The next couple weeks are pretty busy, so I’ve decided to post 2 chapters at a time, instead of just one. That way, if I have to skip a day or two of posting, I won’t feel guilty. :
If you need to read previous chapters, click on Repaired By Love in the navigation bar.
Also: Don’t forget that Book # 1 of this series, SET FREE TO LOVE, is available in digital format for free download through September 9 only. If you don’t own a Kindle, you’ll find a free app on the book detail page. CLICK HERE to get your free copy.
REPAIRED BY LOVE
© 2004 Sandra Pavloff Conner
When Kana walked out of the meeting the next morning, she knew she really wanted to accept the position they had offered her. She didn’t understand all of the reasons, especially since it would mean a slight reduction in salary and benefits, although for a private school, they did offer quite a bit. But in her heart, she knew that this was something that she’d been wanting to do for some time.
She had held back from saying as much to the two men she’d met with, though, because she still wanted to be absolutely sure that she wasn’t being swayed by Gram’s feelings – or more importantly – her own feelings concerning Lionel. She had resolved to pray some more about it, at least until Sunday, and to talk to Vallie first. She knew that since Vallie didn’t want her to leave Nashville, she would most likely come up with all of the arguments against taking this new position that Kana might not have thought of on her own.
She didn’t want to be influenced by other people in the congregation who might know about the job opening, so she told Gram that she was going to skip church that evening. “I don’t want to talk to anyone else about the situation right now, except Vallie,” she said. “I can think of most of the reasons why I’d like to take the job, but I need to look squarely at the other side of the picture, and she will definitely help me do that. I hope you understand, Gram.”
“Of course I do, Honey. You do what you feel you need to in order to be able to hear the Lord clearly. If anyone asks about you, I’ll just tell them you had some other obligations to fulfill tonight. You don’t have to be there every time the doors are open anyway, you know.”
Kana laughed. “I know, but I learned from the best … you. And you are there every time the doors are open. So I guess that’s why I almost feel guilty for not going. But thanks for understanding, Gram,” she said hugging her tightly. “I love you very much, you know.”
Gram gave Kana a little swat on her behind. “Yes, Missy, I do know that, and it gives your old granny a big lift every time I think about it.”
Kana laughed out loud. “Old! Gram you’ll never be old, so don’t even try to get my sympathy. You’ll be going strong for the Lord right up until the very minute you leave this earth to go be in His presence.” She kissed her grandmother on the cheek. “Now, I’ll help you get supper, and then while you’re at church, I’ll call Val.”
When Kana picked up the phone to make that call, her heart was beating rapidly. She knew part of the cause was that she almost dreaded to tell her friend that she was seriously considering not coming back to Nashville to stay. But another part of it was that she was a little afraid that Vallie might come up with some legitimate reasons why Kana should turn down this position at Prince of Peace School. But she had to talk it over with her.
“I knew it! … I just knew it!” Vallie almost shouted.
“What do you mean you knew it?”
Vallie let out a long sigh before she answered. “Oh … Kana … after we talked the last time, I began to pray in earnest about your desire to teach in a Christian school. And the more I prayed, the more I felt in my heart that the Lord’s been causing you to feel that way because He’s been preparing you for something He wants you to do. I just had this knowing inside that you would be teaching somewhere else next year. Only I had at least hoped it would be here in Nashville.”
“Vallie, are you serious? Is that what you really felt?”
“Listen, girl, would I say something like that if it weren’t true? Do you think it’s easy for me to even consider giving up the very best friend I’ve ever had in my whole life? I’ve cried and cried about it ever since the Lord showed me all of that.”
“Oh, Val …” Tears sprang to Kana’s eyes now. “I can hardly bear to think of our not being able to do almost everything together either. I’m so torn about what to do.”
Vallie sniffed loudly on her end of the phone. “I told Mom about all of it, and cried on her shoulder too, but she gave me a lecture. I can recall every word, and I think I ought to tell you what she said.”
“Absolutely. Tell me.”
“Her exact words were, ‘Now, Honey, in the first place, you don’t know for sure that this is going to happen. But if it does, you just think about David and Jonathan in the Bible. They were the closest of friends that ever lived, and they had to go their separate ways after a time, but they never stopped loving each other, and God made a way for them to still bless each other. David even did some special things for Jonathan’s family after Jonathan himself had died. Now you buck up and think of this from Kana’s point of view. If God’s leading her to make this big a change, it’s because He has something really good in store for her.’”
“Is that what you believe too, Vallie?”
Her friend sighed heavily again. “As much as I don’t want to have to say the words … yes, I do. And … although I’d like to come up with a bunch of reasons why you shouldn’t … I can’t come up with any except my own need of your friendship.”
“Well, you know that’s not a little thing to me, Val.”
“I know, and I feel the same way, but that doesn’t change the fact that God is looking at a much bigger picture than just our personal friendship here, Kana. And … I guess what I’m trying to say is that I truly want you to do what you believe in your heart is the right thing to do when you look at the bigger picture.”
It was Kana’s turn to sigh. “Boy … I was prepared for you to come up with all kinds of arguments that would help me see the negative side to taking this job, but here you’ve practically laid it in my lap!”
“Don’t remind me!”
There was a long pause while both of them tried to sort out their feelings. Joy and expectation and disappointment all vied for first place in both of them, and finally Kana spoke again. “Vallie … do you think we’ll still remain best friends? Nashville and Gatlinburg aren’t all that far apart.”
