Repaired By Love — Chapter 5

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REPAIRED AMAZON COVER - BLUE TEXT - FRONTREPAIRED BY LOVE

© 2004 Sandra Pavloff Conner

Chapter Five

The next morning at church, Kana enjoyed getting reacquainted with the church members she had met a few years before and meeting Pastor McDaniels and his wife Suzanne. It was pretty easy to tell they had been married only about a year, since they could still hardly keep their eyes off of each other. Kana thought it was delightful.

She also finally got to meet Maddison and Beth Holt. Gram had told her all about their courtship and marriage as well, and seeing how in love they were with each other was food for her romantic heart.

Cameron and Suzanne invited Gram and Kana to join them for lunch with Maddison and Beth, so they got even better acquainted over the meal.

“So you two started your Christian magazine right after Suzanne got married?” Kana asked the girls.

“That’s right,” Beth answered. “And it’s been a challenge, but a real blessing.”

“We’ve been able to do stories about some of the most interesting people in God’s work,” Suzanne added, and then everybody laughed.

Kana looked a little confused at the laughter, but her grandmother helped clear things up. “You see, dear, one of the first people Suzanne interviewed was Cameron. She did an article about his ten years of missionary work and then about how God led him here to Prince of Peace Church.”

“Oh, I see.”

“But that’s not all,” Beth said. “That series had four different articles, so they had to spend a lot of time together talking about personal stuff, and that’s how they fell in love.

“It sure was!” Cameron said, leaning over and kissing his wife on the cheek. “And I‘ve fallen more in love with her every day since then.”

“But that’s not all either,” Maddison added. “Suzanne wasn’t sure she wanted to be in love, and she was keeping Cameron at arm’s length. But then her story on Cameron led her to make a trip to Honduras, where she could interview some of the pastors of the churches Cameron had started there. While there, she was kidnapped, along with two ministry team members, by a gang who wanted the drugs they carried on the medical van they were driving to a nearby village.”

“Wow!” Kana’s eyes grew wide. “This is better than a romance novel.”

Everyone laughed at that, and Maddison continued the story. “Cameron and I went down to try to do – well, something – anything we might be able to do to help find her. And by the time we were all reunited, Suzanne had finally seen the light about her feelings for Cameron. In fact, by that time, she and Cameron had both become so sure how they felt about teach other you couldn’t have pried them apart ever again.”

“Oh, how delightful! You should print that story in the magazine. I bet it would be a great hit.”

Beth and Suzanne looked at each other. “I never even thought of that,” Beth said. “Neither did I,” Suzanne said, “but I’m not sure I want something so personal in print just yet. Maybe later.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” Kana said. “It’s a great love story for someone else to read, but if it had all happened to me personally, I probably wouldn’t be too sure I wanted it told to just everybody either.”

“But, I’ve been thinking about something else since we’ve been sitting here,” Suzanne said, looking at Kana. “We’ve been talking about doing something different with our children’s section in the magazine, or maybe even expanding to a small children’s issue that’s totally separate, and I was just thinking … with all of your experience with children … ” Suzanne stopped talking and glanced at Beth.

“Yes! That’s a great idea, Suz.” She looked at Kana, her eyes alight. “Would you have some time to come in and give us your opinion about a few things, and maybe even do some brainstorming with us about what we need to include in a children’s issue?”

Kana’s face registered her surprise, which quickly changed to delight. “Why, I’d be glad to, if you think I can really make any worthwhile contributions.”

“You just show up,” Suzanne said, laughing. “We’ll get everything out of you that we need, and I’m sure it’ll be worthwhile.”

“Okay … when do you want me?”

“Let’s see,” Beth said, thinking. “We both have interviews to do tomorrow. What about Tuesday morning, Suzanne?”

“Cade said the proofs for the article on the century-old churches in Tennessee would be ready to go over by Tuesday, so I think one of us had better leave the morning open to do that. We’re running a little close on time for that article.” She glanced back to Kana and explained. “Cade’s our photographer.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Beth said. “ Well let’s say Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning. Is one of those times better for you, Kana?”

Kana looked at her grandmother. “I don’t think we have anything planned that absolutely must be done at any particular time this week, so I don’t think it matters, do you, Gram?”

“No, anytime this week should be fine, dear.”

“Good,” Kana said, turning back to the girls, “Let’s say Tuesday afternoon.”

“That’s great,” Suzanne said. “Just come on down to the office about 2:00. Grandma Nora knows how to get there.”

“This is great,” Beth said. “I feel just a little bad taking advantage of you while you’re on vacation, but not bad enough to let you off the hook.”

They all laughed at that, and since it was time to order dessert, they did so, and the conversation turned to other things. When it came to light that Kana was a miniature golf enthusiast, both couples decided they needed to plan an evening or two when they could take Kana for a golf game.

