Drawing Beauty, Part 2 of 2

Fiction By Anna // 6/15/2009

 

Part Two:

It was Sunday, and Holly hadn’t seen Thomas since last week’s Desiring God class. That alone was unusual and disappointing at best, and disconcerting at worst, because (as I’ve mentioned previously) he usually came over at least once to help her out, talk, or lend a book. (She had been too busy to stop by to see him.)

He usually sat next to her, but in Sunday school he purposely sat away. Holly was stunned and hurt; she hardly heard a word of Riley’s lesson.

Is he angry with me?

After Sunday school, he disappeared almost instantly. She stood awkwardly by his family’s pew until Mrs. Chandler invited her to sit down.

Thomas’s mother only seemed a little sad, not angry. Confounded, Holly took her seat silently. She couldn’t concentrate on the song service or anything else- she wanted desperately to understand what was going on.

Then Pastor Chandler walked up to the pulpit. "Dear friends," he began, "I have some news for you. Some of you may perceive it as sad, but it’s exciting as well. In two weeks, my family and I are going back to England. Permanently."

~~~

!!!

!!!

!!!

That was all Holly’s brain would register for a full five seconds, as murmurs broke across the room.

Holly’s face turned white. Her head whipped around to Thomas for an explanation, but he sat there stiffly, his face an unreadable mask, and his brown eyes seemed so hard.

At the end of his father’s declaration, he rose from his seat, walked past Holly without glancing at her, and strode out of the auditorium. Holly wanted more than anything to run after him, but she forced herself to sit there with his mother; forced herself to listen to every painful, terrible word his father’s beautiful voice spoke. Other people and voices went by like a trance, a dream- a nightmare.

"For a long time I’ve felt God calling me back to my native land, and now I have an opportunity to pastor a small church plant and sow the Gospel in England.

"Brothers and sisters, I know we’ll all miss you. But take comfort and pray for our endeavor."

Mr. Chandler might have said something else, but Holly didn’t hear it. She really did bolt out then, and dashed around trying to find Thomas. Tears stung her eyes, blurring her vision, but they didn’t spill over.

She finally found Thomas in the empty youth group room. He was standing in front of a window, watching the cars go by in the street.

Holly hesitated in the doorway. "Thomas…"

Finally, he turned slowly and looked at her. He still said nothing, but the mixture of anger and ice on his face was cloaked by deep, deep sadness.

She felt like a statue, unable to move. "Why didn’t you tell me?" she said. Her voice sounded too serene, too fake, like a recording.

"Didn’t find out until Monday." His voice was low.

"You could have come by and warned me."

He looked out the window again. "Would it have made it any easier?"

"No," she said honestly. "You’re still my best friend, and losing you-" She choked on the word. "But we could have been praying. Could have had three weeks instead of two."

His anger came boiling to the surface again. "It doesn’t make any difference, Holly! It will never make any difference!"

She shrank back from his raised volume. She had never imagined Thomas’s beautiful voice could sound so angry, and she felt sick. Not just stomach-sick, or heartsick, but part-of-me-is-being-ripped-out-sick.

"For so long after we first left Britain I wanted to go back. I would have done anything to go back!" His voice dropped. "Now I’d do anything to stay."

"John 16:33," whispered Holly.

Thomas looked back, surprised. She could see on his face that his anger was falling to pieces, slipping away like a mask with a cut string. Scripture tends to do that.

Suddenly Mrs. Chandler appeared behind Holly. "Thomas, I’d like you to go back in now," she said quietly.

Thomas nodded and followed her out. "Pray for me," he whispered to Holly as he passed her.

When they were gone she sank against the door post and had a long, horrible cry. Then she cleaned up her face and walked into the auditorium for the last hour of the sermon.

~~~

The two weeks both crawled and flew. Thomas came as often as he could, but there was a lot of packing to do, so more frequently Holly found ways to go to his house and help out. For the first week they didn’t say much to each other, but on the last seven days before the move words came pouring out, unstoppable and torrential.

Then the day came. Holly was at the airport with the Chandlers- Aunt Gloria was there too.

Holly wanted to say, "Never forget me," but what came out was, "Write me."

"I will," he promised. "Pray for me."

"Always."

She gave him the address of her real home, remembering she would be leaving the Vanderburgs’ at the end of summer, a couple weeks at worst (something that had been lost in everything else). Thomas wasn’t sure what his address would be, so he said he’d send the first letter.

Then he left. "Goodbye, Holly."

Holly echoed the farewell weakly. She felt very lost, as though something irreplaceable had fallen out of the world, without which it was sent spinning on its head.

When she picked up her messenger bag to leave (with her aunt sighing in the background, "What a shame! Such a handsome young man"), it was heavier than when she had brought it. She looked inside and saw a volume that held the Circle Trilogy by Ted Dekker. On the inside cover, Thomas’s handwriting read as follows:

"To Holly Anderson. Remember John 16:33! ~Thomas Chandler"

Holly brushed something suspiciously wet from her cheek and noticed a sheet of notebook paper in between the pages. She drew it out and was torn between laughing and crying.

