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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Got Roots?
 


Did you ever notice how the genealogies in the Bible have really caught on, and now everybody is doing it on sites like ancestry.com.  Julius Cezar Meredith, my great grandfather, began his family's (I think with the hope of proving that the first treasurer of the U.S. who was a Meredith and who had loaned beaucoup thousands to begin our country's banking, would be entitled to a pay-back with interest.)  Then one of my dad's cousins picked up the torch and made genealogy books for the family.  My mother, at a certain age which I resemble, began researching her family's genealogy, reading books, using family stories, etc.  One vacation I spent much of my free time helping her get it organized.  (Her alzheimers was a-coming and when it came, things were lost.)  What began as a few pages, now with the internet and ancestry.com, has become 300+pages of our lineage in fine print, just on my side, going back to the 300 A.D's.  It is amazing.  And no, I haven't traced it back to Jesus, though I think there was an adoption going on into His family, but I have traced it back to Noah and even Adam and Eve by researching my Bible.  Does that count?  And guess what?  They have all sinned.  Everyone is a black sheep in my family.  But that's not the end of the story, His story.



History is His story.  History has always been about a father looking for his son, his daughter to bring them to His kingdom.  He does everything possible to seek after them, hence the Hound of Heaven.  Now, it is time to go back past all the begets and regrets to our true Father.  We've got roots in royalty!

"But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son,
born of a woman, born under the Law,
that we might receive the adoption as sons. 
Because you are sons,
 God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts,
 crying, 'Abba!  Father!" 
Therefore, you are no longer a slave, but a son;
and if a son, than an heir through God."
Galatians 4:4-7

Friday, August 29, 2014

 
Sigh...my baby is growing up.  Sadly she won't fit on my lap or be as easy to pick up soon.  Her freckles are coming out the older she gets, adorable.   She still needs her teething toys, but her potty training is doing well with very few accidents.  I didn't realize how tight her collar had become and needed to be let out, poor thing.  Springer speckled pups are the cutest!  Miss Maggie is our irresistible baby loved by the whole family.  When my husband comes home, she follows him around and when he stops she lays down at his feet with her head on his shoes in perfect peace.


Her passion for play is shared with Max the pug.  Her joie de vivre is something to see.  Sometimes I hear furious splashing as she puts her paws in her water dish and does a happy dance just for the fun of it baptizing herself and soaking the bath mat under her heavy bowl (an antique chamber pot that she can't spill).  She's a water dog who I think gets muddy on purpose so I will give her a bath in the sink.  Soon she won't fit and I'll have to giver her a bath in the bath which she will adore. If I fill it deep enough, I'm sure she would swim.
  
 
a springer coming to a pool near you...

What I learned from my puppy that I didn't learn in obedience school: to be cheerful with a trusting calm; happy with an open smile; loving without reserve; joyful with abandon.  The Christian life is not just about the no no's, but the joy joy's.  There is no higher life than joyful abandon and loyal love.

 



 
Our Miss Maggie
 

I never realized before how most dogs are exhibit A of the fruits of the Spirit: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control..." (Galations 5:22)  Some of these come naturally, while others need a little training...

 
Self control:
 
I still need a little work in the cake department too...
 
 
 
 
Mr. Sweet, adorable, everybody loves Hank, but...
 
My youngest is challenged.  His moral compass is under developed.  Whether it is in the area of truth telling, stealing cookie dough or the memory card out of my camera, he seldom will acknowledge wrong doing.  This is in spite of  all the children's church and watch care of home and family poured into him.  Academically he is stuck at a third grade level; morally, at a toddler's or worse as he has already visited the dark side.  It's a scary world out there.  We still have to outwardly control his behavior as an adolescent as his self control hasn't kicked in.

 

He wants to serve God and country.
 

For his birthday he wanted a MP3 player.  Since he can't be trusted with the internet and loves music, this seemed like a good idea, a gamble, expensive, but good.  We combined some of his future allowance with our gift and purchased a nice one for him hoping it would make him feel responsible.  Of course it was gone in a few short weeks.  Three months later he suddenly found it  again.  And yes, I had crawled under his bed a few  times in a cleaning expedition looking for it, and  it didn't suddenly appear from the bowels of his bedroom under there like he claimed.  I may not be Sherlock, but I'm at least a Watson.  The mystery has been solved.  It turns out he gave it away to a friend before he had even finished paying for it with his allowance.  He was a literal Indian giver, according to his brother, and finally asked for it back.



His psychiatrist has helped us tremendously yet when I brought up this subject recently, he said, that of course he does wrong.  It can only be changed through behavioral therapy.  The concept of wrong doing changed inwardly is old fashioned."


Yes, sin is old fashioned.  It goes back to the Garden.  There were behavior modifications such as being kicked out of there and consequences that have rocked this old world ever since.  They rejected the perfect life in fellowship with God and all its benefits.  I'm not too old to learn new tricks, but I don't think the reward system is totally the answer either, carrots in front of the horse sort of thing..  Been there, done that, star charts and all.


Somehow, I still think personal responsibility before God is possible even for the challenged.  How many....does it take to change a  light bulb?   I will keep praying that his spiritual light will come on even if it takes a whole passel of us to change his light bulb.  Light bulbs only work if hooked up to the electric source.  I'm waiting for God to throw the switch and he has a "YES!" moment.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

 





Adolescent boys: can't live with 'em and can't live without them.  They go through towels faster than you can say persnickety.  Money burns holes in their pockets hotter than the sidewalk you fried your eggs on.  They rip off bedding and sleep on the mattress protector or memory foam as if the clean sheets had cooties.  They gave up blocks a long time ago, but now stack clothes, dirty or clean, like the Tower of Babel.  They are starving thirty minutes before dinner is ready feigning fainting and deprivation as if the growling of their stomachs can scare me. Their rough housing can bring laughter that erupts into WWIII in a blink of an eye.  They could stand before the Almighty and still swear they didn't do it, it was their brother, without blinking the other eye.   They grow peach fuzz that morphs into a mustache faster than you can say razor and are proud of it.  They moan and groan over chores as if it  were Guantanamo or water boarding.  I don't even want to know if they brush their teeth anymore because they are too old for mom to do it for them: I choose not to wage war with a toothbrush.  Their favorite pastime is backing up to their old parents to see how much taller they have grown as if inches determine lifetime achievements and a gold medal awaits them for surpassing our squat selves.  Their changing voices make it seem like a strange man is in the house, and I almost reach for my pepper spray (oh, I don't have any pepper spray.)  At our age, an empty nest seems light years away.  By then, we'll need them to brush our teeth for us, the young whippersnappers.


Due to the hormonal imbalance of the male population in our household, think testosterone, I've decided to let my gray hairs prevail.  I've earned every one and am proud of it.  You try to be 60 with a thirteen and sixteen year old under your roof and thumb.  I'll agree with Scripture...


"The glory of young men is their strength, and the honor of old men (and women) is their gray hair."
Proverbs 20:29
 
"Hello, my name is No No Bad Dog.  What's yours?"

 

Observing the train going by while we were in the car, my sons wanted to know who paints the train, not as in the little red caboose, but the designs sprayed on the cars.  "Gangs," I said.  "They tag them as their territorial status with graffiti.  It's kind of like Max, our pug, who on a couple of rare occasions still decided to lift a leg and mark his territory."  I continued, "I don't know if gang members do that too, but it's the same level of mentality."  "Oohh." 


The next morning I got up at 6:00 am to let the dogs out, and right there in front of God and everybody, Max lifted his leg on the threshold.  I couldn't believe it! 



I guess Max has joined a gang and is telling all the rival dogs to back off his turf.  Max the gangster thinks Miss Maggie (our pup) is his sweet pea.  He's an animal!  I caught him in the act and was wishing we had taught him how to retrieve the newspaper so I could have wacked him one.  I guess we didn't get him to the vet soon enough to nip the behavior, so to speak, in the bud.


Who let the dogs out?  Me, me.  I guess I still have to show him who's the big daddy, or rather, Big Mama around here.   He doesn't want to meet the wrath of Mom.


If all dogs go to heaven, then they better not mark their territory when they get there.  They will be on God's turf.  It's not about us.  It's all about Him.  There is one marked territory that is really bad.  We don't even want to go there...


"If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger..."  Revelation 14:9-10



Wednesday, August 27, 2014



 
What if instead of a horrible, rotten, no good, very bad day, you had a wishy-washy, half-baked, so-so, not too good, not to bad day.  Had a few of those?  If I'm not feelin' the love from gluten, my back hurts, I have more errands to run than energy, watching the clock so as not to be late for back to back appointments, and the dogs left muddy footprints all over the floor again and it's not rainy season yet, it's one of those kind of days.  I much prefer these than those, don't get me wrong.  I know I live the good life.  It's just that sometimes we prefer the absolutely wonderful, nothing could go wrong, fantastic, perfect day.   There's nothing much cuter than a speckled pup, the Springer Spaniel kind to be exact, that make it easier to forgive the paw prints.  But life outside the Garden has its days, doesn't it, with just enough lovely ones to hold the other kind up to.

