Authors: Gail Gaymer Martin
Her pulse did a waltz up her arm, and the sensation irritated her. She didn’t want to react to this man’s attention—or any man’s, for that matter.
“You’re beautiful inside and out.” Dale’s gaze washed over her.
Bev didn’t know what to say. She sensed he was sweet-talking her, and it was working. Her stomach had joined her pulse, and the two danced a jig through her until she felt unable to calm her emotions. She shook her head. “I try to be kind. Kindness looks beautiful.”
“You’re that, too.” He reached for the carafe.
She watched him add coffee to his cup, then take a sip as if his mind had flown off somewhere else. Her emotions had been doing push-ups since Dale touched her arm.
Bev eyed her watch. “I suppose I’d better get home.”
“I still have a favor to ask.”
“Favor? I thought you’d asked it.”
“I had two favors to ask.”
Two? She noted an uncomfortable look edging across his face.
“This one is more personal,” he said.
Steeple Hill Single Title
The Christmas Kite
Upon a Midnight Clear
Secrets of the Heart
A Love for Safekeeping
“The Butterfly Garden”/
“All Good Gifts”/
is awed by God’s blessings and amazed the Lord has led her to touch people’s hearts and lives with her writing and speaking. Gail is a multipublished author of non-fiction and fiction for Steeple Hill and Barbour Publishing. Her novels have been finalists for numerous awards and have won the Holt Medallion (2001 and 2003), the Texas Winter Rose (2003) and the American Christian Romance Writers 2002 Book of the Year Award. Her Love Inspired novel,
A Love for Safekeeping,
Reviewers Choice Best Love Inspired Novel of 2002.
Besides writing, Gail travels across the country, guest speaking and presenting writing workshops. She lives in Lathrup Village, Michigan, with Bob—her husband and best friend. She loves to hear from her readers. Write to her at P.O. Box 760063, Lathrup Village, MI, 48076 and visit her Web site at www.gailmartin.com.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess,
for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider
how we may spur one another on
toward love and good deeds.
For my husband, Bob, whose loving ways have
made me who I am today. You fill me with joy. Your
support is unending, and your devotion is beyond
description. Daily I thank the Lord for you.
Isn’t God awesome? His timing is perfect. When we need Him, He’s there, surrounding us with His love and mercy. I pray that you open your arms to the Lord when you have needs, as Bev and Dale did in
We all find times in our lives when problems press against us and hope seems to fade. This is the time we need to look away from our own ability and know that God is waiting for us to seek His help and give Him our burdens.
I hope you enjoyed another visit to Loving, Michigan. You met some new friends and visited with some townspeople you’ve come to know in previous stories. I’m pleased to let you know that you’ll have more opportunities to visit with them again in
As always, I pray the Lord touches you with every blessing as you deal with life’s ups and downs, and until we meet again, I wish you love and peace that only comes from He who gives us everything.
here’s your brother, Kristin?”
Kristin shrugged. “I don’t know.”
No surprise. Bev Miller bit back her irritation and shifted the shopping cart. She pulled bills from her wallet and paid the cashier. After the clerk dropped the last of the groceries into a plastic bag, Bev situated them into the basket, then moved away from the counter. Her mind raced with things she had left to do. Today was another hectic Saturday.
Bev craned her neck and spotted her seven-year-old son by the plastic toy display. “Michael, come here, please.”
He didn’t move. His gaze stayed riveted to a cardboard sheet with something intriguing attached.
This time not only Michael but customers heard her raised voice. Embarrassed, Bev kept her eyes forward
and rolled the basket toward the exit. Michael plodded behind her while Kristin pulled at the front of the cart, probably thinking she’d get home sooner if she sped them along.
When Michael reached Bev’s side, his voice whined with disappointment. “Mom, I want a toy.”
“Do you want to eat or have a new toy?” She wanted to swallow her words, knowing Michael preferred the junk in the plastic container. “Never mind. It’s a moot point,” she muttered.
“What’s a mute point?” Michael’s curious face tilted upward, awaiting Bev’s response.
Bev’s whole life seemed a moot point at times but never
. She maneuvered through the doorway and held the children back before crossing the aisle to her car. “
. It means it’s debatable. There is no right or wrong answer.”
“Then how come you always think you’re right, Mom?” Michael asked in his I-didn’t-get-my-way tone.
“When you’re an adult, Michael, it will be your turn to be right.”
He gave her a quizzical look and appeared to ponder the possibility.
“Grandma’s coming tomorrow to live with us for a while, so we have lots to do, and everyone needs to cooperate.”
“I can’t wait to see Grandma,” Kristin said, clapping her hands.
Bev knew why. Grandma spoiled the kids rotten.
A chill flew down her back from the damp Michigan weather, but also from thoughts of the coming event. Bev hadn’t lived with her mother in many years, and she worried about two women under one roof. Could it work? Then again, being a single mom, Bev could use the support.
The mid-April wind forced them through the parking lot, and when she reached the car, Bev hit the remote, opened the trunk and loaded the groceries.
