Stuck in the Middle!

How this giant, metal tube even makes it airborne is a mystery in the first place, but equally mysterious is how fellow passengers can for hours of motion and constant white noise be content to keep window shades down, eyes glued to phones, and be silent except for the momentary few mumbled syllables deemed necessary when trying not to step on each other while edging bodies into these narrow aisles and hard cushioned excuses for seats.

How can the people around me on both sides of the aisle be content with taking off and hurtling through the atmosphere without glimpsing the world outside? A mystery. But also, an irritation for the powerless one in the middle. No control. Penned in. Victim of turbulence, exercising blind faith that we are really flying and not in a fake simulator, part of some grand experiment—or hoax.

To top it off, having to wear a mask accentuates the feeling of claustrophobia—trapped side to side, front to back by non-communicative people, also hidden behind their masks. Does no one like clouds at 33,000 feet anymore? Does no one like to check now and again to make sure the engines are still attached to the wing? With no view to the big, wide world, how am I supposed to know what part of the USA I am going to crash into should this turbulence continue to shake the metal bolts apart that hold this tube together? How will I know the correct time to start a rousing verse of “Abide with Me” if I have no visual cues as to our elevation?

But here I sit in the middle, the squishing, you-don’t-deserve-an-armrest middle, nose running, face hot, eyes staring straight ahead at the pixelated screen with a black and white cartoon jet making ever so slow progress on the line from Dallas / Fort Worth to LAX. I accepted the sugary soda and the dry, round pretzels from the anonymous attendant not because the meagre offerings would assuage my hunger, but just for an excuse to take off my mask and breathe the recycled air more freely.

Interesting that: The miracle of covid is such that if you eat the junk food offerings without a mask, you are afforded an uncanny measure of protection from all things viral. It’s like a pretzel force field descends while you munch, or why else would our all-knowing handlers allow it? Of course, none of it makes any sense.

Once finished, the mask has to go on again, or you will be firmly reminded that the force field has been lifted, making everyone once again vulnerable. It apparently has a short shelf life. Again, I slip into the cone of silence, those on either side still staring at their phones, all windows closed tight in the steely, grey cabin light.

Footnote:

On the long flight home, once again I ended up in the middle. The person by the window slept and snored on taxiing, slept and snored on take off and ascent. He was so out of it, I decided to risk lifting the window shade by him. He never stirred except for his vigorous exhalation, so I enjoyed my cloudy view over his inert body for many aerial miles. Some time later with the rising of the sun, he woke up briefly to notice his shade was up. He slammed it down with vigor and went back to snoring. Of course, I looked straight ahead and said not a word; though I was formulating a lie in my head about the naughty attendant who had possibly desecrated his space.

Next time I need to take a long trip, I am going by car where I can always be guaranteed a window seat and plenty of leg room.

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When I Was Young . . .

When I was young, I dreamed big dreams of earth and sky,

of progress and promise.

Context was safety, and I was so safe as to not know what real danger even looked like.

Though it would not have been right to stay in that cocoon of love and acceptance,

I often wonder

if that young girl had known what was really afoot in the wide, wide world,

the wild, wild real world,

would she have dared to traipse beyond the green fields,

the treehouses, and sandy riverbanks,

the hot-breath Holsteins, the feral cats made tame,

the safety of happiness, of home?

Would she have dared to sling a Harmony archtop guitar over her shoulder and run headlong into the unknown,

to explore the more complicated

and often darker underbelly of the world.

Probably.

But can I go back home now?

(photo of the home place is at my other blog site https://apronheadlilly.wordpress.com/)

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Purify

When real life gives you murders, injustice, pain, vigilantism, discrimination, betrayal, and the myriad other destroyers of the human spirit,

we rail, we protest, and we grieve . . . and yet,

when we seek some respite from the real world, when we seek some down time,

we entertain ourselves with fictions than show murders, injustice, pain, vigilantism, discrimination, betrayal, and the myriad other destroyers of the human spirit.

