trent’s weekly smile — 1/14/22

Well, it’s been a long time since I’ve had an opportunity to participate in Trent’s Weekly Smile posts, but I really did want to get back to it. The truth is that I haven’t been posting regularly at all during the past year and a half. Like most people, my whole life — work, social functions, even ministry functions — have been totally messed up with all the covid junk. (I refuse to capitalize that word; it doesn’t deserve to be capitalized.)  There have been a number of things that kept me from smiling. My sister had a battle with cancer during that time, and she passed away in the latter half of 2021. So smiles have been a little hard to come by.

She was the only really close family I had left, although I do try to stay connected with her two sons and their families. This year at Christmas, we felt the need to be connected even more strongly, but on Christmas Eve, one of my nephews and his wife had to be tested for covid, and they couldn’t get the results back in time for us to be together at Christmas. They didn’t have covid (and that in itself is worth a smile), but our window of opportunity for that holiday was past. But not to be defeated, we finally worked out a plan to get together at a later time, so that we could all eat together and open gifts and just have another “family” Christmas.

Now, I come to the ‘SMILE’ part of my story. One of my nephews had bought the newest Oculus Quest for his brother’s kids. Now, I has seen these gizmos and had watched a couple kids having fun with them, but I never even thought about trying one out. But, lo and behold, my nephew who had purchased the Oculus decided his 73-year-old aunt needed to get into the 21st century a little better, so he insisted that I put on the headset and let him instruct me in how to use it.

I’m not sure how many of you readers out there have tried out the Oculus Quest, so some of you probably know a lot more about it than I do even now, but I can say it was truly an experience I hadn’t even imagined. I’ve seen sci-fi movies in which characters experienced some things like I experienced with the Oculus, but I just never really thought about doing so myself. 

It was truly like entering an entirely different world. In fact the scene that came up immediately made me feel that I was standing on a strange planet, and if I hadn’t felt the good old Earth beneath my feet, I would have been a little nervous. I have to say the fact that my nephew and his son made an issue of making sure I had plenty of empty space all around me before I put the headset on was a little unnerving to begin with. My thought was, What am I going to be doing in all this space? But I realized that it was just precautionary since I couldn’t see the real word around me at all once the headset was on.

The options for activities and games that are literally “at your fingertips” is amazing. Just learning how to maneuver the hand sets was an experience. But as strange as it was, it was also delightful. I definitely smiled a lot. And even though it’s been a little more than a week since that experience, I am still smiling every time I remember it. So I figured why not make that the smile I share for this week.

The takeaway from all this experience is two-fold: Remembering it and the comradery with my nephews still makes me smile — and the whole experience has triggered a couple new ideas for brand new stories. And new story ideas always make me smile. So if any of you writers out there haven’t tried out the Oculus Quest yet, you might want to put it on your list of things to do in this New Year.

 


THE SAME GOD TODAY

Photo courtesy of Julian Hacker @ pixabay

I was thinking today about the prophet Ezekiel and his experience in the valley of dry bones, when the Lord told him He would give those bones new life. So I thought I’d share a poem the Lord inspired on the subject. The Scripture reference is Ezekiel, chapter 37.

THE SAME GOD TODAY

Bones in the valley,
Worthless and dry,
Bleached by the sun and
The wind blowing by.

God to the prophet
Did speak and did ask,
“Can these bones still live?
Is it too big a task?”

“Lord,” said the prophet,
“Only You know.”
“I’ll show you, Ezekiel;
My Spirit will blow.

“And cause them to live
And give flesh and skin;
They’ll rise like an army,
Give Me glory again.”

When our problems seem hopeless,
Too dead to restore,
We can look to Ezekiel
And his word from the Lord.

For the God who breathed life
Into bones dry and dead
Is the same God for us
If we’ll trust what He’s said.



ART IN BLACK & WHITE

There are a number of black and white photography challenges out there — and also a number of terrific black and white photos posted in response. I’m not really a photographer, but I am an artist who uses watercolor, acrylics, and inks. So every once in a while I like to see what some of my artworks look like when they are converted to black and white. Thought I’d share a few of those today.



