Susan, Lady of Leisure #5

PART 5

The ambulance arrived within five minutes, loaded Tom on a stretcher and took him to the hospital. Susan ran home and got her car, picked up Mrs. Burchill and followed it. Half an hour later Susan was sitting in the Emergency area holding Alice Burchill’s hand as a team of medical personnel worked on Tom in the examining room right beside them.

Soon a young Resident doctor came out wearing a cheery smile and put his hand on Alice’s shoulder. “Things are looking up, Mrs. Burchill. Tom went into a diabetic coma, probably soon after breakfast. We’ve given him insulin and he’s awake now, so you can go in and spend a few minutes with him. We’ll keep him in today for observation. He’ll need insulin injections from now on to manage his diabetes; other than that he should be fine.”

“Oh, thank you so much, Doctor!” Alice stood and rushed into the examining room.

The Resident turned to Susan. “Good thing you recognized the problem and got him in when you did.”

Susan shook her head. “I’m still amazed how this all worked. I mean, I took this sudden notion to visit the neighbors this morning and here he was. Now I’m so glad I followed that little prodding, if you can call it that.”

The Resident chuckled. “I’d say you should keep on getting notions like that. You could prove very helpful to your neighbors, especially people like the Burchills who have no family living nearby.”

He paused then and Susan could see his wheels turning. “You know, I don’t believe he’d be up to doing insulin injections himself,” he told her. “We’ll probably have to arrange for Home Care nurses to come in every day and give him his needles. Unless, as neighbour who’s an RN…” he gave her a meaningful look.

Susan grinned and nodded. “I get it.”

Awhile later Alice joined Susan again and said she’d like a ride home. “I need to pick up some things for Tom and come back. I’m so sorry to take up so much of your time today. But you’ve been a real Godsend.”

Susan took hold of the old lady’s arm. “Now, dear, I had nothing else planned for today, so don’t worry about taking up my time. I’m so glad that I can be of help to you folks. Makes me feel a lot better than if I were just idling around all day.”

To be continued…

Susan, Lady of Leisure

PART FOUR

Susan cleared away the breakfast things and set out to call on the Burchills, an elderly couple next door. She’d exchanged a few words over the backyard fence with the couple as they sat outside in the evening; Mrs. Burchill had even suggested Susan drop in for tea some day. Maybe it would suit her this morning.

Mrs. Burchill answered Susan’s knock and welcomed her to step in, but the elderly lady seemed preoccupied about something. “Perhaps this isn’t a good time?” Susan said. “I could come back some other day.”

“Oh, no. It’s fine. I’m glad you’ve come. It’s just that Tom isn’t awake.” The old lady’s hands moved nervously over her bodice. “He said after breakfast that he was feeling a bit tired and wanted to have lie down, but I’m surprised he’s sleeping so long.”

She led Susan into the kitchen. “You’re most welcome to have a cuppa with us. I’ll just put the kettle on, then I’ll call Tom. I know he wouldn’t want to miss your visit. Sit down, Susan.”

Susan did sit, but she was anxious. Her nurse’s training was kicking in, asking the questions she’d ask at the hospital. Is Mr. Burchill having a serious health issue? Heart trouble maybe? Or was he just tired, not surprising at his age. But right after breakfast? She listened as the old woman’s voice got louder.

Soon Mrs. Burchill was back in the kitchen wringing her hands. “I don’ know what to do. Tom just won’t wake up!”

“May I have a look at him? I’m a trained nurse.”

“Oh, thank heaven! Yes, He’s in here.”

Susan followed Mrs. Burchill into the bedroom where Tom was stretched out, breathing normally. His colour was good. But when he didn’t respond to Susan’s touch she lifted his eyelid — and saw blackness.

“He’s unconscious, Mrs. Burchill.”

The old lady gasped and sat down on a nearby chair. “What can I do,” she wailed.

“The first thing is to call an ambulance.”

To be continued….

