Read Pretense Online

Authors: Lori Wick

Tags: #Romance, #Man-Woman Relationships, #Christian, #Family, #Fiction, #Christian Fiction, #Sisters, #INSPIRATIONAL ROMANCE, #General, #Religious

Pretense (2 page)

BOOK: Pretense
4.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

from the room. Delancey let her go, happy to have the room to

herself. She planted herself in front of the mirror again, this time

with a hairbrush in her hand.

"You seem preoccupied," Marrell commented softly to Paul from her place next to him in the front seat of their car.

"Just thinking."

"Anything you want to talk about?"

He reached for her hand. "I'll catch you later."

"All right. Do you remember where to turn?"

"I think so. Holler if I start to pass it."

The girls, sitting in the backseat, had been almost silent for the ride to the karate studio, but their thoughts were strangely similar. Delancey was nervous about having to display her moves in front of so many people, and Mackenzie was thinking how nervous she would be if she were going up front tonight. Their father parked the car almost before they were ready.

Following their parents inside, the girls hung close as Paul and Marrell moved slowly inside behind other families who were looking for seats. Mackenzie looked over at one point and stared at Delancey. Thirteen months younger than Mackenzie and tall for her age, Delancey was eye-to-eye with her sister as she looked back, her little face pale. Mackenzie didn't notice her color; she only thought again about the way she might feel.

"Are you scared?" the older girl whispered.

Delancey was tempted to put her chin in the air and tell her no, but she confirmed Mackenzie's suspicions with a swift nod of her head. She had already tested for the red belt and passed, but this was different: This was in front of everyone. The girls continued to follow Paul and Marrell, and a moment later Delancey slipped through the crowd to join her class. Mackenzie's eyes took in everything, but they constantly strayed back to her sister.

15

Delancey looked every inch the professional. Her long hair, straight and blond, hung in a perfect braid down her back. Carriage erect, back straight, and eyes ahead, she sat very still. Mackenzie stared at her before looking up at her mother, who had been watching her as well. They looked at each other at the same time.

"I think D.J.'s nervous," Marrell commented.

"She is," Mackenzie confirmed with confidence.

Both looked back at Delancey in time to see the owner of the studio step forward. He welcomed family and friends alike and praised the hard work of all the participants. Too busy watching Delancey to see if she was all right, Mackenzie heard only portions of his remarks.

First to show the curriculum they had learned were the little ones, whose ages went all the way down to four years old. The crowd was delighted with their small, earnest faces and even with their mistakes. Delancey's group was next, and although not the tallest, Delancey's proud carriage and expert manner drew many eyes. Marrell leaned close to her spouse.

"Oh, Paul, she's so cute."

"Yes, she is." His smile was huge as he watched his youngest daughter.

The decision to leave early on this night was taken from their hands. After Delancey received her new red belt, she was expected to stay with her class. It was rather late by the time everyone finished. The young karate student was flushed with pleasure, however, as compliments came from nearly everyone she passed. Her parents and sister were just as excited as they moved to the car, and any silence on the ride to the studio was made up for on the ride home.

"I thought you were the best," Mackenzie told her.

Delancey smiled with pleasure.

"Are you pleased with your performance, Delancey?" asked Marrell.

"Yes. I was a little scared, but then it was all right. I wanted to come and sit with you when I was done, but no one else was allowed to do that, so I didn't think I could."

"We understood."

At that moment the car passed an ice cream parlor, and Mackenzie immediately asked if they could stop.

16

"It's almost 9:30" was all her father said, but she knew the subject was closed. She finished the ride hoping that Delancey's next performance would be on a Friday or Saturday and that they could stay up as long as they liked.

"I tell you, Paul, they're so unpredictable," Marrell spoke when the girls were settled and they'd gained their own bedroom. "They were mad at each other before you got home, and now tonight they're the best of friends."

"That's kids for you." His tone was casual enough as he undid the buttons on his shirt, but still Marrell stared at his back, her mind only now having time to wonder at the preoccupied look she had seen on his face that evening. Unaware of her scrutiny, Paul took a moment to turn to her. When he found her eyes on him, he became very still.

"Are you all right?" she asked.

Paul stared at her, and without him having to say a word, Marrell had her answer. She sat down on the edge of the bed.

"We're moving on."

"Yes." He wasted no time in admitting it.

Marrell drew a deep breath.

"Where?"

"San Francisco."

"The Presidio?"

Paul only nodded and watched her. Marrell looked at the wall, her mind suddenly blank. She felt the bed move as her husband sat beside her, but for a moment she continued to stare at the wall.

"There's good news," he said softly as he waited for her to turn. "We don't move until June, so the girls can finish the school year here."

"That is good news," she said, her eyes looking into Paul's. "It just never comes easy, does it? I was not thrilled about a Texas posting three years ago, but now we've made a life here."

"And before this we made a life in Alabama, and before that, Colorado. We'll do it again."

"San Francisco," she whispered. "I don't know if I can raise my girls in San Francisco." With that she wrapped her arms around his arm and laid her cheek against his shoulder.

17

There was no need for Paul to say anything. San Francisco did not seem like a great place to raise children, but they were going and that was the end of it. They would both have to accept the fact. He wished he could tell her that they didn't have to live right in San Francisco, but the city was so expensive-he knew they couldn't afford to live anywhere but the Presidio. She knew it as well. The only question still in his mind was when would be the appropriate time to tell the girls.

"These are the reports you wanted, Colonel," the private said as he placed the papers in front of Paul.

