I promise, p.3
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       I Promise, p.3

           Robin Jones Gunn
 
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  She blinked. No, this isn’t one of those moments when I should trust my gut for a quick, clean decision. If I did, I’d end up dashing ahead of you and God and everyone else.

  “I said I love you,” she whispered. “That’s all.”

  “Oh, is that all?” Todd teased, pressing the back of his hand against her warm cheek. “Then why are you blushing?”

  “Sunburn?” she ventured, raising her eyebrows and trying to look as innocent as possible.

  “In December? I don’t think so.” Todd smiled at her. He seemed to be studying every detail of her face. His hand rose to the crown of her head. Gently, he stroked her long hair.

  “Oh, Kilikina, if you only knew.” He smoothed his thumb across her lips. “You have no idea what you and your love have brought to my life. You are the other half of my heart. Without you, my life would be only a shadow.” He paused. “I love you, Kilikina. I love you more than you will ever know. More than you will ever ask. Nothing will ever change my love for you.”

  “Oh, Todd.” Christy tilted her head toward him and offered him her lips.

  Todd accepted her gift and kissed her slowly.

  Just then a loud horn sounded in front of them, shattering their forever moment.

  3 Todd and Christy reluctantly drew away from each other and looked through the car’s windshield. They saw Doug pulling his truck into his narrow driveway, wildly waving at them. Jumping out of his yellow truck, he came over to Todd’s open window and said, “Hey, did I just catch you two making out in front of my house?”

  “We weren’t making out.” Christy felt her face turn red all over again.

  Doug laughed. His face lit up with a little-boy expression that had become familiar to Christy over the years. Doug was taller than Todd, but with his short, blond hair and mischievous grin, he could have passed for a high school freshman. “I suppose you’re going to tell me Todd was checking your hair to see if it smelled like green apples.”

  “No, that’s your line, Doug.” Todd glanced at Christy with an equally charming little-boy grin and stated matter-of-factly, “We were kissing.” He pressed the back of his fingers against Christy’s cheeks. “This is my blushing bride. We’re going to get married. Did you know that, Doug?”

  Doug punched Todd in the arm. “The whole world knows it after last night. You two space cadets better come in and see everyone. Tracy will be thrilled you’re here. We had a big sleepover last night. Rick is going to make omelets.”

  “Rick?”

  “Yeah, Rick’s here. It’s been awesome hearing what God has done in his life. He and Katie had us laughing all night.”

  “Katie?”

  “Yeah, Katie is here, too. So were Sierra, Paul, Vicki, and Wes.” Doug opened Todd’s door. “You two want to help me carry in the groceries? I had to make a run for supplies.”

  “That explains what happened to my roomie last night,” Christy said.

  Todd and Christy followed Doug to the front door, each carrying two bags of groceries. Doug and Tracy’s cozy cottage was four blocks from the beach and was the only yellow house with white shutters on their street. It had one bedroom and one bathroom. The living room area opened into the kitchen, and they had a small backyard, where Tracy had worked hard to start a flower garden.

  As soon as they entered, Katie leaped from the couch and met Christy with a huge hug. “Did you get my message? Why didn’t you come last night? We had a great time celebrating your engagement. You should have been here. When I called you late last night the line was busy.”

  Katie seemed even more energetic than usual.

  “I was talking to my parents,” Christy said.

  Taking one of the grocery bags from Christy, Katie asked, “Were they surprised about your engagement?”

  “No. Todd talked to my dad earlier and asked for my parents’ blessing.”

  “It was more like asking his permission,” Todd said.

  “Permission or blessing,” Christy said. “My dad gave both. My parents were waiting for me to call. They’re thrilled. My mom cried. Then I called my aunt and uncle.”

  “Did they know Todd was going to propose last night?”

  “No, but they weren’t surprised. They’re real happy for us, too.” Christy stepped into the kitchen area of Doug and Tracy’s compact house and received a warm grin from Rick.

  “We’re all real happy for you.” Rick reached in front of Katie and offered Todd a handshake. “You two have a great future ahead of you.”