 

Heaven will have no sickness or crying, no death or defying; no sadness or despair, no evil to beware; no darkness or fear, no greed or a tear; no dirt or dust, no stench or lust; no weariness or night, no sweat or blight.  It will hold only joy and songs, right not wrongs; only love not hate beyond the pearly gate.
 

"Behold if the Lord should make windows in heaven, could this thing be? 
Behold, you shall see with your own eyes..."
II Kings 7:2
 
But for now, God might loosen our grip from time to time on what we grasp in our tight little fist.  He has something better in mind than the dirt we call this earth.  It's like the toddler I saw once at the San Diego Zoo all dressed up in a little sports coat.  Instead of enjoying the wonders of the animal world, his mother could not tear  him away from a pile of sand the maintenance men had left.  The boy kept breaking away and running back to his sandbox.  He was stuffing his pockets full, wailing as he was drug away again and again.  What's in your pockets?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

 


 

It's not just about stuff.  As I was reading my devotional today from "Joy & Strength," a collection by Mary Wilder Tileston, it gave fresh insight to the well recited verses:
 


"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,
where moth and rust destroy,
and where thieves break in and steal..."
 
That's the "no,no," the negative aspect that we all have felt guilt ridden over.
But here's the "Yes and amen," the positive,  we can grasp hold of.
 
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
where neither moth nor rust destroys,
and where thieves do not break in nor steal;
 
Then here's the statement of just how it is...
 
"for where your treasure is,
there your heart will be also."
 
 
"To lay up treasures in heaven is to do arts which promote, or belong to the kingdom of God;
and our Lord assures us that any act of our hands, any thought of our heart, any word of our lips,
which promotes the divine kingdom...
all such activity, though it may seem for the moment to be lost,
is really stored up in the divine treasure house..."
Charles Gore
 


 
I've always thought of that treasure as the eternal leading of others to our Savior,
"the fruit that remains," as spoken of in John.
But this expands the significance of what we are called and gifted to do
as of eternal consequence,
which makes perfect sense actually.
For why would we be called and gifted otherwise,
to squander the divine touch just in this life?
In other words, what you do with your hands, thoughts in your heart, and words on the lips
has eternal substance
when done for His glory.
 
 
But He has given us His very self. 
This treasure may be in earthen vessels, but it is treasure none the less.
 
"Since I am coming to that holy room
Where with the choir of saints forevermore
I shall be made Thy music, as I come
I tune the instrument at the door,
And, what I must do then, I think here before."
John Donne
 
 
""Thinking is creating with God,
as thinking is writing with the ready writer;
and worlds are only leaves turned over in the process
of composition around His throne."
Beecher
 
 
"A great deal of talent is lost to the world for the want of a little courage."
Sydney Smith
 
"We are not called to produce admiration for ourselves,
but to live a life in such perfect relationship to God
that it produces a longing for God in the hearts of others."
Oswald Chambers
 
And that my friend is the beauty of holiness.
 
We are to be about the beauty of our Father's business.
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, August 25, 2014

"A kiss can be a comma, a question mark, or an exclamation point.
that's a basic spelling that every woman should know."
Mistinguett, 1874-1954

Why do I write love stories?  Why do we read them? 
Because God said, "It is not good for man to be alone."
So think of all the plots through all the centuries of
finding the right match and ...

THE PERFECT KISS
 
 
"May he kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!"
Song of Solomon 1:1
 
"That should have been a clue.  It's a red flag.  Any hot blooded man I've ever known thinks kissing a girl he loves is part of his manhood.  Even if he doesn't kiss you, you know he wants to."
 
Just because Char was her best friend did not mean Jade had to agree with her or not take offense to what she was saying.
 
"Jeremy said he had decided not to kiss until he was married.  I respected that, okay?  I've read a book on Christians dating that even said that.  I just thought he was one of those."
 
"Didn't his friends give him away?"
 
"Well, a few did make me wonder, but Jeremy just said he hung out with them to be a witness when I asked him.  Listen, can we please talk about something else?  I've had my eyes opened to his lifestyle now. Okay, I'll even admit I was duped. I'm moving on.  It wasn't as if I was in love with the guy.  We were just good friends."
 
"Can't say I did not warn you.  You wasted nine months of your life waiting for him to make the next move.  I will admit he was easy on the eyes, but girls weren't the only ones to think so, I guess."
 
"Yes, you saw through him way before I did, and I chose not to believe you.  But that's all behind me, so..."
 
"So, tell me about your date last night with the guy my hubby set you up with.  Did he kiss you?"
 
"You are the nosiest best friend ever.  I don't have to tell you..."
 
"He did, didn't he?  How was it?"
 
"You are impossible!"
 
"It was that good, huh?"
 
"No, it wasn't.  So much for seeing stars.  Okay, can we move on now?"
 
"So, you aren't going out with him again?
 
"Actually, I found out we don't have anything in common, besides a bad kiss.  What happened to the good night peck on the cheek for goodness sake?  Just because a guy takes you out to a nice restaurant doesn't give him the right to slobber all over you."  Jade shuddered at the thought. 
 
"No, you're right.  But just because it was a bad start to reentering the dating scene, don't give up.  The perfect kiss is out there waiting for you."

"My mother, as usual, is busy trying to line one up for me.  My father's birthday is coming up, and I promised her I'd come home. I'm sure she will have invited a stray singlish man or two to the dinner who happen to be of a certain convenient age."

"What would you do without your friends and family?"
 
"Pick equally bad or worse dates for myself, I'm sure.  Voila!  Take the last nine months, for instance.  Char, how did you know that Simon was the right one for you?  You seemed to navigate the dating scene well until you settled on him, then pow!  You were a goner, blissfully head over heels."
 
"Oh, believe me, you'll know.  I don't have to tell you."
 
"Thanks, you're a big help.  You want to know all the intimate details of my love life then can't answer my one simple question."
 
"Okay, then, we had the perfect kiss.  I did see the stars and was over the moon.  But of course it was more than that.  I couldn't wait to see him after that first date because, I don't know, we just clicked.  We talked for hours about anything and everything.  We just couldn't get enough of each other."
 
"Thanks.  I'll hold out until I find my man then until I'm ninety and he's ninety-nine.  I'm feeling burnt out on dating already.  I've never had a kiss like that.   I guess that's what I liked about Jeremy.  There was no pressure, just friendship."
 
"Obviously, not the right kind of friendship for a girl in the market for potential marriage.  What's that we promised each other, that we would never date anyone we would not consider marrying?"
 
"Sometimes, it's harder to know that than we thought.  So I made a mistake.  Well, two lately, but I'm surprised Simon set me up with my first and last date with that new guy last night.  He definitely wasn't my type."
 
"Simon said that the guy pressured him to do it when he met you here awhile back here at the football party.  Simon hates to admit it, but he caved.  I'm sure he's sorry now.  If not, I'll make sure he is.  Just because a guy makes a good friend for your husband, I told him, it doesn't make him dating material for your wife's best friend."
 
"That's for sure.  I'm not sure I'm ready for swimming in the dating pool waiting to be caught anyway.  I don't like swimming with the sharks. Tell Simon, thanks, but no thanks.  He doesn't have to set me up anymore."
 
"Just don't give up.  Maybe the dark handsome stranger will still arrive and sweep you off your feet."
 
"Yeah, right, and I believe in unicorns too."
 
Char laughed and hugged her best friend.  "Just keep being you.  Believe in yourself even if you can't believe in unicorns.  Courage, dear heart." 
 
Jade squeezed her friend back.  "You're a good friend even if you are a nosey one."

 
Jade went home and sat in her favorite spot outside where the limbs parted to make a perfect seat.  She got out her journal.  She entered, "Date last night: yuck!"  Chewing on the tip of her pen, she thought of what kind of man she was looking for.  She made her list.
 
1.  Straight
2.  A Christian
3.  Has a job
4.  Wants kids
5.  No more than a few inches shorter than me at least.  Taller, preferably
6.  Shared interests
7.  Hopefully not divorced already
8.  Has the perfect kiss
 
 
Jade sighed.  If she made the list more specific, she'd eliminate most marriageable candidates.  She doubted that she would ever meet someone that could fulfill her list, but she could dream at least.  Thinking over all the single men she knew, there wasn't one who fit the bill.  Was she too picky?

What about herself?

1.  Straight
2.  A Christian
3.  Has a job
4.  Wants kids
5.  Not too tall, not too short
6.  Has interests to share
7.  Not divorced
8.  Would like to experience the perfect kiss.

She studied herself in the mirror.  She had turned heads before, more than once, several times in fact.  At least she hoped they were looking at her, not Jeremy.  Ugh.  Her hair was nicely brown, tinged with sun-bleached strands naturally, brown eyes flecked with gold, dark lashes and brows, and a mouth that had not smiled enough lately with lips a little too chewed on.  She shuddered with a deep sigh before turning away. 