‘THE RHINESTONE MURDER’ — a sample

New Isaac Wallace Novel Sample

Isaac Wallace Writes

My newest novel, THE RHINESTONE MURDER, has just been released from St. Ellen Press, and I thought I’d post a sample here to stir up a little interest. I’ll post the first three chapters — one chapter a day — and, after that, of course, readers will have to purchase the novel to find out “who done it.”

The book is available through Amazon in both digital and paperback. Readers can learn a little more about it or purchase a copy HERE.

Now, without further ado, here’s CHAPTER ONE.

THE RHINESTONE MURDER

© 2021 Isaac Wallace

CHAPTER ONE

“Don’t move.” The female voice startled him just before he felt the nose of the hand gun against his back. “Raise both hands high and hold them there while I check you for a weapon.”

Carson Knight slowly lifted his hands above his head and immediately felt his captor’s left hand…

View original post 2,181 more words

LOOKING FOR A GOOD BOOK? — TRY ‘NO GAME FOR A DAME’

I’ve felt led this year to devote a little attention to helping promote some authors and their works that I feel are worth readers’ time and money. I shared last week about my favorite novel, and this week I’m passing along a series that I think a lot of you will enjoy — if you like a good mystery that is.
 
NO GAME FOR A DAME (BY M. Ruth Myers) is the first book in the “Maggie Sullivan Mystery Series.” And one of the best things about this story is that it doesn’t have to end with the words “The End,” because there are several more where it came from.
 
The heroin, Maggie Sullivan, is a tough but totally likeable young woman who has broken through the barriers of the early 20th century resistance to women in the public work sector. In fact, the story is set in the years just prior to and including America’s involvement in WWII — a time when women in America were catapulted from being considered out of place in almost any workplace to holding down jobs in virtually every sector of life.
 
But Maggie has been ahead of the game, because she already had her own detective agency before 1940, and she doesn’t shy away from any case that needs her innate ability to solve a mystery and get people out of trouble.
 
The storyline is captivating, and the historical aspects of the setting are realistic, but not overbearing. Readers get a good handle on customs and attitudes without having to wade through a lot of excessive and unnecessary descriptions.
 
On top of that, the book is well-written. In an age when many independently published writers allow their work to go out to the public lacking any journalistic polish — or even the best grammar — Myers’ books have passed my “English teacher’s” test just fine.
 
Are there one or two things that I don’t particularly like about the books? Yes, but they are things that reflect my own very personal feelings and attitudes, and they don’t detract from the positive aspects of these stories. I’ve read 4 of the books in the series, and I’d have to say that if I were rating them with the 5-star test, I’d have to give them all 5 stars.

Looking for a good book? – Try ‘A Redbird Christmas’

It’s a little place — a mostly happy place — called Lost River, Alabama. I’d move there if I could. I can’t because, unfortunately, it isn’t real — except in the pages of a delightful novel titled A REDBIRD CHRISTMAS, by Fannie Flagg. Now, in general, I don’t care much for Alabama. And, in general, I’m not a fan of Fannie Flagg’s novels. However, Ms. Flagg did write one novel that is totally entertaining and gratifying to read. In fact I read it about once a year. And that novel is  A REDBIRD CHRISTMAS.

Let me deal first with the story’s one failing — if it can be called that. The first chapter introduces the main character, Oswald Campbell, as he is being given a very negative prognosis about his health. Now, unfortunately, coming so early in the book, that situation could be enough to turn many readers away. But if you’re looking for a story that is uplifting, encouraging, and life-affirming, please take my word for it that you need to push right on through that first chapter to find out what Oswald does in response to that prognosis and how he finds an altogether different future.

The rest of the story is set in the peaceful, friendly, (let me say it again) ‘life-affirming’ community settled on the banks of a clear, quiet river known as Lost River, Alabama. Even the mail is delivered by river in this little community. Everyone living there knows everyone else — and cares about everyone else. The weather is not too cold or too hot. The flowers, birds, and other natural wildlife are pleasant company. And the whole attitude and atmosphere is one of optimism.

