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Authors: Karen Kingsbury

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BOOK: Take Two
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The conversation moved to matters at church — the current women’s Bible study, which was nearly finished with Thessalonians.
“Something in the middle of chapter 5 keeps staying with me.” Laurie folded her hands around her mug. “‘Be joyful always;
pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.’”

Kelly looked outside. The wind and rain were just as bad as before, with no signs of letting up.
Be joyful always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances.
She hadn’t done any of that lately. But then … when she was on a downturn like this, she never did. Between the kids and
keeping the house running, she didn’t have a minute to herself. Besides, she couldn’t spend the day grazing from one snack
to another and praising God at the same time. With her, it was one or the other.

Laurie stayed until Molly padded down the hallway, holding her worn blanky and rubbing her blue eyes. She stopped short when
she saw Kelly wasn’t alone. “Hi, Miss Laurie.”

“Hi, Molly.” Laurie’s eyes immediately softened. “You look just like my little girl did when she was your age.”

Molly smiled, not sure what to say. She went to Kelly. “Time to get up?” She yawned.

“Yes, sweetie.” Kelly held out her arms and Molly came to her, sliding up easily on her lap. Kelly kissed her blonde head.
“Is Macy still sleeping?”

“Mm-hmm. She’s more tired than me.” Molly jumped down and shuffled to the sofa a few feet away in the den. She curled up at
one end and brought her blanket to her face.

Laurie helped carry the mugs into the kitchen, and then hugged Kelly good-bye. “Call me if something changes. But really,
Kelly. Saturday. I’m planning on it.”

When her friend was gone, Kelly took the spot beside Molly and patted her lap. Molly climbed up and laid her head down on
Kelly’s shoulder. “I miss Daddy,” she muttered into Kelly’s sweatshirt.

“Me too.” She stroked Molly’s long hair. “He’ll be home tomorrow.”

From the other room, soft tired cries told them both that Macy was awake. “Sissy!” Molly was on her feet again, scrambling
toward the bedroom she shared with her sister. She looked over her shoulder as she ran. “Let’s do something fun, Mommy.”

Kelly pulled herself up and caught a glimpse of her reflection in the mirror that hung on the wall next to the TV. She looked
heavy and old and worn out. The rain was bringing her down, and she agreed with Molly. They needed something fun. Something
to take the edge off the loneliness and uncertainty, the fears about the movie, and the long stretches of days without a call
from Chase.

She grabbed another handful of M&Ms on the way to helping Macy up onto the toilet. Her youngest was dry, at least. A victory.

Back in the kitchen, Kelly took out a large mixing bowl and the bag of Nestlé chocolate chips she’d bought the day before.
“I have an idea.” She found a grin for her girls.

“Mmmm!” Molly jumped around and patted Macy on the head. “Yay, Macy, look! We’re gonna make cookies!”

“Cookie!” Macy put her hands straight up and danced in a circle with her sister.

That’s right
, Kelly told herself.
Chocolate-chip cookies. Something to make us feel good.

Rejoicing and praying could come later.

Today she would bake.

Five

T
HE
T
HANKSGIVING DINNER PARTY TOOK PLACE
at Katy and Dayne Matthew’s house high above the shores of Lake Monroe in Bloomington, Indiana. Bailey was home for a few
days — no classes or rehearsals — and Andi had used her parents’ frequent flyer miles to fly to California and be with her
parents. So at three o’clock on Thanksgiving Day Bailey found herself in the back-seat of her family’s Suburban headed for
the lake. A light snow swirled through the air, and a layer of threatening clouds hung over the afternoon. Something by Carrie
Underwood played in the background, but Bailey wasn’t listening. She was working too hard trying to shake the loneliness that
hung around her heart.

“Don’t you think it’s kinda weird?” Ricky was in the third seat, belted between Justin and Shawn.

“What’s that, honey?” Their mom shifted so she could see Ricky from the front passenger seat.

“Having Thanksgiving dinner somewhere else? It feels weird.”

“It does.” Shawn nodded, and Justin and BJ agreed.

“I mean, it’ll be fun,” Ricky grinned. “I love looking for eagles off their back porch, especially in the snow. But still
…”

Bailey agreed. She missed the routine and tradition of Thanksgiving at home, but she knew the reason.

