August 16

A Chance at Love

I stood over the coffin of my Aunt Helen. Memories flashed through me of the last time Aunt Helen talked to me.

“John, you need to find a nice girl and settle down.”

I rolled my eyes before turning to respond to my eighty-year old aunt that sat in the sagging armchair in her apartment. Every week I came over to mow the lawn and work on the mechanical issues around the apartment, every week she told me to settle down.

“We’ve been over this a million times. There are not any good girls out there.”

“Hmm…you are not trying hard enough, young man. I’ll get you settled down yet.”

Now she was gone and she hadn’t managed to settle me down. A mixture of grief and relief warred inside of me. I knew that I would miss the banter. I turned away from the coffin.

“Mr. Bliss”

I turned at the sound of my name being called. An old man stood by the coffin. His suit was decades old and he kept pushing up his glasses to peer at me. His eyes looked magnified. If I wasn’t grieving, I would have probably laughed at the image.

“Yes.”

“I’m your aunt’s lawyer and would like you to join us for the reading of her will.”

“Me? I didn’t know her that well.”

“Well, it is my business to know who is in her will and you are in it.”

Dazed, I walked into the room that the lawyer indicated. I stopped short and stared at the girl that had lived across the street from Aunt Helen for ages. I swallowed slowly.

“Hello John.”

“Maggie.”

I sat down and tried to ignore the jasmine perfume that wafted to my nostrils. Maggie and had been friends, more than friends until one day she broke my heart by breaking up with me. Since then, I had not seen her or had any desire to see her. She was as beautiful as I remembered her. I sat rigidly, trying hard not to stare at her. She seemed to enjoy my discomfort.

The lawyer cleared his throat and looked at me.

“Your Aunt Helen was very insistent that you would find a wife.”

My face burned as Maggie let out a bark of laughter.

“What does this have to do with the will?”

“She says that you cannot have her inheritance if you do not get married within a year of her death.”

“What?”

The lawyer cleared his throat again.

“She has over three million dollars in her bank account, not including the properties that she owned.”

“What happens if I don’t get married?”

“The money goes to Maggie.”

Maggie sat up straight in the chair and frowned. I turned and looked at her accusingly.

“Of course.” I spat, turned around, and left.

“Wait!” I turned around to see Maggie running after me. “I’m sorry John.”

“I didn’t want her money. I never did what I did for her money.” I pulled my hand through my hair and breathed a sigh.

“She knew that. She just wanted you to be happy.” Maggie touched my arm and I jerked it from her grasp.

“Happy?” I laughed. It sounded desperate in my own ears. “She had weird way of showing it.”

I turned around to leave.

“You know that I regret breaking up with you.”

“Yeah, join the club.”

I walked away from her and headed towards my car. I sat down in my car as my emotions tumbled over each other. Why did she leave the money to me under a condition? Why did Maggie have to walk back into my life?

I leaned against the wheel of the car and closed my eyes. I grieved that such a great woman passed away. I grieved that my life was so different then what I had imagined it to be.

I heard a knock on the window. I rolled down the window to see Maggie staring at me.

“John, I didn’t put Aunt Helen up to this.”

“I know. She always thought we would get married.”

She pushed her hair back from her face. She always did this when she was nervous.

“I know it was my fault that it didn’t work out between us.”

“You left me at the alter.”

She flinched at my accusing voice.

“I know. I was young and stupid.”

“I called you and you never responded to my calls.”

“I know. I was scared.”

I breathed in deeply trying to get control of my emotions.

“I loved you and would have never hurt you.”

She was crying. I felt horrible about making her cry.

“I left you at the alter because I needed time to process. We were so young.”

“You crushed me.” I remembered those dark days like they were yesterday. Aunt Helen was the only one that knew of that dark time. Since then she had tried to get me to find happiness. I stared at the woman that I  knew that I still loved. Maybe Aunt Helen knew that I never stopped loving her and found a way to make her come back into my life.

She breathed deeply.

“You don’t know what had happened the weeks before the wedding. I had been diagnosed with cancer. I was scared and you were so distant coming up to the wedding. My mom encouraged me to not get married. I didn’t know if I would survive the year.” She was hiccuping and crying at the same time. I felt like a cad.

“Maggie, I would have supported you. We could have made it.”

She turned glaring eyes at me.

“You say that now, but we might have been torn apart. We might not have made it.”

“Isn’t love about chance? We need to take the chance to see if we would be happy together.”

I got out of my car and gave her a hug.

“I didn’t want to take the chance.” She pushed my arms away and turned away. “I didn’t want to ruin your dreams.”

I turned her towards me and made her look into my face.

“With God’s help we would have made it. My dreams were not more important than you.”

She sniffed and started to laugh.

“When I found out that you were in the will, I told myself that I would not make a fool of myself with you.” She pulled away. “When you walked into that room I could not help remembering all the reasons why I loved you.”

