10/29/10

Fiction Friday: CURVE BALL

The Book of Qualities by Ruth Gendler is a real book of short essays and it’s a treasure. I edited the selection down to avoid copyright infringement. Kyle’s essay about Alienation is by me.

I’m not an artist at all, but I had fun dreaming up what the kids may have painted.

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Chapter Nineteen

Cami leaned forward in her seat to look at Grant in the dugout. He had a smile on his face while pantomiming some exercises for an outfielder. During their lunch with Joe and his wife, Joe had reminded Grant that injured or not, he was expected to attend the home games. Grant said he planned to be there all along. They had a leisurely meal together, arriving at the stadium in time for the team meeting and warm-ups. Cami now sat in the stands with Joe’s wife, Ellen.

“I really enjoyed our lunch,” Ellen said. “I was astonished when Joe came home and said we were going out with you and Grant.”

“I had a good time, too,” Cami said. “Why were you surprised, do you not socialize with the team much?”

“No, it’s not that. Joe has tried to reach out to Grant, to be a friend, and he’s made it clear he’s not interested.”

“That doesn’t sound like Grant. He’s friendly and open with everyone.” Cami sipped her iced tea and watched the visiting team take the field to warm up.

“He’s always cordial,” Ellen said. “But Joe takes his position as a veteran player and a Christian seriously. He’s invited Grant to Bible studies and prayer groups. Grant always refused.”

“Now that doesn’t surprise me. God is chasing Grant who’s working hard to ignore Him. I’m convinced God is using this injury to get Grant’s attention. I said as much to him right after it happened, but my timing was bad. He didn’t want to hear it.”

Delia entered their row and began working her way past knees. She paused when she came to Ellen and Cami.

“Hello.” Delia’s voice was flat.

“Hi, Delia.” Cami made sure there was no hint of triumph in her tone.

Delia continued past them and settled into a seat next to her sister. They whispered together and ignored Cami and Ellen.

“What’s that about?” Ellen asked.

“Speaking of Grant being open and friendly, Delia wouldn’t take his hints that he wasn’t interested. He finally called her a few days ago and left her no way to misunderstand or pretend ignorance.”

“I wish I’d been a fly on that wall. She’s been trying to snag a Coyote for a couple of years now. I’m sure she thought she had a live one in Grant.” Ellen settled back in her seat as the announcer began welcoming fans and the opening pitch was thrown.

For the next few hours, Ellen and Cami confined their conversation to baseball. Every so often, Grant would search the stands to make eye contact with Cami. He would grin and she returned a wave and a reflecting smile.

During the seventh inning stretch, Delia followed Grant’s gaze to rest on Cami. Delia flipped some blonde hair over a tan shoulder and turned her attention to the good-looking fan in the row below.

Grant must have seen Delia’s flounce because he wiped some imaginary sweat off his brow as his eyes held Cami’s. She laughed. Who knew you could share an intimate moment in the middle of a sold-out stadium?

The following week, Cami stood in the middle of the rec center art room, preparing the students for a new project.

“Let’s get started,” she said as Kyle slid around the corner from the hallway with Anthony right behind. “I’m going to read from The Book of Qualities by Ruth Gendler. She takes a character trait and personifies it. In ‘Courage,’ she says, ‘Courage has roots. She sleeps on a futon on the floor and lives close to the ground.’” Cami paused. She had used this book once before in enrichment classes and this was the line that grabbed their attention.

“ ‘Courage looks you straight in the eye.’”

Cami looked up from the book and smiled. “What do you think?”

Tara’s hand was first in the air. “What book is that again?”

“It’s called The Book of Qualities. We’re going to read more of the essays, but let’s talk specifically about this one first, Courage. What are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree?”

Another girl spoke up. “I liked the idea of Courage being a real person. My sister moved to New York City and she sleeps on a futon in a friend’s loft while she tries to find an acting job. I think that takes courage.”

For the next half hour Cami read more of the poetical essays about qualities. She read Pleasure, Contentment, and Doubt. Then she asked them to brainstorm how the qualities should look, what colors exemplified courage and contentment. Then she assigned them a quality to paint. She gave choices between Courage, Alienation, and Joy. The students worked quietly until the time was up. Then the room came alive with adolescent bantering, water running, and paint lids snapping on.

Kyle, Anthony, and Tara stopped to say good-bye.

“Thanks for getting us in touch with Mr. Andrews,” Tara said. “Kyle’s doing a phone interview with him tomorrow.”

“That’s great.” The students turned to leave when a question struck Cami. “By the way, how did your SUV article turn out?”

“Great.” Anthony said. “I have a copy of it somewhere.” He opened his backpack, pulled out a three-ring notebook, flipped to a section with laminated articles, removed one and handed it to Cami.

She took it, swallowing her laughter. “You’re so organized, Anthony. I’m impressed.”

He shrugged. “I like to know where things are.”

Cami skimmed the article. The students were split about evenly in decrying the gas-hogs or defending the rights of citizens to drive them. “Interesting.” She handed the page back to Anthony.

“We had a long discussion about the whole issue at school the other day,” he said, snapping the notebook closed and replacing it in his backpack.

