Stopping Traffic (A Back to School Romance) (Love at The Crossroads) (2 page)

BOOK: Stopping Traffic (A Back to School Romance) (Love at The Crossroads)
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Embarrassed that she had been caught drifting through the rest of the electrifying sermon, Candace got to her feet and straightened her dress.  But she had gotten the message in a nutshell: work unto the Lord as a lowly crossing guard. 

“This is the most important part of the service,” Elder Alexander reminded the congregation. “Not the singing, the preaching or the offering. It’s all about repentance. This altar call moment is about your soul. God is recruiting repenting hearts.

“You can sign up here. Don’t be satisfied with just visiting churches or praying every now and then. Go all the way with Jesus and accept the baptism in Jesus’ name and receive His Holy Ghost…”

Tears began to stream down Candace’s cheeks. Wrapping an arm around her, Solae whispered, “Are you all right?”

Their life experiences had mirrored each other’s until Candace got married. Solae had stated she couldn’t find the right one. Not long after Candace had a baby, Solae had a hysterectomy at twenty-six because of gut-wrenchingly painful fibroid tumors. Candace had grieved longer than Solae before accepting her dear friend would not share the joy of bringing a precious son or daughter into the world. 

The table of heartbreak turned on Candace when Daniel was killed. Solae was just as devastated as if it had been her husband. To say they were lifelong friends was an understatement. They loved like siblings and even argued like sisters, but at the end of the day, they had each other’s back.

Candace sighed. “God was speaking to me today. He convicted my heart.”

“You’re not alone, sister. I’ve been struggling with judgmental issues, too,” Solae confessed as she released her. She always reminded Candace of a younger version of Nia Long.

“Not you.” Candace grinned as they shared a chuckle.

“Girl, they need a prayer line just for us,” Solae whispered, pulling out a couple of tissues from her purse. She handed one to Candace.

After the benediction, Solae accompanied Candace down the corridor that connected to a chapel where children’s activities were held during service.  As the honorary godmother and auntie, Solae always had a treat for Lindsay, which earned her hugs and kisses.

When Lindsay saw them coming, she grabbed her picture torn from a coloring book of Biblical characters. Jumping up and down, she waved furiously at Solae and grinned at her mother.

Candace rested a hand on Lindsay’s shoulder to restrain her energy. She admired her daughter’s artwork, a neatly colored picture of King Solomon.

After a squeeze and a kiss on the cheek, Solae asked Lindsay if she was excited about attending school the next day.

Bobbing her head, Lindsay took a deep breath and got on a roll, “Auntie, my teacher’s name is Mrs. Davis. I got a lunchbox, new shoes…” she rattled off an endless list while Solae listened patiently. “Mommy got her some new clothes, too. We’re going to match tomorrow. She’ll look so pretty.”

Lindsay gave her mother an adoring smile. Candace tweaked her nose, making Lindsay giggle.

“Who wears red on the first day at a job?” she mumbled to Solae.

“You will,” she answered quietly, smiling for Lindsay. “While you’re at school having fun, your mom is coming to work with me, and we’re going to have fun, too.”

Solae was responsible for getting Candace the virtual assistant position at Kendall Printing in the first place. Her friend had also put a bug in their boss’ ear about Candace applying for the account trainee program that would be starting up in a few months. Since the promotion wasn’t available for telecommuters, it couldn’t have come at a better time for Candace to make the transition from home to the office. To be eligible for the position, she had to shadow someone for six months.

With a concerned expression, Lindsay frowned and tilted her head. “We didn’t get Mommy a lunchbox.”

“Don’t worry about your Momma. I’ll make sure she eats.” Solae reached for one of Lindsay’s hands as Candace grabbed the other and steered her toward the exit.

“Okay,” Lindsay said in a singsong tone.