Now, if you’ve read this far in the review, you may be thinking that the story will be too “Pollyanna-ish” for you. But, again, I’ll ask you to take my word for it that the positivity found in this story is really quite natural and down-to-earth. It’s just that the focus here is on looking for and trying to bring about the best in the midst of all circumstances — both good and bad. It makes a terrific change from all the criticizing, back-biting, hate-dispensing, and fear-mongering that we have been subjected to for the past two years in most of the media and a good deal of our day-to-day interactions.

And don’t think you need to wait until next Christmas to read this book. It isn’t a “Christmas” novel in the usual sense of that term. It does include some Christmas celebrations, but the story is about people who value life and love and sharing and caring. It’s a book for any season of the year.

How much do I like this book? Well, it sits right at the top of my list of favorite books. And I’ve already told you that I generally read it every year. I can’t move to Lost River, Alabama to live, but I can visit annually and enjoy the vacation from stress and life overload that most of us deal with on a regular basis. So if you’re like me, and you like reading about kind people, second chances, and happy endings, you must read A REDBIRD CHRISTMAS.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Look for more book reviews over the next few months. Most of my followers know me as an author, but I’m also an avid reader, and this year, I’d like to help promote some of the books and authors that have given me so much personal reading pleasure. So adding a few book reviews is part of my plan for this site during 2022.



A NEW CHALLENGE FROM WORDPRESS

WordPress announced this week that they will be offering bloggers a new challenge during January. Evidently every day in January, they will post a topic, and we are invited to post something in keeping with that subject matter. We can post an article, a photo, some artwork, or even music. I think I’ll take advantage of the challenge to force myself to get back to writing more regularly. I thought some of my visitors might have missed the announcement, so I’m passing along the news. You can find out more at this link.


Poems At Christmas – # 3

WINTER FRIENDS

I had a little snowman;
His smile was big and wide.
He was a happy snowman,
When I was by his side.

But since it was quite freezing,
I could not stay and play,
And when I had to go in,
He followed me one day.

I hurried to the fireplace
To warm my hands and toes,
And suddenly I found myself
Adrift in melted snow.

My happy little snowman
Had come inside to play,
Not knowing that the warm fire
Would melt him quite away.

But not to worry, dear friends;
I’ve dipped him up you see,
And poured the water outside
Where it will now refreeze.

Then I’ll scoop him back up
Add some fresh snow too,
And mold him back together
So he’ll be good as new.


Being Present

I glanced at the screen on my cell phone this morning and noted the date: Friday, December 17, 2021. And normally I would have laid the phone down and gone on about my business, giving the information very little thought. But, for some reason, I was suddenly struck by the thought that this was going to be the only day I would ever see that particular date. It is a reality today, but only for today, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. I know — some of you are thinking — what on earth is she talking about? Does this woman have nothing else to do with her time?  🙂

Actually, I had a whole list of things I needed to do with my time today, but I just couldn’t get away from that thought for quite a while. I realized pretty quickly that the Lord was taking advantage of that date on the phone to get me to focus on the fact that I needed to be cognizant of today. I didn’t need to be thinking about yesterday and all the stuff I didn’t get done, or that I did wrong, or even what I did right. I lived yesterday completely, and it’s gone. And He didn’t want me focusing on all the plans coming up for the next week, trying to figure out how I could make them all work out.  He especially didn’t want me focusing on all the possible future things that had the power to cause me worry or fear. 

He wanted me focusing on Him and what was on His heart for me to do and be today. He has plans for all of us that are good. But He so seldom gets our full attention long enough to be able to make us understand what those plans are and to get us to carry them out. I’m convinced from my many decades of walking with God that there isn’t a day that goes by that He doesn’t have some good things in mind for us to be a part of.