My heart picked up a little bit.

“Are you willing to take a chance?”

She smiled.

“I learned my lesson the hard way. Living without you was the worst decision of my life.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 7

The Crime

Image result for newspaper and coffee

The morning paper had the same old news. I flipped through the paper looking for anything that would catch my eye. My stomach dropped when I flipped to a page with this headline: “Wanted for the Murder of Tina Golden.” Underneath the headline my name showed up in bold print with a grainy photo taken of me. I squinted at the photo of me as my heartbeat kicked up a notch.

Is this some kind of sick joke?

The door of my condo shook as someone knocked on my door. The paper shook in my hand.

“Open up. This is the police.”

I felt myself go numb.

Who is Tina Golden?

We know you are in there Mr. Jones. Open up the door and let’s talk.”

Panic coursed through me as I headed to the door. I tightened the tie around my neck and straightened my suit jacket.

The police stood with their pistols drawn when I opened the doors. I warily raised my hands and gestured for them to come in.

A woman with beautiful blond hair stood on the threshold with her goons. “I didn’t think you would open the door, Mr. Jones.” She smiled sweetly at me like I just had asked her out on a date, rather than what she was actually doing, invading my space. She peered around my living room taking stock of the empty pizza box sitting on the coffee table and the empty glasses strewn around the room. She rounded on me with her blue eyes zeroing in on her suspect. “So, how long have you known Tina Golden?”

“Who? I don’t know who she is.”

“Come on Caleb. I can call you Caleb, right?” She didn’t wait for my acknowledgment before pushing on. “You were seen at the scene of the crime running away.”

“I tell you, I don’t know who this person is and I certainly would not kill anyone.”

“That is what they all say.”

She rolled her eyes and pointed to my bedroom.

“We have a search warrant to search your house. Smith and Jacobs will search the place for any incriminating evidence.” She motioned for the other men to start searching the house. “As for you, you have the right to remain silent…” She continued her speech, the speech that no citizen ever plans to hear in their lifetime.

“You got this wrong! I didn’t do anything.” I tried pulling away, desperate for her to understand, to believe me. Her eyes just got harder and she yanked me towards the door.

“Don’t make this harder on yourself, Caleb.”

I wanted to kick her and run away, but I had to trust the system. I had to trust that they would give me a fair trial. Anyone with any sense would know that I didn’t do this, I couldn’t have done something so wrong.

Several hours later I sat at a metal desk. The cold metal reminded me about my new reality. My voice was raw from trying to convince everyone that I had not done it. I drooped my head as I heard the door scrape open again. The click clack of heels let me know it was a woman. She smelled like floral. I looked up as she threw a folder on the desk.

“You have no criminal record to speak of, Mr. Jones. Nothing. Zip. Nadda.” She sighed heavily. “However, you were at the scene of the crime with blood all over you. Yet you say you’ve never seen this girl in your life.”

She held up a picture of a beautiful girl of about seventeen with dark hair and startling green eyes. I stared at the photo, but could not recollect ever seeing her before in my life.

“She is a beautiful girl. Young. Vibrant. Full of life. What would possess someone like you to take her life away from her?”

I shook my head. I didn’t feel lead to say anything. I prayed that I would wake up from this nightmare eventually, but I hadn’t yet and I might never.

She leaned forward and looked me straight in the eyes.

“Was it a lover spat? Were you jealous of her? Did she have something that you wanted?”

I remained silent. My once pristine shirt was dirty and limp from sitting at the metal desk. My hair had lost the little gel that I had in it from my constant rubbing of my hands through my hair. The metal cuffs on my wrists shafted against the skin, a constant reminder that I was no longer a free man. I had only been here for eight or ten hours tops and they had already broken me. I had no will to refute for the twentieth time today that I had never met Tina Golden.

The woman sat back in her chair and tapped the metal desk in front of her. The silence stretched for so long that I looked up to see her studying me.

“I’m Christine Ender. I’m here to get you out.”

I looked at her in surprise before suspicion took over.

“Yeah, right.”

I sat back in my chair.

“Why would you want to help me?”

“You didn’t do it.”

“I didn’t, but how do you know?”

“Because I set you up.”

I blinked before I tried to lunge only to be hindered by the metal around my leg.

“Why would you do that?”

She blinked and smiled.

“Because you have certain skills that we need.”

She pushed the folder towards me and flipped through the content.

“We both know that although you do not have a criminal record, you have obtained some skills.”

She smiled too brightly for me.

“We want those skills.”

 

 

April 17

The Void

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The darkness engulfs me when I wake, when I sleep, when I eat, and when I walk. It surrounds me like a blanket. Many writers have called it “The Void,” but I call it my friend.

“Hon, are you doing alright?” I hear the concern in my mother’s voice.