Perhaps it is time, along with seeking to purify society that we purify our hearts and our appetite for films where we live vicariously through such horrors

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Reel Faith

Apronhead

IMG_5936 - Copy

Many things you fear come to pass, but

most don’t; and

since you never know which will or won’t, it makes more sense to fear none. But

my Pollyanna is more my Puddleglum, and

my optimism quotient is tempered by what is truly possible on this broken planet; so

how does a glass half empty gal have faith without feeling like it is more about wishful thinking and cooked up certainty?

How to live in the real world with real faith when real is often reeling with the now and the what could be? Yet will I praise Him.

***************

“Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” ~Matthew 6:34

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The Wonder of Angels

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Francois Langurs–Amazing Critters!

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Chapter 44

Harper woke to the good smells of something cooking in the kitchen. She put her warm robe on, grabbed the walker, and went out to investigate. There was Blaise adorned in one of her bright pink aprons. It was a site to behold, and she couldn’t help but laugh out loud.

“Well, good morning, Sunshine. How did you sleep?”

“Probably better than you.” She waved toward the couch, which was obviously much shorter than Blaise’s tall frame.

“Nah, it was fine. I can sleep anywhere. So . . . what do you want on your waffles?”

“By the way, the pink looks good on you.”

“Ha, very funny! I’ve never had my colors done, but I can almost guarantee you that pink is not my color. But about those waffles? They are vegan organic, gluten free and cooked to perfection . . . maybe. We’ll see.”

“Wow, I didn’t know you could cook.” She was genuinely impressed.

“Well, the proof will be in the tasting, but I used your recipe here in this notebook; so hopefully, I got it right. For toppings, I have Canadian maple syrup sans formaldehyde,” he announced and smiled. “I have cashew cream, leftover vegan chocolate hot fudge, organic applesauce, and sliced organic strawberries that are still good, but on the cusp, so they need to be used quickly.”

“And is that coffee I smell! I have missed my coffee!”

“Absolutely! I actually have a percolator that I brought from my apartment. It makes the best tasting coffee, so I thought to break your Lent fast, I would provide the best. Your coffee is fair trade, organic, and shade grown—covered all the bases. Oh, and fully caffeinated.” And at that, he bowed.

“If it tastes as good as it smells, I will be thrilled.”

“So, may I serve you, mam? One waffle or two?”

“I will take one, please; and those strawberries and syrup look perfect.”

“I assume you want your regular vanilla almond creamer with your coffee?”

“Yes, thank you.” Blaise served her with a flourish, obviously enjoying his role as chef, server, and maître d. Harper enjoyed her first breakfast back home, and having it with Blaise only added to her joy. She would not have wanted to ruin the moment with a real camera; but mentally, she took a snapshot to hold it in your mind.

“So, after you get dressed, if it’s all right with you, I’d like to drive you out to Clutch’s grave. I have a bag of dried rose petals that I saved when I clipped all the roses back. I hadn’t planned to use them this way, but I thought maybe you might want to place them on the site. What do you think?”

“That sounds great to me—just like breakfast. This was wonderful! Let me get cleaned up and dressed. It might take me a bit, but I’ll go as fast as a gimp can.”

“Should I call Elise to help?”

“No, I think I’ll be okay. I’ll yell if I need help.”

When she came out, Harper opted to take the cane she had been sent home with instead of the walker. Blaise walked by her side out to the truck to be sure she was stable, then helped her up and in. He had not wanted the site to be disturbed, so had gone quite a distance out in the desert to dig the grave. When they turned off the main paved road, they drove quite a piece on a rough, dirt trail. His four-wheel drive came in handy when the hard pack dirt turned more to silt. He drove as far as he could, then helped Harper out of the vehicle. They followed a small path for a bit, but soon the path became more uneven and overgrown. Harper did not admit it, but Blaise knew it would be too much for her, so he swept her up into his arms and carried her the last fifty feet.

He set her down beside the pile of rocks placed over Clutch’s body. Blaise had made a sign out of wood and planted it at the head of the grave. It read: “Clutch, beloved pet and forever friend.” Emotion welled up in Harper’s chest. It wasn’t just that she had loved that dog. It wasn’t just that he had been a faithful companion. Saying goodbye to him now was also saying goodbye to Graham, to a hard-won marriage, to a life and a love lost. The past, with its joys and pains, its questions and disappointments, had clung tightly to her for such a long time. Her sorrows were hard to bear; but at the same time, they were like a comfortable worn garment that she kept wearing because she felt insecure about trying on anything new. And if she cast aside what had become comfortable, well . . . what would come next? Though her future held more promise now than she had thought possible even just a few months ago, she was at the same time scared of the unknown.

