12/28/2010

OCFW novella download

I hope you've enjoyed reading OCFW's Christmas gift to you.

If you would like to download a PDF of our Christmas novella, here it is:

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from OCFW!

12/22/2010

OCFW Christmas serial CHAPTER EIGHT

OCFW Christmas serial story

Chapter Eight

this chapter by Lacy Williams
Copyright © OKC Christian Fiction Writers


“…so that’s why I decided to go ahead with the procedure.”


Eleanor looked around the now-silent dinner table, noting the tears standing in her mother’s eyes, the serious stares from all of her sisters, her dad’s clamped jaw. Even the kids were quiet.

An hour after she and Tad had trudged up the walk, and her mother’s table was full-to-bursting. They’d been the last to arrive. In addition to Janice’s bunch, Eleanor’s older sisters Alyson and Carrie plus two neighbors and Great-Aunt Ida had shown up for the traditional Christmas Eve supper.

Tad and Ellie had been the only ones to have car trouble.

Tad’s stoic presence across from her only made her conscious that he’d taken Robbie’s chair, that Robbie’s chair had been empty in the first place. Why hadn’t he left when they’d returned home? She knew he hadn’t wanted to stay.

“I’m—I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before. At first I wanted it to be a surprise… but then Robbie died and everything just…”

Eleanor’s words trailed off. She stared down at her plate, unable to keep watching their faces when her family stayed silent. Why didn’t anyone say anything? She should have waited—shouldn’t have ruined the big Christmas Eve dinner like this.

“I think it’s a good thing,” Tad burst out. He clapped his hands, the sound harsh in the complete silence. “Good for Ellie.”

“Oh, honey…” Her mom’s voice wavered with emotion. “I’m so proud of you!”

Eleanor’s head jerked up in time to see her mom jump out of her seat and rush over to wrap Eleanor in a hug. “So proud, baby,” Ruth whispered.

“I am, too,” the patriarch of the family echoed, though he stayed in his seat. Eleanor knew her dad didn’t like getting too emotional. Just the fact that he’d said something made warmth bloom in Eleanor’s chest.

“Yay, Aunt Ellie!” “Whoohoo!” The twins followed Tad’s example and clapped, their noisy congratulations causing everyone to laugh, even though Eleanor doubted the boys really knew what was going on.

Even Janice leaned over and put her arm around Eleanor’s shoulders. “I’m happy for you. I really am.”

And Eleanor knew that for once, her sister was sincere. It was truly a Christmas miracle.

She locked eyes with Tad. His lips were turned up in a tiny smile. Why had he supported her, speaking out when her family hadn’t been able to find words?

Earlier, as they’d stumbled their way up the street, arms linked, she’d thought there had been something… almost a spark between them that she’d never felt before with anyone else.

Was it because they’d been friends, of a sort, for so long? He’d been her first crush. Her longest. She’d always thought her feelings were one-sided… but with the way Tad had looked at her out in the snow, she couldn’t be sure.

Or were the sparks between them just because they always argued? Even though most of the time the heat was in jest…

She didn’t know what to think anymore.

As her family settled back down to the normal eating and chatter, she saw Tad glance down, then realized what had caught his attention.

His phone was ringing.

#####

Tad flipped his phone closed, head down. He didn’t want to leave the Clark’s Christmas gathering.

He couldn’t stay. Could he?

The Clark’s foyer was dim; he hadn’t turned on any lights when he’d escaped here to take the call from his secretary. The only light came from the outdoor Christmas lights, filtered through the long windows on either side of the front door.

The sound of a throat clearing made him turn. He was surprised to see Robert Sr. standing in the doorway to one of the living areas.

“Still coming down out there,” the older man said.

“Mmm.” Tad had been watching the snow continue to fall while he’d been on the phone with his secretary. The forecasters said it would go all night—the worst blizzard in a century.

Which meant even if he made it to the airport, no doubt the planes were grounded too.

He was well and truly stuck here with the Clarks—with Ellie—and his rioting emotions. For a man who prided himself on always being in control, the events of the last 24 hours had shaken him considerably. A real snowstorm in his heart.

Was his foundation—the faith Ellie professed so wholeheartedly—really the problem?

Robert Sr. moved to put a hand on Tad’s shoulder. “We’re all hurting without our boy. But I’m glad you’re here and I know the missus is too.”

Tad didn’t know what to say to the man he’d idolized for so long. The man he’d wished had been his father so many times during his lonely childhood.

“You’ve been a part of this family a long time. Even moving away didn’t change it. Robbie always shared what was going on in your life, your achievements.”

Robbie was my brother, even though we didn’t share the same blood in our veins.

Tad couldn’t get the words past the obstruction that had taken root in his throat, but Robert Sr. seemed to understand. He squeezed Tad’s shoulder.

“We’re glad you’re here, Theodore. Tad. Glad you’ve come back to be with us.”

Proud that he’d come back for a family occasion, or proud of Tad’s achievements? Either way, it was more of an acknowledgement than Tad had ever received from his own father.

“I just wish it didn’t take Robbie’s death to make me see what was really important. My life back home might be busy, but there’s not a lot of meaning in it. No… family. No… faith.”

The older man sat down on the third step of the staircase and motioned Tad to the bench across the foyer, covered with kids’ coats. Tad shoved them aside and sat down.

“You know, sometimes it takes a big event to remind us what’s really important. I know it did for me, before Ruth and I ever tied the knot.”

Tad waited while the other man seemed to gather his thoughts. After a moment, Robert Sr. went on.

“We were dating… I knew she wanted something more serious—wanted to get married. But I thought I had all the time in the world to play games. We took a break…”

Tad spared a moment to wonder if the other Clark kids knew about this. He’d certainly never heard the story before and Robbie had never mentioned it.

“I dated a couple of other girls and there was no comparison between them and Ruth. But still I hesitated. And then she was in a car accident. A bad one. Almost didn’t make it through. Back then we didn’t wear seatbelts all the time, you know?”

Tad nodded, needing the man to go on.

“I sat by her bed in the hospital for two days, waiting for her to wake up… and she finally did. I felt like I’d been given a second chance. My path was clear to me—to marry her as soon as I could—and so many other things were too. Including the faith that I had dabbled in.

“Before Ruth’s accident, I went to church. Nearly every Sunday. But I hadn’t made a real commitment—I just rolled along. But when she almost died—for those two days—I was broken. A crazed man. I had nothing—nothing—to hold onto.”

That was exactly how Tad felt. He had nothing to hold onto. And with his life thrown into a maelstrom without Robbie in it… He was in chaos. No matter how many hours he worked, how much he accomplished, he still felt empty.

Tad leaned forward, forearms on his knees. “How did you… how did you get back? Or find God…?”

Robert Sr. wasn’t afraid to show the compassion he felt on his face. “I’d be happy to tell you.”

#####

Tad still felt he should’ve left last night—this morning opening gifts should have been a joyous occasion for the Clarks, but the tears hidden by quickly-turned heads, sniffles that weren’t quite silent… everyone in Robbie’s family missed him.

And what part did Tad have in sharing their grief? Really? He wasn’t their son, their brother. No matter how much he had wanted to be throughout the years.

