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Authors: Karen Kingsbury

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BOOK: Where Yesterday Lives
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She prayed she could earn their respect and come across confident and capable. She planned to work among them often.

The morning began badly. She overslept and couldn’t decide what to wear. She finally pulled onto Interstate 94 at 6:45, telling herself she would skip the leisurely breakfast and stop for fast food in Ann Arbor. Half an hour later she was minutes from the stadium, driving along State Street looking for a place to stop.

At the intersection of State and Stadium Way she stopped at a red light and glanced at the seat beside her to check how much cash she had. But her purse wasn’t there.
Strange
. She
looked nervously up at the light. Still red. She scanned the backseat of her four-door compact and again found nothing.

At that moment the white van in front of her began to move.
Green light
. She pressed her foot onto the accelerator and scanned the floor of her car once more, desperately hoping to find her purse.

The crash came almost immediately She jolted up against the steering wheel and then back against her car’s headrest.

“Green means go, buddy,” she mumbled. Then she looked up at the light and felt her heart sink. It was flashing red. The van in front of her had moved forward only one car-length. She had presumed the light was green and that it was moving on through the intersection.

The van turned slowly into a gas station, and Ellen spied the letters on the side of the vehicle. WCBS.

Oh no
. Ellen’s heart sank.
They’re on the way to the game. Please God, don’t let Mike Miller be inside
.

She followed the van into the station and killed the engine just as two men stepped out. One of them was Mike Miller.

Ellen forced herself to get out of the car, furious with herself and the way her face was blushing a deep red.

“I’m so sorry! I thought the light was green and then you stopped and I guess I just didn’t see it coming. I mean I’ve been down this street a hundred times and I’ve never seen that light flashing red before.”

Great. I sound like my mother
.

While she spoke, the driver of the van checked out his bumper and brushed off a few chips of paint that had come from the front of Ellen’s car. Meanwhile Mike moved closer to Ellen. He seemed to be staring at her shirt and she finally grew flustered.

“Do you mind if I ask what you’re looking at?”

Mike straightened and Ellen saw that he was easily six-foot-three. He grinned at her—and for the first time in Ellen’s life someone other than Jake Sadler made her heart skip a beat.

“Sorry, miss,” Mike said. “It’s just, well…” He pointed toward her blouse and Ellen followed his gaze. The buttons were fitted into the wrong holes all the way down so that the left side of her rayon blouse hung four inches lower than the right.

Ellen quickly shoved the longer piece of rayon into her slacks. As she did, she bared a layer of white lace that ran along the top of her camisole. Mike raised an eyebrow and smothered a smile.

“Oh!” Frustrated at herself, Ellen yanked the blouse back into place and folded her arms over the section that was now, once again, hanging outside of her slacks.

“In a hurry this morning?”

“Yes, in fact, I am.” Ellen was totally flustered and she prayed neither of them would figure out who she was. Perhaps Mike wouldn’t see her at the game. With any luck he’d be transferred to a different department or hired by another city

The driver of the van smiled in her direction. “No harm done, ma’am. Looks like you’ve got a pretty good dent, but nothing you can’t drive with.”

“I have my insurance information if you’d like it.” She did her best to ignore Mike Miller’s partially concealed grin.

“Sure,” the driver said. “Never a bad idea after a fender-bender.”

Ellen opened her car door and searched frantically for her purse. It contained her insurance card, her driver’s license, and her press credentials. Suddenly she knew with sinking certainty that it was back at her apartment.

She pulled out of the car slowly and put her hands on her hips, exposing her uneven blouse once more. “I’m sorry I can’t seem to find my purse. It has everything, all my information.”

The driver of the van nodded and Mike tried to contain a chuckle.

“No problem. Everything’s okay on our end, right, Mike?”

Mike cleared his throat and tried to look serious. “Well, my
neck’s a little sore…” He rubbed his hand along the base of his skull. He wore leather loafers, dark wool slacks, and a starched white button down which contrasted sharply with his paisley silk tie. He was the picture of cool confidence.