“No … they aren’t … and if we’re determined to keep our friendship strong, I think we’ll find a way, dear. … That is … if you decide that you’re sure this job is what you’re supposed to be doing.”
“Well, I have to be honest and say that I’m not sure right now. I’m leaning toward it. I liked everything they told me in the meeting today, and I’ve worked with quite a few of the staff, because they were on the staff of the camp too. I like all of them, and I think they feel the same. We certainly worked well together. But … at the same time … I need to be sure that my feelings about Lee Butler aren’t entering into my decision.”
“Is anything else happening in that relationship yet?”
“No … and I’m not sure it’s supposed to. And I guess that’s my main reason for holding back on saying I’ll take this job.” Kana gasped at what she’d just said.
Vallie did too and then asked, “Did you hear what you just said, Kana?”
“Ye … yes. I did. I said that my concern about my feelings for Lee was the only real reason I’m not sure about this job. Vallie … I hadn’t realized it until I spoke those words, but except for that one question, I feel with everything in me that I’m supposed to be the first grade teacher here next year.” There was awe in her voice as she realized that her decision had already been made in her heart. Even her friendship with Valentina hadn’t been enough to dilute that strong pull inside of her to accept the position.
“I think the Lord’s given you the decision, dear, and I think you’re going to just have to let Him take care of everything concerning Lee Butler too. Don’t let that friendship – or whatever it might become – or not become – be a deciding factor.”
Kana had tears trickling down her cheeks now. “Oh, Vallie, what would I ever do without you? You’ve helped me so much.”
“Well, you’re not going to have to do without me. We’ve already decided that, remember?” She sighed again, resignedly. “Well, I guess there won’t be any need to read your journal at the end of the summer.”
“No, you’re helping me write it almost day by day,” Kana said, laughing now.
“You are coming back at the end of July to at least get sorted out and packed up, aren’t you?”
“Oh, yes, and … if I do decide to take this job, I’ll probably come up and talk to the principal personally as soon as possible.”
“Okay … at least we can spend some time together then.” Kana could hear the sadness in her friend’s voice. Her heart ached at the idea of moving away from her too. But she knew that Vallie had spoken what the Lord Himself had put into her heart, and she felt so grateful for such a friend.
“Thank you for being so honest with me, Vallie. It’s made all the difference.”
“I’m glad it’s helped a little at least. Why don’t we pray before we hang up.”
“That’s a good idea,” Kana said, and they each took a turn praying for the Lord to get His perfect will done in both of their lives. As always, they both felt much better when they had finished, and in spite of their hesitancy to be separated from each other, they both felt a sense of expectancy and hope for the future too – enough so that they were laughing again by the time they ended the call.
By Sunday, Kana knew that she was supposed to take the job at Prince of Peace School. She told Gram at breakfast that morning, and planned to tell Cameron and the principal after the evening service. There were always so many people for the pastor to talk to after the morning service, she thought that would be a confusing time to talk about something so important.
She would make plans to travel back to Nashville and talk to the principal there in the next day or two. That would still give them about five weeks to hire somebody else. She knew there were plenty of applications on file in the office. There was never a shortage of people wanting to teach there, so they wouldn’t have a hard time filling her place. There was something especially humbling about realizing that truth; it helped her to keep things in perspective and not feel as if the world would stand still because of any of her decisions. Her only responsibility was to be sure she was being obedient to the Lord for herself.
Just before they left for the evening service, Gram asked Kana’s permission to tell the Butlers about her decision. “Delly will be so excited to know that you’re going to be her teacher,” she said, beaming at the thought of how happy the child would be.
Kana chuckled. “Oh, Gram, you don’t need my permission. Everybody will know about it soon. But I think I’d better get a bag packed tomorrow and head up to Nashville bright and early Tuesday morning, so that I can talk to my own principal and give him as much notice as possible.”
“Yes, that’s the only right thing to do, although I hate for you to have to leave so quickly. Will you try to stay and do some other things while you’re there?”
“Yes, I think that would be the best. If I get everything sorted out and packed up, and make arrangements for movers or whatever I’ll need, then when I come back, I can spend the rest of the summer getting myself and my materials organized for the start of school .”
“Will Vallie be coming back soon?”
“She’ll be back to town next week, and I thought if I had most of the work done, that would give the two of us more time to spend together.” She sighed. “That’s the only really sad part of this decision, Gram. I’ve never had a truer friend than Vallie. The Lord just knitted our hearts together from the beginning of our acquaintance. We’ve actually been much more like sisters.”
“I know dear,” Gram said, hugging Kana. “But your friendship is strong enough to hold up even at a distance. Those God-created friendships last a whole lifetime, you know. I have one or two like that, and distance hasn’t changed our love or trust in each other over many years now.”
Kana smiled, although there were unshed tears in her eyes. “That helps, Gram. I’ll hold on to that.”
“And … Kana … I want you to know that my happiness at your making this decision isn’t just a selfish happiness.”
“Oh, I know that, Gram!” Kana interrupted her.
“Well, what I mean is, I really do believe that this is a brand new season in your life, and that the Lord has brought you here for a specific purpose. I believe He has some good plans that He wants to carry out in your life, and He needs you to be here in order for Him to do it.”
Kana was silent for a moment, just looking into her grandmother’s eyes. “You know, as I left Nashville to make this trip, I couldn’t help but feel that there was something special about it – that it was more than just a great vacation or a long awaited visit with you.”