After leaving the restaurant, Kana and her grandmother passed the remainder of the afternoon just relaxing and talking until time for the evening service. Kana enjoyed the services at Prince of Peace Church, and she was very enthusiastic about Cameron’s sermons. She looked forward to being a part of the church activities for the next two months.

As it turned out, she found herself in the position the very next Sunday of having to decide just how much a part of the church activities she wanted to have. Cameron announced at the beginning of the service that the children’s day camp, which ran the last two weeks of June, was facing a dilemma. The teacher for the first grade children had been called away to care for a relative in another state, and the church was a little desperate to find a good teacher before camp started in one week.

When she heard the announcement, Kana felt a quickening in her heart that she should volunteer to help. However, she told herself that if she did that, she wouldn’t have nearly enough time with Gram, and besides, she didn’t want to take the place of someone who was actually a member of this congregation who might be able to do the work. So she said nothing to her grandmother at that time, and just settled back to enjoy the service.

She glanced around briefly, to see who all was there that she knew, and her eyes met Lee Butler’s. She felt surprise at first, but then instantly remembered that he had promised Delly to be there to hear her sing. She smiled at him, and he returned the smile, with a slight nod to her. He turned away immediately and lowered his eyes to the bulletin he was holding in his hand. By that time the worship had started, and Kana concentrated on praising the Lord and receiving from Him as the service progressed.

The children’s choir came onto the platform to sing just before the sermon. They did three songs, and Kana was surprised at how really good they were. Valentina would love to hear them, she thought. Her best friend also had a degree in music, and she did a great deal of work with children in music at her home church. She decided she’d have to call her that afternoon and tell her about this group.

After the service, everyone tended to hang around and visit. There were a number of other visitors, relatives of the other children in the choir, and no one seemed in a hurry to leave. Delly grabbed her uncle’s hand as soon as they started down the aisle, and by the time they were to the back of the church, Kana and Gram had just finished speaking to Cameron. They were still standing by him as the Butlers approached, and Cameron stepped toward them, extending his hand to Lee.

“Good to see you here again, Lee,” he said, shaking hands. “That niece of yours has quite a voice, doesn’t she?”

Lee glanced down at Delly and winked at her as he replied. “I know I’m proud of her.”

“Well, be sure and come back week after next. They’re going to sing then too. Of course,” he grinned broadly now and winked at Delly himself. “You’re always welcome to come even when Delly’s not singing anything special.”

“Thank you,” was Lee’s only answer.

“As a matter of fact, I’m probably going to come over and talk to you boys sometime tomorrow about making an appointment with you.”

“Your car giving you trouble?”

“No, but the church is about to purchase a new bus. The one we use now is getting pretty old, and we’re hoping to save it for local trips only, and use the newer one for longer journeys. We’re looking pretty seriously at one particular bus, and I’d like to have one of you check it over thoroughly and tell me what you think about its condition.”

“Sure, drop in anytime tomorrow … or just give us a call if you don’t have time to come over,” Lee said. By that time Darrin had joined them and overheard most of the conversation. “Naw, Cameron doesn’t want to call,” he said grinning at his pastor. “He’d rather come by so he can sit and have a cup of coffee and a doughnut with us.”

“You better believe it. I need a break once in a while, after all.”

“Well, to tell you the truth, so do we, so be sure and come by,” Darrin said, shaking his hand and moving on so that others could talk with the pastor for a few minutes.

Grandma Nora had been talking to Delly, telling her what a good job the choir had done. She looked up now to the adults of the family. “Good morning. How are the rest of the Butlers this morning?”

Kana was standing a little apart, closer to the door, but she smiled at them also. Lionel smiled at her, meeting her eyes again. His eyes were a deep green, like pine trees in a forest. When he looked at her now, they were intense, almost as if he were looking deeply into her to try to find something.

“We’re great,” Eve said, hugging Gram. “And we’re on our way to the pancake house for lunch and then to play miniature golf. Why don’t you and Kana come with us?”

Kana stepped up to them then. “Did somebody say miniature golf? I love it, but I’ve been here over a week, and I haven’t played one game yet.” She looked at her grandmother. “Shall we go, Gram?”

“Please, please!” said Delly, squeezing Gram’s hand.

She answered, “Well I certainly can’t disappoint two of my favorite people, so, yes, I think we should go.”

“Great,” Darrin said. “But only if it’s my treat for everybody. Lee treated us all last time, and it’s my turn.”

“Oh, that isn’t necessary,” Kana spoke up instantly.

“That’s the only way I’ll do it,” Darrin said, holding up his hand to ward off any more argument.