Susan, Lady of Leisure

PART THREE

Several mornings in a row Susan woke up feeling unmotivated and took her time getting out of bed. Buy the third morning she couldn’t even think of a reason she should get up and start her day. What was there to do? The flowerbeds were in great shape, no work needed there. Her house was spick and span since there was no one but herself to mess it up.

I could go sun myself on the beach, she thought, but I’ve done that three times already this week. I can hardly believe it, but loafing on the beach does get old after awhile. I’ve read all my new books. There’s nothing on TV in the morning but those silly game shows. I could drive into Bournemouth and do some shopping, but what do I really need? Nothing. I’ve no reason at all to get up; I can just roll over and sleep the morning away if I want to.

Then she sat up and gave herself a firm scolding. “This is enough, you loafer! Get yourself out of bed right this minute. Honestly, you’re getting to be like one of those patients we nurses gripe about, the ones who want to lie there and ring for Nurse all day. They moan about how tired they feel, or they’re too stiff to move. And we’re supposed to wait on them hand and foot while their muscles atrophy because they won’t move. That’s where you are headed, my girl, if you don’t smarten up.”

Susan had to smile as she thought how many times she longed to give one of those patients the same talking to. How many times hadn’t she “encouraged” some unwilling soul to get out of bed and move around, even if it hurt a bit, so they wouldn’t stiffen up? She slid her bare feet into her slippers and grabbed her housecoat. Ah, yes, one can always dish out good advice, but are you always willing to eat it off your own plate, Susie?

Half an hour later, showered and dressed, she was feeling more like herself. As she poured her coffee and sat down to breakfast, her mind turned over the possibilities for the day ahead. All these years dashing around on the ward, I’ve been telling myself that doing nothing would be so wonderful. Now here I am and it’s not so wonderful after all. I need to find something useful to do with myself. But what?

She glanced around the room and her eyes came to rest on the old Bible sitting on the shelf beside the microwave. It had belonged to her late husband, Harvey, and she treasured the old book as a memory of him.

She walked over and picked it up. “What advice would the Good Book have for me today?” Her words were as much a prayer as a question. The Psalms are always good for an encouraging read, aren’t they.

She sat down, opened the book, and found herself in the Gospel of Luke instead. She started to read and soon recognized the story of the Good Samaritan. She read through to the end of the account and came to the verse where the Pharisee asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”

The question seemed to jump right off the page and slap her in the face.

She repeated the verse. “But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?” Suddenly she saw herself in that man. Wanting to mind his own business, undisturbed by other people and their woes.

Who are my neighbours? She glanced out the window toward the house next door. I honestly don’t have a clue! Here I am, surrounded by neighbours, but I’ve been so busy pleasing myself that I haven’t taken time for any of them. Perhaps they’d like to get to know me, too, but I may have come across as someone who doesn’t want to be bothered. Oh, dear!

Well, it’s high time. She shut the Bible. No man is an island, they say, and I’m starting to feel very marooned in my self-centered, leisurely life. Time to launch out and meet the neighbours.

Susan, Lady of Leisure

PART TWO

Susan took her time selecting and packing up her belongings, disposing of all the stuff she didn’t want to bother moving.

“Funny how one collects so much in a lifetime,” she told her daughter one morning. “But I want a life of a minimalist now. No more trying to find places to store knickknacks. No more cleaning clutter and moving it from one spot to another.”

Another task that took some of her time was saying her farewells at the various groups and clubs she was a member of through the years. She determined to be a minimalist in that regard, too.

“Now that I’m retired,” she told her friends at the book club, “I’m going to be careful what pies I put my finger in from now on. I may join the book club down there, or I may not, but I’m definitely not going to become so involved in organizations. I don’t regret the time I’ve contributed to Bake Sales or served on the Boards of MADD and the COPD Foundation, but now they will have to do without me.”

“We’ll see about that,” her friend said with a nod. “You may get bored and want to become involved in things down there.” She nudged Susan and winked. “Now that you have all this free time, you can bet different groups will be calling on you.”

Susan laughed. “As for being bored, that may take a year or two. And I can always say no to people who want to sign me up for this and that.”

