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REPAIRED BY LOVE
© 2004 Sandra Pavloff Conner
By 1:00 the following afternoon, Lionel and Kana were both pulling into her grandmother’s drive. She opened the door and stepped out on the porch before they were even out of their vehicles. “You made it in good time,” she said. “Do you want to come in and rest before you unload?”
They had all gathered on the porch by then. “I think that sounds like a good idea,” Kana said. “What about you guys?”
“Fine by me,” Lionel said, and Jimmy nodded his agreement.
“You haven’t had your lunch yet, I hope?” Gram asked then.
“No, we were so close we decided to wait. Hope that was all right,” Kana said, laughing, but she knew her grandmother well enough to know she’d never be caught without plenty of food for guests.
“I sliced up some roast beef and made a big bowl of fruit salad just in case,” Gram said, leading the way into the kitchen. They all gathered around the table and Gram set out the food. It didn’t take long for them to make quite a dent in all of it, including the pound cake she added to go with the fruit salad, and while they ate Kana asked if they needed to move anything out of the way before they brought her stuff in.
“No, I managed to get two of the high school boys from church to move everything we talked about, so your room and the study are both ready for everything you want in there.”
“That’s great, Gram.” Kana grinned and almost giggled. “You know I’m almost as excited as when I was little and used to get to come and stay for a week.”
Lionel watched her eyes light up and her cheeks turn rosy with her memories. He wished he’d known her then, he thought. He’d bet she had been a lot of fun as a little girl.
“Me too,” Gram said.
“ All right,” Kana said, rising from the table, “come on, moving company.” She left the kitchen with her crew in tow.
By late afternoon, she and all of her possessions were installed either in their respective rooms, or in the extra storage space Gram had prepared in an upstairs bedroom.
“Will you stay for supper now, boys?” Gram asked.
“Oh, no,” Lionel said, laughing. “I can still feel some of the lunch you gave us. Besides, we need to get to the shop and make sure Darrin’s not drowning in work.”
“Okay, some other time then,” she said. “But you’re both going to get a hug, to be sure,” she said, suiting actions to her words. Lionel embraced her easily, and Jimmy a little awkwardly, but it was Lionel who was a little awkward when they turned to Kana. He wouldn’t have spurned a hug from her, but he didn’t want to initiate it. She just extended her hand to them, however, thanking them again and offering to do anything for them anytime to repay the favor.
For the next three weeks, Kana immersed herself in preparations for the coming school year. She had been somewhat familiar with the curriculum, because a friend of hers had used the same material to home school her two children for the past three years. Moreover, she liked the material very well, so she expected to have good results with it. And she always enjoyed creating bulletin boards and putting up other decorations around the room to make learning easier and more fun for the kids.
She was glad to have the opportunity to get to know several of the other staff members much better, and she felt that two of the women would become close friends in the near future. By the time the first day arrived, she felt an integral part of Prince of Peace Christian School, and she welcomed the students excitedly.
They were all excited too, since for them this was the first year of what many of them called “real school.” Somehow, kindergarten just didn’t measure up to the degree that first grade did. But there was one little girl who was frightened. She and her parents had moved to Gatlinburg just a month before school began, and she didn’t know anyone well. She had been to a small kindergarten in the town where they had lived before, but the student body wasn’t nearly as large as the one at Prince of Peace. So Kana spent extra time with little Ginger. And she enlisted Delly to help befriend the girl and make her feel at home.
Nothing could have pleased Delly more, and before the first day was over, she and Ginger had become fast friends. When Ginger’s mother came to pick her up, Kana introduced Delly and Eve to her, and hoped that the Lord would make the mothers good friends as well. After Ginger and her mom had left, along with most of the other students, Eve stayed to ask Kana how things had gone for her first whole day.
“Well, it was hectic, of course, with fourteen brand new first-graders all in one room, but it was so much fun. I know I’ve made the right decision to teach here.”
“I’m so glad,” Eve said. “And Delly is just ecstatic, you know.”
Kana smiled down at Delly. “You were so much help to Ginger, Delly. I’m so proud of you, and I know the Lord is too.”
Delly beamed. “I like her.” She looked at Eve. “Didn’t she have pretty hair, mommy? It’s the color of a sunset. And she has freckles, like Kana … I mean Miss Wallace.”
“Yes, she does have lovely hair. And I just want to say that I’m proud of you for befriending her too,” Eve said, hugging Delly to her. “Now why don’t you go get everything you’re taking home, and we’ll let Miss Wallace finish her work for the day.”
“Okay,” Delly said, hopping over to her desk.
Eve leaned over to whisper to Kana. “I’d like to invite you and Gram to dinner this Saturday, if you don’t feel that you’d be compromising anything going to dinner at one of your student’s homes.”