Jade had not told Char that Jeremy had said he had tried to be interested in her as his girlfriend; but at the end, he apologized and admitted that he could not find enough attraction; that it was he who broke up, not her.  She had not believed the rumors about him until he admitted it to her face.  She had been sickened by it all.  How could she not know?  If she was honest, it was because she did not want to admit that it was so and hung on to her illusion until he took the pin in hand and burst her bubble. 

Sometimes you keep reading a book hoping that it will get better rather than worse before finally chucking it into the trash where it belongs finally realizing what a waste of time it was.  That's how she felt now.  Just because she had made a terrible choice with a bad book, didn't mean that the world's not full of others which are wonderful, she told herself.  Somewhere out there was a classic, full of adventure and romance.  Surely love must be like that.


Friday after work she drove to her parents less than an hour away.  As soon as her bag was carried into her room by her father, her mother offered her a glass of water out of a pitcher full of sliced lemons.  It was so refreshing that she closed her eyes and relaxed a little until her mother began.  While her mother put the pitcher back in the refrigerator, Jade mouthed the usual words along with her behind her back.

"I hope you don't mind if I invited a couple of new young men to his birthday dinner tomorrow night.  I think you'll really like them. They are from your father's men's Bible study group."

"What makes them different than the other guys you've tried to set me up with?"

"Oh, you were wasting your time on that dandy, sniffing up the wrong tree.  I never did like him, by the way.  Now that he let you off his leash, maybe you can see the other trees in the forest so to speak."

"Wow, Mom, that's a load of mixed metaphors."

"Actually, I think you might like them as much as I admire them, dear," her father joined in.  It was a rare moment when he actually put his two cents worth in such a conversation usually leaving it for "girl talk."  That either meant he really did like these fellas, or he was getting overly anxious to see her married.

"My friends fixed me up with a date last weekend, and it was a disaster.  I'm not looking forward to a repeat of that."

"I'm not setting you up on a date.  I'll leave that for them to manage.  They're big boys," her father assured her.

"Well, go ahead and tell me about them, Mom.  I know you are dying to."

"Jim is a CPA and has a successful tax business.  He won't be thirty until later in the summer.  He's handsome in his own way, wouldn't you say dear?"

"How would I know?" Her dad balked at such a question.

"Well, yes, anyway, he is a very nice man."

"He sounds a little boring.  Busy during tax season and then boring."

"He's head usher at the church," her father offered in his support.

"How exciting!" Jade said sarcastically.

"Actually, he's quite funny.  We have to leave the back of the sanctuary and go to the foyer to get over our funny bones rather too frequently, I must say."

"I don't know why the pastor hasn't replaced you with all your snickering back there.  You are bad examples for the young people."

"So how does comedian-usher go about his humor routine?"  Jade was genuinely curious.

"Well, like last Sunday, he leaned over to me to ask if I knew if there were going to be any weddings in the near future," and her father started chuckling just thinking about it.  "When I asked him why, he said because Mrs. Snyder is rolling out the white carpet."  He was slapping his knee now hee-hawing, "Sure enough, she had the longest streamer of toilet paper stuck to her shoe that I'd ever seen."

Even Jade smiled while her mother couldn't stop chuckling to chide her husband.

"Well, then there's the tall, dark and handsome, Mr. Wright," her mother said.

"How do you know he's Mr. Right?"  Jade asked taken aback.

"Well, that's how he introduced himself, but we all call him Jack now.  Oh, and that's "Wright" spelled with a capital 'W.' "

"Ohh.  Still, what makes you so sure that I'd like him?"

"Everyone does.  All the single women in our church are making fools of themselves over him, from teen girls up to women in their forties who should know better, the shameless flirts," her mother added.

"Sounds like he could have the pick of the litter."

"How do you know that you might not be it?" Her mother was looking smug.

"Well, pray tell, why have neither of these most eligible bachelors from First Elm Street Community Church not already been snatched up?  Do they have deep dark secrets?"

Her parents looked at each other with rather surprised faces.  "Not that we know of.  We just figured they were like you: haven't found 'The One,' yet."

"You can invite whomever you want to your birthday dinner, Dad.  I'll try not to pounce on them and scare them away."

He patted her hand smiling, "Okay, kitten."

After the comfort food of one of her mother's pot roast, mashed potatoes and gravy, carrots, green beans with bacon, and home made yeast rolls, the three of them went on a walk with the dog to the nearby park.

"Oh, there's Jack now!  Yoohoo, Jack dear."

The man came striding across the park with a huge golden dog on a lease.  He was beautiful.  Jade had to admit the man was too.

"Jack, imagine seeing you here.  Well, this is our daughter Jade.  Jade, Jack Wright."

They shook hands, and his dog came up and sniffed her.  Evidently he already knew her parents' old pug as they ignored each other.

"Beautiful dog."

"Thank you.  He's a Weimaraner."  The dog was tugging at the leash pulling the man Jack off balance.  "I guess I'll see you at the birthday boy's tomorrow."

"Right.  Nice meeting you."

"You too."

After they walked on her mother said, "Well, what do you think?"

"I think his dog is a lovely creature."

"Don't tease me.  Tell me what you thought of Jack, first impressions."

"He seemed like a nice man, entirely too good looking for his own good.  I just broke up with someone like that, and it made me always feel like a wallflower next to him.  I think I'll throw him back to the ladies at church."

"Humph.  He's nothing like the man you were seeing."

"Let's hope not," Jade said.

The next night she opened the door when the guests arrived.  "Oh, hello.  I guess that you are the comedic usher, Mr. Jim."

He blushed but smiled a crooked smile, "That's me.  I keep 'em rolling in the aisles."

Jade had to admit, that he seemed to be a very nice guy indeed.  As the evening wore on, he even asked for her phone number while Mr. Wright seemed all wrong.  Still it was a pleasant dinner after all of barbequed ribs, potato salad, grilled asparagus, and sour dough French bread with cake and ice cream to follow. Mom left off the candles.  Last year they set off the smoke detector.

At the end of the next week the phone was ringing when she walked in the door.  She wondered if it could be that friend of her father's, Jim.

"Hello?"

"Thank heavens you are home!   I'm in a jam and I need you to come over right away, okay?"

"Sure, Char, but what's up?"

"I offered to babysit for a friend after school today, but forgot we had tickets to my niece's play.  It starts in fifteen minutes.  Can you come?"

"I'll be right over."

When Jade walked in, Simon and  Char walked out.  Char kissed her on the cheek and said, "You're a lifesaver."  Jade was left having a stare down with a little slip of a girl who appeared to be six or seven.

"Hi.  What's your name, sweetheart?"

"I'm not your sweetheart, but my name is Cinderella and my prince's name is Daddy."

"Okay, then Cinderella, have you eaten yet?  I didn't, and I'm starving."

"I just had a mustard sandwich."

"What's that?"

"Char let me make one.  It's just mayo and mustard on bread.  You want me to make you one?"

"Sure, but would you care if I put some lunchmeat and cheese on it too?"

Soon they were working side by side making sandwiches.  Jade added sliced fresh tomatoes, and lettuce to hers, while Cinderella stuck with another half of her favorite kind."

"I didn't know this was the kind of sandwich that Cinderella eats."

"Every day.  My daddy lets me."

"Do you eat other things too?"

"Yep.  I eat this, and then when he gets home later, he makes us something for us both to eat.  That is, unless he is too hungry, then he brings home some fast food."

"How about your mom?"

"Oh, she's in jail."

"I see.  Do you miss her?"

"I can't exactly remember.  I think I do.  But I love my daddy, so it's okay."

They were just finishing up their sandwiches when someone knocked at the door.

"Daddy!" Cinderella practically screamed leaving her crusts. 

When Jade opened the door, the man was bent down ready to catch his princess in his arms.

"Daddy!" she cried again and he picked her up and swung the little girl around. 

"I'm glad to see you too."  Then he finally looked up and saw it wasn't Char standing at the door."

"Oh, I'm sorry, Simon and Char had to leave to go to a play and asked me to come over and watch your little girl for a few minutes.  We were just finishing our sandwiches," Jade tumbled out her words in a hurry.

"M & M sandwiches, mayo and mustard?"  Then he turned and asked the little face in front of his where he held her close, "I hope you left room for a hamburger, cause that's what I brought you."

"Yep, Cinderella always has room in her hollow leg," she said.

Then he put her down and shook Jade's hand.  "Thank you for watching her for me.  I'm Cory."

She felt his callouses and strong grip.  "Hi, I'm Jade.  It was nothing really.  I've only been here about fifteen minutes.  I couldn't possibly get her in too much trouble in that little of time.  Well, we both did talk with our mouths full of few times," and Jade winked at her little charge, "but other than that, we were good.  Wasn't I good, Cinderella?"

"Perfect!" she said with a grin that showed a few remnants of white bread and mustard on her tiny teeth.

Cory smiled and looked Jade over a little more carefully before she noticed.  She immediately turned away uncomfortable and grabbed the pink backpack shoving it in his hands.  "Here,  I think this must be hers, unless its Simon's," she teased the little girl.

"Nope, it's mine all right.  Bye Miss Jewel?"

"Jewell?"  The dad looked up at her confused.

"It's Jade, but that's close enough.  Uh, I did want to know if Cinderella ever goes by another name."