“Michael, would you push the basket over there, please?” Bev pointed toward the cart return across the aisle and a few spaces down.
He pulled his shoulder away from the car as if he were adhered to it. Then, apparently having a second thought, he perked up. He grasped the shopping basket handle and, making motor noises, took off like a race-car driver, zigzagging between the parked vehicles.
“Be careful,” Bev called. She looked away long enough to open the car door so Kristin could climb inside. When she looked toward Michael, her heart thudded to a halt. Before she could yell, he’d performed a wheelie into a car backing into a slot.
Michael’s face drained of color as the driver leaped from the sedan. In a heartbeat, Kristin jumped from the back seat and raced toward her brother. Bev darted after her, but the stranger stumbled over Kristin before she could pull her away.
“Why did you do that?” the man yelled. He faced a frightened-looking Michael.
“Move out of the way, kids,” Bev said, her defenses rising. She peered at the trunk lid and saw no damage. “I’m sorry. Do you see any problem with your trunk?” She motioned to the car. “I don’t.”
He gazed at her with the bluest eyes she’d ever seen. “You should watch your kids.”
“I said I’m sorry. And I do watch my children.” She pulled them against her body with a protective arm.
“Maybe you should be more careful in a parking lot.”
She sensed the stranger wanted to roll his eyes.
Instead, he bent over and surveyed the trunk lid, giving it a polish with the sleeve of his jacket. “Looks like he hit the bumper.” He straightened his back and pointed his finger at Michael. “You could damage my car and hurt yourself with that silliness.”
Bev felt her defense hackles rise as a facetious offer flew from her mouth. “Would you like my car insurance information just in case?” She assumed he’d say no since it was obvious the car had sustained no damage.
He tucked his fingers into his jeans pockets and rolled back on his heels. “No,” he said, “but how about your driver’s license?”
She drew up her shoulders and fumbled through her wallet for her license.
He pulled a pen out of his shirt pocket, then patted
the others as if looking for something. “I don’t have any paper.”
Bev reined in a smart remark and dug into her handbag. She grasped a scrap and handed it to him.
The man jotted down the information, slid it into his pocket, then handed back Bev’s license before turning to Michael. “You’d better be more careful, young man. You could get hurt.”
Michael took a step backward without responding.
Kristin, four going on forty, bustled toward the man, her fist planted on one hip. “You know what?”
The man’s eyebrows shot upward.
Kristin didn’t let his expression sway her. “Jesus says you should forgive others so God will forgive you.”
His blue eyes widened, and Bev contained her amusement while the man stood speechless. As irritating as he was, she saw a spark of something she liked in his eyes that made him amazingly appealing.
Without further comment, she aimed the children toward her car and marched them back across the aisle in safety. When she looked in her rearview mirror, the good-looking stranger was still scrutinizing her.
Dale Levin hadn’t been able to dismiss the vision of the woman from the grocery-store parking lot. She was feisty, he decided. Feisty and definitely pretty. Her unruly honey-colored hair looked sun-bleached and her attempt to keep it pinned back was about as useless as
keeping her two rambunctious kids in tow. She should have left them home with their dad. He’d never have forgiven himself if the boy had been injured.
The little girl’s comment rattled him. Though he guessed she was only a preschooler, she had tried to put him in his place. When she grew up, she would probably be as spirited as her mother. But the child’s words didn’t dent Dale’s conviction. As far as he was concerned, God’s promises seemed as empty as the shopping cart the boy had rammed into his bumper.
Dale pushed his foot against the brake and slowed for a stoplight. As always, his thoughts drifted to his parents and the reason for his visit home. Since his mother had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, his life hadn’t been the same. Neither had his father’s, and this weekend, his goal was to convince his dad he needed to get professional help for his mother’s care. His father couldn’t do it alone any longer. Dale wished he could spend more time at home, but he lived an hour away in Grand Rapids and his work was there.
His parents had always been strong Christians. They’d raised him the same way, but now, when he saw what his mother and father were going through, he’d taken a different slant on the Lord and definitely on marriage. His parents had the perfect marriage, he’d always thought—one he could never emulate.
So he’d resolved to avoid disillusionment by remaining single. It made sense to him. He’d been content the
way he was and had no desire to deal with the sadness involved in falling in love. Life was something he couldn’t count on. His father’s pain as he watched his wife slip away—and his own sorrow—was almost more than Dale could bear.
The stoplight turned green and Dale stepped on the gas. His mind drifted once again to the parking-lot incident. Part of marriage was parenting, an experience he’d never know. He touched his shirt pocket and felt the scrap of paper inside. At the next stoplight, he withdrew it and scanned the information. Beverly Miller. He skimmed farther and saw she lived on Franklin Street, not too far from his parents. Irritated with himself, he folded the paper. Why did he care where she lived?
As he started to slip the scrap into his pocket, something caught his eye. He unfolded the sheet and saw a section from a church bulletin—Fellowship Church where his father attended. On the back, a child had drawn a picture.