Even with Robert Sr.’s assurances last night, and Tad’s new peace with his Heavenly Father, he felt a little out-of-place. Probably because he still had unresolved emotions surrounding the woman with violet eyes and sleek dark hair coming toward him right this very moment.

“This is from me.” Ellie pressed a gaily-wrapped package with a jaunty red bow into his hands. Instead of leaving, she surprised him by sitting cross-legged next to him, her pink and red candy-cane pajamas pulling a reluctant smile from him.

She spoke as he slid his thumb under the perfectly-centered Scotch tape. “I’m sorry if I came on strong yesterday about… about what I believe.”

“You… didn’t.” Tad paused. Swallowed. Considered exactly how much he should reveal to her. Went for it. “You said just what I needed to hear.”

He looked up from the paper crinkling under his hands to see a soft glow suffuse her face. “I’m glad.”

When he looked back down to see the photo of himself with Robbie, a lump got stuck in his chest.

Ellie’s hand gently covered the back of his wrist. “Robbie would be glad, too.”

“Yeah.” Tad cleared his throat. “He probably would’ve wrestled me down until I listened to him. Your way wasn’t pain-free, but probably would’ve hurt me worse.”

She smiled and bumped his shoulder with hers, unobtrusively wiping a crystal tear from her cheek. “I’ve finally realized it’s okay to miss him. But I know we’ll see him again someday.”

She squeezed his hand and he realized she’d been giving him comfort for these moments with her hand on his. She was something else, Ellie was.

He turned over his hand and captured her palm. “Can we talk for a minute?” He glanced around at the madness around them, kids ripping into gifts, Ellie’s siblings laughing with each other. “Umm… privately?”

She followed him into the kitchen, snatching an iced cookie—Christmas tree-shaped, of course—on her way.

When she leaned back against the counter, braced casually on both arms, Tad’s stomach clenched. Was he really going to do this? He exhaled through his nose.

“Look, Ellie—I’m…” Fear lodged in his sternum, making it impossible to speak. What if she said ‘no’? But he had to go on.

“I’m going to be making some changes in my life.” He rushed on before he lost his nerve. “Your dad, Robbie, you… you’ve all inspired me.”

A flush crept up her neck and into her cheeks. Had she guessed where he was going with this?

“When we get back home, I’ll only be a two hour commute from you, and I’d like to see you. Socially.”

She raised her fine brows at him. “You mean, like a date?”

He felt heat climbing into his cheeks now, knew he was flushing. “Yes. Exactly like that.”

“I thought you worked weekends. All of them.”

“Not anymore. I’m starting to figure out what’s really important in my life.”

She just kept looking at him with those raised brows, so he continued, “Like… having a life.”

Her lips quirked. Was she holding back a smile? She’d accused him of throwing his life away on work enough times, back when Robbie had been around.

“And I’m not saying I’m going to be perfect… you’ll probably have to remind me to leave work on time when I get caught up in a project—”

“I will?”

Tad recognized the teasing glint in her violet eyes. He grabbed the end of the piece of ribbon she’d tied around her wrist after opening a gift earlier; Tad used the ribbon to reel her in, finally capturing her in his arms. Where she belonged.

This close, he could see the golden flecks in her beautiful eyes. The vulnerability behind them that she hid with her teasing words. It gave him the courage to say what he really wanted to.

“I think we both know there’s more between us than a brotherly affection. Has been since about… seventh grade, right?”

Surprise flared in her eyes. She didn’t realize he’d felt it, too? But she nodded gravely, still silent. Still afraid?

He rewarded her for that answer with an Eskimo kiss—rubbed the tip of her nose with his—and briefly squeezed her tighter in his arms. “Don’t you think it’s time we did something about it?”

Again she nodded, this time the vulnerability in her eyes changing to a sweet joy. When he leaned down, she stretched up and met his kiss.

A war whoop from behind them pulled Tad’s head up just in time to see Eric—or Ian?—turn back to the living room and shout, “Uncle Tad and Aunt Eleanor are kissing in the kitchen!”

The decibel level in the other room ratcheted up another notch as the rest of the family got wind of this new development.

But Tad didn’t care one bit. This was right where he wanted to be. He drew Ellie—his Ellie—close for another kiss.

Merry Christmas, indeed.



THE END

12/20/2010

OCFW Christmas serial CHAPTER SEVEN

OCFW Christmas serial story

Chapter Seven

this chapter by Sharon Srock
Copyright © OKC Christian Fiction Writers

“Watch Tad, I bet I can get some serious air on this jump.” Eleven-year-old Robbie lined his bike up with the homemade ramp and pedaled hard for his target. His bike sailed across the rickety piece of plywood, soaring into the air, coming down neatly on the opposite ramp ten feet away. Robbie applied his brakes, skidding his back wheel in a gravel-showering arc before coming to a triumphant stop. “Yes!”



“Awesome.”Tad stopped next to his best friend and offered a high five in recognition of the flawless stunt.


“Are you two morons trying to kill yourselves?”


Robbie smiled at his twin sister. “Hey, Ellie.”


Ellie sent an answering smile to Robbie and frowned at Tad. “Those ramps don’t look very safe.”


Tad snorted. “That’s cause you’re a girl and this is a guy thing. Go play with your dolls.”


Ellie raised a clearly sarcastic eyebrow. Without a word she wheeled her own bike to spot Robbie had started from and prepared to make Tad eat his words.


“Ellie…” Robbie’s voice carried a warning.


Tad stood back, arms crossed, ready to watch the show. “We aren’t going for bandages when you break something,” he scoffed.


Nice, Tad thought when Ellie took the ramp in solid form. His approval was short lived as the opposing ramp crumbled under her landing, sending her barreling into a tree.

The scream of her impact seemed to echo across the years and through the snow-covered night.

Tad paused beside the tree, his gloved hand resting on the trunk. No wonder she hated him.

In the end Robbie had run for help. Not Tad.

#####

Eleanor hurried past the scene of the accident, her memories of that day broken and bittersweet. She remembered the teasing and the giddy feel of nothing but air under her wheels. The next thing she could recall with any clarity was waking up with her head in Tad’s lap and unbearable pain.

“Shhh. Don’t move. Robbie went for help.”


“It hurts.”


“I know.” Tad brushed the long dark hair from her face. The fear she saw reflected in his twelve-year-old eyes frightened her more than the pain. He must have realized that.


“That was amazing.”


Ellie closed her eyes against the pain in her leg and the tears she couldn’t control.


“I mean that, Ellie, totally amazing. You could probably be a stunt woman or something.”


She thought she felt his lips brush her forehead in a touch of tenderness she would never forget.

Later, in the hospital, she couldn’t figure out if the kiss had been real or not. It had never been repeated.

Eleanor stopped walking when she didn’t hear Tad following. When she turned around, she saw him leaning against the tree. Anger over his remarks, hurt over Robbie’s death, and the cold of the storm all receded.

“That summer changed things for all of us, didn’t it?”

Tad nodded. “Did I ever apologize?”

“For what?”

Tad blinked in obvious confusion. “For what? How about for daring you to keep up with Robbie and me? If I’d kept my mouth shut, you probably wouldn’t have spent the summer in a body cast.”

“You think I blame you for that?”

“I think you hate me for that.”

Eleanor shook her head. Men. She looked behind her and could just see the Christmas lights from home blinking through the dark. It was comforting.

