Chapter 3—Friday Morning, Dallas

Tina reached out to shut off the alarm without opening her eyes, and rolled over on her back, glowing with rosy well being and joyful anticipation. Today was Friday. Tomorrow she’d see him.

Stretching her arms above her head and inhaling deeply, she willed herself to remember his aftershave. Mmmmmmm. Obsession. Good name. Intoxicating. Or maybe Jake didn’t need help being intoxicating. She melted—giddy—when he held her in his arms, looking into her eyes as if he wanted to see into her very soul. He sometimes called her “kitten” because he said her eyes were as green as a cat’s.

He might even call tonight.

So far she had been able to resist his gentle attempts at physical intimacy, despite her own yearnings. It wasn’t easy. When she let her guard down, like now, before she was fully awake, she played over and over again in her mind the way he talked to her, soft and low, his lips barely brushing hers, telling her how beautiful she was, how much he liked kissing her.

Tomorrow, when he holds me close against his chest, I’ll bury my face in his neck and breathe him in. I’ll forget all the nights I’ve tossed and turned, longing for him.

“Stop it!” she told herself, sitting up straight.

Schotzie jumped when she spoke, but not in time to avoid being hit by Tina’s legs as she swung them out of bed and, without looking, into her green satin scuffs. Years of nothing moving unless she moved it, she thought, suddenly weary of her well-ordered life. It would be nice to have somebody else with her in this apartment for a change, somebody who might bump her slippers out of the exact place she left them. Even Schotzie left them untouched.

“You are a poor excuse for a dog, Schotzie. What kind of a dog doesn’t drag his mistress’ slippers around the house?”

Schotzie, a trim Miniature Schnauzer, raised one eyebrow in a what’s-your-problem gesture, put his ears and tail down and backed away from her, obviously offended at being scolded so early in the morning.
“Awww, don’t pout. You’re good company, Schotz, and I do like a warm body around the place, but one of these days…”

One of these days, what? One of these days I’ll let Jake stay over? I don’t think so. One of these days, I hope, I’ll grow up. I’ll know better than to lie in bed thinking about him until I’m all in the mood. I need to go outside and walk this off.

She dropped the ribbon straps off her shoulders and her gown slipped down into an emerald-green satin puddle on the floor. She pulled on gray sweats and slid a wide headband over her straight, shoulder length red hair. After brushing her teeth she usually dropped to the floor for a few slow stretches before putting on socks and running shoes, but today she skipped her little warm-up routine.

Schotzie sighed resignedly and did a few lazy stretches of his own before Tina attached his leash and walked out the door with him.

She started off at a quick pace, risking leg cramps. By the time she had covered a third of her usual distance, her breath came in short gasps and sweat soaked her headband.

Walking around the apartment complex helped her wake up and pumped up her energy level before the day’s work. At this hour, her neighbors were in a hurry to go to work and paid no attention to her. She felt free to pray aloud.

First she sorted out her thoughts.

“I blew it again. I can’t start that whole physical thing all over again; that’s how trouble started last time. Richard was a hunk, no doubt about it, and I fell hard. But after the wedding I found out that’s all he was. It was such a hot romance that I never even noticed he that lied about everything, often when it would have been easier to tell the truth. When I think of all the times he worked late…”

If she ever married again, she determined, it would be different. Not that she discounted the value of the bedroom, but she remembered her grandparents sitting and talking at the kitchen table, her grandmother waxing enthusiastic about one thing or scolding about something else, her grandfather laughing and enjoying her spirit, both obviously fascinated with the other. They had a real romance! Tina wanted a marriage like theirs. She had no intention of going into another relationship if she couldn’t be sure that it had its roots in mutual love and respect, the kind of marriage that would carry them loving and laughing into a ripe old age.

Alex waved as he drove off. She’d see him at work later. Her first appointment wasn’t until 10:45, and she had time for a long prayer walk. Good thing, too.

“What’s the matter with me, Lord? I know what happens when I lie there, thinking of Jake, stirring up all those feelings. That’s what will be on my mind when I see him. Talk about setting myself up for a fall.”

She went through her usual concerns, praying for everything she could think of: safe travel for Jake, Jake’s salvation, Alex’s salvation, her grandparents’ health, her own work and safety. She asked God to put a watch over her mouth to keep her from inadvertently saying something to Jake that might put him off the whole idea of becoming a Christian.