Ellen stared at him beseechingly

He caught her glance and smiled warmly. “No, I’m just kidding. But you better retrace your steps and see if you can find your purse. That could be a real disaster.”

Everyone laughed, though Ellen’s sounded a bit hollow, and the men bid her farewell as they climbed into their van. Ellen watched them disappear, then quickly got into her car and headed back toward Detroit.

She had ninety minutes until her appointment with the coach.

Two hours later, still breathless from the morning’s events, she walked out of the offensive coordinator’s office. She did not have a front-page story, but she had enough information to pull a feature together. The stairs to the press box seemed to go on forever and she was weary by the time she located her seat. She filed her notes and began checking her purse for a pencil.

“I see you found it.”

Ellen looked up and found herself staring into Mike Miller’s teasing blue eyes. Seating assignments for members of the press were made long before game time, and he was seated right next to her.

Ellen sighed and dropped her head in her hands. “Why can’t this day end?”

“Hey, why didn’t you say you worked for the
Gazette?

Ellen peered at him through the spaces between her fingers. “I was hoping once I fixed my buttons you might not recognize me.”

Mike laughed. For the rest of the game he teased and talked with her, and the morning flew by. She had expected him to be ruthless—condescending and unforgiving of the mistakes she’d made earlier in the day. Instead he was helpful. He treated her
with respect and consideration and was careful to avoid discussing the accident.

When the game was over Ellen gathered her things. “Guess I’ll see you next week.” She smiled at him.

“Hey Ellen, you mind if I get your phone number?”

Ellen felt the heat flood her cheeks. “Oh, the accident. Right. I’ve got my insurance information here somewhere.” She began digging through her purse, suddenly nervous. “I have insurance, really, I do. I just didn’t have my purse with me. But I guess you know that, don’t you?”

Mike placed his hand gently on her arm so that she stopped talking and looked up at him. He had the palest blue eyes she’d ever seen.

“I don’t want your insurance information, Ellen. I asked for your phone number.” His smile warmed her all the way down to her toes. “I was hoping you might have dinner with me sometime…”

The memory of that smile tugged at Ellen’s weary heart, and she rolled over in bed, squeezing her eyes tight against the tears that threatened to fall. If only things had stayed that way…if only she and Mike had found a way to hold on to the wonder they’d found together…

If only life had turned out differently.

Three

T
here was no break in the heat that weekend and Ellen stayed inside where it was cool, sorting through scrapbooks and boxes of tattered memories, drifting back in time. She wanted to find her prayer journal, the one she had kept when she first became a Christian. There she would find the words she’d written after she and Mike first met. And maybe then she would remember the reasons they married, the reasons they should fight to keep their marriage from falling apart. Besides, the task kept her from thinking of her father’s death. Right now it was easier to believe she was headed back to Petoskey for a reunion with her siblings than to accept the fact that her father was no longer alive.

Ellen rubbed her weary eyes and gazed at the clock. She had the afternoon ahead of her. Mike was covering weekend sports. When he’d been home earlier their conversation had been stilted, forced. She sighed and reached into a torn cardboard box, sifting through the contents of what once had consumed her heart.

The box contained half-filled journals and what seemed like hundreds of letters. Peering inside, Ellen saw a series of inked-in hearts doodled painstakingly across the top of folded, yellowed notebook paper. She lifted the paper from the others and unfolded it gingerly so the creases wouldn’t tear.

It was a letter from Jake.

She sighed. The words had nearly faded from view, the way everything else about Jake already had. She ran her fingers over
the wrinkles, glanced at the date and quickly figured Jake must have written it in his junior year at Petoskey High.


Hey Bucko, what’s up?
” Ellen read the words silently and for the first time in years she could hear his voice.