“Like I told everyone a week ago … Dad has a game tomorrow.” Mom smiled. “Your father and I agreed we’d rather not spend the
day cooking.” She gave their dad a quick kiss on the cheek. “I think it was a great call.”

“Nice of the Matthews to ask us.” Dad looked in his rearview mirror at the six kids. “It’ll be a good change.”

“Yeah, except …” Ricky shrugged. “It wasn’t the same this morning without the turkey smell and the liver and neck and everything.”

The other boys laughed, and after a few seconds Ricky did too. They were still laughing when they turned into the Matthews’
long driveway. Bailey stared at the house and remembered a few years back when Dayne had been in the terrible car accident
in Los Angeles. Back then he was the biggest movie star in Hollywood, and with paparazzi chasing him, he’d lost control and
nearly been killed. During his recovery, Bailey and her family and everyone involved in Christian Kids Theater had come together
and completely made over this lake house. When Katy and Dayne returned to Bloomington, the house and yard were filled with
everyone who’d taken part in the work. The makeover had brought people together, and kids in CKT still talked about it.

They parked and piled out. Bailey took two of the four pumpkin pies — their contribution to the meal. Those and the bag of
rolls Ricky carried. With the entire Baxter family expected for dinner, Bailey figured there would be thirty-four people eating
turkey.

“Good thing the girls are bringing extra turkeys.” Her mom stepped aside and let Shawn rush ahead to get the door. “We’ll
need them for this group.”

“Yeah, for our group alone!” Ricky rubbed his stomach. “I could eat a whole drumstick.”

“You usually do.” Justin giggled and elbowed his younger brother.

“Okay, that’s enough.” Their dad came alongside Shawn as they knocked at the door. “No roughhousing today. Be Flanigans, and
be helpful.” He winked at them amid a host of “Yes, Dad” responses.

Now that she was older, Bailey loved watching her parents, the way they snuck kisses and hugs and still laughed every day,
and the way they set a high bar for her and her brothers. It was the sort of marriage and family life she wanted someday down
the road.

“The Flanigans!” Katy was the first to the door. She hugged Bailey’s mom and welcomed everyone else. “The football game’s
on in the den!”

“Can we go out back and look for eagles?” Ricky was already one step in that direction. “And watch football after?”

“Of course.” Katy laughed and led Ricky toward the back door.

“But don’t track snow into the house.” Their dad followed and lightly roughed up Ricky’s blond hair. “And don’t stay out too
long. It’s getting colder.”

Dayne entered from the other room and grinned at the group. “It’s not a party till the Flanigans are here, that’s what I always
say!” He gave their dad a solid hug with one arm. In the other he held a sleeping baby Sophie, who at five months was the
perfect mix of Katy and Dayne. Bailey took in the sight of him and smiled to herself. Dayne Matthews might’ve been brilliant
in the roles he played on the big screen. But no role had ever suited him as well as this one: husband and father.

Would that be her someday, married to an actor years after the two of them had lived out their onscreen dreams? Or would the
man holding her baby be a former football player, like her daddy? Bailey couldn’t picture what the future held, only the present.
She and Tim were still seeing each other. He was supposed to stop by for dessert later — an invitation Katy had personally
given him.

Bailey walked the pies into the kitchen where Ashley was placing potato pieces into a pot of boiling water. “Hey!” She looked
up and blew at a wisp of her bangs. “Happy Thanksgiving!”

“You too.” She set the pies down and moved closer. Out of all the Baxter sisters, Bailey was easily closest to Ashley. She
babysat for her, and back during her CKT days, Ashley had been at many rehearsals painting backdrops and pitching in with
the sets. “Where are the kids?”

“With Landon.” Ashley took another handful of potatoes and set them into the water. “He’s convinced Janessa loves football.”

Bailey laughed. In the other room she could hear her parents talking to Kari and Ryan, and beyond them there were other voices.
Luke and John Baxter’s and the rest of them. She noticed the frozen bags of peas sitting alongside the kitchen sink. “Need
help?”

“Not just yet. But stick around. I’m sure we’ll think of something.”

They talked for a few minutes about Ashley’s painting schedule and Bailey’s rehearsals. “I’ll be pretty busy until the show
closes mid-December.”