Blaise handed her the bag of dried rose petals, and she leaned down to place them on the rocks so some would be trapped in the crevices. She knew the wind would take most of them away, but that was okay. It was her final goodbye. “I loved you, Clutch. You were such a good dog—such a good friend. Goodbye, my good old boy. Goodbye.” Tears ran down her cheeks as she took the remaining handfuls of flower petals and threw them up in the air, letting the wind twirl them around and carry them off. She watched them move across the desert in a dance.

Blaise put his arms around her and drew her into his chest. After a few quiet moments, he spoke softly into her ear: “Do you know when I first loved you?” He didn’t wait for an answer; he went on speaking “I loved you the first time I went into your shop. When I saw you standing there behind that enormous wooden candy counter thing, your white curly hair, softly framing your face, your downturned mouth, and that dark cloud over your head . . .”

“Wait, what?” She pulled away and looked into his face. Blaise was smiling down at her.

“Are you teasing?”

“Yes . . . but not really. I loved your little frown. Still do.”

“So, was it that bad?”

Blaise got more serious. “You looked sad, wounded. I recognized it so well because it was like looking into a mirror. I had been where you were. I didn’t know your story then, but I could see your pain with my eyes, and I felt it in here.” He placed his hand on his heart.

“Well, how could you have loved that? You probably just felt sorry for me.”

“To be honest, I fought it—for a long time. But looking back, I know that’s when I first felt love for you. I was content with singleness. With all I had come through, I knew that the passion of my life had to be for Christ, and I was convinced there would be no room for a woman. God, yes. Christ-followers, yes, but a woman? Romance? No. But the more we became friends, the more my love for you grew.”

“I fought it, too. I didn’t think I could ever walk that road of relationship again. There was too much pain, too much loss; and then, there was really my loss of faith. I don’t think God had let me go, but I had mostly let Him go. I didn’t think I could ever trust Him again, let alone a man.”

“I understand that. I went through that, too. Well, not the man part.” He grinned. “That is why I recognized the wounds so well.” He pulled her in tight again.

Harper rested her head on his chest. “Do you want to know when I first loved you? When we danced and worshiped in the snow. It was like deliverance for me, and I loved you in it.”

“Harper, my first passion and desire is for Christ and to be used in His kingdom here on earth . . . and I know that is yours, too. But do you think as we work together for Him, you would have room in your heart . . . I mean, do you think you could continue to serve Christ while being my wife? Harper, will you marry . . .?

“Yes, yes, I will! I love you, Blaise, with all my heart.”

Their lips met soft at first, then they kissed, long and hard. Bodies close; hearts beating as one. “Harper, I love you, I love you, I love you. Be my wife.”

Blaise swept Harper up to carry her back to the truck. And as they walked through the desert, Harper looked around at all the wildflowers that were springing up in the dry sandy soil. There was color as far as she could see—blue, yellow, white, orange—color and life blowing in the desert breeze. It had been a cold, hard winter, but spring had finally come to Shiloh.

~~The End~~

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Chapter 43

The hospital released Harper on the Saturday afternoon before Easter with strict instructions to get plenty of rest, to not lift anything over five pounds, and to make a follow up appointment with her doctor in one week. She was off all medications for the most part, but was sent home with some pretty strong pain killers if another bad headache should hit. It felt good to sit in her own chairs, use her favorite mug, and sit in front of the lit fireplace, even if it wasn’t crackling and didn’t smell of burning wood. The headaches had subsided for the most part, and she felt stronger; but she still used the walker because of periodic dizzy spells. She couldn’t risk a fall. Being out of the hospital was a huge relief, and a gentle peace filled her body and mind.