“You might as well give in, Kana,” Lee said. “The Butler boys are known for their stubbornness. We’ll be here all day, if you don’t give in at least this once.”

Kana looked helplessly at Gram, who shrugged her shoulders. “I’m not arguing,” she said, and they started out the door.

Lunch was a jovial affair, with Delly managing to get a taste from almost everyone’s plate, and the weather turned out to be perfect for miniature golf. As they went around the course, they all laughed and carried on like children, Darrin and Lee teasing Eve and Gram about their style.

But everyone was impressed with Kana’s success. “You’re really good at this,” Lee said, as he reached in and retrieved the ball after her third hole-in-one during their first game.

“I’ve had a lot – and I mean a lot — of practice,” Kana answered. “It’s absolutely my favorite game, and I play every time I get a chance. But you’re really good yourself, so you must play often too.”

Lional nodded his head. “Pretty often. Every once in a while, Delly stays overnight so Darrin and Eve can have a night out without worrying about being home early, and the two of us often do miniature golf and a movie.”

“She really loves you.”

Lionel looked back now, to where Delly and Gram were finishing up on the previous hole, and his eyes softened perceptibly. “Yeah,” he said, looking back at Kana and grinning. “The feeling’s very mutual.”

“I can tell. I’m so glad for her. Being loved so much by so many people is the best thing that a child can have as she grows up.” Her face took on a sad look momentarily. “I can tell you that I see kids every year who have no love at all in their lives, and it just breaks my heart. … And so many of them come from broken homes.”

Lionel immediately felt the sadness that seemed to come back to him when he remembered his own childhood. He didn’t want to remember now. He wanted to enjoy this cute woman’s company, so he needed to change the subject somehow.

“How long have you taught?” he asked her now, as they prepared to begin the last hole.

“Six years.”

“All those years in Nashville?”

“Mmhmm. I went ahead and did all the work for my master’s degree before I took my first job, so that I wouldn’t have that work load my first few years of teaching. Then the very next year I took a third grade position with the school I’m at now, although I preferred second. After two years, the second grade position came open, so I had first chance at it, and I’ve loved it.”

“Do you ever feel like you’re missing something not being married with kids of your own?”

“Not yet, but I know I want a family of my own some day.” She laughed and looked back at her grandmother. “And Gram makes no bones about the fact that she’s anxious for great-grandchildren.”

Lionel looked back at her again too. “I can believe that. She really loves kids and teenagers. And from what Darrin tells me, the church depends on her a lot in that area.”

“I think they do, and that makes her very happy. And it makes me happy for her, because she’ll always feel needed and fulfilled, no matter how old she is.”

“She’s been a wonderful friend to my brother’s family, that’s for sure. I don’t think they have enough words to tell just how much she means to them.”

“Thank you for telling me that, Lee,” Kana said, smiling into his eyes now.

With that smile, something warm touched him, penetrating his whole being so deeply that he felt surprise at the impact of it. Their eyes locked and held for some time, neither of them moving until Delly came running up to tell them Gram had made a hole in one just like Kana.

As she refocused on Delly and then Gram, Kana tried to settle the fluttering feeling that had come over her while Lee’s eyes had held hers. She felt almost as if some kind of current had passed between the two of them. It was something she didn’t remember ever experiencing with other men she knew. She shook herself a little to dispel that feeling. After all, Lee wasn’t a Christian; she couldn’t let herself feel anything for him other than the mildest friendship.

As the rest of the family finished the last hole, they all began to walk back to the entrance and the car. Suddenly Delly realized she had forgotten her club. “I’ll run back and get it,” Kana said, and turned and started trotting off before Lee could voice the words to say that he would do it instead.

So he turned to the rest of the family saying, “You all go on to the car, and I’ll wait for Kana.”

As they walked on, he turned back and began to walk slowly to where she was just picking up the golf club from the ground. Just as he came within a couple feet of her, she turned to take a step and her foot caught on the edge of the wooden structure surrounding the green for that hole. Suddenly, she was falling, and in a split second, Lionel jumped over the green and caught her in his arms.

As his arms came around her, Kana automatically reached up and grasped his shoulder with her free hand, and although the whole event took only a moment, it felt to both of them as if time had been suspended. Slowly, Lee lifted her into an upright position, shifting his hands to her shoulders, but not letting go of her. “Are you all right?” he asked, looking deeply into her eyes once more.

Kana, a little shaky from the fall, still held onto his shoulder, and as she looked into his eyes, she felt slightly mesmerized and couldn’t answer for a minute.

“Kana?” he asked gently.

“Oh … yes … yes, I’m all right,” she answered finally, removing her hand from his shoulder and brushing her hair off her forehead slightly. She took a deep breath. “Thank you for catching me. I could feel that my leg was twisting as I fell, and I think I would have really injured it if you hadn’t been so quick.”

