a barroom brawl. His shoes were a mess.  And here he was supporting a young woman who reeked of alcohol and vomit, yet his brain was calmly telling him what to do next.

 

“Where’re we going?” Jeremy asked.

 

“My car.”  The way Eric figured it, why spoil anyone else’s car?  At least he could clean the car with the shoes.

***

As Gabe threw a few things into his duffel bag, his mind traced through everything he might need.  Just before racing out, he grabbed two essentials:  his grandfather’s rosary and the True Power & Real Peace book.  He wasn’t sure who would need it more—her or him.  Either way, he would have it.  “God, please be with Holly.”

***

Rebecca slipped out of their room and shut the door with no noise.  In the living room stood six very concerned college and just-out-of-college kids.

 

“How is she?” Taylor asked.

 

“Sleeping.  Finally.”  Rebecca sighed.  “Thanks for coming, guys. Man, I was really panicking there for a minute.”

 

“What next?” Jeremy asked, not looking at all like he wasn’t still panicking.

 

“Well, I’m going to let her sleep it off tonight.  I’ll skip classes tomorrow to stay home with her. I don’t think she should be alone.  And then…” Rebecca shrugged her lack of a plan beyond that.

 

On the table Holly’s purse started fluttering.

 

“Oh, no!” Emily jumped up and grabbed it.  “I forgot to call Gabriel back.”  She yanked the purse opened and retrieved the phone.  “Hello?”  Silence drifted over the room as all gazes went to her. “Yeah, I’m sorry about that.”  She turned from them and put her finger in her ear.  “Things got a little crazy here for a while.”

***

“How’s Holly?  Is she okay?”  The drone of the plane beneath him did nothing to calm Gabe’s nerves.  He’d never been on a plane before, and this little puddle jumper wasn’t making him feel very safe. Between that and the mess in Boston, his stomach was in tight knots.

 

“She’s… well, she’s sleeping right now.  She got really sick at the club, but we got her out of there before Gus could do anything stupid.”

 

Gabe’s world tilted dangerously. “Gus?”

 

“He’s…” Emily stopped.  “Well, he was Holly’s old boyfriend or something like that at one point. Apparently she hooked up with him again tonight.  I don’t think she was really in her right mind though.”

 

He fought through the fear. “But she’s okay now?”

 

“She’s safe.  ‘Okay’ might be pushing it.”

 

At the moment Gabe would take what he could get.  “Well, that’s something.  Listen, Emily, I’m headed your direction.  I’m on Mr. Teracini’s private plane.”

 

“Mr…?”

 

“Holly’s stepdad.”

 

“O… kay.”  It was clear she was trying to put pieces together that didn’t fit.

 

He shifted in the seat, uncomfortable in the role he now found himself. “We decided someone needed to get out there and check on her, see what we need to do next.”

 

“Well, she’s safe now, so…”

 

“I know, and I appreciate that.  I just want the chance to see her with my own eyes, you know?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

As well as his overtired brain could, Gabe gave her the flight landing information, told her he’d be there first thing in the morning, and then wrote down the final instructions for himself to find their apartment.  Thanking her again, he hung up.  He put his head back, knowing he should be exhausted to the point of falling asleep even here flying over cornfields.  However, the thoughts of her and the events of the evening wouldn’t let him.  Finally he gave up on the idea of sleeping. Reaching up, he flipped the light on over him and pulled the book out.  At least that would be productive.

 

It is imperative that the rich soul realize why he is rich.  It is not monetary or material possessions that make one rich, rather it is the conscious accumulation of the lessons of life that signify riches.  The difference between a poor soul and a rich soul is that a poor soul will look at a challenge and see only the challenge while a rich soul will look at the same challenge and search diligently for the lesson behind it. Lessons are the currency of the rich soul.

Lessons build character.  Why?  Because character is built by learning and growing from every experience—whether to the outside world the event appears good or bad.  Learning the lesson holds within it the seed of doing better, of being better next time. A rich soul can learn from the worst experiences and come out richer.  Rich souls gain riches by learning the lessons presented to them, and so you can as well.