“I don’t blame you and I don’t hate you. We were kids. All three of us should have had a T in our name somewhere for trouble. I don’t remember a lot that about that day, but I do remember the blond haired, freckle faced boy who brought me flowers and chocolate once a week for eight weeks. A friend who kept Robbie from being bored while I recuperated.

“Daises are still my favorite flower, and Robbie loved you.” Eleanor shivered, bunched her coat a little tighter around her frame. “I’ll admit my love affair with chocolate has caused me some grief over the years, but I’m working on that as well.”

He started down the hill toward her, eyes lighter now. “So the weight loss is intentional? Not a product of grief?”

“You did notice. I was afraid of that.” She sighed.

“Afraid?”

Eleanor rolled her head back to look at the sky, still dropping snow on them. Since they were clearing the air, she might as well go for the whole truth. “I had a weight loss procedure six months ago. I decided it was time to take control of my life. Robbie was the only one who knew.”

“That’s amazing,” he said as he drew abreast of her and took her arm so they could keep moving.

She couldn’t look at him as she asked. “You don’t think it’s dumb? “

“How can it be dumb to take control of something that could destroy you?”

Eleanor glanced at him from the corner of her eye. “I don’t want to start another argument, but maybe you should follow my example. The Bible says we should worry less about the things that can kill our bodies and more about the things that can kill our souls.

“My weight might have sent me to an early grave, but I know where I’m going. Where are you going, Tad?” She shivered again, then tried to make a joke of it. “Sometimes my loss of insulation is a bad thing. Let’s get to the house. Everyone will be worried.”

#####

Tad tugged Ellie’s elbow, bringing her even closer. Close enough so he could brush his lips across her forehead. “You make me think, Ellie Clark. I’m not sure that’s always a good thing.”


One more chapter to go. Check back Wednesday to read the end and find out what happens with Tad and Ellie!

12/17/2010

OCFW Christmas serial - CHAPTER SIX

OCFW Christmas serial story

Chapter Six

this chapter by Bill Garrison
Copyright © OKC Christian Fiction Writers

The sound of metal twisting and crumpling reverberated through the car.


Eleanor screamed.

Tad reached out for her, but the car’s momentum pushed him forward instead. His head whipped to the side, then back again.

Silence fell.

What had just happened?

Shaking, adrenaline pumping, Tad fumbled with his seat belt.

He hadn’t been going that fast. How had he lost control?

Thankfully, the Cadillac was big and solid, built like a tank, and they hadn’t hit the tree that hard.

That’s when he noticed the icy wind gusting through the shattered passenger window.

On Ellie’s side.

“Ellie, are you okay?”

Eleanor lifted her head toward him. Blood trickled from a cut on her forehead.

“You’re bleeding!” Frantic, he twisted in his seat, scooting toward her.

“I think I’m all right.”

Her voice shook though, and Tad hated that he was responsible for her fear. He carefully brushed shards of glass from her hair and coat while studying her wound. “It doesn’t look that bad. Are you hurt anywhere else?”

“I don’t think so.” She took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes with shaking hands. “My head hurts.”

He cradled her face in both hands, thumbs brushing the soft skin of her jaw. “Don’t move. I’ll call for help.”

Letting her go, Tad reached for his cell phone, but couldn’t find it. It must have fallen out of his pocket. Not seeing it in his seat, he opened his door and looked down just in time to watch the silver device fall into a six-inch deep puddle of slush.

He thrust his hand in to the icy water, but not soon enough. The phone was soaked. He tried to power it back on while looking at Ellie.

She stared back at him, one hand on her head, eyebrows furrowed. “Are they answering?”

Tad glanced at the phone display. “It’s not working. I can enter the number, but it doesn’t dial.”

She frowned, then shivered as another gust of wind rushed through the broken window.

“Try your phone,” he suggested gently, aware that she probably wasn’t thinking clearly if she had a head injury.

Her eyes widened. “I left my phone in my car. I knew I’d forgotten something.”

“Okay. I guess we’ll have to walk. Can you do that?”

Eleanor sighed. “Of course I can. Let’s go. I’m getting cold.”

She undid her seatbelt and started sliding across the front seat. Tad didn’t move, and suddenly she sat right next to him, their legs touching beneath the center console.

Eleanor exhaled, her breath misting in the icy air. Tired?

Tad had had a few concussions during the years he’d played sports. He knew fatigue was one of the signs.

“Are you sure you’re okay? Not dizzy? Nauseous?” he asked, ducking his chin until she met his eyes. Hers were clear and a relief spiked through him.

“Just a headache.”

Tad reached up and thumbed a drop of blood from her forehead, hating that he’d caused this mess. He should’ve insisted they skip the mall. “Your cut doesn’t look that bad. It’s already stopped bleeding.”

She brushed his hand away. “Get out of the car before we freeze to death.”

#####

Tad hurried out of the car, and Eleanor followed. She stepped in the same puddle that had claimed Tad’s phone, and the cold water instantly soaked through her Nikes and chilled her feet.

Great. Now her feet were freezing, but her cheeks and her forehead sizzled.

Because Tad had touched her.

First, her knee. Now, her forehead. Did his touch really affect her that much?

No, it didn’t!

“It’s not getting any warmer.” Frustrated that she couldn’t control her feelings any better, she stomped past Tad and stepped off the road and onto the snow-covered grass, where the footing would be a little less treacherous.

She didn’t look back, but she knew Tad followed.

She had to step high, almost march, to lift her feet out of the deep snow. Flakes drifted down at a steady pace and whipped into her face.

Her parents’ secluded house offered lots of land and few neighbors, but there was no chance a car would come by to give them a ride.

“Your phone work yet?”

“I’ll try it again,” Tad said.

Why was Tad here? Sure, he’d come to honor Robbie, but was that really necessary?

She snuck a quick glance behind her. Tad’s blonde hair was wet and matted to his head. He feverishly worked the buttons on his phone. Worried about her?

He looked up and their gazes locked. “No luck. We’re almost halfway. We can make it. Do you need me to help you?”

She shook her head. The last thing she needed was him touching her again. Unfortunately, the more she tried to ignore it, the more the throb in her left leg increased. Not much further. She could make it.

Her leg always hurt, but she’d learned to deal with it. As the approached the spot where it had happened, the pain grew stronger.

Did Tad know? Did Tad remember? He should have. He was there.

Oh, God. I miss Robbie. I wish he were here.

Her foot clipped something below the snow and she tumbled forward. She braced her fall with her arms, but her face still ended up planted in the snow. Aargh!

Before she could push herself up, Tad pulled her to her feet as easy as if she were a rag doll. She gritted her teeth against the pain in both her leg and her head.

“What?” he asked. “Did I hurt you? I was just trying to help...”

“Would you quit acting nice? I know you don’t even want to be here!”

“What?” Boy he sounded innocent for someone who wasn’t.

“I heard you. Eight o’clock emergency phone call. Is it really that bad to be around me?”

Her question hung in the air between them. She hadn’t meant to sound so… hurt, but there was no taking back her question now. Her cheeks burned with both anger and embarrassment. She whirled around and took off in a huff.

“Ellie, wait.”

She didn’t turn around. Couldn’t.

#####

Tad jogged through the snowdrifts to catch up to Ellie. She wouldn’t look at him.

