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Authors: Kathleen Y'Barbo

Idle Hours

BOOK: Idle Hours
11.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
















Do you enjoy reading stories about Texas women

Why is everyone hungry for
? “More, more,” they say.
“More, more.”
I have God’s more-than-enough,
More joy in one ordinary day

Than they get in all their shopping sprees.
At day’s end I’m ready for sound sleep,
For you, God, have put my life back together.

Psalm 4: 6-8

The Message


Lia Stephanos gripped the wheel of her SUV as she left the city of Green’s Point proper and headed for the hills, literally. Five minutes later, at half past four in the afternoon on the second day of May, she negotiated the tight turn at Benders Fork and exhaled a long breath.

Today was a big day. This drive, one she wouldn’t soon forget.

The few times she’d traveled this road in the past year, she’d done so in the roomy confines of author Cara Bryan’s well-appointed “mommy van” or, more recently, in the passenger seat of her realtor’s luxury sedan. Somehow the beauty of the Texas countryside seemed much more appealing when the road led to the enjoyment of visiting good friend Cara and her family or the adventure of hunting for the perfect house.

Now that the road led home, well, the familiar butterflies rose. The choice had been made and the deal was final.

Final. Oh how I hate that word.

“Stop it,” she said aloud as she pried her fingers off the wheel to punch the button on her CD player. “You know the Lord led you to Green’s Point. You’re going to be happy here and that’s all there is to it.”

The soft strains of smooth jazz filled the car, and she reached to turn up the volume. As the music wound its way around her raw nerves and settled in her heart, Lia relaxed a notch and guided the vehicle past thickets of pine, lush fields and an empty fruit and vegetable stand.

Spring had touched this part of Texas with a brush of brilliant green. Soon there would be fresh produce and - most likely - good conversation with the farmer who grew them, a luxury unheard of in her former abode.

Honestly who wouldn’t be happy in Green’s Point, Texas? Between the quaint town nestled on the edge of Canyon Lake and the green hills where she’d found her dream hideaway, the area had much to offer. Oh yes, this was place was practically right out of an ad from a retirement brochure.


At the thought of her own forced exile Lia let out a long breath. Who would have thought she’d be a washed up senior editor before she turned forty? Well, not exactly washed up, but definitely forced to pull over while the rest of the publishing rat race skidded past with the next bestseller.

Too bad about that heart of yours.

She’d heard it first from the most respected and expensive cardiologist in Manhattan then again from her boss, the CEO of Winston Books. Along the way, the message came from others in phone calls and emails, and even the occasional cheery get-well card.

Just when she figured she’d heard the last comment about her faulty ventricle, she heard the same words from the guy who ran the newsstand on the corner by her third floor walk-up in Red Hook, Brooklyn. It seemed as though the only person other than Cara who didn’t think life as she knew it was over was Lia’s mother.

No, to the contrary, her dear mother had practically giggled at the thought of Lia turning in the key to her corner office at the largest publishing house in New York. Ever the Southern belle even though she’d dwelled in Manhattan’s Upper East Side since she married into Papa’s large Greek family four decades ago, Cordelia Stephanos never quite gave up the idea that women were for making dinner and grandbabies.

More important, Mama never lent any credence to a doctor’s diagnosis when the Lord had told her otherwise. And Mama claimed to have it on good authority that He still had many years of living planned for her only daughter.

One look at the white cottage by the lake and Mama pronounced it the perfect home for her grandbabies. A reminder that her only child was closer to menopause than the maternity ward had no effect.

A few moments later, Lia signaled to turn left at Barker Point then began the quarter mile bounce along a rutted road, gritting her teeth so as not to bite her tongue. Up ahead she caught sight of the dented blue mailbox on a peeled pine post, its red flag lying at half staff. Someone had stenciled a sailboat on either side, but only the barest outline of the vessel could be seen against the pitted rust marks and peeling paint.

Pulling up next to it, Lia climbed out to check her mail only to find the thing rusted shut. “One more item to add to the list,” she muttered as she returned to her SUV.

The infamous to-do list had grown to cover two sheets of notepaper in her ever present portfolio. With this addition and the one regarding the room for younger guests, a third page would probably have to be added.

Some of the items – like switching her cellular phone service to a local carrier and ordering checks with her new address – were low priority. Others, like finding help with her overgrown yard, establishing a new Internet connection, sending a change of address out to family and friends, and stocking her kitchen would come first.

Then there was the issue of the sagging front porch.

Lia brought the SUV to a stop in front of the house then eyed the angle of the boards on the eastern corner of the porch. Thank goodness Cara’s husband, Will, had already scheduled one of his construction crews to do the repair in a few weeks. In the meantime she’d just have to be careful when she replenished the hummingbird food in the feeder that hung from the eastern rafter.

Shouldering her overnight bag, Lia climbed from the SUV then cradled her portfolio and slammed the car door. The sound, echoing in the silence, was quickly followed by the rustling noise of several dozen birds evacuating the trees above her.

She inhaled deeply of the crisp, clean air and noted the distinct lack of bus fumes and cooking odors. “Lia, honey,” she said under her breath as she palmed her keys, “you’re
not in Brooklyn anymore.”

With a grin, Lia turned to cross the lawn – her lawn – and smiled. Where weeds now choked out any desirable foliage, soon she hoped to plant climbing roses and colorful perennials. In that shady spot under the trees, she planned a bed of hostas, ferns, and pink begonias. Out back, she hoped to have her own garden in the works come next spring.

