Monday, February 29, 2016

Return to the Hiding place//February 29th--Leap Day!

Guys. Okay, so I watched Return to the Hiding Place with my two of my sisters last night. Can I just say that I completely loved that movie? Like, I have a library copy and I'm planning on never returning it. Wait, I can't do that? Noooo!!!
Alright, I'll try to settled down. ;P But if you ever watch the movie, trust me, you'll understand. This past week I was telling my mom how much I wished a christian film-making company would produce a film set in the WWII era. This came after I survived waded my way through the movie Pearl Harbor. While it had some good moments, the majority of it was. . .not good. I mean, it was a war movie. From a secular POV. Rated PG-13. The cussing, the inappropriate scenes, all that. After I "finished" it, I went on and on about how much I wanted a Christian movie that had the same kind of action and history, but without all the negative influences.
Well, last night, I found that movie. Think Beyond the Mask, or Alone yet not Alone.  Pearl Harbor combined with Bonhoeffer. I honestly don't know how to adequately describe it.
Lats night after the movie was finished, my sister turned to me and she's like "You're going to tell all your friends about it, aren't you?" I was like "Haha, nope. I'm going to write a blog post about it." ;)
It's a great family movie, and we enjoyed it so much. As a caution, it is rated PG-13. There is some torture, and in one scene something that is implied is rather sickening. But through all the horror and chaos, the love of Christ shines through so beautify. Hope shines through the pain. And the salvation message is shared in a way that is just so clear. And all in all it's just a heart-wrenchingly beautiful movie. I cried, but that's not all so unusual. I tend to cry with a lot of movies. ;P However, my sister said it was the first movie where she actually got teary-eyed. And if you know my sister, that's extremely rare! And it just shows how much the movie could affect you. Seriously, it will change the way you look at a lot of things, and it will challenge you in your walk with the Lord.
So yeah. Just watch it and then tell me what you think.

Alright. . .now onto the real reason I was going to do a post today. (Yes, I did have a more normal post planned before the movie. ;P)
It's leap day! *leaps around the room* This day only comes once every four years, folks. Enjoy it. ;) And since  it's leap day, I thought it was fitting to include some facts about leap day. Some of them are rather strange, but hey, that's what makes them fun. . .right? Some of them made me laugh!  Like this first one. . .

1. In Ireland, the 29th of February is called Bachelors day, when women are allowed to propose to men. Queen Margaret of Scotland began the tradition in 1288. If a man refused the proposal, he would be fined a kiss, a silk dress or 12 pairs of gloves.

2. According to a tale dating back to fifth century Ireland, St Brigid complained to St Patrick that women had to wait too long for men to propose marriage, and so he decided that in a leap year, women could take the initiative. However, if some sources are to be believed, Brigid was still a girl when Patrick died, which would make her a very precocious child!

3.One in five engaged couples in Greece will plan to avoid getting married in a leap year. They believe it is bad luck.

4.  Two women have given birth to three leap day babies, according to the New York Daily News. The Henriksen family from Norway had their children on leap days in 1960, 1964 and 1968. The most recent family to tie the record is the Estes family from Utah. Their children were born in 2004, 2008 and 2012.

5.  The chances of having a birthday on a leap day are about one in 1,461.

6. If we didn’t have leap day, the calendar would be off by about six hours every year – after 100 years, the calendar would be off by around 24 days.

 7. US Presidential elections and Summer Olympic Games are both held every
 four years and occur in the Leap Year.

8. The town of Anthony, Texas, organizes a leap year festival. It proudly calls itself the leap year capital of the world and leap year “babies”, or leaplings, around the world come to its parade.

9.  The Romans first designated February 29 as leap day, but a more precise formula (still in use today) was adopted in the 16th century when the Gregorian calendar fine-tuned the calculations to include a leap day in years only divisible by four - 2012, 2016, 2020, 2024, etc. Another stipulation ruled that no year divisible by 100 would have a leap year, except if it was divisible by 400. *Thus, 1900 was not a leap year ... but 2000 was!


And. . .I came across this fun leap-year poem. ;)

 Thirty days hath September,
April, June and November;
All the rest have thirty-one
Save February, she alone
Hath eight days and a score
Til leap year gives her one day more.



Well, now you know some fun (and rather crazy) facts about leap day. I hope you all have an amazing day! How are you spending your leap day? I'll be spending mine editing and reading. ;) Well, editing, reading, and enjoying the  gorgeous spring weather we're having! :D

Happy Leap Day!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Researching for Historical Fiction--Guest post by Emily Ann Putzke

Hey everyone! Today's post is a little different. :) I'm hosting author Emily Ann Putzke here as part of her blog tour for her now novel, Resist.  She was willing to do a post about researching historical fiction, and I'm so excited about that! (All pictures are Emily's.)


I’m Emily Ann Putzke, author of It Took a War, Ain’t We Got Fun, and my newest novel Resist which released this week. Jesseca asked me to share some advice on how to research a historical novel. I’m happy to oblige! Some people think of research as hours of poring over boring historical texts when, really, research should be hands on and engaging! There is a certain amount of reading you need to do, yes, but that’s not the entire process. Here are five things I did to research my book which takes place in Germany during WWII.



One


Having the opportunity to talk with people who were actually there was invaluable! I interviewed a waist gunner on a B-17, a soldier in U.S. 9th Army, a woman who grew up in Germany and whose brothers were in the Hitler Youth, a paratrooper from 101st Airborne Division, and my neighbor who served in the Engineers Battalion.




Obviously you can’t interview people from certain periods, such as the Civil War, so instead, you could go to historical talks, listen to podcasts, or see plays about the time period. Research historical societies in your area and see what events they’re planning. You might be pleasantly surprised!


Two


There are tons of historical museums out there! One of my favorites is the Eldred WWII Museum. The director (who was the historical editor for Resist) took my family to the storage room where we got to touch the curtains that hung in Hitler’s office. Seeing relics and hearing engaging stories from the director makes the war more real. Get yourself to a museum and don’t forget a notebook!



Three


Since I don’t speak German, I immersed myself in the language by listening to old folks songs my characters would have sung, and listening to their National Anthem. There are lots of old songs available on Youtube and iTunes.


Four


There are so many good WWII films out there that really inspired me and got my creative juices flowing again such as Sophie Scholl: The Final Days, Unbroken, Uprising, Silent Night, The Pianist, Saving Private Ryan, Max Manus: Man of War … too many good ones to count! Watching historical films can help when you’re suffering from writer's block.


Five


I really love WWII reenacting. In Resist, my main character served on the Eastern Front. Through reenacting, I can get an idea of the sounds and smells that would have encompassed him. It’s not everyday that German soldiers march past you. My main character is a medic in the Wehrmacht, so seeing and interacting with reenactors portraying the German army is a unique experience that is really beneficial for a WWII writer! Many time periods are now being reenacted, from the Medieval era to the Vietnam War. Living history, whether you’re a reenactor or spectator, will help you with your historical writing.






About the Author:


Emily Ann Putzke is a young novelist, historical reenactor, and history lover. You can learn more about Emily and her books on her blog, Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.




Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway


And. . .this is the cover of her new book that released this past week!


Thank you so much for the post, Emily! I know this was very helpful for me, and I'm sure it will be for others as well. It was so fun to see a glimpse into all the research that went into Resist!!


* I have personally not seen any of the movies she mentioned other then Silent Night, and my parents have seen Unbroken. I know they're both really good. :)

Friday, February 19, 2016

It's Friday.

