Authors: Barbara Kaylor
“I want to help, Geneva.” When they returned home, Elliot rushed to his cabin then back to Geneva’s with a check for a staggering amount. Geneva was stunned. She couldn’t move.
“Here, take it, please.” Elliot shoved it toward her. “Use it for the people we visited today.”
“Th-thank you, Elliot,” she replied. “I’ll do that. This will go a long way. Are you sure you want to give this much?”
“Yes.” He thought about it then added, “Please keep the donation quiet.”
As Elliot headed out he remembered to tell Geneva about his family coming on Saturday.
“I’m sure they’ll want to attend church services on Sunday,” he added.
“I’ll plan a special dinner for Monday night.” Geneva’s mind started bustling with ideas for a fun social with Elliot’s family.
“Don’t go out of your way, Geneva. They know you have a business to run.”
“Socializing is my business in case you forgot.” She chuckled. “Speaking of socializing, please come for dinner tonight.”
Elliot shook his head. “Not unless you let me pay you. I’m tired of eating here without paying. It doesn’t seem right.”
“You can pay me back later when you get through with the lake.” She compromised to make him feel better. “I’ll make a list of projects you can help me with. That’s if you’re still here.”
The words hit Elliot like a brick. He couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. His baffled expression saddened Geneva.
“We have to prepare for that reality, Elliot. Your memories could come back any time, and you’ll remember your life in Orlando. It’s not out of the question.”
Her comments haunted him all the way back to the cabin. He didn’t want his memories to return if it meant giving up this. He liked his life here. With his thoughts a mess, Elliot strolled to the lake and perched on top of a table. He gazed out on the water in search of tranquility.
What do you have in store for me, God?
Elliot remembered the Psalm Geneva had given him the evening before.
“Be still, and know that I am God.”
“I’ll be still, Dear Lord, if that’s what you want me to be.” Elliot heard his words leave his lips and sail into the breeze. His heart bent toward the reality Geneva brought up. For the first time since waking with amnesia, Elliot prayed for Olivia. He had to hand the matter over to God.
“I know Olivia doesn’t believe in you God, but please take care of her. If you allow my memories to return, I’ll follow your will, wherever it leads me.”
“This is some place, brother.” Rick gave Elliot a friendly pat on the back.
“I want to live here.” Adam beamed.
“It is beautiful, Elliot,” said Jewel as she rested at one of the picnic tables. “The Palmers are so friendly, too. They went out of their way to make us feel at home this morning when we checked in.”
“The cabins could use some work, but the grounds are spectacular,” Peggy joined in, holding onto a frisky Haley. “I love all these oak trees.”
“I want to swim in the water, Mommy!” Haley cried.
“We will as soon as Daddy says it’s okay.” Peggy handed her four-year-old daughter over to Rick. “Right now we need to get our things unpacked and fix some lunch.”
Elliot tried to ignore the feeling creeping up on him that he was surrounded by strangers. Everyone was being nice and in good spirits. He wanted desperately to belong to this family. While helping them unload the car and set out lunch, he bantered with each as if he knew all about them, but he didn’t.
“When do we start working?” Rick asked around a bite of his turkey sandwich during lunch. “Looks like you’ve been busy already.”
Elliot pointed out the areas he’d cleaned with Geneva’s help. At the mention of Geneva, the conversation around the table shifted from the lake to the woman across the road. Elliot played down her role in his recovery.
“We’re just good friends,” he replied to their questioning faces. “What else can we be when I’m engaged to another woman?”
That brought lunch to a quick end. No one wanted to discuss Olivia and the possible wedding still hanging over their heads. Jewel and Peggy packed up the lunch stuff and took it all back inside the two bedroom cabin they’d rented for the week. Haley stayed close to her mother while Adam, Rick, and Elliot plotted out their work.
Every once in a while, Elliot’s eyes darted across the road to Geneva’s place. She was busy with her retreat, but he’d catch her a time or two, flitting about on the porch or in the yard with her group. Sometimes the ladies would sit outside on the grass in a circle. Laughter would float into the sunny air and glide like music to his ears. His heart would skip a beat whenever he recognized Geneva’s soft, melodious voice among the rest. He’d get jealous at times, knowing all her attention was for her guests, not for him, then he’d recall the jealousy he felt the day he fired her, and he would straighten out. He never wanted to be that angry with her again.
