Coming attractions, p.6
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       Coming Attractions, p.6

           Robin Jones Gunn
 

  Since when did Aunt Marti consider me one of the “girls” and treat me to a shopping trip? That’s her technique with Christy. I’ve never been on Marti’s list of favorites. What’s going on?

  “I’ll need to call Christy to see if she can be gone that long. I have a lot of studying to do, and I need to write a paper this weekend.”

  “You can do that here, can’t you? We’ve recently renovated the upstairs. Did Christy tell you? The guest room is twice the size it used to be. There’s a built-in window seat and a desk where you can work. Christy and I can go shopping and bring back something for you. How would that be?”

  Katie didn’t know what to make of Marti’s comments. All Katie knew was that if she were going to get anything done this weekend, she should stay locked in her dorm room.

  “Oh, here. Robert wants to say something now.”

  “Call us back when you can, Katie.”

  “Okay. Thanks. I will.” She could hear Marti’s voice in the background right before Bob hung up. Marti was saying, “You’re not hanging up, are you?”

  Katie smiled as she placed a call to Christy. The possibility of going up to Bob and Marti’s home in Newport Beach was appealing. Watching the two of them successfully relate to each other when their personalities were so different always was entertaining. Still, Katie knew that if she went, she would complete zero homework. Yet, when would she be invited up there again? It had been a year since Katie had been to Bob and Marti’s home. Bob always made sure they had plenty of delicious things to eat. Katie wasn’t scheduled for duty until Monday. Still, she shouldn’t go.

  On the other hand, she had asked Bob to help her to find a car, and that was the reason she was going in the first place. It made sense to stay overnight since it would be at least a two-and-a-half-hour drive back to school. Three hours, if the weekend traffic were heavy.

  However, if she were honest with herself, she didn’t need to settle on a car until the end of the school year. The best use of her time now would be to hunker down, focus on her classes, finish her papers early, work the extra hours she had accumulated when she was sick, and catch up on her meetings with Julia. Christy didn’t need Katie to go with her to babysit Daniel. Whatever Bob’s deal on a new car was, another deal would come along sometime. Graduation was the goal Katie needed to press toward now. She should lock herself in her room and do as much as she could with the open time in front of her.

  That would be the wise, sensible, and responsible thing to do with the remainder of the weekend. And that was what she would tell Christy.

  Two hours later, with their packed overnight bags in the trunk of Christy’s Volvo, Katie and Christy motored down the hill away from Rancho Corona University.

  I shouldn’t be doing this. But we’re on our way, and I’m not going to change my mind. Once I decide to do something, I follow through. Even if it does take a lot of debating before I decide.

  “So explain to me why we’re going to my aunt and uncle’s after babysitting for Doug and Tracy? I wasn’t clear on that part from your phone conversation.”

  “Your aunt invited us. And like I said, I asked your uncle to keep an eye open for a car, and apparently he has found one.”

  Katie reached for a book in the backpack at her feet. “I’m going to turn anti-social on you now. I really need to use some of this drive time to finish my reading. If I manage to pull off everything I need to do this weekend, I’m sure to win the Multitasking Woman of the Year Award. You wouldn’t want me to miss out on that now, would you?”

  “No, I wouldn’t stand in your way. I already know you can get everything done. You’re amazing that way. You accomplish your goals, whatever they are. No one is challenging you on that.”

  Christy hesitated and then added, “Please don’t be offended, but for one last time, I just want to be the gentle voice in the back of your head that gives you permission.”

  “Permission for what?”

  “You can change your mind if you want to.”

  Katie didn’t know why Christy’s evenly spoken words seemed to sink so deep inside of her. Maybe because Christy was one of the few people Katie didn’t feel she had to prove herself to. Christy knew more about her than anyone. Way more than Rick knew about her. And Christy had always accepted Katie for who she was, what she was, and where she was during any particular stretch of life. Christy was the cream and sugar in Katie’s cup of tea. She was everything a best friend should be.

