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Chapter Thirty Three

Monica wanted to die. How could she have agreed to three days of this torture? She was in a constant state of pain, physically and emotionally. Her muscles ached from trying to stop the shaking and spasms. The medicine the doctor gave her helped a little, but not enough to make the feelings of hopelessness go away. She wanted so much to leave and be left alone!

Thoughts of her past were constantly in front of her. When she closed her eyes, she could see her baby. When she slept, she dreamed of Sarah and her husband Brad, and how she would probably never see or speak to either of them again.

She had been able to eat more the past day, though that was little comfort. A lot of it had ended up on the floor after waking from another terrible dream. She’d never thrwn up so much in her life. The nurse assured her if she could get through these first few days, things would improve. The nurse with her gentle assurances only made Monica angrier. It grated on her nerves to have this woman, this stranger tell her things would get better.

There was no way to make things better. She’d made a mess of her life and that was it. End of story. No happy ending, no recovery, no nothing. Except pain; that seemed to be the one constant in her life. And she knew she deserved it. She deserved worse. Right now she couldn’t fathom what worse could possibly be, but if there was something, she deserved it.

Her mind wandered momentarily to what might be happening outside this place. Tim was going to call her boss and let him know what was going on. Though Monica thought he’d been angry enough to hit her if he’d been that kind of man, Tim still promised to take care of a few things while she was in detox. She had given him the keys to her house and asked him to let Hank have a look around, in case she decided to sell.

Monica wondered what Tim might be doing now, and why he didn’t just give up on her. She half wanted him to. It would make things that much easier. The mocking voice in her mind assured her that Tim hated her. She should just leave, go back to life as she knew it, and not look back. Tim wouldn’t keep his promises anyway. He’d teach her a lesson yet to pay her back for lying to and hurting him.

The nurse came in then, and informed her Tim had called to see how she was doing. The nurse also said he had taken care of the things he’d promised, and that he was praying for her.

Monica didn’t get her hopes up, but the fact he’d called meant something, didn’t it? That maybe Tim wasn’t as mad as she thought, and would forgive her. She clung to this new hope like a life line. She would stay the three days even if it killed her. And it just might. She rolled over and allowed herself to be sucked into another round of worrisome sleep.


The air was cool and sweet as it blew against Monica’s cheek. She was in an open field, lying on her back, resting on a picnic blanket. Beside her was an open basket, full of her favorite things. Trees dotted the hillside where she rested, blocking the sun from her eyes. She was searching for shapes in the sky among the clouds. So far she hadn’t seen anything she recognized, but she was enjoying her rest.

She leaned up on one elbow as steps approached. Walking toward her out of the woods was Sarah. She was an adult, and she was beautiful. She smiled as she walked, happy to see Monica there waiting for her. There was a young man coming behind her, and he, too was smiling.

Monica sat up and made room for them on her blanket, but they walked past her. They didn’t seem to see her there, or if they did they ignored her. She called to them to come and join her, but they kept walking. They walked all the way across the field and into the wood on the other side.

Monica wanted to spend time with the beautiful girl that was her daughter. She wanted to know what made her smile so sweetly, and wanted to ask who the young man at her side was. She got up and brushed off the back of her capris. She took a look around; making sure no one else was coming, grabbed up the blanket and basket, and then followed the path Sarah and the young man had made in the grass.

A few feet from the wood Monica stopped. Her heart accelerated, and she felt afraid. She wanted to see Sarah, but she didn’t want to enter the darkness of the wood alone. The basket and blanket felt unusually heavy as they rested on her arm.

Happy laughter floated on the breeze coming out of the wood, and made Monica want to find Sarah even more. She entered the wood and easily slipped through the trees. As she continued, they grew closer together, making it harder and harder to ease through. She walked for a few minutes before it was too difficult.

The trees were now situated in such a way that she could not continue. As much as she wanted to find Sarah and her young man, she couldn’t. Not while she held the basket. But Monica didn’t know how long she would be inside, and was sure she would need the things in the basket once she found them. The things in the basket were precious to her, and she couldn’t imagine leaving them behind.

Monica looked down at the basket and then again at the wood. Bubbling laughter echoed among the trees, drawing her a few steps closer. The basket slipped down into her hand, and she let it rest gently against the ground. She tried to take another step forward, but the weight of the basket prevented it.

She let the handle slip until she was just holding it with the tips of her fingers. She took a step forward, then another, letting the basket slip completely out of her grasp. She turned back and looked at the basket. It was tearing at her to leave it behind. But as she entered the wood, the laughter rang about, bouncing off the trunk of every tree, and bringing a smile to her face. She searched for Sarah and the young man, but found no one.

The farther she went into the wood, the darker it became. Light no longer filtered through the tops of the trees. She turned to look back at the wood where she’d left her basket, but it was obscured by the twisting trunks of wood.

Monica walked slowly, listening now and then to catch a snippet of the laughter she’d heard before. Silence met her, breaking only when she took a step. She felt so alone. The wood was dark, the way was hard, and she desperately wanted to turn around and claim her basket. Just when she was about to give in to despair, she heard the faint sound of voices just beyond where she stood.

“Mother? Come and find us. We’re on the other side of the wood. Come and find us!” Sarah’s voice rang out clearly, a lilting sound that cheered Monica’s spirit. She walked on, hurrying through the thick growth of trees desperately wanting to find Sarah. The farther she went through the wood, the harder it was to see. She felt turned around, unsure of what direction she faced.

She stopped for a moment to gather her bearings. As she stood still and waited, a path became clear to her. One part of the forest wasn’t as dense as the others. She began to slowly walk down that path.

“Mother…are you coming? I’m waiting for you. We’re waiting for you. Mother, please come to us!” Sarah called out sweetly again. Monica slipped carefully through the tight trunks toward the sound of Sarah’s voice.

She continued through the wood, and as she rounded the trunk of the largest tree she’d ever seen, she saw the wood began to thin. Sunlight gleamed through the leaves, making an interesting pattern on the forest floor. Sarah and the young man waited for her at the other side of the wood. They held out their arms, calling to her, and she ran to them, laughing with joy.

Monica awoke with a smile on her face. No longer did she feel the weight of recovery bearing down on her. She no longer felt alone. For the first time, she thought maybe others really wanted her to get well. She had the strangest sensation that the Lord was speaking to her through this dream. She sat up slowly, stretching out the aches from her muscles.

She would fight through this. Sarah wanted her to. Tim and the Lepleys wanted her to. They were waiting for her to let go of the cocaine. To come out of this addiction, the twisted wood that was her life right now. She would do it for Sarah. For them. For herself.

