Threads of Grace, continued

Continued—

Three days later.

     Would the snow ever stop? Peter blew on the window pane and wiped the melting frost with his shirt sleeve. The wind blew undulating waves across the open sea of prairie. It looked as barren as he felt and as beautiful as his wife.
     “Peter, would you please listen? I can’t continue like this.” Claire touched his shoulder.
     He moved away from his wife’s touch. “Trey’s been here for three days, my dear. Hasn’t he had time to listen to you?”
     “That’s cruel and unnecessary, and you know it. You haven’t given me a chance to explain.”
     He gripped her wrist and led her to the table. “Sit, and I’ll listen. But first you hear this. Do you have any idea what seeing you in another man’s arms did to me? And you stayed there—completely oblivious to anything or anyone around you. My sister was lying on the floor and you didn’t even notice.” He wanted to yell, but the space was too small and everyone would be able to hear him. 
    “You aren’t going to hear my side, are you?” Claire folded her hands on top of the table. She was as pale as the falling snow, and her black hair shone like coal. He  yearned to take her in his arms again—to be one like they’d been since the day they married. If he could only erase from his mind the look in her eyes when she recognized her childhood love. She had never looked at him that way, had she?
      “It will take time. Tell me, why did you marry me?” He moved back to the window. Could he really listen to this?
     Claire moved to his side, but didn’t touch him. “I married you because I loved you. I still love you. Seeing Trey hasn’t changed how I feel about you. You didn’t even know SueAnna was married. Now you are the loving, offended brother.
     He turned to her with the fury of the wind that still screamed around them. “Offended brother? Try offended husband. Never once, Claire. Never once did you mention Trey Martin, or that you had someone who just might be coming back for you. Maybe if I’d known you had a secret love I’d have taken more time to court  you. I certainly would’ve tried everything I knew to make you forget him. Did you pretend it was Trey when you making love to me? Did you—”
     His neck jerked and his face stung with the slap. She stood in front of him, fist doubled for the next blow and tears streaming down her face. 
     “How dare you suggest such a thing. How could you, for even one minute, accuse me of thinking of anyone but you in our bed, or anywhere else for that matter? I was fifteen years old when Trey Martin left. I only thought I knew what love was. You’re the one who taught me how to love. You’re the only…” she grabbed for his arm, and then, as though in slow motion, she crumbled to the floor.

###  
     Doc Thayer joined Peter and Adam at the table. “Well, I’ll say this much—this bunch certainly knows how to keep things stirred up.” He spooned sugar into the cup of coffee Adam sat in front of him.
    “What’s wrong with her, Doc? Is it my fault.” 
     Fred leaned back in his chair and chuckled. “I reckon it is, Peter. In fact, I’m going to go as far as to lay all the blame on you. And I’d venture to say this won’t be the last time you’ll be responsible for what’s ailing her.”
     Peter groaned. “I’d do anything to take it back.”
     Fred laughed. “Son, you find a way to take this back and men all over this country will pay you big time.” He put his arm around Peter’s shoulders. “Only thing wrong with that little lady, dear boy, is she’s gonna make you a Papa in about six months.”
###
     Peter left the room looking like he’d been whipped. Adam joined Doc in laughter. “You enjoyed that, didn’t you, Fred?” Adam wiped his eyes with his handkerchief. 
     “I sure did. Feels good to have good news for a change. The climate around those two has been as cold as it is outdoors.” He stood and raised his arms above his head. “Gonna go check on that little gal of our then find me a place to stretch out for an hour or two.”
    “Did she have a bad night, or are we through the crisis—again. I thought we’d see more improvement by now. I suppose Trey is still in there with her?” He walked with the doctor as they ambled the short distance to where SueAnna lay.
     “Take a look.” Fred opened the door to the SueAnna’s room and motioned for him to go in.
     Trey sat on the floor, his head on the bed as close as he could get to his wife, sound asleep. SueAnna turned sleepy eyes toward them. One hand slowly stroked through Trey’s hair, and with her free hand she motioned for them to leave. 
     Adam nodded in recognition of her plea, then turned and left the room. When the door shut behind him he looked at Doc Thayer, then wrapped his arms around his good friend and wept. Maybe, just maybe they were going to be just fine. 