Kana laughed. “Of course not. Just think what I’d have to deal with if I had my own child in class. That’s happened to other teachers a number of times that I know of, and I’ve never known it to cause a real problem. And, yes, I’d love to come to dinner, and I’m positive I can answer for Gram too.”
“Great. Around 6:00 then, and tell Gram I already know what she’ll ask, and the answer is ‘No, she isn’t to bring anything.’”
They both laughed. “I’ll tell her, but I won’t guarantee she’ll pay any attention. See you then. And I’ll see you tomorrow, Delly.”
“Okay, Miss Wallace,” Delly said, emphasizing Kana’s classroom name and skipping out of the room ahead of her mom.
Saturday evening, Kana dressed with unusual care. She wasn’t sure if Lionel would be at dinner too, but she felt sure Eve and Darrin would have asked him, and even though she hadn’t actually admitted it to herself, she had missed him a lot over the last three weeks. She had been so busy that she hadn’t been anywhere besides school and church, and even at church, they hadn’t had an opportunity to talk for any length of time.
Cameron had cornered Lionel on two different occasions to talk to the deacons about a new van the church was considering, and on a couple of occasions, two of the other teachers had pressured Kana to go out to eat with them after service. So she felt as if she’d hardly even seen Lionel at all.
She looked at herself in the mirror now, thinking about her feelings. She didn’t really want to admit it, but those feelings were very similar to the giddy kind of excitement she’d had when she’d gone out on her very first date with someone new. Her heart was beating faster than it should and her color was high. Her eyes sparkled, and she couldn’t help swirling around in the new dress she’d bought last week. She knew she didn’t need to dress up for the Butler’s, but the dress was simple enough she wouldn’t look overdressed. She just wanted to look very feminine, for some reason – well – for a very specific reason.
“Are you ready, Kana?” Gram called from downstairs.
“Be right there, Gram,” she called back and hurriedly dabbed her favorite cologne on her neck and wrists. She grabbed up her purse and hurried down the stairs.
“Oh, dear, you look beautiful! I like that dress even better on you than I did when I saw it on the hanger.”
“Me too,” Kana said. “The yellow checks and the full skirt make me feel very feminine.”
Gram smiled at her, noticing that she had taken extra pains with her make up too. All in all, she thought things looked very promising.
And all of Kana’s efforts seemed to be paying off when they walked into the Butler’s living room and Lionel rose and greeted them. His eyes widened and lit up when he looked at Kana, and his smile grew even broader. He tore his eyes away from her long enough to speak to Gram and allow her to hug him briefly, but when he turned back to Kana and took the hand she offered, he was speechless for a moment.
“Hi, Lee,” she said, smiling. “We haven’t had a chance to talk much since I got back into my daily grind.”
“You look beautiful,” he said now, and then as if realizing that his first words hadn’t been a normal response to hers, he cleared his throat and tried to work them into a more normal statement. “So I’d say the grind hasn’t been too hard on you so far,” he added, grinning at her again.
“Well … thank you,” she said, blushing, and feeling saved by Delly, who came bouncing in now and ran up to her, taking her other hand. Only then did Kana realize she and Lionel were still holding hands, and she reluctantly let his go.
“I can call you Kana tonight, right?” Delly asked, grinning at her teacher.
“Right,” Kana said, tugging on Delly’s curls. Then she looked back at Lionel. “You have a very bright little niece, did you know that?”
Lionel laughed at that, reaching out and pinching Delly lightly on her nose. “I do know that, but don’t tell her too often. She might get a big head.”
“Oh, Uncle Lee, my had can’t get big by itself!”
“Well, I didn’t know that. You really are smart.”
Delly giggled and would have gone on hogging the conversation, except for the fact that Eve came in to welcome their guests and call everyone to the dining room. “Darrin’s on the phone, but he’s just about finished. By the time we sit down, he’ll be able to join us. Oh … Kana … I love your dress. Is it new?”
“Yes … I decided since I had a new job, I needed a few new clothes to go with it,” she said, grinning. Then she added. “The real truth is that I saw this in the store, and I just couldn’t resist it.”
Lionel still couldn’t keep his eyes off her as they made their way into the dining room, and he just naturally sat down beside her. Everyone made light conversation through most of the meal, talking about school and a couple of repair jobs the brothers were working on for members of the church.
By the time they were nearly ready for dessert, Darrin looked across the table at his brother and brought up another subject that he had been debating about all through the first part of the meal. Normally, he was very careful where and how he talked to Lionel about their father, knowing how his brother felt. But now that he knew the Lord, and since they had company who helped make the atmosphere one of love and faith, he decided it was worth a try to bring up the subject right now.