“Enjoy your debut as crossing guard extraordinaire tomorrow…God’s given you the victory. Otherwise, He wouldn’t allow Satan to taunt you. You’ll be fine.” To lighten the mood, Solae gave her an encouraging thumb up. “I should drive by and take pictures.”

Candace rolled her eyes at the last statement, but feeding on Solae’s confidence in her, she was psyched and felt encouraged. “Hey, I’ve got this.” They swapped kisses and hugs in the parking lot.

“Bye, Auntie.” Lindsay waved, then latched onto Candace’s hand and skipped the short distance to their car. “Tomorrow’s school, Mommy, and I get to wear my new shoes.”

“I know.” Candace tugged on one of her daughter’s curls and helped her into the car seat in the back of her Kia.
And tomorrow will be the first day we’ll be separated for hours, the first day I’ve had a job outside the home since you were born and my inauguration as a crossing guard
.

It was definitely a day she hoped to endure without drama. If Candace could survive two out of the three, she’d deserve a medal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER
THREE

 

 

“Come on eight o’clock.” Royce yawned. He was ready to go home.

After doing a twenty-four hour shift, he was beat. Usually, he worked twelve hour rotations, but he was covering for someone else.
Thank You Jesus for that
, Royce whispered, referring to the fact that North St. Louis County had been quiet throughout the night.

While his brother finished up the new work schedule in the office, their chauffeur was checking the equipment for the morning shift. Stretching, Royce could hardly keep his eyes open as he studied for a promotion test at Hershel’s urging.

Royce had nothing but respect for his brother, who had worked and studied hard to earn his rank as captain while rearing his two small boys, ages three and five, on his own. It was overwhelming, to say the least.

Maybe it was a blessing that their mother was deceased so
as not to witness the demise of Hershel’s union. It would have broken her heart, but she would have pitched in. But Hershel had employed a faithful housekeeper who had been a godsend with her flexibility and genuine love for his nephews.

The older generation of Kavanaugh men married for life, tracing back to his great-grandfather. His generation was questionable, only their youngest brother, Trent, was still happily married to his wife, Julia.  The couple was blessed with an adorable baby girl.

“The engine’s ready to go,” Felix said, entering their shared sleeping quarters.

Royce
snapped out of his musing and looked busy. Lately, every chance his colleague got, he ribbed him about going out on a blind date—no thank you. Definitely not with one of Felix’s referrals.

If Royce
ever found the right one—she had to be pretty enough, sweet enough and Christian enough to complement him—then he could boast that blissful state. Exhaling, he didn’t know when that was going to happen. Although he wasn’t in a rush, God said it wasn’t good for man to be alone.

Thinking about the lack of intimacy, Royce smiled. Yes, Father did know best. Stretching, Royce rolled his shoulders and rubbed his lower back. In two long hours, he would be off work and not long after that, collapsed in his own bed.

***

“Wake up!” a tiny voice echoed in the background. Candace ignored the intrusion as she snuggled deeper under the covers. 

Then her bed started shaking. “Mommy, I’ll be late.”

Candace jerked up. She blinked, disoriented, recognizing Lindsay’s panicked high-pitched distress call. Finally, seconds later, it registered. It was the first day of school and work. She glanced at the clock. She must have slept through her alarm.

“Oh no!” Wrestling with her covers, Candace scrambled out of bed. “Of all days…”  She had to get her daughter and herself ready, and cook breakfast. Padding across her hardwood floor, she swung open her door about to check on Lindsay. 

She froze before the first step. Lindsay skipped down the hallway, modeling her red jumper. Having removed her head scarf, each of her four ponytails remained neatly in place. Candace sighed in relief that she had one less task to do. The only thing that needed tweaking was switching Lindsay’s tennis shoes to the right feet.

“How long have you been up? Why didn’t you wake mommy sooner?” Candace didn’t wait for answers as she hurried into the bathroom. Thank God she had taken a shower the night before. In record time, she had slipped on her red sleeveless coatdress and black sling back pumps. Solae always argued that bright colors complemented her skin tone. After a quick glance in the mirror, Candace agreed, although decked out in a red as bright as a fire truck wouldn’t be her first choice.

