Pull up a chair, let me pour you a hot cup of tea and let's get to know each other. I am the author of a fantasy/fiction love story called The Victor but I also write stories for other people as gifts.

They are wish fulfillment's and the person for whom they are written is the star of their story.

If you would like your own story, please email me at: thevictorbook@sbcglobal.net.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes

It was 1978, I was 18 and had never gone out on a date nor had a boyfriend. I wasn't weird looking but it seemed as though God had put a large "kiss off" sign on my forehead to keep members of the opposite sex away. I was commuting to Los Angeles daily on the public bus to attend the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (“FIDM”) where the chances of meeting a normal, nice Christian male interested in the opposite sex were extremely dismal. I had just become a Christian the year before and was spending my hour long commute nagging the Lord daily about wanting to go out on a date. I was feeling quite desperate!
                On one particular day I think the good Lord had had enough of my "kvetching" and while ‘lucky dipping’ through my Bible, the following scripture jumped off the page at me. I could almost actually hear the Holy Spirit yelling the verse at me: "DELIGHT YOURSELF IN THE LORD AND HE WILL GIVE YOU THE DESIRES OF YOUR HEART!!!" At the same time, a still small voice in my head told me to write a story that would portray my wishes being fulfilled.
                I went home that day, uncovered my Smith Corona typewriter and began typing away. The title of the book was: "Jesus Wave-walker, Jesus Joy-giver", a pretty lame title now that I look back on it but it turned out to be a pretty prophetic tale. I put myself in the story and described how the Lord called me up on the phone to take me out on a date and during that date He “introduced” me to the man He had chosen for me. At this point, I must digress and tell you that the name for my future husband, whoever he was, was always “Michael”. I prayed for Michael by name and even made a list of all the attributes I desired in my future mate: a good Christian, funny, handsome (to me anyway), had a large family, nice friends, a good work ethic, responsible, trustworthy, kind, handy, played guitar….and oh yes…had kept himself pure from women. Whenever I would tell my friends this last one they would shake their heads at me and whisper “Good luck!” under their breath. I finished my short story naming the character of the man he chosen for me as Michael. I then illustrated my book (drawing myself the way I wished I looked) as well as my “dream man”, Michael.
                Fast forward four years. I was at my 8th or 9th College and Career Church Retreat in the hopes of meeting a nice Christian boy. In the past 4 years I had left FIDM, gotten a job and moved to Orange County, met my first love, Barry, (who had died 4 months previous from a brain aneurism) and was still grieving even though my feelings for him had been unrequited. I was friends with a house full of Christian men but was still being treated like one of “the guys”. I was quickly becoming resigned to the fact that I was going to die an old maid when I looked across the crowded room of the retreat’s dining room and saw a face that caught my eye (just like that verse in the song “Some Enchanted Evening in South Pacific). He was pretty handsome and I remember thinking that he was probably stuck up because he was so handsome! The next thing I knew, he was sitting next to me.
                We exchanged smiles and introduced ourselves.
                “Hi,” I said. “My name is Marlayne.”
                “I’m Michael,” was his reply.
                My ears perked up but I said nothing about his name for fear of scaring him away. Interesting, I thought. We talked politely for a few minutes then said our goodbye’s when breakfast was done. From that moment on I was his shadow. We ended up talking for hours about cartoons, my first love then his first love; the fact that I was a Messianic Jew and on and on until the stars came out and it was time to go to our respective cabins. It had snowed that weekend (despite being April) and we threw snowballs at each other the next day. I didn’t even mind when he put his arm around me and kissed my forehead (which normally would have scared me off). The last day of the retreat I was starting to fret because Michael still had not asked for my phone number. After Sunday morning’s Bible study we would all be going our separate ways and if he didn’t ask for my phone number I would probably never see him again. With that in mind, I asked to see his Bible. He handed it over to me and I wrote my name and phone number inside the front cover and handed it back reasoning that I rather come off as forward than die a spinster.