“It’s immoral to drive anything that costs more to fill up than dinner and a movie would be,” Tara said.

“Oh, brother,” Kyle said. “Are you going to say that everyone should drive an electric car? Where do you get the electricity? You know, some of it’s from fossil fuels, too.”

“For someone who claims to be a Christian, you don’t seem concerned with the state of God’s creation. What would Jesus drive?” Tara swung her bag over her shoulder.

“Are you kidding? He’d drive an SUV. He had twelve disciples to lug around, not to mention baskets of leftover fish and bread.”

The other kids still in the room erupted with laughter and Kyle slapped a victorious high five with Anthony before the trio left.

Shaking her head, Cami started her own cleanup. Sounds of students leaving the building echoed down the hallway. It was free skate day at the center and whenever the door banged open, she could hear snippets of the music blaring across the parking lot for the skateboarders and inline skaters.

She collected the paintings, setting them on the counters to dry. She’d have to come back tomorrow, before the martial arts class, to pick them all up.

She paused to look at Tara’s depiction of Courage. Interesting. A blue sea full of drab olive green fish swam through a matching kelp forest. A shadow could be seen in the back coming closer to the foreground. In the center of the forest, one bright orange fish stood out, a clear target.

Cami continued around the workstations, shuttling paintings in various stages of dryness to the counter. She picked out many of the artists with a glance at their canvas. Then one in particular drew her attention. Kyle’s.

All black. Except for the barest lightening into a dark gray in the very center. A piece of lined paper was taped to the back.

“If psychosis is the last stop on the bus line of humanity, alienation is the next to last stop. Many people get off in Alienation rather than continue to the end of the line. Holden Caulfield. Richard Nixon. Kurt Cobain. Alienation is a small town, but it manages to feel like a large city. People come and go without getting to know their neighbors. It’s not uncommon for someone to die in his or her apartment, and the neighbors don’t know until their noses can no longer deny it. Lots of people get off the bus in Alienation, but few get on, either to continue to the end of the line or to return to Hope.”

This was from Kyle? Those were some deep thoughts for a young man who should be concerned about what the cafeteria was serving for lunch instead of brooding about alienation.

Her cell phone rang, bringing her back to the room.

“Hello?”

“It’s Grant.” His voice ran through her ear and down her back until she shivered. “We’re invited to Joe and Ellen’s for an early dinner before the game. Can you come to Fullerton?”

She took a deep breath before answering. “I guess so. I’m done at the center. What’s their address?”

He rattled off numbers and a street name as she scribbled on a piece of paper. He was about to dictate directions too, but she stopped him.

“As long as I’ve got the address, I’ll get a map off the Internet. I’ll see you in about an hour.”

“Can’t wait.”

As they hung up, she marveled at how much better Grant sounded than even a few days ago. This new friendship with Joe had really turned Grant into an optimist. Although he still had pain and struggled with therapy, he was no longer fighting against the injury. He seemed to have made peace with it, even making it a partner, using it to become stronger.

She packed up files and reports into her backpack and took a seat in front of the classroom computer. The outside music had stopped. She checked her watch. The center was going to be locked soon. She tapped her foot while waiting for the PC to boot up, then directed the browser to a map-finding site. She consulted her note for the Spencer’s address: 3381 North Bond. As soon as she typed in the first digit, a dialogue box opened showing other addresses also beginning with a three that had been searched for on this computer.

She stared in disbelief at the screen. 392 Maple Street, Agua Vida. That was her address. Someone had searched for directions and a map to her house.

On this computer.

10/27/10

Woe! It’s Wednesday

I was going through some notes on my desk and I found a quote I’d written down from a Beth Moore video for her Believing God study.

Never argue with a Pharisee.

We can quibble about what makes a Pharisee, but I began to contemplate why it’s never a good idea to get sucked into an argument with some legalistic and presumptuous air bag.

And I got it.

Never argue with a Pharisee. You’ll both feel self-righteous and the Pharisee likes it.

Because you can’t change their mind and they are going to leave the discussion proud of the way they showed you all the data and the verses and the references and the citations to back up their opinion. They won’t hear one of your arguments, points, or references.

So it’s better to not even go there.

10/26/10

Book Talk Tuesday

Books to Movies

So Katherine Heigl is filming the first Stephanie Plum movie based on the books by Janet Evanovich. I’ve already blogged about who I think should play Stephanie (Sandra Bullock is the Jersey bounty hunter).

I have Sizzling Sixteen on my To Be Read stack and I’m looking forward to it. The books get livelier and more implausible with each outing, but I’m okay with that. I know what to expect, it won’t demand a lot from me, and I will have passed a few hours with a book. It’s all good.

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I recently saw Eat, Pray, Love. I reviewed the book a few years ago for this site and I enjoyed it. I loved the first third set in Italy. Except for Richard from Texas, I could have skipped the middle portion in India. The final section in Indonesia was excellent.

The movie version tried really hard, but it couldn’t quite capture Liz Gilbert’s wit and humor. So much of the book is her inner musings on life and love. She knows she’s whining, and she’s honest about her feelings and conflicts. I’m a Julia Roberts fan and I’m sure she and Liz could be friends. I’d be the loser on the outside of their clique, I’m sorry to say.

