Read Pretense Online

Authors: Lori Wick

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

Pretense (3 page)

BOOK: Pretense
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Tell him what? At the moment Marrell wasn't sure. She just knew things hadn't been good between them since that night, and she couldn't live like this any more.

It was already the middle of November. They would be gone from here in seven months, and Paul and the girls would be all she had. She could plan to make this move in anger and upset, or she could plan to look for new opportunities and friends. Shoving the ache inside her even deeper, Marrell determined that by the time Paul got home, she would accomplish the latter.

"It's bedtime, girls," Marrell announced several hours later.

"Bedtime?" Mackenzie felt as outraged as she sounded. "It's not even eight o'clock and-"

"Mackenzie!" Her father's sharp tone stopped her in mid- sentence. He was equally as surprised that his wife was putting the kids down so early, but unlike his daughter, he was not going to argue.

"Brush your teeth now," Marrell filled in, and both girls, their attitudes none too gracious, moved to do as she bid.

21

"Are you all right?" Paul wanted to know as soon as they were alone.

"Can we talk?"

"Yes. Actually, I was going to tell you some things when they went to bed anyway."

Marrell dreaded what he might say, and tears suddenly filled her eyes.

"Mary, honey, it's all right." Paul stood. His arms came around her. "I'll go up with you and make sure they're settled in. Then we'll talk."

Marrell was crying too hard to answer. Paul led her to the sofa and pulled her down beside him. He held her close, not speaking yet, even though she seemed to be quieting. Paul was bending his head to peer into her face when he noticed the girls. They had come back in their nightgowns and stood still at the edge of the room.

"What's wrong with Mom?"

"She's just a little upset. I'll tell you what," Paul said, standing as he spoke. "You come and kiss Mom right now, and I'll tuck you in tonight."

"But Mom always does it," Delancey argued.

"Well, you'll have to put up with me tonight. Come, now! Good soldiers always take orders."

He had put on his playful command voice for them, and even though they knew he could chase them up the stairs, they came over very carefully to kiss their mother and hug her. Marrell managed to dry her tears long enough to embrace them, and just as she expected, the girls charged for the stairs, Paul on their heels. It never made any sense to her when he stirred them just before they went up to bed, but she wasn't going to say anything. Suddenly it wasn't important at all.

Her mind wandered until he came back down, and she didn't feel at all ready for talking when he gained the living room. He sat near her but not directly beside her on the couch, his body turned so he could see her. He picked up her hand and just stared at it. Marrell was quiet.

"Your hands were the first things I noticed about you."

"My hands?"

"Yes. Did I never tell you?"

Marrell shook her head no.

22

"You were cleaning that counter, and your hands were so slim and tanned, and the nails so long. I was captivated."

Marrell had long known that her husband was a romantic. His love and caring never ceased to amaze her. But lately she hadn't loved and cared for him; she'd only been thinking of herself. More tears came, and Paul changed positions to put his arms around her.

"Marrell, what is it? You can tell me. If it's the move or whatever, just talk to me."

"I don't know what's wrong," she got out, frustration punctuating every word. "I just feel so down all the time, and we haven't even told the girls we're leaving yet. You know they're going to be upset, and I dread it. I just feel so empty inside, Paul. What's the matter with me?"

He kissed her. "I think it's just what you said when I told you: At the beginning you weren't thrilled about Texas, but now we have a good life here. You have friends and know your way around, and the girls have done great in school. It's normal that you would fear the changes, but I'll be there, and the girls always adjust swiftly. We'll make it, Mary, you'll see. We'll be fine."

She looked into his face. "I've even been asking myself if I can keep on like this. I've been horribly selfish, thinking that maybe you could do something else so we didn't have to move all the time."

"That's not selfish. I've asked myself that same question, but for now I think this move is a good one. It will probably be my last one before I have to go overseas again, and that won't happen for three more years. It's going to be all right."

"When should we tell the girls?"

"I think in March or April. That way they can say goodbye to their friends before school lets out."

"Have you been told yet what day you have to report?"

"June 20."

Marrell smiled, her heart still trying not to worry. "I wonder how Mackenzie will like spending her ninth birthday in San Francisco."

Paul smiled at the acceptance he heard there, but when he spoke, his voice was deliberately casual. "Did I tell you that I bought something for us today?"

"No. I didn't know you had planned to shop."

23

"I didn't have much notice myself."

"Where did you go?"

"I didn't need to go anywhere. I just dialed the phone."

Marrell looked at him. His warm green eyes stared right back.

"I have airline tickets for four in my briefcase."

Marrell's eyes grew. "Where are we going?"

"We are going to Colorado Springs for Christmas."

Mrs. Bishop's hand went to her mouth. "You wouldn't tease me about this, would you, Paul?"

"Not on your life. We fly out late on the twenty-third, and I don't have to be back to work until January 3."

Marrell's arms went around Paul's neck and pulled him close. She found his mouth with her own and kissed him deeply. "Thank you, Paul," she took a moment to say, then kissed him again.

They sat together, wrapped in each other's arms for the next two hours. Marrell didn't know when she had been so surprised and pleased. The girls were going to love it, and her grandmother would be ecstatic. All she had shared with her grandmother for the past year were letters and occasional phone calls. Now she would see her, and at the most special time of the year. By the time they went to bed, Marrell realized she wasn't feeling nearly as empty inside as she had been.