                The following day, back at home I told my roommate about meeting Michael and how we had hit it off. As I left our apartment to visit Barry’s parents, I gave her some very specific instructions: “Now, Theresa, if a guy by the name of Michael calls… don’t say anything to him but call me at the Henriot’s house and let me know.” She agreed and to my delight while I was having dinner with Ruth and Al, she called and sang out: “Michael caaaalled!!”
                I was ready at that moment to call him right back (impatient person that I am) but I distinctly felt the Lord instructing me to wait an entire day. If you know me at all you would know what absolute torture this was but I obeyed and waited.
                The next day I called Michael back and in a very nonchalant voice said: “Hi! I heard you called yesterday.” (Little did he know that I was jumping up and down for glee at that moment.) Michael then asked me out on a date for the following weekend with his sister, her husband and another couple to go to Westwood to see the rerelease of Fantasia. I went right out and bought myself a whole new outfit for the occasion and when I opened the door of my apartment the following Saturday and saw Michael standing there I couldn’t help but think “Oh my… is he ever handsome!”
                After the movie we went to Hamburger Hamlet for dinner as a six-some. Little did I know until several years later that something very unusual took place during that date while I was in the ladies room. His sister’s friend, Tina, who had never laid eyes on me until that night, had turned to Michael’s sister, Debbie and asked her: “Well, what do you think of Marlayne?”
                “She seems nice,” had been Debbie’s polite response.
                “Well that’s Michael’s future wife.” Tina informed everyone. Michael was instantly incensed. He couldn’t stand this girl and how opinionated she was, so the fact that she had just said this to him instilled the exact opposite reaction. NO WAY NOW! Were his thoughts at the time but God had other plans.
                We dated for the next four years but 9 months into our relationship I finally got up the courage to show him my story with his name and face in it. It was a good thing I had waited until he was really “hooked” because if I had shown it to him early in our relationship he would have high tailed it for the hills! Almost five years after we met we were married. I put my prophetic story on display at our reception so everyone could see how God had brought us together – and haven’t seen it since. It simply disappeared.
                 My list? Oh yes, Michael fulfilled everything I had put on my list, including the last item!!
That was almost 23 years ago and we are still happily married. Michael and I were recently discussing that story and my history of other men avoiding me like they had seen a giant “kiss off” sign plastered on my forehead when Michael said one of the sweetest things to me I have ever heard:
          “Well, honey, I didn’t see the words: ‘kiss off’ on your forehead…” he reassured me, planting a tender kiss on said spot. “I saw the words: KISS HERE.”


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My Treasures

As a middle-aged woman (OMG I hate using that term with reference to myself!!!), I have come to realize that there is nothing so necessary and precious in life as GOOD friends. The kind you can tell your deepest secrets to; be able to cry on their shoulder, commiserate about your spouse and/or children and talk to for HOURS and never run out of things to say or things to laugh about. Well I don’t have just one…I have FOUR.

We call ourselves Los Tesoritos (the women of the Ya-Ya-Sisterhood and Traveling Pants were already taken) aka “the treasures”. These women are my treasures. They all started out 8 years ago as only my friends but through a series of getting together every year at Christmas for dinner at Muldoons in Newport Beach with Roger’s Gardens afterwards we are now each other’s friends and close confidants.

We are all going through our own life issues (be it family problems, work stress, financial and even some legal issues that have been devastating) and we have all come to depend upon each other for moral support and a safe haven to open up our hearts to the deepest levels. We now get try to get together every few months and are experimenting with different types of events such as brunch, martini parties (Oy Vey!), high tea and good old fashioned potlucks.