So as I contemplated the truth about this day being a unique gift that will come to me only once in my entire lifetime, I realized that I too wanted to be focused on what I could do and be that was good today. And I wanted to focus on some good things that could come my way as well — things that wouldn’t have an opportunity to come to me tomorrow or next week — but just today. I kept hearing this admonition in my heart: “Be present in this day. Enjoy it. Be grateful for it. Live it to the fullest.”

As those thoughts lodged in my heart, I was reminded of a little short story I wrote several years ago — a sort of “take-off” from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I was participating in a writing challenge in which we were supposed to write about some of the characters as if they were living today. One of those stories made the very point that the Lord was making to me today about being present in the here and now. So I thought I’d share it here in this post. It fits into the season, since I’ve borrowed the Spirit of Christmas Present. Some of you might remember the story, and several of you will be reading it for the first time. But I hope it spurs each of you on to focus on being truly present in your day today — and then to do so again tomorrow — and the next day — and — well, you know.

THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS PRESENT: LIVING IN THE HERE AND NOW

Reggie sat slumped in his chair, his right leg carelessly propped over the chair arm, gloom written all over him. He’d been this way for weeks, and hitting the bottle wasn’t helping him any. It just gave him a horrible headache the next morning. So tonight, he’d left off the booze, but he sat in a stupor anyway.

“Well, what a pretty picture you make tonight, Reginald, old boy!” The voice jolted him upright; he looked around.

“Who’s there?”

The voice took shape: on the sofa to his right, a well-tailored man gradually came into focus, lounging with his feet propped on the coffee table. “I’m generally called Spirit of Christmas Present. That’s what your Uncle Ebeneezer called me.”

“Oh, so you’re the one who supposedly helped him straighten out his life, huh?”

The figure shrugged. “Among others.”

“Well, you can go back where you came from,” Reggie said, at the same time making a shooing motion with his hand. “I don’t need anything you have to say!”

“You need a hammer to your head!,” his visitor replied. “It’s just a shame I’m not allowed to give it to you.”

“Hey, where do you get off talking like that to me? Threatening to hit me in the head with a hammer! For what?”

“For constantly trying to live in a time dimension that it’s impossible for you to inhabit. You’re always trying to live either in the past – sucking on your memories the way a baby does his thumb – or in the future – always focusing on next week or next year. It’s stupid. Your memories make you miserable, and your future makes you anxious and edgy because it holds problems you don’t have answers for yet.”

“Oh, I get it. You’re here because you think you’re going to fix me?”

“No … I’m going to tell you how you can fix yourself.”

“Well, just maybe I don’t want to be fixed. What do you think about that?”

“Your uncle didn’t think he wanted to be fixed either – until he saw where his life was leading him. Do we have to give you the same kind of detailed, guided tour of your life that we did for him?”

“Who’s we?”

“You know – the Spirits of Christmas Past and Future, and yours truly.”

Reggie shivered in his chair. He would never consider admitting to this strange visitor that he believed what had happened to his old uncle, but he did have to admit to himself that he’d seen the changes in Ebeneezer first hand. And when his uncle had described his experience, it had sent cold chills down Reggie’s spine. He certainly didn’t want any more of that.

“Okay, okay. Just give me your spiel and let me get back to my contemplation.”

“What you were … contemplating … as you call it … was how sorry you are for yourself. And what I’m going to tell you will set you free from all your self-pity and wasted life if you’ll take heed to it.”

“Okay, okay, get on with it.”

“Well, it’s actually very simple, Reggie. You simply have to make yourself be where you are.”

“Huh?” Reggie shook his head briskly and sat forward in his chair, looking more intently at his visitor. “What the heck does that mean?”

His visitor sighed. “It means, Reg, that you need to live in the present hour — every hour of your life. Live now. You can’t re-do yesterdays, Reggie, and the future is nothing but a long series of ‘now’s’ that you’ll eventually experience one at a time. But when you get to them, you’ll have what it takes to deal with each of them. Trying to worry ahead of time about what might or might not be in those ‘now’s’ is ridiculous because you can’t even begin to know what they’ll be like. So why exhaust yourself worrying about them? And why drive yourself to drink by sitting around pitying yourself for the things that have already happened and can’t be changed?”

