Authors: Barbara Kaylor
Olivia checked her watch. “Enough of this, Elliot.” Jumping up, she asked, “Where are you taking me for dinner tonight? Someplace terribly expensive, I hope.”
Elliot thought of Geneva’s home cooked meals and the joy of eating at her table.
“Do we ever eat at home, Olivia?”
“Of course not,” she said, marching to the bedroom. “I hate cooking! I don’t have time for domestic work.”
Elliot sat disgruntled on the sofa while Olivia primped. When he’d called earlier and told her he was coming over to talk, he hadn’t included a dinner invitation. He couldn’t imagine spending another hour or more with Olivia Swanson. The prospect repulsed him. Had he been as cold and callous as she?
“I’m not in the mood to have dinner out, Olivia.” Elliot stood when Olivia returned with her purse and a fresh coat of lipstick.
“Nonsense,” she huffed. “Go to your apartment and get dressed. You’re not going like that!”
Elliot’s apartment was down from Olivia’s and was just as cold. Rick had taken him there right after he was released from the hospital. Elliot didn’t want to stay there. Something about it gave him the creeps.
Rather than squabble, which he’d grown to loathe, Elliot complied with Olivia and trudged to his apartment to change into nicer clothes. Following Olivia’s curt instructions, he drove them to her favorite restaurant. When he greeted the employees with a courteous smile, they responded with shocked expressions. Apparently, friendliness wasn’t his style.
“You treat people as they should be treated,” Olivia explained when he asked about it after they were seated. “The help here are not on your level.”
“Sounds like snobbery.” Elliot snapped his napkin open and placed it on his lap. “I’m not sure I like my old self.” He wanted her to know.
“We’re selective people, Elliot.” His comment didn’t register with her. “We don’t make friends with everyone.” Olivia’s coldhearted attitude disturbed Elliot. It was all he could do to sit through the meal.
When he took her home, she assumed he would stay.
“No.” His patience had worn. He left her gaping at the door of her apartment.
For an hour, he drove in circles around Orlando. Somehow, he ended up in the parking lot of his company. After staring at the assorted buildings without remembering a thing, he left, but couldn’t remember how to get home. He called Rick for help.
“How was your meeting with Olivia?” Rick asked after they got home. They were seated at the kitchen table, eating slices of their mother’s apple pie with glasses of cold milk.
Elliot gave his brother all the ugly details.
Rick chuckled. “Yep, sounds like Olivia.”
“I don’t want to marry her, Rick,” Elliot confessed without remorse. “What am I going to do?”
Rick couldn’t get used to this Elliot asking him for advice and help. Shrugging, he replied, “I think you should put off the wedding.”
“You’re not just saying that because you don’t like Olivia, are you?” Elliot’s brows twitched upwards.
Rick shook his head. “No. It makes sense to delay the wedding. You need to tell Olivia right away, too.”
“That’s not going to be easy.” Elliot sighed, but he knew Rick was right.
The next day, he gave Olivia the news. He didn’t know anyone could yell that long.
“Are you insane?” She’d screamed. “Do you know how much I’ve already put out for this? How much work I’ve done?” Her tirade lasted an hour. She never shed a tear.
Forsaking all wisdom, Elliot had promised to rethink his decision as soon as his memories returned.
“I’ve invested in this relationship, Elliot!” Olivia had retaliated. “I quit my job with your company as marketing director so we could see each other! That cost me a huge salary, plus the money I had to use to start up my own company! If you don’t marry me, you’ll pay me back every cent or I’ll sue you!”
His promise to consider her demands if it came to it had drawn more fury.
“I just need some time, Olivia,” he had pleaded with her sense of reason which he discovered wasn’t as pronounced as her self-absorption. “I need to get my memories back before I can go on with my life.”
Nothing he had said appeased her, but she finally agreed to put off the wedding until he said otherwise. What choice did she have? She couldn’t marry without a groom. As Elliot started to thank her in a civil way, she ordered him out. It was completely unnecessary. He couldn’t leave fast enough.
“You’ve been mighty glum since Elliot left.” Perry appraised his granddaughter over lunch on Thursday.