The whole group then toasted her new life of ‘footloose and fancy free.”

Finally the day came when the last thing had been loaded on the moving van and it was heading off. Susan locked her apartment door for the last time, handed in the keys to the super, and drove away. She took her time driving down to the coast, hitting a few tourist spots en route. She stopped at some small village tea shops, savoring her new freedom as well as the local cuisines. Life is so good, she told herself.

She arrived at the cottage to find the moving van had already arrived and unloaded everything so she got right to work. It took her a few weeks to unpack and get her belongings stowed into their proper places in her new home. And of course yard work now occupied some of her time. The last owner had a gorgeous flower garden Susan intended to keep up. All her life she’d wanted one.

The next month flew by as Susan enjoyed her flowers, puttered around the house, and visited the local stores. Being only half an hour from the beach, she spent quite a few mornings stretched out in the sunshine. Not ever one to sit in front of the television, she spent the pleasant summer evenings reading or doing walkabouts in the neighborhood. She met and chatted with her new neighbors from time to time.

Yes, this was the retirement life she’d always dreamed of. Nothing to do, no appointments to keep. Sure, she missed the hustle and bustle of the hospital ward at times. As much as she was glad to get away from that old routine, being totally without one started to bother her a bit. The first few weeks she’d told herself, There’s no hurry. I can sleep til noon if I wish. But now she was starting to think, I can’t just let myself go to pot, either. I don’t want to morph into a couch potato here!

One day an odd, empty feeling came over her. It took her awhile to define it, but finally it condensed into a question: Do I have any real purpose in life anymore?

She brushed it away at first, yet somehow that question rose up like a mountain, looming over her, dark and scary. Susan trembled. She didn’t have an answer.

To be continued…

Susan, Lady of Leisure

HER LAST DAY

“Now don’t you be in here with sunstroke next week!” Lynn, the head nurse winked as she waggled her finger at Susan. She cut a piece of the celebratory cake, dropped it onto a paper plate, and handed it to Susan. “Here’s the biggest piece for our guest of honor.”

“Best of luck, girl. You’ll be a lady of leisure now,” said Ethel, another ward nurse. “I’m sure looking forward to joining you – but I’ve got ten more years to go,” she added with a sigh.

“Well, I’m cheating to retire at 55, but with the inheritance from my Uncle James adding a bit to my pension, why shouldn’t I?” Susan admired the neatly formed icing rose on her piece of cake and shoved it to the side of her plate to keep as a souvenir of this party.

Nurse Karen balanced her plate of cake in one hand and patted Susan’s shoulder with the other. “You just enjoy your retirement years. You’ve earned it. And just think: no cranky old ladies hollering ‘Nurse! I need a bedpan.’ Lucky you!”

“I prescribe sunny southern climates all winter for the next twenty years,” said one of the Residents as he shook Susan’s hand.

“That sounds great! But I probably can’t afford that lifestyle if I’m not working 8-5 every day.” Susan chuckled at the mental picture of herself basking in the sun at the Riviera. With her fair complexion, plus being rather pale from years of working indoors, she might look like a boiled lobster if she spent too much time in the sun right off the bat.

Susan’s daughter Rhoda, who had taken time off to join the celebration, told the group, “Mom may not be doing the South Seas every winter, but she’s bought a neat little bungalow in a small southern village right on the coast close to Bournemouth.”

“Good for her,” Nurse Amanda cheered. “When can I come for a visit.” Everyone laughed.

“Will you be renting out a spare room for guests?” Nurse Collin asked in a teasing tone. “My wife would love a weekend down at the coast. Stuck here in Aylesbury all our lives, never toured southern England yet.”

Susan looked around the staff’s lunch room at the coworkers, dear to her heart, who’d come to say farewell. She smiled at the “Happy Days Ahead!” banner someone had tacked on one wall. In spite of the joyful occasion, which marked the end of running back and forth along this ward, she felt tears prick her eyes.