Okay, the phone call to his secretary had been a stupid idea. He hadn’t counted on Ellie hearing what he’d said. But everything else they talked about tonight had been real, and he hadn’t meant to hurt her. The fact that he had tugged at his heart.

Tad did blame God for what happened to Robbie. Ellie didn’t, and if anyone had the right to, it would be her. He’d lost a best friend, but she’d lost a soul mate. Still, her faith in God remained.

“Ellie, I don’t want you to be mad at me.”

“I’m not.”

They crested the final hill before the Clarks’ home. The echo of tragedy swept through the tall thick trees. He remembered it like it was yesterday. The warning, the scream, the crash.

The accident.

An accident that was entirely his fault.

 
Check back on Monday for the the second-to-last chapter. Have a great weekend!

12/15/2010

OCFW Christmas serial - CHAPTER FIVE

OCFW Christmas serial story

Chapter Five
this chapter by Robin Patchen
Copyright © OKC Christian Fiction Writers

Eleanor ducked back into the store and pretended to be absorbed in a display of jewelry, but she couldn’t erase what she’d just overheard. What caused Tad’s sudden desire to flee? She wondered for a brief moment if it was her, but something—perhaps insight from the Holy Spirit—told her it had nothing to do with her and everything to do with his bitterness over Robbie’s death.


For the first time since she’d seen him that day, she didn’t want him to leave.

Father, she prayed, give me the words to say. Give me wisdom. We were never friends, not really, and I barely understand myself how You could take Robbie from us. Speak through me. Reach Tad, as only You can…

“Did you see something else you wanted?” Tad’s voice startled her, and she turned too quickly, banging into him. Too close!

He took a step back and glanced at the package in her hand, his frown making him look slightly annoyed.

“Uh, no. I was just…I don’t have anyone else to buy for, but I thought they were pretty.” She absently fingered one of the beaded necklaces she’d been staring at without really seeing.

“So you’re done?” he asked, eyebrows raised.

“Uh-huh. Let’s get out of here before we’re trapped by the blizzard.”

They walked back into the mall, where Tad raised his eyes to the skylights in the ceiling. She followed his gaze and saw the snow swirling on the glass above their heads. “I’m afraid we might be too late.” Tad reached for her package and led her back the way they’d come.

Eleanor was praying for him as they wordlessly made their way through Macy’s to the door they’d entered. She felt a strong desire to tell him… what? She wasn’t sure, but her heart broke for him, knowing the turmoil that must be going on within him. What could she say to him about Robbie’s death? It had nearly destroyed her, and she felt sometimes her tenuous hold on God was barely enough to keep her sane. How could she grab Tad, too? Maybe the thin strand would snap and they’d both go crashing down.

Tad held the door open for her and she smiled politely before she walked outside into the blizzard.

The sight of the world they entered left her breathless.

Snow covered everything in a thin layer of purity. The hum of the conversations and music and cash registers was replaced by the soft whistle of the wind. The only sound interrupting the snow-muffled silence was the distant jingle of a bell—one of the Salvation Army’s Santa Clauses was still working somewhere in the distance. She was entranced with the glistening world.

She looked up to the dark sky in silent praise to the One who created it. Snow landed on her face, tiny pinpricks of cold like a refreshing shower. But then she noticed the glow of the streetlights illuminating the snow still coming down fast. The sight snapped her back to reality, and she glanced at Tad. He was staring at her, a half-smile on his face, and she realized she’d stopped to gawk. Heat rose in her cheeks.

“What?” she asked defensively.

“Just watching you.”

“Well, cut it out,” she said to hide her embarrassment. “We better get moving or we’ll never get home.”

They started walking toward her father’s car, snow crunching beneath their feet. The parking lot was slick and treacherous, and she found herself inching along carefully. She was just a few feet short of the Cadillac’s bumper when her foot slipped on a patch of black ice.

Tad caught her under the arm, stopping her fall and nearly stumbling himself. They both froze, facing each other with wide eyes. The moment lengthened and Eleanor felt like she was still falling…

“Thanks.” She knew she was blushing, felt heat radiating up her neck and into her face. Was it the cold, the fall, or his touch? She didn’t want to know. “Almost lost it there.”

“My pleasure.” He loosened his grip but continued to hold onto her until they reached the passenger door. Only after she’d settled inside and he’d stowed the packages in the backseat did he make his way slowly to the driver’s door and climb in beside her.

“Wow, if the parking lot’s any indication, we’re going to have a rough drive home.” He started the car, the engine coming to life quickly.

She hugged herself against the chill. “Yeah. Maybe this wasn’t the best idea.”

He smirked at her. “Gee, you think?” he asked, backing out slowly.

She chose to ignore his sarcasm. “But I got my shopping done.”

He shook his head but made no comment as he made his way toward the mall’s exit.

Eleanor knew she needed to bring the conversation back around to what he’d said in the bookstore. “Don’t worry, Tad,” she said as casually as she could manage. “God’ll take care of us.”

“I’ll take care of us, Ellie. God can stay out of it.”

#####

He heard the bitterness in his own voice and regretted the words immediately. Not that he didn’t stand behind them. No, Tad had lost any faith that God was on his side when Robbie was killed. But he regretted voicing his opinion to Ellie. He knew she’d feel the need to set him straight, to tell him how wrong he was about God. He braced himself, waiting for the impending lecture.

She said nothing.

They stopped at a red light, so he chanced a quick look in her direction. He saw a tear on her cheek.

“I’m sorry,” Tad said. “I shouldn’t have said that.”

“No, it’s okay.” She sniffed and swiped at her cheek.

What happened to the angry, headstrong girl she’d been in high school? This certainly wasn’t her. He felt the need to explain himself, though it made no sense to him. Why did he care what Robbie’s twin thought about him? Sure, he’d known her for years, but it’s not like they were close. Still, it seemed important to tell her what he’d been feeling.

“It’s just that… ever since he died, I can’t shake the knowledge that God could have stopped it, and He didn’t. He did nothing to help Robbie, so how can I ever expect him to help me? And if He’s not there for me, and He wasn’t there for Robbie, maybe He’s not there at all.”

The light turned green, and he very slowly maneuvered the car through the intersection, the tires skidding on the slick surface repeatedly before finally catching. White-knuckled, he kept his distance from the truck in front of him, afraid to trust the brakes.

“Tad, did you see how beautiful everything was when we walked out of the mall?”

He’d noticed it, but only because he’d been watching her. He couldn’t say that, though.

“Didn’t you think it was beautiful?”

He half-smiled, picturing her with her scarf pulled around her neck, her hat pulled down over her ears, and the way her eyes sparkled behind her glasses as they took in the scene. “Yes,” he agreed, “It was very beautiful.”

“Do you really think this amazing creation was an accident?”

He sighed. Of course not. That was one of the reasons he’d finally trusted Jesus for his salvation. The idea that there wasn’t a Creator went against all the evidence.

Tad stopped at another stop light and turned to her. “Ellie, I’m not saying I don’t believe there’s a God. It’s just that… I guess I’m not so sure anymore what He’s like. Maybe He just spun the world into orbit and sat back to watch. Maybe He created earth and then went on to his next project and forgot about us. I don’t know. All I know is, the God I trusted would never have taken away my best friend. I mean, how can you still love Him, knowing what He did?”