24

Two

Colorado Springs, Colorado

It looks like they're going to build a snowman," PearlWalker said from her place by the window. "Oh! Delancey just hit Paul with a snowball."

Marrell smiled from her chair by the fire but did not join her grandmother.

"Tell me again who you borrowed all the boots and snow clothes from?"

"I just put the word out at church, and they all came through." Pearl's eyes went back to the scene in her front yard. "I don't think Paul's boots fit that well. He can barely stay on his feet."

Marrell laughed. "He grew up in Florida, Grandma. He hasn't had much practice."

"Are the two of you going to ski?"

"I am certainly going to, and I hope he'll join me. We'll probably wait until next week."

"Did I tell you I was headed out to mail your Christmas gifts when you called to say you were coming?" Pearl's voice held wonder.

Only three times!
The smile and serene nod from Marrell did a good job of hiding the tempestuous thoughts inside.
Oh, Grandma, please don't get old. Please don't change. I need something in my life to stay the same. Please let it be you.

"And then I called Mavis to tell her, and we laughed and laughed."

Marrell listened but felt an ache inside. She had told her all this on the phone just last week, in a letter before that, and several times since they arrived. Marrell sighed very softly.

25

"I know what I didn't tell you," Pearl said as she now sat across from her granddaughter and dug in a basket at the side of the chair. "I've had a letter from Barb Blankenship."

Marrell was suddenly all ears. Barb's granddaughter, Sharon, had gone to school with Marrell from the time they were small. Barb lived in Colorado Springs until five years ago. Her arthritis had become unbearable, and she had moved to warmer climes.

"She says Sharon is in San Francisco!"

"You're kidding!" Marrell had come upright in her chair.

"No, let me read it to you: 'Shay is on the move again, or should I say moved! Her divorce from Marty is complete and-'"

"Shay and Marty got a divorce?"

"Didn't I tell you?" her grandmother frowned.

"No. When was this?"

"It's been a year or better."

Marrell's heart sank. Sharon and Marty had been so in love. What had happened? Didn't anyone stick it out these days? She was on the verge of asking her grandmother to read on, but Mackenzie chose that moment to open the front door.

"Mom!" she yelled, "can I have some more mittens?"

"I'll get them," Pearl offered, quickly standing. "You finish the letter on your own."

Pearl handed the paper to Marrell, who immediately began to read.

Sorry it's taken so long to get in touch, but I've been extremely busy. I try not to promise to write when I know I can % so even though we haven't even had Thanksgiving, this will probably be my Christmas letter.

Shay is on the move again, or should I say moved! Her divorce from Marty is complete, and as hard as it was for both of them, I'm glad she's made the decision to go on with her life, which right now means she's moved to San Francisco. Thank heaven there were no children involved. Much as I'd like to be a great grandmother, I can see what a mess that would have been.

What do you hear from Marrell? Shay asks after her every so often, but for the past few years she's been pretty involved in her own trouble. I've included her address. If you have time, you might want to drop her a Christmas card. I don't

26

know if she has any friends out there yet, and she's trying to get her business off the ground.

Marrell sat back a moment and tried to remember what Sharon had been doing with her life. Marty was an architect, she remembered that much, and somewhere in Marrell's mind it seemed to her that Sharon had gone into those studies as well. . . or had she only been helping Marty with his business?

Marrell finished the letter, but other than having Sharon's address at the bottom, it said nothing more on the subject of her friend. Marrell studied the street address. As big as San Francisco was, the street could be miles from the Presidio. Marrell thought she had best write the address down. She knew she could call and ask when she got back to Texas, but her grandmother might misplace it. Again she sighed very softly.

"Where is your mom?" Delancey asked very suddenly that night.

Of all the things the girls might be thinking about on Christmas Eve, this had never occurred to their mother. Marrell felt herself blink.

"Why hasn't she come yet?" the seven-year-old wanted to know.

"Honey, my mother's dead. She died when I was six. Did you think you were going to see her?"

Delancey nodded her fair head against the pillow.

"I tried to tell her," Mackenzie put in, "but she thought she would be here."

"Oh well, that's all right, D.J. We've talked about this, but you just don't remember. My mother died when I was six, and I came to live with my grandparents because my father was a salesman and traveled a lot."

"Is he still traveling?"

"No. When I was in high school, he got cancer and died before I graduated."

"Where's your grandpa?" This came from Mackenzie.

"He died just a few years ago. You would have been about four, and Delancey would have been three. I have pictures of you in his lap, but you would have been too young to remember him. Okay?"

27

"Okay," they both chorused.

"Sleep quick so morning will come."

The girls beamed at her. Marrell kissed them and told them they were loved, but she was preoccupied. Had she really spoken so rarely of her family that her daughters couldn't even remember the details, or was it that they were young and busy with their own lives?

"That's quite a frown," Paul commented as soon as he saw her. He was alone in the living room, and Marrell sat across from him.

"I was just thinking about how selfish we all are."

"Who?"

"All of us-all humans. We're really just wrapped up in our own little worlds with very little thought for anyone else."

Paul's brows rose. "I wouldn't go so far as to say none of us think of others, Marrell. I think you're right that man is basically self-seeking, but on the other side of that, if we don't take care of ourselves, who will?"

"That's a good point," Marrell admitted slowly, but even as she said it, she had doubts. Was man really just here on his own, stuck with making his way along and doing the best he could?

BOOK: Pretense
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ads

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