She walked to the bathroom and washed her face. When she looked in the mirror this time, she didn’t see a woman beaten down by addiction. She saw a woman determined to get well, no matter what it took. She knew the road was long, that the way would be hard, but she was determined to get through it. Just like in her dream, she would take one step at a time. And when the path got too rough, she would stop and wait until the Lord showed her the clear way.

Monica's spirit felt strengthened, renewed somehow. She remembered back to the conversation she'd had with the nurse. Tim had asked about her. Surely he hadn't forgotten to pray. She would pray too. She shuffled back to her bed, straightened the covers, then sat beside it on the cold tile, and talked to the Lord.

Chapter Thirty Two

The first few miles were driven in silence. Sarah had been impressed with the car, but she was sure it belonged to Tyler’s dad. It was a new model, immaculate, and buffed to shine in the afternoon sunlight. Tyler finally asked Sarah “So, what’s in the packages?”

Sarah looked to the back seat where she’d placed her duffle and the container of scones. “Well, I wasn’t sure what I should wear,” she brought a hand up to her right ear and lightly touched the earring there. “You didn’t tell me what we’d be doing, so I packed some different clothes, just in case. And the plastic container has blueberry scones that Joyce and I made this afternoon. It was my first time baking, but I think they should be alright.”

“Scones? I’ve never had those before. Sounds good. I love blueberries.” Tyler stole a quick glance at Sarah. “And your clothes are fine, trust me. You look very nice.” She looked better than very nice. She was beautiful. He’d never seen her with her hair up other than in a ponytail. Her profile was very feminine, and her skin was very smooth. He had a hard time keeping his eyes on the road.

He wasn’t sure how to tell her they would be spending the evening with his family. It had sounded like a good idea in his mind, but maybe it would be overwhelming for her. That was the last thing he wanted. And with the way she looked, he wouldn’t mind sitting across a table from her, alone, talking for the evening.

He cleared his throat and decided just to say it. “Hey Sarah, would you mind terribly if we just hung out at my house tonight? My family will be home, and they’d really like to get to know you better.” He stole a glance at her and didn’t notice any immediate expression on her face. But he added quickly, “If you don’t want to, that’s fine. Just tell me and I’ll call dad and let him know there’s been a change of plans. No problem.”

Sarah Stiffened and took a moment to answer. She didn’t want to feel like she was on display tonight. Tyler and his dad had been very nice, but what if his family asked a lot of questions? She was deeply ashamed of her past and didn’t want to have to explain that. She wasn’t good at meeting new people. But she also didn’t want Tyler to be offended. Obviously this is something he wanted.

Well, she would trust the Lord to help her through it. She wouldn’t answer questions that made her uncomfortable, and if things got really bad she would just ask to be taken home. She forced a smile to her lips before replying.

“Sure, that sounds nice. Can you tell me about your family? I’m sure you’ve told them something about me. I just want to level the playing field a little.” Sarah hoped it would help her relax to know a little about the people she was going to meet.

“Let’s see, I guess I should start from the top down. My brother Nate is the next oldest after me. He’s fifteen. He’s awesome at baseball, likes cars, and has brown hair and eyes. He’s a nice guy, but really keeps to himself.

“After him there’s a bit of a gap. Jessica and Amy are next. They’re eight years old, and they are twins. You’ll know it too. A lot of people get them mixed up. They both have light hair and blue eyes like me. They talk way too much, will want to be your new best friends, and probably embarrass me.” He smiled at Sarah before continuing.

“Last but not least is Josh. He’s six and really into dinosaurs. A few weeks ago he wouldn’t answer unless we called him T-Rex. It was funny at first, but then mom got a letter from his teacher…and that put a real stop to it.” Josh chuckled and glanced at Sarah. Her face has a soft expression on it, and he could tell she was interested in learning about his family. Tyler went on. “He still growls when answering no to a question, but it’s better than it was.” Tyler laughed as he recalled dinner just the week before. Josh sure was a character.

Sarah sat and took it all in, trying to picture in her mind what the family would be like. There were so many kids! They sounded normal enough. She went over and over their names in her mind, trying to memorize them before they arrived. She’d never been around twins before, nor did she have any brothers. She thought it might be fun to have little sisters for a night.

As they neared Tyler’s house, Sarah tried not to grow more nervous. This was not like her old neighborhood. The houses here were huge, each with a meticulously groomed lawn. Every house had at least two garages, most three, with various new model cars parked in the drives. None of the houses were covered in siding, but each had a unique stone or brick facing, bringing the whole scale of the neighborhood up a notch.

Sarah looked down at her clothes again and hoped she looked ok. She smoothed her hands down her jean legs, then patted her hair, wishing she could look in a mirror without Tyler seeing her. She ran her tongue over her teeth, felt they were clean, and let out a small sigh.

As she looked out the window, she couldn’t help but wonder if the people living in these houses were happy. She’d taken runs through neighborhoods like this before, and had seen at times only two older people living in a house obviously built for a large family. She wondered what made people do that.

Once she had risen very early in the morning for a run, and when passing a large home like these, she heard the husband and wife arguing. They had said some very hateful things to one another. Sarah figured money didn’t make people happy, although it sure gave the appearance of perfection.

There was a very large house at the end of the cul de sac that made Sarah’s eyes widen. It was like a doll house. She had imagined a million times in her youth living in a house just like it, with a new family full of brothers and sisters. And parents who loved one another.

Tyler glanced over and followed her gaze. “That’s my house. The whole family was planning on being here. It should be a fun night.” He parked the car, turned off the engine, and faced Sarah. “Are you ready?” He took in the look on her face, and decided they could both use a little help from the Lord. “Would you like me to pray?” he asked.

Sarah nodded absently. Her insides were quaking, and she thought about telling him to just take her back home. But she closed her eyes and listened with quiet thanks as Tyler asked God to help her relax, and for them all to have a good time. Sarah then opened the door, and tried to get out, forgetting to remove her seat belt. An earring caught on the strap, and her head was jerked to an odd angle. She quickly sat back, disentangled her earring, and took a deep breath.

Her cheeks blushed as she turned to the side to release the clasp. Tyler had already exited the car, and she was relieved he hadn’t seen her. He helped her get her things from the back seat, and then they walked to the house. Sarah worked hard at controlling her breathing, while taking in the massiveness of the home.

The lawn was lush and green, with a stone walkway running from the drive to the front door. Along the front of the house were flower beds full of hydrangeas, lavender, and a few other plants Sarah didn’t know.

A tall Maple stood sentry at the far side of the lawn, its little helicopter seeds flying down toward the ground in their trademark twirly pattern.
The front of the house was lined with large, sparkling windows. As they approached the front entrance, Sarah took in the stone face of the small porch. She placed her hand against the cool rock, and tried to settle herself down.

