Harper woke the next morning with not exactly a hangover, but certainly an afterglow of the previous evening’s events. Even when she had been involved in church and worship music, she had never really had the kind of encounters she had been experiencing of late. She was innately skeptical of cooked up emotionalism, but this was not that. Her longing for God was being met, even if still in sporadic and mysterious ways. But it made her hunger for more of His presence. She had risen early to have her devotional time, and as Blaise had given the example of praying through Psalm 27, she too had done that—but for him. Her thought was that if she could pray for him and for his growth as a fellow believer and minister of the gospel, she could concentrate on those aspects of their friendship and so keep the fringes of desire that periodically rose up in her in subjection. It was working pretty much, and she knew with time she would conquer any unhealthy yearning for more.
She heard singing next door, light and a little off key, but June’s random vocalizations were sweet, bringing a smile to her face. It was much better than indie and punk versions of the previous tenants. She leaned in closer to the common wall and smiled. June was singing a Beach Boys song, badly, but it was still fun to hear.
A light knock came at the door, and Harper opened it to find Blaise on her small porch, smiling his big toothy grin. “Hope I’m not too early. I stopped in briefly next door, but they’re still in pj’s, so I decided to see if you were up and about. Actually, to be honest, I knew you were home because I stopped by the shop first to chat, but Tia said you were taking a day to chill.”
“Come on in,” she said and beckoned him forward. “Yes, I decided since I own the joint, I should take more days off, and I have been starting my Saturday slow and steady—and with no coffee, a little less perky. What are you up to?”
“I had come by the shop to ask you if today would be a good day for me to do some puttering around the yard. Another storm is due in this afternoon—winter is not giving up so easily—so I brought my clippers to trim the roses back before the rain.” Blaise took off his ratty old backpack and set it by the door.
“That’s probably a good idea, but a lot of the work will have been done for you since your mum has been cutting stalks off my bushes with her scissors and depositing them by my front door. You may have noticed some as you walked up.”
“Oops, sorry about that. I’ll have a talk with her.” He shuffled his feet.
Harper laughed. “It’s no problem. Really. I find it mildly entertaining, though it might not be good for the bushes. But who knows?”
“She always loved her little garden, but she’s lost her herbal groove, I fear, with the memory loss. Are they being okay as tenants and neighbors so far?”
“Absolutely! Elise is a bit too quiet, but June is a delight. She has been entertaining me this morning with what I think is her version of “Surfing Safari.” They both leaned into the wall for what had to have been verse twenty. Blaise smiled, ducking his head to fake embarrassment. But he obviously found it just as amusing as did Harper.
“Speaking of singing.” Blaise moved away from the wall as Harper invited him to sit at her breakfast table. “I loved your song last night. Confession: Even though everyone else had their eyes closed, I peeked at you as you sang; and I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that there was a literal glow around you. It was not only beautiful musically, but I would say anointed. I know that’s an often-misused churchy word, but really, I was in awe. It gave me goosebumps.”
“I would say ‘thank you,’ but I have to say I was in awe, as well.” Harper proceeded to tell him how she had written only part and yet the rest came as a gift in that moment. “I don’t want to super-spiritualize, but it really was an incredible experience to sing the next word on faith and having the next word and the next and the next note and the next be there right in front of me. I felt like it was a gift laid out, and all I had to do was reach out to it—to Him.” Harper’s eyes misted at the retelling.
“I know you are not parishioner #1, Harper, but would you consider being parishioner #30? And would parishioner #30 be willing to lead worship for our little gathering?” Blaise grabbed her hand and looked straight into her eyes.
Harper knew she was blushing and wanted to look away. “Well . . .”
“We don’t have an instrumentalist, let alone the instruments; but even acapella, your voice is so perfect. I know you had mentioned that you and Graham were in worship bands, but I had no idea you sang so well. My froggy vocals have been adequate till now—okay, let me rephrase—tolerated; but if you would lead us, it would be awesome! What do you think?”
“Hmm.” Harper gently retrieved her hand and got up to put the kettle on. She didn’t need tea, but she needed to look away for a second. She turned suddenly on her heel. “Yes, I will,” she said perhaps louder than she meant to. “I’m not sure if I will suit your purposes, but I would love to try. And I play guitar.”
“You do? That’s awesome. Do you play well?”
Harper grimaced. “What?”
“I’m just kidding! I bet you play as well as you sing. That would be real a blessing to our group—and to me.”
“I had not played in years. It was one of those things that I couldn’t bear to do because it seemed a betrayal to Graham’s memory; but a few weeks ago, I pulled it out and started to try and get my chops back. I have blisters on my blisters, but the muscle memory has been coming back.”
“I understand the betrayal thing. I really do. One of the places where my wife Nan and I loved to eat was in a little quaint village in the mountains on a lake with antique shops and bistros abounding. The food was great, but the ambiance even better. I couldn’t bring myself to go back there; because without her, it seemed wrong. I felt guilt for even considering doing anything fun without her. I mean, we had our issues, and I was a jerk a lot of the time; but we also had our tender moments, and I felt if I enjoyed those places and things again it would be like admitting that I wasn’t to blame for her death.”
“But you weren’t really, Blaise. It was an accident, right?”
“Yes, it was. And I know that. I’ve worked through so much of that, but what I own is that I was not the kind of man she needed me to be. Christ has forgiven me that, but I find that the layers of forgiving myself are still in process. I go to the Lord each day for His grace.”
“I understand that. Graham and I were in such a good place after so many years of struggle and process. We had worked through a lot of pain. But before the cancer, the communication was good, goals were jiving, sex was really great.” She immediately regretted saying that last part, so her next words came out in a blur to try and leave great sex in the dust. “So, I felt that enjoying anything would be a betrayal of what we had worked so hard for.”
Blaise was not about to let her off the hook that easily. “Great sex? That’s awesome; maybe you could teach a class.”
“I’m just kidding.” He smiled large. “No, I really am happy for the life you had. I hope that as you move forward, you can cherish that life and those memories while you make room for the new life God has for the Harper who lives in the now.”
Thunder rumbled in the distance, and both Harper and Blaise jumped to their feet. “If I’m going to get that trimming done before the rain, I best get at it.” He picked up his backpack, while Harper opened the door for him; but as she went to step aside to let him out, he reached for her and gave her a long hug. “I can’t tell you how glad I am that we met! You are a jewel.”
At that moment, Ava jumped up on the porch. “Hi, you two!”