“That was dad I was on the phone with, Lee,” he said in as casual a tone as he could. Lionel stopped moving, his fork halfway to his mouth. He didn’t look at Darrin, but he slowly put down his fork and sat stone still. Darrin continued, as if he hadn’t seen the reaction. “He asked about you, and asked if we’d consider coming down to Greensboro one weekend soon and see him.”
Total silence reigned at the table. Kana and Gram knew just enough about Lionel’s bad feelings toward his dad to know that this moment was fraught with possible trouble. They unintentionally held their breath. Darrin wanted to hold his, but he forced himself to breath normally in order to keep himself calm for what might be coming.
Finally, Lionel looked up and straight at Darrin. His voice was quiet, but carried a tone of steel in it. “You know my answer to that, and I’d rather not talk anymore about it right now.”
“Lee, he really does need to see you —”
“I said I don’t want to talk about it now, Darrin.”
“Daddy, are we going to see Grandpa?” Delly cut in.
“Delly,” Eve spoke up then, “we’ll talk about it later. Finish your meat, so you can have your pie and ice cream.” The subject of dessert was enough to sidetrack Delly at least to the point of stuffing more food into her mouth, and then Eve looked at her husband. “Let’s find something happy to talk about while we have our dessert, Honey.”
Darrin nodded his head. He knew he had to give in or make a scene. At least he had tried.
Eve reached out and touched Lionel’s hand. “Lee, come and help me carry in dessert and coffee.”
Lionel rose from his seat without another word and followed Eve into the kitchen. Darrin let out a long breath after they had left the room and looked over at Gram. She reached out and patted his arm, speaking to him quietly. “He has the Lord now, Darrin. You just have to give him time to turn everything over to Him.”
Darrin sighed again. “I know, Gram.”
Kana had seen the look in Lionel’s eyes. It was a shuttered look. As if he had put a shield up ‒ a defense against pain and disappointment. Her own eyes filled with tears as she thought about what he might be going through in his own thoughts and memories. She blinked them away hurriedly as Lionel and Eve came back into the room, and after that, their conversation turned to lighter things again.
When they moved to the living room, Eve suggested they play a game of Password, and they all settled down for another hour enjoying the game. Lionel let Delly “help” him with his words, and they all laughed at some of her suggestions and Lionel’s expertise at talking her out of them. In spite of the tension of the earlier part of the evening, they ended up having fun and relaxing for the rest of the time. Finally, when Kana looked at her watch and exclaimed about how late it was, they were all a little surprised that they had enjoyed themselves so much after such a rocky beginning at dinner.
“I think it’s time we went home, don’t you, Kana?” Gram asked.
“Yes, let’s go before we start another game, or I’ll get too involved to quit in the middle,” she said, laughing and getting up. “Thanks Eve for another wonderful meal.”
“I’m so glad you both could come. We’ll try to do it again soon.”
“We’ll see all of you in the morning, won’t we?” Gram asked as they walked toward the door.
“You bet,” Darrin said.
“I think it’s time I left too,” Lionel said, reaching out and giving Eve a hug. “Great food, Evie, as usual.” Then he leaned over and picked up Delly. “Goodnight, Princess,” he said, kissing her cheek. Then he laid his hand on his brother’s shoulder. He didn’t speak, but Darrin knew Lionel was letting him know that he was sorry if he had offended him.
“See you in the morning, Lee,” he said.
“I’ll walk you ladies to your car,” Lionel said now, taking each one of them by the elbow.
“Being escorted to my car by a handsome young man could go to my head,” Gram said, laughing, and stopped to give Lionel another hug before she got inside.
“Goodnight, Grandma Nora; goodnight, Kana,” he said, smiling at her as she slid into the driver’s seat. He would like to have had some time alone with her, but he hadn’t been able to figure out any excuse for doing so. Oh, well, probably just as well. There was no real future in anything between them, he thought now, as he got into his own car. His shoulders slumped a little as he started his car. He did turn to wave at Darrin, who was still standing on the porch as Lionel drove out of the drive.
He knew Darrin would try to talk to him tomorrow about their father. He’d have to talk with him, of course. And now that he had become a Christian, Lionel also knew that he was going to have to face the problem about his feelings for his father in light of God’s Word, but he just didn’t feel like he was ready to handle that yet. It wasn’t just his feelings about what had taken place in the past. It was knowing that what was in his father was probably in him also, and it would affect his future for the rest of his life.
“Lord,” he prayed now, “I know I have to deal with this, but I just don’t know how. I need Your help, but I don’t know if I’m ready to accept what You have to tell me … or what You’ll ask of me.” He sighed heavily as he pulled into his own drive. He turned off the engine and just sat back against the seat. “Please help me, Lord,” he whispered now. “Please help me.”
