I promise, p.18
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       I Promise, p.18

           Robin Jones Gunn
 
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  The past month had been a blur of writing papers, taking finals, working on last-minute wedding plans, interviewing for jobs, and never seeing Todd. If she had dark circles under her eyes, she knew she didn’t need to blame them on an allergy. But it was over. She had made it. Now she was a college graduate. It felt good. A little too smoothly orchestrated perhaps to be as memorable as she had thought it would be, but then, she had another major event looming ahead in nine short days.

  “Okay, how about this plan,” Christy suggested to her mom as they left the restaurant. “I’ll take some allergy medicine, get a good night’s sleep in my dorm room, move my things into our apartment tomorrow morning, and then come home. You can baby me all you want.”

  Her plan worked fairly well. The allergy medication helped her to sleep a full ten hours, which was a rare occurrence. She didn’t wake up the next morning until after eight. Within two minutes she discovered the one night’s dosage of allergy pills hadn’t relieved her of the sneezing. At least she felt rested.

  Katie returned from her morning shower and said, “Hey, sleeping beauty, what’s on your schedule?”

  Christy tried to say, “Katie, I’m getting married in eight days,” but her nose was so stuffed up the thought came out, “Katie, I’b gettin’ barried in eight days.”

  “Yes, you are,” Katie said with a laugh. “And aren’t you going to be a lovely bride.”

  “I’ll be better by den.” Christy noticed her cap and gown hanging on the hook above her closet. It didn’t seem as if she actually had graduated. The whole day had gone by so fast. She hoped her wedding day would go more slowly and remain more memorable.

  Classes were still going for those who hadn’t graduated, and Katie pointed out she had to take a final. “Will you be here when I get back?”

  “I don’t know. Todd is going to borrow Matt’s truck so we can take our lovely surfin’ sofa to the apartment. I’m not sure when he’s coming.”

  “He called before I took my shower,” Katie said. “He said he wasn’t coming because a painting job opened up this morning. He said he talked to Matt, and Matt can take your stuff over at ten.”

  “That’s some improvement,” Christy said with a sigh before blowing her nose. “At least he calls now.”

  “Do you want me to go with you guys and help? I don’t have to be at work until this afternoon.”

  “That would be wonderful.”

  “I’ll meet you back here at ten,” Katie said.

  “Thanks, Katie. I’ll take a hot shower and try some more allergy medication.”

  At 9:45 Sierra showed up. “Hi. How are you feeling?” Sierra held out a bottle of orange juice to Christy. “I saw Katie, and she said you weren’t sounding very good.”

  “Thanks for the juice. I think it’s allergies,” Christy said. “Please don’t tell my aunt. She enjoys it way too much when she’s right. I’m feeling lots better now.”

  “Do you need some help moving your things?” Sierra asked.

  “That would be great. Matt should be here in a little while. I have everything packed. When he comes, you can help us load his truck.”

  Christy opened the orange juice and took a drink. “Are you getting excited about going to Brazil?”

  “I think so,” Sierra said. “I still have finals to finish up. Not that you would know anything about that.”

  “Oh, a little.”

  “Is everything ready for your wedding?” Sierra asked.

  “You know, amazingly enough, I think so. Everything on the list has been taken care of, thanks to my mom and my aunt. Todd and I finished our premarital counseling sessions, and they really were helpful. We got into the apartment we wanted, and everything should run like clockwork a week from tomorrow. We just have a few details about our future to work out, but we’ll do that after the honeymoon.”

  Just then the phone rang. It was Donna, Christy’s boss from the campus bookstore.

  “Oh good. I’m glad I caught you,” she said. “I wanted you to know that I have your final check here, in case you would like to stop by to pick it up today.”

  “That would be great. Thanks, Donna.”

  “Sure. And I have a question for you. This is a little out of the ordinary, I know, and you don’t have to answer me right away. I’m resigning from the campus bookstore in two weeks.”

  “Oh?”

  “I was offered a position as the manager of another bookstore, and I’ve decided to take it. I need to hire an assistant manager at my new job, and you were recommended by the owner.”