I have known each one of them over 20 years each and they could not be more precious to me so it is with this blog that I pay tribute to each one of my “treasures:

Janet, Arlene, Stephanie & Rhonda – life would be abysmal without you.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Emerelda


                Loriena scowled at the old milk cow in front of her.  Benna was being unusually obstinate and uncooperative that morning and Loriena was out of patience.  The stupid animal had kicked the milk bucket over for the third time in what seemed like an intentional act of ruining her already miserable existence while her impoverished family tried to  eke out a living on the tiny farm.  Benna mooed loudly, shifting from one hoof to the other; her udders aching with the need to be milked but agitated by some unseen pest.
                “Benna, so help me, if you don’t stop your bawling and fussing, I’m just going to let your udders explode!” growled Loriena, setting down the milking stool for the tenth time. Benna finally settled down long enough for Loriena to fill the pail with the milk. Relieved, she stood up, shoved away the milk stool and bent to lift the pail when Benna mooed loudly again and kicked it  over, dumping all the milk onto the barn floor.
                “ARGH!!” Loriena shrieked, frustrated beyond belief. Her father was going to be sore-vexed with her for this. She reached down through the straw to fling the first rock she could find at the stupid cow and raised her arm to let fly but the rock in her hand suddenly went white hot. She dropped it with scream and jumped back.  It fell onto the mud-packed floor and rolled a few feet away but the green glow coming from it was unmistakable in the early morning light.
                Was she seeing things? She crept forward; hardly daring to breath, not caring that she was dragging her skirts through the spilt milk and mud.  She crouched down to study the rock closer. The glow was starting to fade now. She touched it tentatively; afraid of burning herself again. The rock was now simply warm but still pulsing with a beautiful green light. She cradled it in her palms, studying it; a strange feeling building in the pit of her stomach. Suddenly a tiny crack appeared, then another, then another until it began to resemble an exotic egg that had broken. A tiny puff of smoke issued from the biggest crack and Loriena gasped in mixed terror and delight.
                “Loriena!” snapped the voice of foster father, Jarrod. “What goes on here? Where’s the milk?”  He got his answer when saw the large puddle spreading slowly across the barn floor. “Ye gods, girl, what has gotten into you?” he demanded, striding up to her to yank her up by the arm. Instead his attention was diverted to the green glowing oval rock which Loriena was also staring at in astonishment. The cracks had grown so large that now she could see the creature wriggling inside; fighting to free itself. Jarrod froze in his tracks.
He had been warned long ago when he had first agreed to foster Loriena that this day might come, he just had never really truly believed it would! He watched in horrified fascination as the creature finally freed itself from its egg casing and looked straight into the eyes of Loriena, imprinting itself upon her. Loriena stared right back, transfixed as if in a spell.
                “Loriena,” said, Jarrod, his voice hoarse with the realization of what was about to happen. “We must get thee away, quickly! Today! Before you are discovered and word spreads about your beastie there.” He grasped her arm and carefully put the tiny dragon into a leather satchel where it squeaked in protest. 
                “Huh, What?” she replied, too mesmerized to respond. Unable to think of anything else except the sight of the beautiful, tiny green dragon that had looked right into her soul. She half-ran, half-stumbled along as Jarrod hauled her back into their farmhouse, talking out loud to himself the entire time.
                “…she’ll need at least a month’s supply of food and water and a safe place to hide until it’s full grown. The caves of Kirtan should serve well and there is a spring nearby…” he muttered, flinging supplies onto the shaky wooden table.
                “What are you doing? Where are we going?” Loriena pleaded, suddenly coming out of her stupor.  Jarrod was making plans for her life without so much as her say-so!
                “You must remain in hiding until it’s full grown and it can protect you!” he repeated, his eyes round with fear. “The Urgal’s have kept watch on this place for years. If they find out you have a hatchling, they will come after all of us!”
                “Hatchling? Urgals?” repeated Loriena, nonplussed. “What are you talking about and what is that creature you put in your satchel?”
                “No time to explain!” hissed Jarrod, stuffing cured meats, dried fruits, and wayfarer’s bread  into a leather backpack at frantic speed. He added to this a warm woolen cloak, a flint rock and some kindling all the while muttering a constant stream of oaths.  When he had everything packed, he pushed her out the door again and led her behind the farmhouse and into the thick woods of Kirtan which bordered the property.  The pace he set was almost impossible for Loriena to keep up with; some unspeakable terror was driving him and she had no choice but to go where he led her. They marched the rest of day and took no rest until late afternoon when they reached the mouth of a large cave that was half-hidden by heavy forest and brush.
                “Here you must stay, Loriena.” Jarrod commanded her, flinging the leather satchel and what looked like a strange saddle into the mouth of the cave.
                “You’re abandoning me here?”  Loriena began to cry, her eyes filling tears. “What have I done wrong? I’m sorry about the milk!”
                Her tears seemed to bring Jarrod back to the present. He regarded her with pity and cupped her cheek in his hand. “Have you never wondered why you didn’t look like either of us?” he asked, gazing at the beautiful child he had fostered for the past 14 years. Loriena shook her head. She had never seen what she looked like, except in a wavering reflection of a brook or pool of water. “You were brought to us as an infant, for safe-keeping.” He said, trying to explain as best he could in a short space of time.