Anyway, the movie just didn’t quite do it for me.

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Ramona and Beezus was the movie. The book is Beezus and Ramona. Billing is everything, you know.

Whatever you call them, both the book and the movie are delightful.

10/22/10

Fiction Friday: CURVE BALL

One day I was mulling on my story here and I decided Grant needed a friend. Joe walked in, said, “Howdy,” and we got to work.

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Chapter Eighteen

Grant leaned his injured arm against the wall of the physical therapy clinic. Grimacing, he walked his fingers up the wall with all his weight on the bad shoulder. His therapist approached and Grant forced a grin. “Hi, Matt. How are you?”

“Good. How does that feel?”

“Fine.” Grant smoothed his mouth into an easy grin. He hoped.

“Then why is your face contorted?”

“Just thinking about how eager I am to get back to work.”

“If you push too hard and re-injure yourself, you’ll miss two seasons, not just this one.”

Grant sighed. “All right. What’s next?”

“Let’s see some range of motion. And stop as soon as you feel any pain.”

Grant stood in front of Matt and stretched his arm across his body. He gently pulled his right arm with his left. He moved it to the side, behind him and overhead.

Matt watched his face. “Now some pendulums.” Grant grasped a nearby chair-back and bent over, allowing his arm to hang straight down. He swung it back and forth several times, then in circles that grew in circumference with each rotation. Ten minutes later, Matt stopped him.

“Okay. Do these same exercises at home twice more today and come back tomorrow morning.”

“Thanks, Matt.” Grant gathered his belongings and headed to the parking lot.

It had been a rough few days. The pain was worse than he’d anticipated. He acted like it didn’t hurt, but he was pretty sure Matt had seen through his charade. Grant’s shoulder tightened with stress and it spread across his chest. His body had always obeyed his commands, running faster and throwing harder, doing whatever he asked of it. But now, his shoulder remained obstinately painful and stiff. Just when he needed it more than ever.

Well, at least there was one bright spot in his life: Cami. Since the evening after his surgery when he’d called Delia, Cami had been freer with her emotions, not so contained. This new side of her seemed comfortable with him, more at ease than at any time since they’d begun dating. And as she relaxed, his feelings grew proportionately. If he was crazy about her before, he now knew he was falling in love with Camille Henderson. Hopefully, it was mutual.

He arrived home where a green Camry sat in front of his house. Joe Spencer, a Coyote starting pitcher, got out.

“Hey, Grant. I was leaving you a note.”

“What’s up?”

“We got back into town last night, and I wanted to see how you were doing. What’s the doc think?”

“If it heals completely, I’ll be back next season. Great game against Dallas last week.”

“Thanks. We missed you there and in Seattle.”

“Hopefully it won’t be for long. The new shortstop seems to be pretty good.”

“Worried?” Joe stepped aside so Grant could lead the way up the narrow walk.

“Wouldn’t you be?” Grant answered over his shoulder.

“It’s different for pitchers. Coach has our replacements warming up in the bullpen right behind our backs. He had to call Fresno for yours.”

“I still don’t like it.” They reached the front door. “Want to come in?” Grant asked.

“For a minute.”

As Grant unlocked the door, he glanced at Joe. What was up? A few years older, Joe was a veteran starter, a nice guy, but not one of his close friends on the team. Locker room gossip said he was on his way out, either toward retiring or moving to relief. But so far this season, his arm had been as strong as ever and he’d won three of his last five starts. Joe also was one of the outspoken Christians on the team and let it be known that he was available if anyone ever had any spiritual issues. And he led a few of the other players in some sort of prayer group.

What if he wanted to pray for him? Could he say no without looking like a complete jerk?

“Coffee? Or something cold?” he offered once they were both inside.

“Coffee’s fine.” Grant went into the kitchen to brew a fresh pot while Joe looked around. He walked to the wall of windows along the back of the great room. “Wow. I love this view. Is that the Newport Beach Golf Course?”

“Yeah. Do you play?”

“Some. One of these days I’ll get serious.” They talked of courses they had played around the country while the room became redolent with Grant’s favorite French Roast. Once the coffee maker quit gurgling, Grant filled two mugs, handed Joe one and indicated he should take a seat. “So, what’s up?”

“You mean to what do you owe the honor of my visit?”

“Something like that. You’ve never dropped by before.” Grant sipped his coffee.

“I wanted to see how you were doing.”
“I’m fine.”

“I don’t mean in the surface way we usually ask that question. I want to know how you really are. Are you in pain? Angry about getting hurt, or depressed? Discouraged?”

“Why do you ask?” He was still puzzled by this visit.

“I guess I’m feeling guilty that I never took the time to get to know you before your injury.” Joe stood and faced the view again. “God has been nagging me to talk to you. To encourage you, if I can. And I’m tired of ignoring Him. He’s not going away.”

“Do you guys have secret codes for alerting each other when a doubter is in your area?”

“No, God badgers us until we give in. Like I did. So, how are you really feeling?” Joe dropped onto the couch.

The doorbell rang then, saving Grant from answering. He opened the door to find Cami on his front porch.

