A little treat, just for you!
Have you ever come across a story that you would like to read yet are unwilling to buy until you sampled just a piece of it? Well here is your chance.
Below, you will find a rather decent size portion of Dance and Be Glad for your reading enjoyment. Now, if you like it and want to read more, click the affiliate link (that means I get paid a small amount for you clicking and buying from the link that is above my royalties) at the end and pick up a copy. As an added bonus, I have placed it on sale from July 10th – 13th, 2018 as well as the preceding book What God Brings Together .
Why would I do this? Well, it is looking like I will have a new book ready for your enjoyment by the end of September 2018. It only seems right to offer you an opportunity to read the books that come before it from the Promises From Above series.
So, until then –
Citrus and cinnamon enhanced the warmth of his arms wrapped around her in a cocoon of love; just the two of them, together in their sheets holding tight to each other. Jill relished in the kisses Doug tenderly placed on her neck while the first sun rays of morning shone through the curtains. In the arms of her husband was the one place she felt complete in her life, but today she would have to let him go yet again. She dreaded these days more than anything else in her life, especially this time. The joy they shared the night before in her discovery of finally being pregnant was overshadowed this morning by a deeper sense that this could be the last time. Jill tried her best to push the fear away, but it just wouldn’t let go.
She rolled over and put her hands on both sides of his face running her thumbs across the stubble on his cheeks, while his arms were still around her. Love poured from his adoring sea blue eyes, trying to reassure her that all would be okay like before. On his last tour, he had come within feet of a land mine of the desert terrain of Iraq. He lost four of his best men that day. His luck seemed to be running out to her.
“Don’t try to be a hero this time,” she pleaded.
“Jill, they’re my men, I can’t ask them to do more than I would.”
“You have more to come home to this time than just me and this drafty house. We’ll need you to come home this time.”
Sympathy shadowed his face. “I’ll do my best. I promise. Just like I do every tour.”
Pulling her closer to him, he softly kissed her lips with the same silent message he gave her each time he left. “Don’t worry.”
When he finally pulled back, she could see in his eyes that this time he had more to say.
“Jill, promise me something.” She knew what was coming by the tone in his voice. He was about to give her the same speech she had heard other military wives say their husbands had given them. Doug never had, but maybe the news of the coming baby made him think differently.
“Doug, I don’t want to hear it. Just come home.” Panic began to prick at the back of her throat. “Don’t you dare give me that lame speech.”
He gently shushed her as he ran his hand through her hair. “Just hear me out, Jill. I need to say this, now more than ever.
“If, God forbid, I don’t come home, I need to hear you promise me that you will not lock yourself and the baby up here in this tiny house, hiding in grief. I need you to move on, find a man who will love our child like I would. Someone who will love you and care for you, who will grow old with you. Hopefully someone who can take you out of this little shack of a house and give you all that this wandering military man couldn’t give you. Please, babe. Promise me.”
She shook her head, willing herself all along not to lose it. God, we’ll finally be whole, don’t take him.
“Jill, I need to hear it before I leave this bed and get ready.”
“Then I’m not saying it. I’m holding you hostage here.” A small giggle escaped their lips as tears crept down both their cheeks.
“Sweetie,” he softly chastised.
Seconds passed, feeling like minutes, holding Doug tight as she fought with what was necessary and what she wanted.
“I’ll do my best, but don’t make me have to. You got that Sergeant Matthews. You hear me,” she demanded through tears that refused to be held in.
He kissed each cheek, soaking in the sadness that poured from her eyes. He was tender and always conscious of her feelings no matter how practical of a man he was. Who was going to be tender with her when she went through each hormonal change, each doctor visit, each ultrasound, and each late night craving? He would miss it all; she would miss having him there.
Holding each other tight a bit longer before he left the bed, she prayed that the foreboding feeling she had was just nerves and not something foretelling.
Keep him safe and bring him home, Lord. We need him to come home.
“Mom! I need help!”
Her daughter’s plea woke her from the dream. It was the same dream every night since Christmas Eve. There were times that she wondered if it was a message from beyond. Then reality would set in and she would shake the thought free.
Heavy-headed and sleepy-eyed, Jill did her best to wake up enough to respond. Before she could, Katie came barreling into her tiny bedroom.
“Mom? I can’t find my sparkle jeans and purple top.” Her daughter threw her hands up in the air and growled in frustration, “I’m freaking out and you’re still in bed. Ugh!” she huffed as she left the room the way she entered.
I think my sweet baby girl was eaten by a monster overnight, she thought as she stretched and rolled out of bed.