Yes, she’d had her holidays and some hobbies that kept her busy, but the past twenty-five years of her life had been devoted to this place. She’d gone back to nursing to support herself and her two children after Harvey’s death and the work had been a lifeline for her in more ways than one. What would she do now?

Susan made up her mind right there: she would not become a lonely old widow. As she nibbled at her cake her mind started flipping through the possibilities — all the dreams she’d had, some of which she might now be able to fulfill. She chuckled. If she got too bored she could always enroll in university.

Stella, another nurse a few years younger than Susan, wrapped an arm around her and gave her a gentle squeeze. “We’ll miss you. You’ve been so good with the patients. You’ve definitely earned your day of rest, Susan. Put your feet up. Read some good books.”

Susan waved her hand upwards. “I sure will. The sky’s the limit!”

At the end of the party Susan circled around the lunch room one last time, gave everyone a hug and left them with a promise to follow the prescribed course of treatment: total rest. Together with her daughter she walked down the hall and pushed the elevator button, dabbing at a few lingering tears.

“This is so sweet,” she said to Rhoda. “Last time on this elevator. Freedom!” They got off by the staff exit and Susan walked out that door for the last time.

To Be Continued…

FULL HOUSE–Book Report

FULL HOUSE
© 2012 by Maeve Binchy

This book is classed as a “Quick Read” and it was. I picked it up at the library last week and read it in one evening. It was also a delightful tale, the story of Dee & Liam, whose adult children still live at home and are totally at ease in the old nest. The young folks are totally focused on their own personal problems and take it for granted Mom look after all their physical needs: the cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc.

Then Dee & Liam face a financial and emotional crash and Dee realizes this system can’t go on. But now, how to go about re-educating their offspring after years of “training” them to be careless and self-centered? A rebellion is in order here.

I think this story could be a great eye-opener for teenagers and young adults living at home as well as for parents of teens and young adults.

Back cover blurb:
Rosie moved out when she got married, but it didn’t work out, so now she is back with her parents. Helen is a teacher and doesn’t earn enough for a place of her own. Anthony writes songs and is just waiting for the day when someone will pay him for them. Until then, all three are happy at home. It doesn’t cost them anything and surely their parents like having a full house?

Then there is a crisis and Dee decides things have to change for the whole family…whether they like it or not.

Aprosopol Romance

Today’s WP Prompt says to create a new word and explain its meaning. Here’s mine:

Aprosopol

I find that in most romance novels nowadays the main characters are aprosopol.

Prosopol is a Greek word meaning respect, as in “to have respect for someone.” Hence, aprosopol means without respect or no respect.

You could say contemporary romances are contramorous. The Latin word contra means against and amor means love.

I haven’t read so many contemporary romance novels in my life, but lately have investigated this genre again via e-books and I have been quite disappointed.

It seems to me that in years gone by the male MC and female MC met and usually fell in love — or at least into like. Even where they didn’t always see eye to eye they often had a certain basic respect for one another. There was usually some hope of them actually coming to terms by the last chapter.

Modern day romances tend to be so formulaic; I think most of us could write one in our sleep. Male MC meets female MC and detests her. Blah! He’d never marry this woman; she’s haughty, impulsive, headstrong, emotional. She won’t listen to his common-sense approach at all. NO WAY will he ever get involved with her!

And/or female MC meets male MC and loathes the man. He’s arrogant, unreasonable, unpredictable, insufferable. NO WAY is she ever going to be interested in him. So Chapter Two starts out with him spitting nails at her and she spits them right back at him. Lots of glaring, head tossing, fuming, insulting.

For the first few chapters every meeting they have serves to reinforce each one’s negative opinion of the other. However, somewhere near the end of chapter Two you get some physical attractions kicking in:
A) He’s thinking, “I want nothing to do with her, even if she’s knock-down drop-dead gorgeous.”
B) She’s thinking, “I’m keeping my distance from this ruggedly handsome hunk even if his physique sends hot flashes through my system.”