“I’m just worried about him, Grandpa. He’s all mixed up.”
“You mean because he can’t remember the woman he’s engaged to, but remembers a woman he hasn’t seen in seven years. I’d call that more than mixed up.”
Geneva took a bite out of her tuna-salad sandwich and mulled over her grandfather’s assessment while she chewed. After a swallow of iced tea she replied, wearily. “I think he should forget the memory of me. It’s just a malfunction in his brain brought on by the accident.”
Perry shook his head. “I think it’s more of a God thing, myself.”
“You say that about everything, Grandpa.” Geneva smiled.
“Usually, I’m right. Nobody but God could make this happen.” Perry chuckled. “He wanted to bring you two together. That’s what I think.”
“Whoa! Grandpa!” Geneva put down her sandwich. “Elliot and I are not getting together! He just came here because he thought I could help him remember who he is, that’s all. Don’t go making it into something it isn’t.”
“He seems like a nice man.”
Geneva shrugged and rolled her eyes. “He has amnesia, Grandpa. He doesn’t remember anything about his life.”
“Except you,” Perry said with a wink. “He remembers you.”
“Only the day he fired me,” Geneva qualified.
“I think he remembers more than that,” Perry noted. “I may be in my seventies, but I’m not blind. I see the way he looks at you. I hear the way he talks to you. He respects you. He’s a gentleman around you.”
“So, he’s got manners.” Geneva swirled a carrot stick in the ranch dressing on her plate.
“It’s more than manners. I think it goes deeper.”
“Believe me, Grandpa, Elliot Starling with his memories intact, wouldn’t give me a second look. Men like him want women like Olivia Swanson. They like ambitious, assertive, self-important types.”
“Maybe God wanted to change his mind.” Perry gave Geneva a long look over his last bite of sandwich. “Maybe this is about you. Maybe it’s what God wants for you. Have you thought about that?”
Geneva was dumbfounded the rest of the afternoon as she considered her grandfather’s comment. Her thoughts made her restless. Only a long walk could line her ducks back in a row. She hurried through her last chores then set out with Russell, padding joyfully beside her.
Twenty minutes later, she was stretching out her legs under her favorite shade tree. A breeze fluttered through the leaves as she lifted her mind and heart to God.
“Is this about me, Dear Lord? Did you bring Elliot Starling back into my life because of the way I felt about him years ago? Was it just to forgive him and move on, or does it mean something more? That’s what puzzles me. I’m not sure what to do about this whole Elliot thing.”
Her mind wandered over everything that had happened since Elliot had showed up the week before. There had been moments when she had felt a connection with him. Elliot’s gaze had been caressing during those moments. He had spoken gently, almost sweetly to her. He had remembered her fragrance which weirder her out. Geneva shivered. A thought occurred to her. Had Elliot had feelings for her when she had worked for him years ago? Was that even possible? She wasn’t his type, although she had tried hard to catch his eye several times. Never in a bold or disrespectful way. Her flirty efforts were so subtle they were almost laughable.
“That’s a nice tie, Elliot
she would say.
“Have a nice weekend, Elliot
she’d tell him on Friday afternoons.
“Thank you, Elliot,”
was her favorite line. She’d always give him a genuine smile whenever he did anything for her, or when he would say something nice to her.
Other than work related conversation, she’d only speak simple, ordinary compliments to him. The kind she gave everyone else. Elliot couldn’t have suspected her crush on him through such mild, insignificant behavior. She’d been way too shy to leave any kind of imprint when she left seven years ago.
After much consideration, Geneva determined her grandfather had to be wrong. God had not brought Elliot into her life to fulfill her dreams. Although, it was a nice thought. She sent a whimsical smile up to the heavens.
“I wouldn’t have minded it, Dear Lord, if you’d brought Elliot back into my life to steal my heart away.” Her words, softly spoken, floated into the phlox-covered fields. Russell cocked his head at her like she was crazy.
“Hey, a girl can dream, can’t she?” Geneva scolded her dog’s vexing expression. Russell scampered over to her. She draped her arm around his neck. “You like Elliot, don’t you buddy? He’d be nice to have around, but he’s got a fiancée and a family in Orlando, so don’t go getting your hopes up that he’ll be sticking around.”