"Sometimes she has a perfectly good French name, Cossette, but prefers the fairy tale one."

"Okay, bye now.  It was nice to meet you."

She thought of a poem she'd read recently and now knew the meaning better than before...

Stephen kissed me in the spring,
Robin in the fall,
But Colin only looked at me
And never kissed at all.
 
Stephen's kiss was lost in jest,
Robin's lost in play,
But the kiss in Colin's eyes
Haunts me night and day."
 
Sara Teasdale

After the door shut, Jade thought that she would have to ask Char about this strange combo of Cory and Cinderella with a mama in prison on the side.  If he was a married man, she was uncomfortable with the way he had just looked at her swallowing whole with his eyes.

Instead, she cleaned up the kitchen, turned off the cartoons, and left for home.  She had papers to grade.  Jade did not think about it again until she was sitting in church beside Char and Simon and the pastor was in the middle of his sermon.  It was like having an itch you couldn't reach. 

"Why are you squirming?" Char whispered.

"I have a question.  I'll ask after church."

"Okay, but sit still."

"Yes, mama." Jade got a poke in the ribs for that.  She had known Char since junior high, and her friend had tried to mother her ever since.

But when church was over, they ran into Cory and Cinderella in the foyer before she could ask.

"Oh, I'm so glad you made it, man."  Simon shook his hand. 

"We decided to give your church a try.  It was a good sermon."

"Jewel!" little Cossette gave a high pitched squeal.

"It's Jade, baby girl," her dad corrected her.

"But I like Jewel better."

"It's okay, Cinderella, you can call me Jewel, but no one else can.  Got it?"

"Got it!"

Jade found herself stroking the out of control curly head of hair that fell down the little girl's back.  She was as pretty as a fairy princess.  The dad had obviously not attempted to restrain the locks in any way.  But it was wildly beautiful.  Once again, when she looked up,  she saw the man staring at her and felt the heat rushing to her cheeks.

"That's right, you've already met,"  Simon said looking back and forth between them.  "Cory and I are often on the same construction jobs.  We've known each other awhile.  Hey, since you're here, why don't you join Char and I, and Jade of course, and go with us to lunch.  I was going to suggest sea food, but your little princess might have an other idea..."

"Mayo and mustard sandwiches?"

"No," her dad said, "she likes fish and chips just fine.  Don't let her fool you.  Yes, we'd love to join you," but he looked at Jade when he said it.

She swallowed hard and looked desperately at her best friend but she was busy talking with the little charmer.

Once seated and the waitress had taken their order, Cossette was busy coloring outside the lines drawing mermaids and fish.  Char asked Jade, "So what was that burning question that made you squirm all through church?"

"You didn't sit still in church?"  little Cossette asked with wide eyes.

"I tried, I really did, but Char had to poke me in the ribs.  I didn't like it though," Jade answered the girl.   To her friend she just said, "I'll ask later, not here, not now."

The men were absorbed in talking about the job site until the food came.  It was Jade's favorite place to eat.  Today she splurged and got the halibut.  It wasn't always on the menu, but must have been in the latest catch.  Seasoned with garlic sautéed in butter, it melted in her mouth.  She was in raptures when she looked up to see Cory studying her.

"Were you, by chance, the date Jason had the other night?"

"Yes, why?  What did he say?"  Suddenly it seemed her meal was about to be ruined.

"He just bragged about going out with a beautiful woman.  I thought he was exaggerating, but I see he was right."

"Thank you."  She drank her water glass dry.

"Don't worry, Jade, Simon would never let him say anything inappropriate if he did want to brag, would you dear?" Char stared her husband down.

"No, actually, he just said it was a shame that you weren't his type, that he probably wouldn't be asking you out again," Simon grinned.

"Good," she said with a sigh of relief.

"I take it you two did not hit it off," Cory said.

"Not exactly.  We didn't have much in common.  I'm just not into Nascar."

Simon and Cory hooted and laughed hard at that.  "His loss," Cory finally said.  "He should broaden his interests.  He does have a one track, race track mind."  This time they all laughed, even little Cossette though she did not know what she was laughing at.

Jade admired the way that the child's father took care of her, putting on a paper bib to protect her Sunday dress, and making sure she was secure in the booster seat.  He caught the waitress' eye when she ran low on her drink, and wiped her face when she was through.  The girl was well behaved as if she was used to being around grown ups.

"Thanks for inviting us Simon.  It was a pleasure to eat with you all.  It's time for our Sunday afternoon nap."

"I thought we weren't supposed to say, y'all."

"I thought you weren't supposed to correct adults, little lady?" He looked stern for a brief second then explained what he had really said.  "Now what do you say, Cossette?"

She curtsied and then offered her thanks for the dinner.  It was quite charming.  Before they left, Cossette turned around and said loudly across the restaurant, "Bye, Jewel."

Something twisted in Jade's heart.   

"Now can you ask me your question?" Char was drumming her fingers on the paper placemat that Cossette had colored.

"What's the story with those two.  Cossette said that her mother was in prison.  I just didn't feel comfortable with the way her father was looking at me, you know."

Simon broke out laughing, and even Char had a smile at the corner of her mouth threatening to break out.

"Cossette's mother is in prison for robbery and drug charges.  The child doesn't remember her since she was only a baby.  Cory has raised her by himself all these years."

"He seems to be a good dad, but..."

"He's not really her father.   He's her uncle.  Not many people know that.  It was easier just to let her call him daddy because that's who he basically is.  No one knows who her bio father is.  Cory was the only relative to step up and offer to raise her.  It was that or she was going in the foster care system.  He's never been married.  Doesn't even date, as far as I know," Simon offered.

"Oh," was all Jade had to say for a moment thinking of the way he seemed to consume her with a look.  But to her friends she said,  "Won't it be rough on the little girl when the mom gets out of prison?  I can't imagine her trying to take her daughter back.  Cossette would be devastated."

"Cory made sure his sister signed the papers to make him her legal guardian.  He felt he had to do that to protect the child."

"That's good to know.  She's definitely her daddy's little princess."

They all agreed.  When she went to pay her bill, she found that Cory had paid it for her.  The waitress smiled and said that she was to tell her it was his thanks for babysitting his daughter.

"He's a sly one, that Cory.  You better watch yourself, or he may decide to change his mind about not dating.  I saw the way he was looking at you."  Char was still the nosy one, but this was Simon.

"After your friend Jason, I'm about to take a vow to not date again, certainly, not men from your job site."

Simon just laughed and said, "We'll see."  Char just shook her head and let the grin break out that she had tried to keep under tight lips.

"Kisses kept are wasted;
Love is to be tasted..."
Edmund Vance Cooke

It was an especially busy week at school with grading and preparation for parent-teacher conferences.  Finally, she slept in on Saturday and then treated herself to Starbucks, heavy on the cream.  Next on her agenda was a trip to the library to find books to illustrate her next lesson.  When she turned into the children's department, she almost ran smack dab into a little girl with a tall stack of books in her arms.  It was Cossette.  Her daddy was not far behind.

"Oh, I'm happy to see you love to read, Cinderella!"

"I'm just Cossette today.  I had to give Cinderella the weekend off."

"That's nice of you.  After all, Cossette is a lovely name too."

I see you have some Little Bear books, some of my favorites.

"She checks them out again and again just as soon as she returns them.  I'd say they are some of her favorites."

"My favorite is "A Kiss for Little Bear."

"Yes, that's a good one.  I've read that one aloud in my classroom before."

"Kisses are nice, but Daddy only kisses me on the cheek.  That's what daddy kisses are like.  He says he has to save his lip kisses for someone special, a grown up lady, just like I have to wait for my grown up prince someday."

"Okay, princess, too much information for today." His face was burning with embarrassment.

"I hope your daddy finds that someone special some day, and you too."  Jade said that in a teasing way to the already blushing man.

"Have you found your special kissing man, Jewel?" Children ask the most bold faced questions.  Now she was the one with cheeks burning.

"Cossette, that's enough about kissing.  It's not polite to talk about that with adults, okay."

"Why not?  Little Bear likes kisses."

"Because...just because."

The little girl huffed her displeasure.  "These books are getting heavy, Daddy.  Can we check them out now?"

"Yes.  It was nice to see you again, Jade."

"Bye Jewel."  The little girl always made Jade feel special with her pet name.

"Bye, and happy reading."

Jade was still looking for books appropriate for her lessons when she turned to find Cory was standing behind her startling her.  He was holding all their books easily under his arm.

"I've been meaning to ask you, I mean Cossette's been begging me to ask, if you would like to go see her ballet recital with me?  It would make her so happy if you would."

Jade did not know why her heart was flip flopping.  It was a child's recital after all, not a real date.
"I'd love to?  When is it?"

"Maybe I could get your phone number, and I'll call to let you know the details."

Jade gave it to him and he tucked it away in his pocket with a smile while Cossette was jumping up and down then swirling in ballet like moves.

"Okay, Madame Butterfly, let's go.  I'll be calling you."

"Bye."

Jade never did find any books.  She was flusterpated.