  “I was?” Christy had placed her resume at several businesses around town, but she didn’t think she had met any of the owners.

  “My new position is at The Ark. Mrs. Doyle said you were good friends with her son. He runs the café next door.”

  Christy felt like laughing. “Yes, we are good friends. I put in a resume there a month ago, but the manager said they were in transition.”

  “I guess I’m part of the transition,” Donna said. “Think about it. Pray about it. I’d love to have you as my assistant manager.”

  “Okay,” Christy said. “It would be perfect for me. But I couldn’t start until after the first of June.”

  “That’s fine because I start on June first,” Donna said. “Let me know what you think. I’ll see you at your wedding, if not before.”

  “Thanks, Donna.”

  “Sure.”

  Christy turned to Sierra. “It looks like I have a job after we get back from our honeymoon. I was going to tell you, before the phone rang, that one of the unsettled details was that I didn’t have a job. I think God took care of that in record time.”

  “Hey, kids, how’s it going?” Katie entered the room and tossed an apple at Christy. “This is for you, roomie. I worried about your taking allergy medicine on an empty stomach.”

  “Thanks.”

  “You guys ready to rock and roll?” Katie asked.

  “Matt isn’t here yet,” Christy said. “But guess what? It looks like I have a job.”

  She told Katie the details while Katie stared at the boxes neatly stacked on Christy’s side of the room.

  “Don’t leave me,” Katie said.

  Sierra laughed. “Didn’t you hear Christy? She just said she’s going to work in the bookstore next to you. You guys will see each other every day.”

  “We’ll probably see each other more than we did this past semester,” Christy said.

  “I know,” Katie said wistfully. “But at least stay in the dorm until I’m done next week, and we can move out together. This is too sad. Look at your side of the room. It’s empty.”

  “It went fast, didn’t it?” Christy said.

  Katie sat on the edge of her unmade bed, the bed that had gone unmade the entire school year except for the rare occasion when Christy convinced Katie to wash the sheets.

  “Do you two remember the week before school started?” Sierra asked. “The three of us were sitting in here, telling each other our woes.”

  “I remember,” Katie said. “It’s been a full year.”

  “It certainly has,” Christy agreed.

  “You know what?” Sierra said. “I think we should pray.”

  “Good idea,” Christy said.

  The three friends stood in a close circle and looped their arms over each other’s shoulders. They prayed sweet, rich words of thankfulness and bold requests for God’s future blessings.

  When they finished, Christy said, “I love you both. You know that, don’t you?”

  A tentative knock sounded on their door. Katie let in Matt and in a melancholy voice said, “I guess this is it. Go ahead, Matt. Take her stuff. I always knew she loved Todd more than she loved me.”

  18 Matt went to work clearing Christy’s dorm room like the strong, steady farm boy he was. Christy, Katie, and Sierra carried Christy’s boxes out to the curb while he wrestled the surfin’ sofa into the back of his truck. Katie led the way to the apartment in Baby Hummer, and
for the first time, Christy unlocked the front door with her very own key.

  She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when she peered inside. Todd should have been there to carry her over the threshold or something. Instead, she was standing with her friends, staring into an empty apartment. Christy realized she had created a fantasy of what she thought her first home with Todd would be like. In her dreams, it was a cottage with a fireplace and flowers all in a row along the walkway.

  “Where do you want this stuff?” Katie asked.

  “Anywhere,” Christy said. “There’s plenty of room.”

  It took them only two trips to empty the truck. Matt adjusted the surfin’ sofa in the middle of the living room and said he needed to get back to school to finish a paper.

  “Thanks so much,” Christy said.

  “I’ll see you next Saturday,” he said.

  “I’m going to go back with him.” Sierra gave Christy a hug. “I’ll email you from Brazil.”

  “I’ll email back,” Christy promised.

  Matt and Sierra left, and Katie stood with her hand on her hip looking around the apartment. “This is a bit bleak, isn’t it?”

