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Authors: Therese M. Travis

Tags: #christian Fiction

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BOOK: Annabelle's Angel
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But what if she stopped making them good food? They'd end up eating junk all day long.

Of course, Grandma never complained when Annabelle had to ask her to step in, and she was the one who had taught Annabelle to cook, after all. And to bake.

What else was Annabelle good for?

Oh, and didn't self-pity taste sweet?

She had to get over it.

Someone had said that no one was indispensable. That included Annabelle. And it wasn't that either Faith or Rick wanted her to go away. They just wanted her to do God's will.

Whatever that was.

A good cry might not do much for her, but a trip into the Bible, and some time spent listening to God, ought to.

 

 

 

 

6

 

The trip up the mountain on Saturday morning for their snow angel excursion went as smoothly as Annabelle could hope for. They had to stop three times for various family members to get over being car sick, but Rick drove her van with no problem.

Annabelle watched Rick's profile, glad she could do it without him realizing. “Did you learn how to drive in the snow in Chicago?”

He turned his head slightly toward her but kept his eyes on the road. “Nope. We moved here before I was a teen. Just visited a time or two before—well, before my parents stopped going there.”

“Family stuff? Issues, I mean?” She needed to get better at expressing herself, really. No wonder people had a hard time understanding her.

But Rick seemed to. “Yup. Lots of them. I don't see any of my family anymore.”

“At all? Oh, that's so sad!”

This time he did look at her. “Yeah, I guess. I'm used to it. Used to being alone. I gotta say, spending time with you and your brothers and sisters is great. Makes me see how a family can be a good thing.”

“It's a wonderful thing, Rick.”

He laughed. “Well, it's making me look at a lot of those Bible references in a new light.”

“See? So it is good.”

“Are we almost there?” Mattie stuck his head over the seat.

Rick laughed again. “About halfway, Mr. Impatience. How about you make sure everyone has his boots on right?”

“What about the girls?”

“Uh, yeah, the girls, too.”

His puzzled frown made Annabelle giggle. “I try to be very clear on boys
and
girls. I don't want anyone in my family thinking they can just be left out.”

“Except you?”

Not this again. “I don't—I'm not—”

“Yeah, you are. You just don't notice because everyone is so used to it.”

She crossed her arms and stared out the window.

Rick didn't say anything else, probably to let her stew.

He made it sound like a bad thing, giving up her personal wants for the others. And maybe he was partly right, but in other ways, he wasn't.

Maybe sometimes she took it too far.

People often managed to ignore it completely, the humility that Jesus asked for from His followers. But then—how humble did a person have to be to measure up to that command? She'd read a lot about people who took it to extremes. Had that pleased God? And did it help other people?

And maybe that was God's will for
them
, but not for others. Who knew?

Sometimes, discernment was just too hard, too confusing. Did God want her to give up everything to serve her family? Seemed like nobody but her family thought so—and not even all of her family.

Sometimes she could shake Faith for growing up and becoming wise.

Sometimes she could tip Rick out into his precious snow and leave him there to melt.

Not until he pulled off the mountain road onto a drive that wound through trees and rocks covered with a dusting of snow, did she come to and pay attention.

“You OK?” he asked as he leaned forward to shift the gears into park.

She glanced at him. “Yeah, sure. I'm fine.” Not that she could tell him if she wasn't. After all, he was one of the ones who didn't approve of her choices.

The second the engine died, the car erupted with bodies. Victoria ran toward a short rise of land, pristine in its whiteness. “It'th th'now. It'th th'now!” She screamed. “Ricky, it'th th'now!”

Annabelle checked Rick's expression, but rather than worrying over his new nickname, he was grinning.

Then he grabbed both Brody and Matt before either could escape. “Listen to me,” he said, with a hint of growl in his voice. “If either one of you tries to put snow down my back, or dump it on my head, or in any other way try to introduce snow to my person, and imagine that will turn me into a snow angel, you will spend the rest of the day inside the van. Understood?”