To Lionel’s surprise, Darrin didn’t try to talk to him after service the next morning or try to make arrangements to meet with him that afternoon. He was relieved. He needed to work this out on his own, without any pressure from anyone else.
Of course, he knew it hurt Darrin that he never went with him to visit their dad. Darrin only made the trip about three or four times a year, and he usually took Eve and Delly a couple of those times. He insisted that their father had changed his ways at least a little. According to Darrin, he didn’t seem to drink much at all now, and he always seemed to be genuinely glad to see Eve and Delly.
Well, if they could enjoy each other’s company, that was great for them. He just couldn’t do it. He’d been thinking a lot lately about how he used to shield Darrin from some of their dad’s worst behavior, and because of that, Darrin didn’t have the scars that Lionel carried. Nor had he felt the fear of being just like his dad, as Lionel still did. Well, even though Darrin couldn’t understand all of Lionel’s feelings, Lionel was still glad he’d shielded his little brother. Now he wouldn’t ever need the kind of healing that Lionel himself needed almost every day of his life.
Monday morning, Darrin did bring up the subject, but not to pressure Lionel. He simply stated that he and Eve would like to go down to Greensboro on Friday afternoon and stay until Saturday afternoon so that they could have longer to visit his dad. Their problem was that Delly had a birthday party to go to for one of her classmates on Saturday afternoon. Darrin asked if Lionel felt up to keeping Delly overnight and getting her to the party.
“Sure, Darrin. I don’t have anything special planned. She can sit here in the office and watch a video while I do one or two little jobs, and unless we have anything urgent, I’ll just close up about 11:00 and then we’ll have plenty of time to get her ready for the party. Does she know how to get to the right house and all?”
“Oh, yeah, but you do too. It’s Patty Simmons. She’s turning six on Saturday, and Delly feels absolutely grown up, having done so almost two months ago.” They both laughed at that, and Lionel felt his tension ease.
“Well, don’t hesitate to plan whatever you want. Stay until Sunday if you want to. You know Delly and I always find plenty of fun stuff to do.”
“Thanks, but I think overnight will be enough.” He paused, obviously weighing his next words. “Lee … you would tell me, if you felt like we were imposing on you when we ask you to keep Delly every once in a while, wouldn’t you?”
Lionel shoved the desk drawer he’d been digging around in closed and looked up at his brother with surprise written all over his face. “Darrin, what kind of a question is that! You know I love Delly!”
“Oh, I know … I know. But sometimes, I worry that we’re interfering in your personal life more than we should when we take up your weekends with her.”
Lionel barked out a laugh. “My personal life? Darrin, you know I don’t even try to have much of a personal life. What would be the point? I’m not husband and father material, so why lead some girl on and make her think there’s a possibility of something that isn’t going to happen?”
He stopped talking and just stared off into space for a moment. Finally, he shrugged his shoulders and spoke in a quieter tone. “If I can’t have any children of my own, I can at least enjoy my niece as much as possible. I may not have what it takes to make a descent father, but I’m a pretty good uncle, if I do say so myself,” he added, grinning, trying to make the atmosphere light again.
Darrin sat down on the edge of the desk, close to his brother and looked straight into his eyes. “Lee, I’ve never understood why you insist you’ll be a terrible husband and father. You’re a kind, compassionate man. You help everybody you know. What do you think it takes to be a good husband and father, for pete’s sake?”
Lionel could see that his brother was genuinely troubled by the question, and he decided maybe it was time to try to really explain. He hoped he could do so without causing Darrin some of that hurt he had tried to protect him from. He leaned back in his chair and let out a deep sigh.
“Darrin, I don’t want to bring up too much from the past, but would you believe me if I just told you that you never saw a lot of what our dad was really like and what he did when he was drunk and out of control. I did my best to keep you from seeing it, and to keep him from confronting you during those times. And … you didn’t always realize how poor we were because Mom and I tried very hard to make sure you had as many of your needs met as possible.” He held up his hand as if in defense. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m not wanting you to feel bad about it at all. We did it because we wanted to … because we loved you, and you were so little and trusting.”
He sighed again, anguish in the sound. “But the truth is, you never completely realized dad’s true character. It was pretty black … and because I experienced too much of it, the awfulness of it is indelibly imprinted on my memory. And … especially since I take after him almost completely in looks … I have to consider that I may have inherited a lot of his evil traits as well. I’d never want to inflict that kind of character and behavior on any woman and child.”
“But, Lee … you never drink … you never fight … you don’t even cuss!”
“That doesn’t mean that the potential isn’t there if the circumstances were right. If I were in a marriage where other things went wrong and stress and tensions got really bad, would I begin doing those things? … I don’t know for sure … and you don’t either.”
“Oh, for crying out loud, I do too! You could never do anything that would hurt someone you love!”