It was a sketch of her playing with Wookie. She could almost hear Thomas’s voice: "I draw everything I like. I draw beauty."

~~~

Thomas wrote Holly a letter on the last of August; he was sure she would be home again by the time it arrived. He sent one every other week, sometimes more. None of them were returned.

Even though somewhat hurt, he wrote anyway. Wrote to Holly without response for two months- but even Thomas had his limits. He eventually got discouraged and stopped.

Holly wasn’t being rude, though. Not a single one of his letters reached her; she never went home. A week and a half after the Chandlers left, both of her parents died. Turned out they had been very, very sick for awhile and had been asking for her- they had even contacted Gloria and asked her to send Holly home, but Gloria ignored their repeated pleas. It was crushing for the poor girl.

Gloria became her legal guardian.

In her devastation, she completely forgot that Thomas had the wrong address. She almost forgot Thomas utterly- but the words "In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world" echoed over and over in her heart. She clung to them and their Messenger in a way she had never done before.

When she first recalled that Thomas had promised to write, she thought he was just busy. But months inched along- she worked for her aunt and cousins, did schoolwork, and watched her garden turn grey- and still he did not write.

She believed he had forgotten her; though she cherished the book and artwork he had slipped into her bag, she was angry with him. Angry that he had left her just before the most tragic time of her life, angry that he had forgotten her.

But life went on. Even among odious relatives, life went on. Even when her best friend was cut off from her, life went on. Still, Holly didn’t make many other friends. She talked to Lindsay now and then, and went to Riley Polowski for spiritual advice, but they were the only people she got remotely close to, and neither quite as close as Thomas. And she certainly didn’t confide in the Vanderburgs, who were less than pleased to have her join their family (though technically she was already related).

At sixteen, Holly didn’t get a car or a diamond necklace (both things that Alexa got the next year). She celebrated in her room with a photo of her parents and a cupcake from Hannah, the cook.

At seventeen, she sneaked over to Lindsay’s house and they watched a movie to chase loneliness away.

At eighteen, she was too busy to do anything, and at nineteen she almost forgot it was her birthday.

Holly went to college for a short time, but what she really wanted to be was a gardener or florist, which doesn’t take that much schooling. When she got out of college, however, she was put back to work at Aunt Gloria’s. She was an adult and could have left, but she didn’t. She continued to tend her garden, read, attend the church down the street, and be bossed around by her aunt and cousins.

But the March before her twenty-second birthday, something strange happened.

~~~

Holly was helping Hannah, who was still the cook, make lunch when she overheard her aunt telling Lauren and Alexa, "Do you remember the British pastor we had around, oh, seven years ago? He went back to England- you remember."

Holly froze in the other room. She had tried not to think about the Chandlers for a long, long time, and had mostly been successful. Seven years tends to be ample time to forget someone, even someone special.

"No," chorused the other girls in a bored tone.

"Do you remember his son?" Gloria persisted.

"The good-looking one," said Lauren appreciatively.

"What’s his name?" asked Alexa.

"Thomas," said Holly in a deathlike whisper.

"It’s Thomas," said Aunt Gloria at the same moment.

Hannah looked at Holly curiously, eyebrows rising as if to say, "Holly, is there something you’d like to tell us?"

"What about him?" said Holly suddenly, appearing in the room.

Aunt Gloria looked at her niece disapprovingly. It was her opinion that the Anderson girl should not be seen or heard. She turned to her daughters. "Well, Thomas Chandler is coming back here. We must be at church, girls, to see him."

She looked at Holly sharply. "What are you standing around for? Shoo!"

Holly flew to her room in the attic, emotions all astorm inside. "Thomas is back," crooned her silly, treacherous little heart.

"What’s your point?" snapped her head viciously.

The traitor sang, "You remember how wonderful he was. How kind. How fun. How godly."

"He betrayed you!" said the head. "He forgot you, he didn’t write you even once, he never cared, and I’ll bet he’s forgotten he ever knew you."

"You’ve been telling yourself you hate him for years," said her heart. "But you don’t, and you know it."

"You’re not a little girl anymore," scorned her head. "You don’t need your childish infatuations."

"It was more than that," whispered the heart.

"He wounded you!" shrieked the head, and that was all Holly would let them say.

She stood and took the Circle Trilogy from the bookshelf. She hadn’t read its cover for so long, but she did today. She hadn’t looked at his sketch for so long, but she did today.

"All right," she said to herself, caving. "I’ll see him at church on Sunday. But I will not, under any circumstances, talk to him!"

~~~

Thomas Chandler had graduated from college as a guitarist and singer, but primarily an artist, for that is what he loved best. His hands were still always busy.

He had always meant to come back to the States, and he finally had his chance- a birthday present from his parents in February. They would have liked to come with him, but they couldn’t, so Thomas went alone. Well, alone with Wookie.

The church building looked the same to him as it always had. He came early on Sunday just to see how much had changed. At first it seemed perfectly normal, and only he was different, but then he saw Pastor O’Brian’s oldest child in the youth group room- Chloe had been six when he left!

Thomas wondered if Riley Polowski was still the youth pastor. Maybe there was even a Mrs. Polowski now! The thought made him smile.

Thomas still had an elfin smile.

When Cody Baker came, Thomas hardly recognized him. He found that Lindsay had moved away. People all over had grown up and changed and moved on, and Thomas felt oddly left behind. He had grown up, too- apart from the place he had once known so well… but he was glad to be back. Very, very glad.

Some people had known he was coming; others wondered and/or realized who he was. Before and after the service, old friends and classmates and teachers alike crowded him and with greetings and questions… but mostly questions, such as follows:

How old was he now? (Twenty-three.)

Did remember so-and-so? (Yes, vaguely.)

Did he have an engagement for lunch or a place to stay? (No; yes. He was free for lunch, but was staying with his father’s old friend Graham Holden.)

Riley asked the last question. He thumped the young British man warmly on the back- Same old Riley, smiled Thomas to himself- and said, "Well, how about you and I have some lunch at Wendy’s and catch up on old times?"

"Why not?" said Thomas. Oh, it was good to be back in all the wonderful chaos of his church in the States, even when your only prospect for lunch is Wendy’s fast food.