Sarah reminded herself they were just people. No, they were Christian people. Surely that would make a difference. That thought did comfort her some. So did Tyler’s reassuring smile as he opened the door for her. Sarah didn’t want to be the first to enter the house, but she couldn’t refuse his gentlemanliness. As she stepped through the doorway, she saw the family all lined up, waiting to greet her. The look on Tyler’s mother’s face calmed her instantly. Maybe this wouldn’t be so hard after all.

Chapter Thirty One

It was late Saturday afternoon, and Tim was headed to the Lepley’s to explain what was going on with Monica. Surely they would wonder what happened when they didn’t hear from her. Tim was convinced the Lepleys would be crucial to Monica’s recovery; like parental figures. They would help reassure Monica and would most definitely pray faithfully for her. When he arrived at their house, he took a moment to pray. He didn’t want his emotions from the previous night’s happenings to add unnecessary drama to the story. Tim wanted to meet with them to formulate a game plan of how they would continue to support Monica when she was released, should she still desire to stay clean.

Lord, I’m here for one reason. I want Monica to have the best support system available when she’s released. Hank and Joyce have offered themselves and their home to her whenever necessary. I want Your words and Your heart of compassion to lead this discussion. Please help us formulate a realistic plan to help Monica. Please be with her at the center, as I’m sure it’s not going well right now. Comfort her body, protect her mind, and help her accept the therapy offered to get past the constant need for the drug. I remember those days. It’s horrible. Thank you for the opportunity she has to get clean, and help her not to waste it. In the name of Jesus I pray, amen.

As he walked with a confident step toward the front porch to ring the bell, he noticed a car with two young people inside backing down the drive from behind the house. Tim didn’t know who lived with the Lepleys at the moment, but he slipped up a hand in greeting as the young man saluted. Tim turned his attention back to the house. He felt good about what would happen here. Hank and Joyce had always been behind his ministry, and the first to volunteer to be a support system for people going through the program.

Hank answered the door. “Hey, Tim. Glad you could make it. Come on in. The Missus is just putting together a little something for us to snack on while we chat. Make yourself at home.” Hank waved at the couple now at the street, then opened the door wider for Tim to step through.

The men shook hands, and Tim replied “Thanks, Hank. I know these aren’t ideal circumstances, but we knew Monica would have to go through detox sooner rather than later. I just have to fill you in on a couple details prior to her admittance to the center.” They paused in the entryway for a moment before Joyce could be heard from the kitchen.

“Now Timothy, you just take that jacket right off and make Hank hang it on the hooks in the entry way. Then you get settled in at the table. I’ll join you in a minute. Hank, make sure you hang up his jacket.” The men smiled at one another as the clattering in the kitchen continued. Tim thought he smelled cinnamon. As Hank took his coat, he sniffed the air loudly. “Yep, she made her world-famous cinnamon coffee cake, and a few other trays of things. I’m not sure what all is there. But it looked good. I just got a small peek before getting shooed out of the way.”

Tim raised both his eyebrows, but before he could comment Hank summed up his thoughts. “She always makes way more food than we need, but somehow before whatever gathering is over, most of it manages to be gone. Watch yourself.” With that he patted his protruding abdomen and led Tim to the dining room table. A moment later Joyce came in carrying a tray laden with baked goods and mugs of coffee. “I wasn’t sure when you’d eaten last, so I made some food. Hope you like cucumber and tomato sandwiches. And there’s a coffee cake and blueberry scones. I’ll be right back. I just need to get another tray.”

She bustled out again, and the men began filling their plates. The food all looked good to Tim, who hadn’t eaten lunch that day. The table was set with the plates all at one end, and the trays of food on the other. Joyce was making her last trek into the kitchen, and returning with a tray of cold drinks. She put the final tray in place, sat down with a sigh and said “There. I think we’re finally ready to pray. Tim, would you do the honors please?” Tim said a short prayer asking for wisdom during their meeting, thanking God again for the Lepleys and blessing the food.

Conversation was light during the meal, and Tim purposely didn’t get into any important details until his appetite was satisfied. Tim pushed his plate away and refused more food. He was debating mentioning he would host the next meeting, if only to save him from gaining a belly like Hank’s. Joyce certainly was a fine cook. He would have to show better control in the future. Either that or increase his daily run.

“So as you can see, it won’t be easy from here on out.” He began. “There is obviously no trust on my end. I think the sooner she gets into Charlotte’s place in Tennessee, the better. You know how many people she has helped. Sometimes just a change of scenery and a real chance to start over is all people need. That and the Lord, of course.” Joyce had been nodding her agreement.

“I think it’s a fine idea, Tim. But we need to wait and see what happens these next three days. Do you think she’ll make it? Hank looked over at Tim too, a question in his eyes. “If she doesn’t, what’s the next step? It’s all well and good to plan things out like all will go the way we want, but you know better than we do how quickly circumstances change. What if she leaves the detox and you can’t find her? Sure, you know where she lives, but there’s no guarantee she’ll let you help again.”

Tim had thought about that. He knew he couldn’t force Monica to do things his way. Tonight the Lord had totally intervened. There had been a room for her, and a space in the program she’d needed. He was confident she would see through the three days. “You know, I just have a feeling it’s going to be ok. I think the Lord really opened the door here, and they way things stand, I think she’s too scared not to follow through. I made it perfectly clear that I was done playing games.” I plan on calling up there tonight to check in. What they tell me will give me a good idea of what we’re up against. I’m sure she’s wishing she never met me.” Tim gave a wry smile. “Whatever the case, we just need to be vigilant in prayer. The Enemy is going to be hitting her hard while she’s there, bringing up all kinds of failures in her past, her addiction, her thoughts, and using them against her to make her want to leave and get a hit. She’s still under the impression it’s the only thing that will help her.”

He looked back and forth between the Lepleys. “But we know better." Hank gave him an understanding smile, and spoke. "Why don’t we bring it before the Lord right now? We’ve talked about everything we can. The Lord will lead in the rest. Would you like to start Tim?” Hank asked gently. Tim did.

They took the next hour to pray for Monica. They prayed for her physical recovery; that it would be quick and complete, and also spent quite a while asking the Lord to protect her mind from the things the Enemy would surely throw at her. Joyce asked that God would show her His love, and allow them to continue to be a positive influence on her life. She prayed any bitterness that Monica held onto would be shattered, and she would see herself as God saw her, and claim the blood of Jesus every day.

It was a refreshing time for them all, and brought them closer together, uniting them further in their purpose. They knew God wanted to do something wonderful in Monica’s life. They just had to trust that His will was perfect, no matter the outcome. They also had to trust that Monica would listen to the Lord.

Chapter Thirty

Sarah walked back to her apartment after the mall trip with Joyce. Joyce. She still couldn’t believe Mrs. Lepley wanted her to use her first name. She would have to get used to it.