“Don’t be too sure, Darrin. Ordinary people often hurt the people they love, even without trying to at all.”
“Besides, Dad was never a Christian. You’ve turned your life over to the Lord, Lee, and that makes you a new person.”
Lionel got up and walked slowly over to the window and stood staring out. “I wish I could believe that, Darrin. … It never made so much difference to me before … but now … I find that I’m feeling things for someone that I’ve never felt before, and it’s really painful trying to cut those feelings off all the time and lock up everything inside of me.”
Darrin looked at his brother’s back. He’d bet anything that Lee was talking about feelings for Kana. Darrin had seen the sparks between them, and unless he was seeing things that weren’t there at all, Kana felt as much for his brother is Lee felt for her. He wracked his brain for something to say that might help. He prayed silently for the Lord to show him something.
Lionel sighed again, his shoulders sagging. “I wish I could become a completely new person.”
That was it! That was it! Darrin jumped off the desk and picked up his Bible that he kept right there on top of it. He thumbed through the pages looking for a specific scripture. “But Lee … you have already become a new person … a brand new person!”
Lionel turned around. “What do you mean?”
“Look!” Darrin crossed over to him, holding out his Bible, open to the passage he’d been looking for. “Look at this, Lee. See what the Lord says about it. Second Corinthians, chapter five, verses fifteen through eighteen. Here,” he said, thrusting the Bible at his brother so that he had to take it into his own hands. “Read it for yourself.”
Lionel looked down at the passage that his brother pointed out and began to read out loud. “And that he died for all that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all thing are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.”
He stopped reading aloud, his eyes going back over the verses he had just read. Then he began to read one part aloud again. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.” He paused again and took in a deep breath. After another moment, he spoke again. “He is a new creature … all things are become new.” He looked up at his brother with awe in his face. His eyes were wide with surprise – and Darrin was almost sure – with new hope. “Darrin, do you think this means exactly what it says?”
“Lee, you know as well as I do that the Lord means what He says. He isn’t playing games with us and giving us riddles to figure out. Haven’t you believed He meant what he said in every other scripture you’ve read since you’ve been saved?”
Lionel nodded his head. “Yes. … Yes, I have.”
Just at that moment, a horn honked outside, and the boys jumped to attention. “Oh, that’s our first customer,” Darrin said, looking at his watch. “I hadn’t realized it was so late. I guess number two and three will be close behind. We did have three jobs lined up for this morning, didn’t we?”
Lionel nodded. “Yeah.” He closed the Bible. “I’ll look into this again a little later.” He looked into his brother’s eyes. “Thanks, Dare. I’m not sure yet exactly what to make of all of this, but you’ve given me some hope at least. I’ll read it some more this evening.”
Darrin gripped his brother’s shoulder tight. There were tears in his eyes, but he didn’t let them fall. He didn’t want to put Lee in an uncomfortable position at the beginning of their work day. “I’ll be praying, Lee. I believe God has some other positive, hopeful things to say to you too.”
Lionel nodded, and since the horn sounded again, Darrin turned to unlock the office door and open the first repair bay.
Later that evening, after Lionel had eaten, he picked up his own Bible and opened it to the book of First Corinthians. “Please give me understanding, Lord,” he whispered and began reading. He read through that book and on into Second Corinthians, wanting to read the verses Darrin had shown him in context with the rest of these letters to the church. As he read those same words in connection with all of the rest of those two letters, he realized even more clearly the meaning of the verse that had struck him earlier.
The Lord really was saying that when a person became a believer, he became a brand new being, and was freed from all the old things that would have enslaved him if he had not accepted Jesus Christ. Then when he got to the last verse of that same chapter, he found the words, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
After that, he looked up other scriptures that were given in reference to the passage in 2 Corinthians, chapter five and found several more places where the Lord said in His Word that a believer had died to the old sinful life and now had the righteous life of Christ living in him. He was especially struck by Galatians 2:20, which said, “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”
Lionel leaned his head back and closed his eyes. He let out a long slow breath as a new sweet peace settled over him. He felt as if he’d been washed clean all over again. “You really have made me a brand new person, haven’t You, Lord? You’ve made me righteous with Your own righteousness. I don’t have to be afraid of what I inherited from my earthly father, because You’ve taken it away and given me a new inheritance from You.” He smiled, shaking his head slowly, as if he could hardly believe what he had learned. But then he realized that he did believe it – and it had set him free.
“I don’t have to be afraid anymore,” he whispered. “Thank you, Jesus. I don’t have to be afraid that I’ll be like my dad anymore.” He sighed contentedly. “Not anymore.”