~~~

Holly glimpsed Thomas several times from a distance. He was still tall, still elfin. He had the same wonderful accented voice, though deeper. Same slightly curly red hair, thin frame, and big brown eyes. But he was so much more grownup now. Oh, it made her heart ache to see him!

I never should have come,

To make things worse, he didn’t even glance her way. He didn’t remember her at all, it seemed. Head’s fears were confirmed over heart’s hopes, so Holly breathed a deep sigh and walked out, while the Vanderburgs still sought an audience with the heroic, handsome prince returned triumphantly from exile.

~~~

"Would you mind playing guitar for the teen worship tonight, the way you used to?" asked Riley.

"Well, I’m not a teenager, but I’ll do it. What should I play?" Thomas asked. He was itching to get his guitar out again, not having opened the case since before the flight over.

"You have complete creative license. The youth group is smaller than it used to be, but more musical," laughed Riley.

Thomas sat back from his meal, lost in thought. "Hey, Riley. Do you remember Holly Anderson? She stayed with the Vanderburgs the summer I left," he said in a faraway voice.

"’Course I do," said Riley nonchalantly.

"Do you-" He hesitated. "Do you happen to know if she still lives at this address?" He dug a crumpled piece of paper out of his jacket pocket and smoothed it out on the table.

Riley read it. Seeming surprised, he said, "Actually, I do."

Thomas sat forward. He looked very boyish and eager, but Riley said nothing. "…Well?"

"She lives here, as a matter of fact," said Riley. "Not in-the-note here. Here here."

Thomas’s mouth dropped open. He closed it, then opened it again. "Her parents moved here?" He sounded as though he couldn’t believe it, but wanted to with every fiber of his being.

Riley blinked at him. He looked both sad and shocked. "Thomas," he said. "Holly’s parents… died."

Thomas’s face changed utterly, but the rest of him was frozen in place. He put his hand up to his forehead and looked down, leaning on it, trying to digest the information. When he spoke, his voice was half-whispered. "What?"

"It was a little while after your family left," Riley explained quietly. "Both of the Anderson parents passed away quite suddenly. Gloria Vanderburg became Holly’s guardian."

"Poor girl…" was all Thomas managed.

"She’s a young woman now," said Riley gravely. "Didn’t you see her this morning?"

"I wasn’t looking," said Thomas; but most of his mind was understanding something instead of paying attention to the conversation.

Holly had been living here.

She hadn’t received any of his letters.

So she hadn’t been ignoring him, as he had thought.

Then what did she think of him?

"Didn’t she talk to you?" asked Riley.

Thomas’s eyes widened, everything going up in fireworks, all of which seemed to be writing "FEATHER-BRAIN!"

Maybe she thought he had forgotten! Or worse, purposely not written! Maybe she hated him!

He sprang up. "I have got to talk to her!"

"Whoa, hold up!" Riley stood and put a hand on Thomas’s shoulder. "You’ll see her tonight!"

"I’m not sure I can survive that long!"

Riley, judging from the twitching at the corners of his mouth, was highly amused. "So I take it you like this girl?"

Thomas, taken aback by the question, straightened and calmed down. He ran his fingers though his hair to regain dignity. "We were friends," he said, shrugging in a (failed) attempt to be casual.

"Mmmhmm. Friends," said Riley, trying not to laugh. "I can totally tell by the way she didn’t even attempt to talk to you."

Thomas looked hurt. "We were friends; surely you remember. As for why she won’t talk to me- well, I have a theory."

"Do tell," said Riley, copying his accent with ridiculous exaggeration.

Suddenly they both remembered that they were standing in the middle of a Wendy’s at lunch time, talking rather loudly, and everyone was staring at them. The two men exchanged embarrassed glances and hastened away.

~~~

"Holly, darling," Aunt Gloria began.

Holly, not being in a respectful mood, rolled her eyes. What is she up to now? she thought.

"We couldn’t get a single minute with young Chandler. Be a dear and reintroduce us tonight."

Holly was startled. "I’m sorry, I really couldn’t," she blurted.

"But, Holly, you two were quite chummy, as I remember. You wouldn’t have to hang around anyway. Just waltz over and say-"

"Aunt Gloria, no," cried Holly desperately. "Thomas- Thomas doesn’t even remember me!"

"Jog his memory," said Gloria carelessly.

