Authors: Janice Thompson
Then, awakened at five
thirty, when she insisted it was time to begin the day. No sooner did he get
her dressed than she lost the contents of her breakfast all over the living
room carpet. Instead of spending the day at the day care, she would stay with
his mother, who, thank goodness, happened to be taking a day off from the
Kent felt particularly
guilty leaving her on a day like today, when she didn’t feel well. He tried to
balance that guilt against the exhaustion that so often permeated him these
days. Would it continue forever? He stifled back a yawn, trying to focus. With
so much to be done, he must remain clearheaded. There were E-mails to be sent,
sermons to be written, phone calls to be made.
Phone calls. He needed
to go over the visitor’s list from last Sunday and make the usual calls to
thank them for their visit. It was a logical thing to do.
out of the ordinary there.
Yes, there were phone calls to make. And he
suddenly knew which visitor he would call first.
Kent punched in the number with a bit of anxiety. The phone
rang one, two, three times. On the fourth ring an answering machine kicked in.
“You’ve reached the
. We’re not here to
take your call right now, but if you leave a message, we’ll get back to you.
Have a blessed day.”
Kent fumbled for
words, preparing to give his rehearsed speech. Funny, once he started talking,
everything seemed to come out backwards, upside-down. He couldn’t even manage
to speak in a simple sentence. He struggled to get his message across, to ask
that all-important question. When he felt that there was nothing left to say,
he hung up, dejected.
“Great. She’ll think
Shauna listened to the messages, hoping to hear Joey’s
voice. At the very least, he owed her a phone call. Then again, he hadn’t
called once since her arrival in Houston. Most of the messages were for her
mother or father. She was just about to give up entirely when an oddly familiar
voice kicked in. Was
. .? Nah, it couldn’t be.
“Shauna, this is Pastor Chapman. I mean, Kent Chapman. First
of all, thank you for coming last Sunday. I hope you enjoyed the service. We
enjoyed having you.
. .” He seemed to hesitate a
bit here, and she wondered where he might be headed. “I,
. .I enjoyed seeing you again. In
. .” His voice
broke again. “I was wondering if you were free this Friday night. I thought
maybe dinner and a movie might be nice. I know this is a little,
. . I know we hardly know each other,
There was a definitive pause in the message. Shauna smiled
as his voice kicked in again. “Okay, this is
I’d love to see you this Friday night. Call me at the church if you’re even
remotely interested. The number is in the bulletin you got on Sunday. Or call
me at home. Unless you think this is completely inappropriate.
. .” His voice trailed off. “I really prayed before
calling, I promise. I never do things like this. Never.”
Shauna tried to
imagine the expression on his face as he left the message—the obvious
fear in those beautiful green eyes. Was he worried, nervous? He certainly
sounded like a teenager asking a girl out for the first time.
And she felt a bit
like a teenager right now, as well. A date? How did she feel about that? Shauna
bit her lip nervously. Should she call him back? Would that be inappropriate?
After only a moment’s pause for reflection, she picked up the phone to return
Kent Chapman’s call.
“How do I look?” Kent asked, turning for inspection.
“Handsome, as always,”
his mother responded with a smile. “Would you expect me to say anything else?”
He shrugged then
fumbled to straighten his tie. “Do you think it’s too much? We’re just going
out to dinner.”
“You look fine,
Kenny,” she insisted.
“Mom, don’t call
. .” He hesitated before finishing the sentence. After
so many years on the job, she should be free to call him whatever she liked.
“I know, Kent,” she
said, emphasizing his name. “But sometimes I forget, that’s all.”
“Nana!” Charity said,
tugging at her grandmother’s skirt. “Watch TV.”
“Yes, darling.” She
swept the youngster up into her arms. “As soon as Daddy goes, we’ll watch a
video together. Now give him a good-bye kiss.”
Kent reached over to
embrace his daughter. Spoiled or not, she remained his jewel. For a brief
moment, he felt sure he saw Faith in her twinkling eyes.
His mother gave Charity a gentle kiss on the cheek. “I
picked up a little gift for our girl
She reached into a bag and came out with a baby doll. “She’s so pretty. See?”
She straightened the doll’s skirt before placing her into the youngster’s
“You’re going to spoil
her,” Kent warned, though he knew his words fell on deaf ears.
“See you no later than
ten,” he said.
His mother signaled
for Charity. “Tell Daddy good-bye, honey,” she instructed.
Charity managed a
joyous “Bye-bye” before turning her attentions toward the television.
Kent planted a kiss on his beautiful daughter’s cheek. “Bye,
baby.” He turned to his mother and mouthed the words, “I can’t thank you
“Oh, pooh!” she
answered. “I love watching her. You know that. Besides, we’ve wanted to get you
married off for quite some time now.”
“Get on out of here,”
she said with a grin. “And have a good evening. Don’t give us a second
Shauna slipped on the blue floral dress and gazed at her
reflection in the mirror. “What do you think, Mom?”
Her mother nodded her
approval. “Nice, babe. But you still haven’t told me anything about your young
“He’s not my young
man,” Shauna said nervously, pulling the dress off and reaching for a brown
skirt. “He’s just someone I met at the computer store.”
“Is he nice looking?”
“You’ll find out for
yourself soon enough,” she said, slipping into the skirt. “He’ll be here any
“What’s his name?”