 It was getting dark and he did not want to be caught in the forest at night. “We have taken care of you as if you were our own, Loriena, but you are elf-kind!” He took her hand and placed her fingers at the top of her ears which were elegantly curved into points. She gasped, having never paid attention to them before. She stared back at Jarrod whose brown eyes were now filling with tears. “It is no longer safe for you to be on our farm with that hatchling. Word will get out and they’ll come looking for you. I will come back as soon as I can and bring you fresh supplies but you must stay hidden here until it is full grown.”
                “Until what is full grown?!” Loriena demanded with a scream, bringing him up short.  The whole day had started off like a nightmare. First the cow and the spilt milk, then the rock that had burned her hand, then the tiny green glowing creature and now Jarrod prattling on like a crazed lunatic with every intention of dumping her in this god-forsaken cave.
                “YOUR DRAGON.” He growled, pointing to the creature wriggling out of the satchel. Loriena eyes followed to where he pointed and found the creature staring up at her with an intensity she found both compelling and frightening. She was utterly transfixed, unable to tear her eyes away from it. It’s skin was a sparkly emerald green and it’s pale green eyes piercing.
                Loriena! Said a tiny voice in her head. She gasped and the tiny dragon blinked at her.
                “I must go now!” Jarrod said, backing away. “I’ll come back in a week to see how you’re getting on. Stay hidden and learn well!”
                Loriena barely noticed him leave, still caught in the spell of the little creature. She squatted down and held out her cupped hands.  It crawled forward and with a flick of its tiny tongue, settled itself into her hands. She straightened and carried it into the cave.
                Fire, said the voice inside her head. Obediently she knelt down, arranged the kindling Jarrod had carried with them and set it ablaze with the flint rocks.
                Hungry, came the next thought after the fire was crackling merrily away. Loriena searched inside one of the satchels and found a strip of cured meat. She tore it up into tiny pieces and put it before the tiny dragon which snatched it up and gulped it down without chewing.
                The days and nights passed swiftly, so intent was Loriena on bonding with the dragon which grew at an exponential rate. When the day came that Jarrod returned with fresh supplies, he was obviously taken aback at how swiftly it had grown and was terrified at its sheer size.
                “Father, come closer,  Emerelda won’t hurt you,” Loriena said, patting the neck of the dragon which now towered a full man’s height above them. It was a magnificent beast and only a third full grown. It was going to be a nightmare when it reached full maturity! Jarrod balked at the idea of coming any closer but the dragon merely stared at him with benign eyes.  He laid down the satchel of fresh supplies and rubbed his beard, suddenly realizing that he had not brought enough food. The beastie alone could eat every morsel and still not be sated; leaving Loriena with nothing.
                “Emerelda, eh?” he said with a grin in Loriena’s direction. “It suits her well.” He looked at the meager supplies he had brought. “I don’t think there’s enough for the two of you…”
                Saddle! Hunt! came the words into Loriena’s head. She went into the cave and came back out carrying the odd saddle Jarrod had left a week ago. “Is this for my dragon?” she asked, laying it at Jarrod’s feet.
He nodded, looking over the fine leather and stitching.  “It will protect you from the scales.” He answered, hefting it up. He put it into her arms. “She will allow only you to put it on her.” He said, backing away. As if on cue, Emerelda went onto her belly and allowed Loriena to lay it upon her.  Speaking mind-to-mind, the dragon instructed her on how to fasten it securely then lay down again so Loriena could mount.
Hunt now! No sooner had the words appeared in her mind that the dragon took off for the first time, flapping its’ great wings like a giant bird of prey. Loriena held on for dear life, barely able to open her eyes because of the streaming wind. The landscape of the forest suddenly lay far below them and clouds swiftly passed underneath as they sped through the air. It was freezing up so high but the dragon’s warmth enveloped her and kept her comfortable as they glided. Loriena could suddenly see from Emerelda’s viewpoint and with her eagle-like eyes, she spotted a large buck grazing in a meadow.
Suddenly a shadow covered them, blotting out the light of the son.  A mighty roar issued from what only could have been another dragon. The noise was deafening.
With streaming eyes, Loriena watched in amazement as a blue dragon swooped down to the same level as she and Emerelda. On its’ proud back was another rider just like her, only it was a young man with a large sword and his dragon was wearing armor!
Eragon and Saphira wants us to land in that glade below, said the voice of Emerelda in her head. Without further hesitation, the two dragons folded their wings and wheeled down in spirals until they both reached the meadow. The young man leapt off the saddle of his dragon and strode over to her.
“Saphira heard the heartbeat of your dragon a week ago; we have been watching and waiting for you.” He said, removing his helmet.
“Why would you be waiting for me?” asked Loriena, her head spinning with the sudden cataclysmic changes in her world. She had gone from lowly farm-girl to looked-for elf and dragon-rider in the space of a single week.
“You have been kept in hiding until the day you could join us in the war against Galbatorix.”
“War?” squeaked Loriena. At the mention of the word, both dragons lifted their long necks high into the sky and roared, sending plumes of fire rising high…