Reggie hung his head. “Yeah, I guess I have to admit my life’s a bummer coming and going.”

His visitor jumped up from the sofa, and Reggie looked up at him, a little fearful.

“Then for heaven’s sake, man, quit coming and going – hopping from your sad past to your unreadable future! Start living where you are and when you are. Take one day at a time, and one hour at a time. Look at it, feel it, taste it; let it soak into you; enjoy everything you can about it, and if you can’t enjoy it, then learn something from it. But live it. Start really living each one of those moments in your life, Reggie, and you’ll be surprised at the outcome.”

“But I don’t think I know how.”

“It isn’t rocket science, Reggie. As I said at the beginning of our conversation: it’s simple. You just have to decide to do it. And I’m not telling you everything will be the way you want it. Your life – like anyone else’s – will have its ups and downs. It may not always be great – but at least it will be real.”

Reggie hung his head again, leaning over with his elbows on his knees, trying to get a better handle on the fact that he was listening to some vision that had just suddenly appeared in his living room. He had to admit that what his visitor said gave him the first inkling of hope that he could actually have a better life.

“Yeah, you might be right.” He surprised himself by saying the words aloud. He was still looking down at the floor but his mind was going back over his visitor’s words. Even though it felt a little spooky hearing them from this apparition, he knew in his heart that he needed to try to follow the advice.

“I’ll do it!” he said as he looked back up to the visitor to confirm his decision. But then he blinked. The room was empty.



Poems of Christmas – # 2

IF YOUR TINSEL’S IN A TANGLE

Is your tinsel in a tangle?
Is your wreath hung at an angle?
Are you starting to feel stressed and quite undone?

Is your credit card maxed out?
Are the kids bored, in a pout?
Have you given up the hope of having fun?

Well, forget the tangled messes
And the aggravated voices,
And forget about more shopping that’s not done.

Stop the hassle and the frazzle;
Look away from what bedazzles
To the reason for the season. There’s just one.

Jesus Christ – He is the reason.
His birth brought about the season,
For the Father gave His one and only Son.

If you’ll focus on His coming,
You will hear your heart start humming,
And will find your merry Christmas has begun.


Excerpted from my book of Christmas and winter poems: KEEPING CHRISTMAS.


Poems of Christmas — # 1

WHAT IT IS AND WHAT IT AIN’T

If ‘figgy pudding’ isn’t made of figs,
And jingle bells don’t jingle, only clang,
And Christmas candles have to burn by batt’ries,
And mistletoe is poison that we hang,

If Santa’s just a fat guy we’ve invented,
Based on the life of some medieval saint,
It seems to me the Christmas some folks cherish
Is mostly made of stuff that really ain’t.

So what’s the deal; what are we celebrating?
Is there a reason all the world should hear?
A true event or one we can depend on?
A person worthy of such joy and cheer?

Ah, yes, the man called Jesus: He’s the one
Who came in lowly birth the world to save.
He gave Himself for all in grievous death,
But then ascended right up from the grave.

He offers every man a brand new birth,
And with His blood redemption for us seals.
He’s pure and kind and true and rich in love.
Celebrating Him makes Christmas real.


Find this poem and more in my newest book: KEEPING CHRISTMAS. Available at special Christmas price of $3.75. order from Amazon now.


‘EVERYTHING’S JAKE’ — chapter 9

EVERYTHING’S JAKE
© 2013 Sandra Pavloff Conner

CHAPTER NINE

The following day was Mariah’s Saturday off, so Neil had time to mull over the things he and his dad had talked about before he saw her again. The work load was fairly light, and even while he worked, he replayed in his mind the conversation with Mariah and the one with his dad. There was no escaping his guilt and remorse concerning the first conversation, and there was no denying that his dad’s words in the second one made complete sense – now that Neil was in slightly less emotional turmoil. But what to do about it was the question of the day – or maybe – more realistically – the big question of his life.