Yeah, I know. What kind of a post title is that?! Let's just say I'm being super lazy and I don't want to have to think up a better one. :P
I hope your week has been good! We've had an amazing week! Yesterday it got up to 77 degrees here in KS. It was windy, and sunny, and perfect. And defiantly not the usual February weather. We have had an extremely mild winter this year, which has been awesome! I don't particularly like the cold. ;)

I was also to get quite a bit of editing done this past week. I've been putting off editing A Question of Honor ever since I "finished" it November.
Not only did The Silent Blade take up a lot of my time, I honestly didn't know what I wanted to do with it. 
Well, I got inspired this past week, and I finally figured out what I wanted to do. I also found an amazing soundtrack that I've been listening to every. Single. Day. And I've been driving everyone in my family crazy with it. ;P
Between the soundtrack and the help of a very persistent friend, I have managed to get the first 20,000 words  of A Question of Honor edited. *dances around the room* In case you haven't guessed, editing is not my favorite thing to do!

Today I thought I'd share the first part of A Question of Honor with you guys.  Let me know what ya think! :)


David hoisted himself up on the wing of the single-seater fighter, and then settled himself inside the cockpit.
He adjusted the headset before putting it on, and starting the engine. He was confident the plane was in top shape, but he always enjoyed the test runs. While the U.S hadn’t entered the war, newer planes were being produced for training. It was his job to test them before they got sent to the U.S Air Corps airfields.
“Hey, David. You up?”
Well, not only his job. It was his job. . .and Gil’s.
David turned the plane and taxied down the runway. “Not yet. You  up?”
“Oh yeah. Up first, as usual.”
David grinned at the teasing note in his friend’s voice. “How are you enjoying the plane?”
A whistle sounded across the headset. “It’s one of the smoothest rides I’ve had. Seriously, I could get used to flyin’ these things.”
“Alright, I’m up.” The wheels of David’s plane left the ground and the sleek fighter made its way up into the clouds.
“Hey, Dave.”
David checked the gauges in front of him. Everything looked normal, just as he had expected. “Yeah?”
“Keep a sharp lookout to your left.”
David turned and looked in the direction Gil had indicated. A dark plane, identical to his own, headed straight toward him. 
“Gil, this is not a good idea.”
Gil chuckled. “These are fighters. Let’s test ‘em out.”
Despite his better judgement, a thrill of excitement coursed through David. “Alright, let’s do it.”
“Oh, yeah. Now you’re talking.”
The smile was evident in Gil’s voice and David grinned. Gil was always ready for a challenge, and he almost always succeeded in taking David along with him.
“I’m coming at you.”
David clenched his jaw and tightened his grip on the controls as Gil’s plane quickly closed the gap between them. At the last moment, David turned his plane slightly to the right, and gained another twenty feet in altitude. Gil’s plane flew directly under him, missing him only by a couple feet.
“Now that’s what I’m talking about!” Gil’s voice was excited. “These babies are quite the machines.”
David silently agreed with him. “Alright, they’re obviously in tip-top condition. Let’s head back.”
“Not quite yet. Come on now, Dave. I’m headed straight toward you. Let’s play chicken.”
“Gil, this isn’t the farm and we’re not up in gliders. I’m not playing chicken.”
“Yes you are. Come on, now.”
David sighed and gave in. “Which way are you going?”
“Left. We’re going left. Don’t break yet.”
The two planes flew toward each other.
“Not yet.” Gil’s voice was focused.
David kept the plane in a straight line, heading on course to crash into Gil.
“Alright, now!”
At last minute both pilots turned the planes and the neatly flew past each other.
“Oh, yeah. Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about! Come on, Dave. Tell me you didn’t enjoy it.”
“I didn’t enjoy it.”
“Right. Now be honest.”
“Exhilarating.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought. Now come on, let's get machines down.”
David shook his head with a smile as he followed Gil back toward the runway.

***

“Hey, look at this.”
David glanced up from the tool bench as Gil tossed the article onto the splintered wood in front of him. His eyes quickly read the headline. France Overrun; Paris falls into German hands.
“So it’s happened then.”
Gil nodded. ‘“You know what that means? It means that the English channel and Britain are the only things that stand between Hitler having all of Western Europe in his control.”
David eyed his friend. They had grown up together, and neither had ever been able to hide their feelings from the other,. It was that way now. Gil’s eyes held a glint that made David feel uneasy. “What are you planning, Gil?”
“What am I planning? I’m planning on making my way to England and signing up to fly one of those Spits.”
“Your serious?”
“I am. I’ve already handed in my resignation at the factory. I’ll leave in three weeks.”
Silence fell between the two men, and for a moment the only sound to be heard was the pesky flies that flew around the shop. 
David knew this wasn’t anything new; Gil had been wrestling with the idea for the past several months, and David knew it had only been a matter of time. “What about Lily?”
Gil’s face softened at the mention of his wife of only three months. “She wants me to go wherever God calls. And we both feel that He’s calling me to Europe.”
“Alright. Then I’m coming with you.” 
Gil started to protest, but David held up a hand. “Elaine and I have already talked it over. We’re going to be married next weekend. She knew you were planning on going overseas when this happened." He waved a hand at the newspaper article. "And she knows that if you go, I go too. We’ve already talked about it. “Besides,” a smile entered David’s eyes. “You need someone to keep you out of trouble.”
Gil was quiet for a moment. “There no way I can convince you otherwise, is there?”
David shook his head. “No. We’ve always flown together. I’m not letting you go anywhere without me. But aside from that, I believe God’s calling me there as well. Elaine and I have talked and prayed about it for several weeks. This only confirms it.”
Gil nodded. “Alright, then.” He clapped David on the shoulder. “Those German’s better watch out. They don’t know what they’re in for with two Americans heading at them.”

Monday, February 15, 2016

Getting to know your characters.

Hey, everyone!! Okay, I have sorta a different post for you today! A week or two ago, Emily McConnell posted a challenge of sorts on her blog. It looked like a ton of fun, so I did it! It was a short, fun questionnaire that helped you get to know your characters better.
And...I thought it would be fun to post the questions and answers here. The first step she gave was to make a list of twelve numbers and assign a character to each number. I also included a brief bio with each character so you know a little bit about who they are. ;) All the characters listed are from stories I've written. The first four are from the same story, the next three are are from a different story, and the last five are characters from a third story. :)

1. Daniel
(Officer in the German Wehrmacht during WWII. He is secretly helps those involved in getting Jews over the border into Switzerland.)

2. Helena
(A 14-year old girl in Austria in 1938.  Their family is involved in helping Jews across the Austrian border into Switzerland.)

3. Max
(Helena's cousin.)

4. Major Ramond
(Cruel officer in the Wehrmacht during WWII)

5. David
(American pilot. Fights in the Battle of Britian during WWII)

6.Gil
(American pilot. David's friend. Also fought in the Battle of Britain.)

7. Micah
(Friend to David, a doctor who serves in the war.)

8. Eira
(16 year old girl growing up in Ireland in 925-AD)

9. Kevin
(Eira's brother. He's 15 years older then her.)

10. Casimir
(A close friend of Eira and Willem.)

11. Willem
(Eira's twin. He's very reserved, but he takes responsibility seriously.)

12. Merek
(Kevin's enemy)

Question 1: While out on a walk, David and Casimir happen upon a lost and frightened little Major Ramond, who has lost his parents. Do they take Major Raymond to the police or do they help him find his parents?

Answer: They all have a good laugh over the situation, and then Major Ramond finds his own way home. ;)Since Major Ramond is an adult!
 


