Finding Boaz, страница 1
Copyright © 2013
Book Design by Elizabeth C. Hull
Cover Design by Judy Bullard of Custom Ebook Covers, www.customebookcovers.com
Edited by Anne L. McIntosh
Formatting by Anessa Books
All rights reserved.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.
Published by Elizabeth C. Hull
Bent Knee Press
Published in the United States of America
First e-book edition: October 2014
First print edition: August 2016
For my Jim who still believes in his Elizabeth
“It's ten o'clock at night. What do you want?"
Abby Ericksen was looking through the screened door at her ex-husband, Brad. His breath was fogging up the glass in the top of the door. The cold March air swirled past her knees through the screen in the bottom of the door and began to freeze her tiny cube of an apartment.
There goes the budget, she thought.
"Won't you let me in?" he pleaded. He never did like the cold.
"Where's Suzie?" The door stayed locked between them.
"She left me. Please let me in. It's cold out here."
"What do you mean 'left’?" Ordinarily she would have let a poor body in from the cold, but this particular body had left her and Chloe out in the cold when he left them for Suzie. So she would worry about the electric bill later. He could freeze.
"I just wanted to talk to you." He rested his arm on the doorjamb and leaned in as if there were no glass between them. The fog got worse.
"I just want to do the right thing here." He stepped away from the door and put his hands in the pockets of his jacket.
Her heart was banging as she opened the door. She used to dream of him coming back to her and Chloe. It was all so romantic in her fantasy: Brad arriving home in the middle of the night, ragged and torn from the violent struggle that it took to get back; sweeping her off her feet; finally carrying her away to Neverland or some such place. But that was a year and a half ago, and she had given up those kinds of dreams.
Now that he was actually here, all she felt was anger and distrust. He stepped inside and leaned against the counter next to the back door. There were no signs of struggle. His blue Izod was completely intact under a black leather jacket that made her blue jeans and grandfather's old dress shirt feel frumpy.
Well, the time away from her had been prosperous for him anyway, she thought.
Crossing the ten-foot room, Abby backed up to the counter and got as far away from him as possible.
"I miss you, Ab, and I miss Chloe. I believe that we should be together. It's the right thing to do, don't you think?"
"I think you have a lotta nerve showing up here at my house in the middle of the night unannounced when I haven't seen you in eighteen months. That’s what I think. So, what do you mean she left?" She crossed her arms over her chest.
"Can we stop talking about Suzie for a minute?"
"Don't you think she's relevant?"
"God allows these things for a reason, Ab, and I think that maybe we should just, you know, accept it." He opened his arms wide and started for her side of the room.
Abby sidestepped to the sink to clean up the tea glass she had sitting in it. What had he ever done but tout "what God said" and do the opposite? He came up behind her and put his hands on her waist. She felt giddy, like she might laugh, but it wasn't joy. Something wasn't right.
"Don't." She pushed him away.
He leaned against the counter next to her.
Stay in control, she thought. Abby turned to face him again. Beyond him she saw Chloe walk into the room.
"Momma?" Chloe's voice cracked with sleep. Brad turned in time to see her eyes widen.
"Daddy!" She ran and jumped into his arms.
"Hello, Chloe." Brad picked her up and held her close, but his eyes never left Abby. He sat down in a chair with the child on his lap. Chloe sat there quietly, almost sleeping. Abby leaned back against the sink with crossed arms. Maybe he was sincere. If so, it was the first time in at least eighteen months, although the timeline of his betrayal was much longer than that. Just then a brown spider scurried across the counter. She grabbed a paper towel and cleaned away the intruder.
"OK, Chloe, it's time to go back to bed." Abby retrieved her baby from his arms and carried her back to her room. She pulled the covers over the three-year-old tucking them around her tightly.
"Is Daddy staying with us, Momma?" Brad's eyes looked at her from the small face of her daughter.
When she returned, Brad was still sitting at the table. Abby took a seat across from him.
"What's all this?" He picked up one of the flyers lying amidst an organizational reorganization in the middle of the table. "Old Thyme Festival? So you're still into that music thing, huh?" His mouth curled into a smirk.
"Yep." She straightened the piles into two stacks and drew them to her side of the table.
"I wonder how you have time to do that and work and take good care of Chloe," he said.
"Oh, Chloe loved it."
"So you brought her with you?"
"Of course—Mom came to help. She had a blast.” He was doing it again, insinuating that she wasn't good enough. Anger surged as she realized she was reacting in the same old way she always did with him—always explaining, trying to justify herself to him.
"Well, what do you think?" he asked.
"Do you want to give it another try? For Chloe's sake?" His eyes were pleading.
"I have to think about it," she said aloud, surprised to hear herself say anything that would give him the slightest hope.