Sarah noticed her bag still by the front door, ready to bring on her date with Tyler. A quick glance at the clock on the DVD player told her she had an hour and a half before Tyler came to pick her up.

Her hair was still up tight in the claw clip, and she was pleased with her clothing. After lunch she and Joyce had done some more window shopping, and Sarah had found a few pairs of earrings she liked. Joyce encouraged her to purchase them, saying she definitely needed them.

Sarah had laughed at the time, but Joyce explained that although Sarah needed to be careful with her spending, the earrings were on sale, and she had worked very hard to earn her full college scholarship, so she deserved a little treat for herself.

As she walked into her bedroom, she took them out of the small bag the store had placed them in, and held them each up to the light. The first pair was dangly; delicate, beaded silver metal chandeliers that matched the pink in her button up shirt exactly. She still felt little self-conscious buying things that weren’t necessary for survival, but that was something she would have to get over.

She put them on and looked at her reflection in the mirror above her dresser. She was pretty, she supposed. At least she looked presentable. She practiced the kind of smile she would use when she met Tyler’s parents.

After a few moments she started feeling silly, and quit. She saw her Bible in the reflection of the mirror. She had left it on her bed when she answered the door earlier that morning.

Sarah sat on the edge of her bed and prayed silently to the Lord.

Jesus, I am nervous. The closer the time comes to going, the more I don’t want to. I know Tyler is a nice guy, and his dad was really nice too, but what if I’m out of place at their house? Surely Tyler has told his mom about me. Please help me to be myself, to honor you with my words and actions, and to have a good time. Help me not to continue shutting people out.

Thank you for the Lepleys and the love they’ve shown me. I know Your people are so good. I am learning to be more open. I pray you would keep us safe as we drive around, and let it be a great time. I love you Lord, and thank you for letting me make a friend before I go away to school. It’s a nice feeling. In Christ’s name, amen.

Sarah wandered around her apartment for a while, restless. Even after putting away her few breakfast dishes, Tyler wouldn’t be coming for another hour. Sarah decided to go and see if Joyce needed help preparing food for the meeting she was hosting later that afternoon. Sarah wasn’t sure how many people were coming, but from the load of groceries Joyce purchased, Sarah thought it must be quite a crowd.

She decided it wouldn’t hurt to ask- the worst Joyce would say is no. If she would just be in the way, Joyce would tell her. Sarah took a last glance around to make sure everything was in place, locked her apartment, slipped her keys in her jeans pocket, and headed around to the front of the Lepley’s house.


Joyce answered the door and was pleasantly surprised to see Sarah standing there. She looked like she needed something to keep her mind off the upcoming outing.

She opened the door with a smile, welcoming Sarah inside. After brushing her hands off on her apron, she asked “What can I do for you? Oh- those earrings make the outfit! Not that it didn’t look nice before, but those are just the right touch. Anyway, how can I help you?”

Sarah had lifted her hands to her ears at the mention of her new earrings, and was now lowering them back to her sides.

“Well, I have nothing to do, honestly, and I was wondering if I could help you prepare the food for your meeting? If I’ll be in the way, I understand. There’s always the TV downstairs, or my Bible I could read. Or I could walk laps around the back yard.” Sarah looked sheepish at her rambling.

Joyce laughed. “Goodness. I think that’s the most I’ve ever heard you say at once! You must be nervous. You just come on in here and help me out. I appreciate it. Hank likes to eat, but the prep work is not his forte. There’s lots to do.”

Sarah followed Joyce into the spacious kitchen, and was immediately handed an apron. She slipped it carefully over her head and tied it around her waist.

“You do not want those pretty clothes to get ruined mixing scone dough. Flour goes everywhere.” Joyce fluttered her hands about to illustrate her point. “The recipe is there on the counter. I just finished gathering the ingredients. Let me know if you have any questions.”

Sarah looked at the recipe, and was at a loss. She had never baked before. She thought maybe she could do something simple like chop up stuff, or wash dishes. Make scones on her own? No, this was beyond her. She was debating what to do about it when Joyce came up beside her.

“Sarah, have you ever baked before?” She asked kindly.

“No. I have no idea what to do. I mean, I can read the recipe, but I’ve never used a mixer or anything before. Could I wash dishes or something instead?” Sarah backed away from the counter a bit and looked hopefully at the sink.

Joyce put her hands on her hips and replied “Absolutely not! You need to learn to make things. Scones are really easy. I know it looks like a lot of instructions, but really they’re simple. Why don’t we make two batches and you can bring one with you to Tyler’s? That’s what we’ll do.”

So the next ten minutes were spent explaining baking terms, how to cut butter into flour, and then how to knead without overdoing it.

Sarah had successfully mixed in blueberries, patted the dough into a circle, and transferred it to the baking sheet without dropping or spilling anything.

She smiled at Joyce. “That was easier than I thought. Thank you.” She washed her hands in the sink and prepared to clean off the counter. “What’s next?”

“Well, now,” Joyce began. “I think the next thing to do is schedule cooking lessons. What do you say? We could do this every Saturday morning. We can bake, or cook- anything you like. And I would feel useful.”

Sarah didn’t know what to say. She was definitely interested. This had been a fun experience. She couldn’t wait to taste the scones, her first attempt at baking.

As Sarah put the baking pan in the oven, she answered “I think that would be great. I would love to learn how to cook. I’ve never had the chance to before, but I think I like it. Thank you, Joyce.”

Sarah then learned how to make the glaze that would be drizzled over the scones before putting them in a plastic container for traveling.

When they were all finished, Sarah had ten minutes before Tyler was supposed to come. She bid Joyce goodbye, let herself out, and tried to be calm as she carried the scones to her apartment at the back of the house.

She let herself in and checked her face in the mirror. She couldn’t see any flour, but she wiped at her cheeks just to make sure. She checked her hair again, was satisfied that it was holding fine, and sat on the living room, waiting. Her stomach felt nervous with excitement. She sat forward on the couch, then leaned back again, and finally stood looking carefully out the window. She hoped Tyler wouldn’t be late. The waiting was killing her.

Chapter Twenty Nine

Monica awoke to the sound of her name being called. At first she felt like she was at the end of a long tunnel just catching the end of an echo. Gradually the voice became louder, clearer, and she felt someone shaking her gently.

“Monica. Monica. Time to try and wake up. Doctor Huffman is here for an evaluation.” A nurse was in the room, had been the one speaking.

Monica’s eyes opened reluctantly. The light of the room pained her, and she shut them again. “What kind of evaluation? I feel like crap. Really bad crap. What else does he need to know?”

The nurse was not put off. “You need to sit up and let him ask you some questions. Then you need to try and eat something. It’s been almost nine hours. Come on, let’s try.”