Question 2: While on a bus, Eira realizes her wallet is missing. Does Eira blame #2, who happens to be Helena, or does she go searching for the wallet instead?

Answer: She searches for the wallet, and when Helena realizes what has happened, she helps look for it as well. Helena even asks those around her, a feat Eira wasn’t planning on trying to accomplish.




Question 3: Kevin has a great fear of ducks. Does Max laugh at him or help him get over it?

Answer: Whoa, Kevin is scared of ducks??? Well, Max helps him get over it in the kindest way possible. 


Question 4:  Merek  is the greatest detective in New York City. When sent on a new case to figure out who stole the statue of liberty, Merek narrows it down to three suspects: Casimir, Gil and Micah. Who is the least likely to have done it and who is the most likely to have done it?

Answer: Merek? A Detective? What is this world coming to??? Casimir is the least likely because the statue of liberty didn’t exist when he was alive. Micah is the most likely, because he would have thought it great fun to watch Merek look for it.



Question 5: Willem is accused of stealing David’s cookies. Did Willem do it or not?

Answer: He did not do it, but Kevin might have. 




Question 6: Daniel, Eira and Max are best friends. They do everything together and share all their deepest secrets. When Eira finds out that everyone knows her secret truth, she loves baby turtles, (which is very embarrassing to her). Does Eria suspect Daniel or Max? Would Eira confront either one? Who is the most likely to have blabbed her secret?

Answer:  Aww, turtles! Well, Eira would suspect Max, but she wouldn't confront him. She would just be extremely hurt. However, Daniel would have been more likely to have told her secret. Not because he was trying to, but simply because the fact that it was supposed to be a secret slipped his mind.


Question 7: There has been an invasion and America has been taken over by bad guys. When caught and told that he has to join or die, would Casimir join the bad guys? Is David terrified and hiding or trying to fight back? And where would Helena be during the event?

Answer: Casimir would die before he joined them, David would probably get killed fighting, and Helena would probably be in jail because she got caught helping the resistance. *cries* what a tragic ending for my characters. :(


Question 8: If given the choice between ice cream and cake, what is Gil more likely to choose?

He would choose cake. Chocolate cake, of course! ;)



Question 9: Kevin is getting married. Who does Kevin choose as his best man, Merek, Willem, or Major Raymond? Of the three, who would be hurt if he wasn’t chosen? Who would do the best job at being the best man?

Answer: Kevin is getting married?!?! How do I not know about this??? *ahem* Kevin would choose Willem to be his best man. The other characters wouldn’t be hurt since they are brothers. :) Willem would do the best job, and Merek would do the worst, simply because Merek would try and kill him. . . ;P



Question 10:  Daniel is working very hard on a novel, but when David happens to read it over Daniel’s shoulder, he laughs. Does Daniel either. . .

Answer: Well, Daniel would not have done any of the options. And the only reason David would have laughed is because the part Daniel was writing truly was funny, in which case Daniel would have laughed along with him.




Once upon a time there was a little boy named little Merek riding hood. Merek was asked by his father, David, to go and check on Merek’s grandfather, Micah. Merek happily agreed and went on his merry way, glad to be out of the house and always happy to go and visit Micah. But on the way, Merek runs into the big bad Eira, who demands to know where Merek is going.
“I don’t talk to strangers,” Merek stated flatly.
“Well that’s too bad because I happen to have candy,” Eira tried.
Merek, whose great weakness is candy, thinks about this trade of information for the sweet treat. But then Merek remembers what the great and wise Max told Merek once, “Candy is not the answer to the problems of the world.”
“No,” Merek says at last, and goes on his own way.
Now Eira really wanted to get money from kidnapping Merek because Eira is broke and spent all his/her money. So Eira tries to sneakily follow Merek through the forest, only to run into Max, Helena, and Daniel , who are having a picnic and discussing politics.
“What are you?” Helena asks, unimpressed.
“I am the big bad Eira and I’m going to get myself some money, so stop talking to me,” Eira snarls.
“Fine, see if we care,”  Max shrugs, and then goes back to the picnic with Daniel and Helena.
Meanwhile Merek makes it to grandfather Micah’s house and raps on the door, unaware that there is danger ahead. “Grandfather Micah, it’s me, Merek! I’m here to visit!”
“Come in!” says a strange voice that sounds a lot like the big bad Eira.
Huh that’s weird, Merek thinks, but comes in anyways.
Inside, Merek is shocked to find not only Eira, like he had thought, but also Casimir, Kevin and Willem, Eira’s evil minions! Major Ramond is there, too, but is a rather unintimidating squirrel that only screeches in displeasure.
“Get him!” Eira declares, and Casimir, Kevin, and Willem spring into action.
Merek thinks fast and bolts out the door, the evil minions on his tail. Merek runs straight to David and Gilbert’s house, the twins. “Help, help! The big bad Eira is trying to kidnap me!” Merek cries.
David and Gilbert, who happen to be ninjas and trained in fighting off evil minions like Casimir, Kevin, and Willem, instantly rise to their feet from their lunch of honey sandwiches and defeat the bad guys. They chase after Eira, who was still hiding in Micah’s house and have Eira arrested by Daniel, the police officer, who stopped talking about politics long enough to show up and throw Eira in jail. Merek thanks the twins and told Micah all about his scary adventure, to which Micah replied, “Ah, that reminds me of a story when I was young when…”



Well, that's all! I had so much fun doing it, and I was laughing over all the different scenarios. Thanks so much for the challenge, Emily! :) 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Valentine's Day. :)

Hey, everyone! I hope you're having an amazing day so far. :)
So. . .today is Valentines day. I made a trip to the library this past week, and they always have free bookmarks that you can pick up. I grabbed a couple on my way out because the ones that they had for this month made me smile.
Okay, so technically my hear doesn't belong to books. . .although I have some friends who may disagree. ;)
 Valentines day is about love. Or rather, about celebrating love. I think that the word 'love' is way overused.

The greatest love that has ever been shown at any time in history was the day when Jesus hung on a cross. He loved us so much that He died for us. In a way, I think the true meaning of love is sacrifice.
Now I know, not many people would see how those two could go together. Love is so often described as a fluffy, feel-good feeling. It's easy to say you love someone when everything is going great.
But the greatest love shown to us was sacrifice. Someone who died in our place.
True love, a love given by God, will sacrifice. And I'm not talking about just the love between a man and woman.

John 15:13 Greater love has no man then this. That a man lay down his life for his friend.

1 John 3:16 Hereby  percive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 

Ephesians 5:28 So men ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.

John 13:1 Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come that he should depart to the Father, having loved his own that were in the world, he loved them to the end. 

The first verse is the love between friends. There is no greater love then when a person lays down their life for their friends. Sacrifice. 

The second is love between our brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus loved us so much he died for us. We should be willing to do the same for others. Sacrifice. 

The third verse. I bet you were just waiting for me to get to that one. ;) The love between a man and a wife. The husband should be willing to lay down his life for his wife, just as Christ did for the church. Sacrifice.

And finally, the fourth verse. Jesus' love for us. His time had come to depart, and he had loved his own until the end. The end where he would give himself as a payment for our sins. Sacrifice.


