“Oh God, please help me with this one,” Linda whispered as she walked back to her classroom. Her hand slid across the hallway handrail. The warmth of the corridor belied the coldness she felt to her core.
Katharina and Caleigh fell across the beds laughing. Each held their sides and rolled back and forth. When she could finally catch her breath, Caleigh looked up at Sophia.
“That’s the funniest story I’ve ever heard. And to know it’s true just makes it funnier.”
The outrageous laughter started again.
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Gillian turned the latch and pulled an inch at a time. Grandma’s attic always made the hair on her arms stand up. When a creak called out, she froze, then opened the door just enough to slip through. With her hand along the frame, she pulled the handle making sure she heard the click of the latch on the strike plate.
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Clancy’s eyes felt like they would drown in tears.
“I can’t believe you came.”
“I always promised, if you needed me, I’d do my best to get to you.” Rayna pulled her niece into another hug.
“Yes, but most of the time when someone says that, it’s just a platitude. Everyone thinks they’ll do it but they can’t.”
Willow sat looking out the oval window watching the baggage handlers throwing bags onto the conveyor belt. “I hope it doesn’t get broken.”
“What?” Willow turned her head to the speaker.
“You said something. I wanted you to know I heard you.”
Willow looked into the deepest, dark brown eyes she’d ever seen.
As Stacy perused bookshelves of the business, she saw a display of how-to books. How to cook, how to date—she laughed at that one. Yep, she’d failed at both of those and almost burned down her former boyfriend’s apartment. How to quilt … nope, that was her niece’s thing. How to do carpentry. Not a chance.
The stairs beside her led to a loft. As she neared the top, she noticed a pair of black-laced, thick-heeled shoes.
“Can I help you?” A tall, serious looking, black and gray-haired woman with glasses on the end of her nose spoke.
Clancy turned her camera slowly spanning the bridge filled with the noon rush. Everyone had someplace to be or were coming from somewhere. Waiting for the exact break in the pedestrians, the sun to hit the edge of the silver bridge, and the perfect movement of the water she sat still.
And there it was. She got it. She held the button long enough for many pictures to imprint before she released. Checking her watch, she knew she had limited time to check the results on the computer screen and enter the picture in time.
Back in her office looking at the screen, her breath caught in her throat. That one. Perfect. Putting it through all of the filters and resolutions till no extra shadows or lines marred the picture, she hit the final button securing the impression. She added it to her email, embedded her logo on the bottom and hit send. This was the one. This would get her the job she so desperately needed and wanted.
She checked her emails multiple times daily as days turned into weeks. She prayed. She begged God. She needed this.
And it came. No. Again. No.
Clancy pushed herself back from the desk, grabbed her purse and keys and headed for the door. She yanked her coat from the hook and as she pulled open the door then slammed it behind her, she heard the familiar thunk on the floor. I hate that stupid peg. I’ll hang the coat rack back on the wall later.
She drove through town, focusing around tears while trying to keep her speed down. She couldn’t afford another ticket, especially now.
Finally, she pulled into the spot at the lake. She slid out of her Ford Fiesta and slammed the dented door. Guess this won’t get fixed any time soon.
After thirty minutes of weaving through laughing people taking pictures of their kids by the water, she gave up and sank down onto a bench as far from the activities as possible. She opened her water bottle and took long pulls of the liquid. Clancy stared across the water trying to straighten her thoughts and emotions from the knot they’d tied. As the waves rippled to the shore and back to join the water movement, she leaned over putting her head in her hands.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”
Clancy startled and sat up then noticed the woman now sitting beside her. She didn’t feel like talking but didn’t want to be rude either. The woman with wrinkles covering her face kept her eyes on the lake before them.
“Yes,” Clancy said.
Oh dear God, I really don’t want to do this. Help her go away. But even as Clancy prayed, she felt guilty. She wasn’t raised to be rude, especially to elderly people. She took a deep breath in and whispered, “I guess you could say that.”
“May I pray for you?”
“Me? You want to pray for me?”
“If that’s okay with you.”
Without answering, Clancy tilted her chin to her chest and waited.
The woman’s voice, just loud enough to hear above the lapping waves and laughter nearby, touched Clancy’s heart.
“Dear Father, You understand this dear child’s hurt. You know each detail because You see her. Whatever is troubling my new friend, show her the way. Give her wisdom. Ease the strain. You are God. We are not. Help us, help her, to trust You right now. We love You, Papa.”
Clancy kept her head down for several moments, wiping her eyes, and sniffling. She lifted her head and glanced at the blueness of the sky and water. Then she turned to look at the woman who had touched her so deeply.
She looked from one side to the other. She stood and turned a circle. Where was she? Where had the woman gone?
She dropped herself back onto the bench and took in a cleansing breath, then looked around one more time. She opened the water bottle and took another long drink.
I don’t know what that was or who, but thank You, Father, for sending one of Your angels with skin. Thank You for caring so much. I’ll trust You to care for the rest of my needs today.
She stood and made her way back to her dented car, watching the smiling, running kids and picture snapping adults. Nothing had changed, and yet everything had because someone cared. A smile broke out across her face and she looked up to the sky.
“Thank You again, Father.”
Estavan glided across the glimmering water. His gaze shifted across the bay, watching, attempting to notice any sudden movements across the horizon. He set the oars again pulling slowly so as not to draw attention. Men in surrounding fishing boats drew their oars, sat chatting in their skiffs, or repaired nets.
Just breathe. Steady.
“Don’t move. Just a little farther.”
His pull strengthened as he skimmed across the water past the jetty. Clearing the peninsula’s edge, he changed direction toward the waiting boat.
As he drew near the larger vessel, from above a sailor threw him a rope and guided the small dinghy to the side of the craft where a ladder dangled.
Estavan wiped his face as a wide-eyed child wearing a cap popped up from under the blanket.
“You’re free little one. Go with God. These men will help you. Remember who loves you most. His hand will always be with you.”
Climbing the wavering ladder, the child looked down at the rescuer. Barely able to wrap small hands around the large, rough ropes, the little one reached up and removed the cap. Dark hair fell away from its confines and down the child’s back. She wiped her face against her sleeve.
“Will I ever see you again?”
“If God wills it so. But, hopefully, you will see more of your family soon.”
“Good-bye, Grampa. I love you,” she called as the sailor lifted her onto the craft.
(photo credit: Photo by John Sekutowski on Unsplash )
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