By the time she got home, her phone was ringing.  She hurried to grab it out of her purse.  It wasn't Cory, it wasn't Jim, it was Mr. Wright, Jack, the wrong one.

"I hope you don't mind that I got your number from your dad.  I have a client I am going to see near by and wondered if you wanted to go out to dinner tonight with me."

Jade was shocked into silence for a minute and finally said, "Oh, sounds nice."  They arranged to meet for seafood.  She wouldn't mind letting him pay for her halibut; that way something good could come out of this date.  Nevertheless, she felt let down having expected someone else's voice on the other end of the line..

It turned out that the halibut was the only good thing about the dinner.  It was obvious to them both that there were no sparks. Conversation was stilted and with long uncomfortable pauses. He finally sighed and said with a grin, "Well, I can tell your dad that we tried."

"I'm sorry, it's not you.  It's me. You remind me too much of an ex boyfriend, even though you are nothing really alike, believe me.  It's just..."

"I know.  I dated a girl named Jade for a long time once.  It was a disaster."

"Really?  There aren't too many of us, you know."

"I know.  I shouldn't let it bother me, but it does somehow.  Sorry about that."

"I'm sorry too.  But thanks Jack for trying.  It's hard with all the pressure to date, isn't it.  I heard you are the big squeeze at church, you being so eligible and all."

"Yeah, I've almost switched churches because of it, but I really like the pastor and my men's group.
It's just that I was engaged once, and have a lot of issues to work through before I can get serious with anyone again."

"Tell me about it.  Well, I'm glad we can be honest with each other and still be friends.  My dad really likes you. you know.  My parents will be disappointed."

"Well, there's still Jim.  I think he's still getting his nerve up to ask you out.  He's shy in that department.  He said he doesn't think a beautiful girl like you would be interested in a plain old guy like him."

"You can tell him it's okay if he calls.  Maybe I'll have two friends in your church anyway."

As  they were leaving, Jade heard an unmistakable voice, "Jewel!  Hi, Jewel, over here!"  She saw Cossette and Cory seated in a booth in the corner.  They made their way over to her since the little girl was hard to ignore.   Jade made the introductions.

"Is he one of those special grown ups that you were waiting for..."  Cory jumped in before she could say what they thought she was going to say.

"Cossette, I told you not to ask those kind of questions.  What Miss Jade does is her business, not yours."

"But she's my friend," and the little girl looked like she might cry.

Jade bent down and kissed her on the cheek.  "That's okay, sweetheart.  This is the only kiss I'm going to give tonight," she whispered in her ear.

The child beamed.

The men exchanged, "It was nice to meet you," with an appropriate handshake, and they left.

"If I'm not mistaken, that guy was not happy to meet me.  I think he has his eye on you."

"His daughter and I are friends.  I'm going to her ballet recital soon, that's all."

"I don't think so.  Poor Jim.  He will be disappointed."

Why was she blushing?

At her car, Jack leaned down to kiss her on the politely on the cheek. Jade didn't see it coming and turned and he caught her on the lips instead.  They both were surprised. It was nice though, very nice indeed.  He kissed her again.  They said their goodnights in stunned manner.  How could merely, and obviously, just friends share something as special as that?  Jade was sorely perplexed.




When Cory picked her up on the way to the recital, that Saturday, the little ballerina in foo foo was giving her the cold shoulder. 

"What's wrong, Cossette?  Are you nervous?" Jade turned around to look in the truck's back seat.

"No."

"Are you unhappy that I am going to your recital?"

"No.  Yes. No."

"That's not polite, Cossette.  Apologize to Miss Jade.  She's here because you wanted her to come," her daddy said sternly.

"But she lied to me!"

"What!" Jade exclaimed.

"That's enough, young lady," he was clenching his jaw.

"She said she wouldn't be doing any more kissing after she kissed me on the cheek at the restaurant, but we saw her kiss that stranger."

Jade was sure she was as red as a beet.  "I'm sorry, Cossette.  It wasn't...he, uh, he took me by surprise."

"Humph!" was heard from the backseat ballerina while she and Cory sat with eyes straight ahead.

After handing over his daughter to the teacher, he sat down beside Jade.  "Look, I'm sorry about what she said on the way here."

"I'm sorry she saw me in the parking lot.  It was unfortunate."

"So, are you two an item?"

"No!"

"I'm surprised.  You looked as if you were quite, hmm,  close."

"He's not my type."

"Wow, that was quite a good-bye kiss.  So another one's down the tube?"

"Hey, that's not fair."  She abruptly changed the subject.  "How come you don't date?  Simon says you don't date."

"Isn't this a date?"

"Oh."  Jade was glad that the recital was ready to begin.

It was so darling that she found she had tears in her eyes by the time it was over.  It almost made her forget the conversation on the way to the recital.  She wished she had thought to bring Cossette flowers like so many of the other little girls were getting.  She was a sponge for praise however.  They said their goodbyes to her since she was spending the night with a friend.

"Do you let her spend the night often?"

"I don't like it, but it's with one of my best friends and his wife with a daughter her age.  I figure Cossette needs to experience what it's like to have a woman in the house sometimes."

"That makes sense."

Cory seemed a little stand-offish when he walked her to her car.  He was leaning on a fender hanging around as if he did not know what to say. She couldn't open her door yet because it was still locked.  The parking lot was thinning out as he stared off into space.

Finally after the last car pulled away, he turned and stood near her, very near her. "This may sound odd to you, but I would really like to kiss you."  He turned and was waiting so close that she could feel the warmth radiating from his body and could breathe his aftershave lotion, a slice of lime.  "I haven't let myself get close to a woman in years, seven years to be exact.  I would like to change that."


His hands were touching her face, and he bent to kiss her going slowly in case she would rebuff him.  Jade was not made of stone: she melted.  She saw not only the stars but entire galaxies, the Milky Way, and Mars.  She wrapped her arms around the moon and clasped on tightly. Oh my!

Finally, he broke away to lean back against the car.  "I couldn't believe how jealous I was when I saw that other guy kiss you.  I'm glad Cossette was with me so I had to behave.  I wanted to knock his block off."

She came and stood in front of him reaching up to brush back a lock of hair from his eyes.  He took her hand and kissed her palm.  She spoke softly.  "I had no idea you felt that way, other than the way you looked at me.  I even asked Char about it.  I thought you were married and knew it wasn't right the way you burnt me with your eyes."

"From the moment I saw you, I was a goner," he admitted.  "I couldn't take my eyes off you.  But I'm only interested in a serious relationship, Jade.  Cossette deserves not to have to ride the roller coaster of trivial dating.  I guess, I'm asking if you are willing to seek God's will in our relationship to find out what the chances of our future together might be? Does that scare you?"

"No, at one time it might have, but having met Cossette first, it feels right.  She grabbed my heart you know," she added with a smile.

"Now, I really am jealous," but then proceeded to take her breath away with another kiss.  Jade was in orbit.

"Well, we can't spend all night out here like a couple of love sick teenagers.  Besides, I don't think I can handle much more.  We'll have to go a little more slowly, Jewel, if you know what I mean."

Jade did not want to let the night end, but knew exactly what he meant.



"How about if I pick you up for breakfast in the morning?"

She smiled before he brushed her lips softly with one more kiss, then opened her door and took long strides around to the other side of his truck.  Suddenly, the bench seat of a truck seemed to put miles between them until he reached over and clasped her hand.  Just a touch was enough to ignite her heart.
"At the first kiss I felt
Something melt inside me
that hurt in an exquisite way.
All my longings, all my dreams and sweet anguish,
all the secrets that slept within me came awaken.
Everything was transformed and enchanted
and made sense"
Hermann Hesse
 
 



She called her friend as soon as she got home.  "Char, you won't believe me.  I think I took the entire beginning astrometry course tonight.  It was the whole she-bang out on parade, the stars, the moon, the Milky Way!  Who was I with? I was with Cory, of course.  Who else?  No Cossette wasn't with us.  I think I know what you were talking about.  He said we need to take it slow, but I just want to spend every second with him."

She knew Char was doing her happy dance, the long version in her kitchen right now since there was so much squealing in the background.  Finally she got back on the phone.  "Okay, girlfriend, now's when it gets hard.  You can't be alone too much, that's what he means about taking it slow.  Things can snowball incredibly fast, you know.  It is important that you talk, umm, more than kiss.  Get to know each other.  In fact, I insist that he do his courting right over here under our supervision."

"Ha!  All you've ever talked about is knowing when I got my perfect kiss. Well, I just aced that, and now you turn into the biggest breathe-down-my-neck mama in the world. Do we have to be in bed by eight o'clock every night too?"

"Now sweetheart, I just mean it will be hard.  The perfect kiss will never be enough until you are married.  The more you kiss, the more your desire will grow.  It's actually quite dangerous.  That's why the world goes about it in the wrong way because that's the path of least resistance to go all the way."

"You know I've never felt this way about anyone before.  I get what you are saying.  I'm not that naive .  I know that's what Cory meant when he said we had to take it slow."