His thoughts drifted to Kana, and he smiled again. He didn’t have to be afraid to let her know how he felt now. He didn’t have to hide from the future. He could look forward to it and to all the wonderful possibilities it held now. With the Lord’s help, there could be a wife and children in his future too. He smiled again. Lots of children, he thought now. Lots and lots of children.
He looked back down at the Bible in his lap. He picked it up and began reading again, his new freedom growing stronger with every verse. He got up and fixed himself a snack, still meditating on what he had read and the liberty it had given him.
As he ate some chips and dip, he decided that he needed to call Kana tomorrow and ask her to have dinner with him Saturday evening. Now that he was free to consider marriage and a family, he needed to find out just what it was that had started developing between them. So on that thought, he took himself to bed and slept soundly.
The following afternoon, as soon as he thought Kana would be home from school, he called Gram’s house and asked to speak to her. When she came to the phone, he felt his heart quicken its beat at the sound of her voice, and he had to clear his own throat before he could respond to her.
“Kana, I guess Gram told you who was calling?”
“Yes, how are you, Lee?”
“I’m doing very well actually. Better than in a long time. The Lord has been setting me free from some things that have been with me a long time, and it’s wonderful.”
“I’m so glad for you. Is it something you can share?”
“Well, at the right time, I’d like to share it with you, but perhaps we should wait a while.”
“All right. I’ll be glad to hear about it whenever you’re ready.”
“Thank you, Kana. What I really called about today was to ask you if you would have dinner with me Saturday evening.”
Kana felt such disappointment, she couldn’t speak for a moment. If only he’d called yesterday. “Oh, Lee, I’m sorry. I already have plans for Saturday evening.”
“Oh … I see.”
She could hear the disappointment in his voice too. “Could I have a rain check?” She wondered if that were being too pushy, but she just couldn’t bear to pass up the invitation completely.
“Sure … but … you don’t want to go out on a school night, do you?”
“Oh, I don’t know that I would refuse. If we go to dinner, I could still be home before 10:00 easily, and if I know I’m going out, I can arrange any work that needs to be done at home for another evening.”
“Well, then, how about Thursday? I’ll have Delly on Friday evening, and I know tonight and Wednesday are taken up with church. Will that put too much pressure on you to go out on Thursday too?”
“No, especially if we can go about 6:00. Is that too early for you?”
“Not at all. If I need to, I’ll have Darrin close up and I’ll leave a little early.”
“All right. You choose the place, and I’ll be ready by 6:00. Oh, but if you decide on some place where we need to be especially dressed up, be sure and let me know.”
“I’ll let you know now. Dress up. I feel like going some place special.”
Kana laughed. She felt almost giddy. Why hadn’t she felt like this when Cade had asked her out for Saturday? Why was she wishing that she hadn’t accepted his invitation? Was she that stuck on Lee Butler already? “I’ll do my best to be presentable,” she teased now.
“You don’t even have to try to look downright beautiful, and you know it,” he said.
Kana caught her breath, surprised at the candidness of his remark – and at the fact that he thought her beautiful.
“Well, to be honest, I don’t, but it’s nice to hear. Thank you, Lee. I’ll see you Thursday evening. Oh, and I guess I’ll see you at Bible study tonight as well, won’t I?”
“You will, but I didn’t want to wait any later to ask you about dinner.”
“Well, I’m looking forward to it. See you later.”
The next few days dragged for Lee. He saw Kana at Bible study and church service, but other people wanted her attention after both of those events, so he didn’t even have an opportunity to talk to her at any length. When Thursday came, he felt like a teenager who’d asked a girl out on his first real date. He fussed with his clothes, his hair, his decision about cologne. Finally, he was ready, and made his way out to the car, which he had washed and waxed just that afternoon.
When Kana met him at the door, he was struck speechless again. She wore a black dress that was very fitted at the top, with a wide neckline that was worn just barely off the shoulders, accenting the magnificent tan she had acquired in the last two months. The skirt fell in loose folds to the middle of her calf, and she wore high-heeled sandals to complete the outfit. She had decided on no jewelry except pearl earrings, and looking at her Lionel found that he had to remind himself to breathe normally.
“Come in and say something to Gram, and I’ll get my purse and a shawl.”
He stood still another minute, and finally managed to step over the threshold as he said, “You’re absolutely stunning.”
Her color was already high, but she blushed so richly, that Lionel once again had to tell himself to take a breath. “Thank you, Lee,” she said now, and he could tell that she too was a little breathless. “Gram’s in the living room,” she added, and motioned in that direction. Lionel headed that way, and she started up the steps. “I won’t be a minute,” she called as he entered the living room to speak to her grandmother.
“Lee, you look so handsome!” Gram exclaimed as she got up and came to hug him. “I’ll be careful not to wrinkle you.”
“Don’t worry. I only wear clothes that shed wrinkles. Life’s too short to bother with anything else is my motto,” he said, feeling more at ease now than when he’d first arrived.