     

     

Threads of Grace

Chapter 13

     The ride back to the KIM was grueling. Though the big horse never seemed to tire, each stride pounded like a hammer through Trey’s tired body. While he dreaded the confrontation with his boss, he breathed a sigh of relief when the barn came into view.
     Adam Covington scowled as Trey approached. “You lose the wagon, Son?” 
    Trey slid to the ground, then leaned against the horse to steady himself. “It’s a long story, sir.”
     “Well, take care of this horse then come to the house. You both look like you’ve been through some kind of storm.”
      The silence, after he finished recounting the events, was deafening. But it was the disappointment he saw in his pa’s eyes that shouted the loudest. How long would the man go without speaking? 
     It seemed an eternity before Adam swiped both hands down his face. “You say Lorna sent you here? Why? And why did you even agree to come. Why weren’t you man enough to admit what you did was wrong, ask for forgiveness and refuse to leave your wife’s bedside? How do you know she’ll even be alive when you return?”
     She wouldn’t die, would she? Not before he had a chance to explain. Why had he left? Covington was right. He wasn’t man enough to admit his failure—his failure to return for Claire as he’d promised, and his failure to acknowledge his love for SueAnna. He had to get back as soon as possible. He stood. He’d saddle his horse and ride back tonight. If he rode hard he could reach Nelson’s by noon tomorrow. 
     “Where do you think you’re going?” Covington motioned for him to sit. “If you have some crazy notion about riding back there tonight you can forget it. You’re in no shape to go anywhere until you’ve had a good night’s rest. I bet you can’t even remember the last time you had something to eat.”
     Pa was right. he couldn’t remember. But he didn’t feel like eating and it wouldn’t do to prolong his return. “I’m not hungry. If you don’t mind, I’ll saddle a fresh horse and be on my way. I’m not sure why Lorna wanted you to know, but now I’ve told you so I’d better be gettin’ back.”
     “You can stop the martyr act. Riding yourself to death won’t keep SueAnna alive. I’ll send Ben to let Lorna know you and me will get there as soon as you’re rested. In the meantime I suggest you do some serious thinking about what you’re going to do when you see that Claire-person again. You can’t have both, you know. And if you can’t love SueAnna with your whole heart, then you might as well stay right here. I’ll not have you hurting her again. Do  you understand?”
     He nodded. “Understood. But, Sir, you say I wasn’t man enough to stay with her when Lorna sent me to tell you what happened. Well, I’ll prove you wrong. You can disown me, send me packing, or whatever you please, but I’m going back to my wife and I’m going back as soon as I saddle another horse. You want to keep me here,” he took a deep breath and squared his shoulders, “then just try it.” He met Covington’s glare. If the man was going to punch him, he wanted to see it coming. 
     A slow grin spread across his Pa’s face. “You have no idea how badly I wanted to hear you say that. I’ll saddle our horses. You finish your coffee. There’s bread in the pantry and butter in the well. Grab whatever you can hold and we’ll ride. I’ll leave a note for Ben. He can keep things going here while I’m gone.”
     “A note? Where is he? Are you sure he can read?”
     “He went to Rawlings’s to check on Lily. He may get back before we leave, but I’ll leave a note just in case. And yes, he can read.”
    Covington was right. By the time they were ready to leave, Ben had returned and heard the reason for their hasty departure. “You sure do know how to get yourself in deep muck, pal. Hope that little gal wakes up so you can make things right.” 
     Trey shivered. Did Ben think she’d die, too? She was sick, he was aware of that. More aware then they could imagine. But was she sick enough to die? ” He leaned from his saddle and gripped Ben’s hand. “How was Lily? SueAnna will want to know.”
     Ben laughed. “Oh, that little girl is something. She announced I was to call her AnnaLily so her name would start with A like all the rest of them. I’d say she was doin’ just fine.” He slapped the horse’s rump. “Now get. Covington’s already halfway there.”