  “It’ll cheer up once I put some pictures on the wall,” Christy said.

  “Or maybe add a stick or two of furniture.”

  A tear trickled down Christy’s cheek.

  “Oh, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings,” Katie said. “You guys will fix it up. You’ll get a bunch of wedding presents, and you’ll find a real couch and a kitchen table. It’ll be wonderful. You’re just starting out.”

  Christy sniffed. “I need flowers, Katie.”

  “Flowers?”

  “Yes, flowers in a pot by the front door. And maybe a welcome mat. That’s what I need.”

  “Say no more. I was wondering what I could buy you for a housewarming present, and now I know. Come on, let’s buy a flower and a welcome mat.”

  An hour later, Katie and Christy returned to the apartment all smiles with a bright, cheery potted daisy and a welcome mat. They also had a box of tissues, six homemade chocolate-chip cookies from the bakery, a bottle of liquid soap, and a bottle of lotion to put by the kitchen sink.

  “Now it’s home,” Christy said, arranging her new treasures.

  “You certainly are easy to please,” Katie said.

  “Todd is the minimalist. I don’t require much, but the few necessities I do need are paramount.”

  “I wish I could stay and help you put pictures on the wall, but I have to run. Are you going to be okay?”

  “Yes, I’ll be fine. When Todd gets home, he’s going to drive me down to my parents’.”

  “Did you hear what you just said?” Katie asked. “You said when Todd gets home. It worked. You do see this as your new home.”

  Christy reminded herself of Katie’s comment as she unpacked her boxes and checked out the kitchen cupboards. She found three paper cups, one coffee mug, and a stack of paper plates. She rinsed out the coffee mug, filled it with water, heated it in the microwave, and made herself a comforting cup of tea.

  Looking for the tissue to blow her nose, she found Katie had put the box in the bathroom. Christy stood there blowing her nose and noticed a big glob of toothpaste in the sink. The towel was on the floor instead of on the towel rack. Todd had been living here.

  Continuing her tour into the bedroom, she was relieved to see their new bed had arrived. Todd had slept on the floor in a sleeping bag when he first had moved in. His dad offered to buy a bed as his wedding present to them, and they both gratefully accepted.

  The comfy-looking bed was set up in the small bedroom, but it didn’t have a headboard or any sheets on it. One rather worn wool army blanket lay at the foot of the bed. The blanket looked like a World War II relic, which was depressing. But noticing it was folded, Christy felt hopeful Todd might be a little tidier than the evidence in the bathroom suggested.

  Todd had a dresser; Christy had a bookcase and a chair.

  This is more pathetic than I realized. We are really poor.

  Christy went to work unpacking her boxes and deciding on which empty wall she should hang her few pictures and posters. She worked quickly and had all her boxes unpacked in short order. She filled up the bookshelf, put her small rug in front of the kitchen sink, and hung the poster of the waterfall with the memorable bridge on the wall in the kitchen. The splash of color did the apartment a world of good. She dusted off the top of Todd’s dresser and placed her framed pictures of the two of them next to the only item Todd had on the dresser, the picture she had given him for his birthday.

  All that was left to unpack was the box with her yellow patchwork blanket, a useless set of twin sheets, two bath towels, her pillow, and a treasure she knew she wanted to keep with her always. It was her old pal Pooh, the stuffed Winnie the Pooh Todd had bought her at Disneyland. Pooh had held her secrets and wiped her tears for too many years to be left in a box in her parents’ closet. She hoped Todd would understand.

  Christy carried her yellow quilt into the bedroom. The bed looked so inviting. She stretched out, tucked Pooh under her arm, and pulled her blanket up over both of them. Settling in on the right side of the bed, Christy wondered if Todd preferred the right side. Or would they sleep together in the middle every night, wrapped in each other’s arms?

  Through her fuzzy head floated puffy, fluffy, happy dreams like summer clouds coasting through a deep blue sky. And that was the last thing she remembered.

  Many hours later, Christy woke. She didn’t recall where she was at first. Then it all came tumbling over her. She looked toward the bedroom doorway and gave a startled gasp when she saw Todd standing there, watching her as she slept.