“Hi,” she said. “Do you have company? I don’t recognize the car out front.”

“Joe Spencer, from the team.” He tipped his head for her to follow him inside. “You met him at the opener party. He stopped by to see how I was doing.”

Cami shook Joe’s hand. “I’m glad to see you,” she said. “I wondered why more of Grant’s teammates haven’t called or visited since his injury.” She sat in the recliner.

“Some guys think injuries are contagious. Some feel they don’t know Grant well enough. And the rest of us are too busy or self-centered or whatever.”

“You think injuries are contagious?” She gave Joe one of those looks she got sometimes when she was concentrating hard.

“Ball players have their superstitions. You’ve heard of guys wearing the same socks all season, haven’t you?” Joe stretched his arm along the back of the couch.

“I guess I lead a pretty sheltered existence.” She raised one eyebrow, reminding Grant of Petey, head cocked, and waiting for his leash to snap on.

“I’ll start some hot water for tea for you,” Grant said. He returned to the kitchen, turned the stove on under the kettle and refilled his coffee mug. He leaned against the counter as he sipped his coffee, then tilted forward to turn the stove burner down. Just a little, to give him a couple more minutes in the kitchen and away from Joe and his questions.

“Grant!” Joe called.

Grant’s shoulders sagged. So much for a kitchen break. He went back into the great room where Joe stood, keys in hand, and Cami was almost bouncing on the sofa.

“Joe asked if you and I would like to go to lunch with him and his wife,” she said. “What do you think?”

The last thing he wanted to do today was to go out and pretend to be sociable with Joe Spencer. “Don’t you have to work?” he asked. “And what are you doing here, by the way? At this time of day?”

“I’m doing the finishing touches in your office. And that’s the beauty of being self-employed. I give myself permission to go to lunch with Joe and his wife. What about you?”

“I don’t know. I’ve got therapy to do.”

“Haven’t you already been to your appointment?”

“I’ve been assigned home exercises, too.” How many excuses could he come up with?

“How long will they take?” She looked so fresh and clean with her hair pulled back, her tan face and green eyes watching him. Maybe a lunch with the Spencers wouldn’t be so bad.

“About ten minutes,” he said.

She laughed. “Yes, we can meet you for lunch, Joe.”

“Great. We’ll see you around noon then? At Le Bistro. I’ll let myself out.” The door clicked shut behind him as Cami looked at Grant.

“What’s the matter?” she asked. “You acted like his being here was a hassle.”

“I don’t know what it is. I felt… cornered.”

“Cornered? By someone caring about you?” She sounded confused.

“I know it sounds crazy, but I was uncomfortable.” He looked back toward the kitchen. Maybe he shouldn’t have turned the kettle down. A whistle could summon him out of here.

“You know what I think it is?”

“What?”

Cami rose from the couch and walked to where Grant stood. She put her hands on his hips. “You’re used to being the caring one in a relationship. And you don’t know how to behave when you have to accept someone else’s comfort. Either that or you’re depressed.”

“That sounds like something Doctor Phil would say.” Although the words came out easily, his breath didn’t. Except for the night she confided in him about her date rape, this was the first time she’d initiated physical contact. She did trust him. Not just with her thoughts and feelings, but with her physical safety. This was a huge step for her. He wanted to hug her close, but forced himself to lightly touch her shoulder.

“You really are depressed,” she said. “If you’re watching Dr. Phil in the afternoon, we’ve got to find you a hobby.”

“I was thinking earlier how much I’m enjoying this new easier side of you. But now I’m not so sure, not if you feel free to point out my flaws. I think I liked it better when you were ambivalent.”

“You know the old adage, ‘Be careful what you wish for.’ You’ve got me now. For better or for worse.”

“Really?” He took a half step back, to look her full in the face, which had already flushed pink from her neck to her forehead.

“That slipped out. I didn’t mean I wanted to marry you. Of course, you haven’t asked. Not that I’m expecting you to. Or want you to. Not that I don’t want you to. I mean-”

Grant laughed. “It’s all right. I know what you meant. That you are now fully committed to this relationship. And if it leads to something more permanent in the future, that’s great. But for now, we’re both in the same place. For the first time.”

She smiled. “You know the right thing to say when I’ve completely mortified myself. I have to start thinking about the words I use before they’re out of my mouth.”

“Please don’t. I like your goofy speeches.” He did a Groucho Marx eyebrow waggle.

She pulled away and sat on the couch. “Getting back to what we were talking about, the other explanation for your indifference towards Joe is that God is moving in your life. And that’s always painful. Believe me, I know.”

“You’re full of theories, aren’t you?” He sat in the easy chair and reclined just as the teakettle finally made some noise.

“Yes, I am. Hey, the team’s back for a home stand. Can I go with you to the game tonight?”

The reminder of the Coyotes playing without him hit like a towel snap to the gut. “I’m not sure I’m going.” He played his thumb along the stitching on the chair arm.

“You really are depressed, aren’t you?” She leaned forward and he could feel her gaze. He kept his attention on the regular bumps of thread on top of the leather.