Okay, so you're all probably wondering just where exactly I am going with this. I am making a point, promise! :) Well, It least I'm attempting to.
While there is the literal interpretation of the verses that we should physically die for each other if it ever comes down to that, I think there is a different meaning as well. One that can be applied a lot more often.
 In different ways, we are called to sacrifice every day. Sometimes it's in little ways. Things such as letting a sibling have the first turn at the piano, letting someone else go ahead of us in line, maybe helping a neighbor who isn't feeling well. All those require a sacrifice.
Every day we should be willing to sacrifice our plans to God's will. Am I saying don't make plans? No! I'm just saying that if something comes up, we should be willing to change those plans. And that requires a sacrifice.  I'm talking to myself here, because there is nothing I hate more then a change in plans. But what if those plans allow Jesus' love to be shown through me?

So when it gets down to it, I think being willing to give of yourselves for the good of others if the meaning of love. Yes, there are happy times. Treasure them! But when you truly have the love of God in you, it won't be shown in the good times. It will be shown when you are called to sacrifice.

Alright, I'm done talking now. I hope you guys were able to make sense out of the post. ;) It's been something that has been on my heart a lot lately as we approached this time of year. :)

Do you guys have any plans or traditions you do for Valentines day? We don't usually do a lot. Dad always gets us all a card, and of course he gets mom roses! Then Dad takes mom out for supper, and all of us kids stay home and watch a movie. ;)

Happy Valentines day!! :D
This was my card and the carnation from dad this year. :)





 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Short story: Beauty in the Storm

Hey, y'all! How's your week coming? Can you believe it's Friday?! I can't. This week went by pretty fast. But. . .I love Fridays! The beginning of a weekend, less school, all that amazing stuff. And family movie night tonight and we're going to watch Courageous. We haven't seen it in a while, so I'm really looking forward to it!
Okay, anyway, we'll get onto the real reason for this post. ;) Remember that flash fiction I posted last week? Well, today you get the whole story! I wrote it sorta as a Valentines day story, so I thought it was perfect for this weekend. But don't worry, it's not a "love" story in the traditional sense of the word. :D


A huge 'thank you' to Faith P. for making me this blog cover for the story! Isn't in gorgeous??? And. . . it fits the story really well. :) 
 
Grant picked up his backpack and slung it over his shoulder. Turning, he quickly surveyed the desk to make sure he hadn’t left anything behind. Heaven help him if he happened to misplaced the assignment that was due in physics class.
When his sweeping glance showed nothing, he started toward the door of the classroom and blended into the throng of students making their way to the cafeteria.
Halfway there he stopped and set his backpack down on one of the benches that lined the halls. He’d better get the rest of his work put inside and zipped up safely. He rubbed his eyes. I spent hours on these assignments and I’m not planning on losing them in a moment of carelessness.
He unzipped the bag and slid his notebook inside, but in doing so the treasured physics assignment slipped from his grasp and the twenty or so pages floated over the hallway.
He groaned. “Oh, rats!” He bent over and started picking up the papers as fast as he could, receiving several withering glances when he accidentally happened to push someone to the side. Well, if they want to be upset, that’s fine. Just as long as my physics papers stay intact. Which they hadn’t. Picking up every paper he could see, he headed back over to his bag, organizing the papers as he went.
Suddenly a feeling of dread swept over him and he hurried recounted the papers. Two pages were missing.. Without the full report, Dr. Phillips would fail him in the class. He couldn’t afford to fail. Not now, not after all the work he’d put into it.
“Are you looking for these?”
A feminine voice to his right startled him and he whirled around, not even bothering to look at her face; his eyes were glued to the papers she held in her hand. He felt almost giddy with relief. There, in her hands, lay the two missing papers.
“Yes, those are mine. Thank you.” He reached out and took them from her, relief spreading over him. “You don’t know just how much I needed--” His voice trailed off as he glanced up and met her gaze. The sharp startling blue of her eyes almost took his breath away, although he couldn't have told anyone why.
She stood at an average height, her dark brown hair falling softly in curls around her shoulders. She wore a skirt and  yellow sweater; a pile of books were in her right arm.
He smiled. “Well, let’s just say I really needed to papers.”
She nodded, a twinkle in her eye. “I noticed as much. I’m sure Dr. Phillips wouldn’t have been too happy if you neglected to have them on hand.”
Grant scoffed as he smoothed the papers and tucked them securely back into the backpack. “Yeah, I’ll say.” He reached out a hand. “My name is Grant Martin. It’s nice to meet you.”
“And my name is Larissa Stevens. It's nice to meet you.”
Grant picked up his bag and put a hand out. "Here, let me carry your books."
She shook her head. "I'm fine."
But Grant insisted. "Please, it would make me feel better."
Larissa sent him a questioning glance, then gave in.  "Alright. If it'll helps you feel better, then I wouldn't  keep you from it."
Grant grinned. "It does. Plus, my mother taught me that you never let a girl carry her own books." They started walking towards the cafeteria, and Grant risked a sideways glance.  “Are you new at the college?”
Larissa nodded. “Yeah, I transferred here from the University of Virginia.”
“Really? Well, why the change? Why Liberty?”
A sudden shadow seemed to pass over Larissa’s face and she looked down. “Oh, no reason. I just wanted a change. I should probably be going now, Mr. Martin.” She stopped. “It was nice to meet you, and good luck in your physics.”
Grant nodded, confused and the sudden change in her behavior, “It was nice to meet you as well. And thanks again for the papers; they saved me from Mr. Philip’s wrath. And a failing grade.”
Larissa rewarded him with a dimpled smile as she took the books he handed her, and then turned and left.
Grant watched her retreating form and shook his head as he mentally reviewed what had just happened. Why had she gotten so touchy when he asked about her past?
He tried to shake it off. After all, what was it to him? He saw girls every day, but none had affected him like this. Stop it, Grant.He silently reprimanded himself. She’s not one of your problems to be fixed. Let her go and don’t meddle.
But the memory of the troubled look that had crossed her face wouldn't leave him, and at last he sighed in resignation. Lord, please help her. Whatever she may need, please be with her. And help me not to get involved in something that’s best left in Your hands alone.

****

“Grant, you’re home!” Ally squealed as she threw herself into her brother's arms.
Grant smiled as he picked her up and twirled her around in the living room, taking care not to hit the lamp.
Nate, the third of the four Martin children, glanced up at his sister with disgust. “He only left this morning, Al. You make it seem like he’s been gone for weeks.”
“Aww, I don’t mind.” Grant set Ally down and playfully tweaked her nose. “Makes a fellow feel good to be missed.”
Ally’s five-year-old face lit up with a smile, “Really, you don’t mind?”
He chuckled. “Of course not. Is Laura back yet?” His second sister only a year younger than himself attended Liberty with him, but their classes were separate and they hardly saw each other on campus.
Nate shook his head, flinging his hair out of his eyes.
Every time he did that it made Grant want to take a scissors and give it a much-needed tim. Why in the world had his parents had ever let Nate wear it like that would always be a mystery to him.
“She had her music lesson this afternoon. She should be back soon,” Nate continued, oblivious to his brother’s thoughts.
Grant nodded before turning and starting up the stairs, heading towards his room.  Ally stayed behind him, and he stopped outside his door. “Do you need something, Al?”
Ally shook her head. “Not really. But,” she paused and hesitated. ”Can I come in and sit with you a while? It’s been a long time since you read me a book.”
Grant paused. As much as he would enjoy that,he was a college student. On the other hand, wasn’t spending time investing in his little sister worth more than the assignments that never seemed to end?  Besides, he had finished almost half of the assignments in the library after his last class had finished.
Making a decision, he smiled and ruffled her hair. “Alright. But only until Laura comes home. I need to talk to her when she gets here.”
Ally’s eyes lit up and she bounded into his room and climbed up to his bed. He inwardly winced as his eyes took in the unmade bed and books scattered all throughout.  Bachelorhood at it’s best, he thought with a wry smile. He could only imagine just how bad he would fare if he had gotten his own apartment instead of continuing to live at home. As it was, his mom still came up once or twice a week and gave him a helping hand at straightening things up.
He tossed his backpack on the desk chair before taking a seat on the bed next to Ally. She handed him her favorite book; her copy of the children's version of Pilgrim's Progress.
He opened it up and began reading. “A long time ago, in a land you only visit in dreams. . .”