Lionel was finally able to slide his hands from her shoulders as he answered, “Always glad to rescue a damsel in distress.” He spoke lightly and bent down to pick up all three golf clubs, since they had slipped from both of their hands in trying to avoid the accident. He then took Kana’s hand and turned to go back to the entrance. “Can you walk all right, then?”

“Yes,” Kana answered, walking beside him. “My leg doesn’t even hurt.”

“Good. I’m hoping we can play another game or two some time soon then.”

Kana just smiled slightly, but said nothing. How could she agree to arrangements for the two of them to play golf together? She had made a commitment to the Lord that she would never date a man who had made no commitment to Him, and Lee was definitely that. But at the same time, she didn’t know how she could bluntly turn him down after he had been such a help to her just now. She hoped that by just smiling she could defer any explanation until another time – after she’d had time to think about how to say it in a way that wouldn’t hurt him.

She shook her head a little, trying to clear her thoughts, glad that Lee wasn’t looking at her at the moment. She had never had to deal with this before. She had never thought it would bother her to have to turn down dates with men who weren’t Christians. She prayed silently for the Lord to help her understand what was really going on.

As they approached the car, she realized that her hand was still in Lee’s. She slipped it out of his, saying, “I’ll go on to the car while you return the clubs.”

He looked at her for a moment and then answered, “Sure … go ahead.”

The rest of their group seemed to be looking in the opposite direction, so hopefully, they hadn’t seen the two of them holding hands. She shook her head again. How had that happened, anyway? “Lord, You and I need to talk,” she prayed very quietly just before joining the others.

Gram spotted her first, and then Delly, and in another minute everybody was talking at once about going for ice cream before they returned home, so Kana was able to avoid any feelings of awkwardness after that, although she was more quiet than usual for the rest of the afternoon. No one knew her well enough to notice anything unusual except Gram, and she chalked it up to Kana’s just being tired.

But that night, as Kana lay in bed, she relived and examined the feelings she had experienced that afternoon. They concerned her. She hadn’t had a chance to call Valentina that afternoon as she’d planned, and by the time she and Gram had finished supper, Kana wasn’t sure she was ready to talk to her best friend about what was going on. Lying there, trying to decide if she would call her tomorrow, Kana remembered the journal and got back up to take it from her suitcase, along with a pen, to try to record at least some of what she was feeling. Maybe it would help her get her thoughts in order.

She entered the basic facts about her trip on one page, and then went on to write a little about the birthday dinner and some details about Delly. She was such a lovable child, she couldn’t resist saying several things about her. She then described the children’s choir in some detail, knowing Valentina would enjoy that.

She had recorded meeting Lee at the dinner, of course, but said nothing else about him on that page. Now she was ready to write about the afternoon. … She just couldn’t seem to get the pen to move across the paper. What would be the right words? … She leaned back against the headboard of the bed and sighed deeply. Well … she was attracted to Lionel Butler … she had to admit that at least to herself. But she felt that, somehow, if she didn’t put it into writing, maybe it would be easier to make that attraction go away.

She laid the pen on her nightstand, closed the journal, put it beside the pen, and turned out the light. She’d forget about it until tomorrow. Maybe she would feel differently by then anyway.

As Lionel lay on his bed that night, he couldn’t seem to get his mind off what had happened that afternoon with Kana either. He hadn’t had any feelings like that about a woman in a long time. … Not since he used to let himself date frequently. But he didn’t date much at all anymore. Not that he didn’t appreciate women and how they made him feel, but he had determined years ago to keep those feelings under strict discipline.

He didn’t believe in sleeping around with women he wasn’t married to. Another result of his mother’s prayers maybe – those prayers he didn’t believe in. But his concern that he was likely to have inherited a good many of his father’s bad character traits made him doubt that he would be a good husband and father. And he didn’t believe it was right to expect a woman to give herself to him physically if he wasn’t prepared to give her the love and security that should go with that kind of relationship. So he dated only rarely, and then never the same woman twice in a row. And he just hadn’t let himself feel much of anything with any of them for the last several years.

Now this cute, exuberant, challenging woman ‒ that he’d known less than two weeks ‒ was kindling feelings that had lain dormant all this time – and she was doing it with just a generous smile or the flash of those big chocolate eyes. Of course, her voice was soothing to listen to, and her laughter was musical. He let out a sigh. He just liked almost everything about her. … No … he liked everything about her.

But she was a Christian – and a devout one. But then maybe that was part of what made her a woman who had so many good qualities. He shook his head and sighed again, turning over and thumping his pillow. … No … He’d be asking for a lot of problems if he let himself really care deeply for Kana Wallace. … The smart thing to do was to just stay away from her. … That thought saddened him.