All of this would have to wait until she completed the massive cleanup and painting job that would have to begin immediately. Her cardiologist would probably have a fit, but she intended to do the work herself. Paint and pine-scented cleaner would replace aerobics and walking in her exercise routine for the next few weeks, maybe months.

She cast a longing glance at the lake shimmering beneath startling blue skies in the distance and the narrow dirt road that led from her place to the small boat dock below. Perhaps she would find time to take a walk after all.

Later, she decided, after the house was aired out and her meager provisions unloaded. The moving van wouldn’t arrive with her things from Brooklyn for another three days, plenty of time to steal a moment or two for a stroll to the lake.

Not enough time though, to make a dent in the list she carried under her arm.

“It’s not perfect but it’s mine,” she said as she climbed the steps and fitted her key into the front lock.


Ben Corbin never did get over turning in his traveling shoes and hanging up his long haul trucker’s license. Like his opinions, however, Ben kept the truth to himself.

Buying his daddy’s bait shop so his mama wouldn’t have to run the place alone, now that’s something he could take pride in. After all, a man’s job was to see to his family. But with Mama gone six years now, he toyed with the idea of buying himself an RV and a new map that would take him out of Green’s Point, Texas for good.

Casting his line into the depths of Canyon Lake, Ben could care less whether he caught a fish or not. It was a beautiful May morning, and he had nothing to do but sit back and enjoy the hour before the bait shop opened with his buddy Mitch Tucker while Skipper, his year-old black Lab, snoozed at his feet.

Life just didn’t get any better than this.

Too bad the man had his cap set on talking about the Lord again. He could tell it as surely as he knew the sun would rise again tomorrow. When Mitch got that look in his eye, well, a sly comment was sure to follow.

Ben was as aware as the next guy that there was a Heavenly Father looking down from some mysterious place in the sky. It’s just that his buddy seemed to think that somehow that Guy had an interest in the daily activities of folks here on earth.

It was a nice idea, but nice ideas were better kept in fairy tales. Neither had much basis for reality. Oh, he sat in church regular as clockwork, but that was as much because it made him feel good and not because the Man Upstairs might be listening.

“Penny for your thoughts, Ben,” Mitch said as he opened the cooler and reached for a bottle of water.

Skipper roused at the sound of a voice. Ben gave him a scratch behind the ears.

“You sound like a woman.” Ben leaned forward to accept the bottle and took a long swig. Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, he set the bottle down and shook his head. “’Sides, you don’t want to know what I’m thinkin’. It might rile you.”

“Go ahead. I dare you.” Mitch chuckled. “Wouldn’t be the first time.”

“I don’t know.” Ben pretended to study the bobber at the end of his line. “I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed but even I know not to irritate a man when you’re sittin’ in his boat.”

Mitch chuckled as he pulled one of his fancy hand-tied lures out of his tackle box and fixed it to his line. “The Lord been after you again?” he asked as he sent the lure flying in a perfect arc.

A moment of silence passed while Ben pretended to be absorbed reeling in a line that had nothing on it but a worm. Once he had the bobber floating again, Ben decided to speak his mind.

“Don’t you think I’m a little old for the good Lord to fool with?”
Another chuckle. Oh, but that man was irritating.

“What are you, fifty?”

“I’ll be sixty soon enough,” he said. The truth was he’d turned fifty-two the day after Easter but he hadn’t told a soul. Birthdays meant fuss and he hated fuss.

That’s why he and Skipper got along so well. All the dog needed was a full belly, a nice nap, and the occasional game of fetch. If only his life were so simple.

“Well,” Mitch said, “then, you’ve lived long enough to know a few things for sure, haven’t you?”

Ben leveled a stare at Mitch. “Yeah, I suppose I have.”

“And it’s not that you don’t believe in God. It’s more like you don’t believe God wants a relationship with you. Am I right?”

“I ‘spose that’s right.” Ben let out on the line a bit and watched the bobber float due east with the current. “I guess what I’m sayin’ is, if He’s so interested in being my buddy, why hasn’t He said somethin’ Himself?” He paused to let the question sink in. “I mean, like you said, I’ve lived long enough to know a few things for sure, and I know for sure the Lord hasn’t exactly been hangin’ around the bait shop beggin’ me to sit and chat.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure,” Mitch said under his breath.

“What was that?” Oh, he heard him but Ben wanted to see if Mitch would repeat himself.

“I said. . .” He laid down his rod and stuck his foot on it to keep it in the boat then looked directly at Ben. “I said I wouldn’t be so sure. I’d be willing to bet my best lure that the Lord’s been right there in Ben’s Bait and Tackle just waiting for you to sit still long enough to listen to Him.”

What a card.
Ben chuckled. “Oh, would you now?”

Mitch’s eyes glinted steel and his look was all business. “Yes, I would.”

“Well, you’re in there more than most. Maybe you seen Him when I wasn’t looking.”
“Maybe I have.” Mitch shrugged. “Or maybe I was looking for Him and you weren’t.”

Now wasn’t that an odd statement? Ben tipped his feed store cap up to peer down his nose at Mitch. “What’re you getting at, buddy?”

“I am not a betting man, but I believe the Lord won’t mind if I make you an offer.” He paused to open his tackle box. “Pick any one of those lures, Ben.”

BOOK: Idle Hours
11.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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