“I love
Scrooge
as a musical.” Ashley finished her job and put a lid on the pot. She turned to Bailey and wiped the back of her hand across
her forehead. “We’re all going. I think on opening night.”

Bailey felt a wave of nervousness, but it quickly passed. She’d played to full houses at every CKT opening night. This wouldn’t
be much different. “Tim’s doing great. I mean, sometimes I think he
is
Scrooge.”

Ashley’s eyes were kind, but they looked at her a little deeper than before. “How are things? You and Tim?”

“Good.” Her answer came a little too quick. She could tell from her expression that Ashley wanted a different answer from
the expected one. “It really is. I just wish …”

“You could stop thinking about Cody?”

Bailey felt something sad fill her eyes. “Yeah. I haven’t talked to him in weeks.”

“Your mom was telling me that.” A knowing look crossed her face. “You know why, right?”

“‘Cause of Tim.” She took in a slow breath. “Love’s so complicated.”

“Well said.” Ashley’s quiet laugh was that of someone who had been there. “Only by God’s grace did Landon and I find our way
together.”

“I can’t picture you two apart.”

“We almost let it go.” She looked out the window. Snow was falling harder now. “We would’ve regretted that the rest of our
lives. But even still we almost didn’t make it.” She looked at Bailey again. “Sometimes the most difficult path is the very
one we’re supposed to be on.”

“Hmmm.” She could’ve been talking about Bailey and Cody, for sure. “I keep praying, asking God to show me.”

“He will.” Ashley put her hand on Bailey’s shoulder. “In His time He’ll show you just what you need to know. I would only
add one piece of advice.”

“What?”

“Be looking. Because the kind of love God wants for us, the kind I have with Landon … That sort of love rarely happens twice.”

Bailey’s mom, Katy, and Ashley’s three sisters entered the kitchen ready to do their part to move the dinner along. Their
chatter ended the quiet moment between Bailey and Ashley.

Bailey opened the cans of black olives and poured them into one of the serving dishes. She was tossing the cans into the garage
recycling bin when from her back pocket she felt her cell phone buzz. Probably Tim texting her about what time he should stop
by. She paused on the steps of the garage and checked.

But the text wasn’t from Tim. Once again it was from Cody. Bailey felt her breath catch a little as she stared at the message
on her screen.

HAVEN’T TALKED TO YOU IN A WHILE … JUST WANTED TO WISH YOU AND YOUR FAMILY A HAPPY THANKSGIVING.

She hesitated, looking from his name to the message and back again. Andi had been talking to Cody almost daily, and she’d
told Bailey that Cody was spending Thanksgiving with his mom. Just the two of them. Andi might be Cody’s new friend, but Bailey
knew him better. She understood how difficult spending time with his mother was for him. His father hadn’t been in the picture
since he was a baby, and his mom had introduced him to drinking games when he was just fourteen. By the time he reached his
senior year in high school she was in prison on drug charges. She’d been out for several years now, deeply sorry for how she’d
let Cody down during his growing-up years and clean from drugs and alcohol as far as Bailey knew. But it was still difficult.
In the past Cody — and then in later years both he and his mom — had spent Thanksgiving with Bailey’s family. Cody had less
of a problem being with his mom when they were in a big group.

He had to feel lonely today, same as Bailey.

She exhaled and realized something: this must be the reason she’d felt down on the way to the Matthews’ house. She was missing
Cody. Whether she wanted to admit it or not, whether they had spoken only hours ago or not for the past few weeks … she missed
him.

The happy mix of voices continued on the other side of the garage door, but where Bailey was standing, a few feet from the
trash and recycling bins, it was cold and quiet. She tapped out a quick response.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO YOU AND YOUR MOM TOO. WE MISS YOU.

She leaned against the cool garage wall and waited, reading his message and hers twice more before the next text came through.

HOW’S TIM?

Anger stirred the muddy waters in Bailey’s soul. Couldn’t he at least tell her he felt the same way, that he missed her as
much as she missed him? The way he’d told her that day when she was on her way to rehearsal? He did miss her — he had to,
otherwise he wouldn’t have texted her.

She slid her phone shut in a rush and slipped it back into her pocket. They wouldn’t have any friendship at all until he could
see past her relationship with Tim. Cody had been her friend long before she started dating Tim. The fact that he continued
to let Tim come between them meant only one thing.

BOOK: Take Two
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