He studied the simple line sketch of a bungalow surrounded by flowers, smoke curling from the chimney and sunshine streaking the sky. Standing on a sidewalk were a woman and two children—stick figures but he got the message and realized he’d probably been wrong about leaving the kids home with her husband. It appeared she was a single mom.
Two kids. Dale had been an only child. He’d grown up alone, and he’d been his parents’ total focus. They’d
done everything for him, and now he would do everything he could for them. He wished the Lord felt the same way.
The traffic moved ahead again, and finally Dale pulled into his parents’ driveway. Propping the groceries against the doorjamb, Dale turned the knob and stepped into the back hallway. He plopped the packages onto the counter, then strode down the hallway to his parents’ bedroom.
He stood in the doorway to see if his mother was sleeping. Every time he saw her this way, his heart broke once more. As he turned to go, he heard her say his name. Her speech had been one attribute not highly affected by the disease.
“Hi, Mom,” he said, stepping closer. “Do you want me to raise the shades?”
“Only a little,” she said. “The light hurts my eyes until I adjust.”
He crossed the room and lifted the shade a few inches. Sunlight seeped onto the carpet. He moved to her bedside and lifted her head a little, propping a couple of pillows beneath her neck to raise her. “Comfortable?”
“Comfortable and happy when you’re here.”
He sat on the edge of the mattress and drew her hand into his. “Dad should be here soon to help you dress.”
Her eyelids lowered. “I hate your father having to leave work to dress me. I only wish…” Her words faded away.
“I have groceries to put away,” he said, releasing her
hand and rising. He needed to get away from the pain he saw in his mother’s eyes. Dale recalled years earlier when she’d been a vibrant woman, before the disease had disabled her. Science didn’t have an answer for MS. No one did except God, and He was keeping quiet.
He left the room, wishing he had a sibling. He mulled over the idea of someone sharing his concern for his parents. Someone to talk with now when he felt so stressed.
In the kitchen, he began storing the groceries. Before he finished, the back door opened and his father stepped inside, carrying a fast-food bag. “You went grocery shopping,” Al Levin said, setting down the sack. “Thanks.”
“Just a few things, but I see you picked up something.”
His father leaned against the kitchen counter and tilted his head toward the sack. “It’s a milk shake. Your mom loves ice cream so I bring her a treat once in a while.” He grabbed the fast-food bag. “I’ll take it to her.”
Dale finished storing the groceries and pulled out a package of meat for dinner. He’d wrestled with himself all afternoon about talking to his father about the situation with his mom. He vowed to himself he’d do it this weekend. No time seemed right.
When his father returned, his eyes were misted. They seemed to be so often, and the emotion affirmed Dale’s earlier thoughts. Being single was easier.
Al moved to the kitchen counter and opened a canister. “Coffee?” he asked, spooning grounds into the coffeemaker.
“Sounds good.” Dale wiped off the counter and draped the dishcloth over the sink. He rested against the counter and organized his thoughts while the coffee brewed. Seeing his dad’s weary eyes and the stress on his face made the task disheartening.
Dale set two mugs on the table as his fortitude kicked into high gear. Before he settled onto a kitchen chair, he drew up his shoulders, ready for the argument.
His father brought over the pot and poured them each a cup, then returned the coffee to the warmer. He ambled back with a plate of cookies from the counter and set them on the table. “Annie Dewitt gave me a tin of homemade cookies at the pharmacy yesterday.”
Dale picked up a cookie and took a bite.
“I probably told her once how your mom used to make me oatmeal cookies.”
Hearing the reference to his mother, Dale held the cookie suspended, then lowered it while his mouth worked around the words that had to be spoken. “Dad, you know Mom’s getting worse.”
“She’s as good as can be expected,” his father said, lifting the cup and taking a sip of the black coffee.
“I think caring for her alone is too much for you.”
“No problem is too much with the Lord, Dale.”
Dale ran his finger around the rim of the mug, realizing his father wasn’t making the talk easy. He felt his spirit sink as he struggled for the right words. “I worry about the two of you.”
“I know you do, but we’re fine. Your mom and I have shared so many joys along the way they far outweigh the sorrows,” he added. “God’s been good to us.”
His father’s words knocked the wind out of him. Dale’s arguments fell into dust. How could he tell his father that God hadn’t been good to them? Tomorrow. Maybe when his father got home from church, he could pursue the topic. Dale shoved the debate into the back of his mind and took a drink of coffee.
Silence hung over them until his father rose and set his cup in the sink. When he turned, Dale saw the beginnings of a mission etched on his face. “I was hoping you’d go to church with me tomorrow.”
Dale faltered. “Church?” Beverly Miller’s church, he recalled. He hadn’t gone in a long time, even when his father asked. “I thought I’d stay home and keep an eye on Mom while you go.”
“I miss your mom beside me. Just thought it would be nice to have my son there for a change.”
Sadness washed over Dale. “Okay, Dad. I’ll go with you.” Yet his thoughts had already begun to formulate tomorrow’s battle. He had to make his dad listen to reason.