"But- I- I don’t want to talk to him!" Her eyes were round, wild, and terrified.

Gloria Vanderburg’s eyes narrowed. "You will do as I say, child."

Holly took a deep breath. "Aunt Gloria, I’m not a child. You can’t force me into anything."

Gloria knew Holly was through with pleading and threatening, so she tried a different tactic. "So this is how you repay all my kindness to you!"

Holly groaned, disgusted, and went up to her room. Gloria was so angry she was on the verge of locking her inn, but the attic was a cold place to visit in March, so she didn’t. She and her daughters just tagged along again after Holly that night, still attempting to convince her.

~~~

Thomas was keeping a lookout for Holly from the moment he stepped into church. But he was leading the youth worship, so Thomas, torn between excitement and nervousness, had a harder night of it than he had expected.

He stumbled terribly through his first song, and I’m afraid the youth group was unimpressed. But finally he was able to focus on Jesus, and he unconsciously proved to the teenagers that he had graduated as a musician and singer. (Afterwards, two girls and a boy came to him and thanked him for coming.)

Thomas stayed in the youth discussion, though he could have (and likely should have) lived up to the word adult and listened to Pastor O’Brian on Ephesians 1:1-6. Actually, he was certain he’d be too distracted to pay attention if he knew Holly was in the same room with him, and he was scatter-brained enough as it was. But at least several impressionable, giggly teenage girls enjoyed Thomas’s presence in the class.

Church ended. Thomas walked into the auditorium and was once more besieged by inquiring people, but he absently brushed them off. (Some were quite offended.)

Then he saw her, in a purple peacoat by the door. Her face was only turned partly toward him, but he knew right away that it was Holly. Same long, brown curls. Same glowing eyes. Same commandeering aunt, too!

He realized that Gloria Vanderburg- who looked exactly the same as he remembered- was trying to talk to her. Holly was shaking her head emphatically and trying to pull away, but her aunt was very insistent.

He found himself getting angry, but then being too overcome with excitement. Before he knew it, he was walking rapidly toward her. She didn’t notice him until he was right behind her. "Holly," he said boyishly. "Holly, it’s me."

She turned eyes to him that seemed at the same time cold, angry, and afraid, then broke away.

"Holly! Holly, wait!" Go after her, his heart was saying, but his ever-practical head was cautioning him. She’s been through a lot. Give her time. Remember- she doesn’t know what you do about the letters.

Gloria Vanderburg quickly took charge of the situation. "What an ungrateful child!" said Gloria, in the way she thought Thomas would want to hear.

"I’m sorry, Mrs. Vanderburg," said Thomas after a brief sigh. "I have to go."

~~~

Holly was finally on balloons again.

It had upset her whole heart vs. head debate when Thomas had tried to talk to her. Heart had chanted, "I told you so!" for two hours, and head had been thrown topsy-turvy. But something was happened that just nudged him out of sight.

Aunt Gloria, Lauren, and Alexa were leaving!

They were tired of the cold. After a fresh snowfall on Monday, they decided to take a two week’s vacation to Florida and leave Holly solely in charge of the house. (Hannah was visiting with an old friend.)

Holly couldn’t be happier with this arrangement. The house to herself for two weeks! What a pleasure! To celebrate, she walked out to the nearest Borders and bought herself a new book.

It was Tuesday evening when she left, and when she came back from the bookstore, it was around midnight and the Vanderburgs were already gone. (Holly always had a tough time deciding on a book.) She tried the front door, but it was locked. She didn’t worry; there were two other entrances.

Both locked.

Still, Holly was under control. The Vanderburgs had promised to leave the keys on the front windowsill for her.

No keys.

Then Holly began to panic. It was very dark. She couldn’t look for them now, and she had no friends she could stay with. She tried all the first floor windows, but they, too, were locked securely.

Holly sank down by the back door and wanted to cry. She doubted her aunt had locked her out on purpose (even she wasn’t that cruel. Was she?), but it was very cold.

Oh, Father, please send help,

Shivering, she fell asleep, and probably never would have woken again except for one thing.

A dog barked.

~~~

On Tuesday evening, Thomas finally got up the nerve to visit Holly. But when he arrived, no one was home. Dejected, he resolved to come back in the morning.

He woke up at five a.m.- and it wasn’t from jet lag.

He could remember spring here: Birds would be chirping and trilling and singing about this time, each trying to outdo not just the world but each other in musicality and volume, as if to say, "Take notice! Take notice! The sun will be rising in one point five hours!! Just like it did yesterday and the day before, ever since God made it! Isn’t it amazing?! Come on! Up, up to enjoy it! Just makes you glad to be alive!!"

And this added to the general muffled clamor of an early suburban morning.

But not in March.

Somehow this made Thomas feel lonely.

If Holly was already awake- which he doubted- he could imagine what she would do. She’d open her eyes, consider getting up… Then shrug, roll over, and fall back to sleep. Oh, how he envied that imagined ability to fall asleep easily!

No,

he thought after a moment. Holly was always an early riser. She loved to work in that garden.

He was rather epicly jealous of that, too. At least when she got up early she had some purpose to it.

But not in March!

He should talk to his mother. Both his parents knew full well his reasons for returning to the States, but Mum was… Well, not that Dad wasn’t perceptive, or didn’t read into things, but Mum was more skilled in this particular area. Women usually are, Thomas thought wryly. But at least men have a good share of common sense to deal with emotion… usually.

Usually, indeed. Too excited and anxious to see Holly, he was unable to fall back to sleep, so he paced for an hour, and was breakfasting with Graham Holden when Wookie came up, whining and nosing around Thomas’s feet.

"Wants to be walked," commented Mr. Holden drowsily.

What a perfect excuse to take him for a walk… thought Thomas. And he did… right to the Vanderburgs’ house.