Monica groaned as the nurse tried to help her sit up. Her muscles were sore, like she’d just had the workout of her life. She was also extremely irritable. “Stop pulling so hard! I’m achy here. I can do this myself.” She jerked her arms away from the nurse and attempted to sit at the edge of the bed.

Nausea hit her immediately, and although she had eaten nothing since the afternoon before, she dry heaved. The doctor stood and ticked off things on some list Monica couldn’t see.

“What are you supposed to be doing? Why aren’t you asking me questions so you can get out of here?” She was annoyed by his presence.

“Alright. I’ll ask my questions and let you get back to resting. I can see you’re suffering from nausea and muscle aches. And,” he added with a chuckle “irritation and agitation. Anything else I should be aware of for now?”

“Well, when I went to the bathroom this morning my legs about gave out. I was pretty shaky.” The thought came to Monica that she might never be alright again. “This won’t last forever will it? I mean, my habit hasn’t messed me up this bad forever, right? This will go away soon. It has to.” She looked quickly back and forth between the doctor and the nurse.

Monica had a bit of a wild look in her eyes, a scared look. The doctor and nurse exchanged glances, and the doctor mouthed ‘paranoia’ to the nurse, and checked another box.

“Now, don’t you worry, Monica. We’ve got some medicinal drugs to help counter the effects of the cocaine in your system. These next few days and weeks are not going to be easy. You’re going to be moody and achy a lot of the time. But if you trust us to help you, we can work together to make your system clean. Can we count on your cooperation?”

Monica nodded absently, and wondered when she could go back to sleep. It seemed to be the only cure for the pain and emotions she felt. But to sleep meant to dream, and she didn’t want to do that either.

The doctor wrapped up the brief meeting and headed off to do other work. The nurse remained, offering Monica a lunch tray. She understood if Monica didn’t want to eat, but reminded her that the shakiness would not go away without some nutrition. Then she left as well.

Monica sat still on the edge of her bed, unsure of what to do. She felt terrible physically. She was angry and wanted a hit badly. She looked over the lunch tray and picked at a fruit cup. The other food was left untouched.

She climbed back onto her bed, and sat with her back propped up with pillows against the wall. She folded her arms and let her head rest against them, propped on her knees. It had been less than twelve hours since her arrival and she already wanted to die. The doctor had said the upcoming weeks would be hard. Weeks?

She was going to feel like this for weeks? This was not ok. Something had to give. Either they would fix her immediately or she would leave to get a fix.

Three days. You promised three days.

“I never…” Monica started to argue with the Voice in her mind, but remembered her promise.

Monica gritted her teeth. “Alright!” She shouted to the air. “I’ll stay for three days. But I’m not promising any more than that. You’ll just have to get over it.”

Then she remembered Who the Voice belonged to, and she was suddenly afraid He would strike her dead. And although she had wanted that earlier, she thought about Sarah and wanted to live. She wanted, if she survived this ordeal, to find her and try to make things right. She had to.

A new voice made its way into her thoughts.

Like she wants anything to do with you now. After all you’ve done? Right. She probably wishes you were dead. Maybe she thinks you already are. You’ll never get better anyway. What’s the point?

Monica tried to shut out the voice, but it was persistent in making her discouraged, trying to convince her it was hopeless. Maybe it was. The thing she wanted most of all was a hit, even more than she wanted to make things right with Sarah.


Tim was just returning home from a long run through the neighborhood to try and shake the mounting stress since dealing with Monica the night before. He had given his anger and frustration over to the Lord, and he felt somewhat better.

Still, there was a lot to work out before Monica was released. And though it was probably a good two weeks away at the least, he wanted to be ready. He had already called the Lepleys that morning to set up a strategy meeting for later that afternoon.

They were great people; real supports for those trying to overcome addictions. Time and again the Lepleys had opened not only their hearts, but their home to people in need.

Tim knew those recovering from addictions were not always easy people to be around, and knew without a doubt that God had given the Lepleys a special grace to minister to them.

As he thought about all the Lepleys had done in the past few years to help the ministry get off the ground, he poured himself a glass of water, and headed upstairs to shower.

He wanted plenty of time to spend in prayer, asking the Lord for wisdom and guidance. If there was one thing he had learned in the time he’d been leading Celebrate Recovery, it was that God knew exactly what every addict needed to recover. Tim planned to make sure he was led by the Spirit in his dealing with Monica. That was the only way to ensure he would actually be helpful.

And based on how his own detox had gone, Monica must have been starting to feel the effects about now. Surely she wasn’t sleeping well either, and that wouldn’t help. God would have to work on her behalf and heal her from the inside out. Hopefully she would cooperate.

Chapter Twenty Eight

Mrs. Lepley and Sarah walked into the mall from the covered parking garage. There weren’t many people out for a Saturday, and Sarah assumed it had something to do with the weather forecast. She glanced at her cell phone and saw the time was eleven fifteen. They had plenty of time to shop without rushing. Mrs. Lepley looked over at Sarah and smiled. “You know, dear, with you living at our house, and being an employee at the library, what do you say it’s time you started calling me Joyce? I mean, you’re almost a high school graduate. Are you ok with that?”

Sarah was surprised, but pleased. “Yes, that’s fine, if that’s what you want, Joyce.” She laughed then and Mrs. Lepley joined her.

“Sounds good. Since we’re out shopping as friends, I would say it’s better to call me Joyce. I don’t call my friends Mrs. Williams, or Mrs. Johnson. I call them Patty and Tonya.” She gestured to the near-empty mall. “Looks like lots of folks decided to stay home today. Oh well, more good stuff for us!”

They walked in silence for a while, just glancing in shop windows here and there. Then Joyce wanted to turn into a large department store. “They always have more selection, and are cheaper than the specialty shops.” She stopped Sarah with a hand on her arm. “Not that I plan to buy something cheap, mind you. Hank’s brother,” she paused for a second before sharing her thought. “Well now I guess you should call him Hank too, if you’re calling me Joyce.”

She laughed at herself, then continued her train of thought as they entered the store. “Hank’s brother can always tell where you’ve purchased something, and if it’s inferior quality. So, I will be purchasing something nice but not too nice. I do have a budget.”

Sarah just nodded, and wondered what kind of person would care where a gift was purchased. It should mean a lot that people remembered his birthday at all, rather than how much they spent on it. Sarah would never understand some people.

As she strolled through the store, Sarah noticed many clothes for young women were very immodest. There were so many halter tops, low rise jeans, and tight fitting shirts, that she would have been hard pressed to find something for her date if necessary. Didn’t those girls know that men liked the look of those kind of clothes, but cared nothing about the person inside?

