A cool breeze swayed the cottonwood trees on the main street of Newton. As the sun gradually drifted below the horizon and left behind a bright purple-red sky, kids and their parents walked home from Veterans Memorial Park, hand in hand. Older boys squirreled around on their bikes. A hot, humid Labor Day was behind them, and sweet iced tea or ice cream was waiting for them when they reached their homes.
Annie Tyler sat on her bed in her darkened bedroom and quietly cried. At twelve, she had lived through more than most of the other kids in town could have imagined. She had even thought she was making it OK. This afternoon, though, she had lost hope. Her mom and dad had always fought a lot, as long as she had known them. Both of them were heavily into beer and doing drugs, and she had spent much of her time trying to make peace between them. Today, her dad had thrown his clothes in a duffle and filled a couple of boxes with DVDs and CDs and slammed out of the house. She had run out behind him, crying, and had grabbed his arm, but he pushed her away. He swore at her, got in his old rusted-out Chevy and ripped out from the front of the house so fast he whipped gravel, and pieces of the flying rocks hardly missed her face.
Annie rushed back to the house, wanting to see her mom and to find out what had happened. Mom’s bedroom door was locked and she was screaming obscenities and throwing things around the room. Annie could tell that her mom was drunk and wouldn’t talk to her until the next day.
Annie wandered into the kitchen, tears flowing, so filled with sadness she could hardly think about anything. Even though Annie wasn’t hungry, she fixed a can of chicken noodle soup and took it back to her bedroom to eat. She kicked a pathway through the clothes and other piles of stuff on the floor, and flopped on the bed nearly spilling her soup.
Annie thought about all the kids she knew from school, all the kids she’d be seeing the next day. She dreaded seeing them, and although she said she hated them, in her heart she knew that, actually, she was jealous of them. They didn’t have to be afraid to go home every day after school was out, wondering what they would find when they walked in the door. She did!
She cried into her pillow. “God, I keep hearing from people that you’re real, and that you care what happens to people like me. Well, if you ARE real and if you DO care about me, bring my dad back, and make my mom and dad stop drinking. If you can.”
And as darkness fell over Newton, Annie, hugging her tear-stained pillow, fell asleep.
Cary Nolan stood beside the snow-covered grave. A bright-blue sky and hazy sun belied the cold, frosty morning, and a brisk breeze cut through Cary’s fleece jacket and made her shiver.
“I’ve decided to move to Newton to be closer to the kids. I’ll be only four hours away from here, James,” she said, “which is actually closer to them than a lot of the time when you and I were together.” She couldn’t help smiling at that thought. It seemed she was always heading off for one place or another. “I only wish I could be with you in heaven to watch your dreams come true.”
Cary and James had talked often about what the one might do without the other and how blessed the “leaver” would be. Heaven had been in James’ heart for most of his life, so Cary was happy for him that he was finally Home.
However, Cary wasn’t very happy for herself. She was now at loose ends. James had died of a heart attack only two weeks earlier, just after Valentine’s Day. The flowers were still scattered across the grave – irises, roses, and even a couple of gardenias were thrown into the mix simply because it was her favorite flower. She reached down and picked up a browned and crushed gardenia, smelled its faint, but still recognizable, fragrance, and put the remnants in her pocket.
Cary was in the process of finding a house in Newton. Mostly, she was leaving the choice up to her realtor. Once Mary called her with the final three options, Cary would pop over to make the final decision, write the contract, and begin the moving process. She had enough money from the insurance to buy a modest house and provide for her everyday needs. She was very content, financially.
“Well, Lord,” Cary said, as she turned her car out of the lane from the cemetery and into the busy highway traffic, “I’m sure you know what’s ahead for me. I want to be useful and a blessing in your Kingdom. You’ve never abandoned me before, so, as hard as this is, I don’t expect you’ll do so now as I enter this new phase of life.”
What Cary and Annie did not know was that they were going to be the answer to each other’s prayers.
The photo is no longer the one that will be used. An artist is working on it similarly, but not a true "me" picture, especially at that young age, instead of a few years further. I'm sharing the Prologue, because that truly begins the book. It won't be long before the book is published -- maybe two or three months. Thank you for your encouragement. Greatly appreciated.