Gram nodded her head. She was sure of that fact. And unless she had missed her guess, she was almost positive that those special plans involved a certain young man who had just given his heart to the Lord – partly as a result of knowing Kana. She smiled widely to herself now as they went out the front door. Yes, she did believe in love at first sight, and even though there were hurdles to get over, love always found a way with the Lord’s help.
When service was over, Kana made her way to the principal, Mr. Jeffreys, to tell him of her decision. His face was wreathed in smiles as he shook her hand and welcomed her to the school family. Cameron came up to them about that time, smiling in expectation. “Do I see what I think I see?” He said. “Have you accepted the position, Kana?”
Grinning herself, Kana answered. “Yes, I have. You two were very persuasive at our meeting the other day, and I really do believe this is the Lord’s leading. Even my very best friend, who is in tears … as I am … about our being separated … told me that the Lord had prepared her for this turn of events.”
“Say, that is good news. It’s always nice to have those kinds of confirmations, isn’t it?” Cameron said.
Kana nodded her head. “It helped a lot.”
Mr. Jeffreys spoke again now. “Well, I’ll make myself available to you whenever you want to come in and start going over the materials and making plans, Kana. Just let me know.”
“Thank you. I’m planning on going back to Nashville on Tuesday to give them my notice personally and try to get things moving on that end, so I’ll probably wait until I’m back at the end of the month to start working on this end.”
“That makes sense. Then you won’t have to go back and forth trying to finish one thing and start another at the same time.”
Kana laughed. “That’s what I thought. I’m running it a little close on time as it is, but that’s probably best, under the circumstances. If I had a lot more time, I might get back home and start second guessing myself and lose my courage to make this change.”
Mr. Jeffreys was gray-headed, but his eyes still twinkled a bright blue, and they twinkled at her in kindness now. “I truly do believe that you’ve made the decision the Lord wants you to make, Kana. I believe we’ll all be blessed with the outcome.”
“Thank you, Sir,” she said, her eyes meeting his seriously. She reached out to shake his hand again. “I’ll give you a call as soon as I get back from Nashville.”
She turned then and started over to where Gram was standing with the Butlers, all of them wreathed in smiles. They looked up and saw that she was coming toward them, and Delly sprang from the group and ran to meet her, throwing her arms around her waist.
“Kana, is it really true? Are you going to be my teacher?”
“Yes, dear, I think I am.”
“Oh boy!” she said, bouncing up and down. “And don’t worry. I know I have to call you Miss Wallace at school, like we did in camp.” Then her face took on a concerned look. “But is it all right if I call you Kana when we’re not at school?”
“I think that would be fine as long as we’re not on some kind of school business, like a field trip or something. When we’re just with the family, you can still call me Kana.”
By that time they had joined the rest of the family, and Darrin announced that they had taken Gram up on her offer to buy ice cream for everybody as a way of celebrating. So once again, Kana found herself seated beside Lee Butler at a table, their arms touching lightly from time to time. It sent a little shiver through her when they touched, and involuntarily, she remembered the kiss again. Was it going to be like this every time they were together, she wondered?
“I was surprised to hear your news, but very happy about it,” Lee said now. “It will be quite a move for you.”
“Yes, it will. I’m going up Tuesday to start getting things ready. I don’t know for sure how much I’ll bring with me, but I need to make some pretty quick decisions and notify the movers.”
“Listen, if you’re not bringing a whole house-full of furniture, why don’t you let me come up and load it into a U-haul and bring it down for you? I’ll bring a friend to help, and Darrin can handle the garage on his own for two days. It won’t take more than that.”
“Oh, Lee, I couldn’t let you do that!”
“Why not! What are friends for?”
“Well … I … I don’t know …”
“Look, Kana, I feel that you’ve helped me so much, and I’d really like to do something to help make this move easier for you if I can. Let me do this.”
“Well, maybe. But let me see first how much I want to bring down. I’ll let you know. I promise.”
“Good. How long will you be gone this trip?”
“I’m not too sure. There’s a lot to do, and I’d like to get most of it taken care of before my best friend gets back to Nashville next week, because I want us to spend as much time together as possible before I leave for good.”
“She’ll be sorry to see you go, I’m sure.”
“Well, yes and no,” she answered smiling wryly.
“Yes and no?”
Kana chuckled now. “She wants me to do exactly what the Lord wants me to do, and she believes that involves moving down here and taking this job, but, of course, she doesn’t want us to be separated by so much distance.”
“Tell me about her; is she a teacher too?”
“Yes. Our classrooms are next door to each other, and we’ve both always taught at that same school. Her name’s Valentina Rosswell. She’s African-American and quite beautiful. She’s a year younger than I am, but we like all the same things and think the same way about so much that we’ve been more like sisters than friends ever since we met.”
“Sounds like one of those rare relationships that you want to keep for life.”
“It is. And I’m sure we will.”
“Well, I have to say that I’m really glad you decided to move down here. You already brighten the lives of so many people here, and I’m sure that can only increase when you’re here to live.”
Kana had been avoiding looking directly at Lee, but now she did. As soon as their eyes met, they held as if magnetized. She recognized a new warmth in their depths, but she tried to tell herself that it had nothing to do with her personally. Finally, she picked up the conversation again. “Thank you, Lee. That’s quite a compliment.”
He looked at her even more intently. “And you know it’s true.”
Kana still hadn’t been able to break eye contact with him when Delly interrupted their conversation. “Kana, can – I mean may I help you get your room at school ready when it’s time?”