I’m posting the next chapter today also, but in a separate post.

~~~~~


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Repaired By Love — Chapter 2

(Click here if you missed Chapter 1.)


REPAIRED AMAZON COVER - BLUE TEXT - FRONTREPAIRED BY LOVE

© 2004 by Sandra Pavloff Conner

Chapter Two

“Well, that looks like everything we need to have your mail forwarded, Miss Wallace,” the postal clerk said as she glanced up at the girl sanding on the other side of the counter. “The order should become effective tomorrow.”

“That’s great,” Kana Wallace replied. “Thanks a lot,” she added, smiling at the clerk before she turned to leave. That smile lit up her rather ordinary face and put a definite sparkle in her large, chocolate brown eyes. Those eyes couldn’t be ignored, and they did a good job of redeeming her face from plainness.

“I hope you enjoy your extended vacation,” the clerk said. Kana thanked her once more and smiled briefly at the elderly man who had stepped up to the counter to take her place. She hurried to her car and made a fast trip back to the elementary school where she taught second grade. It wasn’t easy trying to do something like this on her lunch hour, but tomorrow would be the end of the year picnic, and then the next day was the last day of school. If she didn’t get these arrangements made, she wouldn’t be able to take off as soon as the kids had left.

She wouldn’t have had to be in a hurry, of course, but she was. She was looking forward to seeing Gram again, and spending two wonderful months with her in her hometown of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Kana had often visited her there as a small child, and she had always loved the Great Smoky Mountains, as well as all of the fun things to do in a town that catered to tourists.

For someone who was a miniature golf nut, as she was, it was an especially good place to visit, even as an adult. But the view of the mountains and their quiet strength and restfulness were the biggest attraction for her now ‒ except for Gram herself, of course. She chuckled to herself now as she recalled that everyone in Gram’s church called her Grandma Nora, mostly because she virtually adopted most of the young people at one time or another, and was an active part of their growing up years. And Pastor McDaniels always called on her when he was counseling single ladies or young girls.

Kana was pretty proud of Gram. She was some special lady, and she definitely didn’t look or act seventy-six. Her faith was unshakable, and her devotion to prayer her first priority. Kana knew firsthand the effectiveness of Gram’s prayers. They had been prayed, and answered, for her personally a number of times in her twenty-nine years. And in her heart, she hoped that she would always be as faithful in her walk with God as Gram had been.

She swung into her parking spot now and almost ran into the school, hoping she would get to the classroom at least as soon as the students. And she just barely made it. She smiled at her young charges as they crowded in, their noise level especially high from the excitement of being at the end of another year.

“Miss Wallace,” Danny Hart ran up to her, shouting her name. “Miss Wallace can I show my map now … can I?”

“As soon as we’ve all settled into our seats, we’ll have our show and tell time, Danny.”

“Good,” he said, grinning and showing a missing tooth. “’Cause I want all the kids to see where I’m going for vacation.”

“I’m sure they’ll enjoy seeing your map, Danny. Now just sit down, and let’s get everyone quiet. … Children, settle down now, or we’ll have to give up our show and tell time in order to go over our classroom rules again.”

That little suggestion had the desired effect. Almost immediately, twenty rambunctious eight-year-olds scurried to their seats and started to lower their conversations to whispers.

“Good. … Now who all has something to show and tell about today?”

Two hours later, she saw her kids down the hall and out to their buses and their parents’ waiting cars. Then breathing a deep sigh of relief, she looked at the third-grade teacher, Valentina, who was also her best friend. “Do you think we’ll survive tomorrow?”

Valentina laughed. “It seems a little questionable, but I’m determined to survive. I don’t intend to bite the dust and miss my well-earned vacation.” She was an extremely pretty girl, a year younger than Kana. She had thick, sable hair that she wore in relaxed curls, and the smooth, dusky skin of her African-American lineage. But her eyes were a surprising aquamarine color. They twinkled now as she stood looking at her friend, one finger resting on her own face. Then she began walking slowly around Kana, studying her.

“You know I like your hair more all the time, don’t you?”

Kana had recently had her medium brown hair cut into a short cap that gave free reign to its tendency to curl naturally, and at Valentina’s suggestion, had let the beautician put a few golden highlights in it.