“I’m ready,” Kana said from behind him now, and he turned to look at her. She was carrying a thin black silky shawl with tiny silver threads woven through it. He took it from her and placed it carefully around her shoulders, noticing a current something like electricity when his fingers touched her skin. He wondered if she had felt it too.
Kana had felt it, and blushed again. Gram noticed, but didn’t say anything, of course. She only smiled to herself as they went out the door.
As they made their way to the table, all eyes in the restaurant followed them. Lionel was wearing a dark gray suit with a bright white shirt and a silver gray tie that matched the silver in his hair. Together, they made a strikingly handsome couple, but both of them were so aware of each other, that they didn’t notice the attention they attracted from those around them.
They attracted further attention just because they were so obviously enjoying each other’s company the whole evening. They ate, but hardly noticed what the food tasted like. They were quiet at times, then in serious conversation, then laughing like two children, but the whole time they rarely took their eyes off each other. They were a joy to watch, but were totally unaware of how they looked to anyone else.
On the drive home, Lionel decided he needed to tell her a little of what the Lord had done for him this week, so he asked her if she would sit with him a few minutes and talk after they arrived at her Grandmother’s house.
“Certainly. It isn’t late yet. We can go inside or sit out on the glider in the back.”
“That sounds good to me,” he said, so they walked around the house and settled down on the glider on the large back porch. The air was fragrant with the very first hint of fall, and the stars were so brilliant, they looked almost close enough to touch. Kana breathed in deeply and let out a contented sigh as Lee started the glider barely moving back and forth.
“I think I’ve mentioned to you that I’ve been concerned that I couldn’t possibly trust myself to become a good husband and father, because I feared that I may have inherited some of my father’s rather evil character traits. I haven’t experienced them to any extent up to now, but I always feared that they were there, latent in me, and could come pouring out with the right provocation.”
“I know you hinted at that Lee, but I never believed it. You’re well into your thirties, and if those things were part of your make up you would have seen good evidence of them by now.”
“That’s what Darrin thinks too, but that never helped … knowing that other people didn’t believe there could be a problem.” He paused and took a deep breath, looking up to the stars for a moment. Then he looked back at Kana. “But this week, thanks to Darrin, who showed me a scripture in Second Corinthians, I believe the Lord has finally shown me that once I turned my life over to him, He made me a completely new being, and all of those old things I could have inherited from my earthly father have passed away.”
Kana sat forward eagerly and looked intently into his eyes, excitement showing on her face. “Oh, Lionel, that’s so true! When you come to Christ you become a new person! I’m so glad Darrin led you to that scripture.”
“Me too. And now that I’ve read it for myself, as well as a number of other scriptures that confirm what those verses say, I feel like I’m finally free … really free, Kana, from all that fear.”
Kana reached out and laid her hand on his arm. “I’m so happy for you, Lee.”
Her touch sent blissful waves of warmth through his arm, and he reached over and laid his hand on top of hers. “Well, the best part is that I believe now I can let myself love a woman because now I can honestly offer her myself as a husband and father that she can trust.”
Something cold crept into Kana. Was he going to tell her that he was in love with some other woman? Then why take her to dinner to do it? She glanced down at his hand on hers and tried to pull hers away, but he tightened his grip.
“Kana,” he said quietly, but she didn’t look up.
Finally, he let her hand go and put his under her chin, lifting it until her face was totally exposed, but she still wouldn’t meet his eyes.
“Kana, look at me … please,” he said now.
She finally did so, and when she saw the flame in his eyes, her breath caught in her throat.
“Kana … I may be doing this in a clumsy way, and if so, I’m sorry … but I wanted to spend this evening alone with you, because I wanted to be sure what it was I felt for you, and … I know for sure now what that is.” Her eyes were glued to his. She couldn’t look away, and his burned into her very soul. His next words were a whisper, but Kana could understand them perfectly.
“I love you, Kana. … I love you as I have never loved any other woman.”
Kana just couldn’t speak in words, but unknown to her, her eyes spoke enough to him that he was encouraged to make the next move. Slowly he leaned toward her, and she held her breath. Her lips were slightly parted, and he touched his to them in a touch so light it was like a feather. He lifted his mouth the tiniest fraction and breathed her name in a soft groan before he captured those lips again in a full, hungry kiss.
Kana’s response was instant. Everything in her melted and flowed into him through her own kiss. His arms came around her and drew her firmly against him, and as the kiss continued, Kana’s arms stole slowly around his back, anchoring the two of them together even more firmly. When Lionel finally lifted his mouth from hers, he trailed his lips across her cheek to the tip of her ear, and breathing her name again, buried his face in her neck. She continued to embrace him for a few moments, and then finally, gradually pulled away.