Kana wasn’t sure how to answer that, but before she had much chance, Eve spoke up. “No, Delly, honey, Kana doesn’t need somebody bouncing around, asking a bunch of questions every few minutes. She needs some time alone in her room to think things out. Besides, if you get to go in and help, it might make the other children feel bad if they find out on the first day of school, since they wouldn’t have had a chance to do the same.”
“Oh … I didn’t think about that,” Delly said, her lower lip drooping and her head hanging down.
“I’ll tell you what,” Kana said cheerily. “I’ll try to save something that everyone can help with on the first day, how’s that?”
That wasn’t quite what Delly had been hoping for, but it was better than nothing, so she agreed readily, in case hesitating might cause that offer to be withdrawn too.
“I think it’s somebody’s bedtime,” Darrin spoke now, winking at Delly.
“But, Daddy, it’s summertime. There’s no school yet, so I ought to be able to stay up a long time.”
“Don’t give me that, Squirt. 9:30 is late enough unless something really special is going on.”
“Well something special is going on. It’s Kana’s celebration party.”
“Actually,” Kana spoke up now, “I’m tired enough myself to be ready for bed too. What about you, Gram?”
“Yes, I think I can call it a day – a very happy day,” she said, rising from her chair.
“Don’t forget, now, Kana,” Lee said as they all walked to their cars, “I’ll be waiting to hear from you about bringing your things down.”
“Oh, are you going to help with that, Lee?” Eve asked.
“Yeah, I told her I’d go up and load everything in a U-haul and bring it down. It’s a lot less expensive, and she won’t have to be concerned about anything possibly getting lost.”
“That’s a great idea, but you’ll need a little help, won’t you?” Darrin asked.
“I thought I’d ask Jimmy if he’d like to go along and help. We’ve been trying to think of something we could hire him to do, and this should fit the bill nicely.”
“Well, I can’t let you pay someone to come and move my furniture!” Kana said, sounding a little distraught. “I’ll gladly pay whatever you think’s fair.”
“No, you don’t understand,” Lionel answered. “Darrin and I have been thinking about hiring Jimmy on part time, just to do odd jobs, because he helps support his family, but what he earns several hours a week at the corner grocery, just isn’t enough. This would be a way of working him into some hours with us without making him feel like it’s a handout.”
“Well … if you’re sure …” Kana still sounded unconvinced.
Lionel reached out and laid his hand gently on her shoulder. “Trust me, Kana; I know what I’m doing.” Instantly, she felt a warm current flow through her from where his hand lay, and she felt that magnetic pull toward him again. Fortunately for her peace of mind, as soon as he’d finished speaking, he removed his hand, but then she felt cold without that connection.
She just nodded her agreement and turned to get into the car. Darrin was holding the door for Gram, and Lionel did the same for Kana, leaning in, partly across her, to wish Gram a goodnight. As they drove home, she and Gram were both quiet. Kana was thinking about Lionel. What she didn’t know was that Gram was doing the same – and smiling to herself again.
The next day, as Kana packed for her trip back to Nashville, Gram wandered in and out of the bedroom, making one or two suggestions, but mostly just being there. Kana kept feeling that her grandmother wanted to talk about something particular, but she didn’t know whether to just come out and ask her or wait for her to decide to bring it up.
Finally, about 3:00, Gram suggested they stop for tea and the cake she had baked that morning, and as they ate, she finally got to what was on her mind. “Kana, dear, I’d like to ask you something, but in order for me to feel free to do so, I need you to promise me that you will answer me totally truthfully, and not worry that you’ll hurt my feelings. I assure you, my feelings won’t be hurt, no matter what your answer, but I figure unless I bring it up, there’s no way you can make a decision about it.”
“What is it, Gram?.”
“Do I have your promise?”
Kana held up her right hand as if making a pledge. “I promise.”
“Well, I know you’ve been quite independent for several years, and I’m sure there are a lot of things you like about having your own apartment. But this house is so large, and we seem to get along so well together, I was just wondering if … well … if you might consider moving in with me, at least for your first year. I think I can promise that I’ll be keeping busy enough myself that I won’t smother you or interfere in your social life much.” She was grinning widely as she made the last statement, but Kana could see that there was a seriousness in her eyes.
“Well … to tell you the truth, Gram, I hadn’t given much thought yet to my living arrangements. I guess I just assumed in the back of my mind that I’d get an apartment, but … now that you’ve brought up this idea … I think maybe it’s something I should consider.” She grinned at her grandmother now. “And I think we have a good enough relationship that I would never feel smothered by you.”
“You could feel free to come and go as you please, and there are enough rooms in this house that you could entertain friends anytime you wanted with privacy. There’s even the two extra bedrooms, besides the ones you and I would use, so if Vallie or someone else wanted to come for an extended visit, that would cause no problem.”
“I’d really like to consider that, Gram. Are you sure it wouldn’t cause you to feel that you had someone here you had to take care of, though? I wouldn’t want you to feel that you had to wait on me or watch over me somehow.”
“No, I don’t believe I would. Of course, I’ve done a little of that these past few weeks, because you were on vacation, and I hardly ever get to spend time with you. But I don’t think I’d have any problem letting you do your share and act like the house was your responsibility too.”
“Well, if you really mean that, I think living here with you would be fun. That is – if you promise that after a while, if for some reason I feel the need to be out totally on my own again, you won’t be offended.”
