Sisterchicks on the loos.., p.1
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       Sisterchicks on the Loose, p.1

           Robin Jones Gunn
 
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Sisterchicks on the Loose


  From one sisterchick to another …

  “Robin understands the precious value of close friendships, and it shows in this sparkling new novel!”—Darlene Marie Wilkinson, author of the New York Times bestseller The Prayer of Jabez for Women and Secrets of the Vine for Women

  “Sisterchicks by definition is a delightful thing—friendship in the raw … helping, providing, listening, laughing, and of course crying. Robin’s Sisterchicks on the Loose takes us inside a longtime friendship to a place where we hear and see ourselves. If you’ve never experienced a sisterchick adventure … this is one trip you won’t want to miss!”—Donna, Robin’s original sisterchick

  “Get ready, sisters, this is the real thing! There is nothing ‘fluffy’ about these lively sisterchick novels! And who better to tell such delicious tales of friendship and truth than Robin Jones Gunn, a woman who’s been my cherished friend for years.”—Melody Carlson, bestselling author of Blood Sisters

  “Deliciously fun! The feel-good book of the season!”—Patsy Clairmont, bestselling author of God Uses Cracked Pots and Stardust on My Pillow

  “After I happily tumbled through Sharon and Penny’s story, I felt as though I’d traveled with a couple of sisters who shared my heart and knew my soul. Like a visit to the spa, the results were enriching and cleansing—and involved a fair share of giggles. I’d invite any woman who has ever dreamed of going on an adventure with her best friend to indulge in this delightful trek to Finland.”—On the Loose in California

  “I stayed up till midnight reading this book, and I hated to see it end. Sisterchicks everywhere will love it as much as I did!”—Linda

  “I’ve been a sisterchick for years but never knew until now what I should be calling myself! Sisterchicks on the Loose took me on a refreshingly madcap jaunt in my own living room. I look forward to many more such memorable journeys with MY favorite friends as we read all the sisterchick novels together.”—Jaynie

  “I loved the way Sharon and Penny shared true friendship and community! I’m in my early twenties and found myself inspired to treasure the close friendships I have now and watch them grow into lifelong sisterhood.”—Natalie, a newly hatched sisterchick

  “How refreshing to read something so FUN!”—Lisa

  “Sometimes you have to get out of your everyday circumstances (spelled r-u-t) to see what God is doing in your life and the world around you. Sisterchicks on the Loose is a real winner, and I can’t wait to share this book with all of my friends!”—Marti

  “Sisterchicks on the Loose is a lovely, joyous book. Sharon and Penny’s experiences made me laugh and reminded me that God sometimes gives us more blessings than we ever thought to ask or hope for—including friendships that transform our lives. I’m looking forward to the next sisterchick book, and I hope there will be many more!”—Lisa

  “Finally! A fresh, new novel about characters who seemed so real that I felt as if I’d made two new friends.”—Meg

  “Robin’s book is so precious. It’s truly a celebration of life and shows God’s goodness to us. Don’t miss out on this wonderful treat!”—Julee

  OTHER BOOKS BY ROBIN JONES GUNN

  Gardenias for Breakfast

  SISTERCHICK NOVELS:

  Sisterchicks on the Loose

  Sisterchicks do the Hula

  Sisterchicks in Sombreros

  Sisterchicks Down Under

  THE GLENBROOKE SERIES:

  Secrets

  Whispers

  Echoes

  Sunsets

  Clouds

  Waterfalls

  Woodlands

  Wildflowers

  GIFT BOOKS:

  Tea at Glenbrooke

  Mothering by Heart

  Gentle Passages

  www.sisterchicks.com • www.robingunn.com

  This is a work of fiction. The 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.

  SISTERCHICKS ON THE LOOSE

  published by Multnomah Books

  © 2003 by Robin’s Ink, LLC

  Sisterchick is a trademark of Robin’s Ink, LLC

  Scripture quotations are from New American Standard Bible®

  © 1960, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

  Published in the United States by WaterBrook Multnomah, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House Inc., New York.

  Multnomah and its mountain colophon are registered trademarks of Random House Inc.

  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—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without prior written permission.

  For information:

  MULTNOMAH BOOKS • 12265 ORACLE BOULEVARD, SUITE 200

  COLORADO SPRINGS, CO 80921

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Gunn, Robin Jones, 1955-

  Sisterchicks on the loose / by Robin Jones Gunn.

  p. cm.

  eISBN: 978-0-307-56445-0

  1. Americans—Finland—Fiction. 2. Women—Finland—Fiction. 3. Female friendship—Fiction. 4. Finland—Fiction. I. Title.

  PS3557.U4866S57 2003

  813′.54—dc21

  2003000710

  v3.1_r1

  For Donna,

  my original sisterchick,

  who has been with me to Finland and back.

  Next time we’re buying more chocolate.

