Authors: Brooke St. James
of a Storm
Brooke St. James
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any form or by any means without prior written permission of the author.
Copyright © 2015
Brooke St. James
All rights reserved.
Table of Contents
Other titles available from Brooke St. James:
A Modern-Day Ruth and Boaz Story
When Lightning Strikes
The sequel to this book,
(All in Good Time #2) is now available.
I'd been working at Callahan's Hardware Store for five years, which seemed like a significant chunk of my life since I'd just turned twenty-two. I was only seventeen when Nathan Callahan, the owner of the store and one of the most beloved men in the whole town of Greensboro offered me the job. I'd come in to buy a pot to replace one my mom burned up when she forgot about it on the stove.
It was perfect timing since I was looking for a job anyway. I had applications in at just about every restaurant in town including McDonald's, Little Caesars and the brand new Taco Bell, but hadn't heard back from any of them when Mr. Callahan asked me if I wanted to work for him. It never occurred to me to apply for a job at a hardware store, but looking back, I was sure glad things worked out the way they did.
Nathan and Cindy Callahan had been extremely good to me over the years, and it didn’t hurt any that they had two sons who were close to my age and happened to be the most gorgeous, sincere guys on the face of the earth. (Not that it mattered since both of them were in long-term relationships and both were way out of my league.)
Anyway, leaving the Callahan family and the handful of employees that worked at the shop would by far be the hardest thing about leaving Greensboro. Yet I thought that sometimes in life you just have to make a change, and that's exactly what I was about to do.
It had been a great five years, but today I was punching the clock at Callahan's for the last time. I was equally reluctant and excited, and I did my best to keep my mind from racing with nerves the whole time I was at work.
"Rita Williams just walked in with one of those Tupperware containers," Jerry said in his loud, booming voice as he rounded the corner and saw me hanging little bags of screws in their place on the wall in isle 16.
"Oh, gosh, Jerry, you scared me," I said putting a hand to my chest.
"I think it's one of those chocolate lava cakes she makes," he replied, smiling but otherwise ignoring my startled state.
I smiled back at him and stashed the box of screws where nobody would trip over them before making my way to the front of the store where Mrs. Williams was standing with an oversized plastic container.
"I brought a cake for your last day," she said.
"You didn't have to do that!" I insisted as I took the box from her.
"Laney said she didn't want the cake!" Jerry called for everyone to hear. "Sounds like more for me."
I glared playfully at him. "I said no such thing."
"I heard her," Nathan Callahan said, walking toward the front of the store with a huge smile.
"You boys better let this girl enjoy her cake," Mrs. Williams said.
"How've you been Rita?" Mr. Callahan asked, reaching out to pat Mrs. Williams on the shoulder.
"I'm fine and dandy as always. And you, Nathan?"
"Can't complain, except that I'm losing my number one employee." He gave me a smile and reached out to pinch my cheek.
"Heyyyy," Jerry said sadly as if he was hurt about not being the best employee. He reached out to grab the cake. "I'll take this back to the break room for you, Laney," he said with a sincere smile. "And I promise not to eat any of it till she gets back there and cuts me a slice," he said with a glance toward Mrs. Williams.
"There's plenty to go around," she said.
"I sure hope so," Nathan said as Jerry took off toward the back, "especially if it's your chocolate thunder cake."
"You mean lava?" I asked smiling at him.
"Yeah, chocolate lava," he corrected. "Is that what it is?"
"Am I that predictable?" she asked.
"Predictability's good when it's in the form of delicious molten hot chocolate," he said.
Mrs. Williams gave him a shy, sideways glance that said he was being too kind. "Can you believe Laney's going all the way down to San Francisco?" she asked, changing the subject.
"I really can't," he said with a sincere glance at me. "I can't say it surprises me that she's outgrown us, though," he added. "She's a talented artist. We can't keep her windows in the shop for more than a day when she brings one in."
I blushed at the kind words. I could feel the blood rise to my cheeks as they both stood there staring at me with loving smiles. "I'm not nearly as good as you," I said, motioning to Rita.
She let out a laugh. "Oh, don't be silly, Laney!" She touched my forearm and regarded me with an earnest expression. "Nathan's absolutely right… you've outgrown us. I taught you everything I knew about stained glass within the first six months I knew you. You've been better than me for a long time and you know it."
"That's not true Ms. Rita," I said.
She gave my arm a little squeeze. "It most certainly is, and I'm not letting you run off to San Francisco with that attitude. It's hard to make it as an artist in this world. You're not always going to be able to count on others to believe in you. It's very important that you believe in yourself." She patted my arm again. "You've got what it takes, Laney. I know you do or I wouldn't be sending you all the way out to California."
I smiled a little, but otherwise didn't know what to say.
"Laney's excited about working with that guy you fixed her up with," Mr. Callahan said.
"She should be," she said smiling. "Peter is a living legend in the stained glass world, if there is such a thing. She'll learn more studying with him than I could ever teach her, that's for sure."
"Well, you've done a great job from what I can see. Like I said, we've sold all her windows as soon as she brings them in."
"You and Cindy bought three out of six of them," I said, smiling at Mr. Callahan.
He shrugged playfully. "Hey, Cindy's got a good eye for art, what can I say?"
"That's right," Mrs. Williams said nodding. "I'm holding on to a few of her pieces myself. They might just be worth a lot of money someday."