***

The sound of his sister making her way up the stairs, cello in hand, interrupted their reading. Thankfully, they had gotten to a good stopping point just as Christian and Hopeful made it into Beulah land.
Ally closed the book and took it from Grant’s hand. “Thank you for reading to me.”
Grant smiled. “Thank you for asking me to read. Why don’t you go downstairs and see if you can help mama with super.”
Ally nodded and headed down the stairs. Grant stood and crossed the hall, knocking on his sister’s bedroom door.
“Come in!” Laura’s always-cheerful voice called out him.
He opened the door to see her sitting on the bed, which he noticed was neatly made. Her room was immaculately clean as well; a stark contrast to his own.
“Take a seat,” Laura waved a hand toward the desk chair. “Something wrong?” She didn’t wait for him to answer before she continued. “Anyways, I’m glad you came. I wanted to talk to you about a thing or two.”
Grant smiled to himself. Laura always seemed to be full of life and energy. Sometimes just being around her made him feel tired. He leaned back in the chair, propping his feet up on the back of the bed frame, grinning when Laura sent him a withering glance. “You go first. My problem can wait a minute or two.”
Laura shook her head adamantly. “No, you came in here to talk, you go first.”
“Well, I guess it’s not that important, but,” he paused and shook his head. “I can’t get the feeling that I should do something to fix it out of my head.”
Laura rolled her eyes.  “Terrific, another one of your fix-it projects. Remind me why you wanted to talk?”
Grant balled up a piece of notebook paper from the desk and playfully tossed it at her. “Let me finish before you interrupt. Besides, it’s not a project. . .well, not really. It’s a girl.”
“A girl?” Laura’s eyebrows went up in disbelief. “And when did you meet this mystery person?”
“Today, just before lunch.”
She chuckled. “Moving a bit fast, aren’t you?” her eyes twinkled with fun.
“Oh, Laura. Stop it!” He leaned forward and cuffed her on the arm. “I’m worried about her. Something just didn’t seem right. I was wondering if maybe you had heard anything about her?”
“Grant, my dear. In case you haven't realized, you haven't told me her name.” Laura’s voice dripped with sarcasm.
“Laura, my darling. How could I have forgotten such an important part?” he responded with the like.
Unlike the rest of their family, Grant and Laura could understand each other perfectly no matter what kind of language was used. This fact often made their mother shake her head and wonder just who taught--or perhaps not taught them-- the finer points of English grammar.
Laura grinned. “Not sure. Do you tend to enlighten me?”
“Her name is Larissa Stevens.”
“Small girl with curls, dimples and incredible eyes? Grant, I can tell why you’re smitten.”
Grant ignored the teasing. “Do you know her?”
Laura nodded. “Yeah. In fact, that’s who I wanted to talk to you about, and now I understand why you are worried. She’s in my English class, but there’s something that just doesn’t seem right about her. I’ve tried to talk to her, but she seems to avoid me. Not just me, but anyone else who tries to talk to her. And her eyes are always shadowed, as though she’s bearing a burden. What’d she do to you?”
“She handed me a few papers that fell.” He shrugged. “She seemed friendly, but when I asked her why she transferred to Liberty, it was just like you said. Her eyes shadowed and she left abruptly. Do you know anymore about her?”
Laura shook her head, her eyes serious. “No, but I think there is a reason to worry. Maybe I can find out where she lives and we can pay he a friendly visit?”
Grant frowned. “Are you sure she doesn't stay at the dorms? If she transferred from Virginia State, it seems more likely.”
“No, she transferred because they moved, but that’s all I know. One of the teachers told me and asked me If I could try to befriend her. I’ve tried, she just hasn’t let me.”
Grant nodded. “So I’d noticed. Well, maybe we should pray for her together. God must have a reason for bringing her into our lives.”
“Sounds like a good idea.”
Grant leaned forward and took her hands, and they bowed their heads. “Lord, we don’t know why you’ve put a burden on our hearts for Larissa, but we pray that you would be with her whatever she may be going through.”
Laura picked up praying, but try as he might, Grant couldn't seem to keep his mind on the prayer. The haunting blue eyes that smiled at him refused to leave his memory and he was more determined then ever to find out what was wrong.