Geneva didn’t realize she was weeping until a teardrop slid down the side of her nose and plopped on her hand. The warning had been more for her ears than her devoted pet’s.
“This is ridiculous, Geneva!” She lashed out at herself. “You can’t have Elliot. He’s engaged to Olivia. He belongs to her, and as soon as his memory returns, he’ll drop you like a hot potato. Now, get back to the real world. You have a retreat to lead this weekend, so get it together. No more dwelling on Elliot Starling! Just remember how cruel he was when he fired you. That’ll keep the embers from burning in your heart.”
All the way home and into the next morning, Geneva tried, but failed to see Elliot in a bad light. Her heart knew better. Elliot had been a grueling task master at the company, but there was more to him than that. Geneva knew it in her heart. There was something about him that had made her want to know him better.
The amnesiac Elliot had the qualities she always knew existed beneath his rough exterior at work. It was as if the old Elliot had to prove himself worthy of the position he’d been put in, stepping into his father’s shoes at such a young age with an older brother to boot. His steel façade was a transparent shield. Underneath it was a warm, giving, loving man. The man who’d showed up at her door over a week ago. That was the Elliot of her dreams, the one she’d always known to be the real Elliot Starling.
Geneva stored away her thoughts and desires during the weekend retreat so she could give her all to her guests. It was an especially hard three days. All the guests were recently divorced women, looking for comfort and strength. Geneva had invited a few divorced women to help her in the retreat so they could encourage her visitors. It was an emotional, but uplifting time. The women left in a better place than when they’d arrived.
At the close on Sunday, Geneva was emotionally spent. The torn hearts of the women had been painful to witness. Their stories had been heartbreaking. It made her wonder if marriage was even worth the risk. All of the women had gone into their relationships with the idea and hope they’d be married forever. None had entered the union expecting the impossible to happen. Yet, it had. Some had suffered betrayal, some had been abused, and some had just fallen out of love. All turned to God for help. Geneva hoped they had found God’s help at Serenity. She had made sure there was plenty of time for sharing and praying. She’d also scheduled one on one mentoring for the women.
For the first time, Geneva had assigned a guardian to each woman for the weekend. The guardian was a longtime divorcee with a good, positive attitude who could mentor the guest while they took part in all the activities. The project had been overwhelmingly successful. At the end of the weekend, the guardians and their charges exchanged addresses and phone numbers so they could keep in touch.
Geneva wept when she read the kind notes left behind by the ladies. She shared them with her grandfather, and the two prayed over each woman, one at a time.
“You’re a blessing to these women, Geneva,” Perry told her when they finished.
Geneva wiped away her tears. “No, Grandpa, these women are a blessing to me. Serenity Bed and Breakfast is a blessing from God to me. I get stronger in my faith after each retreat. This weekend was the deepest. These women were hurting, and they left stronger and more joyful. God was really at work here this weekend. I could feel His presence. I get more out of this than these women do.”
“I pray for your ministry every day, Geneva,” Perry confessed. “It’s given God a place to help a lot of women. What’s going to happen to it whenever you—” his thoughts trailed off as he searched for the right words.
“Whenever I what?” Geneva prodded.
Perry scratched his head. “Well, you’re not going to live here forever. One day, you’ll marry and follow your husband.”
Geneva chuckled. “I don’t see that as a problem for the near future, Grandpa. I’m not looking for a husband. Besides, why do I have to give up my ministry and follow him?”
Perry rubbed his chin but remained quiet. Geneva saw through his silence.
“This isn’t about Elliot again, is it?” Geneva grumbled. “Grandpa, please put those notions out of your head. Elliot may not even come back. He’s been gone almost a week. For all we know, his memories are back, and we may never see him again.”
“For all the good your ministry does in the Lord’s name, I’d rather you be happily married to a good man,” Perry proclaimed without an ounce of shame. “You deserve the love of a good man. Elliot Starling is the only man you’ve ever let get near you. There must be a reason for that. Balk all you want, Geneva, but I believe you have feelings for him. And what’s more, I believe he has feelings for you.”