"It's okay, Jade, it's a good thing if you've never been here before. God has spared you a lot of heart ache by never letting another man get this close before.  He even worked good out of those nine months you wasted on Jeremy.  You did more than believe in yourself, you put your faith in God, and He has truly blessed you."

Jade was so happy that she even laughed at her friend.   "Guess what Char, I think I even believe in unicorns!
 
"Her kisses left something to be desired...
the rest of her."
unknown
 
However, in the morning as she showered getting ready for her breakfast date, she did not hear the phone ring.  She picked up the message to listen to while she put on her make up.
 
"Jade.  I am truly sorry.  I can't meet you for breakfast.  In fact, I won't be calling you.  Something came up that I have to deal with.  I'm afraid it's going to take time, lots of time, and I can't ask you to wait.  I know you have to go on with your life.  You are a wonderful person, inside and out.  Cossette will miss you too, but not as much as I will.  I never meant to hurt you."  His voice sounded tight as he said good bye.
 
Jade listened to it over and over for the next hour but could not wrap her heart or mind around it.  It didn't make sense.  Finally she threw her phone across the room.  The tears that had been streaming down her face in rivers became like dry heaves of agony.  She lifted her face up to the ceiling and yelled, "God, I don't understand!" 
 
Jade did not call Char.  She did not answer her phone when it rang from behind the couch.  She did not eat.  She just sat where she had slunk down against the wall and tried to numb her pain.  Finally, stiff and cold, she climbed into bed fully clothed while it was still light outside, and turned her face to the wall.  Jade did not go to church the next day and only got out of bed to make a cup of coffee and to take headache pain medicine.  Mid afternoon, after ignoring her phone ringing over and over again, someone knocked on her door. 
 
Jade pulled the pillow over head until she heard Char yelling, "Open up, Jade!  I know you're in there."  The pounding was incessant.
 
 
She went and slid over the chain lock and opened the door before turning her back and collapsing on her couch with her arm over her face.  "What are you doing here, Char?  Did you come to bury the dead?"
 
"What happened, love?"
 
"Don't call me that.  Don't say that word again in my presence.  Why are you here?  Surely you aren't on church patrol for those who failed to warm a pew this morning."
 
"If you would answer your phone, you would know that Cory texted Simon asking me to come check on you.  What happened?  I've never seen you like this."
 
If you want to dig out my phone from behind the couch, you can listen to the message he sent me."
 
Char immediately went over and pulled out one side of the couch to retrieve the phone.  The battery had not even fallen out of it.  It had survived flying across the room without a scratch, more than she could say about her heart.
 
Jade plugged her ears unwilling to listen to the message one more time, "Please erase that as soon as you're done.  I don't want to hear his voice ever again, the Jerk!"  She rolled over with her back to the world.
 
As soon as Char listened, she erased it, but called Simon on her phone.  "Listen, honey, you've got to get ahold of Cory.  Something is up.  He just dumped Jade big time after building her up making her think he was The One.  Something is wrong with this picture...You have?  He won't?  Well, do you know where he lives?  No, I don't want you to go beat him up, just talk to him!  What do you mean I should stay out of it.  This is my best friend you are talking about, and no one gets away treating her this way!"
 
"Char, Char, you are yelling at Simon.  It's not his fault.  This is just how it is.  It's not something Simon or you can fix, okay?  It's just going to take me some time to toughen up my heart, I guess." 
 
"Okay, Simon.  Sorry I yelled at you.  Yeah, I'll see you later.  I'm going to stay with Jade for awhile.  Let me know if you hear anything.  Love you too. Bye."  
 
Char went into the kitchen and went through the kitchen cupboards and refrigerator before ordering a vegetarian pizza.  "You don't have anything to eat in here."
 
"I don't have a man to feed like you do, you mean.  I usually just pick up something on my way home from work.  Cooking for one is never fun."
 
"I can't even make a salad.  This is no way to live, Jade."
 
"Tell me about it.  Empty refrigerator or not, take out for the rest of my life, I'm swearing off men.  They are the most self-centered, meanest creatures on God's green earth.  I wish Adam had been the only one who had eaten the apple and been kicked out of the garden by his lonesome.  God said it's not good for man to be alone, but he never said that about woman."

"That would have meant the rest of us would of had to have been conceived through immaculate conception," Char said with a quiver about her lips.
 
"Don't you dare laugh at me," Jade said throwing a pillow at her from across the room.  "Maybe some of us wish we had never been born."  Somehow fighting with her best friend lightened her load a little, just a hair.  "Thanks for coming, Char.  I'm glad somebody loves me."
 
"You are pathetic.  You know Mr. Heart-Breaker isn't the only man left on the planet."
 
"Give me a break.  You think I should wait for Jim the church usher, the ladies' heart crusher, who might call me?  No thanks."
 
Just then the phone rang.  They both just stared at it.  "Let it go to message.  I don't want to talk to anybody, especially my mom."
 
"Somebody left you a message.  Do you want to hear it?"
 
"Sure."
 
"Hello, Jade.  This is Jim.  I wondered if you would be available tonight for dinner with me?  You may call me if you want.  Well, if you don't, I understand."
 
"He forgot to leave his number."
 
"The man sounds as pathetic as I feel, poor thing.  He really is a nice person, I just can't speak with another man, let alone go out with one.  I don't know if I will ever want to date again.  All the unicorns have died, and the magic has worn off."
 
"Oh, come on.  There must be a reason God shut the door on this relationship."
 
"Slammed the door, bolted it shut, locked it and threw away the key, you mean."  Jade drew in a shaky breath.  "This romance stuff is overrated.  I'm reading non-fiction and watching documentaries from here on out:  'How to Be a Man Hater.'  Wait.  I can write the book on that one."
 
"You really did fall hard for him, didn't you."
 
"Yes." Jade could hardly speak above a whisper.
 
"I can't image what came over the guy, but I'd like to wring his neck."
 
"Can we talk about something else?"
 
"Do you think you can go back and teach tomorrow.  Maybe you should call in sick, at least for one more day."
 
"No, I'll put on my super smiley face and take lots of headache meds."
 
"No, really. You will be exhausted.  Tomorrow night we will go out to the big city for dinner to some swank place.  Then I will decide if you will be ready for work Tuesday.  I insist you stay home tomorrow."
 
"Okay, mother dear.  I'm afraid I would burst into tears and scare my children half to death anyway.  I should have a tighter grip on myself by Tuesday."
 
"Maybe.  It remains to be seen."
 
"Teach not thy lips such scorn, for it was made
For kissing, lady, not for
such contempt."
William Shakespeare
 
Monday night's dinner was wasted on her.  Everything tasted like sawdust, and Jade found herself staring off not hearing when Char or Simon spoke to her.  They eventually gave up and bent their heads to each other smiling lost in their own private world.  At least someone was enjoying themselves.  She found herself looking around for  a tall, dark and handsome head of hair paired with a wild elfin girl child with long untamed curly locks.  Jade shook her head.  "Get a grip," she said to herself under her breath. 
 
She had not eaten half her dinner.  To everyone's surprise, including her own, Jade ordered dessert, "Death by Chocolate."  "It's the way I truly want to go instead of man-slaughter."  The waitress had no idea what she was talking about and got a little nervous, but Char stifled a laugh.  Simon even looked worried. 
 
"She's joking, dear.  That's a good thing."
 
"The humor is a little dark for my taste," is all he said.
 
It was divine.  It was the first thing she had really tasted for two days.  "This is to die for.  You should really order one for yourself, Char, because I'm not going to share even one little bite.  I'm practicing becoming a selfish old maid."  If she was at home, she would have licked her plate clean.  As it was, she ran her finger around the dish and licked the last bit of delish off of it.  "If all else fails, I can still love chocolate," she sighed. 
 
None the less, her friends just watched her amazed.
 
"And the next thing I'm going to do when I get home is to plan a cruise for this summer.  I'm going to lie about my age and sign up for a seniors-only one. That way I won't fall for any idiot unless he's a rich old fool."
 
"Next I'll write a love story where everyone dies. It's a Shakespearan thing to do, after all."
 
 
Simon was sweating now and wiped his face with his napkin.  He whispered to Char, "Are you sure she's okay?"
 
"No.  But it is what it is," she whispered back not taking her eyes off of her best bud.
 
"I can hear you," Jade sang out.  "I'm ready to go."  She grabbed the ticket and would not let her friends pay for the meal.  "It's the least I can do for all your support, though I swear if anybody from your job site ever speaks to me again,  Simon, I'll hit them with a two by four!"
 
"I got that," and he hurried out to get the car.
 
"I think I scared him," Jade said.  "I think I'm even scaring myself, but it's the new me.  No more Miss nice guy."
 
"Whatever you need to do to survive, I'm there for you, darling'."  Char put her arm around her best friend.  "I won't get worried unless you dye your hair purple and get tattoos and piercing."
 
"Careful, you're giving me ideas.  Maybe I'll get a tat that says, 'Man-Haters' Club President."
 
" First, I think you need one on your arm with all the bad boys you fell for with big 'X's' marked through their names."
 
"You mean both of them," Jade said giggling.  She was teetering on the hysterical side of her emotions now.
 