  Christy noticed that although Rick was still his tall, dark, and handsome self, he didn’t seem to wear an attitude of arrogance like a prince’s crown, which is what he had done when he was in high school. Standing next to Katie in Doug and Tracy’s homey kitchen, Rick appeared average. Katie’s flashing green eyes and soft, distinctive new look with her short, feathery red hair made her the first person Christy’s eyes went to.

  “Where’s everyone else?” Doug asked, unloading the bountiful groceries.

  “Tracy is in the shower; Paul had to go to work; Sierra, Wes, and Vicki had to get back to school because they’re driving home to Oregon for Christmas break.” Katie’s expression lit up another couple of watts as she turned to Christy. “I wish you guys had come last night. We stayed up all night talking. It was awesome.”

  “Uh-oh.” Rick gave Katie a playful tag on the arm. “You’ve been around Doug too long. You’re starting to say ‘awesome.’”

  “Well, it was an awesome time for all of us last night. You guys would have loved it. We laughed so hard!” Katie began to recount the previous night’s events while Christy moved to the living room and lowered herself into the chair beside the couch. Katie looked radiant as she spoke with charming animation. What an improvement over the way Katie looked twenty-four hours earlier when the gang was planning to go to The Dove’s Nest. Katie had proclaimed she would rather stay alone in their dorm room since she didn’t have a date. That was before Rick stepped into the center of their group.

  Christy thought back on the way she had fallen for Rick in high school. Katie had a huge crush on him, too. But Christy got over Rick pretty fast; Katie never seemed to have recovered. Katie’s love for Rick had turned to anger and simmered deep and low within her for years.

  Then a few months ago a letter from Rick arrived. He told Katie how he had completely turned his life over to the Lord, and he asked Katie for her forgiveness for the way he had treated her in the past.

  From the way she’s looking at him right now, I would say Katie has forgiven Rick completely.

  “Hey, Todd,” Doug said after Katie concluded her entertaining summary. “I need to check on Tracy real quick, and then I need your help on something. I’ve been working on a song, and these guys helped me last night, but I can’t get one part in the chorus right.”

  “Do you want us to start the omelets?” Katie called out as Doug headed for the bedroom.

  “Sure,” Doug said. “Go ahead.”

  “Do you know where they keep their cheese grater?” Rick asked.

  “Try the cupboard on your right,” Katie suggested.

  “Anything I can do to help?” Christy asked.

  “Sure,” Rick said. “You can find a mixing bowl larger than this one.”

  “I think Tracy keeps those over here.” Christy opened a cupboard as Katie’s spontaneous laughter came rolling over her. Whenever Katie got going with her most joyful strain of laughter, others found it nearly impossible to keep a straight face. Her laughter carried the sound of glee at its freest, happiest, lightest moment and tickled all those who heard it.

  Christy turned around and saw Katie holding up a couple of aprons she had found in a drawer. “This one is for you,” Katie said to Rick. “And this one is mine.”

  Rick tied a frilly yellow apron trimmed with pastel flowers around his waist. It barely fit. Katie laughed again. Echoing Katie’s winged laughter came the bass notes of a concert of mirth from Rick. It was a richer and more genuine laug
h than Christy had ever heard spill from him.

  Katie’s apron was denim with stripes. Across the bib were the words File All Complaints Here. An arrow pointed to a tiny pocket that wouldn’t hold many complaints.

  “Trade you,” Rick said.

  “Not a chance.”

  Christy placed the large mixing bowl on the counter. “Anything else I can do?”

  “We need plates,” Rick said. “Can you find six dinner plates?”

  The cupboard was empty, so Christy unloaded the clean dishes from the dishwasher while Rick and Katie went to work. Within a few moments, it appeared that they had turned the kitchen into a quirky cable cooking show. They had mushrooms cooking in a small frying pan and sausage going in a larger pan. Bowls and various cooking tools were scattered everywhere.

  “We’ll make an assembly line so everyone can custom-order their omelets,” Rick explained. “If you want, Christy, you can grate the cheese.”