~~~

Thomas knocked on the door. Waited a minute. Knocked again, six times. Risked ringing the doorbell, even.

It was a remarkably chilly morning, even for March, and he regretted not winding a scarf around his neck before heading out. He wondered if red was a snow-magnet- his hair seemed to collect all the loose snowflakes in the city, and every one of them was nipping and biting at him.

"Still looks as though no one’s home," sighed Thomas to himself. "It’s strange that they left the gate open, though."

But Wookie started barking.

"What is it, you silly dog?" asked Thomas, bending down. He let go of the leash for just a second, but the beagle was off, howling loudly enough to wake the Old Man from the Mother Goose rhyme "It’s Raining, It’s Pouring."

"Wookie! Woookieee!" Thomas raced after his dog, around the house, past the snowy garden, up to the back door- and stopped dead in his tracks.

Holly was sitting there on the back porch, but her face was as pale as wax. Frost decorated her hair and eyelashes, and she wore only a thin peacoat. Clutched tightly in her hands was a book, still in its plastic Borders bag. She didn’t move, not even when Wookie nudged and sniffed her.

Thomas’s heart didn’t beat for almost seven seconds. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

Then Wookie barked in Holly’s face, and her eyes fluttered open.

"Wha…" She tried to stand, but collapsed.

Almost. Thomas caught her. She was quickly out again, but that glimmer of life and the few seconds she clung to him kept Thomas praying and trying. He wrapped her limp form in his coat, got a whimpering Wookie out of the way, and with one powerful kick brought the door down.

Snow swirled in around his feet as he burst into the empty house. Gently, gently, he laid Holly on the couch, turned up the heat, and moved to the phone to dial 911, when Holly stirred and regained consciousness again.

"Thomas?" Her voice was so weak that he missed it the first time. "Thomas?" she said again, trying to sit up.

He dropped the phone, and it clattered on the kitchen floor tiles. "Holly! Are you okay? What happened?" He fumbled with a glass of hot chocolate as she explained, somewhat haughtily.

"I’d like to give them a piece of my mind!" cried Thomas, his brown eyes blazing.

Though the color was coming back into her cheeks, Holly’s face was as blank as stone as she sipped the cup down. "Thank you," she said, but she didn’t mean it. She was still angry.

She still thinks…

Holly’s eyes changed from cold to astonished, almost wounded. She suddenly understood. Her parents- the address- the letters- the truth. She sat there, completely lost in it all. "You did write to me, didn’t you?" she whispered.

He confirmed it with slight nod.

Restraint broke like an old rubber band. She buried her head in her arms, blinking rapidly to avoid tears. "I’m so sorry… I…"

"Please, don’t," he cut in quickly. "It’s over now. No matter how painful- it was a misunderstanding, and it’s done. Can we forget it?"

She looked up, her eyes somewhat red but otherwise calm. "I’ve been just terrible to you. Will you forgive me?"

"For what?" he asked, with a half-forced laugh. Then a genuine wink.

Holly smiled. Laughed. Laughed again just for the sake of laughing. Soon Thomas was laughing too, because she was speaking to him again. Because he had missed her so, so much.

It was really unreasonable and kind of weird how much they were laughing, but they didn’t care. "Thank you, really," Holly said finally, breathing hard. "I didn’t mean it before, but I do now."

"Thank Wookie," smiled Thomas. "You remember Wookie?"

She nodded. "The mighty Star Wars beagle."

"Exactly," he grinned. "He found you. By the way- have you seen him?"

As if in answer, they heard a crash from the dining room.

They both leaped up. It was quite a chase for the naughty dog, by the end of which the dining room was more or less destroyed.