To learn these lessons you must be open to the understanding that lessons are inherent in every situation.  They are the seed that is harvested when the sheaf dies.  A rich soul gathers the grain in, separates the chafe from the seeds, and then knowing the next harvest will surely come from those very seeds, promulgates them in anticipation of new growth.

All of life follows this cycle:  life, death, new life.  To resist death is to resist new life.  Jesus Christ Himself died for our transgressions and then rose again to new life.  So it is with every rich soul.  They do not resist the death of their former selves rather they welcome the death and anticipate the rebirth into a new, better self, a more compassionate self, a more understanding self.

True Power & Real Peace come from understanding this cycle and surrendering to it.  By surrendering to the life cycle, the rich soul begins to see death not as an end but as the chance at a new beginning, a rising to the next level of understanding.  A rich soul does not fight to remain the same today as he was yesterday because he realizes that the seeds of today arose from the death of who he was yesterday.

Each new step is the product of the death of the old step.  Such is life, and the rich soul embraces this cycle and diligently learns the lessons of each step in preparation for the next step, the next rebirth.

Gabe put the book down, turned his head to the darkness outside. He let out a sigh and closed his eyes.  “Yesterday I was fine with where I was, with where we were.  Tonight, Lord, I’m not so sure.  I thought I could go on with my life whether Holly was in it or not.  Tonight, I’m not so sure.  I feel like maybe I am dying tonight to the idea that I can live without her, that going on as if we are just friends or acquaintances is not something I want anymore.  But that scares me to death. How can I need someone in my life that much?”

 

His thoughts hit the words he had just read, and he laughed.  “Death? Is that it?  Am I scared to die to being on my own, am I scared to admit I want her in my life, am I scared of who I will have to become to make a life with her work?”  His gaze searched the dim light in front of him.  Yes, that was indeed what it felt like—dying to being the loner, the outsider, the one scraping by but always with his eye to the next level.  Worrying about only himself and what was best for him.  “Okay,” he said softly.  “Then show me.  Show me what to do, show me how this can work.  I surrender to the lessons of this step.”

 

Instantly the thought of how helpless he’d felt the day she left came through him followed by the helplessness of the last 12 hours.  In fact, helpless was a feeling he’d come to know very well in his time with her—even from the first moment they had met.  “But God, I don’t want to feel helpless my whole life.”

 

And then the superseding feeling of what it was like to do it anyway came through him.  “Do it scared,” he said, recalling the words of a long-ago read book.  He’d thought at the time that was about going for his education, and maybe it was—then.  Now it was about becoming a man who could be a husband, a man who might not know how it would work, but who was willing to do it scared.

 

His gaze went back to the book, and he opened it to a different page.  Confusion slid through him at the neatly written note at the bottom.  He’d been so enthralled with this book, he hadn’t written in it much.  He turned the book to the side, and his heart flipped over.

 

This is what I wish for you. May it be as you become the rich soul you were always meant to be. HJ

 

HJ.  When, where, and how jumped to his mind, but all were overtaken by what.  What did she wish for him?  He followed the arrow, somehow knowing this moment would be a rebirth.

 

The rich soul knows he need not know every bend and twist in the road because he knows the One Who does, and if he is smart, he will trust that Knowledge.

Gabe laughed out loud and shook his head.  How did God know?  How did she know?  He kept reading even as the understanding of how close they both were to him slipped into his spirit.

He will put his life into the Wisdom of the great I Am and know that he has never to worry about the future.  The future is held in the Providence of the great I Am.  The past likewise is given to the Mercy of the great I Am.  The Present, that mystery that surrounds every rich soul, is held in the Love of the great I Am. So past, present and future he is forgiven, loved, and protected. Thus, he can step out in courage and freedom that amazes those around him.

Those around him, nothing.  He was beginning to think no one would be more amazed that he had the guts to step out than he was.  “Okay, God.  I get it.  You know where this is going.  You do it through me.  I’m not standing in Your way anymore.”

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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