In the kitchen, Candace hurried Lindsay through the most important meal of the day. Reluctantly, she left dirty dishes in the sink. She ushered her daughter out of the door, grabbing her new briefcase—compliments of Solae, a black jacket for the office chill, Lindsay’s backpack, lunchbox, and everything else she had lined up on the countertop near the door.

While en route to Duncan Elementary, Candace prayed she wouldn’t be late for her duty at school in addition to overcoming her fear for the sake of the children and herself. That’s when she remembered she hadn’t greeted God.

“Lord, thank You for waking me up and all the blessings You have in store for me and my baby today. Lord, help me to be grateful and humble in Your eyesight. Amen.”

“Amen, Mommy.”

Smiling, Candace
peeked at Lindsay in her rearview mirror; she didn’t realize her daughter was listening. Finally, she arrived at the intersection of Cougar and North Lindbergh. She saw a group of children heading to the corner. Candace parked haphazardly, taking up almost two full spaces. She unbuckled their seat restraints and jumped out. She didn’t have time to take Lindsay to class beforehand as she had planned, so her daughter would have to stay with her until after the bell rang.

Snatching the red neon vest off the backseat, Candace turned up her nose at the worn item, then remembered the Sunday sermon. She slipped it on. “At least it matches,” she mumbled and got the stop sign out the trunk.

As the children reached her corner, Candace impatiently pressed repeatedly on the button to change the light. Her heart pounded as she reminded herself she could do all things through Christ that strengthened her. Some cars slowed as the light flashed from yellow to red. When one SUV screeched to a halt, Candace jumped. She frowned at the offender for rattling her nerves.
God, please protect these children—and me
.

Taking a deep breath to recover, Candace stepped off the curb. She walked into the street mustering up confidence as she held up the sign, hoping drivers would honor it for the children’s safe passage.

She breathed a sigh of relief with each group that successfully made it to the other side. The eagerness on the small children’s faces was priceless compared to the sluggish stride of the older students. After a couple of waves and thank yous, Candace relaxed and began to feel like a pro—almost. She chided herself on almost missing an opportunity to serve others like church ushers, teachers, doctors and other community leaders. God had proven she could do this.

As Candace stood in the intersection, a blaring siren in the distance grew louder. Eying the countdown on the post, she ordered the children to hurry. It took God’s might for her not to panic and freeze in the middle of the street. With them safely tucked behind her, and her legs feeling shak
y like Jell-O, the truck whizzed by.

Despite the noise, and her mind
being elsewhere, Candace thought she also heard a muffled high-pitched whistle. That irked her. She was risking her life for the sake of these children and someone had the nerve to ogle her?

“See, Mommy, you were like a policewoman. You made everybody stop,” her daughter cheered, interrupting her frenzy. The pleased expression in Lindsay’s eyes after the last group of students was safely on school property made her feel foolish for her thoughts.

“Come on, sweetie. Let’s get your things from the car, so I can walk you to your first day of class.”

Physically, Candace had survived; but mentally, she was still praying that another parent would surface at the last minute and relieve her of her duties. While some people feared driving across bridges or riding in airplanes, her
fear was on the ground, at a corner and getting from point A to point B on foot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER
FOUR

 

 

The air between Royce’s lips just escaped, but he had no problem owning up to the whistle. Even
with passing her by in a blur, he could tell she was a sight he wished he could see. The crossing guard’s nice legs could halt traffic without the benefit of a stop sign.

If the crew hadn’t been racing toward the scene of a two alarm blaze, he would have pleaded with the lieutenant to make a U-turn as if they were riding in a sports car
, rather than a ten-thousand pound ladder truck.

BOOK: Stopping Traffic (A Back to School Romance) (Love at The Crossroads)
7.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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