“I don’t feel like answering a bunch of questions or hearing any sympathy. I don’t even want to have lunch with Joe and Ellen.”

“You’re afraid he’s going to pity you? For being injured?”

“Something like that.” The gentle whistle from the kitchen grew shrill but he ignored it.

“Grant Andrews, I don’t know what’s going on.” She stood and approached again, bobbing her head to see his eyes. “But I do know that you love baseball, and if you don’t want to go watch your team play, something is very wrong. Should I call my pastor? Or find you a counselor?” She waited in front of him.

“No.” A crushing weight kept him in the chair.

“You’re scaring me.” Her voice was faint.

“I’m scaring myself.”

She took his hand and held it tight as the piercing whistle from the kitchen echoed between them.

10/20/10

Woe! It’s Wednesday

“Adult” content has never been more available and more readily seen by so many.

Smoking, drinking, R-rated movies, Three’s Company, and dating were all kept from the kids until it was deemed they were ready for “the real world.” That wall was smashed years ago. Our children, adolescents, tweens, and young adults are exposed to more stuff than at any time before.

You’d think that means they grow up sooner. But I’m not so sure.

Yes, they’re more aware of sex, and the opposite sex, and vices that used to be off limits for kids.

And that knowledge has made them almost world-weary. They aren’t naive. They aren’t innocent.

But instead of growing up more quickly, I think it’s delayed their maturing into adults.

Of course, this is a gross generalization and I’m sure there are lots of very mature young adults. I know I raised two of them.

But in many of their contemporaries and the offspring of my friends, I see lots of Gen-Xers and Gen-Yers who don’t want to finish their education. They can’t get a job that pays a living wage and they’re okay with it. They know they will still have a bed at Mom and Dad’s.

We’ve given kids a boat-load of adult fare and kept them perpetual teenagers.

That’s my rant for the day.

10/19/10

Book Talk Tuesday

I’ve often said that I don’t care for historical novels and don’t read them much. It’s true that I don’t seek them out, (except for Liz Curtis Higgs’ books) but I have read a fair amount of them recently for review. And they’ve been good. I’ve enjoyed them.

I finally put a finger on why I thought I didn’t like them.

When the author interrupts the narrative flow of the story to teach me something, I don’t like it. That seems to be a failing of historicals in general.

But all of these were good.

Whisper_on_the_Windsm

Whisper on the Wind by Maureen Lang.

I had no idea until I just went looking for a photo of the cover to insert that it was second in a series. It’s set in Belgium during World War I and kept me reading and interested.

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herabundantjoy.jpg

Her Abundant Joy by Lyn Cote is set in Texas in the dawn of statehood. There are compassionate and protective Texas Rangers, beautiful and wounded widows, and true love. It’s the final in a series. I had not read any of the other books and was able to figure out what was going on and to keep the characters straight.

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stillhousepond.jpg

Still House Pond by Jan Watson is a gentle story that reminds the reader that even the “simpler times,” weren’t so simple and that God is sovereign and trustworthy.

 

 

 

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The Homecoming by Dan Walsh is set in WWII. It’s a simple tale of love, loss, and life that continues in spite of the grief.

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I’m now not so quick to dismiss a historical as something I don’t read because of these books and others like them.

10/15/10

Fiction Friday: CURVE BALL

My husband once had to call a woman who had been flirting with him and ask her to stop. He made the call in the presence of his supervisor. Now that’s a man worth keeping.

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Chapter Seventeen

Cami jogged until Petey saw the figure on the towel. He skidded to a stop in the sand. The hair on his back rose and he growled hoarsely, from deep in his throat. She tugged on the leash but he refused to follow.

“What’s wrong with you?” She looked ahead at the person on her towel. “Petey, it’s Paige. Come on.” The dog seemed focused on someone else, someone farther down the shore. She pulled again and the dog capitulated. Paige stood as they approached. The other person turned and jogged away. Petey must have gotten confused.

“I thought this was your stuff. I recognized your car in the parking lot.”

“What are you doing here?” Cami asked.

“Lunch meeting at the cafĂ©. What’s your excuse? Isn’t Grant’s surgery today?”

“Yes.” Cami paused, but decided not to elaborate.

“Why aren’t you at the hospital?”

“His mom is there. She called me after the surgery. I’ll go see him tonight.”

“Non-responsive. The question was why are you here, and not there?”

“Honestly, Paige. You make it very difficult to …”

“To what? Lie?”

“Be evasive.”

Paige laughed. “What are you trying to evade?”

“Nothing. At least I hope it’s nothing.” She sat down so she wouldn’t have to meet Paige’s eyes. “When I got to the hospital, Delia had beaten me there. And I really didn’t want to share a waiting room with her.”

“I don’t want to share a planet with her, much less a small, confined place. What did Grant have to say?”

“I didn’t wait to find out. I picked up Petey and came here. I’ve been thinking, praying, and writing in my journal.”

“What are you thinking about?” Paige sat next to her, brushing sand off her calves.

“What God is doing.”

“What do you mean?”

“I haven’t had a relationship with any man except my dad and brother in years. Then God brings this great guy into my life and I don’t know what to do. Or think. I really care for Grant, but we’re both carrying some burdens. I’ve got the past, he’s got the present.”