Wide-eyed, both boys nodded.

“Very good.” He straightened and let them go. His grin returned. “Go have fun.”

Brody took off, but Matt hesitated, one too-big boot twisting behind his other leg. “I thought you were gonna teach us how to make snow angels.”

“I am. Make sure everyone else stays off the smooth part of the snow, OK?”

“Cuz that's where we're gonna make 'em?”

“You bet.”

Mattie ran off shouting, and soon the other five were crowded at the very edge of the parking lot, facing them. Waiting.

“We'd better get to it, huh?”

Annabelle laughed. “You sure you know how to make a snow angel?”

“Yup. They come out best if you've got a little help.”

 

~*~

 

Rick stood with his back to the hill, first in the long line of Archer kids. With arms spread, he let himself fall straight back, all the while calling instructions.

He'd forgotten the way the snow could creep under his collar and wedge itself into the layers of clothing. He flapped his arms through the snow a few times and then called to Joe. “You and Liam come pull me up.”

When he stood in front of his huge snow angel, it gave him a strange feeling of nostalgia. He shook his head, determined to ignore it. He didn't want any soft, longing feelings for his family. They'd abandoned him; he wouldn't run after them, begging for affection they wouldn't give.

Instead, he turned to the kids. “Which of you wants to make the first angel?”

“I wanna go latht,” Victoria said. “Tho mine can be the only one no one walks through.”

Rick checked to see if Annabelle felt like laughing as much as he did, but she was behind an SLR camera.

The kids got their angels made quickly, and to Rick's surprise, the older ones all waited while Victoria made hers. Rick leaned down and lifted her straight up to keep her angel perfect.

She stayed in his arms, one wet mitten pressed against his neck, and stared at the line of angels.

The other kids ran off.

Annabelle stopped clicking pictures and followed them, and still, that little mitten stayed him like a leash.

“You ready to go play?”

She shook her head. “That'th uth, ithn't it?”

Rick grinned. “Yup, that's us.”

“We're a nithe family.”

He had to swallow before he could speak. “Yup.” And even then, the sun on the snow blinded him and made him blink.

We're a family
. It felt good to be included.

Then Victoria leaned forward. “Can I go play now?”

“Yeah, sure.” He set her in the snow and watched her run toward the others.

She left him behind.

The sun's glare grew painful, and he wiped his hand across his eyes.

“Rick, move back a little. This is perfect.”

He stumbled into the shade of the pines, his feet crunching on mangled snow and needles, suddenly aware of the cold and damp seeping across his back.

Annabelle clicked a few more times before she waved the camera toward him. “Look at these pictures. They're incredible. Look.”

He took the camera and scrolled through the series of photos. He nodded. “They're great.” There. His voice came out sounding like himself, not like some baby.

“We probably shouldn't let everyone stay out very long now. None of us are used to getting this wet and cold.”

He nodded again. Puppet-like, that was Rick Stockton. “We could go into the shop. They sell cocoa and snacks and coffee.”

She laughed. “We can't drink coffee in a setting like this. They shouldn't serve anything but Christmas cocoa all year long.”

He looked down at her. She'd tucked most of her hair under a knitted hat, and when she turned her head, he saw the scars that traced a line between her eye and her temple. They showed up stark against the bright pink the cold had brought to her cheeks, but he still thought them unremarkable. That's all she'd been hiding?

“Rick?”

“Yeah, let's get them inside. My treat.”

“For seven people? No, you can't. You have no idea how expensive that gets.”

Since he'd lived on his own from the age of seventeen, he realized Annabelle was right. But he could mentally multiply as well as anyone else. “So how do you plan to pay for all of them? How can you support your grandmother and six kids anyway?”

“I don't.” She looked down, her bottom lip tucking under her teeth. “After the accident, Grandma got a lawyer, and we got a settlement. It pretty much takes care of everyone. I mean, we're not rich or anything, but we're OK.”

