Authors: Ann Tatlock
© 2012 by Ann Tatlock
Published by Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South
Bloomington, Minnesota 55438
Bethany House Publishers is a division of
Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Ebook edition created 2012
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—for example, electronic, photocopy, recording—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.
Brief quotations taken from: “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus” by S. Trevor Francis; “Spring Night” by Sara Teasdale; “On Hearing a Symphony of Beethoven” by Edna St. Vincent Millay.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
The internet addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers in this book are accurate at the time of publication. They are provided as a resource. Baker Publishing Group does not endorse them or vouch for their content or permanence.
Cover design by Andrea Gjeldum
Author is represented by MacGregor Literary, Inc.
Praise for Ann Tatlock’s novels
Promises to Keep
“Ann Tatlock has a way of spinning a story that leaves readers deeply moved and unguardedly contemplative—and her newest offering lives up to that standard.”
“A lively narrative . . . poignant and moving.”
Every Secret Thing
“Ann Tatlock captures your heart and even your mind from the very first page. . . . A perfect read for teens and adults alike. [She] is a remarkable writer!”
I’ll Watch the Moon
“Tatlock continues to weave twentieth-century history into absorbing, finely crafted literary tales with issues of spirituality springing naturally from the text.”
“This is a novel with staying power.”
All the Way Home
“I picked this book up in my library, and it is far and away the best I have read in a long, long time. I could not put it down and cried my way through it. . . . This wonderful book told a story that was beautifully written, with a wonderful message.”
There will be a day when the burdens of this place
Will be no more; we’ll see Jesus face to face.
he man she loved was in one of the rooms of this enormous pale brick building, but she didn’t know which one. She would have to stop at a nurses’ station and ask.
Please, can you tell me where Seth Ballantine is?
But even when she found him, he wouldn’t be the same Seth Ballantine who had kissed her good-bye a little less than a year ago. She knew that, but it didn’t matter. She had to see him.
Jane pushed open the front doors of the Asheville Veterans Administration Medical Center complex and stepped into the air-conditioned coolness of the hospital lobby. A rectangular wood railing ran around the center of the room, which was open to an atrium one floor below. Jane stepped to the railing and looked down at the sofas and chairs and the potted plastic plants arranged to give an air of hominess to this decades-old hospital that had catered to the wounded of far too many wars.
The atrium was bright with sunlight that filtered in through the glass-paneled ceiling high overhead. The sunshine seemed determined to infuse a certain cheeriness into the mass of humanity below, the men and women sitting on the sofas and chairs and moving along the periphery of the room, inching forward with canes or walkers or rolling slowly in wheelchairs, some dragging canisters of oxygen behind them. Jane wondered briefly what they had seen, what battles they’d been through that brought them here. She wondered too if any of them heard what she heard now, or whether music had somehow become lost to them. Because somewhere down there in the atrium was a piano, and someone was playing a piece by Debussy.
From where she stood, she couldn’t see the piano, but she was grateful to whoever had decided at that very moment to play “Clair de Lune
” The music gave her an excuse to pause and listen, and maybe if she listened long enough she could get her heart to stop racing wildly, and she could enter Seth’s room looking calm and unafraid.
But she was interrupted when a voice nudged its way through the music and asked, “Can I help you find anything, dear?” Jane turned to find a matronly woman, white haired and plump, smiling amiably at her with unpainted lips. She wore a volunteer badge, and her dimpled hands clutched the shiny stainless steel handle of a coffee cart.
“No, thank you,” Jane said, trying to smile. “I’m fine.”
“Cup of coffee? We’ve got decaf. And more than a dozen flavors of tea, if you’d prefer tea.”
Jane’s eyes scoured the cart, then turned back to the woman. “You don’t have any Seagram’s Seven, do you?”
The woman’s eyebrows arched and her forehead filled with deep furrows. “Why, no! I’m afraid I don’t.”
Jane shook her head and forced out a laugh. “I was just kidding,” she said. “I don’t drink.”
At least not anymore
. Though heaven knew, she could use something right about now to settle her nerves. “I’m fine, really. But thank you for asking.”
“Well, let me know if I can do anything for you.” Another smile, though somewhat dubious this time.
“I will. Thank you.”
With a small nod the woman gave her cart a shove and moved along. Jane turned back to the music, shutting her eyes to take it in.
How often she had heard this very tune when she was growing up, her grandmother’s album spinning circles on the ancient phonograph in the room always referred to as the parlor. Most certainly it was not to be called the living room. They resided, after all, in the Rayburn House, one of the oldest houses—and the largest—in Troy, North Carolina. It was built in 1822 by her great-great-great-grandfather, Jedediah Rayburn, a forward-thinking entrepreneur who had made his fortune in textiles.
With her eyes closed she was a child again, curled up on the cushion in the window seat, listening to Debussy and staring through the beveled glass at her grandmother’s garden in the side yard. Gram was out there now, on her knees, broad-brimmed sun hat hiding her face as she weeded the rows of freshly sprung tulips and budding delphinium. Laney Jackson was in the kitchen; Jane could hear the occasional banging of a pot or pan as Laney prepared dinner. Her father and mother were . . . somewhere . . . but that didn’t matter, so long as Gram and Laney were near. With them she was safe and very nearly happy. With them she could move out from under the cloud that hovered permanently over her parents’ lives. She didn’t know why her mother and father lived in shadow, but she didn’t want to linger there with them any longer than she had to. Young as she was, she preferred the company of Gram, who taught her to love music and poetry and art, and Laney, who personified quiet satisfaction as she went about her tasks in the kitchen.