“Have you talked to him about it?”

“A little. He blows it off, says we’ll work it out.”

“Here is a great guy who is wild about you and willing to do what it takes to be a part of your life and you’re not sure? Do you realize how crazy you sound?”

“I know. I do, really. But…What if…” She dragged a finger through the sand, drawing a circle inside a circle inside another circle.

“What if what?”

“What if God brought him into my life to wake me up? And I’m misreading it to be something more?”

“That might be true if Grant wasn’t interested in a relationship, but he is. I think it’s clear that God is behind this whole thing.”

“Okay, that’s another thing. God. Grant isn’t a Christian. Or at least not one who’s interested in growing in his faith. And I would never counsel a friend to get involved with someone who wasn’t on the same spiritual plane.”

“That’s the first valid point you’ve raised.”

“And what do you think?”

“Me? What do I know? I haven’t had a date since I took my nephew to see the last Winnie-the-Pooh movie. Sorry, girlfriend. You’re on your own with that one.” Paige got to her feet and picked up her leather satchel. “I’ve got to get to the cafe. Call me later and let me know how Grant’s doing, okay?”

Cami waved good-bye and moved to her beach chair. Petey remained standing and watched Paige walk to the parking lot. His tail slowed its wagging until it was a gentle sway.

Cami put the journal and pen back into her bag and pulled out the latest Dee Henderson thriller. She stretched in the sun. Petey flopped beside her and began snoring in two minutes flat.

Cami pulled into Grant’s driveway for the second time that day. She’d spent most of the afternoon at the beach, returning home for a quick shower and to change into shorts and a peasant top. Peg had called saying Grant was eager to see her, so she’d agreed to come by after dinner.

She rang the bell and heard footsteps approaching.

“I’m so glad you’re here,” Peg said as she opened the door. “He’s been asking for you.”

“How’s he feeling?”

“Not too bad. Better living through pharmaceuticals, you know.” Peg closed the door and they moved into the great room. Grant was in the recliner with a sling around his shoulder.

“If you’re okay, I’m going home,” Peg said to her son. “I’ll be back in the morning.”

“Thanks, Mom.”

She let herself out as Cami sat on the overstuffed couch. “Are you in much pain?”

“It’s secondary to what’s really bugging me.”

“What’s that?”

“I hear you came to the hospital and let Delia run you off.”

“She was the last person I expected to see and it totally threw me.”

“You thought I wanted her there?”

“The thought crossed my mind. A part of me knew better, but I still reacted by running.”

He winced as he shifted in the chair to face her. “Cami, what will it take for me to convince you that it’s you I care about? Not Delia.”

“I don’t know. I felt stupid letting her get to me, but I couldn’t sit there with her smirking, thinking she had outsmarted me in some contest for your affection.”

“I may be a lot of things, but I’m no trophy.” He reached out to Cami where she sat and took her hand in his. “And I hate that Delia has made me into some prize that she’s competing for.”

She traced a finger around his knuckles. “I’m pretty sure she could kick my fanny in almost any contest of womanly wiles. I don’t know how to dress like her, or move like her, or -”

“If I wanted someone like that, I’d be dating Delia. Part of what I like about you is that you’re different.”

“Can I ask how she ended up at the hospital? She said she drove you there.” Cami looked up, meeting his gaze.

“That’s an exaggeration. She did come here this morning with a limo. She claimed the team had asked her to escort me.”

“They didn’t?”

“She changed her story when an assistant coach with the real limo arrived right behind her. I rode with them, but she must have tagged along.” He leaned back, releasing her hand.

“I should have realized it was something like that. I guess I don’t think that manipulatively. Can you forgive me for running?”

“Miss Henderson is asking my forgiveness?”

“Don’t push it, or she’ll change her mind.” She settled back on the couch, jiggling her legs loose from the sticky leather.

“Of course I do. But you should know me better than that. In fact, that’s the only thing that really concerns me. I thought you trusted me, but a part of you believed Delia.”

So he had seen it. The truth she’d barely acknowledged to herself. “I’m sorry.”

“I’ll have to keep working on that – getting you to trust me.”

“How are you feeling? What did the doctor say?” Maybe a change of subject would help her pounding heart to slow.
“I’m trying to take only enough drugs to keep the pain dulled. I have an appointment with a physical therapist tomorrow.”

“So soon?”

“Yep. I need to get back to work as quickly as possible. They’ve called in a rookie from our farm team in Fresno. He’s good. Too good, so I’ve got to heal before he takes my job. And I know what you’re doing.”

“What?” She feigned an innocent tone.

“You’re changing the subject so I’ll forget we were talking about you trusting me.”

She flushed. “You’re good.”

“I am the Slugger. Now, please hand me the phone and the directory under it.”

She complied. He tried to juggle both, but ended up handing the phone back to her while he looked up a number. He mumbled it to himself as he dialed and took possession of the receiver again. She could hear the soft ring as the connection was made, then a woman’s voice answered.

“Delia. It’s Grant.”

If Petey were there, his ears would have pricked up. Cami’s ears couldn’t swivel like a dog’s, but they did go on full alert. She could hear the pleased tone of Delia’s voice, but Grant interrupted her.