“Yeah, I have to admit, I feel like a new person. And I think I needed the lift it gives me. Thanks, Vallie, for talking me into it,” she said as she gave her friend a brief hug and turned to walk with her back into the building.

“Hey, what are friends for? You’d do the same for me. … And speaking of friends, I’m sure going to miss you, girl!”

“I’ll miss you too, Vallie. I wish you’d really pray about coming down. I know you want to spend most of the time with your family in Philadelphia, but you could spare a couple of weeks to come south, couldn’t you?”

“I’d like to say ‘yes,’ Kana, but with my sister’s wedding coming up that second week of July, and then all of the cleaning and getting things back in order after the other relatives leave, I just don’t know if I’ll feel good about leaving for any extended time. Mom tries to do too much most of the time, and I’d like to be sure that I’m taking the load off her for most of the summer.”

“Sure. I do understand. … I guess I am being a little selfish … but I’d like for you to get some rest and have some fun too.”

“Oh, I will have fun. You know my sister and I have always been close, and I’m going to enjoy every minute of planning her wedding and going through it with her. And then I’ll be able to spend time with my grandparents too, and I haven’t really had any time to be close to them for the last two years, with my staying here in Nashville to work on my master’s during the summers. So, actually, just being able to be at home instead of here working will be a treat.”

“Good. I’m glad. But if you do change your mind, you know Gram will welcome you with open arms.”

“Of course I know that, and you know how I feel about your Grandmother. I’d like to see her again too. … We’ll see what happens. I’m just going to play it by ear and not plan too far ahead. But we’ll be talking on the phone once in a while, so I’ll let you know if I can manage a trip down.”

“Okay.” Kana stepped into the doorway of her classroom. “Well, I guess we’d better get things straightened up for tomorrow. See you in the morning.”

“You bet,” Vallie replied and walked down the hall several feet to her own room.

Two days later, at 11:55 a.m. Kana locked the door to her classroom and walked down the hall to Valentina’s room to hug her friend goodbye and give her the gift she had brought her. Valentina was just lifting her briefcase from her desk, along with a wrapped package, which she had intended taking to Kana’s room.

“Oh, you’re here!” she said, as she looked up to see Kana coming through the door. “I was on my way down to give you this,” she added, holding out the package.

Both girls laughed as Kana handed Valentina a gift bag containing her gift, and then they set to opening their presents like two eager children. They couldn’t help but laugh when they realized they had given each other exactly the same thing, a beautifully bound journal.

“Well, I want you to record everything interesting and beautiful and … uh … handsome and broad-shouldered … that goes on in Gatlinburg,” Valentina said, in defense of her gift.

“That’s exactly the reason for my gift to you!” Kana answered.

“This is great!” Valentina said. “Now I can hardly wait to get back and compare journals and catch up.”

“Whoa, girl! Let’s not get carried away. Let’s enjoy our vacation before we have to come back, okay?”

“Deal!” Valentina said, hugging Kana tightly. “You take care of yourself, you hear? And if it starts to feel like you’re going to fall in love with anybody while you’re there, you be sure and carry this journal every minute, so you won’t fail to record one feeling.”

“All right, but the same goes for you.”

They threw away the wrapping paper and headed out of the room and down the hall. As they separated on the parking lot, they hugged each other again. “You’ve got my home number in Philadelphia?” Valentina asked.

“Sure do, and you’re sure you’ve got Gram’s with you?”

“Positively. If I don’t hear from you first, I’ll give you a call next weekend, and tell you how the wedding plans are going.”

“Okay. Have fun,” Kana said as she slipped into her car, and in another minute she was backing out of her parking space. A sense of joy and expectation surged through her as she made her way to the interstate. She could hardly wait to start putting some miles behind her, but she knew she’d need to stop at a fast food place and have some lunch before she turned onto I-40. She had been looking forward to this trip for weeks, but somehow, today she felt there was something even more exciting about it than she had planned ‒ almost as if there were something unexpected and wonderful waiting for her in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

“Whatever it is, Lord … I’m ready!” she said, and slid her favorite praise and worship CD into the player.


Continued Tomorrow