The door to Tessa’s room flew open with a bang causing her to suddenly sit up in bed in alarm.
“Tessa, time to get up!” her mother’s voice rang out as she marched down the hall. Tessa looked around her room, temporarily bewildered. The meadow, dragons and Eragon was gone. Reality hit hard and it was a huge disappointment. It felt too real to have been just a dream! She had often day-dreamed about being in such a story after reading the book, Eragon but she had never had a dream of such detail before.  With a resigned sigh, she swung her feet out of bed and attempted to stand up but instead fell over, tripping on a small round object.
She looked down and felt her heart nearly stop. With shaking hands she squatted down and picked up the large, round egg-like rock which began glowing and glittering in her hands as if it were lit from within with green fire.
“Uh oh!” she said.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Tea Rooms & Romance

Hannah looked wearily out the window of the Boeing 747. The excitement and thrill of flying to Japan on an exchange student program had worn off and been replaced by jet lag, flying fatigue and a bit of anxiety. It seemed like she had been trapped in her tiny coach seat for a week although it had only been 9 hours. Her back was stiff, her legs cramped and all she wanted to do was to climb into bed and sleep!

Her host family, the Nakaguchi’s promised they would be waiting for her at the gate with a big sign with her name on it but now she was worried because at the last minute her flight had been canceled due to mechanical difficulties and she had been forced to board another carrier to make it to Tokyo on the same day. She had not been allowed to use her cell phone to call ahead and forewarn them about the change. If she hadn’t felt so exhausted she would have been freaking out in panic. She couldn’t read or speak Japanese and her flight was arriving at a completely different terminal than what her host family was expecting.

She shut her eyes and prayed again. Please, dearest Lord, help me to find my host family. Please send an angel or something to guide me!

Two hours later the flight finally set down in Tokyo and along with all the other travel-weary passengers, Hannah lugged her carry on luggage down from the overhead compartment, almost decapitating a little Japanese man in the process when it fell out of her grip.

He let loose with a stream of angry Japanese, scolding her. Hannah felt like crying. Going to Japan for an entire year had been such a dream for her but it was starting off like a nightmare!