“I called to tell you that I’m seeing someone and I want you to respect that.” Cami heard silence, then the voice continued with a different timbre to it. Grant spoke into the receiver while looking into Cami’s eyes. She tried to look away, but couldn’t. His gaze held hers like iron filings on a magnet.

“I’m not interested.” His manner was firm. More silence, then a click. Grant placed the receiver in its cradle. “I don’t know what else to do, except spell it out. And hope she understands plain speaking, because she sure wasn’t picking up any of my hints.” Grant took her hand once more. “I hope you will never feel threatened again by Delia or anyone else.”

Her grip tightened. “I won’t.”

10/1/10

Fiction Friday: Curve Ball

I love the internet and technology. I set this to post 4 weeks ago from home. I’m currently in Maui. And I’m sure I’m enjoying every minute of it!
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Chapter Sixteen
Cami started and sat straight up in bed. The shadowy outline of her dresser and the gray beyond the window meant it was early, earlier than she usually got up. What woke her? Oh yeah. The alarm. She flopped back onto the bed and rolled over with a groan to turn it off. While eating nachos with Grant the previous evening, she’d had the bright idea of surprising him with a ride to the hospital. Forgetting how early she’d have to get up.
She rolled out of bed. Have to keep moving to stay awake. Don’t let the brain know the body is up.
She quickly showered and dressed, smiling with anticipation. The look on Grant’s face when she showed up on his porch would be worth getting up before the birds.
An hour later, the sun was peeking over the San Gabriel Mountains as she parked in front of Grant’s house. She’d wanted to bring bagels as he had done for her, but he couldn’t eat before surgery. She sat in her car for a moment, watching an orange globe inch its way above the horizon. No matter what was going on in the world, you could always be sure the sun would come up the next day.
“God, I wish I knew how to get through to Grant that you are in control. Help him to trust you instead of himself and the doctors. Give me wise words to say and caring things to do.”
She finished the Irish Breakfast tea in her travel mug and put it in the back seat so it wouldn’t remind Grant of his inability to eat or drink.
She rang the doorbell and listened for his step inside. Silence. After a moment, she rang again. His Volvo wagon was in the driveway, pulled up close to the garage, so the Corvette had to be still inside.
She glanced at her watch, wondering. It was not quite seven; he had to be at the hospital by seven-thirty. She’d been sure she would be in time to catch him before he drove himself. One more peal of the bell. Still quiet.
She returned to her Tahoe and sat for a moment, considering what to do. She could go back to Agua Vida. But she’d already arranged to take the day off. It was too early to go put the clear coat on the insurance office mural. She could call Paige and go to breakfast.
But she wanted to be with Grant. His house key, hanging with the others from her ignition, beckoned her. She could poke her head in, call his name, make sure he was gone, not oversleeping.
A minute later she returned to the car, her hands shaking. No one had answered her “Yoo hoo,” when she unlocked the door. Orca sat in the middle of the foyer, tail lashing behind him, obviously trying to scare her.
It worked.
She started the car and headed to Anaheim Hills Medical Center.
“Can I help you, miss?” The blue-haired volunteer addressed Cami from behind a low desk.
“I’m looking for Grant Andrews, he’s having arthroscopic surgery today. I’m a friend of his. I was going to bring him, but I guess I got there too late….” Her voice trailed off.
The woman’s fingers flew over the keyboard in front of her. “Ride the elevator to the third floor, turn right and there’s a waiting room for friends and family at the end of the hall up there. There should be a volunteer nearby, tell her who you’re waiting for.”
Cami entered the waiting room a few minutes later and stopped. Heat crept up her neck.
Delia sat leafing through a glossy magazine. She glanced up and a look of triumph spread across her face.
“Hi. Cami, isn’t it? It’s so great that you could come. I’ll be sure and tell Grant you stopped by. He was saying on the ride here that he didn’t think anyone except me would be able to come. It’s so sad, isn’t it, when people have to go through things like this with no friends or family to support them? That’s why I rearranged my schedule for today, so I could be here for Grant.”
“You …” Cami cleared her throat. “You rode here with Grant this morning?”
“I sure did. He was so cute when I got to his house. I was a little early and he had just gotten out of the shower.”
“I have to go.” Cami turned and hurried down the hall. Now what? She stabbed the elevator call button. Taking a deep breath, she stared up at the arrows over the double doors, willing the one pointing down to light up.
Did he really want Delia here? She couldn’t exactly stop the surgery to ask Grant himself. And she couldn’t wait with Delia, she couldn’t.
Two bells rang signaling elevator arrivals. Cami stepped into one as Peg Andrews got off the other.
“Cami!” Peg saw her. “I’m so glad you’re - ” The elevator door shut, cutting off the rest of her sentence. Cami caught a glimpse of Peg’s confused expression, a reflection of her own look in the elevator door.
Once in her car and headed back to Agua Vida, the hot tears came. “What is going on?” she yelled at Grant in her imagination, seeing his smug expression. “I thought we… I can’t believe you… and Delia.” Her cell phone interrupted her rant.
“Hello?” She didn’t take her eyes off the road to read the calling number.