They were keeled over laughing with tattoo ideas by the time Simon drove up.  "Guess what, dear. Jade and I are going to get matching tattoos that say, 'My tattoo sags more than your tattoo,' for when we are old and in the rest home.  Did I just hear you just say 'Over my dead body' dear?  Don't tempt Jade like that in the mood she's in.  She's feeling wild and free and a tad dangerous."
 
"How about I get flowers tattooed up to my neck that's topped off with, 'I've had it up to here with tattoos!'"
 
Pretty soon they were all laughing making up more and more ridiculous tattoo ideas.  By the time Jade got dropped off at her apartment, she was more than exhausted.  She thought she would be able to get up and face work tomorrow.  There was only a month until Christmas vacation.  She hoped to be able to hang on that long before being able to stay in bed all day with a book and eating Ben & Jerry's pints.
 
By Friday, she had enough empathy to text poor Jim to tell him that she wasn't up to dating right now after a bad break-up, but PLEASE don't say anything to her parents."  There.  She had to let him know it wasn't him.  Maybe after the first of the new year, she could face an uncomplicated dinner as a friend.  Still, for now, every breath hurt as it passed by her broken heart.
 
Over Thanksgiving and Christmas, Jade made mandatory appearances at her parents' but wasted every second she could on doing nothing but watching Jane Austen movies over and over again knowing that they did not make men like those any more.  After all, it was just fiction, and Jane Austen herself died an old maid.  Not even Char could get her out of the house which Jade had refused to decorate for Christmas, by the way.
 
She slipped in the back row late at church every Sunday and was the first one out the door leaving early.  At least she went.  She did not pick up her Bible any more. She was not on speaking terms  
with God again yet.  She hoped He held off the rapture, because she wasn't ready right now.  Whenever she felt her conscience pricked, she just held up a finger toward Him and said, "Not yet, please.  Give me another minute or two or a month or year or two..."  She knew it wasn't right, but she felt she had to hang on to her anger towards somebody. Sure as shooting, she wouldn't be seeing Cory again.  Obviously, he could care less.
 
Jade was as unprepared as she had ever been for school to start again in January.  The bulletin board still had paper plate Santa faces up.  Fortunately, the little class tree was artificial so it had not shed needles over the holiday.  It was a grim reminder of what should have been the happiest days of her life.  She ripped its cord out of the wall and stuck it unceremoniously in the garbage, the kids hand-made ornaments and all.  She took it out to the dumpster before any children arrived and caught her in her dastardly deed.
 
She had just sat down at her desk in her still empty classroom when her door creaked open.  Cory was standing there with Cossette with her hair bound up tightly in a bun.  Jade's mouth opened but no sound came out.  His voice box did not work any better than hers, but suddenly Cossette was squealing, "Jewel, Jewel, you're my new teacher!"  The little thing had her in a death grip that wouldn't let go.  Jade had no idea she was crying until Cory handed her a box of her own Kleenex.
 
"We had no idea you worked here.  I mean I didn't even know what school or what grade you taught.  The office just sent me down to this room number..."
 
Finally, Jade found her voice looking only at Cossette, not daring to look up at her daddy.  "What on earth are you doing here?"
 
"We had to move into a bigger house, and it's in this new school district.  I'm so excited you'll be my teacher."
 
"I can ask the principal's office if you want me to and see if I can get her in the other classroom."
 
"No, this is fine, but you can't call me Jewel in school, do you understand sweetest?"  She was brushing back imaginary locks that weren't messed up.  She'd never seen the child so well kept.
"Your daddy must have taken lessons on hair styling.  You look wonderful, dear."
 
"Oh, he didn't do it.  Chelsey fixed it.  She's a really good cook too."
 
"That's nice.  Let me show you to your new desk.  This one is empty."  She had quickly turned her back on Cory to hide the heat in her face.  He certainly had wasted no time in replacing her.  She hoped he did not stick around because Jade did not know how well she could bite her tongue."
 
While Cossette was busy unpacking her back pack, Cory stood by her desk moving papers  trying to appear busy.
 
"Jade."
 
She ignored him.
 
"Jade,"  this time he put his fingers under her chin and gently turned her to face him.  "Can we have coffee sometime? I think we need to talk."
 
"No.  I don't think that will be necessary.  I can keep this professional...and she pushed his hand away firmly."
 
"I won't stop asking you."
 
"Then I'm afraid you will have to take your daughter to another class if you can't respect that distance.  You made it very clear that it was over." 
 
Yet, she could feel the tears pooling in her eyes.  He wiped away one that trickled down and said in the softest of voices, "I never wanted to hurt you."
 
"Well, you did."  She moved past him and started yanking down the Santa decorations off the bulletin board.  Most ripped raining a snow of their cotton ball beards.  It suited her mood.
 
"We'll talk later."
 
"No we won't!"  Jade spoke quietly but she was as angry as she had ever been in her life. "Cossette, why don't you have your dad show you around the playground before school starts. I think you'll like it."
 
And with that she went down to the teacher's bathroom and bawled her eyes out swallowing deep sobs. As soon as she was able, she went to the principal's office to request a personal day off and that her new student be transferred to the other classroom.  He took one look at her blotchy face and said, "No problem.  Take two days if you need to.  We wouldn't want to lose one of best teachers."
 
She grabbed her purse and ran to the teacher's parking lot just as the kids came in the other end of the hall all rowdy from their Christmas break.
 
Sick of her apartment, she drove heedless of where she was going.  Finally, Jade realized
that she was heading to the coast.  She'd get a motel.  The principal said she could take two days off and she really needed them.   She pulled over in her car when she got there and called his office. He was really nice.  The fog was coming in and she was cold, not dressed appropriately.  She ate chowder down by the harbor  after booking her room, then found a second hand store where she picked up a pair of levis and a hooded sweatshirt.  She found the other necessities like a toothbrush and stuff at the local drug store chain.  Finally, she was ready to walk the beach and talk to God.
 
 
 
"Are you mocking me, God?  I feel like you are throwing this up in my face.  I've made plenty of bad choices, but I was finally feeling hopeful of finding  love."  She grew still and felt the tug of her heart off herself and on to Him.  It had been a while. "Okay. I know I've been full of my own problems and haven't listened to You, of all people."  Suddenly, Jade was laughing at herself.  "Alright.  I know.  'For My thoughts are not your thoughts...' and all that.  Okay, okay, I got it."  Maybe she was going crazy, for one minute she was laughing and now she was crying again.  "But it hurts so bad, God.  I don't think I can handle seeing them every day at school." 
 
She picked up a rock and threw it at a sea gull.  It only hopped a foot away and stared at her as if she was the crazy one.  It was his beach.  Suddenly it was as if He wrote a script upon her heart.  She felt it as it spelled out, "Trust Me."
 
She collapsed onto a log of driftwood with her face in her hands.  "It can't get much worse, so, I guess I will have to trust You on this one, God."  Once again she was laughing at herself.  "I hope you have a sense of humor, Lord, because I certainly am doing some crazy-talk down here.  What else do I have to lose?  I've already lost my heart, and now maybe my mind...I suppose, my job, my apartment, my health...Oh PLEASE don't make me move back in with my parents!"  She clapped a hand over her mouth.  "I hope you didn't hear me say that, God.  Of course you did, but please don't get any weird ideas about it, Lord.  I just need help coping with going back to school and seeing that darling innocent girl and that, that man.  Help me to be strong Lord, because I don't think I can do it on my own.  I don't understand what you are doing.  I guess I don't have to as long as you give me the strength to endure.  I will," and she took a deep breath, "trust You, even if I am tempted again to think you are not trustworthy because others have let me down." 
 
Irreverently, a fortune cookie came to mind that she had read once...
 
Kissing is like drinking salted water.
You drink, and your thirst increases."
 
Jade ate a bag of salt water taffy instead.  It made her thirsty too.
 
 
That night she slept like a log, like a huge heavy piece of driftwood on the beach.  The next day was an exceptionally brilliant one with the sun glistening off the waves.  Jade felt more refreshed than she had in a very long time.  After a lunch of fish and chips, she took a  the rest of the day in a leisurely drive home. 
 
When it was time to go back to work, Jade was ready.  With the aura of the ocean still bathing her mind, she made her way to her classroom early enough to change her bulletin board to make it look like she was ready to face the new year.  She did not hear anyone until her door clicked shut, and a bouquet of flowers was on her desk, not roses, but a wilder country blend.  When she peeked her head out, the hall was still empty as far as she could see.  Jade poured out a prize jar of M & M's into a paper bag and put the flowers in it instead.  
 
 She did not see Cossette until recess time and the child waved at her with a big grin.   She was merely observing her, she told herself, making sure that the new student had made friends.  Or course she had and was definitely the leader of the cluster of little girls around her. 
 
The next morning, when she was making copies in the break room, she came back to the rich aroma   of coffee.  A special cup was sitting on her desk, a grande with extra of cream, not fancy, but just how she liked it.  Jade dismissed it but promised herself that she would lock her door until it was time for students to arrive from now on.  If a certain someone was trying to get her attention, she had to let him know it wasn't going to work.
 