She shook her head and followed Joyce. They ended up in men’s wear. Joyce was rummaging through shirt and tie sets, and muttering under her breath. Finally she threw her hands up in the air and said “Well, I don’t know what to get him. Doesn’t seem like a thing in here fits who Jim is.”

Sarah shrugged a shoulder and twisted her mouth to one side in agreement. Not that she knew the man. “Joyce, does Hank’s brother know Christ?”

“Yes he does. He’s been a Christian for almost forty years. Why do you ask?”

Sarah wasn’t sure she should suggest what she was thinking, but what could it hurt? “Well, I was thinking that if he was a committed Christian, then he might like a donation made to a ministry in his name. You know, a worthy cause like a children’s home or a battered woman’s shelter. Don’t you think that would be a better use of money than giving him something he may ultimately turn up his nose at when you’re not around?”

Joyce thought for a moment before breaking out in a genuine grin. Even her eyes lit up as the idea took root. “You know what? We make much too big a deal of birthdays, don’t we? I think your suggestion is just what I’m looking for. I’ll buy him an expensive card, and write a note with a tax receipt inside, proving the donation to him.” Joyce laughed.

“I can’t wait to see his face!” She covered her mouth with her hands in mock surprise of what she had just let slip out of her mouth. “I mean, I can’t wait to help out a ministry. What a blessing it will be.” Then she cleared her throat in a teasing way, and lead them out of the department store and over to the stationery store.

There were many cards for all occasions, and they finally found the section reserved for birthdays. After narrowing it down to the ‘brother’ category, they began the search for the perfect card.

Many of them were too lame, or too serious to give. Some were corny with a mismatched rhyme scheme. Others had cartoon drawings which weren’t what Joyce wanted at all. Several had made them both laugh out loud, and a couple made them blush. Those were replaced quickly while looking over their shoulders to make sure no one had seen them read them.

Finally Sarah picked up a card with a picture of a sunset over the mountains on the front and words that said ‘For you dear Brother, on your birthday’ in a nice script. On the inside was a Bible verse and a sentiment that fit what Joyce wanted exactly.

“Perfect! Thank you, Sarah. Now we can go get some lunch. My treat.”

Sarah didn’t understand why Joyce was always treating her, but she wouldn’t turn down the offer. Her stomach grumbled, and they made their way toward the food court.


Tyler was in the middle of waxing the car when his dad came outside to join him. “Hey, Son. You’re doing a great job there. You know you could’ve just taken it down to Clean and Shine and had them do this.”

Tyler put down his rag for a minute and wiped his brow. “Yeah, I know. But then what would I do? It’s exactly” he looked at his watch “four hours and ten minutes before I need to be there. Three hours and forty minutes before I need to leave the house. What am I supposed to do with all that time?” He grinned at his Dad and went back to working the wax into the car.

“Is there anything you want to talk about Ty? You know, I’ve been where you are before. This is your first time to be with Sarah in a social environment. I know you want to have a good time, and I think you will. But make sure you don’t set the bar too high. Remember our policy on dating. It’s not just going out with a series of girls to pass the time while you wait for the one God has planned for you. You will take this time to get to know Sarah.

“We’ll get to know her too. She just came to the Lord, and she has a lot of emotional baggage that won’t be easy to deal with. Right now what she needs most is a friend who will pray with her and for her. Don’t let any romantic ideas cloud things. Pray and let the Lord guide this friendship.”

He walked over to place a hand on Tyler’s shoulder. “You know your mother and I love you very much and are proud of you, right?” Tyler nodded. “And we want God’s very best for your life. So many young men your age are fixated on sex and the female body that they never get to know the person inside the body. Get my drift?"

Tyler looked up at him, squinting against the sun. He finally raised a hand to shade his eyes. “Yeah Dad, I know. I’m not trying to make this out to be any big deal. It’s just that I feel like God wants me to be there for her. We’ll be at the same college, and I guess I want her to feel like she can count on me if she needs something. That’s all. She’s had such a hard life, and yet she’s so sweet.” He dropped his hand and lowered his head. “I don’t know. I think she’d like to see what a real family is like, don’t you?”

Tyler’s dad was filled with pride at his son’s words. He knew Tyler was a young man following God, but it was good to hear his thoughts confirm it. “Yeah Son, I do. Thanks for talking with me. Want some help? This could cut into clothes- picking time you know.” He laughed then, and Tyler lightly whipped him with his rag.

“Yeah, I guess if your old back can take all the bending, I could use your help. But I don’t want to hear about it tomorrow when you can’t get out of bed.” Tyler’s dad grimaced and made like he was an old geezer, bending over with one hand on his back, and shaking the other when he reached toward the rag Tyler offered him.

He spoke in a strained whisper with his lips curled as if he had no teeth. “Say Sonny, do you think you could hand me that rag there? I’m afraid if I try to reach it meself that I’ll fall right over. Hips ain’t what they used to be ya know.”

Tyler threw the rag playfully at his dad’s face. His dad caught it in midair with his left hand. “Hey, you catch pretty good for an old geezer. You’re not even left-handed. Maybe you’ll be alright.” Tyler said. They shared a good chuckle then got to work.

Chapter Twenty Seven

Monica’s first night at Detox was miserable. Miserably boring, that is. She had been made to sit down with a doctor for a full medical history and evaluation, informing him of how much and how often she’d used, and when the last hit she’d had was. Though the doctor was nice enough, it wasn’t a pleasant experience.

She didn’t like talking about her habit as an addiction. She wasn’t really addicted. She was an occasional user. She used it to party hard, or when she needed an escape from the mounting problems of her past. The fact that the need for escape had been daily escaped her.

Since she’d been almost 30 hours without a hit or bad craving, she didn’t expect to have many withdrawal symptoms. But the doctor informed her that she was probably nervous and her adrenaline was over-producing, warding off the effects of withdrawal. Once she was settled at the center she would begin to feel it in earnest.

She lay in her bed that night with nothing to do, no books to read, no TV, no movies. Just her thoughts. And that was not such a good thing. Her mind kept wandering to the events of the past few days.

She had never stolen before for any reason. Not even for her habit. There had been no reason to steal. She had a good job and made sure what she couldn’t pay was put on her tab with Joe. Why did she steal the ball from Tim? She couldn’t think of an immediate reason.

The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it?

What? Where did that thought come from? Monica knew it was a Bible verse, but didn’t know why it had popped into her mind. She didn’t want to think about her wicked heart. She knew it was wicked. All she had to do was hear the name Sarah, and she would flash back to images of wickedness she’d allowed that immediately filled her with remorse and brought tears to her eyes.

Monica pushed those feelings aside. There was a logical reason she’d stolen the ball. It would just take her a moment to think of it.

There is a way that seemeth right to man, but the end thereof is the way of death.