  For Merja,

  my favorite Finnish editor,

  who opened her heart and home to us in Porvoo.

  Kiitos, my friend, for letting me borrow your childhood

  memories of Porosaari and for the night of the

  unforgettable sauna in Hinthaara.

  You sing the high notes better than any sisterchick I know.

  And for Meg and Jaynie,

  my dear PPCs,

  who faithfully grabbed a booth at Branches

  every Monday night where we met for months.

  Thank you for patiently going over every word of

  this story until we got it right or until

  Jennifer started mopping under our feet.

  Sisterchicks forever!

  “We were like those who dream.

  Then our mouth was filled with laughter

  And our tongue with joyful shouting;

  Then they said among the nations,

  ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’ ”

  PSALM 126: 1B – 2

  Contents

  Cover

  Other Books by This Author

  Title Page

  Copyright

  Dedication

  Epigraph

  Prologue

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Epilogue

  Discussion Questions

  Prologue

  Kiitos Cottage

  Maple Leaf Lake, Washington

  October 12, 2003

  When my husband, Jeff, tells this sto
ry, he says it started the day I dyed my hair green. He likes to tell how he found me on the bathroom floor with an airline ticket in one hand and a can of root beer in the other, crying my eyes out.

  I prefer to start this story where it actually began—more than a decade before the green hair incident. One hot August night in 1982, my dearest friend of all time, Penny, and I were on duty in the church nursery. Seven of the sweaty children in the nursery that Sunday evening belonged to the two of us.

  I was rocking my wailing daughter when Penny, in the middle of a diaper change, turned to me. “Let’s make a deal, Sharon. When they graduate, let’s go somewhere. Just the two of us.”

  “Where would we go?” I asked.

  “Finland!” she spouted.

  I stopped and stared to see if she was serious. She was.

  I suppose I should back up this story to when Penny and I first met. Penny and Dave were married and expecting their first child. That’s when they started to attend our conservative little church in Chinook Springs, Washington. They joined our home Bible study and pulled up that first night on a motorcycle, wearing matching suede jackets with fringe on the arms—but with no Bibles. Penny left her muddy boots by the front door and settled on my tattered couch as still as a tiger concealed in the brush. I’d never had such a potentially wild person in my house before.

  The next week, Penny showed up with a burlap sack stuffed with freshly dug-up iris bulbs. She asked if I had a Bible she could borrow, and our friendship was off to a tender, unconventional start. That was twenty-four years ago.

  Penny and I were in each other’s everyday lives while raising our children. Our husbands swapped tools and went fishing on Saturday mornings. Penny and I never had a fight.

  Then Dave landed the job he always had wanted at a big computer company, and the Lane family packed up and moved to San Francisco.

  I was lost.

  For a month I cried when no one was looking. Our phone bill went into triple digits. Penny kept saying we would get together, just the two of us, but nothing ever worked out. My separation anxiety lasted for two embarrassing years.

  This is where my husband picks up the story. Jeff says that out of the blue, Penny decided to go to Finland. He doesn’t remember the part about the church nursery where the idea was hatched more than a decade before Penny put wings to her plan. Jeff says he found me curled up against the bathroom wall, staring at the ticket and guzzling root beer.

  I wasn’t guzzling root beer. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t drinking anything.

  Jeff says I was sobbing because I was in shock.

  I wasn’t sobbing. I was sighing really loud. There is a difference.

  Jeff likes to add a punch line here about how I dramatically pulled the towel off my head and—ta-da!—my hair was green.

  That part, unfortunately, is true.

  For almost eleven years now I’ve listened to my dear husband’s account of the once-in-a-lifetime trip Penny and I took to Finland in February 1993. He loves to embellish, so every time he tells it, the story morphs into something that only vaguely resembles our real adventure.

  Last Friday, Jeff had our new daughter-in-law in a state of stunned silence while going on about the night Penny and I accompanied two seventy-year-old women into a Finnish sauna. Jeff said we got all steamed up and then jumped in a frozen lake.

  It wasn’t a lake. It was just the snow. The snow and a single star. Jeff never includes the part about the star.

  I got so mad at him. As soon as everyone left, I said, “I don’t want you to tell stories about Finland anymore. You get it all wrong, and it’s not even your story. It’s my story. Penny’s and mine.”

  A sly grin appeared on Jeff’s face, and I immediately knew what he was thinking. He finally had succeeded in pushing me into the corner where a pad of paper and a pen had been waiting for me for years.

  So here I sit, in my corner of the world, ready to tell the story the way it really happened … about how Penny and I jumped over the moon.

  One

  January 1993

  Oh, Penny Girl, what have you done? That’s what I was thinking when Jeff found me on the bathroom floor sighing. I truly thought Penny had gone too far this time.