“Right. I see.” He waved her to follow the kids, who had already disappeared into the cabin-like building. “But I'd still like to partly treat. Is that OK?”

She glanced up, her lashes sweeping flakes of snow from her cheeks. The sparkle nearly blinded him, until he realized the dazzle came mostly from her smile. “That's OK. I don't mean to be rude, it's just—we're not your responsibility.”

“No, you're not.” And why did that admission make him feel like a jerk? No—not so much that. He followed Annabelle's snowy coat to the table the kids had claimed. He didn't feel like
he
was the one at fault, but rather the one left out. Like he wanted that responsibility. As if it were a privilege.

He shook his head. Where was all this confusion coming from? All these weird emotions? He had no idea how to deal with them.

Ignore them; that would work.

No wonder Annabelle was so confused about God's will.

He sat between Brody and Faith.

“So,” he said, leaning his elbows on the table. “What did you guys think of making your first snow angels?”

“Awesome,” Brody yelled.

Faith shushed him then spoke quietly. “I got really wet. And so did Liam. I think it's cuz our coats are too big.”

“Oh, man.” He helped the girl strip off her coat and then took it to the outer room, where he hung it on a peg. The rest of the kids followed him, but he was surprised at how soon they sorted themselves out and got back to the table. They also ordered, and consumed, their lunch much faster than he wanted. It would be great to sit there, across the table from Annabelle, watching her face as she responded to the laughter, soaking up the snowy atmosphere, and the warmth, the feeling of safety. He wanted to watch her face light up against the background of Christmas ornaments and rustic furnishings. He just wanted to watch her.

He had it pretty bad.

“I'm taking the kids to the bathroom,” Faith said. “Then can we look at the things in the shop?”

“Not with your hands,” Annabelle said.

The three younger children all clasped their hands behind their backs.

Rick laughed as they walked away. “Never thought of that,” he said.

“Of what?”

“That looking doesn't involved hands.”

“Oh, right. Well, I had to train them early.”

“You did a great job.”

She blushed and looked down.

“Annabelle?”

“We really shouldn't leave them alone in there, though.” She jerked her chin toward the shop, visible through the doorway.

“They're all right.”

“But—” She half stood.

“Are you afraid to be alone with me?” Not that they really were. Other patrons filled the dining area, and the kids could come running back any second.

“Of course not.”

“Good.” He reached across the table, and Victoria slammed into him, loud with wet sobs.

“Mattie thaid I touched, and I didn't!”

Next time, he'd have to warn those boys about interrupting, too.

 

 

 

 

7

 

After an agonizing church service, Annabelle dropped all six of her siblings at various places for play dates and study dates. She dropped her grandmother at the shopping center, promised to be back in two hours, and took herself home. There, she dove into baking. One cake, three batches of cookies, and two loaves of bread later, she finally was able to stop moving and listen to her own head.

If only she could listen to God. He had to have a better solution than Annabelle, but she couldn't hear it.

The readings that day had been uplifting. She loved the verses in Isaiah, which pointed to the coming of the Messiah. But none of them gave her the direction she craved. Maybe she needed something sterner, something telling her, “Here's where you went wrong. Here's where you have to go.”

Wait—wasn't there something that said just that in Isaiah? She ran upstairs, grabbed her Bible, and started flipping pages. She'd underlined it once, she remembered. It shouldn't be hard to find.

It wasn't. Isaiah 30:21 told her that when she turned to the right or the left, she would hear a voice telling her, here is the way, walk in it.

“But I don't!” She slammed the book shut. “Why can't I hear Your voice? Why don't You tell me what You want me to do? Or am I supposed to stay in this place and wallow in self-pity? Is that what You want for me?”

As if God wanted that for any of His beloved.

“I'm sorry,” she whispered. She trudged back down the stairs, checked on the cake, and pulled out the makings of a salad. “I'm sure You don't want me to walk out on my family. Even if they could take care of themselves, why would you want me to abandon them? That won't help them.”

BOOK: Annabelle's Angel
2.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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