Jill padded her way to her daughter’s bedroom, went to the girl’s closet, ignoring her continued fit that resembled a five-year-old. She flicked on the closet light, reached for the purple top and sparkle jeans that hung right in front of her and took them off the rack. Turning around to face Katie, she held up the outfit chosen the night before so that the girl could see it. Handing the items to her daughter she declared, “Baby girl, I love you, but do not talk to me like that. I love you, but I am still your mama. Do I make myself clear?”
Katie’s eyes were wide, understanding of what she had done wrong. “Yes, Mom.” Jill opened her arms to her and Katie came into their comforting hold. “I’m sorry, Mom.”
Sobs began to shake her daughter and Jill pulled her tighter. These changes in her girl were taxing on both of them.
“I hate these hormone changes, Mama,” Katie declared in a muffled cry. Her face pressed to her chest.
“Me too, baby.”
At nine years old, she was almost as tall as Jill but all Jill saw in those pool blue eyes was her sweet baby girl. Over the Christmas break, they had taken time to discuss the changes Katie was going through and was about to go through. Their times on the couch snuggled under the blanket with mugs of something hot in their hands had been precious. They had also taken those times to pray for Katie’s friend, Emily and her Uncle Mike.
Cupping Katie’s face in her hands, Jill guided her daughter to look at her. “Where is all this coming from?”
“I don’t know. Worried I guess.”
“About what?” Jill finger combed Katie’s locks.
“What if Emily doesn’t come? I miss her.”
“Sweetie, I know you’re worried about Emily, but just be patient. You’ll know soon enough if she will be at school today.” Jill patted her daughter on the back side, “Now, let’s dry those tears and get around for school.”
Katie conceded and Jill went back to her room.
Walking to her dresser to select her day’s attire, she stopped and took hold of the picture of Doug that sat on top as the night’s dream replayed. It was this time, almost ten years ago that he left for the last time. The sting of his death passed for the most part, but it was times like this morning that she missed having another adult around; specifically one who could carry the burden with her.
At one time, Jill couldn’t imagine ever growing accustomed to living alone with just her baby girl as her companion. Now she couldn’t fathom sharing it with another adult, most of the time. Life can get lonely when you have no one to share in the happy times with, except a child. Her day to day has just become business as usual with little thought as to what she was missing.
Take today for instance. It was the start of dance classes for the winter and spring season at Infinity Dance Company as well as a return to school after the Christmas break. The little dance studio tucked away in the middle of the small town offered classes for all ages and was broken up to accommodate crazy school schedules for area kids. Jill’s passion was teaching children the joy of dancing without judgment, not how perfect they could be. It was a small space, but it was a dream of hers that was put into motion by Doug. They had worked day in and day out to remodel the space. The plan was to also fix up the level above and move into that space, but sadly it was never completed. It was still partially remodeled but there were no furnishings. It reminded her of dreams that would never come to fruition.
“Mom, I need help with my hair,” Katie declared as she entered Jill’s bedroom. Hairbrush in one hand and a hair-tie in the other, she was more prepared than Jill was for the day.
Brushing through the ever growing hair that her daughter refused to cut; whimpers of pain escaped her daughter’s lips. “Honey, if we take just a few inches off, you would be able to manage your hair better.” The usual protests rang through the air. Jill twisted and separated the girl’s hair to put in a braid. When she finished, she patted her daughter’s back side, “Go get your breakfast while I finish getting dressed.”
Jill shut the door behind Katie and turned to finish her morning routine. She stretched at different intervals of dressing to keep her muscles and joints loose. She was only in her early thirties, but her body argued with her every morning.
Brushing her hair in the vanity that sat in the corner of her room, her thoughts wandered to Mike and Emily. She hoped and prayed they would be there today, but wasn’t going to get her hopes up. They had both just suffered a great loss.
She struggled with keeping her thoughts off Mike since their dance at Emma and Ryan’s wedding. The comfort she had felt in his arms was like coming home after being away for so long. Now with the loss of Tom and Rebecca, she felt guilty every time images of dancing with him came to mind. You had your chance, Jill would be her constant reprimand.
“My teeth are brushed and I’ve had breakfast. It’s almost time.”
Jill was taking longer than she should have this morning. “Okay, have a seat on the bed. I need to finish up here.”
“Mom, why don’t you date?” The random question surprised her.
“Well, I don’t know. I guess I keep busy enough without adding one more person to the mix. Besides, I think I like it just being us.” Jill paused and looked at Katie through the mirror, “Don’t you like just having the two of us?”
Jill watched her daughter as the girl looked down into her hands, sadness plastered across her sweet face.
“Honey, you can tell me whatever it is you’re thinking. I won’t be mad.”
“I just wish I had a dad around. I feel left out when I hear other girls talk about their dads.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way, sweetie.” Hoping to brighten the girl’s mood, Jill asked, “So, who would you pair me up with? You clearly have been thinking about this for a while.”