Her tears started again, and again he berated himself. Nice going, Tad. Why can’t you just shut up!

“You think I don’t miss Robbie?” She sniffed and wiped her eyes with her cotton gloves. “I miss him every day. I long for him all the time. He was my twin, my best friend until you…”

He stiffened. Here it comes. She’s going to blame me for everything, just like she always did. Funny thing was, he blamed himself, too.

He waited, but she didn’t finish the thought. “Until I what?”

“Never mind. It doesn’t matter now.”

Tad turned left at the stop light and headed up the steep hill. Suddenly the busy well-lit street was in the rear-view mirror. The narrow road leading to the Clark’s home was dark—the few houses on either side were far enough apart and far enough back from the road to make it feel like they were in the country. He tightened his grip on the wheel. Just another mile and they’d be home, safe and sound. But the snow was coming down faster, and he was struggling to keep the car on the road. Help us get home, he prayed. Then he shook away the thought. Old habits die hard.

“Tad, people die. God promises eternal life, but not here on earth. And He intervenes in our lives all the time. Haven’t you seen His handiwork?”

He had seen God work miracles. He’d seen it in his own life, in his own transformation. He peeked at her quickly and remembered… he’d seen God work a miracle after her accident. But he didn’t believe anymore. “Coincidences, modern science… who knows? But whatever I’ve seen, it’s not God.”

“Tad, you can’t…”

“Can we just… drop it please? I need to concentrate.”

“Fine. Sorry.”

He felt her eyes on him and forced himself not to keep his gaze on the road. He really did need to concentrate. “Thank you.”

They reached the crest of the hill and began down the other side. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw there was nobody coming up from the bottom. It was even steeper on this side, and getting down it without swerving would be hard enough without having to dodge other cars. He tapped on the brakes to keep his speed under control, gripping the steering wheel tightly. They were almost to the bottom when he felt the tires slide, the anti-lock brakes began to tremble under his foot.

Suddenly, the front wheels lost all traction, and the car began to slide toward the ditch on the right. He turned the hard wheel to the left to try to straighten it, but overcompensated, sending the car too far left. They began to spin, across the oncoming lane and off the road.

He heard Ellie scream just before the car collided into the tree, smashing against the passenger side.

 
Next chapter on Friday!

12/13/2010

OCFW Christmas serial - CHAPTER FOUR

OCFW Christmas serial story

Chapter Four

this chapter by Terri Weldon
Copyright © OKC Christian Fiction Writers


Tad refused to wreck the car with Ellie and the boys in it. The Clark family had suffered enough in the last six months. No way was he adding to it.


He offered up a silent prayer of thanks no other cars were close by. Forcing himself to stay calm, he steered the car in the direction he wanted the front tires to go while he applied steady pressure to the breaks. It. Wasn’t. Working. Clenching the steering wheel he turned left then right a few times. The car surrendered to his control again.

The turnoff to the mall welcomed him. Tad felt the muscles in his neck release as he eased into the parking lot. Even in near blizzard weather holiday shoppers packed the mall. A car backed out of a spot right by the entrance to one of the anchor stores and Tad pulled the Caddy in.

“Cool, Uncle Tad!” Ian said from the backseat. “Can you do it again?”

“Yeah, maybe a donut in the parking lot before we go home,” Eric added.

“Uh guys, I don’t think Uncle Tad wants to try it again.” Ellie’s husky laugh sounded like music to Tad’s ears. She’d always been a good sport. Doing her best to keep up with him and Robbie.

“I don’t think Uncle Tad can handle that much excitement in one day. I know I can’t,” Eleanor added.

“Come on boys, unbuckle and let’s get moving. Your Aunt Ellie has a ton of shopping to do.”

“Are you buying us lots of presents?” “Yeah, mom only lets us have three each.”

Eleanor loved how kids go into the Christmas spirit. Ian and Eric’s questions were still mostly innocent.

“Why three?” Tad asked.

“Because that’s how many presents the wise men brought baby Jesus. Mom said we shouldn’t expect more presents than Jesus,” Ian answered.

#####

“Three gifts is an old Clark Christmas tradition. I’m surprised Robbie never mentioned it to you.” Eleanor grabbed a hand of each twin as they entered the mall.

“No, but is that why he bought your mom perfume every Christmas and called it frankincense?”

“Here you take the boys,” Eleanor said, transferring their small mittened paws into Tad’s much larger hands.

“That’s exactly why. One year for Christmas Robbie brought her perfume and called it Frankincense, Janice bought her a gold necklace to represent the gold, and I purchased bath oil and said it was myrrh. We may not have been spot on, but mom got a kick out of it.”

Tad tipped his head back and laughed. “That’s priceless!”

“Do you mind taking the boys to have their picture made with Santa? I need to do a little shopping away from their watchful eyes.” Eleanor tipped her head towards the sporting goods store.

Merriment shown from Tad’s warm blue eyes and Eleanor felt herself melting like a snowball. For just a moment she allowed herself to dream they were a family out finishing up their last minute Christmas shopping.

“No problem…”

“Fancy meeting you two here.”

Eleanor turned to find herself face-to-face with her smiling sister. Happiness glowed from Janice’s green eyes and snow clung to her short red hair.

“It’s great to see you.” Eleanor grabbed her sister in a hug. “What are you doing out in this crazy weather?”

“Mom said you guys were headed to the mall and I didn’t want you to have to drag these two monkeys,” she tousled both boys’ hair, “around while you shopped. Steve and I were on our way to mom and dad’s anyway, so we thought we’d save you some trouble. We’ll see you over there when you get done. Boys, tell your Aunt Eleanor and Uncle Tad bye.”

Eleanor watched her sister and the twins until they were out of sight. She and Janice spoke on the phone everyday, but it just wasn’t the same as seeing her in person. Her sister was much more of a whirlwind in person.

“Well, it looks like it is just the two of us. Lead the way and I’ll carry the packages.” Tad’s smile was a little stiff. Was he sorry the distraction that was the twins was gone?

Eleanor quickly entered the sporting goods store and selected two Oklahoma Thunders jerseys and matching baseball hats, handing off the bag to Tad as exited the store.

“Man, that was fast. You were in and out of there in ten minutes.”

“Why do you sound so surprised?”

“The last woman I went shopping with spent hours making her selections.”

Eleanor ignored the pinch she felt at his casual mention—girlfriend? friend-friend? secretary?—and motioned to the Christian bookstore a few doors down. “Well come on, I’ll show you how real women shop. I’ll be able to get everything else I need in here.”

“So you buy religious gifts for everyone whether they want them or not?”

“Uh no, but you know my family, they’re all committed Christians. They love gifts from this store. Besides Christmas is the celebration of Jesus’ birth. Why wouldn’t I get them gifts that revolve around Him?”

Eleanor walked down the fiction shelf and picked up two books Janice had mentioned wanting to read. One was a debut novel by an Oklahoma author named Lacy Williams. Hmm, it looked great. She snagged a copy for herself. Then she hurried over and selected two copies of the Chronological Bible-In-A-Year for her parents. Her mom had mentioned they wanted to try that version. She selected the latest Joel Osteen book for her brother-in-law.

While Tad wasn’t looking she slipped a silver frame into her basket that had Best Friends at the top and ‘Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.” Phillipians 1:3 at the bottom. She had a snapshot of Tad and Robbie from Robbie’s last leave she planned on putting in it and giving to Tad.