Blaise had been to the market and jam-packed her fridge with healthy vegan choices, and she noticed he must have found other homes for her gifted casseroles, since there was not much left in her freezer but some take-out packets from her favorite café and some vegan ice cream. After getting her settled, he had zipped out to do a couple of errands, but promised to return by supper. He said he had great news from the fellowship to tell her. In the meantime, Elise and June would check in on her periodically. She tried to read a devotional book on the end table, but her mind kept wandering. What a crazy world. She could not have predicted all that had happened these past few months, and she closed her eyes and prayed a prayer of thanksgiving for God’s protection and intervention in her life.

When she opened her eyes again, it was dark in the room except for the lamp by the overstuffed chair where Blaise was seated. She was lying down on the couch with a pillow at her head and a warm blanket wrapped around her. Her shoes were gone, replaced by wooly socks. Blaise had been reading his Bible, and the soft light lit his face in a golden glow. He set the book down and leaned forward, smiling. “Hey, sleepy head; I thought maybe you were going to sleep through supper.” He glanced at his wristwatch: “Well, let me re-phrase that: It looks like you slept through supper.”

“I guess I dozed off.” She yawned and tried to sit up.

Blaise got up and helped her to a seated position, wrapping the blanket snugly around her knees. “Are you hungry?”

“What time is it?”

“It’s just after eight. With no beeps and interruptions from hospital routine, you totally sacked out. I got here about five, and Elise told me she had checked on you several times, but you were sleeping so soundly, she opted not to disturb you, except to cover you with a blanket. When I got here, I gave her strict instructions not to let Mum sing some of her greatest hits; and thankfully, she has complied. I laid you back on that pillow, and you never even stirred, other than a few little snores.”

“Huh, I don’t snore!” She pretended to be indignant.

“Okay, not really snores—just very feminine whiffles. You were dead to the world. Oh . . . thankfully, not. Bad choice of words.”

“Well, not dead is good, and whiffles I accept. I must have slept really hard because I . . .” and here she yawned, “because I feel dopey, and I haven’t had any drugs since I left the hospital. Hopefully, I can put all of that stuff behind me.”

“So, are you hungry? I bought some vegan stroganoff from Ingrid’s Diner. It’s cold now, but I could heat it quickly in the microwave.”

“That sounds good to me. This is the first time I’ve felt really hungry, I think.”

Blaise dished out a couple of portions. Harper still wasn’t eating as much in quantity, but she thoroughly enjoyed the gourmet fare. “If I never see another wimpy asparagus spear like what the cafeteria served, it will be too soon. This tastes awesome! I typically don’t like to overuse that word, but delicious just wasn’t enough.” She put her hand over her mouth, trying not to talk with her mouth full. “Thank you for this—and for everything.”

“No problem? Do you have room for ice cream? I got some chocolate fudge to top it with—non-dairy, of course.”

“I think I would have gone even for the dairy at this point. That sounds so good. You are spoiling me.”

“I’m spoiling me, too. This food is decadent, compared to my simple rice and beans fare.”

Harper had overestimated her hunger, and halfway through the ice cream, she had to cover it and put it in the freezer to save for another time. She had also overestimated her energy reserves, so Blaise called in Elise to help Harper get ready for bed. She was actually doing well by herself; but until she was stronger, Blaise felt more comfortable having Elise with her. After Harper was safely tucked in bed, Blaise went in and sat by her side.

“The fellowship—I mean, Roots . . .” He corrected himself and smiled. Roots prayed for you last night. We had a Good Friday service that was really great. I’ve been having a hard time waiting to tell you what happened. I didn’t give a message; we just sang and shared our stories. My dad would have called that ‘testimony time,’ but most of this group would not have identified with that term. When we got to prayer time, several people asked to pray for you. We have been all along, of course; but many felt led to pray for specific things—for you and for Roots. It was a sweet time of prayer and fellowship, but something really awesome happened. I know, there’s that word again; but trust me this was awesome! After prayer, Max stood up and said he would like to share a poem he had written. I asked him for a copy so I could read it to you. It goes like this:

The Silence of Saturday

Do you hear the silence in the tomb—hard and lifeless—vacuous hopes of my heart buried in a borrowed grave with one who would save us?