More verses? What was wrong with her brain? Couldn’t she get any of her own thoughts out? Right now she was still angry with Tim for bringing her here and making it look like it was her decision. She wanted to wallow in her misery for a while.

Monica knew she could leave at any time with no questions asked, but was afraid what Tim might do. He could decide to press charges about the theft. Even though Monica wasn’t entirely sure she even needed to be at the center, she decided to give the place three days. If nothing happened- no withdrawal symptoms at all, she would leave.

Monica rolled over on her side and tried to sleep. Snapshots of all that had happened over the past week, starting with her stealing Tim’s ball, flashed before her eyes. She squeezed her eyes tighter, trying to block the instant replay from her mind’s eye. The last image before she dozed off was that of Tim’s disappointed eyes looking at her, then leaving the detox center without another word.


Later that morning Monica awoke with a dry mouth and a headache. She felt like she hadn’t slept all night. The sheet was wrapped so tightly around her that she could hardly move her arms. When she finally untangled herself and rose from the bed, she found she was extremely irritable and threw the sheet away from her in frustration.

She was also shaky. Her legs carried her to the bathroom, but just barely. When she had washed her face and run a brush through her hair, she went to her room to get dressed.

The only choices were the center-issued day clothes. She was not looking forward to being seen in them. They were little more than glorified scrubs. But since Tim hadn’t told her where they were going, there had been no time to pack. She was stuck.

The thought of Tim made her feel so angry. As she pulled on the clothing, she seethed. Not only had thoughts of him troubled her sleep, he was so self-righteous it made her sick. Who did he think he was? Jesus? Didn’t he used to be addicted to drugs? What made him so much better than her now?

If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Monica thought for a moment about the scripture that had yet again come unbidden to her thoughts. Being in Christ had made Tim new. That was what happened. Well, she was in Christ too, so why wasn’t she changing?

Be not conformed to this world but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.

The words hit home. Monica had been conforming to the world. More than conforming, she had made it her home and been very comfortable there. She had spent so many years out of the will of God and living for self, allowing unspeakable things to go on under her roof, that she was surprised God had not killed her.

My mercy endures forever.

Monica sat back on her bed, ignoring the lumpy feel of the twisted sheet beneath her, and wondered if God could really mean it. His mercy endured forever? No matter what? A wave of nausea hit, and she raced to the bathroom. After she had emptied her stomach, she suddenly felt very tired. She slowly made her way on shaky legs back to bed and up onto her pillow. She gladly let herself fall into deep sleep.


Monica was holding a baby girl. The baby was a beautiful newborn. Perfect, with ten fingers and toes. She had dark hair and a perfect little round baby face. But the baby was changing. The baby kept growing in her arms until she was no longer a new born, but sitting up on her own across the room. She pointed a finger at Monica and said “Mama”.

Monica was very pleased that the baby was so smart. She walked over to place a kiss on the baby’s head and scoop her up onto her lap, but the baby pointed again and said “Bad Mama”.

Then the baby disappeared, and in her place were nurses and a doctor covered in blood. They were holding instruments used in abortions, and they were pointing to her and chanting “killer, killer, killer…”

That scene faded and another took its place. A different baby was on Monica’s lap. This baby she recognized as Sarah. Monica moved her head close and took a deep breath of her baby scent. She smelled so sweet, so full of promise.

This baby, too, grew quickly and became a toddler running from Monica. When Monica reached her arms out and called to Sarah to stop running, the child only looked back in fear and panic, running faster.

Then the child stopped abruptly, pointed a finger at Monica and shouted “It’s all your fault! All your fault!!”

Suddenly Monica was outside Sarah’s room listening to her daughter scream for help, pleading for her mother to stop what was about to happen. She plugged her ears and ran down the hall. She went down the stairs as fast as she could, to the front door.

Only there was no door. There were no windows either. She couldn’t get out. All she could do was hear Sarah’s screams louder and louder inside her head. She clawed at her ears, trying to make them stop.

She needed to get out of the house. She ran to the basement, hoping to escape through the storm doors, but as she tried to make the first step, she fell. She tumbled over and over again. She fell straight down for what seemed like miles, arms flailing, legs kicking, as though she was in water and could propel herself back to the surface.

Monica woke with a start. She leaned up on her elbows, and clutched the side of the bed with both hands, immediately becoming sick on the floor. What was happening to her? She wiped her mouth with her sleeve and lay back again on her pillow.

She needed a hit. That would calm her down and make these dreams go away. Cocaine was the only thing that had helped ease the pain of her poor life choices.

If only she hadn’t dropped the bag Boss had given her. She should have swallowed it. Then maybe she’d be dead by now instead of only wishing she was.

A nurse entered the room with a breakfast tray, saw the mess on the floor, and immediately turned around. Monica knew she must look horrible, but she didn’t care. She didn’t want to try and sleep again, but seemed helpless to do anything else for the moment. She lay there on her pillow and waited to see what the nurse would do. She wasn’t sure she wanted her to come back, even if it meant the room would stink and be a mess.

As her eyelids started to droop, a doctor came in and gave her an injection. She tried to protest, but it was too late. Monica relaxed a bit, against her will, and fell into a dreamless sleep.

Chapter Twenty Six

The morning sky outside Sarah’s bedroom window was decent-looking, though there were a few clouds in the sky. Sarah made her bed, took her ice cream bowl to the sink, washed it, and filled it with cereal for breakfast. Then she walked into the living room, turned on the weather channel, and sat in the oversized chair. It had easily become her favorite place to relax.

Sarah had slept soundly after taking time to give her fears over to God, and having a bowl of Muddy Sneakers ice cream. She flexed her legs in front of her, then put down her bowl and did a full body


The weather man was saying they were expecting some thunderstorms early in the afternoon, but things could clear up before bedtime.

Great. My first date with Tyler and it’s going to storm. Probably with my luck we’ll have a tornado and not be able to get together at all.

Sorry, Lord. I’m not complaining. Ok, I am. Help me to be thankful for the weather, and for the time I’ll get to spend getting to know Tyler better today. Don’t let the nasty weather affect my attitude.

Sarah turned the channel instead to cartoons to brighten her mood. She ate her cereal and laughed at the antics of the characters on the screen. When her cereal was gone, she turned off the TV and decided to get ready for the day.

She washed her bowl, showered and sat on her bed wondering what to wear. She only owned modest clothes, so she didn’t hesitate because of that, but she wasn’t sure what they would be doing. Should she wear a skirt, or casual pants?

She finally decided on her best pair of dark jeans paired with a white t-shirt and pink button up with three-quarter length sleeves. She also grabbed a light jacket and a small bag in which she placed a jean skirt and dressier shoes, just in case.