“I can promise that. I do know what it is to need independence.”
“And do you promise that if I get to be a nuisance or a burden of any kind, you will be honest with me?”
“I promise, dear. I know you have the ability to earn a living and handle all of your own living expenses, so if I felt that I couldn’t handle the arrangement after a period of time, I’d tell you. But I seriously doubt that such a circumstance will arise.”
“And you’ll let me help with the expense and upkeep of the house?”
“That’s the only way I’ll do it, Gram.”
“All right. But since it’s my home, and everything I put into it is an investment that I will gain something from – and it won’t be that for you – let’s say that you can pay up to a third of the expenses, but not a penny more.”
Gram held up her hand. “No arguments. If you won’t agree to that, we’ll just have to forget it. I won’t have you investing any more money than that in my property when you need to be saving for your own future. I want you to stay, but I draw the line at you paying for more than that.”
Kana grinned at her again. “Your some business woman, Gram. You know how to drive a hard bargain and get what you want. Maybe some of that will rub off on me, if I stay around on a regular basis.” She held our her right hand to shake. “It’s a deal, Mrs. Brighton.”
“Good. I thought if we could get that settled now it might help you decide what you want to move down here with you.”
“Oh, that’s right. That will make a difference in what I bring down.”
“If you want to change your bedroom and put in your own things, we can store the other stuff, and you can put some of your own things in the other rooms as well if you like. I thought you might especially want to add something to the study. It won’t bother me in the least to re-arrange things and do a little redecorating.”
“Well, I don’t have a whole lot, since it was just a one bedroom apartment, and all of the cabinets and bookcases were built-ins. The refrigerator and stove and washer and dryer all came with it, so they will stay there. And I suppose any other pieces that I didn’t want to move in here would be easy enough to store. And who knows, if we decide we like this arrangement well enough, I may even sell some of what I’m not using.”
“That makes sense, and if you aren’t particularly fond of some of the items, you might even want to sell them up there rather than move them.”
“Boy, I didn’t stop to think when I decided to take this job just how many hundreds of other decisions would need to be made as a result,” Kana said now, holding her head in her hands for a moment.
Gram chuckled at her. “Well, dear, at least the most important one has been made. You’ve taken the job. Then the second most important was about a place to live, and that’s been decided. So really, I’d say you’re over the worst of the hurdles already. And, at least you won’t have to search for a new church home, because you already fit in here like one of the family.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right, Gram. Considering what a big move I’m making, I really don’t have too many big problems left to solve, do I?”
Gram reached out and squeezed Kana’s hand. “I’m very excited about this, Kana. I’m expecting some very happy things to result from this move.”
“Thanks, Gram. I’m excited too.”
Kana left for Nashville at 9:00 the next morning, and by the middle of the afternoon, she was standing in the middle of her own living room still feeling some of that excitement. Only now it had to battle with the sadness and nostalgia that were naturally starting to crowd in.
But the job ahead of her was huge, so after she fixed herself a cup of tea and propped her feet up while she drank it, she started walking through the rooms and deciding what she wanted to move to Gatlinburg with her and what she felt she could part with easily. She wrote everything down in one column or the other, and she was pleasantly surprised at the end of the tour with how few items she felt she needed to keep.
She decided on fast food for her evening meal, because she could get more done if she didn’t stop to shop for groceries and cook. After eating, she did stop at a small neighborhood market to get only basic necessities for a couple more days, and planned to wait until the end of the week to do any serious shopping. She’d probably be here only one more week, and most of that time, she planned to spend with Vallie, which meant they’d probably eat out several times together.
The next morning, she went to the school and spent an hour with her principle. He seemed understanding and, surprisingly, even encouraging when she told him that she believed the Lord was leading her to make the change and that the move would put her in the same city as her grandmother and much closer to her parents. She knew he was sorry to lose her, but he didn’t even hint that she should feel bad about her decision or reconsider it. He told her to take whatever time she needed to gather her materials from her classroom, and when she left his office, she felt a real peace about leaving.
By late that afternoon, she had sorted all of her material, separating what was her own from what belonged to the school. She had made at least a half dozen trips to her car, carrying everything, and since she had put boxes in her trunk for that specific reason, she just filled them and decided to leave everything in the car until she got back to Gatlinburg. A good deal of extra-curricular material that she had used for second grade could also be used for first, so she didn’t want to leave much of it behind.
On Friday, she plowed through all of the correspondence, photographs, and books in her apartment, as well as her kitchen items, and by that evening, she had boxed everything she intended to take. She stood in the middle of her kitchen, her hands on her hips, and breathed a deep sigh of relief. The task was almost over. And for the first time, she thought seriously about taking Lionel up on his offer. She really didn’t want to take enough to pay a moving company, and she didn’t think anything she was moving would be more than they could handle loading themselves.
She didn’t know if she would be likely to find him at home on a Friday evening, but she’d try anyway. Gram had carefully written his home and business number on a page in Kana’s address book so that she could get in touch with him about the move when she was ready. Kana hadn’t told her that she wasn’t sure yet if she planned on letting him help. But now it seemed like a pretty good idea. And if she were really honest with herself, she wanted very much to talk with him.
He answered on the second ring, and Kana glanced at her watch just as he answered and realized that he might be having supper. “Lee, it’s Kana.”
“Yes, I recognize your voice. Hi.”
“Listen, I’ve been so busy I didn’t even look at a clock before I called. If you’re eating, I can call back later.”