     ###
     Doc Thayer put his hand against Trey’s chest. “He’s breathing, that’s a good sign.”
     Adam grunted. “You think I didn’t know that? Is there somewhere we can stretch him out and let him sleep?”
    “Here,” Doc lifted the boy’s leg onto a footstool, “he’s so worn out he won’t know if he’s in a chair or a bed. Cover him  up and he’ll be good for the rest of the day. What were you trying to do, anyway? You think pushing him so hard would make up for his foolishness?”
     “Was it foolishness, Fred?” Adam pulled a blanket over Trey’s shoulders. “I might have another name for it.”
     Doc lowered himself onto the nearest chair. “Look me in the eye and tell me what you would have done had you been that boy? What if you walked into a room and saw your Kathleen? You going to stand there, looking so proud, and tell me you wouldn’t have done what Trey did?”
     “It’s not the same, and you know it.” Adam paced. “I don’t have another woman.”
     “But what if you saw her with another man. Are you telling me your arms wouldn’t itch the minute you laid eyes on her even though there was someone in the background?”
     “And I’d expect that man to punch me then ask questions.”
      “In retrospect, that’s exactly what I should have done. I assume you are Mr. Covington. Lorna told me you she’d sent for you.”
     Adam gazed at the tall, good-looking young man who crossed the room. “And you must be Peter.” He gripped his extended hand. “Why, didn’t you?”
     Peter frowned. “Why didn’t I hit him? I wouldn’t have been able to punch him without also striking my wife. And by the time he seemed to regain his senses he fled to my sister’s room, then he was gone.”
     Adam pointed to the chair. “He’s back, but to make it fair I’d suggest waiting until he awakened.” He smiled. “How is your sister, by the way?”
     “Uh,” he wiped his cheeks. “forgive me. This has been a very emotional ride and I’m not sure how to answer that. Doc, what do you say? How is my sister?”
     Doc laid his glasses on the table. “We’ve been here before, Adam. Only this time she’s battling lung fever, too. She’s young, but she’s very weak. And frankly, I’m not sure she has enough fight left to win this round.” He nodded his head toward Trey. “It’s my bet victory rests on him.”
     “Is Lorna in with her?”
     “Has been ever since Trey brought her. She’s going to wear herself to a frazzle. Maybe you can convince her to rest.” Doc stood. “Follow me, maybe the two of us together will help her decide.”
     Adam folded his arms across his chest and leaned against the door. Lorna seemed oblivious to their presence and continued to dip the cloth in water, wring it out, wipe SueAnna’s face and repeat, all the while talking in a soft voice. If SueAnna heard, there was no response. 
     “Lorna, let me take your place, please.”
     “When she wakes up. Then you can. But for now I’m not leaving.” She didn’t raise her eyes, or her voice.
     Adam moved to her side. “No, ma’am. I’m pulling rank. You’re going to rest while I do this. No arguing.”
     She turned to him, the dark circles under her eyes telling him more than her words. “I’ll never forgive myself if something happens to this little girl. I should never have agreed to the sham of a marriage. No matter what the preacher said, I should never have agreed.”
     He pulled her up, then wrapped his arms around her. “Lorna, Lorna. No one, not even Trey, meant harm to fall on this young woman. Guilt rides on the back of pride and they’re both bent on destruction. You know that. At least you’ve preached it to me enough times.”
     She raised her head from his chest. “And you listened?” She punched his arm. “I suppose you’ve just been waiting for a chance to give me a mouthful of my own words.” She smiled. “Okay, you win. I’ll rest. But only if you promise to call me if there is even the smallest change.”
     “For better or for worse?”
     She nodded. “For better or for worse.”
     Adam waited until she left, then took his place beside SueAnna. 
     He soon lost count of how many times he refreshed the water, or applied the cool cloth to her head. And he quit breathing in rhythm with her when it was so erratic it made him dizzy. Her lips were pale and dry, and the palms of here hands were crusty with dried blood. He dabbed at the wounds with a damp cloth, and she winced. That was good, wasn’t it? She could feel pain. She was in there. Could she hear? Lorna talked to her? Did the older woman know she could hear? And if she heard, would she remember? 
     Trey. She needed to hear Trey’s voice. He was the one to urge her to fight. He needed to beg her not to leave. Doc was right. Victory for this battle lay with Trey. But what if he was too busy fighting his own war? What if he didn’t care enough. What if Claire walked into this very room? He needed to talk to his son. 
     He stood and bumped into Trey’s chest. “Why didn’t you say something? Have you been standing there long? I didn’t hear you come in.”
     “I didn’t want to disturb you. Lorna told me you needed to rest. Something about guilt and pride. She said you’d understand.”
     “Yeah, I understand. Do you know what to do? I’ll stay with you, if you want. Have you talked to Peter? And what about Claire? I mean, Trey I think you—”
      Trey shook his head. “I know you mean well, Pa. But if you don’t mind, I’d like to be alone with my wife. I’ll take care of everything else later. For now, SueAnna is all that matters.”
     “You’re sure of that? You can’t just say it and not mean it. Talk to her, Trey. But don’t tell her you love her if you think seeing Claire again will change things. Don’t—”
    “Pa. Please leave. I know I’ve not earned the right to ask you, but trust me. Please. Trust me.”
     ### 
   Doc put his fingers across his lips and motioned for Adam. “Sh, just thought you should see this.”
    Adam peered into SueAnna’s room. Only the dim light of a candle lit the scene, but it was enough to cause his heart to swell.
     Trey lay on the bed, one arm cradled his wife’s head, the other wrapped around her. His eyes were closed, but even from the doorway he could hear his murmuring, though he couldn’t distinguish the words.  
     Doc moved away. “Let them be. By morning we’ll know who won this round.”
     