Do you hear the silence in the streets where palms, faded and brittle, blow to the wadis by dry desert winds—blow along with our visions of an overcoming respite?

And the pain of that black moment has dissolved in my tears and loss, and we mourn for Him, but probably more for ourselves—myself. 

And in the weeping and the regularity of another’s day, a great silence fills and empties me of will and belief.  Behind my eyes, inside my head, the palpable quiet pushes out hope; and in my hands where once we held His bread and wine, I hold despair, pressed down, dark, and bloody.

When he finished, the room was totally silent. Then Max gently shared some of his story, how he was one to resist the Christ, to mock Him, to discount Him from his life. He told the group that his personal sins had crucified the Lord—had driven the nails, had pierced His side, had pressed the sharp crown of thorns into His brow; and yet, because of Jesus’ great love, He died for us. He endured the immense suffering before we even considered repentance. It was a powerful moment, Harper. Then one by one, we heard people cry out to God in what really sounded like grief, asking God for forgiveness. Weeping. Others started thanking God for what He had suffered for them. There was almost a visible glow in the room as the Holy Spirit moved on people in various ways. And after a time, when I asked if there were those who wanted to receive Christ as Savior, people popped up all over the room. It was awesome. We decided that in addition to our regular Friday service, we would meet again tomorrow evening, too, to celebrate Easter Sunday. Hopefully, you will feel strong enough to come. God is doing something in that group, and I wanted to share it.”

Harper was really touched by Blaise’s account of the service and couldn’t help but marvel at all God was doing. “I have often thought of how hopeless Christ’s followers would have felt between Friday and Sunday. I’ve felt that despair; at least, in part—the in-between time, the time of loss, when you feel abandoned and are barely holding on. Then when you get to the other side of the blackness, it is hard to believe things were ever so dark . . . so lifeless.”

“I agree. I have been there, too. I pray only that we hold close His words and remember His deeds because when hard times come, and they will again, we will be quick to forget what God has done for us. Oh, Lord, may we never forget.”

“Something just came to my mind as we were talking. The silence of Saturday births rejoicing when God breathes, and the Son inhales again.”

“Oh, I love that, Harper. Thank you, God.”

“Don’t let me forget, Blaise. I don’t ever want to go back to that empty place.”

“We will remind each other of what He has done. When you are weak, I will be strong; when I am weak, you will be strong. May it be. Now get some sleep. I will be out on the couch tonight if you need anything.” And with that, he cradled her face in his hands and kissed her gently. He left the room quietly, pulling the door to, as Harper closed her eyes and drifted off.

 

 

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Chapter 42

Harper got stronger with each day. Before she would be allowed to go home, however, she had to be able to get herself out of bed and visit the bathroom unassisted, and she needed to be able to take fifty steps down the hall and back with a walker. She was still often dizzy, but motivation was high. What she would do once she got home, she wasn’t entirely sure, but home was still her goal. She was going to need some in-home care for at least a bit. Blaise offered to help as much as possible, and he was going to pay Elise to help, as well. Her insurance also provided some home nursing care, so she was sure with the progress she was making, she would be able to be home by Easter, which was a little more than one week away. When Blaise came that late afternoon to see her, she peppered him with all sorts of questions in preparation for her checking out of the hospital.

“I’m not sure what to do about the bald spots on my head. They took all the bandages off this morning, but I guess I never thought about how long it would take to grow out the incision sites.”

“I think it looks great as is, kind of punk like,” he teased, but she winced. “Sorry, I shouldn’t joke about something so important, but really you will always look good to me whether you cut your hair or not.”

“Maybe I should just ask Ava to come and chop it all off. I know it sounds vain, but I always felt that if I ever got rid of my long hair, I would be admitting I was getting old. Is that silly?” She looked straight into Blaise’s eyes, and he didn’t exactly know how to respond to the comment.

“Hmm, I think it’s really up to you what you feel comfortable with, and I think I understand the old thing. I always felt that when I cut my hair, it would be like admitting I wasn’t thirty anymore. But maybe I should shear my locks, too, as an act of solidarity.” He looked somewhat amused, but with the words meeting the air, he started to realize that it might not be such a bad idea.