  He was leaning against the doorjamb, arms folded across his chest, a gentle smile on his face.

  “Hey, how’s it going?” That phrase, that voice, had echoed for half a decade through Christy’s waking hours and in her dreams. For a moment she wasn’t sure if she was awake or if this was part of her dream.

  “How long have you been standing there?”

  “Awhile. I took a shower. The noise didn’t wake you?”

  “No.”

  “You have no idea how beautiful you are when you’re sleeping, Kilikina.”

  Christy wanted to hold out her arms to her beloved, inviting Todd to come to her and hold her. But she didn’t move.

  Todd didn’t move, either. It was as if they were once again at an intersection in their lives. In the early years, the red lights had been there to give Todd and Christy a quick chance for a kiss and a memory. Today an invisible red light did the opposite. It kept them from kissing. Christy knew Todd felt what she was feeling. God was controlling the traffic lights at the intersections. He would change the light to green in eight short days. Until then, it would be foolish to run a red light.

  “How are you feeling?”

  “I’m okay.” Christy tossed back the comforter, and Pooh tumbled to the floor. Christy didn’t know if Todd noticed. “We have to be sure to thank your dad a thousand times. This is the most comfortable bed I’ve slept on in two years.”

  “The delivery guys came this morning,” Todd said. “I see you brought your own blankie.”

  Christy folded her patchwork comforter. “My grandma made this. I’ve had it since elementary school.”

  “I never knew that,” Todd said.

  “I never knew you left your towel on the floor.” Christy walked toward him.

  “Uh-oh. Is that one of those issues they talked about in our premarital counseling? Should I hang up towels so that you feel more loved?”

  “It wouldn’t hurt,” Christy said. “But I should confess that my last roommate never made her bed or hung up her towel, so perhaps Katie prepared me for you.”

  “How do those vows go, now? For better or worse? Richer or poorer?”

  Christy stepped out of the bedroom. As soon as she stepped over the invisible line and stood on Todd’s side, he wrapped his arms around her an
d hugged her close.

  “I think we have the poorer part figured out,” Christy said.

  “Hey, I like all the Christy touches you added to our home. The flowers by the front door and the welcome mat are especially nice,” Todd murmured. “Do you want to head out for your parents’ house?”

  “Yes, I think we better.”

  They both stayed at her parents’ that night. Once again the allergy medication made Christy konk out. She woke in a Saturday-morning sort of daze and padded out to the kitchen in her pj’s, robe, and slippers.

  The house was silent. Pouring herself a bowl of cereal, she sat down at the kitchen table. A moment later Todd and David walked into the kitchen. Christy instinctively clutched the top of her robe. She knew she looked awful. Her hair was going in every direction, and she needed a shower.

  “Morning, beautiful,” Todd said.

  “I look terrible!” Christy squeaked. She could tell by the expression on David’s face he agreed with her evaluation.

  If you can call me beautiful when I look like this, my soon-to-be husband, then you’ll be in for a nice surprise next Saturday.

  “We’re going to the skate park for an hour or so,” Todd said. “When I get back, you can give me the final to-do list.”

  “Okay.” Christy tried to tuck her stringy hair behind her ears.

  “See ya,” David said as they marched past her.

  The door to the garage closed. A moment later it opened, and Todd’s face appeared around the corner, wearing a boyish grin. “Hey, you in the bathrobe and fuzzy slippers, if you’re not doing anything next Saturday, what do you think? You want to get married?”

  Christy grinned and held out her arms to provide Todd a full view of her frumpy robe, flannel pj’s, and disheveled hair. “For better or worse,” she said.

  “From where I’m standing, I’m thinking it can only get better by next Saturday. At least I’m hopin’.”

  Christy took off one of her fuzzy slippers and heaved it at him. He shut the door just in time for the slipper to miss its target.

  Christy returned to her bowl of cereal, laughing to herself. She thought back to their first date to Disneyland when she had thrown her sandal at him.

 
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