Thomas helped Holly clean it up.

~~~

The next two weeks were bliss personified for Holly. Thomas really hadn’t forgotten her, and he still saw her as his lifelong friend. They seemed to pick up right where they had left off- but they were older, and different, no matter how much they felt like children around each other.

One day they started talking about dreams.

"I’m an artist, first and foremost," Thomas said.

"An amazing one," agreed Holly enviously. She had seen more of his work by then. "I can’t even draw stick figures."

"But you love flowers," he said. "See, I remembered!"

"Yes, you did," she sighed happily. Then she made a face. "Unfortunately, spring seems slow in coming."

"You could work in a flower shop," he suggested. "Somehow they get flowers all year round."

"I don’t have time for that!" she exclaimed, laughing. "I’m much too busy keeping house for Aunt Gloria!"

"I don’t understand why you bother with them," he said, shaking his head vigorously. "They’re cruel, domineering, and they obviously don’t care what happens to you!" The thought of her locked out on the back porch still infuriated him, besides scaring him badly.

"I know I’m old enough to move out, but frankly, I’m not sure they could manage without me," she said, perfectly serious.

"And why do you care?"

He had a point, but so did Holly. "It’s taken me until now to discover this- I’m slow at times- but God put me with them for a reason. Maybe He’ll use me in their lives, to bring them to Him."

"Wow."

"What?" Holly said, almost defensively. "I was serious."

"I know- I meant, ‘Wow, you’re following Christ much more trustingly than I am.’"

She smiled shyly. "Believe me, I’m not. I’ve hardly made any effort to share the Gospel with them before, or invite them to church, or anything."

He changed subject. "What about Lauren and Alexa? What do they plan to do with their glittery, lavish lives?"

"They seem to have no life ambition as of yet," snorted Holly. "There I go, being mean again, but there’s just no getting around the fact that their only aim in life was to get out of school and live like queens. They’ve even said as much to me before."

Thomas nodded. "We call those kinds of people ‘kippers’ in England. It’s sad, actually. But with such a mother…"

"I know. I sometimes wonder if, with different surroundings, they might have turned out well."

"Even that is doubtful, the way I see it. They had opportunities all the time. Church- you!"

"Ha," she said, but she wondered if she would be able to be the light Thomas saw her as when the Vanderburgs returned home.

It was doubtful. Very doubtful.

~~~

Thomas and Holly had been seeing each other without much interruption until the Vanderburgs returned. It was almost April, and still rather chilly.

"How was your trip?" asked Holly pleasantly as she helped them with their bags. She was in a good mood.

"How did you manage the house?" Gloria interrupted. "Abominably, I suppose."

"It was quite… eventful," said Holly with a secret smile. She was glad the back door had been repaired.

"It is too cold here!" Lauren was complaining. "Mother, did we have to come back? I can’t stand it!"

"Do you want to catch Thomas Chandler or not?" retorted her mother.

Oh dear,

thought Holly. Oh dear oh dear.

"He is soooo manly," Alexa giggled, coming in from the other room. She still acted very much like a teenager.

"I wouldn’t mind having him," Lauren admitted. She counted his good qualities, or at least the ones that mattered to her, on her fingers. "Good-looking, stylishly British…"

Their talk sickened Holly, and she couldn’t help herself. "Please don’t talk about him that way," she pleaded.

Alexa looked at her cousin with daggers in her eyes. "You probably just want him for yourself!"

"No, I-"

Aunt Gloria cut her off. "Have you been seeing him while we were gone, Holly?"

"Yes," admitted Holly after a pause. She added without thinking, "Though I don’t see how it’s any of your business!"

"See, see, she does!" cried Alexa.

"Really, we just-" protested Holly in vain.

"I forbid you to talk to him, Holly," commanded Gloria.

Holly’s gaze intensified. "Aunt Gloria, I want to make you happy, but that is one thing I cannot do."

"Cannot?" challenged her aunt, nostrils flaring.

"Respectfully, Aunt Gloria, I’ll unpack your suitcases now," said Holly firmly.

Hannah, who had come back earlier in the day, patted Holly on the back when they were out of the room. "Good job, Holly. Good job."

Holly, however, felt that she had failed miserably.

~~~

Holly had trouble getting away all that week. In an attempt to appease her aunt, she was going out of her way to be helpful, but nothing improved their relationship. Finally Holly realized that Gloria was determined to hate her, no matter what.

When Holly finally did get away, three guesses where she went.

Thomas seemed to be in a very good mood, so she didn’t bother him with how Gloria had forbidden her to talk to him and how angry she would be when she found out they were meeting, even for a harmless Bible study. But Holly did think he had a right to know one thing.

"By the way," she said as she was walking out after the Bible study, "my aunt is scheming to get you to propose to Lauren or Alexa."

"What?!" cried Thomas, aghast. "Why on earth would I- ?!" He was making a face that was almost laughable. "Pardon me, but- Ew!!"

Holly was slightly relieved, truth be told. "I’m sure you can handle them," she said and left.

But Thomas took it more seriously than expected. Surely, he thought, if people were plotting to marry him (of all people!), someone out there had undoubtedly observed Holly’s preciousness. Is she a gem or what! he thought. Soon someone will steal her heart and snatch her away…

~~~

"Where have you been?" demanded Lauren and Alexa as Holly walked in the door.

"Out," evaded Holly.

"Where?!"

"To see a friend."

"Mother! Mother!" screeched Alexa. "She saw Thomas again!"

Holly’s cheeks turned red. "Just because I tell you I’ve seen a friend you immediately assume it’s Thomas?"

"Oh, come on. Everyone knows you don’t have any friends," said Lauren.

Ouch. To make matters worse, Lauren was right.

Holly ended up being sent to her room. She complied, taking out the Circle Trilogy and reading the inside cover.

She repeated John 16:33 a lot that night. Along with the word forgiveness. Forgiveness. Forgiveness.

~~~

On Sunday, Thomas asked Holly to come to a park with him.

She hesitated. "I don’t think Aunt Gloria would-"

"I’m not asking Aunt Gloria," he said, his face a mixture of impatience and urgency. "I’m not asking her or Lauren or Alexa or any other girl here. I’m asking Holly Anderson, and only Holly can decide not to come." His voice dropped. "Please don’t let them influence this decision. It’s important."

"How important?" she asked, hesitant.

"As important as it is for you to know why I really came back."

Holly’s heart was doing gymnastics, and she took a deep breath. "I’d say that’s pretty important. I’ll come."