“Yes, I was just thinking.”

“Thinking?” I could hear the worry in my mother’s voice. She associated thinking as bad ever since the accident that took my eyesight. She always feared that I’ll become depressed.

“Yes, I was thinking about what I need to get done today, mom.” I could hear my mom visibly relax next to me.

I heard the doctor walk into the room. “How are you doing Patricia?” The doctor drew closer to me. “Are you settling in with your Guide Dog, Kip?”

“Yes sir.” I smiled up at the doctor. “He is the best thing that has happened to me in a long time.”

“That’s good.” The doctor coughed awkwardly. “Have you had any nightmares?”

I frowned. “No, should I have?”

My mom stiffened next to me. “That’s enough!” Mom’s voice pitched higher. “We don’t need to go into that.”

I was puzzled even more. What was my mom afraid of? “I don’t remember anything.” I touched my mother on the arm. I could feel her shake and smelled the sweat. I drew my hand away.

“Are you sure, Patricia?” The doctor asked. He didn’t sound convinced.

My mother stood up. “I told you that we do not need to discuss this. If she doesn’t remember, why should we make her remember?”

The doctor’s voice was calm and collected. “Mrs. Rose, why don’t you leave the room? I can make sure Patricia can find her way out.”

“No, I will not leave my daughter.” My mom sat back down. “I’ll let you interrogate her all you want.”

“Mom? Aren’t we at the doctor’s office?” I felt my alarm rise.

“Don’t be afraid honey. They are going to ask you some questions?” My mom’s voice sounded forced like she was clenching her teeth.

Alarm shot through me. “I don’t know anything!” I nearly shouted. Kip realized my distress and snuggled closer to my feet.

“Patricia, we believe that the accident was a cover up.”

“Cover up?” I whispered. I couldn’t remember anything from that night. My mom always referred to it as the “accident,” nothing else. She was close-lipped about the whole thing. I had been in the hospital for months after the incident and I still could not remember anything. It had been swallowed by the void that I lived in.

“Yes, your uncle was not all that he seemed.” I felt the pain lance through me. My uncle had been everything to me–everything. All I knew was that I had been driving during that fateful day. The nurses told me the facts, but I couldn’t remember anything myself.

“All I know is what the nurses told me. I’ll live with the guilt forever.” My mother’s touched my arm. I could feel her comfort, but the tears still fell from my eyes.

“We need that information that your uncle had.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I whispered. “I see nothing. All I see is the blackness that surrounds me.”

I felt the doctor lean forward. Frustration was evident in his voice. “You must remember something.”

“I’ve racked my brains every day trying to remember. I asked the Lord to restore my memory, but he has deemed to not allow it.” I yanked my hair in frustration. “All I want to know is the answers too, doctor. Why was I driving, not my uncle? Why were we on a back road going 80 mph? Why? Why? Why?”  I screeched the last words.

I got up. Kip stood up and nudged me. Dead silence reigned in the room. I thought cynically how they did not know what to do with a deranged teenager that had just lost her uncle, the one source of light in the deep void that now surrounded her. Could they see how lost I was? Or where they clinically trying to see if I was telling the truth?

The doctor touched my arm. “Patricia, we want to help you. You need to help us first.”

His hand felt cold, clinical, and calculated on my arm. I felt the shiver run up my spine.

“What do I need to do?” I felt the desperation in my voice. I knew that I was begging for help out of this void that surrounded me.

“You can become one of us.”  I drew away from him and towards my mother. I could feel the tension in her as I stood next to her.

“Please don’t.” My mom seemed to plead. “Don’t take her too. You’ve already taken my brother.”

“Mrs. Rose.” The doctors voice made my mom reconsider her begging. She remained silent.

“Who are you?” I asked cautiously.

“We are a spy group.”

My mom groaned. “I’ve lost her.” she muttered.

 

March 30

The Wedding Crash

Image result for images of wedding dresses without models
blog.psweddingdresses.co.uk

I stood across from the girl of my dreams. We had planned this from our childhood. Her beautiful face looked radiant today. Today was our day, nothing could spoil it. Seriously, I can’t remember who is in the audience. Does it matter? My soon-to-be-wife is standing right before me. I could see the scatter of freckles across her face that she tried to hide with makeup. I could see her hair curled elegantly and swept up in a bun. Her fingers clenched in my hands. I could feel the slight trembling of her feet. Our hearts beat as one.

My attention was drawn to the minister. He asked if anyone objected to this wedding. A tense second passed as I clenched my toes in my shoes. Why wasn’t the minister saying anything? I looked up  and saw my spy partner or should I say ex-spy partner standing in the aisle. The whole room was silent.

 

“Hi Josh!” My partner flipped her hair behind her and grinned at my bride. “Did you miss me?”She seemed oblivious that every eye was on her and me when she walked up the stairs. “I don’t mean to be rude, but there is a very good chance that in about two minutes that window will blow out.”