“What does he do for a
Shauna paused only
slightly as she zipped up the skirt. “He’s a pastor.”
“A pastor? Really.”
Her mother’s eyes widened with amazement. “That would explain last Sunday.”
“Yes, but please don’t
say anything.” Shauna reached for a beige blouse. “At least not yet. I barely
“You must want to get
to know him,” her mother said with a smile, “or you wouldn’t be so worried
about what you’re wearing.”
Shauna hurried to
button up her blouse. “I’m not worried, Mom.”
“Really? Then why have
you buttoned your blouse like that?”
Shauna looked down,
horrified to find the buttons and buttonholes mismatched. “Good grief.” As she
fumbled to straighten out the mess, she could sense her mother’s gaze. “Just
say it, Mom”
about Joey. You’re thinking I have no right to be going out with someone I
barely know when Joey is supposed to be my boyfriend.”
“Actually, I wasn’t
thinking that at all,” her mother said. “And I’ve never even met Joey,
remember? I’m just an incurable romantic, and I want the best for you. This
fella could very well be the one.”
“You? An incurable
romantic?” Shauna laughed in spite of herself.
“Yes,” her mother
said, her expression serious. “Whether you want to believe it or not. Now tell
me more about this pastor. How old is he?”
“I don’t know. Late
“Wow. That’s young for
a pastor. What does he look like?”
For some reason, all Shauna could see were his dancing green
eyes. She felt her lips curl up in a satisfied grin. “Very nice looking. But
you’ll find that out for yourself any minute now. He should be here soon.”
Shauna glanced in the mirror and groaned. “Could you hand me the hairbrush? My
hair looks ridiculous.”
“You look great.” Her mother smiled as she reached to offer
The doorbell rang
suddenly, startling Shauna. “Oh, dear.” She gave herself one last glance in the
mirror. “My hair looks terrible. I wanted to put it up.”
“It looks better
down,” her mother assured her. “Now, do you want to get the door, or should I?”
“Um. I don’t know,”
she said nervously. “I don’t want to look too anxious. Why don’t you get it?”
Just then her father’s
booming voice rang out, “Shauna, your young man is here.”
She groaned loudly.
“Great. Daddy got to him first.” She knew how intimidating her father could be.
A retired navy captain, he was quite large in stature and had a deep, booming
voice. He was a teddy bear at heart, but people who didn’t know him well often
misunderstood his sense of humor. Shauna was halfway to the living room when
she heard her father’s voice ring out again.
“Come in here, young fella,” he said sternly. “Nothing to be
afraid of. We won’t bite.”
Shauna flinched, trying to imagine what Kent must be
thinking. She rounded the corner, nearly bumping into him. “Oh. So sorry,” she
said, glancing up. He looked incredible in his dark gray button-up shirt and
black slacks. She couldn’t help but notice the subtle but intoxicating scent of
“You look really nice,
Shauna,” Kent said, his gaze resting on her hair.
“Thank you,” she
mumbled, embarrassed. “I, uh, I’d like to introduce you to my mother and
father—Max and Gloria Alexander. Mom,
.this is Kent Chapman.”
Her father extended
his hand, grasping Kent’s tightly.
From the pained expression
on Kent’s face, perhaps a bit too tightly.
“Glad to meet you,
son,” her father said, slapping him on the back. “Any friend of Shauna’s is a
friend of ours.”
“Shauna tells us
you’re a pastor,” her mother said, looking at him curiously. “If you don’t mind
Oh, please don’t give him the third degree,
“I was just wondering
what prompted you to go into the ministry.”
Kent quickly shared the story, and she seemed more than
satisfied with his explanation. “Sounds like a big job for someone so young,
but you have a lot of passion.”
“Thank you. Sometimes
I think I have too much passion—but the need is so great.”
“You’re sure right
about that,” Shauna’s father threw in. “I’m proud of you, young man. But what’s
the name of your church? Maybe I’ve heard of it.”
“Grace Community Church. We’re not too far from downtown,
just east of I-45.”
Community!” Shauna’s mother said with a smile. “Isn’t that the church I hear so
much about—the one that’s always doing those big outreaches in the
community—giving away food and all of that?”
There are so many churches in the Houston
area reaching out to the community. We’re just one of them.
happy to be serving so near the heart of the city.
It’s certainly worth
Shauna watched him
carefully as he spoke. She couldn’t help but notice the gleam in his eyes as he
talked about the church. Clearly, he loved his job.
“Well,” she said,
glancing at her watch, “we’re going to have to get going.” She reached up and
gave her mother a peck on the cheek.
“Don’t stay out too
late, you two,” her father said sternly.
“He’s kidding,” Shauna
whispered to Kent as they made their way out the door.
“I know,” he whispered
back. “But I like it. I think he’s great.”
She smiled, as she
pondered his comments. What a good heart he had. Why couldn’t Joey be more like
this? Why couldn’t
No. I won’t think about him tonight. Tonight, Joey doesn’t exist. And
even if he did exist, he couldn’t begin to measure up to what’s standing
directly in front of me.
Shauna smiled at Kent as he pulled the door of the
restaurant open. From inside, the aroma of garlic and spice greeted her.
“I love Italian food,”
she said with a grin.
“How did you know?”
She stared at him curiously.
“I had your computer,
remember?” he said with a smile. “I learned a few things about you. Macaroni
Grill is your favorite restaurant, right?”