So they continue to spit nails at each other for another several chapters, but by now every second page mentions how he’s struggling to resist his attraction to her and/or she’s fighting the fascination she has with him. At this point it seems to be all sex appeal; they still manifest little respect for each other — but the world is turning.

Two thirds of the way through the novel either he gets himself into some sort of predicament or she does. He rides out with the posse and gets winged by the bad guys, or she falls in the river and needs to be rescued. His ship sinks and she must alert the authorities, or he’s in jail and/or about to be lynched for some false charge and she must step forward to plead his case even if she detests him. Or maybe she is at the mercy of some villain or gossip and he must rescue her/offer her refuge/marry her even if he’s averse to doing so.

In the end they get it together somewhat grudgingly, yet with promise of lots of steamy snuggles to come. (Though in some books these start to appear about Chapter three already!) So the theme actually seems more like “lust conquers all” than “love conquers all.” You just wonder if they are really going to live happily ever after when they detested each other so thoroughly at the outset.

I contrast this with the Biblical story of Ruth, where two people who admired and respected each other worked together on behalf of a destitute widow. And in doing so they found love for each other. Here I see so much better prospects for a true “Happily ever after.”

Anyway, I’ve managed to invent a new word for the Daily Prompt — and write my rant about contemporary romance — all in one post.

Mrs Lot Muses

My conjectures of what Mrs Lot might have thought and felt. Based on the Biblical account given in Genesis 19:1-26

PART III

As I said, I never dreamed that things have gotten so bad in our city that these guests lodging in our our own house would be in danger — and our own lives as well. But a few hours after supper we begin to hear sounds, voices and then shouting, outside.

Lot sends out a servant to find out what’s what the townsmen want. Before long he returns, looking seriously scared, and says to Lot, “There’s a crowd gathered in the street out there, sir, and they don’t look friendly.”

I peeked out a window. Now that was an understatement. The gang advancing toward out house almost looked vicious!

Lot goes to the door and some one shouts that he should send these two young men out. Next thing others are calling the same thing and Lot is outside now trying to calm them down. We’re all horrified when we realize what this crowd has in mind.

I told you Sodom isn’t very safe, but really! These young men have ought to be more careful about coming into a city and upsetting everyone. People should study the travel guides and find out about the inhabitants of a place before wandering willy-nilly about the country side expecting some kind soul to take them in.

And Lot might have known better than to bring them here. Maybe he could have spoken a kind word in their ear — a bit of warning — and sent them on their way before sundown.

Wait! What was that I heard? Lot, what are you saying? Not our precious daughters. What insanity would make you offer to send our beautiful girls out to that pack of wolves just to protect these two strangers?

As a precaution I order the girls to disappear, to go with the maidservants and hide on the roof top.

Well, thank goodness! These young men showed some good sense and dragged Lot back into the house. The mob was almost at the door; I was afraid they were going to tear Lot apart. Now everyone is stumbling around out there as if they can’t figure out where they are or where they should go. I’m so thankful they aren’t battering our door down to get in!

Seeing what they’ve done to the men outside, I’m beginning to wonder if these young men really are supernatural messengers. But why have they come? In any case, I pray God will have mercy on us this night!

Lot just came to me now and said the men are telling him we have to leave Sodom, that our daughters and their families need to get out, too. Fat chance our sons-in-law are going to pack up everything and go flying out of town on the say so of two strange foreigners. (I’m not sure they believe in angels and may think we’ve lost it.)

I’m not very willing myself, but I’d better do some packing, as Lot insists. The servants are helping, but they aren’t at all interesting in joining us on our wild flight into the night. Good thing we still have the two girls at home to help. Oh, dear, we are too old for all this upheaval!

I have a pretty good idea how this will go. We’ll head off into the desert and spend a miserable night, then by morning everyone will have come to their senses and we’ll come back home again. I hope and pray once these men have left us whatever their message is and are gone on their way we can settle down and resume our normal lives.

The towns folk may be annoyed with Lot for a few weeks but they will soon forget it. Then, as I said before, the next time he wants to bring strangers home I’m putting my foot down.