Catching a mischievous smile creep across Katie’s features caused Jill to pause in her regimen, “Who, Katie girl?”
Katie mumbled her barely audible answer.
Jill turned to face her, “Who?”
“Dr. Mike is handsome.”
Jill froze, wondering if Katie had better intuition than Jill thought. “Well, honey, even if the accident hadn’t happened, it just wouldn’t be a good idea.”
“Why not? You two dated before, right? What’s the big deal?”
“Um, seventeen years and a lot of life in the middle. He has his hands full right now, so let’s just put him out of our heads.” Good luck with that one. “Okay, hair done. Go get your bag and head for the truck. Get the keys from my bag and start the truck. I just have to brush my teeth.”
Jill kissed her daughter on the cheek and sent her on her way. The conversation rang in her head while her deceased husband’s words echoed in her heart. “Find someone new to love you and the baby. Promise me.”
She just couldn’t bring herself to picture someone else where Doug once was.
The horn of her 1964 Ford F150 blared, echoing through the little house. The truck was Doug’s pet project after high school and she had done her best to keep it nice and in running order. The year that she had to choose between her car and his truck, it wasn’t hard to decide which would stay. Now that the truck was wearing down, she wondered how smart that was. Ever since then, the truck has been her daily driver. Her dad taught her how to maintain the classic before he passed four years ago.
The truck horn blared again. “That girl is going to be the end of me.”
Before she could get settled, Katie started in on her chatter.
“Mom, do you think Emily will be here?” Emily was one of her ballerinas and one of Katie’s best friends.
“I’m not sure sweetie. We will see soon, won’t we?”
When Mike left the wedding as quick as he had, Jill knew something terrible had happened. The weekend paper displayed for all to see how bad things really were. Prominently displayed on the front page were images of twisted hunks of metal, cars that looked like they had been opened with a can opener, and the chilling white draping on one car. Reading through the article that described the scene in vague detail, the names of his brother and sister-in-law were listed as the only casualties of the horrific six car accident.
Jill’s heart broke for their daughter, Emily, and for Mike. He and his brother Tom were the only two left of their family. The brothers were late in life babies and had laid their parents to rest over the last few years.
She found herself watching for him everywhere she went – the grocery store, the department store, all around town. There wasn’t a day that went by that she didn’t hope to run into him. She had been in his shoes, still was, and she knew how hard it was to raise a nine-year-old girl. To be thrown into parenthood had to be overwhelming for him.
Pulling into the school parking lot, Jill noticed Katie’s eyes roaming over the group filing into the school. She found herself doing the same. Typically, for being the first of January, it would be freezing cold, but today was unusually warm, if you consider thirty degrees warm. In crazy Michigander fashion, people had no problem being bundled up and standing outside the school in these thirty degree temperatures. Coats and hats were meant to keep the cold out. Climbing out of the truck, a flash of purple leopard print caught her attention. Looking in the direction, she saw Sarah and her dad Ryan. “Look, there’s Sarah. Catch up with her and maybe Emily will show up soon.”
Ryan and Sarah walked toward them. Jill kissed her daughter on the top of her head, signaling that Katie didn’t need to worry.
“Good morning, Mrs. Matthews,” Sarah’s chipper tone put a smile on Jill’s face.
“Hello, Sarah. Good Morning Ryan.”
“Morning ladies. How are the Matthews women doing this morning?”
“Doing well, Mr. Daniels. Sarah, have you seen Emily yet?” Katie asked.
“I haven’t seen her,” Sarah answered. “Do you think she’ll be here this year?”
The first school bell rang and those still standing around chatting filed in.
“Girls you need to get to class,” Jill instructed.
The two darted off with a wave and left her and Ryan standing at the curb.
“So have you seen him at all? I know you three were getting together,” she asked Ryan.
“No, our weekly card games stopped right after the wedding. Brad is headed for Japan for a few months and I knew Mike would need time. I’ve been just leaving him be.”
“Well, if you happen to…”
The squealing of tires coming around a corner caught their attention as a late model Jaguar approached the school drop off zone.
The car came to a stop just feet from where Jill and Ryan stood. To their surprise, a frantic Mike unfolded his six foot, three-inch frame out of the car and went around to the other side to help out his passenger. He was in his scrubs but his hair was disheveled and he had a three-day beard. It was a complete opposite from the clean shaven look he sported last time she saw him. This look was a bit more attractive on him. When he turned, a look of defeat crossed his black rimmed eyes indicating that he was exhausted and at the end of his rope.
Emily looked smaller than when she had last seen the young girl three days before the accident at the Christmas recital. Her head was bent low as she haphazardly put her backpack on.
The pain in losing one parent was bad, but losing both in one night, and on Christmas, had to be too much. How can one bear the burden? That was me not too long ago, wasn’t it? Lord, show me if there is a way I can help.
