Everyone joined in the excitement for the concert, except for Noelle. She felt more like the Grinch and wanted to go hole up on top of a mountain somewhere until the concert was over.
"I thought you'd be wearing your cowboy hat and boots, Mr...I mean Kenner. Isn't that your trademark?" she asked snootily.
"It's easier to pass myself off as just a regular guy when I wear a ball cap and sweatshirt. Believe it or not Miss Noelle, I don't always try and draw everyone's attention."
"You mean, when she lights up like a Christmas tree blushing?" Curt kept up the laughter. "But
Umm, I can probably get them, but suit yourself." She didn't bother putting her coat on since she'd be right back in. Kenner followed her out.
Suddenly, Noelle realized she had her arms around him responding to his kiss. She gasped and pushed him away. "Oh! What do you think you are doing? I'm off limits, remember?"
"Just so you know, not everything you read about me was true. I'll be the first one to admit that I was living a life of sin, but the publicist lead the public into believing I was worse than I was just to make news. Maybe I was blinded at first with all the girls throwing themselves at me, swarming the tour bus after every concert, but I wasn't anywhere near the player that I was depicted to be. It began to disgust me actually. One of my band members got in trouble with an under-aged girl and that was one expensive mistake that cost him some jail time. I really backed off then. That's why you are such a breath of fresh air. Thanks for not throwing yourself at me, Noelle."
"You're welcome, I guess," she said nervously.
"He's a nice young man, even if he is a celebrity," her mom said. Noelle nodded her head, but just kept quiet. She saw her dad's eyes on her in his rear-view mirror.
One Sunday in May, she was singing with the worship team when she looked down and saw Kenner sitting by her sister in the sanctuary. He winked at her. Noelle's mouth dropped open. When it was time to sit down, she slipped in beside him. Kenner immediately tucked her hand into his while grinning. He whispered, "Hey pretty lady."
She nudged him playfully with her shoulder, then whispered,"How come I didn't know anything about you showing up here today? How long will your visit last?" Essie glared at her, big sister that she was, and told her to shush.
Kenner ignored her and whispered back. "I got in late last night. It's a three day pass. Wanna hang out today?"
"Yes, of course!"
"Shh!" she warned again, but Essie was really grinning.
After church they went to a steakhouse to eat together. Curt explained the rules. "You can see Kenner only if I'm there to council you as a sort of pastor-mentor thing. That means no going off by yourselves, no muchy-touchy stuff. I'd hate for Kenner to get kicked out of the program because you two can't follow the rules that I agreed to abide by.
"What kind of counseling?" Noelle asked?
"Relationship counseling. Essie will help. There's that course that the church requires engaged couples to go through before pastor will marry them."
"Engaged! We haven't even gone on a date, for goodness sakes," Noelle sputtered.
"I don't mind, if you don't," Kenner grinned wide.
"Just look at it as conversation starters, Noellie," Essie added using her pet name. "Otherwise, I'll drop you off at home. End of conversation."
"Okay, I guess I'll do it. What can it hurt?" She glanced over at Kenner.
"I told him I'd agree if I can hold your hand while we do this," Kenner smiled. "It's amazing how much a guy can anticipate something as simple as that as a highlight of my pass."
The course material actually was kind of fun and certainly had them talking about things she never in a million years would have believed that they would discuss. Sometimes Curt and Essie stepped across the living room to leave the two of them to have some privacy as they whispered back and forth the kind of things not easily shared.
Curt continued teaching. He said, "Psalm 139 says that God searches us. He knows us. Nothing is hidden from His sight. Maybe He is also revealing the perfect kind of relationship for us to follow, a pattern. It is a mixture of transparency added with the mystery of love itself which illuminates our lives shining in the deepest parts of the heart."
"Wow, Curt, that was quite poetical as well as deep," Kenner ran his hand over his chin. "I'm being taught where I am about how to be transparent with God and in accountability with the men. But that part about the mystery of love sounds good. Psalm 139 certainly is a beauty." He looked at Noelle, "I've never given much of my heart in any relationship. It's only been more of a physical thing."
"I believe you called it recreational, no strings attached," Noelle commented.
"Yeah, well that about sums it up. That got old quickly though. It held no real satisfaction with such a fleeting shallow pleasure that I finally figured it wasn't worth it. I haven't had a girlfriend for three years or so. Even when I was in a relationship with someone, it wasn't as if it was a deep and committed one. It was almost as if we were using each other. I had more than one girlfriend who was either trying to advance her own singing career or was reaching for my deep pockets."
"What were you getting out of those relationships, Kenner? Or rather, what were you hoping to get?" Curt probed.
"I don't know, I was probably looking for someone to keep the loneliness away. Sometimes I think I was using them too as shields against all those others who wanted to break a piece off me. It was wearing. That's why I quit trying to be in a relationship. But then when my addiction started controlling me more, I could see where all my life would be sucked right back into that scene again. I didn't want to go back down that road. That's why I called you, Curt. It scared me seeing how quickly everything could spin out of control."
