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Friday, February 23, 2018

coffeehouse surprise

Wooden, Table, Coffeehouse, ShopBistro tables scattered at angles on a plank floor. Book-lined shelves flanking a stone fireplace. Leather chairs placed in little nooks. A glossy counter scuffed with years of scrapes from coffee mugs. Normally, it was the kind of place that Rayne Hartwell would delight in. . . but not today. Even the pinkish tinge to the spring sky and the hint of thaw in the air seemed out of place. She didn’t want to be in Vermont; her heart was in the jungle. 
      Somewhere, above a muggy rain forest in a little Cessna plane was the man she loved. She wondered whom he was picking up today—a new missionary family, a child with a fever, a warrior with a serious wound? Each flight was a mission, an opportunity to minister. She could picture Dalton in the cockpit, expertly maneuvering the little plane over miles of terrain and landing on primitive runways. She wanted to be right there with him, pretending to be his navigator, handing him a cup of coffee from his thermos, stealing a kiss when the passengers were asleep. But, he was thousands of miles away and she was here, crying into her mocha cinnamon coffee. Which didn’t even taste that good.  
     Well, she’d have to make the best of it. They had agreed that she needed to complete her medical training before joining him on a permanent basis. Permanent basis. Marrying Dalton Ward was a dream she was almost afraid to believe might come true. Ruggedly good-looking with a passion for God and a winning smile, he had captured more than a few hearts in the girls’ dorm at Bible college. The evening he asked her for a date, she’d actually felt dizzy with excitement. And the winter night when he proposed would go down in history as a heart-stopping moment. But now there were duties for each of them to fulfill. Until next spring, they were keeping connected with email, Facebook and Skype. But the time span felt endless. How on earth could she wait that long to see him? In spite of her resolve, another tear squeezed down her cheek. She reached for her napkin to sop her drippy face and saw she’d dropped it on the floor. Bending down for it, she noticed a man’s shoe right beside her hand. She looked up. And dropped the napkin again. 
     Dalton winked. “Nice to know I have that effect on you.” 
     Rayne couldn't speak; she just stared. It couldn’t be. He looked wonderful; always did to her, of course, but now maybe it was the firelight on his skin or the fact that he held a coffee mug in his hand or maybe just that she couldn’t believe he was here.  
     “May I sit down?” He was grinning.  
      She stammered. “Yes, please, what are you doing here? I mean, how . . . ?” 
     He pulled a chair over on her side of the table and draped an arm around her, squeezing her in a tight hug. “You’re sweet when you’re speechless.” 
     She punched him playfully. “Watch it, mister!”  
     He laughed softly and set his coffee mug down, turned to look into her eyes. “Let me look at you a minute. It sure beats that faded picture taped to the flight control panel! Boy, honey, I’ve missed you.” 
     She took his free hand in both of hers. And started crying again.  
     “Here now, stop that. I’ve only got a couple days here; let’s don’t spend them crying.”  
     She smiled. “Okay, but explain this, please. What happened?”  
     “The Cessna is undergoing an overhaul; Steve is flying for me, and the mission board needed me to come stateside for a couple weeks and take care of some paperwork and a few other important items. I convinced them that a couple days deputation in New England was very important . . .and here I am!”  
     Rayne leaned into him, loving his strong presence, savoring the delight of his nearness. She knew there’d be more separations before they were together for always, but, with God’s help, they’d make it to the wedding . . . and a life of ministry together. It was all in the flight plan. And their Navigator had a flawless record 
-- VQ 

Saturday, February 10, 2018

a police escort

Cruiser, Light, Police Car, The Police 
Gracie Peters pushed the gas pedal harder and fought against her better judgment. A girl had a right to a trip now and then, even if it was only to see her sister-in-law in the next state. Ka-thump. She put her ear close to the window. A flat tire? She craned her neck over the dashboard; no, just rough roads. The state of Indiana really should invest in some roadwork. Gracie tried to relax against the seat of the rented car, and then, giving up, adjusted it with a sigh. Joe had always teased that she was the “cutest little girl driver around!” And she’d always respond with a pout and a flounce. She missed that; there weren’t many chances for a woman her age to pout. Widowhood revealed strange longings.
    A woman’s voice startled her. “Turn right onto Highway 9.” Gracie swerved wildly and barely made the corner, though she felt the back end of the car slide a little. That crazy GPS; she pressed a hand to her heart and let out a breath. There. Time to settle down and drive with purpose; Ellen was expecting her for supper. She stomped on the gas. 