By mid-afternoon, he had decided that he owed it to Mariah to apologize for his insinuations and his generally unChristian attitude over the past few weeks. But he knew in his heart that if he faced her with those feelings, he would also need to be ready to tell her the truth about the rest of what he felt. He couldn’t keep living with this merry-go-round of emotions, and now that he had blurted out the truth – a truth his own heart had kept hidden until last night – he should tell her the truth as well: he was in love with Mariah Jacoby, and he wanted her in his life from now on.

He got his last customer off for the day, and went to the phone. He realized that he had left the decision a little late. She was probably preparing to go out with Sanford. But if he just surmised that scenario and didn’t bother to find out for sure, he’d just prolong his own agony. She answered on the second ring.

“Mariah, it’s Neil.”

He heard her sigh. “Neil, I’d rather not talk right now.”

He hastened to butt in before she could hang up. “I know, Mariah, and you have every right to feel that way. I owe you a huge apology, and … well … the real reason I called was to see if you were going to be home a while this evening, and if you’d let me come and apologize in person.”

There was silence on the other end of the line. Neil held his breath. Finally, Mariah sighed again and answered. “Neil, I accept your apology. You don’t have to come over here in person.”

She didn’t even want to see his face! This really was bad. He probably had lost her forever, but his dad’s words still rang in his ears: “Go ahead, Son. Stick our neck out. You know she’s worth it.”

He cleared his throat and tried again. “Well, the truth is that I’d like to do more than just apologize. I’d also like to tell you something about what’s going on in my own heart. If you’ll just hear me out; then if you don’t want to talk to me anymore I’ll respect that.”

He could hear hardness in her voice when she answered. “Is it more about Carter Sanford?”

“No!” He wanted to make that crystal clear. “No, Mariah, I don’t have anything else to say to you about Carter. I was way out of line yesterday, and I won’t ever bring up that subject again.” He paused for quite a while, but Mariah stayed quiet, and – more importantly – stayed on the line.

“I want to talk to you about you, Mariah – and about how much you mean to me.”

He heard her utter a small gasp of surprise. “I … I’m not sure I understand.”

Neil was getting frustrated. “Mariah, all of it is hard to explain over the phone. Will you please let me come and see you for a while this evening – that is – if you aren’t already going out?”

She took another moment to answer. “No … I’m not going any place important tonight – just the grocery store, but it can wait. Come over if you feel you really need to.”

The truth was that Mariah was feeling so defeated by all of the emotional upheaval of the past week that she felt resigned to whatever happened now. “When do you want to come?”

“Give me an hour to get home and shower and get over there.”

“Fine,” she said, and waited another moment. “I’ll see you then.”

“Thank you, Mariah. I’ll be with you shortly.”

After hanging up the phone, Mariah took a look at what she was wearing. An old pair of jeans and a tee shirt that said, “I’ve got a good arm, a ball, and an attitude. Don’t mess with me.” She had to laugh at the thought of wearing it when facing Neil tonight. She knew she looked a little sloppy, though, and one part of her wanted to change into something pretty. But the other part – the part that was tired of trying to be the “right” woman for the “right” man to love – just felt too exhausted to care.

She opted for leaving on the outfit and using the time she had to straighten up the apartment a little. She’d never been the most organized housekeeper. Her home was never dirty, but it definitely wasn’t the neat, well-organized home her mother kept.

She then decided she could force herself to be hospitable enough to put on a pot of coffee and open a package of cookies. Holding a coffee cup would at least give her something to do with her hands while they talked, and drinking the warm liquid might help her stay calm.

Her clock said fifty-five minutes since the phone call when her doorbell rang. Neil stood there in a dark blue polo shirt and jeans, his hair still damp around the edges. It made her smile to think he really had been in a hurry to get over here. “Come in,” she said and motioned him toward the living room. “Sit down anywhere. I made coffee. Would you like some.”