Then she looked in the mirror and tried to decide what to do with her hair. It was almost dry from her shower, and it hung down to her shoulders in a chestnut curtain. She dug in her top dresser drawer and pulled out a claw clip. She had seen the girls at school wear them and decided to try it out.

She struggled for a bit, with the clip shooting out of her hands and across the room several times before she got the hang of it. When she was satisfied, she had managed to pull it into a tight twist on the back of her head. She shook her head back and forth, testing the hold. It was perfect.

She sighed and wondered what she would do until it was time to leave. She placed her bag and jacket near the door so she wouldn’t forget them. Then she grabbed her Bible, took up her position in the overstuffed chair again, and spent an hour in God’s Word and prayer, dedicating the day and her feelings to Him.

She stretched again and went to pour herself a glass of orange juice, when a knock sounded at the door.

When Sarah opened the door, she found Mrs. Lepley standing outside. After inviting her in and asking her to sit, Sarah looked at her expectantly.

“Oh, I know this is your special day, but I was wondering if you’d do me a favor. By the way, your hair looks so nice like that. Anyway, I need to run out to the mall to get a gift for Mr. Lepley’s brother, and I didn’t want to go by myself. You know how men are.

“I asked Mr. Lepley what he wanted to get him, and he just looked at me and smiled, then said ‘Joyce I’m sure you’ll find the perfect thing’. So, I’m alone. And a woman never has as much fun shopping alone as she does when she brings a friend. Would you mind terribly coming with me? We won’t take long, I promise. I’ll have you back in plenty of time for Tyler to pick you up.”

Sarah was thankful for the distraction and accepted the invitation immediately. “Sure. That sounds great. I just finished getting ready, and was wondering what I could do to pass the time. This will be a great distraction.”

“Well then,” Said Mrs. Lepley, “let’s be off!” She rose from her perch on the couch and headed toward the door. Sarah put on her jacket, grabbed her keys and small wallet, and followed Mrs. Lepley out the door, locking up behind them.

“Thanks for doing this, Sarah. We’ll have a good time, I just know it.” Mrs. Lepley smiled as they situated themselves in the car and pulled out the driveway.


Tyler was anxious. Something about today didn’t feel right. He knew Sarah was a great girl, and needed lots of encouragement, especially in her new found faith, but something wasn’t sitting well with him.

Lord, what is it? Is this you trying to tell me to stay away from Sarah? I feel uneasy. Maybe it’s just nerves. I really like her a lot and want today to be special for her. I trust You to help me be a gentleman and show her a good time. Thanks Lord.

Tyler felt a little better after his talk with the Lord, but something still gnawed at him. Maybe he should check on the things his mom had prepared.

He left his room and walked down to the kitchen. Mom was in the middle of baking a cake. Tyler walked up behind her and stuck his finger deep into the bowl of batter, then licked his finger clean.

“Mmm. That’s fantastic, Mom. What else is on the menu for tonight?”

His mom smiled and put down the whisk. She placed her right hand on her hip and looked at Tyler. “Since it’s Saturday night, I thought we’d have homemade pizza like usual. Your Dad is planning to run out and get some chicken wings, and I’ll throw together a salad. That should be enough for dinner, don’t you think?” Tyler nodded.

His Mom continued. “Then we can do the things you have planned, and the cake of course.” She raised her eyebrows a bit and said “I hope Sarah isn’t uncomfortable being here with all of us. Your father said she’s shy and doesn’t like to be the center of attention. You may want to have a talk with your siblings before she gets here.” His mother cleared her throat in a knowing way, reminding Tyler his sisters asked a lot of questions.

Tyler laughed. “Sure, Mom. I’ll do that. But first, can I ask you something?”

His Mom knit her brows together at the seriousness of his tone. “Sure, Honey. You know you can talk to me about anything.” She put a hand on his shoulder. “What’s troubling you?”

“Well, nothing much. I just have this really weird feeling, like something’s gonna happen tonight, or Sarah won’t be able to make it. I just feel like something isn’t right.” He shrugged and arched an eyebrow, looking expectantly at his Mom.

She smiled and nodded. “Hmm, maybe you’re just nervous. But it doesn’t hurt to pray about it. Why don’t we do that right now?” She took Tyler’s hands in hers and bowed her head. After a short, thoughtful pause she began.

“Lord, we are excited about Sarah coming to visit our home. I am thankful you allowed her to meet Tyler, and that she has been saved by your grace. I pray now Father that you would calm her nerves about meeting us, and that you would assure Tyler that all will be well. Please give us a wonderful night of fellowship and getting to know this young lady.

“ I believe you have brought her to us for a reason, and we want to do your will. Help the others to be on their best behavior tonight. We love you Jesus and we thank you that we can serve you by loving others. In the name of Jesus, amen.”

Tyler let go of his Mom’s hands and pulled her into a hug. “Thanks Mom. I feel a lot better now.” He stepped back and smiled. “I think I need to have a chat with the sisters.” Then he went out of the kitchen looking for the twins.

He found them in their room playing with their dolls. The door was open a crack, and Tyler took a moment to spy on them before announcing his presence. One of his sisters was changing a diaper, and the other had her hands on her hips scolding her baby.

“Oh yes, Katrina, you will eat these peas, even if it kills us both! Now stop spitting them out before you get yourself in big trouble.” Then she wiped at the front of her shirt where the baby had supposedly spit her peas, and picked up the plastic spoon and bowl from the tray of the high chair.

Tyler stifled a laugh and knocked gently on their door. The girls both turned their heads at the same time, and then smiled when they saw him. He entered the room and sat on the corner of the nearest bed. The girls put down their dolls and came over to him.

“Hi Ty! Wanna be the Daddy?” Jessica, the older by three minutes, asked him.

“Sorry gals. No can do right now. I’ve got lots of stuff to get ready before Sarah comes. You remember she’s coming over tonight, right?” He looked at each of them seriously before going on.

“Sarah is a very shy person. So I’m going to need you both to act like ladies and not talk too much or ask too many questions. Things like her family and stuff are not your business. She hasn’t had a happy life like we have, and if you ask her about it, you may make her sad. That would ruin our night, don’t you think?”

Both girls looked very grave and nodded their heads. Amy spoke up. “Oh Ty, we promise not to make your friend sad. We will be the very best girls you’ve ever seen! We won’t even talk with food in our mouths or anything. Right, Jess?” Jess nodded emphatically, looking very convincing.

Tyler stood and said in a mock serious voice “I knew I could count on you. I gotta run and make sure everything is all set for later. You guys be good.” They both hugged Tyler before he left the room, and he wandered back to the kitchen, feeling better about the evening. He planned to go through the house and make sure everything was spotless, then he would wash and wax his father’s car. It was only ten thirty. Four o’clock couldn’t come soon enough.