***

“Hey, Grant.”
Grant shoved the rest of the papers into his notebook, promising himself that he would organize them later. He looked up, surprised to see Laura standing in the doorway. “Is something wrong?”
Laura’s troubled eyes met his, and he immediately realized there was something wrong. It was rare to see Laura without a smile on her face.
“What is it, Laura?”
“It’s--it’s Larissa. She has been absent for the last two days.I went and get her address. I thought maybe we could stop by and see if she’s alright?
“Yeah, sure. You want to go right now?”
Laura nodded. “I texted mom and told her we were going to stop somewhere before we headed home, so she won’t be worried.” She glanced around the empty classroom. “Are you finished here?”
“Yeah. We taking my car?”
Laura grinned. “you bet. And you’re driving.”
As they started down the hallway, Grant shook his head in mock disappointment. “How in the world can you not enjoy driving?”
She shook her head. “Not saying a word about it to you. Not a word.”
“Oh, really?” Grant cocked an eyebrow, then opened the outside door for her.
“Really. Thank you, kind sir.”
Grant gave a sweeping bow. “You’re most welcome, my lady.”
When they got to the car, Grant placed their text books and bags in the backseat, before opening Laura’s door for her and then going around to the driver’s side.
“Alight, you’re going to have to tell me how to get there.”
“Yeah, right.” Laura took the address and typed it in her phone. “Oh, they live outside of town. Just past that gas station at the north end of town.”
“The gas station that’s so weird no one ever goes there?”
Laura chuckled. “Obviously some people still go there, otherwise they would have shut down years ago.”
“Yeah, sure.”
The ride to the house was silent. Both Laura and Grant were consumed with their own thoughts. What is the matter? What is wrong about Larissa? Grant’s mind played the two questions over and over again.
At last he sighed. All this asking-questions-with-no-answers was getting him all tied up in knots.
“Turn here.” Laura pointed to a driveway that sat a little ways off the road.
Grant turned and approached the house. It was nothing fancy; in fact, the it looked rather old and worn, but it was tidy and welcoming.
Grant turned off the car and jumped out, placing his keys in his pocket. He waited for Laura to join him before starting toward the house.
As they neared the porch, Laura tucked her hand inside his arm.
He glanced down at her in surprise. “Is something wrong?”
Laura shook her head. “No. I just feel. .. safer.”
At that, Grant’s eyes twinkled. “Are you scared of Larissa?”
“No!”
Grant nodded with amusement at the spark in her eyes. “Alright, if you say so.”
They ascended the porch steps and Grant knocked on the door.
Within seconds it opened. Larissa stood there, dressed in a blouse and jeans. Her hair was up in a knot on her head and her face was flushed as though she had been cooking in a hot kitchen.
Laura smiled. “Hi Larissa. We just came by to see how you were doing. You haven't been in in class for the last few days.”
Larissa nodded. “Well, I’ve been. . .busy.”
“Is something the matter?” This time it was Grant who asked the question.
“No, we’re alright. Thank you for your concern, though.” It was obvious that Larissa was trying to be polite, hoping they’d leave. But Grant was about to give in that easily and neither was Laura.
“Well, is there anything we can do?”
Before Larissa could answer, a boy around ten or twelve years old came up beside. her. “Who’s here, Rissi?”
Larissa put a hand on his head. “No one, Ben. These are just some. . .friends from school.”
Friends? We’ve graduated from acquaintances to friends? In just this short conversation? Grant couldn’t keep the smile off his face.
“Laura, Grant, this is my brother, Ben.”
Laura smiled warmly. “It’s so nice to meet you, Ben. How are you doing?”
Ben grinned. “I’m doing just fine. Thank you.”
“Are your parents here?”
Ben shook his head. “No, mom died when when I was born and dad just left us about a year ago.”
Both Grant and Laura’s gazes darted to Larissa, whose gaze fluctuated from anger, to resignation, then finally a look of frustration. “Is there a reason you came?” Her words were clipped.
“We just wanted to make sure you’re doing okay,” Laura offered hesitantly. “Do you mind if we keep you guys in our prayers?”
At that, Larissa’s eyes became stormy. “Pray? You want to pray for us? Don’t bother.” Her voice was laced with bitterness. “Like I said before, we’re fine.”
Laura seemed ready to leave, but Grant wasn’t quite so ready. For some reason something in Larissa’s manner made her seem vulnerable. Made him want to protect her. He made one last try. “Larissa, if there is anything you need, we’re willing to help.”
She didn’t reply, and both Grant and Laura turned and left.
Once back in the car, Laura turned to him. “I have a great idea!”
Grant rolled his eyes. Laura’s ideas were thoughtful at best, reckless at worst. “What is it this time?”
“Oh, come on! It’s actually a good idea. Why don’t we get some flowers and a gift to welcome them to the town!”
Grant didn’t reply right away. Laura’s idea was actually a good one, though the thought of him carrying a bouquet of flower right up to Larissa’s front porch was just a little bit intimidating. Besides, what was it about girls and flowers?
Laura chuckled as she seemed to read his thoughts. “Don’t worry, I’ll deliver the flowers!” She twisted in her seat to face him. “You like her, don’t you?”
“What?” Grant took his eyes off the road for a split second.
“Grant, watch out!”
His eyes whirled back around to the road and he swerved just in time to avoid hitting the car in the lane next to him. “Terrific. See, that’s what happens when you get me distracted, Laura.”
Laura only chuckled. “Do ya like her?”
Grant scoffed. “I just met her. And she’s stubborn.”
“You’re avoiding the question.”
“And you’re nosy.”
“I’m also your sister.”
“Laura, besides the fact that she obviously doesn’t want to have anything to do with us and she’s very stubborn and ridiculous, I have the feeling her dad hurt her deeply when he left. Here eyes. . .” his voice trailed off. ‘I’ve never seen such pain, yet at the same time, such anger.”
“Which makes you want to take her in your arms and kiss her and make it all better.”
Grant sputtered. “Alright, now you’ve gone too far! The thought never--and I mean never--crossed my mind!”
Laura chuckled. “Maybe not, but you like her.”
Grant slowed the car at the stoplight before turning to his sister. “I never, ever said that!”
Laura grinned impishly up at him. “Light turned green. You also never said you didn’t.”
Grant only frowned as he accelerated, then turned into the parking lot of the supermarket.
Laura chuckled, “Sorry, Grant. I was only teasing.”
Grant returned the smile. “I know. I’ve only seen Larissa twice, but there’s something that seems to draw me to her.” He shrugged, “I honestly don’t know why. She is pretty, but I don’t think that’s it. She’s so. . .fragile.”
Laura nodded all trace of the earlier banter gone. “I know what you mean. And she seems so bitter towards the Lord as well. Maybe our ‘Welcome-to-the-neighborhood’ gift will help. We can at least try to reach out to her and her brother.”
Grant grinned. “I was having the same thoughts. Come on, let's go.”

***

An hour later, Grant found himself sitting the driver's seat with a bouquet of flowers that all but covered the windshield. “Seriously, Laura. Did you have to get the largest flowers they had? And are you sure we’ll be able to get this through their front door?”
“Oh, Grant. Just drive.”
Grant groaned as he started the car and left the parking lot. The ride back to Larissa and Ben’s house was quiet. As soon as they arrived, Laura popped out of the car, then waited for Grant.
Grant shut of the engine, stepped out, and slammed the door. “Did you get the basket in the back?”
Laura shook her head. “Nope. I waited for you.”
“Typical.”
“Well, you could take the flowers.”
“Never mind, I’ll get the basket.” He opened the trunk and grabbed the basket Larissa had filled with goodies. Grant shook his head, Well, I hope they’ll be able to use this stuff somehow. Hot chocolate, cookies, muffin mix and more chocolate had made it’s way into the basket. To Grant, they all seemed rather unpractical, but then what did he know about shopping for a girl and young boy?
“Come on, Grant. Hurry!” Laura was nearly bouncing on her toes, waiting anxiously for him to come.
Grant shut the trunk and followed her up the steps.
Laura knocked impatiently on the door while Grant stood off the the side, a smile playing around the corners of his lips. Laura was so much his opposite in so many ways. Where he was quiet, she was always bubbly, where he was focused, she was easily distracted, where he was logical, she was enthusiastic. They balanced each other out well, and Grant couldn’t imagine life without her around.
The door opened, interrupting his thoughts.
“Hey, Larisa! I hope you don’t mind us coming back so soon. We wanted to bring you a gift to sorta welcome you to town. Here.” Laura nearly shoved the flowers at Larissa, who had no choice but to take them. “These are for you.But we brought you something else too.” She took the basket out of Grant’s hands and was about to hand it to Larissa, but Larissa put a hand to stop her. “Thank you, but this wasn’t necessary.”
Laura, who had seemed confused when Larissa stopped her, brightened again. “Oh, it's okay. We wanted too.” She put the basket in Larissa’s other hand.
Larissa looked overwhelmed, and Grant smiled. “It’s Laura’s way of making you guys feel welcome,” he explained.
Laura nodded. “Grant’s way too, although he doesn’t want to take the credit for it.”
Larissa nodded and gave a small smile. “well, thank you both. It means a lot.”
Laura grinned. “You’re more then welcome. Can’t wait to see you at school, and we’ll keep you all in our prayers.”
Larissa was confused. “What do you mean ‘you all’?”
“Oh, just You, Ben and your dad.”
“No. Don’t you dare pray for my father.” Larissa’s voice was sharp, startling both Grant and Laura.
“All he’s done his whole life is hurt others. He never cared, never wanted us.” As she spoke, her eyes filled with angry tears. “He deserves everything horrible thing that happens to him. And if God is anything like the father he was, I don’t want anything to do with Him!” Without another word, she went back inside and closed the door behind her.
Grant and Laura stood there for a moment, dumfounded at the scene they had just witnessed.
“I had no idea she was hurting so bad.” Laura’s voice was low and quiet, every trace of her usual sunny smile gone from her face.
Grant nodded. “Yeah. It’s gotta be hard on her. And it looks like she’s supporting her brother.” He shook his head. “No one should ever have to do that.”
The two walked back to the car, their manner subdued. As they drove away, Laura turned to her brother. “I guess we’ll just have to keep praying.”