“You know Ellie, my family never went to church. My dad worshipped money and money alone. I went with Robbie and bought into the whole package, but after his death I lost it. If God’s so wonderful and Jesus was born to save us, then tell me why He allowed a good man like Robbie to be cut down in the prime of his life in Afghanistan? Where was Jesus then?”

Tears burned against the back of Eleanor’s eyes threatening to spill out.

“You think I don’t wonder that? Being a Christian doesn’t mean we don’t question or get angry. When Robbie died, I asked God those very questions.”

“And what did He tell you?”

The anger in Tad’s voice startled her into silence for a moment.

“That Robbie died doing what he loved. That he gave his life for a soldier who didn’t know Jesus then, but does now. That Robbie’s self-sacrifice led that young man to Christ. That Robbie is in heaven now and no matter how much I miss him, this isn’t the end. I’ll see Robbie again.”

Eleanor put her hand on Tad’s arm. “Don’t shut God out. Robbie wouldn’t want you to.”

Tad shook her arm off. “I’m glad you found a way to make yourself feel better, but it doesn’t work for me. I’ll wait for you outside.”

She watched him rush out of the store. Eleanor yearned to chase after him, to comfort him. Tad wouldn’t welcome it. It broke her heart to think he’d turned away from God after Robbie’s death.

Her mood subdued, she went to the cash register and paid for her purchases. She walked out of the store and saw Tad. His back turned to her, his cell phone against his ear. The noise in the mall caused him to speak louder than normal. Eleanor couldn’t help overhearing his side of the conversation.

“Lucy.”

Leave it to Tad to be calling his secretary at home two days before Christmas.

“I’m at the mall with Robbie’s sister. I need a way out of here. Call me at eight tonight with an emergency. With Robbie gone there’s no reason for me to be here. We’ve got nothing left in common. The Clark’s aren’t my family.”

 
To be continued on Wednesday! Check back soon...

12/10/2010

OCFW Christmas serial CHAPTER THREE

OCFW Christmas serial story
Chapter Three

this chapter by Lacy Williams
Copyright © OKC Christian Fiction Writers



The woman was crazy. Tad was almost one hundred percent sure of it.

He squinted, but it didn’t help. His visibility was zilch. The headlights of Mr. Clark’s Cadillac illuminated about a foot of swirling snow. Which made it really hard to read the street-signs or gauge the distance to the crosswalk or see oncoming traffic.

And Ellie was out in this.

“Are we almost there, Uncle Tad?”

He spared a quick glance in the rearview to make sure the two tow-headed boys were still bent over their video games. They were. He thought it was Eric that had asked the question, but it could have been Ian.

“Yes, I think so. You guys still belted in?”

“Yep.” “Uh huh.”

“Why is it taking so long?” That was definitely Eric. He was just like his uncle Robbie had been at age ten—always running instead of walking, always impatient.

Man, he missed his friend. Tad blinked away the sad thoughts. He needed to concentrate or he was likely to get them in an accident. And he was not going to wreck Robert Sr.’s car. He could just imagine how that conversation with the stoic salt-and-pepper man would go. Tad shuddered.

“Uncle Tad? Are we there yet?” Eric’s questions reminded Tad he hadn’t answered the first time.

“I think so. We have to drive slow because of the snow. I don’t want to wreck your granddad’s car.”

“Yeah, that would be bad,” Ian agreed, voice grave. “Pops loves this car.”

“I know.” Which was why Tad had been surprised when the older man offered his car. Guess he loved his daughter more. Tad had always been jealous of the Clarks’ close family relationships. Still was. He hadn’t spoken to his mom since Easter.

Finally spotting the sign to the workout place Ellie’s mom had directed him to, Tad breathed a sigh of relief and pulled in to the parking lot, pulled right up to the front doors. Light shone out of the glass storefront, but glazing nearly up to the top of the windows blocked him from seeing inside. He prayed that Ellie hadn’t left yet.

And then she walked out of the door, bundled up in a parka, scarf and woolen cap. He had to smile; she looked like a little kid all wrapped up like that. He honked, and she jumped, then made her way over to the passenger window, so she didn’t have to step off the curb.

Smart girl. There were probably drifts of several inches of slush or icy snow next to the curb.

Ellie bent to peer into the window, but Tad wasn’t going to roll it down and let the snow in. He stretched over and pushed open the door, ordering her to, “Get in.”

“Tad! What are you doing here?”

She didn’t exactly sound happy to see him. Ellie leaned her head and shoulders down so she could see him across the car’s interior, but made no move to get in.

“Aunt Eleanor, you’re letting too much cold air in.”

“Eric? Ian? What—”

Tad didn’t wait for her to make up her mind. He reached over and grabbed her arm to pull her inside.

#####

Eleanor tumbled into the passenger seat of her father’s car with an undignified, “Eep!” Landing with her hat askew and covering one eye, she pushed Tad’s arm out of the way and closed the car door herself.

“What do you think you’re doing?” she demanded, blowing hair out of her mouth and ripping off her fogged glasses so she could glare at her childhood crush. Her Look lost a little of its affect when she could only make out a fuzzy outline of his face, couldn’t tell if he looked repentant or not.

“Hi, Aunt Eleanor.” “We came to rescue you.” Her nephews—Janice’s boys—spoke over each other from the backseat.

Eleanor shoved her glasses back on her face. “Well, that’s really nice,” she shot another Look at Tad so he would know she meant it was anything but, “but I didn’t need you to come get me. I’m perfectly capable of getting home on my own.”

The car started to roll forward.

“Tad, stop,” she exclaimed. “I’m not going with you.”

“Ellie, the weather’s gotten worse. Let me and the boys drive you back to your parents’ house.”

She flinched at the hated nickname, reached for the door handle. “For one thing, I’m not leaving my car, and also, I still have to go to the mall to finish my shopping.”

Tad placed a hand on her knee and she froze with her fingers on the passenger door. How could one touch discombobulate her so?

“You don’t need to be out in this.” Tad’s continued insistence that she return home was getting irritating.

“If the weather is really getting worse, then it makes sense for me to go to the mall now.” She was being reasonable, she knew she was.

The boys were uncharacteristically silent in the back. Probably waiting to see what their favorite “uncle” would do next.

Tad sighed. “Why don’t you let Eric, Ian and I escort you? The mall’s only another mile up the road. It’s not going to take long, is it?”

Knowing how stubborn Tad was, this would probably the best offer she was likely to get. She’d be wise to take it. “Fine.” But that didn’t mean she had to like it.

Tad eased the car out of the parking lot and back onto the road. “You boys ready for an adventure?”

A chorus of “yeah!”s was the answer. Men. Of course they would band together.

Tad shot a quick glance over at her. “You need me to stop somewhere and get you something to eat? There’s a couple of fast food joints just ahead.”

“No thanks. I had some fruit and a protein bar after my workout.”

She could see his forehead wrinkle in the dim light from the dash.

“You should eat more than that.”

“I don’t need more than that.”

Tad’s lips firmed into a frown, with little lines bracketing his mouth. Irritated, she realized she was watching him. Eleanor forced her attention out her window, but with the flurrying snow all she saw was a reflection of her own face. Goodness, she hadn’t even run a brush through her hair, she’d just stuffed her cap on and put her coat on over her workout clothes. She’d had no idea what—or who—would be waiting for her.