“Josh….what is going on?” My bride had a horror-stricken face. She pulled her hands from me. “Who is she?” She said the words with a shutter.

“My name is Tiffany, Tiff for short. We work together.” Tiff extended her hand, but Rose refused to touch her. I could see open repulsion in her eyes.

Rose did not seem to understand. “What are you doing at MY wedding” Rose’s voice screeched in the quiet chapel. For the first time my eyes drifted to the chapel seats that were filled with family and friends. Great, they had their phones out. Everyone was whispering and I could tell that Rose was about to start crying. My eyes glared at Tiff.

She gave a half smile. “We have a minute-and-a-half,” chimed Tiff. I felt my frustration bubble inside of me.

“Tiff, not that I’m not grateful that you are here to save my life, but couldn’t you have picked a better time than my wedding day to crash.”

“You’ve made some terrible enemies, Josh.” Tiff quirked her eyebrows at me. “Did you really think by getting married  it would solve the problem?”

The explosion cut off my retort. I heard screams through the billowing smoke. I grabbed Rose’s hand.

“We need to go…NOW!” I screamed.

I rushed out the door with Rose hot on my heels. Tiff took the lead and pulled out a pistol.

“What’s going on?” screamed Rose. She scrambled over the exploded glass trying to keep up with me in her wedding dress.

“I meant to tell you on our honeymoon, sweetie. Um…”
“He’s a spy and his cover was blown.” Tiff answered for me. “You don’t need to fear about me. He is head-over-heels for you.” Tiff seemed to think that that would solve the problem.

“How did they find me?” I asked Tiff.

Tiff pushed me into a limo and pushed Rose after me. She leaped into the car after me.

The gunshots came closer.”There was a leak.” Tiff gave me a meaningful look. “Thankfully I found out about it and was able to warn you.”

Rose clung to me. I could feel that she was trembling slightly. Tears were rolling down her cheeks and her dress was tattered.  “Give me a gun.”

I gave her an incredulous look. “What?”

“Give ME A GUN” She screamed the last part of the sentence. Tiff handed her a gun. She clenched the gun in her hands.

“You ruined my wedding day, Tiff.” Tiff grinned in response. She didn’t seem to understand the ire that was raised by my bride.
“And you, Josh, should have let me into your little secret. But…I’ll forgive you because you are not the only one with secrets, Josh.”

March 1

I Hear You

Picture from Huffington Post

The beeping of an annoying machine is the first thing that I heard. I can’t see, but I can hear everything that is going on around me. I can hear the doctor lean over me to check a vital sign. The scribbling of his pen against the paper grated my ears.

“She looks like she is still fine.” The doctor moved away from me. He had a slight limp and a little bit of a lisp in his voice.

“Why is she still in a coma? It has been three weeks.” I could hear the frustration and fear in the voice of my husband. I heard his breath as it must have caressed my face, but could not feel it. This did not alarm me as much as the news that I had been in a coma for three weeks. Doesn’t everyone exist like I exist? My reality was tethered very loosely on the here and now. I knew that the man that sat next to my bed was my husband and that he loved me, but I could not bring up the memories of anything else.

“She has been in a bad car accident. I am unsure whether or not that she will be fully functional when she does wake up.” The doubt and clinical way the doctor stated those bare facts, made me want to scream at him. I could perfectly understand what he he was saying.

Rick shifted in his seat. I felt excitement bubble inside of myself. I could remember his name. A few other memories started to float in my head. “I’m not giving up hope. The Lord can do anything.”

“I would not put my hopes in God if I where you. He rarely answers prayer.” The cynicism of the voice made me feel cold all over. How could he not believe when I felt the Lord near me at all times.

“He always answers prayer, but not sometimes in the way we expect it.” Rick’s voice sounded strong and adamant. I felt a bubble of pride for my husband.

The doctor laughed. “That is what they all say before something happens to their loved ones. They all believe and then turn away from him.”

“Yes, many people fall away during a tragedy. They often forget that the Lord suffered more when he died for their sins. Job says that the Lord gives and the Lord takes away. I will never leave my Savior that cared enough for me to die.”

The doctor seemed to step back from the impassioned speech. “Well, you can believe what you want to believe.”

“I’ll pray for you.” Rick stated simply. “I hope that you will one day know and understand what I believe in.”

The doctor laughed uneasily and backed away. “I need to go check up on some other patients.” I heard the quick clip of the doctors shoes on the floor.

I felt Rick lean over me and kiss my forehead. “Dear Heavenly Father, your will be done.” I felt his tears on my face. I willed myself to wake up, to see the man that so desperately loved the Lord, even if it meant giving me up.

My eyes beheld the most glorious sight when they did open.