Sunday, Elliot and his family dressed and went to church. Perry and Geneva did their best to make them feel welcome. Elliot was surprised Geneva would leave her flock to be so attentive to his family, and he told her so.
“Your family members are visitors, too, Elliot,” she’d said before returning to her place with her ladies from the retreat.
“She’s a lovely girl,” Jewel whispered to Elliot as the organist cued the choir to enter.
Elliot, who couldn’t take his eyes off Geneva, leaned down to his mother’s ear. “You’ll like her, Mom.”
The service was a joyous occasion. Perry’s sermon spoke of keeping joy in the heart despite life’s hardships. He mentioned the many sad and difficult situations in the community due to the bad economy. His words gave hope to the congregation.
“That was a very uplifting message,” Jewel praised Perry when she shook hands with him on the way out the door. “You have a beautiful granddaughter, too.”
Elliot stood behind his mother and blushed at her prattling.
“Thank you, Mrs. Starling.” Perry was instantly smitten by the prissy woman’s complimentary attitude. “Geneva’s one of a kind.”
“Call me Jewel,” Jewel instructed in a voice Elliot could only describe as flirty.
“Okay, Jewel,” Perry agreed. “I look forward to seeing you at the house tomorrow evening.”
Elliot reached for Perry’s hand as a hint for his mother to move along. The line was backing up behind them.
“Your mother’s a nice lady.” Perry’s eyes were still glimmering. “I can see you have lots of love and support surrounding you, Elliot. God’s blessed you with a good family.”
“Thank you.” Elliot beamed with pride. He did have a good family. He led his mother to the sidewalk where Rick and Peggy waited with the children, but Elliot’s attention quickly drifted to the right of them. Geneva was leading her troop of women back to the bed and breakfast. The green flouncy dress that draped her curves swayed delicately as she sashayed away from the church. Every graceful step she took jostled her soft, corkscrew curls. Elliot envied the air circling her as it soaked up the floral scent of her shampoo. When Geneva’s laughter sprang from the group, it soared like a bird in flight to where he stood. He breathed it in as if it held the secret of life.
From the corner of his eye, Elliot saw another man watching Geneva. He glanced around and noticed several other men appreciating Geneva’s striking beauty. With all these men swooning over her, why was she still single? It puzzled him, but it shouldn’t have. Geneva was the kind of woman who would wait for the right man. A sense of pride overcame Elliot. Hopefully, he was the right man she’d been waiting for. Humility replaced the pride. If the Lord allowed Geneva to be his wife, he’d do everything possible to make her happy and keep her safe.
“You look like a man in love.” Rick came up behind Elliot, scattering his thoughts. “When are you going to tell Olivia you’re in love with another woman?”
Elliot waited until after lunch and the two were alone before answering. While the women and the kids hiked around the park with the Palmers, Elliot and Rick visited. Peggy and Jewel planned it that way. They knew the brothers needed time together.
“You’re right, Rick,” Elliot said as they walked along the water’s edge. “I am in love with Geneva.”
“I can’t say that I blame you.” Rick nodded, approvingly. “She’s beautiful and lovely and kindhearted–”
“Yeah, I know,” Elliot broke in with a chuckle.
“Have you told Olivia?” Rick picked up a rock and tossed it across the water. It skipped over the surface of the lake several times before sinking.
Elliot shook his head. “No. Geneva talked me into putting our feelings on hold until my memories come back in full, and I see where I stand with Olivia.”
“Geneva sounds like a wise, patient person,” Rick said, flinging another rock. He turned to Elliot. “I truly hope things work out for both of you. I have to be honest. I’d rather see you with Geneva than Olivia.”
“I’d marry Geneva right now if she’d have me.” Frustrated, Elliot shoved his hands in the pockets of his khaki’s.