Just then a customer walked up to the cash register. "I better go ring her up," I said, gesturing in that direction. "Thanks so much for bringing the cake. That was really thoughtful." I reached out to give Mrs. Williams a hug.
"Are you still planning on leaving this Monday?" she asked as she squeezed me tightly.
"Yes ma'am. Lexi's graduating tonight and we'll use the weekend to figure out what we're taking with us."
"Come by the house to say bye before you go," she said.
"I was planning on it. I'll bring your Tupperware back." I smiled and turned to walk toward the cash register.
"Tell your sister I said congratulations," Mrs. Williams called after me. I gave her a nod and a wave from over my shoulder before greeting the customer who was waiting patiently. I could hear Rita and Nathan saying their goodbyes as I absentmindedly completed the transaction.
The rest of my shift passed quickly. I was scheduled to get off at 4pm, and besides the cake Mrs. Williams had brought, I didn't expect for anyone to make a big deal about it being my last day. It didn't happen that way.
About an hour before I got off, most of the employees who weren't working started showing up—all except for Zack and Drew Callahan who were both still finishing up their semester at the University of Washington.
I entered the break room to find them all gathered around a table full of snacks. Mrs. William's chocolate lava cake was sitting in the middle like a centerpiece with plates full of chips, crackers, and cheeses spread out around it.
Jerry peeked his head in to see my reaction to the surprise. He gave me a hearty pat on the shoulder, but said he had to stay out front and tend to the customers. He made me promise to save him some snacks.
"I don't know what to say!" I said while smiling at everyone.
"We're so sad to see you go," Cindy Callahan said crossing the few feet of space between us to give me a hug.
I reached out to hug her back. "I'm sad to say goodbye," I said honestly. "I can't believe it's already here."
"It seems like yesterday you told us about your plans," she said, "and that was, what, six months ago?"
"Just about," I agreed.
"Zack and Drew both said they wish they could be here," she said crossing over to the table to start the plate-making process. "Zack's graduating next weekend, so they just decided to stay up in Seattle until after graduation is over."
It wasn't a surprise to me that Zack was graduating this semester, but hearing her mention it just reminded me that it had been four whole years since we graduated high school. Zack Callahan was already done with his college degree and I hadn't even taken one single class.
"I think we should give her the gift," Georgia said from the far side of the table. "I have to get home to meet Michael when he gets off the school bus."
"That's a good idea," Cindy said, putting down the cake knife she was holding.
I glanced around but didn't see any sign of a gift. For whatever reason, the thought of receiving a gift made me feel nervous and embarrassed, and I took a shaky breath as I watched Cindy take an envelope out from under one of the trays of crackers. She extended it to me.
"We all went in together on this," she said. "We thought it's what you could use most."
I started to say something, but couldn't think of the words to string together to make a sentence. Instead I just took the envelope and began opening it. I glanced around shyly as I slid out the card and pretended to read the front. I thought it said something about everyone missing me, but I was too nervous to take it in.
I opened it to find that there was a bank envelope inside. I could only see the corner of the money, but I saw enough to notice that there was a hundred-dollar-bill on top.
Cindy reached out to stop me from inspecting it. "We all went in together on that," she repeated. "You can go through it when you get home."
I closed the card and regarded them all with an overwhelmed but grateful expression. "I can't believe you guys did this," I said.
"We knew your mama wasn't gonna be any help," Georgia said.
Cindy looked at her with a shocked expression, but everyone knew I did more supporting of my mother than vice versa, and Georgia had always been one to speak her mind. The comment didn't hurt my feelings at all. In fact, I was glad for the excuse to laugh since I'd been feeling overwhelmed by their generosity.
"I've gotta run sweetheart," Georgia said reaching in for a hug.
"Make a plate for yourself and Michael before you go," Cindy said, resuming her position as cake-cutter.
Everyone went to work making themselves a plate as I slipped off to stash the card in my purse. There seemed to be at least ten bills in that stack and I wondered as I put it away if all of them were hundreds or if that was just the one on top. I almost opened it to check, but I decided to just put it away instead.
"Here's one last thing," Mr. Callahan said, handing a small, wrapped box to me as I returned to the table.
My eyes widened.
"That's already too much!" I insisted.
"Okay," he said. He pretended to put the box in his pocket as if he wasn't going to give it to me.
"Aww, never mind, never mind," I said, giggling. I motioned with my hand for him to hand it over, and he did so with a hearty laugh.
"I know what that is," Nick said. "I helped him pick it out."
I glanced at Nick who smiled proudly as he watched me open it.
I knew what it was the second Mr. Callahan handed it to me—I could tell by the size and weight of the box that it was a pocketknife. We had a big selection of them at the store. I had always had a particular fondness for them, and could often be found looking at them or rearranging them when we weren't busy.
"It's that Benchmade you've had your eye on," Nick announced before I even had the chance to remove the wrapping paper. Everyone glanced at him for giving it away, but he didn't seem fazed. "It's that Summit Lake one you've been wanting," he said unable to contain his excitement.
I excitedly finished unwrapping it, and lo and behold, there it was in all its glory. I had four other pocketknives, but this was by far the nicest one in my collection. I opened the box to inspect the beautiful wood handle for a second before reaching out to hug Mr. Callahan.
"I love it so much!" I said. "Thanks everybody!"
"That's from Nathan and Cindy," Georgia said, chomping on a cracker. She crossed the room to give me a sideways hug as she balanced a plate full of snacks in one hand. "Take care of yourself, sweetheart," she said. "We're rooting for you."