"How about you, Noelle? How does that make you feel when Kenner talks about his past relationships?"
"Of course I don't like it." She paused then squeezed his hand to add, "But it's not a deal-breaker." Noelle let go of some of the tightness in her chest. She'd thought this over a lot while they were apart and had decided to pursue their relationship anyway. "As long as he's honest about them. I hope at sometime though that he'd get tested for, you know, any diseases that he might have acquired from that lifestyle though." She looked over at him embarrassed.
"I did that as soon as I entered the program where I am now. Some of it was required, and some I just asked for to be on the safe side. I'm clean, thank the Lord," he said with relief.
"And what are you looking to get out of a relationship, Noelle?" Curt asked.
"Wow, this is making me a little nervous here." But she took a deep breath while she thought then blew out. "I guess I've had enough shallow little dating relationships that were dead ends, you know, no real interest. I've dated some real duds." She gave a shallow laugh. "Then there were the other kind who wanted more of a physical relationship, which I wasn't interested in at all, getting the cart before the horse so to speak. I guess, I've wanted someone with a passion for God, for music..." she cut her eyes over to Kenner, "and someone to be my best friend while at the same time thinking I'm beautiful even at my ugliest moments. I want someone who will challenge me, you know like iron sharpens iron, and yes, a good kisser. That's all for now." She could feel herself blushing lit up like a Christmas tree. "Oh, and someone who will watch Jane Austen movies with me."
Kenner and Curt both exclaimed at the same time, "Who?"
"Wait, don't tell me Essie that you haven't gotten Curt broken in to watching Jane Austen movies with you!"
Curt winked. "Of course she has. I was just teasing you."
They all laughed at Kenner's confusion. "It comes with the marriage territory," Curt warned him. "I think it's written in the nuptials around here, that you must prove yourself to be Mr. Darcy."
Kenner shook his head. "I don't have a clue what you're talking about, but maybe I'll find out someday."
"We can watch 'Pride and Prejudice' together after this session!" Noelle giggled. "It could be quite instructive."
"Do you want the older version with Colin Firth or the newer one?" Essie asked.
"The newer one is shorter. We could start with that one," Noelle suggested.
"Whoa, am I to take it that class is dismissed for now so Mr. Darcy can take over?" Curt threw his hands up in mock frustration.
"Mr. Darcy? I think you guys are all crazy," Kenner laughed.
Noelle cuddled up to Kenner as they watched it together. She felt that painful lump of longing she'd felt from his absence all these months in melt away.
Kenner was watching the movie keenly trying to absorb not just the story line, but whatever it was that had them so enchanted. He got it.
When it was all over, he laughed and said, "You have to admit, Noelle, that you were kind of like Elizabeth when we first met, with more prickles than a porcupine."
Curt roared with laughter.
"Okay, and you two have been laughing at me ever since. Admit it, Kenner, you thought I'd be the last person you would ever be attracted to."
"But for a pair of very fine eyes," he quoted Darcy, tipping her face up to look into his. He wasn't laughing. Under different circumstances, he would be kissing her about now. It's a good thing that their first kiss was so over the top memorable, that she could still savor it whenever she thought of it. And she was thinking of it right now. She could tell that he was too.
"Alright, before you forget all about the rules, let's go grab something to eat," Curt said.
"How about if I order pizza in. It gets too crazy sometimes when I go out. I haven't missed my public and don't want to get mixed up in it right now."
"Sounds like a plan," Essie said. "Supreme, okay?" Kenner offered her some money which she shooed away. "It's on us. You're our guest."
They all agreed on the pizza. Noelle thought about getting up to help her sister set out the paper plates and napkins and pour the soda, but she didn't want to leave Kenner's side. They had so little time together.
"Hey, pretty lady," he whispered. "I think about you every day. In fact, when I'm not working on new song lyrics, I write letters to you even though I can't send them. It helps me when I'm missing you."
sometimes get more Rice-a-Roni donated than anything else."
She was born to be mine,
"Trust, and you'll be fine."
He knows what she'll endure,
And offer her security.
Blindly following God's will.
The one my heart craves.
Essie laughed. "Actually, I think you have needed almost all of it. But the old saying is true, "It's not what you say, but how you say it." And NEVER, I repeat never open up a touchy subject until you've fed your man, otherwise..."
The dog ate my shoe.
While the fish is floating in its bowl
My card's been denied.
and re-gifting since I can't shop.
I'm just a chicken fella:
though she's quite a pearl,
I'm feeling kinda mean,
Don't want to hear any more cheer.
'Cause I've been throwing up since two.
But there's no snow in sight.
Next to my sled,
While grandma's running over reindeer
Riding on her John Deer.
"I'm going to shoot yer tires out!"
"It was all a bad dream!"
Where the presents are for all to see.
My gal's wearing my ring,
Plowing through the snow,
"Essie's taking a nap and Curt is with her," her mom added. "They're not going anywhere. Wedding dress shopping wore her out."