“Don’t you dare!” she cried. “I love your hair, but it might be uncomfortable with you having more than me—but then again, you always have had more than me. Did you know that day you walked in my shop I was jealous because of your hair?”

“Really?”

“Well, only a little bit. But I do love your hair.” She smiled, remembering that first meeting. “I could always get a hairpiece till it grows out. What do you think?”

“I think this is a conversation you should have with Ava. All my taste is in my mouth, and if I tread any further into this discussion, I fear I might ruin my chances with you.” He smiled, leaned over, and gave her a quick peck on the lips.

“Okay, sold. I’ll ask Ava. She’s coming this afternoon to bring me some clothes. I also texted her this morning to pick up some of Clutch’s favorite bacon treats. I want to give him something special the first time he sees me walk through the door. I’ve missed him so much! Poor thing. He must be confused. Ava didn’t text me back, so I hope she doesn’t forget.”

Harper was seated on the side of her bed, and Blaise pulled up one of the chairs to sit right in front of her. He began to look very uncomfortable. “Harper, I’ve needed to talk to you about something. I hope I didn’t wait too long, but I so wanted you to be stronger . . .”

“Stronger, for what?” Harper looked confused. “What’s wrong?”

“Well . . . Harper, two days before you woke up . . . Clutch passed away. I didn’t know how to tell you, and I . . . well, I kept waiting, hoping you would be in the best possible physical and emotional place to hear such sad news. I am so sorry.”

Harper stared straight ahead, eyes frozen open. Tears formed and slowly rolled down her cheeks. “Oh, no . . . oh, no.”

Blaise got up out of his chair and sat beside her on the bed, with his arms wrapped around her. “I’m sorry if I made it worse by not telling you right away, but I didn’t know how.” He put his head next to Harper’s and just held her tight as she sobbed.

Clouds kept passing in front of the sun outside the window so that the room alternated between dark and light, cool and warm. Blaise continued to hold Harper and wiped her tears gently with the sheet. Her sobbing finally subsided, and she sat quiet, head bowed for a long time. “He was old,” she spoke into her chest. “He was tired and old, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised; I just thought . . . well, I don’t know what I thought. But I guess I wasn’t ready for him to die. Not now . . . probably not ever.”

“I understand that. I’m so sorry. I wish it hadn’t happened.”

“How did he die?” Harper looked up into his face.

“Are you sure you want to talk about it? I don’t want . . .”

“No, I want to know. What happened?”

“Well . . . he had been sleeping a lot the days before—even more than usual, I guess. He was over at their place, and Mum had been petting him most of the night as he lay by her feet—content. Elise said he was very subdued and hadn’t had much appetite at supper. She’d not forced him to eat, and just let him lay there. He seemed fine and was actually snoring at times, which made my mum laugh; and when he started kicking his feet a little, dreaming, she told Elise he must have been chasing squirrels in his dreams again. Everything was as it had been, pretty much. But when Elise went to rouse him to take him back to your place for the night, he didn’t move. She looked closer and realized he had stopped breathing, so they called me.” Tears formed in Blaise’s eyes at the telling. “He just drifted away, Harper. He just slept and drifted peacefully away.”

The room fell silent for several minutes; then Harper spoke softly. “Do you think dogs go to heaven?”

Blaise took a moment, carefully choosing his words. “I’m not sure there is any scriptural support, per se. But can I tell you what my heart knows?

“Yes.”

“My little niece Arna had a cute dachshund puppy that got hit by a car and died. She was heartbroken and asked me that same question. At the time, I didn’t think they did, but I wasn’t about to tell her that; so, what I said was ‘I don’t know for sure, but I do know that God loves all of his creatures, and He will do what is right.’ I thought I was kind of clever for sidestepping and not giving a direct answer; but later, the more I thought about it, the more I came to believe it. Are they redeemed like we are—children of God? I don’t think so; but Harper, I do believe that God loved his creature Clutch even more than you did. So, He will do what is right. This will not be taught in seminary, but do all dogs go to heaven? Not sure how it all works, but I believe they do.”

“Thank you for that. I loved him and was not ready to say goodbye. So . . . what happened to him . . . to his body?”