~~~

Thomas pushed Holly on a swing. The sun had come out, and the afternoon was actually warm. Neither was saying anything, so finally Holly spoke up. "All right, I give in. Why did you really come back?"

Thomas held the swing still. "Are you ready for this?" he asked, coming to the front.

She nodded, somewhat puzzled, and completely breathless without quite knowing why.

"I came back to keep a promise to myself." He paused, as if he thought she would interrupt, but she didn’t, so he took a deep breath and knelt by the swing. "I promised myself I’d come back for you, Holly, and I have."

He took her hand and drew something out of his coat pocket. It was a ring. "Holly- dearest Holly- I love you. Will you marry me?"

Her hand in his trembled, then clutched and squeezed. She leaned down until her forehead was touching his, and Thomas realized that she was crying. He had never seen her cry before, and it troubled him. "Are you all right? Did I upset you? I’m sorry, I-"

"Sshhh," she whispered, then laughed. "Are you kidding? It’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever said." She put her mouth right by his ear, her eyelashes brushing his cheek in butterfly kisses, and breathed, "Yes- with all my heart."

"Really?" he asked.

"Don’t be so surprised!" she laughed, resting her head on his shoulder.

Delirious with joy, he laughed with her, slipped the ring on her finger, and they sealed the promise with a kiss.

"I’ve just thought of a verse," said Holly as Thomas wiped the last traces of tears from her face. "Psalm 30:4-5."

"‘Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime,’" quoted Thomas.

"‘Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning,’" Holly finished with him.

"I have one thing to ask you," he said.

"Go on," she said.

"Let me tell your family."

Holly raised an eyebrow. "Oh dear. What are you planning?"

"Just let me," he urged.

"All right," she said cautiously. "Just don’t get me in trouble."

He drew her close. "Believe me, Holly, they are never bullying you again."

~~~

Thomas came by on Monday morning and requested the presence of the Vanderburgs. Lauren and Alexa exchanged sneaky, unpleasant smiles with their mother as they greeted him.

"What brings you here, Thomas?" asked Alexa, fluttering her eyelashes ridiculously.

He wanted to back away, but stayed firmly planted on their floor. "Something very important. Of a most… romantic… nature."

Alexa squealed (subtlety was still not for that family), and Lauren nearly fainted with delight. Gloria merely said, "Oh, really? How wonderful for you," and smiled a crocodilian grin.

"You see, I am madly in love with a girl in this house." Thomas deliberately looked at Lauren, though it took some effort on his part.

Alexa pouted. "Her?!" she started to say, but at that moment Holly came down the stairs.

"There you are!" Thomas exclaimed. He caught her up in his arms and spun her around.

"What is the meaning of this?!" thundered Gloria, incensed, raising her arm either to give Holly a high five or slap her (…definitely the latter); but Thomas stepped in front of his bride-to-be.

"Leave her alone," he said quietly, brown eyes unblinking and intense. He was poised to protect her; everyone could see it.

Gloria lowered her arm and stepped back. "What’s going on?" she said, but now her voice was subdued.

"We’re engaged, Aunt Gloria!" Holly said quickly.

Her aunt’s face grew so black with anger than Thomas whisked her outside, lest woe should befall her.

"You promised to let me say it," he reproached.

"Oh, I think you said quite enough," she laughed. "It really was too cruel of you to spring it on them like that!"

"Yes," he admitted. Then, grinning, "But it was worth it!"

~~~

The wedding took place on May 23. Thomas’s parents came from England, and they were all going to go back together. Yes, Holly and Thomas were going to live in the UK.

At Holly’s request, Riley Polowski walked her down the aisle. As her youth pastor for three years, he was the closest thing to a father she had. Pastor Chandler married the elfin groom to his glowing-eyed bride. It was the third most beautiful day of Holly’s life- the first being the day of her salvation, and the second being the day he proposed.

They got their own house in Britain with two bedrooms. Thomas looked absurdly proud when he showed her the second. "What do you think?" he said. "When the time comes, a cradle there- a tiny dresser there-"

She caught on with enthusiasm. "Baby clothes in the drawers…"

"And I’ll paint something on the wall."

"And help me sing lullabies!" She kissed him impulsively, laughing, "That was lovely, you know it?"

 

The room remained a shelter for unrealized dreams until December. Just before their first Christmas together, Holly brought him back in. "Thomas," she asked, "will you paint Peter Pan’s silhouette on the wall? That’s the first long storybook I want to read him… or her."

"Why not?" he said. "And a Bible verse on another."

"Yes, yes!" She nodded gleefully, like a small child. "Will you do it now? Soon?"

"Getting a little ahead of ourselves, aren’t we?" he laughed.

"Well… umm…" She smiled secretively. "No-ooo…"

Thomas’s already large brown eyes widened as he stammered, "You mean- you’re-"

Holly hugged him tightly. "Yes!"