“Cami, it’s Peg.”
“Hi.” She kept her voice cool.
“Oh, honey. I couldn’t believe it when I walked into the waiting room and saw Delia there. I know what a shock that must have been for you.”
“I was a little surprised of course, but Grant is free to have whomever he pleases at the hospital. It was foolish of me to think I should be there.”
“I know Grant would rather have you here. I can’t get a straight answer from Delia about how she ended up bringing him. I’m sure it wasn’t his idea. Where are you?”
“On my way home.” To smother the embarrassment with a big serving of french toast.
“Can you come back?”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Will you promise to not be angry at Grant until we find out what’s going on?”
“I feel humiliated.” Saying it out loud didn’t help.
“I’ll talk to Grant as soon as I can. I know he’ll want to call you. But if he can’t, I will. We’ll get to the truth.”
“Okay. I won’t be mad until I’ve heard from you or him.” Even saying the words was tough, keeping the promise would take some work. She raised her hand to shield her eyes from the sun glaring into the car as she drove south on the 73.
“Thank you. The doctor rang up to the waiting room before I called to say they were getting started. It’s not a long procedure, so we should know something soon.”
“Call me when you can.”
After disconnecting, Cami changed lanes and considered getting off the freeway. She let her foot off the gas. But remembering Delia’s victorious smirk, she pressed the accelerator instead.
After a quick stop at home to change and pick up Petey, Cami headed to the beach. Since she already planned to take the day off it would be nice to soak up some sun and just think. She had a lot of that to do. And as enticing as the thought of eggs with chiles was, this would be more productive. Hopefully.
She spread a beach towel out and flipped open a folding chair. Dropping into it, she stared into the horizon, watching the ocean fade in brilliance as it got closer to the sky. It was still early enough that she had the beach to herself except for an occasional jogger. She pulled her journal out of her tote bag, opened it, and began writing.
I’m sitting on the beach wondering what God is up to. Why would He bring Grant into my life when I was doing okay without him? Things are complicated in a way they never were before. I knew what I was doing and why. I’m a painter, a Christian, a daughter, a friend. Now, I’m confused and am having feelings I’ve never had before.
And weird things are happening. It all started when Grant came back into my life. Is a relationship with him worth the changes? I was happy and content. Though, I’m even happier when I know I’m going to be seeing him. Okay, the pros and cons of having him in my life. Pro’s: He’s great. He’s fun, thoughtful, kind. He’s a nice guy and I don’t know many nice guys any more. He cares for me. He cares for his family. He knows how to change flat tires. He says he can cook, though I haven’t yet experienced it myself. Cons: He has a cat.
Cami looked up from her writing to smile at Petey. He stretched in the sun, buried his nose in the sand, and inhaled deeply. Contentment showed in his shoulders as he wiggled to make a niche.
But he likes Petey. And Petey likes him. That’s a definite pro. Okay, more cons: he has a public life that attracts more women than a two-for-one sale at Nordstroms. And women like Delia are hard for me to deal with. If I choose to be involved with him, that public life comes with expectations of me. Like appearance and where I work. Teaching and painting are okay, but only as a volunteer, and if I concentrate on something like literacy. I might be exaggerating that. I’ll have to ask some more questions. Another con is he’s not as interested in spiritual matters as I am. But I do see God working in him. I may be a little further along in my spiritual life than he is. But, if I were talking to a student, I’d tell her to not get involved with anyone who wasn’t on the same spiritual path. And Grant and I are definitely not. Am I being hypocritical if I don’t do what I tell others to do?
Her ringing cell phone interrupted Cami’s thoughts.
“Hello?”
“It’s Peg. Grant is out of surgery. It went well, the doctor is happy with it.”
“That’s great. How is he feeling?”
“Uhmm…”
“What? Was there more damage? Or did something go wrong?”
“No, it’s not that. One thing you should know about my son: he’s a wimp when it comes to pain.”
“What are you talking about? He’s a professional athlete. He throws his body around for fun.”
“I know. He’ll dive into the field after grounders, then whine about a splinter.”
Cami laughed. “I don’t believe it.”
“Just wait. Anyway, he’s taken some pretty strong pain medication and I didn’t have a chance to ask him about Delia.”
“Is she still there?”
“Oh, yes. But I insisted she stay in the waiting room, so she hasn’t seen him. I’ll tell her he’s fine, he’s sleeping, and I’ll be taking him home, so she might as well leave.”
“Should I call him later? At home?”
“Why don’t you come by early this evening? He should be feeling more like himself by then.”
“Okay. I’ll see you later.”
Cami pushed the button to end the call and tossed the phone into her bag.
“Come on, Petey. We need some exercise.” She snapped a leash onto the dog’s collar and they started down the shore at a brisk pace, her heart lightening with each stride.
A mile down the coast, she turned around and began the walk back to her chair. Petey’s tongue dragged but he’d easily kept up with her. As she got closer to her spot, she noticed she had company. There had been no one around when she left, but a few groups had now settled near her.
She narrowed her eyes, trying to bring her chair into focus.
She broke into a run.
Someone sat on her towel.