However, when Friday rolled around and she went to unlock her door, a card had been slipped under it.  It was a gift card for her favorite bookstore.  This was getting ridiculous.  She took a deep breath, thought about the ocean, and let the children in. 
 
After straightening her classroom making sure everything was ready for the next week, she walked out to her car reading the latest notice from the principal all the teachers had gotten in the boxes.  Ugh, lice was making its rounds again.  Monday, they would have to start checking heads...
 
 
He was there leaning on her car much as he did that night at the recital.  In fact he did not look up at her--maybe he was praying--until she was beeped to unlock her door doing her best to ignore him.
 
"We need to talk.  Please, Jade.  I know I blew it, but there are some things I feel it is important that you know, for Cossette's sake, if nothing else."
 
"Please, this is about you, not your daughter.  At least be honest about that."
 
"Just five minutes, here if you want even.  Think of it as spontaneous parent teacher conference.  Five minutes, Jade, please."
 
She sighed, threw her bag into the car and turned around with her arms crossed and her door still open.  "Where is she now?"
 
"Chelsey picked her up."
 
"Chelsey, huh.  That's convenient."  Jade opened her mouth to say more sarcastic jabs, yes, bitter even, but Cory interrupted her.
 
"Chelsey is my sister, Cossette's real mother.  That's what all this is about."  Since that had left Jade speechless, he forged ahead.  "When I went home that Friday after, well, you know what it was after, she was there waiting for me in my apartment.  The manager had let her in when she told him I was her brother.  It's a good thing that Cossette was at our friends' because it was a heated conversation to say the least."
 
"I had no warning that she was getting out.  I did not want Cossette to see her since I did not trust her because of her manipulations her whole adult life.  I may be over protective, but I was not about to start letting her old friends find out Chelsey was out and start to hang around.  They'd robbed me blind in the past, with her help, of course.  And last of all, I finally was ready to move ahead with you.  It had taken me years to feel like Cossette was in a stable place in her life that I could introduce her to a new chapter.  It looked like happiness was yanked out like a rug from under my feet that night.  Chelsey needed a place to stay and a means to stay there.  I'd been there, done that so many times.  Of course she sang the 'I've been saved.  I'm a different person,' song, but I've heard it so many times before."  I might have pushed her out on the street, but unfortunately about then Cossette was brought home throwing up.  I had to explain her mother to her somehow whether I wanted to or not."
 
Jade was still listening.  He had her full attention.
 
"I was furious, but had to calm down to take care of my little girl.  I let Chelsey sleep on the couch.  She insisted on helping me with Cossette who was having a pretty rough go of it.  I didn't get much sleep, and called you the next morning while I was still pretty upset, and frankly, I don't even know what I said.  It was a dark day, the worst in a long, long time."
 
"Six years ago, as soon as the county called to tell  me that Chelsey had a baby but was in custody for armed robbery, drug related of course,  I went into a tail spin.  I didn't know what to do.  I hadn't seen her for months, maybe a year, and had no idea she was pregnant.  But when they told me they were going to put the infant in foster care, I decided I wanted her, which was crazy to think of myself as a single dad to a newborn.  Somehow, with lots of help from my church family, we survived those first few years.  It has just now gotten to smoother sailing, but I just felt myself in the middle of the ocean with a hole in my boat without a bucket."
 
Jade had tears in her eyes now, but was totally still.
 
"It never was about you, Jade." He stepped closer brushing her hair away from her face.  "It was about me facing my inadequacies.  I never intended to hurt you like I did."
 
Jade took a shuddering breath and looked away.  She could not handle his eyes upon hers.  "Well, it explains a lot, but..."  She didn't know how to feel about everything, about him, about him and her.  "I think I need to think about this.  Thank you for telling me."
 
He took a step back.  "Thank you for giving me my five minutes.  I truly am sorry, Jade.  I just thought that for Cossette's sake, I needed to have this laid out so she wouldn't be swept up in the tension between us."
 
Jade wiped away the tears that trickled.  "She's a very special girl.  I hope spending time with her mother has turned out to be a good thing."
 
"Yes, I'm thankful to say, that Chelsey truly has become a new creature in Christ.  Old things did pass away,  but she is still vulnerable to temptations out there for her.  She knows it.   She will never have the perfect mother-daughter relationship with Cossette because I'll never give up my guardianship over her.  Chelsey acts more as my sister, as Cossette's aunt in the relationship.  Our pastor found a family willing to take her in and disciple her at first, but I finally was willing to allow her to stay with us.  We needed a bigger house though."
 
"That explains the neatly bun on that first day of school," Jade found herself giggling.  Good grief, from tears to giggles.  She needed to get a grip.  
 
Cory finally broke out in a smile that reached his eyes.  "Are you referring to her usually free flowing mane?"
 
"The elfin child look.  Hey, thanks for telling me, Cory."
 
"Yeah well, you deserved some kind of explanation after how I treated you.  I was mad at the world when I left that message."  He held her door the rest of the way open for her as she climbed in.
 
"See you around."
 
"Yeah."
 
Jade was so lost in thought on her way home that she ran a red light and lived to tell about it though the other car had to swerve and hooked at her.  She lay down on her couch staring off into space when her phone rang.
 
"We're still on for tonight right?  Jim is picking you up and meeting us for seafood, at seven right?"
 
"Oh, my goodness Char, I completely forgot."
 
"Swell date you are."
 
"He knows it's as friends." 
 
"Yeah, yeah.  You must like him a little or you would not have called him up and set up this date yourself with us as your body guards."
 
"Listen, if you don't want to go, I'm a big girl and can go on a date by myself..."
 
"Just kidding, buddy.  Just be careful of his heart.  You may have explained it as a dinner as friends with friends, but  a date is a date.   Remember how a broken heart feels and treat the poor man gently.  Don't even kiss him on the cheek.  He might think that is the peak of romance."
 
"Okay, Miss Priss.  I respect the man and will treat him with my kid gloves on."
 
 
As soon as they were seated at their favorite restaurant, Jade's phone rang.  She looked down and her hand started shaking.  She hung up and put her phone on vibrate. 
 
Char leaned over slightly with her face hidden behind her menu.  "What's wrong?  You look like you've seen a ghost.  You are positively trembling."
 
"I have,"  Jade whispered back.  She felt her lungs fill as ocean swells, then whoosh out.  She was only half there during dinner.  Jade tried to concentrate on the conversation, but was being sucked out with the tide.  Her mind kept telling her what a nice man Jim was, but her heart wasn't listening.  
 
When the men went to pay the bill, Char grabbed her arm, "What has gotten into you?  I've never seen you like this before?    Poor Jim.  It's a good thing that my Simon likes him so much and kept the conversation going."
 
"Call me when you get home, and I'll tell you, okay?"
 
"You better."
 
Jim opened the door for her when they got to his car.  It was a rather quiet ride back to her place.  "I think this was a little too soon for you, Jade.  It seems as if you haven't gotten over your breakup yet, and that's okay."
 
"I am so sorry, Jim.  It's not you.  I know I was lousy company tonight."
 
"I still enjoyed myself.  You have very nice friends, and I would be an idiot not to enjoy sitting across from a beautiful woman for dinner."
 
He turned off his engine in the parking lot and quickly came around to open her door.  "Jade, if God reopens the door for you, don't be afraid.   I wouldn't want you to suffer too long over a broken heart.  There's an old saying, 'Love and a cough are hard to hide.'  It's pretty obvious."
 
Jade stood by her door stunned before going inside.  Her phone began vibrating immediately.  Char didn't waste any time, and Jade was ready to tell all.  But it wasn't Char's voice.
 
A wave broke over her and she went under not able to breathe.  A rip tide was carrying her away.
 
 
"Jade, are you there?"
 
She was trying to dog paddle to keep her head above water, but another one crashed making her unable to speak.
 
"Are you okay, Jade, talk to me."
 
"No, I don't know," she finally was able to croak out before being pulled out deeper. 
 
"Do you need me to come over?"
 
"Yes, I think so."  Just the sound of his voice was a comfort, like knowing someone was coming out to the deep where she was fighting an undertow.
 
All she could pray was, "Oh God, oh God..."  until the knock came.
 
She grabbed onto the door like it was a floating plank and slid open the lock.
 
 
His hand gently eased her away where she clung white-knuckled on the door knob, then pulled her into his two strong arms.
 
"Are you okay?"
 
"I haven't been okay since you left," she whispered with her face buried next to his beating heart."
 
Kisses light as sea foam landed softly on her forehead, her eyes, her ears, her neck, then came crashing down until they were both swept away.
 
 
Her phone started ringing incessantly.  Finally, Cory grabbed it and threw it across the room.  This time the phone became disemboweled with the battery skimming across the floor.  The raucous noise flew away like a sea gull leaving them in their own private paradise drowning in love.
 
"Soul meets soul
on lover's lip."
Shelley
 
 
 
"His mouth is full of sweetness.
And he is wholly desirable.
This is my beloved and this is my friend."
Song of Solomon 5:16