to be continued—


     
     

Mundane Matters

This picture will only be significant if you’re familiar with our waterless cove.  Although we’ve had water near the shore line around our dock, its only been a mere inches deep. 

In the last few days we’ve had more rain, enough that the main channel that feeds into the lake is actually running a bit, and the area around our dock has filled enough to fill the area that was dredged. 

The green area beyond the water is still lake–so you can see how much MORE rain is needed. But we can now see the water from our house and and that is exciting. 

Ducks Out Of Water

With the return of a bit more water, the ducks and geese once again visit us.  This pair of mallards came this morning. All that green should be water–and it will be again, one day!!  

For now, we are thankful for every drop of rain.  Believe me—

It Matters!!

Threads of Grace—Chapter 12 Continued

Chapter 12, continued

     Peter lifted SueAnna from the floor and followed Lorna to the room she’d prepared. What happened? One minute he was like a child—too excited to keep his presence hidden—the next he witnessed his wife fall into the arms of a man he didn’t know. Why was his sister in the company of this person? Where was Lily? This was not at all the homecoming he’d envisioned. 
     “I’m sorry, Peter.” Lorna touched his shoulder. “I’m not eager to send you back out there, but I do need some privacy to get this girl settled. I’ll let you know as soon as Doc Thayer is through examining her.”
     “Mrs. Nelson, who—”
     She flicked her wrist toward him. “Later, Peter. Tell Doc he can come in any time. And you tell that young man where he can find his wife.”
     “Wife? SueAnna is married? To that—”
     “Later, I said. There will be plenty of time later to try to make sense out of what’s happened. For now, it’s SueAnna we need to worry about.”
     Doc moved away from the wall when Peter left the room. “She ready for me in there?”
     He nodded. “Anything she needs, Doc. I’ll take care of anything she needs. Just help her.”
     “I’ve a feeling what she needs is standing in the middle of the mercantile holding your wife. Don’t envy you none, son. But reckon you’re man enough to take care of it.”
     The man was right. The scene hadn’t changed. Claire was still in the arms of the stranger, and they seemed oblivious to their surroundings. It seemed like an eternity before Claire lifted her head from the man’s chest and looked his direction.
     “I’m sorry, Peter. I…this is…this is an old friend I never expected to see again.” She didn’t move from the man’s arms while she spoke.
     He would take this up with his wife later. For now he hoped he could get a message to the man without causing a scene. “The doctor just went in to tend to your wife, sir. I’d think you’d want to do the same.”