  And she was giving Katie the freedom to change her mind. To admit she was making a poor choice. To turn around and go back to the dorm.

  “No, this is what I want to do,” Katie said. “You drive. I’ll read. You babysit. I’ll write my paper. You drive to Bob and Marti’s. I’ll sleep in their cushy guest bed and eat their gourmet food. It’ll all work out.”

  A smile settled on Christy’s face.

  “Why are you smirking?”

  “I’m not smirking. I’m remembering. Remembering what I was going through a year ago when I was in your place, trying to finish my final semester and plan a wedding on top of everything.”

  “Well, I’m not planning a wedding. I can’t even plan a bracelet.”

  “Plan a what?”

  Katie’s textbook went unopened as she caught Christy up on all the details about Rick and the cuddly, kissy date the night before. Katie described the brooch, the symbol of their happily-almost-after relationship and then slipped into the same sort of sure-unsure banter she had begun with Nicole that morning in the laundry room.

  “It sounds as if I’m self-sabotaging, doesn’t it? Why would I do that?”

  “Your emotions are on a tilt-a-whirl,” Christy said.

  “I thought you would say my emotions are on a roller coaster.”

  “No. Roller coasters go up and down. You’re in your final semester of college and deep in a serious relationship. I would say your emotions are on a tilt-a-whirl. You know, those carnival rides where you spin and fly around in a big circle and go up and down all at once.”

  “I know what a tilt-a-whirl is.”

  “So give yourself lots of grace, just like you gave me last year. Have you forgotten how impossible I was to live with?”

  “I don’t remember your being impossible to live with.”

  “Well, I remember.” Christy reached over, and with one hand on the steering wheel, she gave Katie a comforting pat. “Don’t try to push yourself too hard. Rick isn’t pushing you. Just let things spin through all their cycles and come to their natural conclusion.”

  “Now you sound like Eli.”

  “I do?”

  “Yeah, I was talking to him a few weeks ago about where I was going to live after I graduate, and he said I should go to Africa.”

  Christy laughed.

  “I think he was half-serious. He said I should experience a whole circle of life before I got married, and he thought I would experience it if I went some place like Africa.”

  “He didn’t really say ‘circle of life,’ did he?”

  “I thought that’s what he said. Or did I get that from The Lion King? My African references are overlapping. Must be that tilt-a-whirl effect you were talking about. Eli says my mind is full of wavy lines that wiggle all over the place, and when they intersect with another wavy line, I never know where one line stopped and the other started.”

  “Eli said that, did he?”

  Katie nodded. “He’s an observant guy.”

  “Yes, he is.”

  Katie opened her book and made an effort to find where she had left off reading earlier that week. It seemed as if one of her wavy lines had intersected another wavy line, and now her thoughts were off in faraway lands where giraffes galloped and lions crouched.

  “Do you think I should go to Kenya?”

  Christy looked at her and then back to the road. “When? Why?”

  “I think I have a little crush on the idea of going to Africa.”

  Christy laughed.

  “
I think I just figured something out.” Katie straightened her posture and nodded slowly. “I don’t want to miss out on an adventure, do I? That’s what it is, isn’t it? I’m questioning my feelings for Rick because I’m afraid I might miss something if he and I move ahead and become engaged anytime soon. That must be why I keep feeling hesitant. I know what life will be like with him. Rick is a straight line up against all my wobbly lines. He sets a goal and goes after it.”

  “So do you.”

  “I know, but I love having the freedom to decide on a new goal every fifteen minutes. Rick picks one goal, and that’s it for months. Years.”

  “That’s a great leadership quality.”

  Katie nodded. “Yes, but we’re still young. There’s a lot of world out there to see. Don’t you remember how great it was a few summers ago when you, Todd, and I traveled around Europe?”

  A dreamy expression came over Christy’s face. “I think about that trip a lot. Things were so simple then. I know I fretted and complained while we were traveling, but now I think it was one of the best things Todd and I did together before we got married. I loved being with him, and with you, and sharing so many amazing experiences together.”

