BEADED HOPE by Cathy Liggett

By SMW Staff

EXCERPT: Chapter 1

Suburb of Columbus, Ohio

“Hey, Gabby, what are you doing?”

Even after all their years together, the sound of her husband’s voice could still make Gabrielle Phillips’s heart skip a beat. She pressed the cell phone closer to her ear. It had been such a long week without Tom at home. “I’m running into Hirscham’s to pick up a shirt for Dad’s birthday.”

“Running? You’re running?”

His overly cautious tone brought a smile to her face. “Not running, silly, although I could run, you know. I’m walking briskly. Hurrying. I have to be back at church by 1:30 for a meeting with the other directors.”

“Is everything . . . ?” His hesitancy to finish the sentence told her everything he feared. How many times had he asked the same question only to hear the worst? No wonder Tom could barely ask anymore. Only fools got too close to a fire after getting burned time and again.

But at least today she had good news.

“Everything is fine. Absolutely fine. Wonderful. Really.” Closing her eyes, Gabby whispered her thanks to God. Tom’s audible sigh and then silence made her think he might be doing the same. “Except for . . . I miss you terribly.”

“Yeah?”

“When does your flight get in? Soon, I hope. It’s supposed to storm today.”

Dressing for work this morning, she’d seen the weather report on the small television sitting on top of the dresser in their bedroom. The meteorologist hadn’t just predicted rain; he’d more like ranted about it, threatening a downpour, pointing to patches of colors ranging from alarming yellow to raging red on his Doppler Ten radar screen.

“My plane gets in around five. But I looked online. I don’t think the rain’s supposed to start till later tonight.”

“Oh? Well, good.” That concern dismissed, she thought ahead. “Pizza for dinner?”

“Should you eat pizza?”

Smiling, she rolled her eyes though no one was nearby to notice. “How about half veggie, half pepperoni?”

“Perfect. Just like you. Love you, Gabby.”

“I know.”

Somehow through all the pain and drama and disappointments over the years of their marriage, they had survived, shakily at times, but together just the same. And now they’d been rewarded.

So rewarded! She let out a contented sigh.

As her boots scuffed against the dry parking lot pavement, Gabby had to admit she must’ve heard the weatherman wrong. At the moment, nearly white clouds with only hints of gray streaked a blue-brushed sky, looking far too benevolent for any monstrous storm to crackle through the heavens anytime soon.

But Gabby still felt glad she’d decided not to take any chances before she’d left home this morning. No way she wanted to risk slipping and falling on a rain-slicked floor. Not with their baby growing inside her . . . the baby she and Tom had waited for for so long. So painfully long.

Instead, she’d tossed her black ballet flats back into the closet she shared with her husband, opting for ragged but sure-footed snow boots from the garage. Not so attractive, but luckily she worked at a historic stone church and not in some glossy, corporate tower. Everyone at work dressed neatly but casually. No one at Graceview cared as much about her fashion statements as they did about her dedication as head of the church’s children’s ministries.

When Gabby reached Hirscham’s entrance, she held open the door for a young mom struggling to push a baby stroller while tugging on the hand of a squirming toddler. Not exactly an idyllic Norman Rockwell scene, but still Gabby could feel the jealousy. Rearing. Scratching. Trying to catch hold. Wanting to seep in and creep through her like a heart-strangling vine.

But it couldn’t control her anymore. These days she refused to let it. Now hope wasn’t just some fuzzy mirage in the distance. It had become more of a reality. On days when the green monster reared, she could more easily shoo it away with a genuine smile, not a false one. With positive thoughts, not negative ones. And by counting blessings, not subtracting them.

Heading for the men’s department, Gabby already knew exactly what to get her father. Her mother had been explicit about the size, brand, and color of shirt Gabby’s dad would like from her and Tom. Even though Gabby thought a shirt sounded less than exciting, she and Tom couldn’t afford much more than a shirt anyway. Tom’s new job with a national nonprofit organization had been a step up, but they still didn’t have a lot of disposable income, especially not with all the medical bills from the past—or the present. Besides, next year would be different. By the time her father’s birthday rolled around again, she’d already have given him a special gift. A precious one, she hugged her stomach protectively.

Something money just can’t buy, right?

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