~~~~~


Repaired By Love: Chapter 1

Occasionally, I like to post one of my novels on this website for free reading.  My digital books go through periods of being under an exclusive contract that prohibits my posting them anywhere else online. However, those contracts change from time to time, and when the exclusivity has run it’s course, I’m free to post the books wherever I choose. 

So today, I’m posting Chapter One of the Third Book in the Smoky Mountain Series. Many of my followers have read book one, and some have read the whole series. However, many others have never read any part of the series at all. So let me assure you that each of the books is a complete story all by itself and can easily stand alone. Characters that carry over are introduced clearly enough in each book so that no reader will be confused, but at the same time, he won’t be bored with a lot of stuff he already knows if he’s read the previous books. (At least I trust that’s the case. Readers have told me that all is well on that score, so I’m trusting their word on it.)

I’ll be posting one chapter a day from this novel. I hope you enjoy it. Feel free to comment as the story unfolds. If you do enjoy it, perhaps you’d like to check out some of my other books as well, so I’ll give you a link down below to my Amazon author’s page, which has most of my books listed.

REPAIRED AMAZON COVER - BLUE TEXT - FRONTREPAIRED BY LOVE
© 2004 by Sandra Pavloff Conner

Chapter One

“Hey, Lee! … you guys open yet?” The question came from a sixteen year-old, redheaded boy standing just outside the office door of Butler’s Auto Service & Repair. Not being in possession of much patience, he then began pounding on the window and finally saw the door open wide.

“For Pete’s sake, Jimmy, hold your horses, will ya! We’re trying to get open.” The man speaking was every bit of six and a half feet tall and strongly built. His height and handsomely sculptured features clearly indicated some Cherokee ancestry, as did his bronzed skin. At thirty-six, he already had a few silver streaks in his thick, sandy hair, but that by no means detracted from his looks. In fact, more than one girl’s heart beat a little faster when she was in the company of Lionel Butler, but if he knew it, he didn’t take much notice.

He was a little aggravated at being forced to open up before he and his brother had had their coffee, but as he looked at the boy’s worried face, his own face softened. “What’s up, Jimmy? You must have a serious problem if you’re up and over here before 7:00 in the morning.”

“I sure do, Lee. My battery’s dead as a door nail, and I gotta get Mom up to Knoxville to a doctor’s appointment by 9:00. That thing’s gone dead on me several times this month, and I’m afraid to just put a charger on it, because by the time Mom’s done, and we’re ready to come home, it might be dead again. Can you help me?”

Lionel ‒ whose friends had called him “Lee” since high school ‒ knew exactly what Jimmy meant. Hadn’t he been responsible for getting his own mother to the doctor, and just about every place else she needed to go, when he was just Jimmy’s age? And he knew the boy didn’t have the money for a new battery.

“Sure, Jimmy. You come on in and sit down a few minutes, and I’ll put a new battery in for you and get you on your way.”

“Thanks a lot, Lee. I knew you’d help. And I’ll pay you for it a little at a time if that’s all right. I’m working part-time at Carver’s grocery now, you know.”

Lionel patted the boy on the back and shoved a box of fresh doughnuts toward him as he sat in a chair by the desk. “I know you will, Jimmy. And there’s no rush. What’s one battery more or less between friends?” He smiled his generous, easy grin at the boy. “Besides there’s way too much cholesterol in that box for just Darrin and me, so you can help us out by eating two or three doughnuts while you’re waiting,” he added, as he stepped through another door to locate a battery.

All the time he was installing the battery, Lionel was remembering ‒ remembering all the doctor’s appointments for his own mom, and how sick she’d been at the last when the doctor had told her that her heart just wouldn’t work enough anymore. Dr. Gordon had mentioned a transplant, but, of course, that had been out of the question. There was hardly ever enough money for food, let alone some sophisticated operation.

“Ouch!” He’d been so busy thinking hard thoughts, he hadn’t realized he had his fingers in the wrong place for one split second. That was long enough to pinch two of them hard enough he’d have a blood blister or two out of it. He’d better get his mind on what he was doing. Jimmy needed to get going.

He managed to get the boy off in time to make his trip to Knoxville, and as Lionel watched him drive away, he hung his head, more memories flooding through him.

Jimmy didn’t know where his dad was, but Lionel had known his was there all the time. Of course, he used to wish he’d go away. In fact he’d even prayed that God would make him go away, but after a couple of years of that with no results, Lionel had decided that prayer wasn’t working for him.

But then it hadn’t really worked for his mother either, as far as he could tell. She went to church every week, but her life wasn’t any better as a result – at least as far as he could see. His dad stayed drunk half the time, and never provided enough money for their living expenses. His mom had been forced to work at cleaning houses and offices six days a week just to keep food on the table.

Of course, her church friends had brought stuff by once in a while, but that had only made Lionel feel worse. He hadn’t liked being around them because he felt like a beggar when they came with sacks of groceries or second-hand clothes.

But his mom had almost never missed a service at her church, and she’d always insisted the boys go at least once a month with her, even though their dad didn’t approve. And she’d prayed. How she’d prayed – for all of them. He’d often heard her in the wee hours of the morning, and he’d known she’d be on her knees in front of the living room sofa. He’d known because he’d sneaked out of bed and found her there asleep on her knees more than once, after he’d heard her crying and praying for hours.

But what hurt him most ‒ even in his memories ‒ were the times that his dad had hit his mother. He hadn’t done it all the time, and he’d always said he was sorry later, but that didn’t matter to Lionel. More than once, after he was in high school, he would have knocked his dad down and beat the life out of him if his mother hadn’t pleaded with him not to do so.

“Your daddy just needs the Lord, Lionel,” she’d say. “And God will answer my prayers. You’ll see. One of these days, your daddy’s gonna get saved, and things will be different. But in the mean time, you and Darrin are my happiness, and I don’t ever want you to start believing that getting angry and hitting people will solve anything.”