You probably already know this but I’ve got basketball practice after school. That’s a big-time bummer. Know why? I’ll tell you. Cuz I’d rather clean my garage or straighten my books. (J.K.) Truth is I’d rather spend the afternoon with you. I know that shocks you what with the hordes of girls flocking around my locker. (Right!!!) Serious now You’re the only one I want to see, Ellen. I mean it. Even if you do like raisins on your salad (sick!) and drive that ugly burnt orange tank. (I made a mental note to never let you drive again. My Bug’s the only way to go!) Speaking of which, you and Leslie and Rick HAVE to go to the game Friday night. I think I’ll score the big 3-0 and then wink at you like they do in the pros. Plus, we could probably sneak a kiss at halftime. I know, I know. If I’m lucky. Let me know if you can come. Catch you after fifth period. Don’t think you can avoid me, either. I’ll follow you to the ends of the earth if you ever leave me. You’re my future, babe. ILYADYFI, Jake.

ILYADYFI.
I love you and don’t you forget it
Her eyes grew dim and she smiled absently at the long-ago phrase. Last she heard, Jake was still living in Petoskey. For a brief moment she allowed herself to wonder whether he had gotten married, whether he still thought of her…. Then she folded the brittle paper and reached back into the box, sorting through dozens of similar notes until she found what she was looking for. Her
prayer journal, the first one she’d ever kept. It was dated Spring, 1990.

Humidity had warped the pages, but Ellen could read the entries as clearly as the day they were written. She flipped toward the back of the floral cloth-covered book until she found September’s passages. She saw it then, the lengthy entry she had written the night she first dated Mike Miller. Even now the words seemed to dance on the page, filled with the excitement she had felt that faraway day.

Well, I did it. I finally went out with Mike Miller. Ever since we met, our schedules have been too busy to get together. Not that I haven’t thought of him and watched WCBS sports more than usual. Anyway, tonight he took me out for pizza and afterwards we walked around the Michigan campus and talked.

We want so many of the same things it’s almost scary He’s a broadcaster so naturally we have sports in common. But it’s so much more than that. He’s a Christian. Raised that way He said he hasn’t had a serious girlfriend since high school because it’s hard to find someone who loves God and wants the same things he wants. It’s like he’s perfect for me. Like God himself brought us together. We even talked about marriage, how it should be forever… between a man and a woman equally yoked, people who want to love the Lord, build a family and a home where Christ will be honored. I’ve only been out with Mike once and somehow I can’t imagine marrying anyone else. Of course, I didn’t tell him that. I’ll wait till the second date at least. Maybe I should pray about it.

Dear Lord, I don’t know why you’ve brought me and Mike together, but I need your help on this one. Is he
the man for me, the man I might marry? I need to know. There’s something very special about him, something I can see in his eyes. Oh, Lord, help me to be careful around him and take things slowly. And thank you for his faith, his love for you. I pray that you will bless our relationship, whatever it may become. I love you, Lord. Amen.

Ellen remembered how it felt to write those words. She had fallen hard for Mike.
Give me a sign, Lord
, she remembered praying before each date.
Show me if there’s some reason
I
shouldn’t
give
him my heart
. And each time they went out, Mike exceeded both her expectations and her dreams.

“There’s just one thing,” Mike had told her tenderly when their dating became more serious. “I don’t want to sleep with you, Ellen. Not until we’re married. I really believe God won’t honor our relationship unless we honor him.”

Ellen had been stunned. She understood perfectly well that sex before marriage was wrong in God’s eyes, but that hadn’t stopped her where Jake was concerned. Indeed, she had always felt somewhat self-righteous for waiting three years after she and Jake began dating before giving in to her desires.

When she and Jake broke up and she became a Christian, she understood far better why God asks people to wait. There was a bond between her and Jake that should never have been there, a part of her that she could never get back.

Mike had been honest. He told her he had dated several girls through college and had been sexually intimate with three of them. “It was wrong, and the relationships were empty. A few years ago I made a promise to the Lord. Next time I’d do things his way.”

Ellen could still remember how difficult it had been to stay
within the physical limits of the dating relationship with Mike. He set a curfew for himself and was out the door of Ellen’s apartment no later than ten o’clock each evening. Finally a year later, they were married. The wedding was beautiful and their honeymoon on a beach near Manzanillo, Mexico, was truly blessed by God, beautiful beyond anything either of them had ever imagined.

BOOK: Where Yesterday Lives
11.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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