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.

18 comments:

  1. Wow, Jesseca!! I loved it! A wonderful short story. :)

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    1. Thank you, Deborah! I'm glad you enjoyed it! :D

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  2. Sad and beautiful. :,) Well done Jesseca! I really enjoyed reading it!

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    1. Thanks, Rebekah! Yeah. . .I got teary-eyed while I was writing it. Doesn't happen very often! :)
      SO glad you enjoyed it!

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  3. This is such a beautiful story, Jesseca. :) It tugs all my emotions. I love it!! ;)

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    1. And, yes, I totally agree with everything in your opening. ;) I love Fridays. This week flew by, but I still love Friday. ;) Our school stuff (especially mine...*cough*) tend to lie around the house, bar counter, and table all week. But it's nice to put them all away on Fridays :)
      I love Courageous! My family hasn't watched that one in a while either...and we got War Room so we'll be watching it soon. :)

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    2. Thank, Faith!!
      Haha, yeah. . .school so awesome to be able to put away! Unless you have a Physical Science test that will need taken on Saturday because you didn't get around to finishing it on Friday. Augh!
      Courageous is so amazing! I love it!! :D

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  4. I really liked your story, Jesseca! :) It was great! It was really sad, but I loved that it had a happy ending! :)
    How long have you been writing?

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    1. Thanks, Rebekah! Yeah. . .I can't stand it when stories, even sad stories, don't have at least a halfway happy ending. ;)
      Ummm, about three years! :) But only seriously for the last year and a half or so.

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    2. Read Dana's Valley. Oh my!!! That's one of my favorite books. It's very sad (I assure you, you will cry) but it also has great hope.

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    3. I looked it up and it looks really good! I'll have to try it. :)

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  5. Wonderfully written, Jessica! Just my kind of story. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed it!

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    1. Thank you, R! I'm so glad you enjoyed it! Your comment totally made my day!!! ^_^

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  7. Sorry, I must of accidently posted my comment twice.
    By the way, at the spot there were it says "“Never mind, I’ll get the basket.” He opened the trunk and grabbed the basket Larissa had filled with goodies." Did you actually mean "...the basket Laura had filled..."?
    And towards the end there,"before burying her face in her hair", did you intend "before burying his face in her hair"?
    Sorry if I'm being nit-pickety.

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    1. Haha, that's fine. ;)
      Oh, and thank you so much for pointing those out! I edited this thing three or four times and I still didn't catch it. *sigh*
      Not nit-pickety at all! I always want you to point out any thing you may see. :)
      Oh, and welcome to the blog!! :)

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    2. I always do that too! We writers have all the maladies *sigh* :)
      Thank-you. I've actually been reading your blog for a couple months but just discovered how to post a comment.

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    3. I always do that too! We writers have all the maladies *sigh* :)
      Thank-you. I've actually been reading your blog for a couple months but just discovered how to post a comment.

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The Tomb is . . . empty.

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