“I wrapped him in that old Mexican blanket I have in the emergency supplies in the back of my truck. Ava and I took him out to the desert and buried him, covering the site with rocks so animals wouldn’t disturb him.”

“So, Ava knew?”

“Yes, I told her not to say anything till I’d had a chance to break it you. Are you okay? Are you upset with me for not telling you sooner?”

“No, I’m okay. Can you take me there when I get out?” Harper looked into his eyes.

“Absolutely. It’s a little bit of a hike, but there’s a dirt road that can get us pretty close with the truck. I’ll carry you the rest of the way if I have to, but we will go and say goodbye to him as soon as you’re able.”

“I would like that . . . very much.” Harper settled into Blaise’s embrace as light began to fade in the room.

 

 

 

 

 

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Chapter 41

The afternoon dragged on, but not because she was waiting for Blaise to return. Actually, she had a certain amount of dread in that regard. For as hard as she had fought to keep her feelings in check, they were now all over the place, and she didn’t know what to think. But time dragged because of a severe headache that descended just after her applesauce lunch. The neurologist assured her that what she was experiencing was perfectly normal and part of the healing process, given her injury; but the pain was incapacitating. As yet, the nurses had not been instructed to remove her morphine drip; and though, she had not required much medication the last couple of days, she certainly needed it now. The drugs diminished the pain but made her feel lightheaded and very sleepy. She didn’t get her scheduled bath or her chair time; instead, she drifted in and out of sleep all day, but mostly in.

Sometime in the middle of the night, she woke. She was unsure of the time, but it had to be after midnight. Lights were dimmed, and she heard occasional soft murmurs from the nurses’ station down the hall. The pain was gone, but the fogginess of drugs lingered, even though she had not had a dose since early evening. As her eyes focused, she saw Blaise’s tall form draped over one of the much too small padded, orange armchairs. He was asleep, but she couldn’t imagine that he was comfortable.

His long hair fell over his face, his breathing slow and even. As she watched his chest rise and fall, she wondered at the turn her life had taken since he walked through her shop door. It was not anything she had wanted. And she could not have foreseen the role he would play; but as days and weeks had gone by, she’d come to realize that he was becoming an important part of her life. Indispensable, really.  She just couldn’t allow herself to believe it. No matter how hard she had resisted, she knew now that her affection for this man was real; and after his kiss, she dared to hope that he felt the same. It was scary for her because she had built over the years this impenetrable wall around her heart so as never to be vulnerable again—vulnerable to love, but more importantly, vulnerable to loss. “So, Lord, what in the world am I supposed to do?”

She had not meant to speak it out loud, but Blaise stirred in his chair at the sound of her voice. He opened his eyes and adjusted his frame in the chair. “Okay, was I drooling?”

“Just a little,” she lied. “You looked very uncomfortable. You should go home to your own bed. How long have you been there?”

“Well, how long have you been there?” And he smiled as he pointed to her hospital bed. “How are you feeling now? Rough day, huh?”

“Yeah, kinda; but it helped, I guess, to be doped up; though, I hate the feeling of being so out of control.”

“It would be nice right about now to have one of those healing formulas that we all seem to want. If I had it, know that you wouldn’t have to go through this—any of this.” He waved his arm around.

“Well, I know you have been faithful to pray because I have oil all over my forehead.”

He smiled sheepishly. “If one anointing doesn’t do the trick, I figure five or six or ten might.” He moved his chair closer to the bedside. “So, about that kiss.” He smiled like a little boy caught in the act.

“Are you asking forgiveness?” She smiled, but she genuinely was a little hesitant, wondering if he regretted his action.

“No, but I probably should, taking advantage of an invalid as I was. But . . . I would like to talk to you about it, but two in the morning is probably not the best time.”

“Normally, I would say that’s true; but there has not been anything normal about my life of late, so since I’m currently wide awake, I’m open to talk. Though I have to admit, I’m a bit nervous.” She smiled to keep it light, but she felt the weight of her own words. “So, let’s talk about that celibate thing.”

“Ah, yes. I did not intend to mislead you, if you thought that was still the commitment of my life. Shall I start at the beginning or jump to the end?”