***

The next day was rainy and gray, matching the mood of Laura and Grant.
“Hey, Laura, do you have music lessons today?” Grant asked as he came down the stairs and hurried into the dinning room for breakfast.
Laura shook her head. “No, not till tomorrow.”
“Then you’re coming with me?”
“Yep. How soon do you need to leave?”
“Not until he’s had his breakfast,” Mrs. Martin interrupted with a smile, placing a plate of food in front of Grant.
Grant chuckled. “That’s right. Wild horses couldn't drag me out of here before breakfast was over. Thanks, mother.”
After a hurried prayer, Grant dug into his food. As he glanced around the table, he was reminded of their visit yesterday . Compared to Larissa, he had it so good. He had parents that loved him, and, more importantly, taught him about Christ. Thank you for the family you’ve given me, Lord. And please, work in Larissa’s heart. Heal her hurt and draw her toward You.

***

“Larissa’s back.”
Grant turned toward Laura. The hallway was crowded, and he was surprised she had been able to find him.
“Well, that’s good. Were you able to talk to her at all?”
Laura shook her head. “I haven't tried. And I think she’s purposefully avoiding me.” She hesitated before glancing up at him. “Maybe you’d have better luck.”
“Me? Laura, if she’s not talking to you, what makes you think she’ll talk to me?”
Laura shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe we should just leave her alone for now.”
Grant nodded. “Good idea.” He glanced down and checked his watch. “Oh, great. I’ve got five minutes to get to class. I’ll talk to you later.” He flashed a smile. “It’s okay, Laura. We’ll get to her somehow.”
He took of at a fast walk. The next class was at the other end of the campus. Why do they put the classrooms this far apart? It’d make it ten times easier to be on time. Of course, they're not expecting you to stop and talk between classes.
He opened the door to the classroom and breathlessly slid into his seat seconds before the professor walked in.

***

Halfway through the class, Grant’s cellphone vibrated. He resisted the urge to look at it and kept his attention on the professor.
Within seconds it vibrated again. Again, he left it. The third time it vibrated he slid his hand in his pocket and pulled it out.
All three messages were from Laura.
Grant, something’s wrong.
I need you, Grant. I’m outside the side doors.
Help me, Grant!
Thoroughly alarmed, Grant didn’t have a second thought as he jumped out of his desk and started toward the door.
“Mr. Martan, class has not been dismissed.”
Grant hardly spared the professor a glance as he opened the door. “My sister needs me.”
He could only imagine the disturbance his absence would cause in the class. At the moment he didn’t care.
Laura wasn’t one to over-exaggerate; if she said she needed help, she needed help. He nearly ran through the hallway to the side doors. One glance outside and Grant felt his heart drop into his stomach.
A police car had pulled up in front of the university, and a few people had gathered around someone who was lying on the ground.
Not just someone. It was Laura.
Grant dashed out into the rain, not even feeling the chill in the air. He pushed his way through the small crowd, fighting to get a good look at Laura.
“Come on, let me through! That’s my sister.”
At those words, the crowd parted, but before he could get much closer, the police officer put a hand on his shoulder. “She’s going, son. She won’t be with us much longer.”
Before Grant could comprehend exactly what the officer said, he found himself standing next to Laura. Her body lay on the cement, looking pale and fragile. Her chest still rose and fell, but every breath caused her to shudder.
He knelt down beside her. “Laura?”
Her eyes met his. “Grant. You-came.”
Grant’s eyes filled with tears. Why hadn’t he looked at his phone the first time? Why had he waited? “Laura, what happened? How did this happen?”
Laura’s breathing was laboured. “Larissa.” Her voice was hardly more than a whisper and he had to lean down to hear her above the sound of the rain. “She was--in trouble. She was--crying. I wanted you to--talk--to her. She wouldn’t wait. She ran outside. The car. She didn’t see--it. It was headed straight for her.”
Grant’s tears spilled over, mixing with the rain on his cheeks. “Oh, Laura!” He knew then what had happened. Laura wouldn't have waited for help, and she knew Larissa wouldn't hear her in the rain. She ran to get Larissa out of the way, but she hadn’t had time to move herself.
“Oh, Laura.” Words seemed to evade him and he threaded his fingers through hers. “Hang on, Laura. You’ll be alright.”
But Laura shook her head, “I’m going home, Grant. I won’t be here much longer.”
Grant refused to believe it. “No, you’ll be okay.”
Laura smiled a sad smile as she brought a shaky hand up to touch Grant’s cheek. “He’s waiting for me, Grant. Waiting for me on the other side.”
Grant’s shoulder shook with sobs as he took her hand.
“Don’t cry, please, don’t cry. I’ll see you again.”
Grant shook his head as he tried to stop his tears and will himself to try and understand what she was saying. “I love you, Laura.”
“Her eyes smiled at him through the tears of pain, “Grant, tell mom and dad and the other. Tell them I love them. And don’t give--up on--Larissa.”
All of the sudden a look of agony washed over her face and her breath came in gasps. Then all of the sudden a look of peace came over her face. “The rain. Who would have thought that you could find peace in the rain? God’s peace. I love you, Grant.”
With those words, her eyes closed. It took a minute for Grant to realize that her chest had stopped rising and falling. Laura was gone.
A sudden emptiness and loneliness swept over him. His constant companion since he had been little was gone. The teasing, the sarcasm, the friendship they had. It was gone. Laura was gone. And there was nothing in the world that would bring her back.
He let go of her hand and glanced around, realizing the students that had been around them had scattered. Off to the side, a lone figure stood watching him. A sudden anger replaced the hurt he felt. This was all Larissa’s fault. She seemed to read his expression and turned and walked away.
Grant gently folded Laura’s arm across her chest and stood. The rain came down harder, enveloping him. And for once in his life, he had no idea what to do.