They’re urging us to hurry so I’d best get moving.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’ve told Mrs. Lot’s story in a contemporary voice, not just for fun, but because this really is a story for our times. I don’t think she had a clue what was coming, and neither do we, but the Bible tells us there’ll be a day when this world as we know it will come to an abrupt end. All the things we love and claim as our own will someday be gone. This may not come in our generation — or it may — but Jesus tells us about His return to our world, comparing it to the destruction of Sodom.

Luke 17:28-30
Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.

II Peter 3:9-14
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?

Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.

Mrs Lot Muses

My conjectures of what Mrs Lot might have thought and felt. Based on the Biblical account given in Genesis 19:1-26

PART II

Next I tell them the art gallery is open until eight tonight; they could probably spend some time there. “The Sodom Art Museum has a fine display of master pieces and there’s also an extensive collection of textile arts, wood carvings and pottery. I’ve also seen some cute miniature statues of the various gods of this land.”

He looked a bit horrified so I hastened to add, “Of course we know they are just silly images, but they are well made and interesting just to look at. I never worship them, though.”

My suggestion was met by sad frowns of disapproval from both of them. Critical types, I gather. For me it’s all relatively innocent, you know — just art.

By this time I’m getting impatient with them. I don’t want these fellows sitting around all evening with their gloomy countenances. So I try again, something totally innocent this time. I suggest that if music and the art gallery don’t appeal, they can maybe just stroll around Sodom and check out the architecture. Our architects have designed some very elaborate temples and an impressive civic center. With inlaid stones and colored marble, they’ve created some really nice patterns so worth seeing.

The one man just looked at me awhile and his face was so sad, like he was pondering some deep dark secret. Goodness, I thought to myself, this young man needs to be on anti-depressants! I even thought of suggesting he might try some for awhile if he was feeling really blue about life, but of course Lot wouldn’t appreciate me being rude to guests. So I just bit my tongue and refrained from suggesting any other attractions. If they want to sit here all evening and play tiddlywinks, it’s okay with me.

Now I will confess Sodom isn’t the greatest place to visit. As I said before, there are some really strange people here, but we try to be forbearing. It’s how they’ve been brought up, you know. We take the chance to say a few words now and then, but mostly we leave people to make their own decisions.

Yes, the people here are a rough bunch and their customs are so discouraging at times. Lot is often horrified by the immoral behaviour going on amongst the younger folks of this town, but I tell him, “We’re old, Lot. We have a different value system. You can’t expect the young folks to be as straight-laced as we were. We need to just love them as they are.”

He tells me it grieves him every day to see innocent children dragged into this perversion and I heartily agree. But what can he and I do except be a good example? “Let’s just live and let live,” I say. And he usually listens.

Though some times he gets so disgusted he even talks of moving back to the hills where his Uncle Abraham lives. I have no ears for that idea. “What?” I say. “Leave our daughters and their families. Lot, you know I’d never be parted from our precious grandchildren.”

I remind him of our lovely home and yard. “It would mean leaving everything we’ve ever worked for! I’m not interested in living up in the hills, and can’t bear the thought of going somewhere else and starting all over again at my age. Think again. Besides, we have no guarantees the next place we live would be any better, so I’m staying right here.”

Lot is a wonderful man, but sometimes he seems a little short-sighted, so I help him take a good look at things. And maybe if I’d been there when he was talking to these young fellows he brought home, I would have realized they would bring us nothing but trouble with the towns folk and persuaded them – nicely, of course– to go on their way to the next town. Maybe not, though, for I didn’t realize just how bad things have gotten here.

To be concluded tomorrow….

Paula’s Picnic

Part Three

As Derrick and his friend strolled toward the group around the picnic table, Paula took a good look at her. Slim and tanned, wearing a mini-skirt and what was probably a designer blouse, she looked like a million dollars. Paula glanced down at her own very practical clothes and felt like an ugly step-sister in the presence of Cinderella.

“Hey, guys! Have you left some for us?” Derrick called to some of the fellows who were sitting on a blanket.