### 
     SueAnna’s questions roared through Trey’s mind with a vengeance. What would you do if you were to find Claire again? Where would that leave us? Where would that leave me?
     His arms were around Claire, and it was like she’d always been there. She was as beautiful as the day he rode away from her. But she was Peter’s wife—SueAnna’s brother’s wife. 
     What was he doing? Where was SueAnna? She was standing right here. Oh, dear God. Did he say Doc was with his wife? He pulled from Claire’s arms. “Where is she? Where did they take her?”
     “You brought her in here cold, wet and so ill she could hardly stand on her own. That was fifteen minutes ago, and you just now ask her whereabouts?”
     “Peter—”
     “Don’t shush me, Claire. Not now.”
     Trey fisted his hands. “Never mind. I’ll find her myself.” He deserved the man’s anger—deserved a good thrashing—but for now he needed to find SueAnna. 
     “Yes, you do that. But if that girl dies, so help me—”
     Die? He stumbled through the curtain and followed the voices he heard until he found the room. He gasped. Even from the doorway he could hear SueAnna’s labored breathing. Her face was flushed, and she clawed at the air with, oh, dear Lord, the palms of her hands were raw and bloody. Experience told him they were rope burns. What had he done? She’d hadn’t complained. Not one word during that cold, wet ride into Prairie View. “Will…is she—”
     Doc shook his head. “Will she live? Is that what you want to know?” He shrugged. “I’m a doctor, Trey. Not God. Don’t know what ever possessed you to bring her here in the first place, as fragile as she’s been.”
     “I…she insisted. Said she needed to talk to another woman. I didn’t know—”
     Lorna gripped SueAnna’s wrists and brought her hands to the bed, palms-up.”
    “You let her stand there, Trey Martin—wet, cold and sick. Your arms were full of Claire when this sweet girl fell to the floor, and even then you didn’t notice. It was Peter who had to pick her up and bring her in here—while you were holding his wife.”
    “Lorna, please. Let me explain.”
     “You needn’t explain to me, young man, but you will certainly need to do some fancy talking to Peter. And if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll get a chance to make things right with the young woman lying here fighting for her life. For now, I don’t care what kind of storm you have to ride through, and I don’t care if you have to walk, but you hightail it back to the KIM and let Adam know what’s happened.” She pointed toward the door with her chin, her hands still gripping SueAnna’s wrists. “Get”
     Trey stepped to the bed and brushed his lips across SueAnna’s forehead. “I know I’ll have to prove this, but I love you.”  
Continued—
     
   
     
     
     
     

     
     

Mundane Matters

Ruts…or a path?

For many years I’ve tried to practice the presence of God. I don’t always do well. Some days I fall into an all-too-familiar pattern of 
seeing only the

RUTS

But this past weekend I had two back-to-back meetings some 4+ hours away, and I stayed with a friend who lives on this little slice of heaven. And I was reminded, again, of the choices that face us daily—our focus, if you will. 

The above picture is that of ruts—indeed. Ruts made from the same everyday routine. 

Yet, when I was able to turn, just one-quarter of a turn, and feast on the destination of those everyday ruts, they took on a whole new meaning. 

STILL WATERS

Oh, that I might see the ‘ruts’ of my life only as a well-worn path to the still waters whereby HE leads me…daily. And may those same ruts represent my obedience to follow. 

He ALWAYS goes before me. And—

That Matters!!