They continued to gaze at each other for several moments; then Kana lowered her head.
“What is it, Dear?” he asked quietly.
She finally looked up. “Lee … I … I … “
“You’re not ready to make any kind of commitments?”
She nodded her head without words.
“I didn’t really think that you were, but I’ve been holding myself in check for so long, Kana, and now I’m finally so free that I just couldn’t contain what was filling my heart. I had to give myself the privilege of saying it out loud and demonstrating it. But I’m not trying to pressure you, my dear. Please don’t think that. … I’m not asking you to say or do anything right now, okay?”
Kana smiled at him, nodding her head in understanding. “I have deep feelings for you, Lee, but I’m not sure yet exactly what they are, or what I’m supposed to do about them.”
“Then we’ll leave things as they are for now. You’ll spend some more time with me though, won’t you?”
“Yes … I’d like that.”
“It’s too bad that you’re tied up Saturday.”
Kana looked down again, and Lionel could tell that she was troubled again. He waited, not wanting to push her to confide in him. Finally she looked into his eyes again and spoke. “About Saturday, Lee … I feel that I should tell you something …”
“You can tell me anything, Kana. I hope you know that.”
“Well … when you called to ask me about Saturday, I had just the day before accepted an invitation from Cade to go to dinner and a movie with him.” Her eyes searched his deeply, wanting to be sure that he understood.
He let out a quiet sigh, his eyes never leaving hers. “You have a right to spend time with anyone you wish, Kana. I haven’t asked you to commit yourself to me in any way. I think I’d like to do so, but it isn’t the right time for you yet.” He looked away from her for a moment and sighed again. “I can’t say that I’m glad to hear you’re going to be spending the whole evening with another man, but you’re a lovely and interesting woman, and I’m sure a number of men want your company. You deserve that they should.”
“To be honest, I’ve thought several times tonight that perhaps I should call him back and cancel the plans.”
“No!” At the vehemence of his answer, Kana blinked, and her mouth opened slightly in surprise.
“No, don’t cancel. You need to spend time with some other men. I want you to know how other men will make you feel and what they can offer you. That way, if you do decide that I’m the one you want, you’ll be sure. We won’t either one of us have to second guess our relationship. Especially since we got off to a rather unorthodox beginning, I think that’s especially important, don’t you?”
“Well … you may be right … but what about you? You said you haven’t allowed yourself to spend a lot of time with any one woman in a long time, and you haven’t allowed yourself to feel anything serious about anyone at all. If you give yourself a chance, you just might develop feelings for someone else that are stronger than what you feel for me.”
Lionel shook his head, looking deeply into her eyes. “No, Kana. In spite of my stringent control, you awakened and stirred in me deep feelings of tenderness … and need … and passion … that I literally had to battle against to keep my equilibrium emotionally. No other woman has ever done that. You’re the one my heart’s been waiting for.”
Kana couldn’t resist lifting her hand and caressing his cheek. “Oh, Lee …”
He couldn’t have stopped himself if he had tried – but he didn’t try. He leaned forward and kissed her again, gently securing her head with his hand as he did so. Her arms eased around his neck, and finally he pulled her to him completely, savoring the scent and the taste of her for a few unguarded moments. Gradually, he eased away, letting out his breath in a long sigh.
“I need to let you go in. You have an early day tomorrow with a roomful of power-packed kids,” he said with a grin.
“Your days begin pretty early too. And you said you have Delly for the weekend, didn’t you?”
“Just for Friday night and most of Saturday. Darrin and Eve will be back late Saturday afternoon.”
“Where are they going?”
“They’re going to Greensboro to see Dad,” he said, tension back in his voice. He glanced away from Kana.
“Oh, I see,” was all she said. She didn’t want to disrupt the sweetness of the time they’d shared, so she didn’t ask him any questions about why he wouldn’t go. But deep inside, Kana felt disturbed. She knew somehow that until Lionel could forgive his father and let all of the past go, he wouldn’t be able to have the successful relationships that he wanted in the future.
He rose from the glider. “Well, thank you, Kana, for spending the evening with me and for listening to all of my personal revelations.”
She rose too and began walking toward the front of the house, with him beside her. “I’ve enjoyed the whole evening, Lee. And I feel very privileged that you’ve wanted to share what you have with me.”
He turned when they got close to the porch. “Come, I’ll see you in,” he said leading her to the door. “Tell Gram I said goodnight, will you?”
“And I’ll call you about another evening soon, okay?”
“It’s very okay. Goodnight,” she said, squeezing his hand lightly and opening the front door.
He returned to his car, and once she had closed the door behind her, he started the motor and pulled out of the drive.
Continued in tomorrow’s post, which will bring you the final 3 chapters of the story.