She couldn’t help asking. “Why aren’t you busy with… you know, business stuff? I saw all your papers spread out in the living room. In fact, I’m surprised you got away from the company at all.” She really was. It was the first time he’d come for Christmas that she could remember since she’d gotten her master’s degree.

He smiled, but it came across fairly grim. “Even workaholics can take time off at the holidays.”

“Hmm.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Nothing. It’s just unusual.”

A quick glance over her shoulder revealed the twins engrossed in video games. Totally unconcerned with the weather. Eleanor turned back to the front.

Just in time for the tires to lock. The car started to skid.


Enjoy your weekend. The next chapter will be posted first thing Monday morning.

12/08/2010

OCFW Christmas Serial CHAPTER TWO

OCFW Christmas serial story
Chapter Two

this chapter by Sharon Srock
Copyright © OKC Christian Fiction Writers


Tad watched Eleanor climb the stairs, her childhood limp a little more pronounced as she navigated the steps. The long tunic she wore over her jeans did little to hide the curves she carried on her five and a half foot frame. Her sleek black hair bounced against the back of her shoulders, taunting him.


Little Ellie Clark had grown up into a beautiful, curvaceous woman.

His best friend’s sister…Robbie’s twin sister…had been a part of Tad’s life for as long as he could remember. And ever since girls had stopped having cooties, he’d been trying not to notice her.

Tad knew Eleanor had always resented his place in Robbie’s life. Tad was the friend that had driven that first wedge between the fraternal twins. The summer of Eleanor’s accident—sixth grade—Robbie had turned to Tad for companionship. The friendship forged during those difficult months had lasted for the rest of Robbie’s life.

Tad and Robbie, the only boys in households overrun with women, had found in each other the brother they craved. It had been Tad who’d shared in Robbie’s high school antics. The skirt chasing, prank playing, sports crazed years passing too quickly into adult responsibilities.

Tad had hoped to be a comfort to his friend’s family during the holidays. Robbie’s death six months ago had left a hole in everyone’s heart. Eleanor’s attitude reminded Tad that she still blamed him for many things.

He couldn’t help feeling frustrated that their first encounter in two years—except for the funeral—had started out on the wrong foot.

#####

Eleanor unpacked her duffle bag in the solitude of her childhood room. Mom hadn’t changed it much in the years Eleanor had been living on her own. School memorabilia decorated the walls along with posters of once favored actors and singers. She was comfortable here despite the out grown remnants of her childhood. This room had been her haven since birth. With Tad in the house all week, it would continue to be.

Eleanor shook out one of her not-so-new, new outfits. Since her surgery, she’d become a thrift store junkie. As the pounds came off, it made more sense to buy gently used clothing instead of spending money on brand new stuff that would need to be replaced with smaller sizes in the coming weeks.

This was her secret, hers and Robbie’s. Her twin brother had been her support through the months of decision and weeks of preparation for her lap band procedure. He’d listened to her fears, held her hand, and gone with her to the hospital only days before his leave ended. She’d sworn him to silence, not wanting to worry her parents, or face Janice’s criticism over this very personal decision. Robbie had taken her secret to his grave. He’d been killed two weeks after her surgery. His support and love for her just one more incentive on her road to a healthier lifestyle.

She stuffed her workout clothes inside a tote bag. She had an appointment with Crystal for some gym time and shopping and the weather wasn’t going to stop her from keeping it. This week, more than ever, she needed both the comfort of her best girl friend and the calorie protection her exercise program provided. Eleanor bundled a bulky sweater around herself to shield her secret from the too shrewd eyes of Theodore Varner.

Unfortunately, he was coming up the stairs as she went down, his presence spoiling what she’d hoped would be a quiet get-away.

Eleanor averted her eyes, praying he’d simply let her be.

“Where are you going?”

She gave him a smile in obedience to her mother’s instructions as she hurried past. She flicked her straight black hair away from her face. “The gym. Then shopping.”

Tad stopped and grabbed her arm, the contact sizzling through her. “Did you fail to notice the blizzard brewing outside?”

“We don’t have blizzards in Oklahoma.” She shook off his big, warm hand while keeping a smile plastered to her face. It was hard. He always made her feel like she was still Robbie’s kid-sister. “Should God choose to bless us with more snow overnight, that’s just one more reason for me to finish my shopping this afternoon.”

Tad sighed. “Hang on, I’ll drive you.”

No! “Not necessary, I’m meeting my friend Crystal. We have some serious girl time planned.” She let her gaze travel from his expensive loafers, past the designer sweater, and finally met his killer blue eyes. “Besides, you’re not dressed to go out in the weather.”

“But…”

She hurried to the bottom of the stairs, grabbed her purse and a coat from the closet, and tossed him a wave. “See ya.”

#####

Tad flinched as the door slammed behind Ellie. Confounded girl…woman.

Her brush off was disappointing, but expected. But there was something else… something different in her since Robbie’s funeral. Tad stared at the door she’d just walked out of, wrestling with images from then and now, trying to figure it out... Eleanor’s raven black hair hadn’t changed much, was still sleek and straight, if a little longer. She still had the most unusual eyes he’d ever encountered, and her complexion…he snapped his fingers. That’s it. Her face. Eleanor’s face was thinner than he’d seen it in years.

He shook his head. She must not be eating. Grief over Robbie stealing her appetite? A week of her mother’s holiday cooking would take care of that in a hurry.

While he was here, he’d watch and make sure.

#####

Eleanor stepped into the gym and stomped the snow from her feet. Her glasses fogged again and she yanked them off. She planned to reward herself with contacts when she hit the fifty-pound mark. She couldn’t wait.

A squeal sounded from somewhere to her left. She turned just in time to receive Crystal’s enthusiastic hug.

“Look at you, at what’s left of you.” Crystal took a step back, Eleanor’s hands clasped in both of hers. “You look FANTASTIC. How much?”

Eleanor grinned. “Twenty-five pounds. Does it really show?”

“Are you kidding me? Has it been hard?”

Eleanor shrugged. “Yes and no. It’s a definite life style change, but I feel so much better and I get to go shopping for new clothes every couple of weeks.”

“Have you told your family yet?”

“Not yet. I wanted it to be a Christmas surprise. They’ve worried about me for so long. I wanted to make sure I could do it before I told them. Now, it will probably have to wait till after Christmas.”

“How come?”

Eleanor leaned her head on Crystal’s shoulder. “We have company for the holidays.”

“That’s normal around your house.”

“Theodore Varner.”

Crystal gasped at the name. “No…”

“Yep.”

Eleanor accepted comfort from her friend, knowing she didn’t have to explain things to Crystal. Crystal already knew Eleanor had fallen in love with Tad the summer of her accident. She’d been twelve, and that’s when the whole downward-spiral had begun. Eleanor had spent the summer confined in a body cast, comforting herself with chocolate.

And never stopped.





Check back on Friday for the next chapter!

12/06/2010

OCFW Christmas serial CHAPTER ONE

OCFW Christmas serial story
Chapter One

this chapter by Lacy Williams

Copyright © OKC Christian Fiction Writers


“Hello-oo! Anybody home?”

