Read Pretense Online

Authors: Lori Wick

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

Pretense (9 page)

BOOK: Pretense
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The phone was ringing when she walked in the door, and without thought she picked it up. Rage exploded inside of her when she heard Dante's voice, and after calling him a few choice names, she slammed the phone back into its cradle. When she realized what she'd done, she burst into fresh tears, but her anger had done the trick. She did not hear from Dante Casale again.

"What if none of the other girls will play with me?"

"They will, D.J. You'll see." Marrell's voice was kind, but her heart was preoccupied. They had been shopping for the school clothes Marrell didn't care to make, and at the moment she was just plain tired.

"Can Micki come into my class?"

"No, honey, she's a year ahead of you. You know that won't work."

"I'll probably see you at recess," Mackenzie offered. She wasn't all that interested in comforting her sister, but with Delancey's surfacing fears came Mackenzie's. This was the first time they had ever been forced to change schools. She liked her school and her teacher in San Antonio. The year hadn't even started yet, but she feared it could be awful.

"Mackenzie, are you listening to me?"

"What?"

"I asked whether you tried these jeans on."

"Yeah. They're fine."

"Well, they have them in black. Do you want a black pair?"

"I do," Delancey spoke up.

"She asked me, D.J. Yes, I do."

Delancey's tongue came out the minute her mother's back was turned, but Mackenzie ignored her.

"Now, I think you need new nightgowns too. You can't go to Shay's looking like a rag bag."

"When do we go?"

61

"Saturday."

"This Saturday?" Mackenzie asked.

"What day is this?" Delancey wanted to know.

"This is Thursday, and you'll be staying the night at Shay's in just two days."

The girls' irritation was put aside. They exchanged smiles and thought about all that Shay had told them they would do.

Shay Elliot had become something of a fixture at the Bishop house. She came at least once a week for dinner and stopped by other times just to visit or bring ice cream and cookies. Their mother said she was getting fat with all of Shay's goodies, but the girls hoped it would never end. Now the big weekend had come.

Paul and Marrell's twelfth anniversary was Sunday, August 28. The girls were going to spend Saturday night at Shay's, her gift to the couple, so they could be alone for most of the weekend. Marrell was thrilled with the offer, and the girls were ecstatic over everything Shay had promised them-television for as late as they wanted and anything they cared to eat, even in bed. It was a little girl's dream come true.

"Okay, I think we're all set. We need to get home. Your dad will be arriving, and I forgot to leave a note."

Once in the car, the girls said they were starving. Too tired to even speak, Marrell didn't need much coaxing before she agreed to pick up fried chicken. Paul was glad to see them and always up for chicken. He teased his wife, however, when she told him how much money she'd saved shopping for the girls' clothes on sale.

"So you stop and buy take-out chicken and cancel out all your savings."

Marrell opened her mouth and shut it again. She had no argument, and all she wanted to do was giggle. He was still teasing her when the meal was over, but with a little food in her, Marrell was ready to fight back.

"I bought a new nightgown to wear on Saturday night, Paul Bishop," she said softly as they cleared the table. "But if you don't stop teasing me, I'll just take it back."

With two sentences, her eyes holding his, the issue was settled. Looking much like a Boy Scout, Paul's hand went in the air. "I won't say another word."

62

T
he first day of school arrived as everyone knew itwould. The school looked larger than ever, butunlike the mob scene in the girls' minds, kids were clustered in small groups, and some were even standing alone. Another misconception was put to rest when Marrell parked the car and got out with the girls. Delancey thought they would be dropped at the curb. Her mother walked calmly across the schoolyard, a daughter on either side of her, and moved toward Mackenzie's room. Checking the list of names by the door just to be certain. Marrell first dropped off Mackenzie and then a pale Delancey.

She made herself leave the girls in the hands of their competent teachers, relieved that she was meeting Shay in just a few hours.

"Well, how did they do?" Shay asked Marrell.

"Micki seemed fine, but D.J. was just about sick with nerves. It helped that her teacher was very kind and waiting right outside the door for the students."

The women were going to lunch. Marrell had gone to Shay's office, and now Shay was driving them to one of her favorite restaurants on the pier.

"Did Delancey ask to stay home?"

"Oh, yes."

Shay chuckled. "I remember doing the same thing. I was always so frightened on the first day of school."

"But you didn't change schools."

63

"No, I didn't, and that's the weird thing about it. I felt that way, you know, sick and nervous, at the beginning of every school year. I always had it in my head that all my friends had moved away and I would be all alone. I should have talked to Delancey and told her I know how she feels."

"Well, I hope everything goes well. Even as I said to her that everyone would like her, I remembered how cruel kids could be. At least she likes her teacher."

They were at the restaurant now, and since Shay was recognized, they were seated at a good table by the window, giving them a perfect view of the bay and the sailboats on the water. Several people stopped to speak with Shay, but Marrell was hungry and kept her face in the menu.

"What's good, Shay? I'm starved."

"The crab salad is excellent. It gives me fish breath, so I don't eat it if a client is coming in, but I love it."

"Sounds good." Marrell closed the menu. "That and iced tea, and I'm all set."

"I'll do the same, I guess." The women put the menus aside, and Shay asked, "What was Paul doing today?"

"I think the same as usual. He enjoys his work, and sometimes it takes him out of the office, but I don't usually hear about it until he gets home. He tried to set up a helicopter ride for the girls before school started but had to put it off until October. They don't know about it yet, but they'll love it."

"I'm so glad you mentioned October. My landlady, Rose, I think you met her-"

"Yes, I did."