“That would be great,” he said, as he walked to a chair arranged beside the sofa and sat down.

“I’ll be right back with it,” she said, already turning toward the kitchen. Five minutes later, she returned with a tray bearing two steaming mugs, cream and sugar, and the plate of cookies. Sitting it down on the table next to the chair, she took a seat on the close end of the sofa.

“Mmmm, the coffee smells good,” Neil said and reached for a cup. Mariah took hers as well and curled her feet up onto the cushion. She sipped the hot liquid and looked at Neil. He cleared his throat.

“I like the apartment,” he said, smiling. “The colors of cheerful.”

“Thank you. I agree. I like a lot of color in a home.” She knew she should probably say something that would break the ice and help him get started with what he needed to say, but she just didn’t seem to be able to do it.

Finally, he cleared his throat again and sat his cup back onto the tray. He looked right at her. “Mariah, first of all I sincerely want to apologize for what I said to you last night. I was completely out of line, and I’ve been out of line ever since you started dating Carter Sanford.”

“When did you decide all of this?”

“Well … to be totally honest, I knew when the words were coming out of my mouth last night that I didn’t have any right to say them – and actually I knew that I didn’t really mean them the way I said them.”

She just looked at him a moment and then asked. “Then … why did you say them?”

Neil cleared his throat again. He’d never felt a need to work at keeping his throat clear and his voice strong before, but this whole experience was a first for him, so ….

He finally answered. “Well, the answer to that question is actually the other thing I wanted to talk to you about. And I’m going to ask that you hear me out, and then when I’m done, if you don’t want to talk to me anymore – or even work for me anymore – I’ll understand. But, I’m hoping, of course, that you won’t feel that way.”

Mariah’s curiosity was aroused enough by this time that she did help him. “Say anything you feel you need to say, Neil, and I promise not to interrupt. I’ll let you finish.”

He nodded his head in acknowledgment and scooted forward in his chair to be closer to her. “Mariah, I said all of those things because I was jealous.” He searched her eyes to see if she was shocked, but he couldn’t tell. He knew she was surprised he’d said it, but that was all. “I knew I had antagonistic feelings toward Sanford, but I wouldn’t consciously admit it to myself – or the reason for it. I tried to convince myself that my feelings were because we had become great friends, and I was just looking out for your welfare, but that isn’t the truth.” At that, her eyes did get wide, and her eyebrows went up.

He unconsciously reached out a hand and laid it on hers as it rested on the arm of the sofa. “Oh, I was trying to look out for you, but not just because we were friends. I realized last night – after it was too late – that what I really feel for you goes much deeper than friendship.” He squeezed her hand. His eyes were so intense that Mariah couldn’t have looked away if she’d wanted to, but, of course, she didn’t want to. Neil continued.

“Mariah, I … I’m in love with you, and … and I’ve never said that to another woman in my life.”

Mariah’s gasp was audible, and a light flickered to life in her own eyes. Neil took hope from that tiny light and continued. “I don’t know for sure what you feel for me, but I’d like to ask you to give me a chance to show you how much I love you and how valuable you are to me – not as an employee – but as a woman – as the woman I want in my life from now on.”

As he spoke the words, Neil slipped from the chair to his knees in front of Mariah, who sat there with her mouth open and the light in her eyes even brighter. He gently took the cup from her other hand, sat it down, and then took both hands in his. She didn’t resist, but finally spoke, “Neil … I … I don’t understand. You’ve never said anything before.”

“I know. I’ve been too dense to realize myself what I was feeling – that is until last night. But I also realize that you may have strong feelings for someone else, and I don’t have any right to make you feel pressured by what I’m saying. I’m trying not to pressure you. I hope you know that. But I just had to at least tell you the truth.”

“Oh, Neil!” was all she said, but she lifted her hands and placed them gently on either side of his face.

“You’re not angry that I’ve said all this?”

She smiled widely. “My darling Neil, since when does a woman become angry because a man declares his love for her – especially when he does it so beautifully?”