“No. I’ve finished. I’m sitting here with my feet propped up, drinking a cup of coffee and watching Andy Griffith.”
“Really! I love that show! I have loads of those videos and DVDs.”
“So do I, and I knew you were a woman of good taste the first time I met you,” he said, laughing.
“As a matter of fact, I just finished packing a bunch of books and tapes this afternoon, and those shows were put in their own special box.”
“Good girl. I hope you’ll let me go through them and see if you have any I don’t have, and maybe we can share.”
“You bet. Anybody who’s a friend of Andy Griffith is a friend of mine.”
Lionel didn’t respond for a moment, and when he did, his tone was serious. “I hope you do consider me your friend, Kana.”
He cleared his throat to rid it of the huskiness that had crept into his voice. “Well, are you ready for my moving services?”
“I called to ask you what you thought about the load I’m planning on bringing down there. I want you to tell me honestly if you think it’s more than we need to try to take ourselves, or if you think that would still be the best way.”
“Okay, read me your list.”
When she had read off everything she planned to take, he asked. “Are you sure that’s all you’ll want to bring?”
“Yes. Since I’ve decided to move in with Gram at least for the first year, I won’t need anything more than this, if this much.
“I didn’t realize that you had decided to live with her. My very next question was going to be whether you were coming back down to look for an apartment before we moved everything. But I think moving in with your grandmother sounds like a great idea. I’m sure she’s thrilled.”
“Yeah, we talked again last night, and she’s bending over backwards to make sure I know she won’t ‘cramp my style,’ as she puts it. But I told her to stop worrying. I’ll enjoy this set up more than she will.”
“I’m glad. She’s a wonderful woman, and with you making such a big move, it’s nice that you have someone of your own to move right in with. It will make you feel settled almost from the beginning.”
“You know, you’ve just put into words what I’ve been feeling ever since I decided to take Gram up on her offer. I hadn’t really been able to voice what I felt, but you’ve hit the nail on the head: I don’t feel the least bit unsettled even though I’m moving to a new town halfway across the state.”
“Well, great minds think alike; don’t you know that?” he answered, laughing.
“Thank you for including me in that category. To tell you the truth, I guess I must have a great mind because I’ve certainly put it through a rigorous work out this past week, and it’s still going strong.”
“So when do you want to come down?”
“You didn’t say what you thought about the load I’m bringing.”
“Oh, didn’t I? I thought I did. I couldn’t believe that was all you’re moving. I think the only sensible thing is to do what I suggested.”
“And you’re sure it won’t be a terrible imposition on you?”
“Okay, okay. I just wanted to double check,” she said laughing at the sternness in his voice.”
“Well, Vallie gets back tomorrow, and I know she’ll want us to spend at least a couple of days together before I leave, and since you’ve just gotten started at the Bible class and Wednesday night services, I don’t want you missing those on my account. How about Thursday?”
“Sounds good. What we’ll do is come up early that morning and load everything up, and then take off early the next morning, if that’s all right with you.”
“That’s perfect. I can stay that last night with Vallie, and if you and Jimmy want to bring a couple of sleeping bags, you can stay here in my apartment that night and not bother with a motel.”
“Hmmm, that’s an idea. I’ll think about it. Although, if we don’t stay, you can have everything locked up as soon as the furniture is loaded, and you’ll be done there. Besides, I think Jimmy will consider staying in a motel a real treat, so I think I’ll just stick with that plan. Do you think I ought to reserve something?”
“Oh, there are so many in this area, I don’t think it’s necessary, but if you’d like for me to reserve something at the one nearest Vallie’s apartment, I can do that.”
“That sounds like a good idea. Then we’ll be close by if we need to handle any last minutes details. Are you going to follow us down that morning?”
“I think I should. I need some time to prepare at the school after I get back, and if I stay another day or two, it’s just going to be that much harder leaving Vallie. So, as of right now, my plan is to go down when you and Jimmy do.”
“I think that’s best too. Okay, if I don’t hear anything different, we’ll be there with a big truck right around noon.”
“Good. I’ll bring something in for lunch, and I’m going to take Vallie and you and Jimmy all out for dinner that evening as a great big thank you to everybody at once.”
“There’s no need for that, Kana —”
“Don’t bother arguing, Lee. It’s that way or no way at all. I won’t let you and Jimmy come up here and do all that work unless you’ll let me treat you to dinner.”
“Okay, I guess you’re the boss on this job. Now give me some specific directions.”
Having done that, Kana wished him a good night and hung up. She felt excited about this move in her life, even more so after talking with Lionel. She still wasn’t positive what she felt for him personally, but she knew that he made her life more interesting and pleasant, and she was grateful for the fact that he was now a member of God’s family and she didn’t have to keep up a guard of some kind whenever she was with him.
The following Thursday morning, Vallie arrived at Kana’s apartment to help with any last minute packing. They had spent the last several days just running around together, visiting all of their favorite places and finally ending up moving Kana to Vallie’s apartment the previous night for an old fashioned pajama party. It was still hard to think about being separated, but both girls had resolved to make this a happy time for each other, knowing that the Lord was leading this way. So although a few tears were shed from time to time, they laughed through most of the days.
By noon on Thursday, they were watching out the window for the moving truck, and sure enough, just a few minutes past the hour, Lionel and Jimmy pulled up. Vallie had been looking forward to this meeting with Lionel for days now, and could hardly keep from hopping up and down with anticipation. She watched out the curtain as he locked the truck, and he and Jimmy started up the walk. “Oh, Kana, he is handsome! He has those loose-limbed movements that make him look relaxed and laid back, but those muscles look like they’re solid as a rock.”