“The beginning, please.”

Blaise took a breath and closed his eyes, looking as if he was locating a hidden file on his mental hard drive.

“After my wife and child died, as I’ve told you before, I was in a pretty bad way. Committing to life in the monastery was my rescue; I not only found real relationship with Christ there, but I also found purpose, clarity of thinking, and healthy discipline for a very willful young man. I needed the strict parameters of that life to see what is really important and to sow into my life an unwavering devotion to Christ. Celibacy was required by the brotherhood; but for me, it was also part of my faithful devotion. And I really did not chafe at it all. When I started feeling that I was being called to leave and minister somewhere else, I assumed that celibacy would still be part of my spiritual DNA. I felt no need to even think about looking for another life partner. Are you with me so far?”

“Yes, I am. I was a little fuzzy when I first woke up, but I’m tracking now.”

“Okay, well, fast forward to Shiloh. My heartfelt desire was as I told you—to start a fellowship and create vital community. I wanted God to use me and make a difference in lives; and for whatever reason, I felt like it was supposed to be here. When I left the monastery, the abbot told me I would be free of my commitment to celibacy, and he asked me how I felt about that. I remember telling him I had no intention to change in that regard. My devotion was singularly focused. He told me as I left that I should be open to whatever God brought my way—no matter what that might look like. Maybe he knew me better than I knew myself, but as far as I was concerned, singleness was my forever calling. When I told you about my commitment to celibacy, that was at the monastery; and to be honest, it was what I felt was for now, too; so, I wasn’t trying to mislead you in any way. I wasn’t on the prowl or anything. Honestly. But . . .”

A night nurse, having heard voices, came in to check on Harper. She took her vitals, smiled, and then retreated back to the station. “Do you want me to continue, or are you too tired?”

“No, I’m fine. It sounds like you’re getting to the good part.”

“Well, I hope it’s the good part. Who knows, you might think I’m weirder than you knew. I felt very comfortable becoming your close friend because I didn’t have anything to prove. You seemed to be very wounded, and my one desire was to have God perhaps use me in your life to help with that. I did not orchestrate our friendship, and I hope you feel the same way; but I felt like our friendship was organic—natural—and grew without manipulation by you or me. It felt—feels—very comfortable to me. Would you agree with that or am I off base?”

“No, I agree. My Spidey sense would have been up for any manipulation. I felt like I would never again . . . well, I mean. I only wanted friendship . . . and I didn’t even know I wanted that till ours started growing. I started trusting you . . . and I never thought I could do that again.”

“Right, that’s where I was, too. And for me, I trusted you—your honesty and purity—but I wasn’t sure I could ever trust myself. The problem was that the more time we spent together, and the more life we shared, the more attracted I became to you, not just as a spiritual sister . . . but as a woman. Just being honest here. I fought it and rebuked the feelings because I didn’t want to ruin the special friendship we were nurturing. But . . . when you got hurt, and there was a real risk that you weren’t going to survive, I had to admit to myself . . . that . . . okay, I’m going out on a limb here. I had to admit to myself and to God that I couldn’t lose you, that I loved you—not just friend love, but love love.” Blaise got up and sat on the side of Harper’s bed. He grabbed her hands in his and looked straight into her eyes. Harper caught her breath, her heart racing. “I don’t know if you feel the same, but . . .”

Harper leaned forward and kissed the words right out of his mouth. Blaise pulled her into his chest, wrapping his arms around her.

Harper spoke softly, “I’ve felt the same way. I was afraid if I gave in to the feelings that were growing for you, I would lose you—lose your friendship. And I knew that if I was off base in what my heart was telling me, I risked losing the best friend I’ve had in so many years.”

They sat together in embrace for some time. Blaise touched her hair and pulled it off her forehead, being careful not to disturb the still bandaged sections. “Harper, I don’t know where this will lead, and I don’t know if I can be the kind of man that will be God’s best for you; but if you are willing, would you give me a chance to learn to love you. I already love you with all I am.”

“I am willing. I do love you, too. I do. . . . and I am so glad my heart is not hooked up to the monitor right now or nurses would be rushing in.” They both laughed at that.

 

 

 

 

 

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