That’s when she cried.

“I’m so lonely, Father, I don’t know what to do. I know You love me, but how can I ever trust myself to a man again? How can I believe a man means it when he says he loves me? Am I going to be alone for the rest of my life? And Jake! He’ll never trust another woman. Why would he? And even though he wants me, he never mentions marriage. He’s not a Christian and I couldn’t marry him anyway…oh, what’s the use?”

Sobbing, she could barely see where she was going and narrowly missed being hit by a car backing out of a driveway. The driver honked and rolled down his window.

“Are you going to be all right? Can I do something to help? Call somebody?”

“No, it’s just a bad morning,” she managed to say, “I’ll be okay in a minute.”

The driver waved and drove away, and before he raised the window, she heard a snatch of a song on his car radio, “He knows all about it…”

A wave of peace, like a cool breeze, washed over her. God does know all about it, she thought, and He loves me even when I make dumb mistakes.

All at once she again felt the way she had that night, only about a year ago, when Jesus first made Himself known to her. Now it was if she and Jesus had their own wonderful secret, and she could believe she was completely accepted and loved.

So relieved she felt like laughing, she couldn’t wait to go home to read her Psalms for the day.

The phone rang as Tina and her dog walked in the door. It was Angie, inviting her to bring Jake to their apartment for dinner some evening while he was in town. Tina told her it sounded like fun, then bit her lip for lying.

“So, girlfriend, is tomorrow night the night?” Angie asked.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Sure you do; for Mr. Right to spend the night.”

“No, it’s not, and I don’t know if he’s Mr. Right.”

“Then, isn’t it time to find out? What are you going to do—wait till you’re married to find out there’s no chemistry?”

“There’s plenty of chemistry, but…”

“Admit it; you’ve thought about it!”

“Of course I have. Why are we having this conversation—again? I’m a Christian now, things are supposed to be different!”

“Yeah, yeah, but God knows we’re only human, and He forgives us for it.”

“Oh, Angie, let’s change the subject. Better yet, I’ll talk to you later—I have to go now.”

“Okay, hon. Just remember what Angie says—try before you buy!” Click.

Tina hung up the phone, cranky that her good feelings had evaporated.

She fed the dog before stripping off her sweats and sneakers and turning on the shower. She stood in the shower a long time, inviting the hot water to clear her head. As she rinsed out the shampoo, she thought about the phone call.

She and Angie, also divorced, met at church. Tina had attended that evening at the invitation of one of her clients. Angie had gone to church all of her life. “Born and bred on a church pew,” she told anybody who asked.

Angie, like Tina, was 27 years old, and, also like Tina, involved with a man she truly cared about. She often brought Ted to church with her, and didn’t try to hide the fact that they were living together, although Tina had a hard time believing Pastor Frank and Dottie would approve if they knew.

Angie actually talked about having a baby with Ted, even though she knew he didn’t want any more than the two children he had with his first wife. “He’d get over it,” Angie claimed. “I’d tell him it was an accident.”

When Tina asked about Ted’s spiritual life, Angie had laughed off the question. “He believes in God, of course. He just doesn’t wear his religion on his sleeve the way some people do. I don’t like that, either. I hate it when people talk religion all of the time. Can’t they ever be normal?”

She went on without waiting for an answer. “He’s a good person, Tina. He gives money to Children’s Hospital and the animal shelter, and…well, he’s a better man than most of those stuffy old church people.”

As Tina stepped out of the shower and wrapped a towel turban around her wet hair, Angie’s remarks bounced around and echoed inside her head, sounding even more inane now than they had the first time she heard them.

“And why is she so concerned with my love life, anyway?” She asked the dog. “You aren’t much of a conversationalist, are you?” Schotzie cocked his head in a quizzical look.

Tina turned her attention back to thoughts of Jake. With a clear head now, not clouded by physical desires, she had to concede that he treated her with utmost respect. A strong man, muscular—especially his arms and chest—he always held her gently, as if she were a fragile treasure. She dabbed away tears with a corner of the towel. “You are a wonderful, sweet man, Jake. I think I might truly love you.”

next chapter


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