Kana laughed out loud. “For pity’s sake, Vallie, the way you’re going on, I’m surprised your tongue isn’t hanging out.”
“Hey, girl, if it weren’t for the fact that I know your seriously interested, it just might have been.”
“What do you mean seriously interested?”
“Just what it sounds like I mean, and you know I’m right, so don’t bother arguing. Besides, there’s the bell. Let ‘em in; I want to meet this hunk.”
Kana was still laughing when she opened the door, and Lionel thought she had never looked lovelier. Her eyes were bright and her cheeks flushed. What he really wanted to do was grab her up and swing her around, but he managed to restrain himself and smile politely, giving a little salute. “Butler’s moving service at your command, madam. This is my partner, Jimmy Mitchell,” he added, putting his hand on Jimmy’s shoulder.
Jimmy grinned and held out his hand to Kana. “Pleased to meet you, ma’am.”
“Oh, please, Jimmy, call me Kana, and come on in,” she said, stepping back to let them enter the apartment.
As they did so, Valentina stepped toward them from across the room, her eyes bright and her voice welcoming. “Hi, I’m Valentina Rosswell,” she said, offering her hand to Lionel. “And I’m sure you’re Lee Butler. You’re as handsome as Kana said you were.”
Lionel blushed slightly, and Kana blushed a lot. Vallie just grinned and turned to Jimmy, offering him her hand also. “Hi, Jimmy. We’re sure glad you could come to help.”
Kana cleared her throat and spoke again. “Why don’t we have something to eat first, and you guys can have a few minutes to rest. Then we can get started. With all four of us, it shouldn’t take very long.”
“Sounds good,” Lionel said. “Where can we wash up?”
“Bathroom’s down the hall and to your left. For lunch I’ve got a selection of cold cuts, chips, and cookies. I hope that’s all right. I thought that was better than ordering something hot and trying to keep it that way until you got here.”
“That sounds great to me,” Jimmy said enthusiastically.
“Same here,” Lionel said. “And I think we’re both hungry enough to do it justice,” he added as he and Jimmy started down the hall.
They sat on the high stools around the kitchen counter as they ate, and Kana asked a few questions about the people she knew in Gatlinburg. Then Vallie told Lionel how excited she’d been when Kana had told her of his new commitment to the Lord, and she asked him to tell her about it. So that carried them most of the way through the meal, and by the time they were having coffee from a thermos, Lionel leaned back in his chair and just looked at Vallie for a long time.
“You have absolutely gorgeous eyes!” he said. “But I imagine you’ve been told that before.”
Vallie had been surprised at his comment. Although she was used to people commenting on her unusual aquamarine eyes, she hadn’t expected such an overt compliment from this friend of Kana’s.
“Why, thank you, Lee. I have had other people comment on them, just because the color is unusual in African-American people. But I’ve rarely had a nicer compliment than what you just said.”
Kana squirmed just slightly, although no one else noticed. She loved her best friend and had always been proud of how beautiful she was, but for some reason, she didn’t feel the least bit happy that Lionel had seemed so taken with that beauty today.
“Does anyone else in your family have the same color eyes?” he asked now.
“No. I’m the exception. Everybody else has brown eyes.”
Kana felt that it was time to change the subject, so she cleared her throat a little and asked, “Well, do you guys want anything else to eat?”
“Not me,” Lionel said, patting his stomach. “I just about made a pig of myself as it is. How about you, Jimmy?”
“I’m taking this one more cookie, and then I’m done,” he answered, grinning and taking a bite at the same time.
“Well, I’ll clear the table them,” Kana said, rising. “You two rest a few minutes before you start hauling furniture out.”
“Why don’t you walk through the apartment with us and point out specifically which pieces go, and then we can get an idea what we want to start with,” Lionel said, getting up also.
“That’s a good idea,” Vallie said. “You do that, Kana, and I’ll clear up things in here. Then we’ll all be ready to carry stuff out at the same time.”
“Okay. Come on back to the bedroom and we’ll start there. I have it all written down,” she said, picking up a pad from the desk in the living room.
So by the time they had taken inventory, the boys were ready to carry out the heavy pieces first, and let the girls get the boxes of small things carried to the door.
It took about two hours to finish the job, and then Vallie suggested that everyone go back to her apartment until supper time.
“It might be a good idea to go ahead and make sure of our room at the motel first, and leave the truck there, if that’s all right with you girls. That means one of you will have to chauffeur us around, but that’s better than taking this truck back and forth.”
“Oh, absolutely,” said Kana. “Why don’t I lead you to the motel in my car, while Vallie goes on home, and then I’ll give you a ride.”
“Good,” Lionel said. “You ready, Jimmy?”
“Okay. I’m leaving one key here for the landlord, and he told me to keep the other one for another week, just in case I needed to come back for some reason.” Kana said, laying a key on the counter and picking up the plastic garbage bag they had used for their soiled paper plates and cups. “Vallie, you’re taking the left over food, right?”
“Got it right here,” she said holding up a plastic sack as she started out the door. “I’ll see you at the apartment.”