***

The funeral was over. Grant numbly followed his parents out of the cemetery. It was another gloomy day and the sky threatened to spill over any minute. He still couldn't believe she was gone. He noticed his parents seemed to be handling it well, pushing aside their own grief to help Ally and Nate who were taking Laura’s death hard. And Grant got pushed to the side. He wanted nothing more than to share his thoughts with someone, to let out all the emotion he had inside. A sharp pain tore through him when he realized that that person would usually be Laura. They had shared everything with each other. She was the only person he had completely opened up to. But never again.
As Ally and Nate were helped in the van, Grant took a step back. “Dad, I’ll be home a little later.”
Mr. Martin gave him a searching glance. “Are you okay, Grant?”
Grant bit his lip. “No, not really. I just need some time. . .alone.”
Mr. Martin nodded and put a hand on his shoulder. “Alright. I know it’s hard. If you’re going to be gone more than an hour or two, please let us know.”
Grant nodded and started towards his car. He unlocked the door and sat down. Leaving the keys on his lap, he sighed and leaned against the steering wheel. From out of nowhere a sudden thought hit him. What in the world had Laura meant by saying it was his fault she didn’t drive?
He almost smiled as the thought hit him, but he quickly sobered. He started the car and turned out of the cemetery. He drove for a while, not really caring where he was going. He finally stopped toward the edge of town. The wooded area was set aside as a park, and he had walked the trails many times. It seemed like a good place to find quiet.
After walking for a while, he stopped next to the pond and leaned against the tree. The pond was peaceful and  still. Perfect. He picked up a rock and threw it in. The water parted, causing ripples across the surface. It perfectly described his life. It had been perfect. Or at least, next to perfect. Then someone had thrown a rock in, and it had changed everything.
“How are you doing, Grant?”
The voice startled him, and Grant turned to see their pastor standing there.
“Hi, Pastor Randall.”
Pastor Randall nodded, then joined him next to the pond. “Looks peaceful, doesn't it?”
Grant only nodded.
“Is there anything you’d like to talk about, Grant? You know, you can always tell me anything.”
Grant was silent for a moment, then he turned.  “There’s one thing I want to know. How in the world did you find me?”
Pastor Randall chuckled. “I didn’t follow you, Grant. Laura was like a daughter to me, and I felt like I needed sometime to breath after everything was finished. I came here and found you.”
“That’s a pretty big coincidence.”
“”I don’t believe it was a coincidence. I think it was God’s divine timing. What’s bothering you, Grant? There’s something you’re dealing with other than just the pain of losing Laura.”
“Yeah. Yeah, there is. The problem is that Laura is dead because of Larissa. And Larissa’s still here. All Laura was trying to do was help. And because of that she’s gone.”
By now the gray skies no longer held back and rain and it poured down on the two men in fury.
“So you’re blaming Larissa for Laura’s death?”
“Yes--I mean no. I mean, oh, I don’t know! I know it was Laura’s choice to save Larissa, but. . .” he didn't finish the sentence, and the unspoken words hung in the air.
“Grant, I think Laura saw something you don’t see. Larissa isn’t just a person, she’s a soul. And from what I hear, a very needy soul. Do you know what the problem was the other day at the college?”
Grant shook his head, suddenly realizing he hadn’t seen Larissa since the day Laura died.
“Larissa had just gotten a call from the police." Pastor Randall's voice was quiet. "It seems her father died just the past weekend.”
For a moment the only sound was the rain. “That’s why she was crying. That’s why Laura asked for help.” Grant spoke the words slowly, suddenly realizing just how much he had blamed Larissa for Laura’s death.
Pastor Randall nodded. “When Larissa ran out she was crying, telling Laura how she had hoped that once, just once, he would have told her that he loved her. I know, because Laura sent me a text asking me to pray. From what I can tell, it was sent only seconds before the accident.” He paused. “Grant, Laura is in heaven today, rejoicing in the presence of our Saviour. But if that had been Larissa, do you think she would be in the same place?”  
The question stood between them and for a few minutes the only sound that could be heard was the rain pelting everything it touched.
At last Grant turned. “I need to go and see Larissa. The day Laura died, she was standing there, and I--I didn’t say anything. I didn’t have to. My expression said it all.”
Pastor Randall nodded. “After a tragedy, we tend to find someone, anyone, to blame. But the thing is we often see things out of a wrong perspective. Laura didn’t die, God brought her home. God had a reason for what happened; her death came as no surprise to Him.”
The rain had stopped now, and the sun was streaming through slits in the clouds.
Pastor Randall chuckled. “God’s beauty and handiwork shines through everything, even during the storms of life.”
Grant turned and his eyes followed the pastor’s pointed finger. “A rainbow. God’s promise.” He smiled. “Laura loved rainbows.”

***

Grant hesitantly approached the front door and knocked. He couldn’t help but remember that the last time he was here, Laura had been beside him. He struggled to push aside the feelings that threatened to overwhelm him.
The door opened to his knock. A look of surprise swept over Larissa’s face.
“Grant. I’m so, so sorry about what happened.” She stepped out onto the porch. “I know you must feel that it’s my fault, and you’re right. I know you can never forgive me, but I’m so sorry.”
Grant shook his head. “See, that’s where you’re wrong. It wasn’t your fault at all, and if it will make you feel any better, I forgive you for anything you feel you may have done.”
A look of surprise swept over Larissa’s face. “Why--why are you here then?”
Grant stuck his hands in his pockets. This was harder than he thought it would be.
“First, I wanted to apologize. Right after Laura died, I did blame you for her death, and I’m sorry. It was wrong of me. Second, I wanted to see how you are doing. I heard about your dad passing. I know how hard that is. If you ever need anything, just ask.”
Larissa was quiet for a moment, and when she spoke, her voice was low. “You are apologizing to me? And you came to see how I was doing? No one has ever done that before. Thank you.”
Grant nodded. “You’re welcome.” It was simple, but it was all that needed said.
“How is Ben doing? I’m guessing he’s having a hard time?”
“He’s fine. Trust me, Grant. The passing of our dad came as a shock, but we were never close. We weren’t like your family. I don’t remember him once telling us that he loved us. I don’t think he did. He loved our mother, and when she died, any love he had died with her. Ever since then he hasn’t really been a dad.”
“I can’t say I understand, but I can imagine.” He paused.”Larissa, there is someone who does love you, who does want to be a father to you.”
“Jesus.” This time, her voice held no bitterness. She simply stated his name.
“Yes. Just like Laura ran out and pushed you away from the car so you didn’t get hit, Jesus came to save you from God’s judgment. And he loved you. He loves you so very much.”
“Like Laura did, only more. I never thought someone could love me like that,” her voice trembled.
Grant nodded, but didn’t respond. For some reason, silence seemed fitting.
Larissa kept her eyes downcast, but her voice was clear. “Grant, ever since I met you and Laura, I knew you were different. I never wanted anything to do with God. He gave me so little in this life, and it seems like if He truly were in control, He should have changed it someway. But your coming here today, everything that’s happened, it all seems so different now. Your sister died and you have every right to be angry at God. But instead, you have accepted it, and even more, you came to see how I was.” She glanced up and met his gaze. “If you had tried to “show me the way” like so many people have, I would have ignored you. But you seem to genuinely care. I want to know more. If you’d like to tell, me, that is.”
For a moment Grant simply started at her as though trying to find out if she was serious. When he saw she was, a huge smile lit his face. In her death, Laura had accomplished what had seemed inpossible while she was alive. God had used tragedy to soften a precious heart.
And maybe, just maybe someday, that heart would be His. But first it would God’s heart. Another precious treasure added to his kingdom. God had answered his prayer in a way he would never had expected. Even through the storm that had interrupted his life, God had brought forth beauty.


One Year Later

“You know, the first time Laura and I came to see you, she said I liked you.” Grant’s remark was casual, but his eyes twinkled at Larissa who walked beside him, her hand securely in his.
Larissa smiled. “Was she right?”
“Hmm. . .maybe.”
Larissa narrowed her eyes.
“Alright, alright. Yes, she was. Laura always seemed to be able to know my feelings before I could even identify them. From the first time I saw you in the hallway, holding my papers in your hand, I knew I was in love. Of course, there were some things to work through. But it was worth it.”
The stopped and leaned out over the fence that they had been walking along. The breeze played with Larissa’s hear, making Grant want to reach over and tuck it back where it belonged. He marveled at just how much she had changed. Instead of the bitter young women he first met, Larissa now sparkled with the joy of Christ. Her love for Jesus made her all the more beautiful in  his eyes.
“So why did you bring me all the way out here?” Larissa cocked an eyebrow at him.
“Well. . .” Suddenly everything he had planned didn’t matter anymore. He stepped forward, giving into the urge to brush her hair back. Her skin felt smooth under his calloused hands. One glance down at her eyes and he knew he could lose himself in them forever. “Larissa Stevens, will you be my wife?”
Larissa gasped, and her lips parted softly.
“Will you marry me?”
“Yes, yes, yes!” She reached up and wrapped her arms around his neck. “A thousand times yes!”

He bent down and brushed a kiss on her cheek before burying her face in her hair. Every story does have a happy ending, he thought with a smile. Some just take longer to get there.

The Tomb is . . . empty.

Matthew 28:1-9 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mar...