  For years the amazing Penny had blazed through life like a fearless comet in the vast summer night sky. I followed close behind as a cosmic DustBuster, content to collect her sparkling trail of wonder dust. Whenever Penny ignited a sentence with the words “what if,” she took off soaring. I found bliss in the glittering possibilities that fell over my life in those moments.

  Truth be told, we rarely did any of the things Penny dreamed up for us. I didn’t think we actually would go to Finland. I thought we would talk big, buy travel guides, discuss sensible walking shoes, and in the end, cash in the tickets.

  Penny, however, never doubted this adventure.

  When she sent my ticket, she wrote with a thick, black marker across the front of the FedEx mailer:

  SHARON, DO NOT OPEN! CALL ME IMMEDIATELY!

  Thirty-five minutes earlier I had doused my hair with a highlighting solution, and I knew I should be heading for the shower. But I went directly to the phone and dialed Penny’s real estate office in San Francisco.

  “Okay, Sharon, go ahead. Now you can open it. Read the itinerary.”

  The words, “San Francisco, London, and Helsinki,” tumbled from my lips.

  “And?” Penny prodded. “Did you notice the name on the ticket? Sharon Andrews. That’s your ticket. We’re going to Finland!”

  “Penny, this is crazy!”

  “Yep! Crazy like a daisy. February 25. Pack your bags, girl! We’re finally going to run away from home!”

  “But Penny …”

  “We made a deal. You promised you would go with me to Helsinki and back. Remember?”

  “Yes, but we were going to go after all our kids graduated. Tyler is the only one in college. It will be, what?… Eight more years before all our kids are out of the house.”

  “Exactly. And I can’t wait that long. Life is too short. We need to go now.”

  I stammered and stuttered while Penny gave me instructions on obtaining a passport. By the time I hung up and dashed upstairs to the shower, the home coloring treatment had pushed my hair past summer sun highlights all the way to a disturbing autumn moss tone.

  The strange part was I didn’t have the emotional reserves left to process how I felt about my hair. I wrapped myself in the comfort of my old yellow robe and sank to the bathroom floor, staring at the airline ticket and sighing over the possibilities.

  I had been on an airplane only once. I know that’s unusual, but I led a small life. Jeff and I both grew up here in Chinook Springs, a quiet suburb in southern Washington State. We were high school sweethearts and married right after we graduated. Jeff and his brother ran a landscaping business. I was content to keep a tidy home for Jeff and our four kids. That was my life. It was a good life. I wasn’t the kind of person who longed to see the rest of the world—or so I thought.

  When Jeff found me on the floor, the first thing he said was, “The ticket came, huh? What do you think?”

  “You knew about this?”

  He nodded and repressed that sly grin of his. “Dave called me a couple of days ago. He said Penny wanted to surprise you.”

  “She surprised me all right.”

  “You don’t look very excited.”

  “I’m still in shock. Why do you suppose Penny is so determined to hunt down her relatives in Helsinki?”

  “She’s Penny. This is how she does things.”

  “I know, but if she’s going to go all that way to meet these relatives of hers, don’t you think she should take Dave or one of their kids?”

  “She wants to take you.”

  “Why? I mean, if we had this kind of money, I’d put a new roof on the house.”

  Jeff knelt down and kissed me good on the mouth. “Don’t overanalyze all the fun out of this, Sharon. Go. Have the tim
e of your life. Come home happy.”

  Jeff stood.

  I reached for his arm. “Honey? There’s one more thing I should let you know.” I pulled the towel off my head and watched my husband’s expression as my seaweed surprise made its debut. To his credit, Jeffrey Edgar Andrews held his tongue. Twenty-four years of marriage and four children had taught this energetic husband of mine a few lessons in the fine art of restraint.

  All Jeff said was, “Must be January.” Then, clearing a chuckle from his throat, he left me alone on the bathroom floor where I sighed some more and pondered my history of January bloopers.

  Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, I tend to make impulsive blunders. I suspect the dank January mornings in the Northwest bring on this temporary insanity. At the start of each year, I’m overcome with a restless passion to change radically a slice of my life. As soon as I try something, like turning my dishwater-colored hair to a lively summer blond, the madness passes, and I remain quite sane the rest of the year.

  One January, after we had been married nine years, I decided I’d had it with our hunk-o-junk couch. As if on cue, I saw a Salvation Army truck pull up in front of my neighbors’ house. I trotted over and told the driver that if he wanted, he could come take my couch, too.

  Not only did he take my couch, but I also threw in a wobbly amber-colored floor lamp; a dented frying pan; two plastic candleholders; and our blender, which had a peculiar problem. The blender blended even when no one asked it to blend.

  Once the blender started to blend at two in the morning. Jeff said it was an electrical short, and all I had to do was remember to unplug it. I always forgot to unplug it. Once we walked into the house with groceries, and there it was, filled with nothing but air, blending away.

 
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