"Well, her church is having a women's seminar, and she really wants me to go, but I don't want to. It would be easier if you would go with me."

"Shay, why would you attend something that holds no interest for you?"

Shay looked frustrated. "She's been a friend and a great landlady, and she's always so kind. I think if I just go to one thing at her church, she'll understand that I'm not into religion and won't ask anymore."

"I've done that," Marrell admitted, her nose wrinkling in self- disgust. "I've attended something just to get someone off my back. You know what you should do, Shay? Go to one service

64

with her. That will do the trick. Why waste a whole Saturday or a weekend when you could take care of it with one service?"

"That's a good idea. Maybe I'll do that. Do you and Paul go to church?"

"No. I didn't grow up with it, and neither did Paul, so he's not interested. I want the girls to make their own choices and not have Paul and me preaching to them. Not too many years ago my grandmother started to attend church with a neighbor, but she doesn't speak of it much. We went with her when we were there for Christmas, but I think it's better if we all have our own beliefs. If there is a heaven and God can see us, He must know that we've tried hard and done our best on this earth. I don't think any one religion has all the answers."

"That's not what Rose would say," Shay commented as she put sugar in her tea. "She says the Bible is the bottom-line authority."

Marrell shrugged.

The subject was cut short when the waiter delivered their salads, but the conversation stayed on Shay's mind long after they had eaten, driven back to Shay's office, and gone their separate ways.

"And there's a boy from my karate class, and my teacher, Mr. Austin, takes karate too."

Marrell smiled. Delancey had not stopped talking since she climbed into the car.

"And one of these days he's going to have Carl and me come and do a demonstration."

"I'm so glad, honey. I thought about you all day. How did things go for you, Micki?"

"Pretty good. Mrs. Grace says we do lots of reading-at least one book report a month and extra credit if we do more."

"You'll get extra credit, won't you, Micki?" Marrell said with a smile in her voice, and Mackenzie's little heart swelled with pleasure. She was good in math, reading, and writing, and loved it when her parents noticed.

"I need a paint shirt," Delancey said.

"Oh," Mackenzie put in as well, "I do too."

"Okay. We'll dig around in your father's clothes tonight and see if we can come up with something."

65

The girls were quiet after that, and Marrell found she was thankful. It was a lot of work worrying about her children. Delancey had been on her mind the entire day. A good first day did not mean that the entire year would run smoothly, but it was a relief. At any rate, the girls were off to a good start.

"Have you ever seen anything so cute in your entire life?" Marrell said softly to Paul, who could only smile.

Up at an amazing hour, the girls were ready for school and dressed in the red poodle skirts their mother had made them for Halloween. Thin sweaters-one white and the other a pale pink-white sneakers and socks, ponytails, and a bit of lipstick completed the ensemble.

"Where did you find those sweaters?"

"At a charity store for a dollar apiece."

Paul shook his head in wonder. The girls looked adorable. They had begged their mother to put a record on, and they were now in the living room doing their own version of "The Hop."

"Okay, you two," Paul called to them, "I'm going to get the camera, so get ready to smile."

In complete "ham" style, the girls struck poses that made their parents howl with laughter.

"Grandma's going to love these," Marrell said truthfully as Paul captured a few candid shots.

"I'll have to take them to the office with me. No one would believe me otherwise."

"Speaking of the office, you had better head out."

Paul looked at his watch, pressed the camera into Marrell's hands, moved to kiss the girls, and then back to kiss his wife.

"We never did get to finish our conversation last night," he said as she walked him to the door.

"No, I was too tired and emotional. Besides, I don't think there's anything more to talk about. It's all my fault. I told Shay to go to church with Rose, and now she hasn't missed a Sunday. She just runs from one thing to the next, Paul. When is she going to grow up?"

"Maybe this will really help her."

Marrell shook her head. "She thinks it can help everyone. She wants us to go to church with her too."

66

Paul grinned. "Well, maybe we should just go one time and get her off our backs."

Marrell laughed before Paul kissed her and then stood in the doorway to wave him off. Her smile died swiftly when the door was shut, however. Shay's actions of late, or rather her lack of actions, were very hard for Marrell. She had thought their friendship was in full swing, but now Shay was coming around less and less. With the girls in school all day, she was just plain lonely. Paul came home for lunch often, but Marrell found herself with time on her hands and the familiar empty ache back inside her.

"Well, Shay has stopped seeing her therapist-maybe I should book an appointment."

"Who are you talking to, Mom?" Mackenzie wanted to know.

"Just myself, Micki," she answered honestly. "We'd better get ready to go."

The girls, so excited about their costumes, needed little urging. Ten minutes later they were on their way to the bus stop. They bounced up the steps with the other children, much too keyed up to hear their mother's soft sigh.

"You haven't mentioned your friend Marrell in a couple of weeks, Shay," one of the women in the circle said. "Is everything all right?"

"I don't know," Shay answered honestly. "She has no interest in church or in Jesus Christ, and things are a little strained between us right now. I guess I felt it was best not to see her at all if it was going to be so uncomfortable."

Shay was part of a women's Bible study that met on Thursday nights. Just five weeks before, she had taken Marrell's advice and gone to church with Rose. What she heard had turned her world upside down.

All of the professionals had told her that nothing was her fault. The man at the front of the room that morning said that all people sinned. The counselors had told her she was a victim. The pastor said Jesus Christ was a victim by choice, and because of His sacrifice, we never had to pay eternally for our sins. Shay had been stunned speechless. Her plan to attend and divert Rose backfired in her face. She had kept Rose for hours that afternoon, asking her one question after another.

BOOK: Pretense
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ads

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