Read Annabelle's Angel Online

Authors: Therese M. Travis

Tags: #christian Fiction

Annabelle's Angel (4 page)

BOOK: Annabelle's Angel
4.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

The fact that, were she a different person—one who had the guts to do something so risky—she'd want to throw herself in his arms and offer her lips for a kiss had nothing to do with his reasons.

And then he held out his hand and took hers. Just one hand—it was such an old-fashioned dance that the partners barely touched—but for Annabelle, it was heaven.

She'd have to die when they got to practicing the waltz. But they didn't.

When the lesson was over, and Mrs. Veragas reminded them that she'd see them all on Thursday evening, the three couples traipsed out to the parking lot.

“That was a lot more fun than I expected,” Anson said.

“The music was a little weird.” Julie, one of the other dancers, shifted her hair over her shoulder.

“I liked it,” Annabelle muttered.

“It was just old,” Rick said. “But pretty.”

“Suited the dance steps, anyway. Talk about old-fashioned,” Annabelle said.

Laughing, the others broke away.

Rick shoved his hands in his pockets. “Yeah, that was fun, right? But I've got to get up early for work, so—”

“Oh, right. I have to go, too.” Annabelle shuffled her feet and couldn't force herself to move toward her car.

“So, catch you later?”

“Sure.” Not that he meant anything by that. She'd heard him say the same thing to Joe and Liam every time he dropped them at the house.

She started the engine and stared at her shaking hands. They still tingled from Rick's gentle touch.

 

~*~

 

After practice, Rick had Joe call Annabelle and tell her he'd drop off the boys. Not that he was angling for dinner. He couldn't expect her to have spent another whole day making one of her loaves of bread. Soft and nutty, bursting with textures and flavors he couldn't name, and now his mouth was watering.

He was
not
going to invite himself to dinner.

Liam climbed into the backseat, rubbing his leg where an enthusiastic, but misguided teammate had kicked him. “You coming to dinner, coach? I think Annabelle made lasagna.”

Rick's stomach growled. He'd never tasted Annabelle's lasagna, but his stomach had no doubts as to its excellence.

“I'm just going to drop you guys off. I've got stuff going on.”

Joe turned to him, his face screwed up in anguish. “You've got a date?”

“I didn't say that.”

“No, but—” Joe shook his head. “You're not saying you don't, so that means you do.”

Confused, Rick parked in front of their house. “So who cares if I've got a date?” Just saying the word conjured up images of Annabelle on the dance floor, her mouth twisted in concentration as she practiced, swirling and bowing as the music moved her through its steps.

“I thought you liked
Annabelle
.” For a sixteen-year-old, Joe was still very good at pouting.

“I do. But I'm not dating her or anything.” Too bad, that.

Liam got out and leaned toward Rick's window. “Even if you don't stay for dinner, you should come in and say hi to the little kids. They'd be really hurt if you didn't.”

Kind of like Joe was now.

So Rick followed the two into the house, checking the trees as he walked under them for any small children with bags or boxes of mysterious substances that they wanted to sprinkle in his hair.

The trees were empty.

The kids were all in the kitchen, making sugar cookies. Rick hesitated in the doorway, half because he didn't want to intrude on Annabelle's territory once again and half because sugar cookies and the three youngest Archers didn't seem like a safe combination when he was around.

“Rick!” Victoria threw herself into his arms, lifting her feet off the ground and propelling him into a spin. He held on to her for a moment before setting her back on the floor. When he let her go, he brushed flour off his sweater and laughed. So much for avoiding another coating of snow angel dust.

Annabelle looked up at the sound, and the intensity in her eyes enraptured him.

But Matt was clamoring for “a swing” and Brody stomped his feet, bewailing the fact that he was too tall for Rick to whirl him around the room without smashing into every cupboard.

Rick blinked, which broke the spell Annabelle had on him. He turned to the three younger kids. “No more, not today. I'm not staying.”

“He's got a date,” Joe said.

Annabelle's already pale face went whiter.

“No, that's not it. I just have things to do, and I can't keep eating your food.”