  Christy took her project over to the kitchen table to get out of the way. With amazement she watched the marvel of Rick and Katie, working side by side as if they had practiced the steps to this kitchen dance for years.

  Todd strummed Doug’s guitar as he sat on the living room couch. Christy didn’t recognize the tune he was playing. She wondered if that was the song he had been working on last night.

  Then, as if Todd felt her gaze on him, he looked over at her. A slow smile played on his lips. He kept strumming and then mouthed a word she didn’t catch.

  Christy gave him a look indicating she didn’t understand him.

  Todd mouthed the word again. “January.”

  Christy broke into a smile as bright as the sunrise. You heard me in the car, didn’t you, Todd? You heard me whisper “January” to you. Well, I know we can’t pull off a wedding in January, but maybe we can pull it off by February. We could get married right after you graduate. I’d only have one more semester to go and—

  Doug stepped into the living room, blocking Christy’s view of Todd.

  What am I thinking? February is too soon. We can wait until this summer, can’t we?

  Doug began to play his new song. Christy pulled her thoughts back to the present. She felt a comforting sense of warmth come over her as Doug’s familiar voice filled the cozy home where these good friends gathered.

  “When the Lord brought us together

  We were like those who dreamed

  Our mouths were filled with laughter

  Our tongues with songs of joy.

  Then it was said

  The Lord has done great things for them

  Yes, the Lord has done great things for us

  And we are filled with joy.”

  “Isn’t that a great song?” Katie asked.

  “What Scripture did you base it on?” Todd asked.

  “Psalm 126,” Doug said. “And this is the problem, here on this line. How do I make the transition from ‘When the Lord brought us together’ to ‘We were like those who dreamed’? It isn’t smooth.”

  Christy stopped grating the cheese. Boy, that was a true statement, Doug. You don’t realize it, but that’s the question I’ve been struggling with all day. How do two dreamers make a smooth transition when the Lord brings them together?

  She wished he would play the whole song again. She wanted to hear the part about the Lord doing great things and about being filled with joy.

  Just then the bathroom door opened, and petite Tracy stepped out with a huge smile on her heart-shaped face. “Hi!” she greeted Todd and Christy.

  “Hey, how’s it goin’?” Todd greeted her with a chin-up nod.

  Christy rose and went over to give Tracy a hug. As soon as their arms went around each other, Tracy whispered in Christy’s ear, “Guess what? I’m pregnant!”

  “What?!” Christy squealed, pulling back and looking at Tracy’s face to be sure she had heard right.

  “Trace,” Doug scolded, “did you tell her?”

  “Tell her what?” Katie asked from the kitchen.

  All eyes were on Tracy.

  “We were going to wait until we sat down to eat.” Doug handed Todd the guitar and went over to his wife, who was standing next to Christy and biting her lower lip.

  “I’m sorry, honey! I didn’t mean to say anything. It just flew right out of my mouth,” Tracy confessed.

  Doug put his arm around her and gave her a look of unfaltering devotion. “Go ahead, sweetheart. Tell everybody.”

  “You,” she said.

  “Oh, now you’ve turned shy.” Doug laughed and gave his wife a big hug. “It looks like the Lord has decided to bless us with a baby.”

  A cheer rose from the group. They all took turns hugging and congratulating Doug and Tracy.

  Todd crossed the room in four steps and slipped his arm around Christy. He kissed the side of her head, above her right ear. She knew he was thinking the same thing she was thinking. One day, Lord willing, they would be the ones making a similar announcement to their friends.

  “Is something burning?” Tracy sniffed the air.

  “It’s the olive oil in the pan.” Rick jogged back to the stove. “I’ll turn it down.”

  “Could you open the window above the kitchen sink?” Tracy asked.

  “Morning sickness,” Doug explained. “She’s not real steady until about two in the afternoon. She’s sensitive to strong scents.”

  “When is the baby due?” Christy asked.

  “July, according to our calculations,” Tracy said. “We’ll find out more after my appointment with the doctor next week.”