Valentina had found herself trying to measure just how smitten these two people were with each other. She knew Kana better than anyone else except her own family, and she was pretty convinced that her best friend was on the verge of finding herself in love with this man. And from what she had seen so far, she couldn’t find any reason for her not to be. Moreover, she’d bet a month’s salary that Lionel felt the same as Kana. She smiled to herself from time to time, resolving to pray even more so that neither of them would make a mistake.
She knew that after they left the restaurant this evening, they would drop the guys off at their motel, and she wanted to give Kana a little time alone with Lionel before that, so when they had all gathered at her apartment, she asked Jimmy is he’d like to ride with her to do some errands and see a little more of Nashville. He was quick to take her up on it, since he usually didn’t get much farther away from Gatlinburg than Knoxville, and that was only to take his mom to the doctor.
So Kana found herself alone with Lionel and feeling almost as awkward as a girl on her first date. To cover her awkwardness, she suggested making a pitcher of tea. She put the teakettle on and then sat down in the living room with him while they waited for the water to boil. They were both quiet for a while, and finally Lionel spoke first. “The Bible class was especially interesting this Tuesday. You would have liked the discussion.”
“Oh … what was it about?”
“How Christians shouldn’t become linked with unbelievers,” he said, with a teasing twinkle in his eyes.”
Kana couldn’t hold back a chuckle. “What a coincidence,” she said. “Did you have much to say?”
“I had a lot to say, actually. I shared with them what you had told me early in our friendship, and how much influence it had on me over the next few weeks. I think it helped one or two people there who were evidently considering relationships with people who aren’t professing Christians.”
“That’s great.” Kana said, and then was silent for a few moments. Finally she spoke again. “You know, I was a little surprised that you seemed to have so many of the same ideas that I have about a lot of scriptures. I think we agree on almost everything that’s been brought up in that class so far.”
“Really?” he said, leaning forward eagerly in his chair.
“I’m glad to know that.”
“Oh, there’s the teakettle,” Kana said, getting up and starting toward the kitchen. Lionel followed her and stood leaning against the door, watching her fix the pitcher of tea. “Mmmm, that smells good. What flavor is that?”
“Blueberry,” she said, grinning widely. “My very favorite.”
“I’ll have to remember that,” he said, a serious tone in his voice.
Kana couldn’t resist looking directly at him when she heard his tone of voice change. “Why would you need to do that?” she asked.
Lionel walked across the room and stood right in front of her. His eyes capturing and holding hers. “I find myself wanting to remember so many things about you, Kana. … The soothing sound of your voice … the way the sun sparkles on your hair when the rays hit it just right … this scattering of freckles that looks like gold dust,” he said, lifting his hand and drifting his forefinger lightly across her cheeks and nose.
Kana held her breath. His eyes had glanced down at her cheeks briefly, but now held hers mesmerized again, and he continued speaking. “The way your eyes look like melted chocolate … so warm and inviting.”
Kana sucked in her breath lightly. The woman in her just couldn’t resist her next comment. “I thought it was Valentina’s eyes that you were so taken with.”
Lionel’s eyes widened briefly, and he grinned. Was she just a little jealous? Without conscious thought, he put both hands up and cupped her face, speaking more softly now. “Oh, Valentina’s eyes are ‘attention getters’ all right. But your eyes, Kana … your eyes …” His face drifted closer, his warm breath like a caress. “ … When a man looks into your eyes … warm and lit up from deep inside … he feels like he’s come home.”
His face had drifted closer to hers with every phrase, and now his lips hovered over her own, brushing them so lightly she couldn’t be sure they had touched. She was prepared for his kiss – wanted his kiss – when suddenly he lifted his head. He sighed deeply and slowly lowered his hands and took a step back. “I’m … sorry, Kana.”
She felt cold without his touch, and her confusion showed in her eyes.
He spoke again. “I let that happen once before. I mustn’t let it happen again.”
Kana felt that she had to reassure him that the only reason she had kept him at arm’s length before was because of their differences in faith, so she said, “But, Lee, you weren’t a believer then. That’s what made it a problem.”
“I know that was the biggest problem, Kana. And I certainly thank God that we’re no longer separated in that way. But that wasn’t … isn’t the only problem.” He stuck his hands into his pockets and leaned back against the cabinet with a sigh. “I have some issues to deal with … very personal issues … that make me a very unlikely candidate for a husband and father in the future … and I need to be careful that I don’t lead you and me both into something that I can’t be trusted to complete in the right way.”
Kana sighed gently, disappointed, but grateful to him for being a man of so much honor. “I’m not sure I understand, Lee, but I’ll pray that the Lord will help you resolve all of those issues. Can I help you in any way?”
He shook his head sadly. “I’m afraid not, dear. They’re things that are part of my inherited make-up, and I’m not even sure yet just how much difference God can make in that.”
Kana felt warmed by the fact that he’d called her “dear,” and she reached out and touched his arm. “Just remember, Lee. Nothing is impossible with the Lord. You have to believe that.”
Lionel only nodded his head in response, and at that moment, Vallie and Jimmy returned, so the conversation was brought to a close. But Kana could still see that sad look in Lionel’s eyes as she lay on Vallie’s sofa that night trying to get some sleep. “Lord, I just pray for Lee in the name of Jesus. Please help him to believe that You can change anything that needs to be changed. And help him turn it all over to You. He belongs to you now, Lord. Help him to remember that You’re truly his very own Father, and that there’s nothing You won’t do for him. Thank You, Father. Amen.” The last words were whispered on a sigh, and Kana finally felt some peace and drifted off to sleep.