“Sure you can. There's plenty,” Liam told him. “There's always plenty. Annabelle likes to cook.”

Taking a deep breath, Rick looked at Annabelle. “Can I have a minute with Joe and Liam? And then I'll be going. I'll see you—oh, either tomorrow night when I bring them home, or on Thursday.”

“Right. Fine.” She nodded, still pale.

He dragged the boys out by an arm each until they stood on the dry grass outside. “Listen, how about you two let me handle my affairs myself?”

“What?” Liam, still limping from the kick, straightened. “What are you talking about?”

“OK. Say I want to invite a certain young lady out on a date. You let me, OK?”

“But we wanted—”

This time it was Joe who got kicked. He yelped. “Depends on who it is.”

“And you don't go telling your sister anything about my dating life either.”

“Yeah, but—you said—”

“I didn't say anything. OK?”

Both the boys nodded.

Rick kept glowering, kept his arms crossed tight over his chest. “I appreciate that you want me to date her. I really do. But how is she going to feel if she thinks I'm only asking her out because you guys want me to?”

Joe said, “Um, bad?”

“Yeah. Really bad.”

The boy looked away. “OK, then. We won't try to make you—I mean, no more setting you guys up.”

“Or saying I said things I didn't.”

“Yeah. OK.”

“Tell her I'll see her soon.”

Joe shrugged.

Rick let it go. Better the kid think he wasn't interested until he was sure he was.

He got into his car, and the memory of Annabelle's face kept popping into his head—concentrating on the dance, glowing as he took her hand, going white as death when Joe came out with his erroneous statement.

OK, maybe he'd better qualify that. He wanted Joe to keep from letting on to Annabelle how he felt until he could figure out how to tell her himself.

 

 

 

 

5

 

She'd always known. It wasn't like a guy as good looking as Rick not to have a girlfriend. Probably several. He didn't need someone like Annabelle—Shy. Scared
, Scarred
.

And furthermore, he wouldn't want her.

She brushed her fingers along the side of her face. Five years, she'd lived with the scars from the car accident. Five years, she'd assumed they meant an end to many dreams. That was fine. She'd replaced them with new dreams—getting all six of her siblings grown, taking as much of the burden as she could off her grandmother. Small goals: healthy meals and activities for the kids, helping at the church, doing her best at her medical transcription job—these were all good, worthy goals.

Weren't they?

Then why did they suddenly feel so empty?

Pacing her bedroom wouldn't help. She had to get to bed early. Faith had a meeting before school, and to get her there on time, Annabelle would have to organize everyone.

Sleep was impossible. The blanket lay too heavy and hot on top of her, trapping her. The dark allowed her to imagine the kind of woman who would attract Rick.

She kicked off the covers, switched on the light, and climbed out of bed. She couldn't think of anything to relieve her symptoms but to pace again. Why did everyone treat her like—what—an invalid? She hadn't limped for years. The only signs of the accident were the scars twisting the side of her face. They didn't affect her, didn't make living any harder, didn't earn pity because she never let them show.

And a heart crushing moment of honesty forced her to stop pacing and face up to the truth.

Those scars formed almost every action she took, and more frightening, every action she refused to take.

Country dancing was the most adventurous, audacious thing she'd done in five years. Country dancing!

She collapsed to the floor, laying her head on the seat of her chair. “Oh, God, what have I done?”

 

~*~

 

Thursday evening Rick dropped Joe and Liam at their house, gave in to Victoria's urgent plea that he stay for dinner, and ended up driving Annabelle to church for dance practice.

She gathered her coat and purse, giving short instructions to each child as she did. His grandmother would have called her actions nervy; to him, she seemed brittle and distracted.

“You doing OK?” he asked as he drove.

“Yeah, sure. I'm fine.” She stared out the window at scenery she must have seen a million times.

“Right.”

“What's that supposed to mean?”

Rick laughed. “Well, I've read that thing that goes around the Internet, about how, when a woman says ‘fine' it means anything but.”

She didn't answer right away.

He glanced at her.

She stared at her lap, her hand hovering over her hair-shadowed cheek. What was under there?