She finally made it off the plane and into the terminal. The outside air within the airway between the terminal and the airplane was hot and very humid. In the space of just a few moments, she had sweated through her clothes. OMG! She had been warned about the humid weather in Japan but nothing could have prepared her for walking into what felt like a sauna!

She reached the terminal and looked around, hoping that by some miracle God had communicated to the Nakaguchi’s her new arrival status. She saw signs but none of them were in English and none had her name. Her heart sank. She turned around to take a 360 degree look around, lost her balance and found herself falling over someone.

“Ouch!” she cried out, feeling a sharp pain in her ankle. She looked down and could already see it starting to swell and turn blue. Great, just great. First the plane change and now this! What else can go wrong?

“Please excuse me!” cried a young masculine voice. The next thing she knew, she was being gently lifted to her feet by one arm by a total stranger. “I apologize for making you to trip!” he continued, helping her to balance on her good leg. Hannah suddenly came eye to eye with a strikingly handsome and young Japanese man. His mouth fell open in surprise and shock for a moment, then 5,000 years of ingrained Japanese politeness came to the fore. He bowed briefly then helped to maneuver her over to a seat in the terminal. Then he knelt down and propped up her injured ankle onto her suitcase so it was elevated.

“One moment, please!” he said, bowing again. He raced off to a local concession stand and came back with a towel filled with ice cubes. He laid it gently upon her ankle. Stealing glances at her every few moments, he set about to arrange her luggage neatly around her then he stood and bowed again. “I humbly beg forgiveness, Miss American,” he said, turning red. “I did not intend to cause you injury.”

Miss American? Hannah giggled despite the pain. “Uh, it’s okay…it was an accident,” she said, peering at her now bloated ankle and wondering how on earth she was ever going to find her host family now. She tried calling them on her cell phone but she had never used the international features before and needed her guide sheet on all the number to dial. She looked at the chagrined young man and suddenly noticed how handsome he was. He stuck out his hand to her, American style.

“Akihiko,” he introduced himself. “It translates as bright prince.”

Hannah blushed deeply and shook his hand.

“Hannah….uhhhh….just Hannah.” She said, wishing she had an exotic meaning for her name as well. Bright prince!!!!

Akihiko smiled at her and Hannah felt her heart skip a tiny beat. “Is there anything more I can to do you?” he asked in his faulty English. Hannah stifled another giggle, tempted to tell him that no, a twisted ankle was sufficient, but then she thought better of it.

“Yes, Akihiko,” she said, nodding earnestly. “Could you help me find my host family?” She then explained to him as simply and as clearly as she could what had happened with the plane change and how she was supposed to have been in a different terminal 1 hour from now to meet them. Akihiko nodded every now and then, making mental notes in his head. When Hannah was done, he stood up and flung his arm across his chest in a knightly salute.

“Never fear!” he intoned with a solemn face that made Hannah want to giggle some more. “Akihiko is here! He will save your day. Wait here!” With that he ran off and rounded up several airport employees. One went down to baggage claim to get her luggage so they could help her through customs and the other ran for a wheelchair. In no time at all, Hannah found herself being wheeled through the terminal at breakneck speed with Akihiko half riding/half pushing from behind while barking a stream of orders in rapid-fire Japanese.

With Akihiko’s help and that of the kind air terminal employees, Hannah was fast-tracked through customs and then they were speeding on their way to the other terminal to meet up with the Nakaguchi’s before they ever knew what had happened!

When she and Akihiko actually came up from behind them. The entire family was there, the two parents, daughter (who was the same age as she) and son a few years older.

“Mr. Nakaguchi!” Hannah called from her chair, waving her arms. “I’m over here!”

The entire family turned around in shock and gaped at her, wondering where she had come from and why she was in a wheelchair. Of course, being Japanese they wouldn’t think to even ask such intrusive questions but merely bowed in greeting before turning to Akihiko.