"Thank you," the officer returned absently, nodding a dismissal. He stared at the papers, but all he could see was Marrell. She had not cried or been upset right after he'd told her of the move, but as the weeks passed she had slowly become more down. Feeling that he needed some time on his own, Paul went to a bar with a few fellow officers. There he made the mistake of telling them how hard Marrell was taking it.

"Sounds to me like you've got trouble, Paul, old boy," said a single man who was known for using and discarding women at will.

"How's that?"

"When a woman doesn't want to travel, it means there's someone she doesn't want to leave behind."

"What is that supposed to mean?" Paul's voice had grown very cold.

"Well, now, let me just put it this way-she wouldn't be pining for the dinky little apartment you live in or the other wives she talks to at the PX."

If the man hadn't outranked Paul, he'd have punched him in the face. Paul remained calm, however, and said only,"You don't know my wife."

The man was on the verge of saying he'd like to know her but finally looked at the cold gleam in Paul Bishop's eyes and let it pass. Paul had made it an early night after that. He wished he'd gone directly home from work, not because he suspected Marrell of infidelity, but because his wife needed him. In truth he was looking forward to the move, but it was selfish of him to go out when his wife needed his support.

18

The phone rang on his desk just then, and when he answered it, his commanding officer, Colonel Mark Blinker, ordered him into his office. He saluted the man, who stood when he entered, but took a seat as soon as he was asked.

"I've got your transfer date all lined up," Mark began at once, handing a large envelope across the table. "Your duties terminate here on June 9, and you're to report for duty at the Presidio on June 20. Any problem with that?"

"Not at all, sir."

"Good." For a moment the other man stared at him. "How's Marrell liking the idea?"

"She's getting used to it," Paul said, hoping it was true.

"I saw her at the PX last week with the girls," his CO continued conversationally. "Originally from Colorado, isn't she?"

"Yes, sir, Colorado Springs."

The older man nodded. "They get snow at Christmas."

Paul smiled. "That they do."

"You won't find that in San Francisco."

Paul nodded, trying not to speculate over where his CO was headed with this.

"In the envelope," Mark spoke quietly, "you'll find that they have quarters for you at the Presidio. You won't need to rent off base for a time." This was great news to Paul, but he didn't have time to answer. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't you have some leave coming?"

"Yes."

"It's up to you, of course, but you could fly the family somewhere. Maybe some nice place where the girls could play in the snow on Christmas Day."

Paul smiled hugely, and Mark laughed.

"I'll give it some thought, sir. Thank you."

"You're welcome. I hope you go and have a great time."

Paul stood, as did the colonel. The interview was over.

Christmas in Colorado.
It had been years since they had spent a holiday with Marrell's grandmother, the woman who had raised her. It didn't stop all the worries about moving, but the trip was sure to ease some of the hurt. Paul had to restrain himself from heading home to tell Marrell on the spot, but maybe it was better that he couldn't leave. Returning to his desk, he opened the

19

envelope, searched inside, and picked up the phone. Hehad airline flights to book.

The boy in the seat across from the girls winked at Delancey, who turned and giggled in Mackenzie's direction. The two tried not to look at him, but their eyes were drawn back. He was already distracted, however and the girls continued the bus ride home in silence. They still had a ways to go, so Mackenzie pulled out a book. Delancey read over her shoulder, feeling free to ask about words she didn't recognize. Mackenzie put up with it for a time but eventually turned the book so her sister couldn't see.

"Come on, Mackenzie, just let me look."

"All right, but don't ask me any more words."

A good portion of the ride was finished in silence, both heads bent over the book. Mackenzie was a faster reader, so Delancey ended up just studying the illustrations that appeared every so often. The ride went faster that way, and before they knew, it was time to get off the bus and walk the short distance to their apartment on the base. As was her custom, their mother met them at the door. She had hugs and kisses for them and questions about the day.

"A boy winked at D.J. on the bus," Mackenzie said, laughingly.

"Well, now. Did you wink back, Delancey?"

This sent the girls into more laughter. Marrell told them to wash their hands for a snack. She then put apples and crackers with peanut butter on the table along with two glasses of milk. Even with this small act, Marrell felt that familiar ache steal over her and wondered at it. There was so much about Texas that was difficult-the heat and bugs, just to name two. So why did this move leave her feeling dejected? The weather was sure to be more pleasant in San Francisco, but for some reason the idea of uprooting again depressed her.

Maybe I can't be an Army wife after all. Maybe I need to ask Paul just how badly he wants to keep doing this.
With this thought she was overcome with guilt. It had been weeks before she had even thought to ask Paul what his new job would be and if it was an advancement. Her selfishness had amazed her. He had been very understanding, but the very next night he had called

20

to say he was going out with some friends. When he came home he'd been very attentive, but Marrell had begun to worry.

The phone rang just then, and Marrell started violently. She walked toward it, dreading the thought of Paul calling to say he would be going out again, but it was a wrong number. She could have wept with relief.

"Mom?"

Marrell turned at the sound of Delancey's voice.

"What is it, honey?"

"Are you gonna cry?"

"No," she said softy, "I was just thinking." She mustered a smile. "Eat your snack now."

It was a relief to have her daughter turn away. She and Paul had to talk tonight. He had been acting oddly, and she was sure it was over her mood. There were far worse places to be stationed than San Francisco. She'd never been there but knew there were people who found it very exciting. The phrase "It's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there" leaped into her mind, but she pushed it away. She would talk to her husband tonight and tell him. . .

BOOK: Pretense
4.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Delicious by Jami Alden
The Darcys of Pemberley by Shannon Winslow
I Love You Again by Kate Sweeney
Escorted by Claire Kent