  “When did you guys find out?” Katie asked.

  “Yesterday morning. It’s been torture keeping it a secret from you guys, but we agreed we wanted to tell our parents first, and we weren’t able to get ahold of them on the phone until this morning, right before Doug went for the groceries.”

  “I can’t believe you didn’t say anything last night,” Katie said.

  “Last night was Todd and Christy’s night.” Tracy sent Christy a gentle smile.

  “Yeah, one major announcement at a time is about all this group can handle,” Doug added.

  “Don’t worry about me!” Katie said. “I don’t have any announcements or secrets this morning.”

  A crazy thought flitted through Christy’s mind. She wondered if Katie would soon be announcing that Rick had asked her out. Christy shooed away the notion. It was far too early for that. Or maybe it was far too late, since they had already given that a try in high school.

  Doug kissed his wife soundly. “We’re open to suggestions on names because so far we haven’t agreed on any names for boys or girls.”

  After a round of suggestions, none of which struck a chord with the happy couple, Doug returned to the couch with Todd to work on the song.

  “Do you have a fan on this stove?” Rick asked. “I can’t seem to find one.”

  “It’s broken,” Doug said.

  “Is the smell still too strong for you, Tracy?” Rick said.

  “No, it’s okay.” Tracy opened the front door to let in more air. “This will help. So, Rick, when did you become such a gourmet chef?”

  Christy thought Tracy’s redirection of the conversation was so typical of her. She didn’t like having the attention on herself. Tracy seemed most comfortable when she was listening to her friends or offering them kind advice. Christy had a long list of questions to ask Tracy about her engagement and wedding details, but she decided to wait until the two of them could be alone.

  “Cooking is one of my hidden talents,” Rick replied to Tracy’s question.

  “I don’t remember hearing about your cooking much when you and Doug and Todd shared the apartment in San Diego,” Tracy said.

  Rick laughed. “That’s because we never had any food in our apartment!”

  “You got that right,” Todd said.

  “Amen!” Doug agreed.

  “I learned a few things at the restaurant where I worked.”

  “T
he Blue Parachute,” Katie said.

  Rick looked surprised. “That’s right. How did you know that, Katie?”

  “We went there one night after the Bible study at your apartment, remember? Christy and I came down to San Diego, and you were at the hospital when we arrived because you sprained your wrist.”

  “Oh yeah, that’s right.” Rick seemed to be having a hard time remembering that night. “You guys came down, and we went to the zoo.”

  Christy remembered the experience vividly because she had watched Rick kiss Katie the night of the Bible study. The next day at the zoo Rick treated Katie terribly. He acted as if nothing had happened between them the night before.

  Standing only a few feet from Katie, Christy watched her expression. She saw no indication on Katie’s face that the memory of Rick and the zoo was still painful.

  “My mom is the real cook in our family,” Rick said. “That’s how my dad came up with the idea of starting The Dove’s Nest Café next to the Christian bookstore.”

  “Why did your dad build The Dove’s Nest and The Ark out in Murietta Hot Springs instead of where they live in Escondido or here at the beach?” Doug asked.

  “He got a great deal on the property in Murietta. It would have cost two or three times as much here.”

  Katie turned to Christy. “And guess where I’m going to work starting in January?”

  “Let me guess. The car wash in Temecula?”

  “Nooo,” Katie answered playfully. “Guess again. It starts with a ‘dove’ and ends with a ‘nest.’”

  “Wait a minute,” Christy said. “I thought you said you didn’t have any big announcements or secrets?”

  “This isn’t exactly a secret,” Rick said. “We’ve been looking for people who can work evenings. It’s entry level, but I have a feeling she’ll work her way up to just about any position she wants.”

  Christy studied her best friend even more carefully. “And just what position do you want, Miss Katie?”

  “To attend the Natural Food Faire in San Diego.”

  Christy hadn’t expected an answer, especially such a random one.

  “It’s held every February. Rick says we can go and introduce my new Indian Summer herbal tea.”

 
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