He pulled out a business card with his name imprinted on one side; on the other side he had written in the phone numbers of the hotel where he was staying and handed it to her. Abby took the card and laid it on the table between them. She had forgotten what ugly hands he had. They were too small and white, delicate like a woman's.
"This is where I'll be. I'm transferring here. I'll be here for two weeks looking for a place to live. Would you like to have dinner tomorrow night?"
"I don't know. I have to think about it." She looked away from his gaze.
"About dinner? You have to think about dinner?" He made a little laugh as his mouth curled into that smirk again. "Look, I just want to take you and my little girl out for a meal, OK?"
"It's probably OK. Just call me tomorrow."
As soon as he was gone, she threw all the locks on the door and sat back down in her chair exhausted.
He wants me back?
There was no question about that. The mere thought made her sick. I should have just said "no." She swiped her hand into the air, a gesture of finality. "No."
Frustrated, Abby marched up and down the short length of the room. What about Chloe?
"How could he just show up here out of the blue like that?" she asked aloud.
The room was silent. Her dulcimer stood on its stand in the corner of the small living room. She closed Chloe's door and sat on the couch to play. Perhaps then she could sort out what she should do next.
The dulcimer sat comfortably in her lap. She put her music aside thinking to
"Tom Dooley"... She had been playing "Tom Dooley" the day she first thought something was going on between Brad and Suzie.
The sun had been high and hot on the Fourth of July two years ago. Neighbors and friends had turned out for the annual block party. That year the buzz question had been whether or not Eddy Mullen would shoot a bottle rocket into a cop car as he had done the year before. Abby had been jamming with Joe Smith and his wife, Joan, on a makeshift stage on the Mullen's front porch. Brad carried Chloe on his hip making tours of the food tables. Generally Abby kept her eyes down on the fretboard or on her music when she was playing. If she didn't, she couldn't go very fast and Joe was lightning on the banjo. But she knew "Tom Dooley" inside and out, and she was feeling free and easy, no pressure, just playing with friends. When she looked up, she saw Brad hand Suzie something. Suzie wrapped her hands around his as she took whatever it was from him.
Abby looked down quickly. She couldn't hear the music, and she wasn't sure where she was in the piece. It took a second to realize she hadn't stumbled; her hands had kept the pace. She glanced once more to catch Suzie's look of triumph. Brad melted back into the crowd with Chloe.
"Poor boy, you're bound to die..."
She let the dulcimer ring the last notes until it rested quietly.
"Amazing grace! How sweet the sound."
Abby played the old song slowly, purely, letting the lonesome sound resonate.
Two days later, Brad was gone. Near as she could figure, the "something" she had seen was a set of keys and a lease. He and Suzie moved into an apartment across town and wouldn't tell her where. Brad came to see Chloe a couple of times, but Abby never saw Suzie again. Perhaps she was hiding out, ashamed to show her treacherous face to her friend.
After they were divorced and sold the house, Abby moved to Ocean View, not because she grew up there, but because it was where her mother lived. Abby had not realized that she missed the sea until she moved back within sight of its shores. The ever-present bigness of it had always helped her keep perspective on the size of her own troubles, and the constant splash and roar of the waves brought solace.
As Ocean View had grown to be her home, her mother had grown to be her friend.
There had been so many battles when she was younger, a whole five years ago, she chuckled to herself.
"'Tis grace that brought me safe this far..."
Her mother had been opposed to everything that Abby had tried after high school. When she found the Lord and a church, her mother had violently protested. So when Helen hadn't liked Brad, Abby wasn't surprised. She had attributed her mother’s resistance to Brad as part of her general cynicism and overall dislike of people as a rule. Abby now understood that as an emergency room nurse, Helen had seen a lot of the bad side of humanity, and as a result, she had come to expect the worst of everyone.
At the time, Abby hadn't understood her mother's concerns. Abby saw the world through new eyes, and trusted everything and everyone. Her mother had been suspect of everything and everyone, and she had been so right.
The divorce had taken a full year to become final. The contact between her and Brad had been minimal. Chloe had never been an issue with him—Abby wanted her, Abby could have her. Chloe would be better off that way, he said. It made this present offer even stranger. She wondered if it would have been different if Chloe had been a boy.
"Did you ever hear tell of Sweet Betsy from Pike, who crossed the wide prairies with her lover Ike?" She played the old waltz quickly.
And now here he was.
She stopped playing.
She should just say, "No." Just no.
It would be so much easier to have help with Chloe, she argued with herself. Brad was her father after all; he should be helping with the child. It could be good for Chloe. She needed to have a father, and her own was probably the best bet to do a good job with her. And it would be so much easier to get by on more than just her income, which she thought wryly, she had no more as of today.