  Katie leaned forward eagerly. “That’s exactly what I’m saying. I want to have an experience like that with Rick before we get married. Or, well, if we get married. Before we get engaged at least. I want to experience new things with him. He and I have been stuck in a rut our entire dating relationship.”

  Katie crossed her arms and leaned back, contented and convinced. “It’s settled. Rick and I need to go to Africa.”

  “And exactly how do you think Rick will take to that idea?”

  Katie didn’t answer immediately. “I can convince him. He’ll see once I explain why we need to have this sort of experience. We’ll go after I graduate, after the café opens. Just for a week or two. We’ll go with Eli when he goes back. It will be sort of like when we were in Europe and Antonio traveled with us in Italy and took us to his parents’ home. If we go with Eli, he will show us around. This will be the most important and defining thing Rick and I have ever done together. I wonder when we need to take our typhoid shots. Soon, I would imagine. I think Eli said we have to get yellow fever shots as well.”

  “Whoa, Katie! Before you get immunizations against tropical diseases, don’t you think you should talk to Rick about it?”

  “Like I said, I’ll convince him. What better time to go than this summer?”

  Christy seemed to have run out of arguments. Katie took advantage of her silence to follow a wonderfully long, wavy line in her mind that contained bountiful information on Africa, Kenya, and the clean water project Eli’s dad was involved in. After working on the clean water fund-raiser so closely with Eli, Katie knew a whole lot more about Africa than she had realized. She told Christy about the way the funds were making it possible for heavy drilling equipment to be taken into remote villages where people were dying from lack of clean water. New wells were being dug. Entire villages were becoming healthy after years of losing people to dysentery and disease.

  “Eli said that the verse about offering a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name is happening, literally, because of these wells, and children who were close to death now are becoming healthy. Schools are starting up, and crops are growing in areas that had become arid. It’s a whole other world over there, Christy. So much needs to be done to help. Can you imagine how great it would be if Rick and I could go after I graduate and spend a month there just to help out?”

  “So now it’s up from a week to a month?”

  “Or the whole summer. I think it would be incredible. The best thing we ever did. We can always settle down in suburbia, and he can always open another café. But this! A chance to go to Africa — this would be golden.”

  Christy didn’t reply.

  Katie’s imagination swirled with possibilities. She felt happier than she had in a long time. “We can do this. It won’t be that hard to pull it together. I should text Eli to find out what day he’s leaving. The three of us could take the same flight.”

  “Katie, are you sure you want to do that without first giving Rick a chance to weigh in with his opinion?”

  “I’m not telling Eli we’re actually going; I’m just gathering information.” Her thumbs had completed the text and were about to hit Send.

  With a glance over at Christy, she said, “What’s with the scowl? Do you think I’m moving too fast?”

  “I think you hopped on a pretty wavy line, and it’s taking you way off in a crazy new direction.”

  “Yeah, but why not?” Katie put down her phone. “I want to do this, Chris. Is there something wrong with me that I’d rather go to an African village after I graduate than go shopping for engagement rings and a wedding dress?”

  “No, there’s nothing wrong with you, Katie. Nothing at all.”

  “But you think I should slow down. Take it one step at a time.”

  “One step at a time is always a good way to go.”

  “Fine.” Katie deleted the text message to Eli. “I’ll talk to Rick first. And now I suppose you’re going to tell me I should probably pray about all this.”

  “That’s always a good way to go too.”

  Katie turned her focus back to her textbook while Christy drove. She knew she should pray but she wasn’t quite ready to talk to God about all this. Not yet.

  7

  Katie faux studied for the rest of the drive to Carlsbad and the charming beach cottage where Doug and Tracy lived. The distance had given Katie time to roll out several of her wavy lines of thought and place them in nice straight rows. At least for the time being they appeared to be nice straight thoughts. When her thoughts were stretched out like this, they seemed dormant. Asleep. Unable to wiggle around in her imagination.