 

~THE END~

Thomas let his thought wisp away into thin air. He had remembered his purpose in coming, and though the moment was delicate, he had to say it now. He spoke softly, and the words came out a bit shakily, as if they were packages with fragile contents, unsure of their way in the world. "Holly, please listen to me. I’m… I’m sorry your parents died. I never knew… I only just…"

she prayed.

she berated herself. she wondered. She scoured her mind frantically for anything she might have said or done to make him so, and found none. She couldn’t remember any frigidity on his part last week, either.

Comments

Oh, Anna...

OH ANNA!!!! This was AMAZING!!! I was very near the point of tears (happy tears) when it was talking about what was going on in both of their heads. And then planning for the baby...just beautiful! Were you snooping around in my dream archives? This is almost exactly how I like to imagine my life (minus the parents dying, of course)
*****************************************
"To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be that have tried it." -- Herman Melville

Ariel | Mon, 06/15/2009

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"To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be that have tried it." -- Herman Melville

Do you remember

Do you remember Merriweather, from the Sleeping Beauty? Have you ever seen her, how she gets all mad at the old witch? That was me with Aunt Gloria. What an old hag! But, *sigh* what a perfect ending. Beautiful story, Anna.
(OFG, that is an AWESOME picture!)

"It is man's inherent nature to scare himself silly for no good reason." - Calvin and Hobbes

Bridget | Mon, 06/15/2009

"I always wonder why birds stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth. Then I ask myself the same question." - Harun Yahya

AWWW!!! So sweet!!! Thomas

AWWW!!! So sweet!!! Thomas is awesome. And good for Holly!! I loved this, and I wish it could have gone on for longer.

~Erin~

Snape took the page bearing Lily's signature, and her love, and tucked it inside his robes. Then he ripped in two the photograph he was also holding, so that he kept the part where Lily laughed, throwing the portion showing James and Harry..AWW

Erin | Mon, 06/15/2009

"You were not meant to fit into a shallow box built by someone else." -J. Raymond

Beautiful. There's nothing

Beautiful.
There's nothing more to say. :)
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
If I disappear, and you cannot find me, please don't worry.
Just be sure to check all the wardrobes.

Clare Marie | Mon, 06/15/2009

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
"I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve." -Bilbo Baggins [The Lord of the Rings]

Anna, when you're a famous

Anna, when you're a famous author, I'll always remind you that I read some of your earliest works. :)
This was so incredibly beautiful...it brought tears to my eyes.

Sarah | Mon, 06/15/2009

"Sometimes even to live is courage."
-Seneca

Blogging away!
busyscribbler.wordpress.com

! :)

Awww! I loved the whole story, absolutely. :)
** ** ** ** ** **
"To keep your marriage brimming/With love in the loving cup,/Whenever you’re wrong, admit it;/Whenever you’re right, shut up."
--Ogden Nash 'A Word to Husbands'

Hannah W. | Tue, 06/16/2009

That was a wonderful bomb,

That was a wonderful bomb, Anna. :)
And for a romance this wasn't half bad. ;)
-----
“The venerable dead are waiting in my library to entertain me and relieve me from the nonsense of surviving mortals.”
- Samuel Davies

Kyleigh | Tue, 06/16/2009

OFG: Thanks! I actually

OFG: Thanks! I actually cried writing it, though not there... When he's moving... But I was in an emotional mood so maybe it doesn't count. :)
Bridget: I love Sleeping Beauty. Thank you for being the unseen Merriweather. :D (PS- I love ur pic and OFG's!)
Erin: Thank you! I almost wrote another version of the story, same plot and scenes but different perspectives, but I figured it would take too long. :P
Clare: :) Aw, fanks!
Sarah: Haha. And I'll still be bugging you to finish Enchanted. lol :D Really? Not almost, real tears? Whoa, hardcore.
Hannah: Thanks!
Kyleigh: High praise from you. Haha. :)
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"In retrospect, I question the inclusion of a self-destruct button." ~Ferb (Phineas and Ferb)

Anna | Tue, 06/16/2009

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief

Thanks. I actually drew

Thanks. I actually drew that. *blushes*

"It is man's inherent nature to scare himself silly for no good reason." - Calvin and Hobbes

Bridget | Tue, 06/16/2009

"I always wonder why birds stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth. Then I ask myself the same question." - Harun Yahya

Cinderella!

Hey, I just realized this, and I don't know why it didn't hit me before.  This is like Cinderella!  Did you mean it to be that way?

Bridget | Fri, 12/04/2009

"I always wonder why birds stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth. Then I ask myself the same question." - Harun Yahya

Not necessarily, but there is

Not necessarily, but there is a good deal of the fairytale in it. :) Someone noticed!

Now if only my paragraphs weren't all mussed...

Anna | Mon, 12/07/2009

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief

:)

This is really good! I cried when Thomas moved, too. I noticed that it was like Cinderella as well. What is the part at the end after THE END?

Arya Animarus | Thu, 06/10/2010

Oh for the times when I felt invincible.

I'm so glad you read and

I'm so glad you read and liked this!

The part after the end is an unfortunate malfunction of formatting; those should be interspersed in the story.

Anna | Thu, 06/10/2010

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief

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