Eleanor Clark paused in the foyer of her parents’ home, waiting for her glasses to unfog after coming in from the cold. And it was cold!

She brushed the fluffy, white flakes from her shoulders before shedding her coat and scarf. It hardly ever snowed in Oklahoma, but this one was shaping up to be a blizzard. The forecasters were calling for at least a foot. Two days before Christmas, no less. What were procrastinators—like her—supposed to do if they hadn’t finished their shopping?

“Mom?” she called out, hanging her coat in the front closet, already overstuffed with jackets, mufflers and other winter accessories.

It was unusual for the house to be so quiet. This time of year her parents’ home was usually filled to bursting with relatives and friends.

“She’s upstairs,” a voice answered.

Eleanor whirled and whacked a nearby potted plant with the duffel bag that she’d just picked up from the floor.

The man who’d spoken stepped through the living room doorway and caught the planter before it crashed over on its side. When he straightened up, Eleanor saw that her ears had not betrayed her after all.

It was her brother Robbie’s best friend, Theodore “Tad” Varner. Her nemesis since elementary school. In the flesh. The toned, movie-star-good-looking, blond-haired flesh.

“What are you doing here?” Eleanor swung away from him and her duffel whacked into the closet door she’d just closed.

He cleared his throat. Was he trying not to laugh? She couldn’t tell. “Your mom invited me. Do you want me to take that?”

“No.” She realized that sounded a little rude. “Thank you.”

She left her bag at the foot of the stairs and followed him into the living room, where she stopped short. A set of designer luggage took up space next to the sofa. A newspaper was spread across the coffee table, while folders and paperwork covered the cushions and arms of the couch.

He’d moved in.

Eleanor swallowed hard. “You mean Mom invited you… to stay?”

“Mm hmm,” he answered, distracted by a handful of papers he’d picked up. He looked up and really looked at her, his blue eyes piercing. “You seem different. Finals at the university go okay?”

“Yes, fine.” She rubbed the bridge of her nose. “Same as usual. Kids waiting until the last minute to turn in their projects. A few complainers who ‘forgot,’” she used air quotes to show her sarcasm, “to drop classes before the deadline.”

“Hmm. New boyfriend, then?”

She blushed, heat flaring up her neck and into her cheeks. “No. I’m not seeing anyone new.”

Not for two years. It was too hard to fit in social obligations when her schedule was full with teaching fifteen hours of classes—half at the master’s level—plus the extra tutoring she gave on the weekends.

Her sister Janice said she just hadn’t met the right man. That when she did, Eleanor would make time for Mr. Right. Eleanor was inclined to agree, but she hadn’t told her sister she was done looking after the last two men she’d dated had turned out to be uber-losers.

Tad tilted his head to the side, still considering her. Was it too much to ask that he not notice her flushed face?

“Well, there’s something new about you…”

She shrugged, not willing to talk to him about something she hadn’t even told her family yet. “I’m going to go find my mom. Upstairs?”

“Yeah, I think she was doing laundry.”

“All right, thanks.”

Eleanor turned to the stairs.

“Ellie.”

She stopped on the third stair, eyes closed. Tad and Robbie had shortened her name when she’d been in fifth grade. They were the only ones who ever used the nickname. She’d hated it then, but now it just hurt. “Yeah?”

“It’s good to see you.”

She mumbled something and stomped up the stairs. What was he doing here?

#####

“What is he doing here?” Eleanor hissed at her mother, glancing over her shoulder toward the hall, to make sure he wasn’t out there eavesdropping.

“Why, staying for Christmas, dear.” Ruth Clark didn’t look up from the clean linens she shook out over the bare mattress in the guest room.

“But why here? Why not a hotel?” She turned her head and mumbled, “He could buy a hotel if he wanted.”

“I don’t know, dear. Can you tuck in that corner?”

Eleanor stretched the sheet flat and jammed it under the corner of the mattress. “Well, I don’t like it. You know he’s always disliked me.”

“That’s not true, Eleanor.” Her mother plumped the two newly-cased pillows and arranged them at the head of the bed. “He and Robbie both adored you. They were just boys – didn’t know how to show it.”

Eleanor shook her head, leaning back against the dresser with arms crossed. “Even if that was the case, I don’t understand why he had to come now.”

Ruth stepped over and touched her daughter’s arm. “You know we always have guests around Christmas. This year, it happens to be Tad.” She held Eleanor’s eyes. “And I expect you to behave the same as you would if it was anyone else.”

Eleanor controlled her expression, but what she really wanted to do was argue. She didn’t want Tad here, not this Christmas. Instead, she nodded.

With a gentle pat on her daughter’s arm, Ruth turned to pull the block quilt up over the bed and smooth it into place. “This Christmas is going to be hard for all of us, with Robbie gone.”

Eleanor agreed.

And having Tad Varner around would make things worse. For her.




Check back on Wednesday for the next installment!

A Christmas gift from OCFW

OCFW has a Christmas gift for you! Several of our members have gotten together and jointly written a Christmas novella for your enjoyment. With five members contributing, our novella reached eight chapters and 10,000 words. A chapter will be posted on our blog each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday until the story is complete, just in time for Christmas! For a chapter listing and bios on our contributing members, see below.

Also, we’d love it if you would comment. We want to know that you are enjoying this story and your thoughts.

Merry Christmas from OCFW!


CONTRIBUTORS:
Chapter 1 - Lacy Williams
Chapter 2 - Sharon Srock
Chapter 3 - Lacy Williams
Chapter 4 - Terri Weldon
Chapter 5 - Robin Patchen
Chapter 6 - Bill Garrison
Chapter 7 - Sharon Srock
Chapter 8 - Lacy Williams


BIOS:

Lacy Williams – Lacy Williams is a wife and mom from Oklahoma. Her debut novel, Marrying Miss Marshal, will be published by Love Inspired Historical in August 2011. You can read more short fiction by Lacy, plus find out about giveaways and more at Lacy’s website: www.lacywilliams.net .




Sharon Srock – Sharon Srock lives with her husband, Larry, and two dogs in Rural Oklahoma. She is a mother, grandmother of twenty-two lucky young people, and a fifth grade Sunday School teacher. She loves to travel with her grandchildren and write. She is a member of the ACFW and treasurer for her local chapter.

Terri Weldon – Terri Weldon is the 2010 Runner-Up in the Romantic Suspense Category of ACFW’s Genesis contest for A Cry In The Night. She has served as secretary for OCFW for three years. She is also an active participant of the online Faith, Hope, and Love (FHL) chapter of RWA, including its Finish The Book Loop. Her work has placed in RWA contests such as Finally the Bride (twice) and The Daphne. Terri’s writing combines her love of romance, good suspense, and faith. She lives in Oklahoma and is the proud owner of two Westies and one adorable mutt.

Robin Patchen – Robin Patchen has been married for seventeen years to her best friend, Edward. After relocating from New England to Oklahoma in 1996, they were blessed with three beautiful children, Nicholas, Lexi and Jacob, ages 13, 11 and 9. Robin homeschooled her children for seven years and now spends her spare time writing both fiction and narrative nonfiction.

Bill Garrison – Bill Garrison lives in Oklahoma City with his wife and three kids. He is an internal auditor for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and enjoys reading and writing suspense novels.