Officer Mark Douglas adjusted the visor of his patrol car. The piercing afternoon sun would be a nuisance to the work traffic starting to accumulate on the state highways and freeways. He breathed a prayer of thanks that his shift was almost over, and that he had the night off. Out of the corner of his eye he glimpsed an out of control car. The sleek silver Camry careened onto the entrance ramp and shot down the highway. He didn’t need the radar to tell him that its speed was in excess of the limit, quite in excess.  
      Pulling on the lights and siren, he u-turned in the median. It took him only a few seconds to gain on the car and pull behind it. Mark looked at the plates and groaned - an Ohio driver. Or, wait a minute, was there a driver? The front seat looked empty. No, there, he could glimpse a bit of blond hair. It was probably some teenager, newly licensed and enjoying a drive in a new car that could only be a gift from an indulgent family. He’d never have given his sons anything that shiny to start off in; Emily had agreed with him that old beaters were the best way to start. But then again, times change, and Emily wasn’t here any longer to support him. She’d been in heaven five years already. 
      The car pulled over, reluctantly, and sat subdued on the shoulder of the road. Mark reached for his cap as he got out, shutting the car door with back of his hand. It was time to see who the hotshot driver was. He settled the cap on his head and walked forward. 
      Stopping at the car’s window, he leaned down. The driver was female. Middle-aged. Cute. And the expression on her face was one he wasn’t used to seeing on women her age; he would describe it as a pout. 
       Mark cleared his throat. “Ma’am, I’m Officer Douglas with the Indiana State Police. Do you know why I stopped you?”  
      The woman looked at him piously. “I could guess.” 
       In spite of himself, he wanted to laugh. The way she said it made her sound like a naughty little girl. 
    “That’s not necessary, ma’am.” He put on his mean-man-in-blue persona. “I stopped you because your driving was erratic and your speed was in excess of the posted speed limit.” 
    “Oh, I am sorry, Officer, really. I’m, uh, due at an appointment in thirty minutes, and I almost missed my turn. And these roads, well, they didn’t help anything.” 
      A sassy Ohio driver.  “I do apologize for the roads, Ma’am, but regardless, the speed limit is posted to ensure your safety. May I have your driver’s license?” 
     She reached into a sequined purse on the seat beside her and fumbled for her wallet. Opening it, she handed the license to him with a little exasperated breath. 
      He smiled calmingly. “Thank you, Ms. Peters. I’ll be with you in a minute.” Mark pivoted and started back to his patrol car. He glanced again at the name on the license and stopped. Wait just a minute! Turning back to her car and placing his hands on the window ledge, he swallowed a grin. 
     “You are Grace Peters?” 
      “Yes, Officer, surprised?” 
      "Amazed is how I’d put it."
      He smiled. “It’s this way. You’re the guest of honor at my cousin’s dinner party. And I am your escort.” 
     “Really, Officer Douglas. How fascinating.” Grace batted her eyes mischievously. “Am I in danger? Or is Ellen just overly anxious?” 
      “Well, ma’am, considering the way you were driving, we might both be safer if you’d just follow me.” 
      "That’s so thoughtful of you. I was worried about getting there.”
     He’d never seen anyone more un-worried. But he could act the hero. “Well then, ma’am, I will be delighted to assume the responsibility of seeing you safely to your destination. Just follow me.” 


     Gracie rested her hands on the laptop keyboard. Morning sunlight spilled into the room, glistening on the silvery dress laid across the bed. Before the flurry of this fabulous day, she’d wanted to put down in writing the way God had brought Mark and her together. It still seemed unbelievable – that a traffic stop could result in finding love again. She smiled and closed the laptop. It was time to head to the church. 
      Grabbing her carefully packed bags and draping her quiet wedding finery over her arm, she hurried out the front door. A man in uniform stood in front of a patrol car with flashing lights. 
      “My bridal escort?” Gracie tried to look miffed. 
      Mark just grinned. “Uh-huh. I heard you have a tendency to exceed the speed limit when you have an appointment, and I want to make sure you get to the church on time.” And he leaned down to kiss her pouting lips.                                                                                    — VQ  

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