Rick squeezed his brother’s shoulder in a consoling way. “I hope and pray you don’t have to wait too long.” Changing the subject, he said, “It’s good to see you back in church and leaning on the Lord like the old days.”
“It feels right,” Elliot confessed. His features knotted in a worried expression. “I’m not sure I want all my memories to return. I’d like to just move on with the memories I have now and make new ones.”
“What about Olivia and the company, your luxury apartment and fancy lifestyle?” Rick quizzed.
“I don’t want any of it!” Elliot blurted with a burst of certainty. “I want to stay here in Holly Park.”
Rick lifted a skeptic brow. “What kind of work would you do? You still have to make a living. You’re only thirty-six, much too young to retire.”
“Yeah, I know. I haven’t figured that out yet.” Elliot glanced through the picnic area across the road to Geneva’s place. Her guests were leaving. He wanted desperately to leave his family and go see her. She gave him what no one else did. A sense of belonging.
Rick followed Elliot’s line of vision. His heart went out to his younger brother who was trying to do the right thing on top of battling amnesia. It had to be a dark, lonely place. He didn’t know how to pray for Elliot with Olivia and Geneva in the picture. All he could do was ask God for help in the situation. No fancy, long-winded, eye-popping, heart-stopping carrying- on. Just a simple
Rick believed some of life’s biggest problems could be handled with the simplest prayers.
The day ended with the family roasting hotdogs and marshmallows around a camp fire near the water. They closed out the evening with a prayer from Rick for the Lord to bless their time together as a family and for the miracle they needed. Elliot’s eyes watered at the sincerity in his brother’s words.
After everyone went to bed, he remained on his porch until Geneva’s lights went out, imagining a life with her and wondering if it was ever going to be possible. He dreaded the future without her.
Across the road, Geneva sat in the dark in her room, deep in prayer. The weekends were getting harder to get through without Elliot in them. Her love for him had grown since he’d come back from Orlando which filled her with frustration and despair half the time. The other half was spent in dreamland, fantasizing a life with Elliot.
She gazed out the window at the starry sky and prayed for God’s will to be done sooner than later. The wait was taking a toll on her spirits. Being around Elliot without showing how much she loved him was a nightmare. He needed her kind of love and support now more than ever as he hovered between the past he no longer knew and a very strange present. It crushed her that she couldn’t be more to him than just a neighborly friend.
All the while, fear that he would forget her as soon as he remembered Olivia chased her in circles. What would she do then? How would she go on without him?
God, please don’t let that happen,
Geneva pleaded at the end of her prayer time. She climbed into bed with the thought that whatever happened, God would still be with her. Hope filled her at once. Before it could fade, Geneva scooted her mind to dinner the next night. She wanted to fix something special for Elliot’s family. In a flash, an idea came to her. A menu sprang in her head. She turned on the light and jotted it down on the notepad she kept in the drawer of her bedside table.
The next morning, Geneva woke refreshed and motivated. It was going to be a good day. Then she heard the thunder.
She bolted to the window. Storm clouds littered the sky. With all that was going on, she hadn’t bothered paying attention to the weather. From the looks of it, the rain was going to be an all-day event.
“Oh, well,” she said as the first plops of rain hit the window pane. “I’ll go to plan B.”
The storm kept the Starlings inside. Thank goodness Peggy had packed board games, books, and DVDs. Rick and Elliot didn’t waste the time, moaning and groaning over the missed work. They laid out plans for a catch-up attempt as soon as the weather broke. In between pauses in the rain, the two would hurry outside and sketch out ideas. The more they talked about their plans, the more excited Elliot became.
Peggy overheard the men discussing some of the improvements Elliot wanted and an idea popped in her head. She shared it with Rick while they dressed for their visit with Geneva and her grandfather.
“That’s a great idea, Peggy.” Rick’s positive response pleased Peggy. “I’ll mention it to Elliot tomorrow.”
“Do more than mention it, Rick,” she urged. “Convince him to do it. I think he’d be great at it.”
Rick gave her a thumbs-up as they joined the rest of the family for a stroll across the narrow road to the Serenity Bed and Breakfast. The skies were still mottled with rain, but none was falling at the moment.