A hand touched her shoulder, breaking her from her prayer. “You need to go talk to them. You understand this better than me. See you soon.”
Jill tried to protest, but Ryan was limping away to his truck before a word could be spoken. The cold was beginning to seep through her coat yet her feet refused to move.
She looked back to the scene in front of the school as Mike crouched low to talk to Emily. She couldn’t hear what was said, but the slow nod of the little girl’s head told her that he was trying to encourage his niece; and failing.
A lone tear ran down the young girl’s cheek and Jill’s resolve broke. Her mother’s instinct kicked into high gear and pushed her toward Emily and Mike. Her sudden movement caught Mike off guard and he almost fell on his back side. Taking Emily in her arms she hugged the girl tight, willing all the love she had in heart to surround Emily.
Emily had been friends with Katie and Sarah since kindergarten as well as a student of hers for just as long. The girls were inseparable, a sisterhood of sorts, and Emily was like another daughter to her.
The little girl’s cries kept Jill holding on to her.
When the sniffling stopped, Jill let go of Emily as she turned to Mike, whispering “I’m sorry for pushing you over.”
“No, it’s fine. I think she needed it,” he replied.
“Thank you Mrs. Matthews,” Emily said in a tender broken voice.
“You’re welcome sweetie, any time. If you’re ready, I know of two girls inside those doors who are eager to see you.”
She watched as Emily went to Mike, wrapping her arms around his waist. He leaned over and placed a kiss on her head and whispered in her ear. She nodded in agreement and walked for the door.
Jill waited until Emily passed the threshold before she bid Mike good bye, she wasn’t ready for what he did next. He caught her arm and brought her to him, leaning in and wrapping his arms around her in one of his warm and all-consuming hugs. Even before they were a couple, they were the best of friends and he would hug her like this. It was always comforting. “Thank you, Jill. Thank you.” He picked her up off the ground, continuing with his thanks, and swung her around. She wasn’t sure if it was being this close to him, inhaling his woodsy scent or his rapid movements that made her head spin.
She felt a giggle catch in her throat, overshadowing the sadness. His thanks were jovial. “I’m not sure what I did, but you’re welcome. Can you put me down now?”
“Oh, right. Sorry,” he put her back on her feet and took a step back while holding her hands in his. “I didn’t mean to get so carried away. I know that was pretty forward.”
“It isn’t that. You were just making me dizzy. What are you thanking me for, anyway?”
“That was the first time I have seen her respond, emotionally or otherwise, to anything or anyone. It has been torture trying to get her to open up.” Concern for the girl reflected in his eyes.
“It might be because we know each other so well. Katie and I have been really praying for you two.”
Her hand still in his, he squeezed her hand a little tighter and his joy drained to sorrow. “Jill, you don’t know how nice it is to hear that. I’m not sure how I am going to do this parenting thing with the kind of schedule they have me on. The chief is a real…well, never mind about him. Anyway, I am glad for the prayers. I have a feeling we’ll be needing them.”
As she listened to him, her heart broke for them. An idea came to mind and she hoped he would accept. “Listen, we are about to start rehearsing for spring recitals. If Emily would like to continue, we’d love to see her at classes. She might just need something normal in her life.” He looked like he was about to turn her down so she had to think fast. She knew this would work; he just needed to get on board. “I’ll pick her up if I have to. Just give it a try.”
She waited as he pondered her suggestion as she prayed he would accept.
“Fridays. I have all the classes the girls are part of on the same night. It makes for a long night for them, but when you dance with friends, time just flies. The parents like to use it as a date night and walk down to the pub or the pizza place a few doors down.”
“Well, I won’t need you to pick her up then. At least not often. My rotation has me off most Friday nights.”
“Great. So I will see you next Friday. Five o’clock.” She pulled her hand from his and placed it on his arm. “You just watch and see. She’ll get there.”
Backing up she gave him what she hoped was a reassuring smile. “Be patient with her, and yourself, Mike. This process takes time.” Opening her purse, she reached in and took out her business card and she handed it to him. “Call me if you need anything; picking her up from school, taking her to dance, or just to talk. Single parenthood isn’t easy.”
He nodded and smiled. “I’ll do that. I’ll see you soon.” He took the card, brushing her fingers with his own. A tingling sensation skittered up her arm.
They said their good-byes and went to their vehicles. His sad eyes glistened with longing burned into her mind. Mike needed a friend and she would do her best to be that friend. Unless her heart ran away with her, which by judging her current reactions to him being near, it wouldn’t take much. She couldn’t resist him before and she hoped that now that she was older and wiser, she wouldn’t be tempted to go down that road again. Jill had no problem being his friend, but it had to stay that way. The pain of loving someone was too much.