She’d have her arm around him when she said all that, and then she’d pull back and look him straight in the eye. “Now, you promise me you won’t ever let anger or violence take control of your thoughts or actions, Son.”

“All right, Mom,” he’d always answered. “I promise.”

“Good. And I want you to promise me two more things: that you’ll read at least a few verses from your Bible every day, and that every night, before you go to sleep, you’ll pray Jesus will help you to know Him personally.”

“Prayer doesn’t work for me, Mom,” had been his most frequent answer.

“Prayer works for everybody who believes, Lionel.”

“Then I don’t believe.”

The look of sadness in her eyes had always hurt him, but he hadn’t known what else to say and be honest, and she had instilled the need for honesty in him when he was still a toddler.

“You will believe one day, Lionel,” she’d told him, again and again. “You just keep reading your Bible and asking Jesus to make Himself real to you, and you will believe.”

Tears trickled down his cheeks now, as he stood out in the drive of his shop. It hadn’t happened the way his mother had said it would. He had tried for that last year of her life to obey her wishes, but it hadn’t happened. And then when she had slipped from this life just a week after his eighteenth birthday, he knew he’d never believe. He didn’t want to believe in a God who would let his beautiful mother live the way she had been forced to live all those years.

He shook his head now, to clear away those dreadful memories. Darrin had been able to believe – but then Lionel had always done his best to shield his younger brother from the horrible realities of their life. Maybe it was easier for Darrin to believe in this God. But nothing had ever come easy for Lionel, and he’d stopped trying to grasp hold of faith a long time ago. He had friends who were good Christians. He liked them and admired them, and he even went to a service now and then, but he just couldn’t find it in him to go beyond that.

He turned now and walked with heavy steps back into his shop to get started on the repair work he had scheduled for the day.

By 5:00 that evening, his brother Darrin was straightening up some paper work in the office while Lionel filled out an itemized statement for the customer who was due to pick up his van any minute.

“You look beat, Lee,” Darrin said, as he stopped and faced his brother. “Do you want me to wait on Mr. Reynolds, and you go on home and get a shower and relax?”

Lionel looked up at his brother, who had worked just as hard the whole day. “I’m sure you’re just as tired,” he said and then grinned at Darrin. “Although I’ll have to say you don’t look it. I guess it’s having a beautiful wife and daughter to go home to that makes the difference.”

“You bet it does!” Darrin said, grinning broadly and slapping his brother on the back. “I keep telling you, Lee, it’s time you got married and had a family of your own.”

Lionel shook his head. “You know my answer to that, Darrin.”

“Yeah, that same nutty rig-a-marole about not being a good husband and father. … You know my answer to that!”

Lionel did know, and it wasn’t something he felt he could deal with right now, so he let it drop. Besides, he knew the real reason he felt so much more exhausted than Darrin, and it had nothing to do with having no wife to go home to. It had everything to do with remembering what he had had to go home to for all those years before. The days he remembered were the days he was too exhausted to move by the time he got back to his apartment.

It would be the same tonight. He’d force himself into the shower and then have a pizza delivered, and sit in front of the TV until he dozed off. Maybe tomorrow he wouldn’t remember so much ‒ or feel that unexplainable emptiness so deeply.

“Why don’t you come and eat with us? You know Eve always fixes enough for two more people, and Delly’s been asking when Uncle Lee is coming to supper again. It has been a week since you were there.”

“Not tonight, Darrin, but thanks.”

They heard a car door slam, and Lionel got up to go out to the drive. “That’s probably Mr. Reynolds. His daughter was going to drop him off for his van. You go on, and be sure and give Delly a kiss for me.”

“Okay. I’m going out the back and pick up some tools to take home and work on the lawnmower. See you in the morning.”

Two hours later, Lionel was finishing off his pizza, his feet propped on his coffee table, and an old Andy Griffith Show on the television. At least that show always made him laugh, and he usually felt more like himself after watching one or two episodes. He got up to throw away the pizza box during a commercial, and laughed a little at himself, talking out loud. “Well, at least I turn to old TV shows and pizza when I’m feeling miserable. I don’t try to go out and drown my sorrows in liquor or drugs.”

The thought stopped him in his tracks. Why didn’t he? … Why hadn’t he ever turned to those things when he felt sad or empty inside? Most people did; why not him? Another memory flashed into his mind: His mother praying again – praying for the Lord to keep her sons free from all of the unclean habits so tempting to young boys. He shook his head. It couldn’t be that those prayers were making the difference. … He shook his head again. He didn’t believe in prayer anymore. … But he had to wonder … he had to wonder.


Continued tomorrow.


If you’d like to check out some of my other books, you can find them HERE.

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