Imagine Stanley, her boss, a man at least thirty years older than her, thinking she'd take a boat ride with him, his friend, and a case of beer! Her stomach knotted as she remembered the twinkle in the older man's eye and the feel of his rough fingers on her forearm. She had said no, and walked out. Unemployed.
Could Brad be right? Did the Lord send him because of this present trouble? It wouldn't be the first time God had chosen an unbeliever to bring about His will.
Technically, Brad wasn't an unbeliever, she guessed, but he had gotten so good at manipulating the truth that she no longer knew if he really was saved. There had been a time when she was sure of it, but no more.
Abby began to play the waltz again. Well, what about Chloe, she asked herself. If he's decided to act like her father then it might be good for her. He can have visitation. She stopped short. Would he steal her?
Not likely. If he had wanted her so badly, why would he have dumped her in the first place and not seen her in eighteen months?
She began to play again.
I just won't let him see her alone. If he wants to see her, he'll just have to see me too.
Her thoughts turned to her interview on Monday. Perhaps that was what God had in store for them next. The idea of working for a company of charter boats intrigued her. There was romance in the thought of pirate ships and being free on the waves in the light of the moon, the friendly beacons of lighthouses and brisk breezes....
Right, I'll likely freeze my knees. She laughed.
Of course, it might just be great.
"And Betsy, well satisfied, said with a shout, 'Good-bye, you big lummox, I'm glad you backed out.'"
Abby finished the song with a flourish. After she returned the dulcimer to its stand, she stood and stretched. The peace she felt radiated to her fingers and toes. She was ready for bed.
All that was left was to tell Brad.
Duncan MacLeod sat at the head of the large, brilliantly shined dining room table. His mother sat at the opposite end. His brothers, all four of them, were evenly divided on the sides. The tinkling of her spoon on the crystal glass brought their attention to her. She stood.
"Duncan, I wish to address you now," she said in her most formal tone. They hushed. Erin MacLeod was still quite beautiful standing amidst the candlelight and crystal. Her face had thinned from grief, the lines of laughter had deepened, but her hair still shown a dark, glossy black and her green eyes were still clear and bright.
"Yes," Duncan answered.
He knew what was about to come: the official transfer of power from oldest son to head of the family. His father, Lachlan, had been dead for three months. Duncan had assumed command of MacLeod Enterprises as he had been trained, but the official ceremony had not taken place. Now they were all here, dressed in their clan's tartan, to participate in his family's ancient rite of transfer.
"Duncan, you are the first born," Erin continued in a loud, clear voice.
A servant moved around them quietly filling six ceremonial glasses with a dark liquid. Each head of clan MacLeod had taken his first drink from these glasses since the first Duncan MacLeod, newly immigrated to America, had purchased them for the rite of his son, Lachlan.
"It falls then to you to be our leader. Are you aware of all that this requires?" Erin went on.
Duncan sat straighter in his chair wondering if he should stand. He felt as if his forebears stood around him in unison, with glasses raised, waiting.
"I do," he said.
"Do you agree to abide by the laws of God and this land and of the MacLeods?"
"Do you"—she looked with pride around the table at her boys, now grown men— "children of MacLeod
"We do," they answered in unison.
Erin MacLeod raised her glass, and her sons followed suit.
"Stand and raise your glasses to hail the new MacLeod." They all stood and lifted their glasses. The whiskey glowed amber in the soft light.
As they drank, Duncan stood and joined them.
"Thank you" he said.
They sat back down, for they had just begun. Each of his brothers had prepared a speech to declare his loyalty to him and to their family.
Angus was next in age to Duncan, so he was next to stand and raise his glass. A giant of a man, he had to be careful not to bang his glass on the chandelier.
"Duncan, I'll work for you as I worked for our father. I pledge you my loyalty."
He reminded Duncan of the huge ancient warriors of centuries past. He was intelligent, and he could have wielded a broadsword without any difficulty. His work on their fleet of boats was invaluable. Angus had been their Dad's right-hand man, the leader in Duncan's absence, working side by side with their father. Duncan had come home to the States one year ago, but had only come home to stay four months before tonight.
As Angus sat down, Douglas stood. Douglas was a tall man though shorter than Angus and darker than his brothers. He reminded Duncan of his mother's family. Fresh out of law school, Douglas did not work for MacLeod holdings.
"Duncan MacLeod, I hereby declare my undying allegiance and faithfulness to you." He drank from his glass. "Of course, if you ever need a lawyer..."
Duncan laughed and shook his brother's hand. Douglas sat back down again.
"To Duncan, the one worthy to lead us all to greatness." Andrew was composing a new song, Duncan guessed. "You are my master, dear brother." He bowed with a flourish.
"Thank you, I think." Laughter rumbled through the room.
Finally, it was time for Geordie, the baby. He was doing quite well in his second year at Ocean View Technology. Computers had captured his mind and future.