Neil let out the breath he’d been holding and smiled for the first time since he’d started his explanation. He reached both hands up and laid them over hers. He then took each one and pressed the palm to his lips. “I love you, Mariah. I think I’ve loved you almost from the first day. You’ve been like my second self from the first week we worked together.

“I’ve never felt so comfortable with any other woman that I can remember, yet I’ve never felt to challenged to be the best man I could be. It made my day complete every time you were pleased with what I said and what I did, or how I ran my business or lived my life. I came to work every day with a new kind of expectation of vitality and beauty somehow – all because you were there. Oh, I couldn’t have put it into those words a week ago. But I finally recognize it for what it is.”

He paused and kissed the palms of her hands again. “Oh, Neil,” was still all she could say.

“And if you already have deep feelings for Carter Sanford, then I will accept that fact and not bring up my own feelings again. But I had to at least tell you the whole truth – at least once. You deserve that.”

Mariah chuckled softly and shook her head. He squeezed her hands in his. “I don’t even care if you laugh at me, Honey. I feel so much better knowing I’ve told you what’s in my heart.”

At those words, Mariah slipped from the sofa to her knees as well, facing Neil, and without thinking, she put her arms around his neck. “No, Darling. I’m not laughing at you. I’m laughing at myself – and maybe at the idea that I could have deep feelings for Carter Sanford.”

“What?” Neil’s confusion was obvious. “Do you mean you don’t ….” His voice trailed off because it was just too much to hope for.

Mariah inched closer to him and shook her head. “No … I do not have deep feelings for Carter. I don’t really want to talk about him right now, but you can rest assured that what I do feel for him is not positive enough to cause you any jealously.”

“But you said last night that you wanted his attention — ”

Mariah slipped one hand over his lips to stop his words. “What I said last night was born out of the same thing that brought forth most of your words. I was reacting to feelings that I hadn’t recognized or learned to deal with yet. I had been hurt by Carter, and then I was being hurt by you. But the hurt caused by you was so much more painful and damaging —”

“Oh, Sweetheart!” Neil interrupted her and wrapped his arms around her completely, holding her against him. “I’m so sorry! … so sorry!”

Mariah pulled back enough to look at his face. “No … it’s all right now. What I was going to say is that what you did hurt me more than what Carter did because I don’t love Carter, but I do love you.”

He lifted his hand to caress one side of her face, “You … you do love me?” Mariah nodded her head. “You’re sure?” She nodded again.

Very sure!” she said.

“And all this time … we’ve wasted …. when we could have been ….” He just couldn’t seem to find the words, so he finally gave up and pulled her even closer, taking possession of her lips in a kiss that conveyed the message much more clearly than any words could have done anyway. And Mariah’s response was equally as satisfying. So satisfying, in fact, that it was several moments before either of them took a breath or thought reasonably about anything at all.

As their lips finally parted, Neil wrapped her even tighter to him, and she buried her head against his neck, but several seconds later, Neil spoke. “Mariah, I think we’d be more comfortable if we got up from the floor, don’t you?”

Mariah laughed out loud. For the first time she realized that her own knees hurt from being on the floor in that embrace for so long. “Of course, Honey. Come on,” she said and began to get up. Neil did the same, but as they stood facing each other, he couldn’t resist kissing her again. Mariah was very willing, and, once more, it was quite a while before they had breath to speak. When they did, Mariah settled her arms more comfortably around Neil’s neck and grinned at him. “So, Boss, would you say that everything’s Jake again?”

Neil tightened his hold on her and looked at her solemnly, shaking his head in the negative. “No, Sweetheart. You have that backwards.”

Her eyes clouded. “What?”

“You asked me if everything’s Jake again. But you have it backwards … because from now on … in my world … everything isn’t Jake.  In my world, Jake is everything!”

 



Thank you so much for reading. I’ll leave the story on this site for one more week, in case a few people haven’t had time to get to the end yet. But after next Saturday, I’ll remove it. You can find the book, as well as most of my other inspirational fiction, on Amazon at this link.
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