  Katie felt as if all the zing had gone out of her. It was all too much to think about at the moment.

  Doug met them at the door and wrapped his arms around Christy and then Katie, welcoming them with a warm, bolstering hug. Katie had forgotten how wonderful it felt to be on the receiving end of a Doug hug. She felt a smile rising inside her spirit as she entered Doug and Tracy’s home. This cottage contained vivid memories of the night Christy and Todd became engaged. That was when Katie and Rick reconnected, talking all night and working side by side the next morning to make omelets for everyone. The happy feelings of the beginning moments of falling in love were floating in the air as Katie looked around and remembered sitting on the couch with Rick, exchanging smiles and feeling the first sprouts after a long winter of hidden hopes.

  Note to self: You might be crazy for thinking about going to Africa. What you have with Rick is all you ever wanted. Remember?

  Tracy stepped into the living room, her heart-shaped face glowing. “It’s so good to see both of you! Thanks for doing this.”

  Baby Daniel was in her arms, shyly tucking his chin and cuddling up to Tracy.

  “He’s huge!” Katie blurted out. “How old is he now?”

  “Almost nine months. Can you believe it? When was the last time you saw him?”

  “I don’t remember, but he was tiny,” Katie said. “He slept most of the time.”

  “Those days are over,” Doug said. “He’s on the go all the time, aren’t you, Danny boy?”

  Blond-haired Daniel turned and looked at Katie and then bashfully curled back up to his mama.

  “I was trying to get him down for a nap,” Tracy said. “But I think he knows something is going on.”

  Christy put out her hands and smiled. In a soft voice she said, “Will you let me hold you? Come here.”

  It took a few minutes, but Daniel decided to warm up to Christy and let her take him from Tracy’s arms.

  “You have a way with kids,” Katie said playfully.

  “She does,” Doug agreed. “Last time she and Todd were here, Daniel wanted her to hold him the whole time. Hey, we’d better slide out while we can. All the info is on the ki
tchen counter. We expect to be back around four.”

  “That’s great,” Christy said. “Have fun. We’ll be fine here.”

  Christy walked into the kitchen with Daniel in her arms and went over to the sink while Doug and Tracy slipped out the front door. Katie watched as Christy pointed to a few small items in the windowsill above the sink and talked to Daniel in a low voice.

  “You really are a natural with kids,” Katie said.

  “I learned a lot the year I worked at the orphanage in Switzerland. Little ones just want to feel safe. Isn’t that right, Daniel? You remember me, don’t you? Oh, you are so cute. Do you know how cute you are? You definitely have your mama’s eyes.”

  “While the two of you have your little goo-goo fest, I’ll retrieve my backpack from the car and write my paper.” Katie strode out the front door, accidentally letting the screen door slam behind her. She cringed. A second later she heard Daniel wail.

  Uh-oh. Not good.

  The next three hours turned into the most challenging study time Katie could remember. She later conceded that she should have given up and just helped Christy keep Daniel entertained. He didn’t nap, as the note from Tracy said might happen. He would be happy and interested in a toy one moment, then he would try to crawl over to where Katie had her laptop plugged into the wall. When Christy stopped him, he wailed.

  “I had no idea kids could be so exhausting,” Katie declared when Doug and Tracy returned. “How do you keep up with him? I mean, he’s adorable, but you have to watch him every minute. He kept Christy going the whole time.”

  “I didn’t mind a bit,” Christy said. “He was perfect. Weren’t you, Danny boy?”

  Tracy gave Christy a hug. “You’ll make a great mom. Both of you will.”

  Katie couldn’t see herself as a mother. Not anytime soon, at least. She wondered if Todd and Christy were thinking of starting a family. It had been awhile since she had talked to Christy about any of the more personal details of her marriage to Todd. He was working as a youth pastor at their church and seemed to be busy all the time. Katie couldn’t remember the last time she had seen him.

 
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