As jittery as she was, today might be the day he found out.

“Look, Annabelle—”

“Rick, if I—”

They both went silent.

“You go ahead,” Rick finally said.

She took a deep breath. “How do you know what you're supposed to do?”

“What?”

“I mean, how do you know if something is God's will for you?”

What this had to do with dancing or dating or any of the other things he wanted to talk to Annabelle about, he had no idea. “I don't know. You pray, and then, I guess, an opportunity opens up. And you pray some more and if it feels right, you do it.”

“What if it never feels right?”

“It's always felt right.”

She didn't say anything, and they arrived at the church before he could think up something encouraging to tell her. But he managed to pray,
God, help me help her. It sounds like she's looking for guidance from You. Could You send it? And make sure she knows it's You talking?

He followed her into the hall but stopped her before they reached the half open doors. “Annabelle, look. If God wants you to do something, I think He makes it pretty clear.”

“I've never heard Him.”

“How do you know? Look at all the good you do. You help your grandma. You take care of your family. You do all kinds of stuff, and I never hear you complain.”

“You're not around much, are you?”

After a startled minute, he laughed. “I bet if I asked any of the kids, they'd say the exact same thing.”

“I doubt it.”

He sobered.

She was right. Most of them would probably wonder what Annabelle had to complain about in the first place.

They're just kids
, he told himself.
They don't get it. Not like I do.

He stopped her from slipping through the door. “Annabelle, it's OK to do something for yourself now and then. Stick up for yourself. Put yourself first.”

“Oh?” The scorn in her voice was also in her eyes. “Since when is it OK for Christians to put themselves first?”

He tugged his ear. “It's like when you're in an airplane.”

She raised her brows. “Flapping my arms to stay up?”

“No.” He scowled. “When they're explaining the procedure if the plane is in trouble, what do they tell you? They say when the oxygen masks come down, you grab your own first and put it on, and
then
you take care of anyone else who can't take care of themselves.”

Her eyebrows stayed raised, but she tipped her head as if inviting an explanation.

“You can't feed others if you're starving. You can't help someone if you can't breathe.”

She gasped, almost as if his words had stolen her breath. “I don't—”

“You're here.” Mrs. Veragas pulled Annabelle into the hall, and Rick followed as if he were attached by a string. “All right, folks, line up. We're going to go over the dance we learned last week before we begin something new.”

The dance took Annabelle away from him too much for him to be able to study her face, but he didn't imagine the glower she shot him every time they met up. He didn't imagine the coldness of her fingertips each time she placed her hand on his arm. Maybe he'd better just keep quiet now. Maybe now was the time to figure out what “fine” meant.

He was pretty sure, though, that it meant something along the lines of,
I'm terrible, I'm miserable, and you could never understand. In fact, you're part of the problem.

Although, why he would be part of the problem, he couldn't comprehend.

 

~*~

 

Annabelle couldn't wait to get home where she could have herself a good cry. What right did Rick have to tell her anything? OK, she'd asked, but he hadn't exactly answered the question, had he? Instead, he'd gone off on the same tangent Faith had been bleating about.

Take care of yourself, live your own life, blah blah blah. Well, if Annabelle went off and lived her life, who would step in and take her place? Grandma wouldn't even drive the kids to school, never mind taking them to all their extracurricular activities. Even Victoria, at six, had gymnastics twice a week. If Annabelle just up and said, “Forget it. I'm not doing this anymore,” the whole family would fall apart.

Well, the kids did manage to get rides. Look at Rick, taking the boys to their sports practices and games. Faith had so many friends, she'd have a new ride every day of the week if she asked. The little ones—well, the family had a whole church full of friends who'd be willing to step in.

BOOK: Annabelle's Angel
4.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Arrival by Adair Hart
Winterbourne by Susan Carroll
Waiting by Carol Lynch Williams
The Accused by Jana DeLeon
The Tank Man's Son by Mark Bouman
LOVE'S GHOST (a romance) by Ellis, T. S.
Seduction by Design by Sandra Brown
Stronger Than the Rest by Shirleen Davies
Highland Fling by Shelli Stevens