“Hey, Derrick,” one of them called, “glad you could make it. You’re just in time to say a table grace.”

“You should introduce us to your friend,” Ryan Pinder added, looking quite impressed with what he saw. The blonde flashed him a grateful smile.

“I want you all to meet Kelsey Hallstrom, an old friend…and my new personal trainer.”

“Personal trainer! What kind of training are you needing, Derrick?” Brad asked as he stood up to shake her hand.“I’m Brad Miller. Pleased to meet you, Kelsey.”

“Oh, he needs a lot of training! You’ll have quite a job on your hands, lady!” one of the other fellows joked as he shook hands with her.

“Physician heal thyself,” Derrick countered with a laugh and a playful punch.

“I decided I needed to go join a gym and get into shape. Too much sitting in an office. And who should I meet there but Kelsey! She’s come back to her old stomping grounds and now she’s going to whip me into shape.” He gave her a warm smile.

“You look pretty fit for the job,” Ryan commented, giving her the once over. “Maybe I should get into fitness, too.”

The way he said it made Paula uncomfortable. She wondered, should a Christian be so open with those kind of looks and comments? Maybe Ryan was just paying a compliment, but she would be embarrassed if some man looked her over like that.

Kelsey just winked and flashed another big smile at Ryan. “I work at it.”

Paula glanced at Derrick. He was looking at Kelsey almost as if he was seeing her for the first time. What was he thinking?

The couple arrived at their table and more introductions were exchanged. “Welcome to our little group, Kelsey,” said Anne. “ Shall we make room for both of you here, or are you going to join the guys, Derrick?”

“Yeah, I’ll leave Kelsey in your care.” He smiled at Paula. “I know you’ll be good for her.” And he walked over to join the fellows on the blanket.

Paula moved over to make a space on the bench beside her and Kelsey sat down, smiling at her. A feeling of jealousy flashes through Paula’s mind, followed by the words, “”Let go and let God.” They brought her a moment of comfort. If it was God’s will for her and Derrick to get together, He’d work it out for them. If it wasn’t meant to be, she wanted to let it go.

Anne brushed a buzzy fly away from Kelsey’s arm. “Did I hear you’re back in your old stomping grounds?”

“Yes, I grew up here in Parkerton. I came back here in March, after my divorce.”

Well, I’m sorry to hear that…about your divorce, I mean,” said Sally.

“Yeah. Not nice,” Kelsey sighed. “Derrick and I went to High School together. Actually, we dated a few times, but then Shawn came along and swept me off my feet. I wish I’d stayed on them.”

She glanced toward Derrick and smiled. “I’m sure I’d have done so much better.”

“The burgers are ready,” one of the grillers called. “Everyone gather round and we’ll sing a table grace song.”

“Oh, dear. I don’t know any of that religious stuff,” Kelsey whispered nervously as they gathered in a circle around the table.

“That’s okay,” Paula assured her. Inwardly she wondered about Derrick getting involved with someone who didn’t know “religious stuff”. And I shouldn’t think he’s so involved. He may only have asked her here because she needs friends, she reminded herself.

After the blessing they lined up for the food. Kelsey went to stand beside Derrick in the lineup and Paula watched her talking and laughing with the guys. Disapproval washed through her thoughts. But if Kelsey doesn’t know the Lord she probably doesn’t see the harm in random flirting, Paula thought.

Then she thought of her teen years and remembered the way she’d acted around boys. She blushed, then smiled. You’ve come a long way, yourself, girl — with God’s help!

While she was standing in line waiting for her food, Paula sighed a prayer, “Lord, please grant me a pure heart, free from jealousy, and a love like Yours for those who need to hear about You.”


Hope you’ve enjoyed this story. Sad to say, the rest of the story isn’t written yet, but at least you’ve found out who this new lady is. If enough readers are interested in where the story goes from here, I’ll post some more as time goes on.

In my mind the setting for this story is back in the early 70s, when we were newly married and started attending churches in the protestant evangelical sphere. I was trying to capture the tone of those times as well as the people and the picnics I remember.