“Konnichiha, Akihiko!” exclaimed the brother of the family, a grin spreading from ear to ear. They bowed to another and then clasped hands like they were old school chums (which they were). He and Akihiko obviously already knew one another and began jabbering away in Japanese. The other family members listened politely and oohhhhed and aw-soooed every once in a while, nodding as they looked from Akihiko to Hannah as he explained what had happened.

Finally Mr. Nakaguchi turned his full attention to Hannah. “Welcome to Japan, Ms. Hannah.” He said, bowing slightly. “Akihiko has apprised us of everything. It was good that it was he whom you ran into; he is a long time friend of my oldest son, Kamiko. They were classmates and lives with his family near our apartment.”

“Oh!” said Hannah, unable to think of anything else to say. She looked over at Akihiko and found him looking right back at her with a curious look on his face. Awkward pause.

Taking the silent cue, everyone took a hand in picking up her luggage with Akihiko pushing her wheelchair like a proud tour guide.

They negotiated their way out of the concourse and then to a long black limousine that was large enough to fit everyone. Feeling solely responsible for Hannah’s injury Akihiko took it upon himself to help her get in and then when they arrived, helped her to get out and half-carried/half-walked her to the elevator that led to the Nakaguchi’s apartment. To her amazement, he even held her fully in her arms while the Nakaguchi’s daughter, Hitomi, helped to carefully remove her shoes before entering their home.

Hannah hopped inside on her one good leg until she found a chair to sit on. From that moment on, the entire family took charge. Hitomi and Kamiko brought all her luggage into the room she would share with Hitomi who unpacked everything for her, putting her clothes, shoes, and personal hygiene items away as unobtrusively as possible. Hannah was absolutely mortified but there was nothing she could do about it until she could walk again. Once unpacked, she was led back to her room and shown the blow up air mattress they had gotten especially for her.

Exhausted she crawled into bed and slept for the next 12 hours.

The next evening she woke up feeling completely discombobulated. Her body clock said it was morning but the window in the room showed a dark night sky. She looked over at the Tatami mat next to her where Hitomi was sleeping; her mouth slightly open. The alarm clock was in Japanese but it looked like it was 2am. It was going to be a long night. Suddenly she was struck with inspiration.

She got out her cell phone they had placed near her (along with the directions on how to call international) and dialed the number of her friend Mirriam.

It should be the early afternoon and Mirriam should be home and done with school…
“Hello?” answered her friend’s voice on the other end.

“Earwen!” whispered Hannah, trying not to wake Hitomi up.

“Hannah?”

“Yes.”

“So you got into Japan okay? What time is it there now?”

“Two am.”

“Jet lag is awful isn’t it?” Mirriam responded compassionately.

“I can’t talk long because Hitomi is sleeping,” Hannah whispered, glancing over at Hitomi who showed no sign of waking up. “But I just had to tell you…I hurt my ankle but I think I’ve met my Prince Charming!”

“Shut UP!” squealed Mirriam, knowing how Hannah had always longed to meet and marry a Japanese Christian man. The sound carried well out of the earpiece and Hitomi stirred.

“Gotta go!” whispered Hannah. “Just wanted you to be the first to know! I’ll email you later all the details!”

The next morning (for real), a doctor friend of the Nakaguchi family came over and inspected her swollen ankle which was now a nice black and blue color. His gentle prodding evoked a few squints of pain but he seemed satisfied that it was nothing more than a sprain. He wrapped her ankle up tight, told her to ice it regularly then left bowing.

Hitomi helped her over to the low table where the family sat politely waiting for her. She sat cross-legged since she still couldn’t kneel on the ankle and smiled thanks at all of them. They smiled back then bowed their heads and said grace over their meal. The Nakaguchi’s were one of the few Christian Japanese families that had opened their home to exchange students from America. The prayer was in Japanese but at the end everyone said “Amen” in English.

Hannah was famished; she looked at the food before her; a bowl of brown rice and hot Miso soup and of course, tea.

Just as they all finished their meal there was a polite knock at the door. Kamiko got up with a barely suppressed grin and opened the door. In the door frame stood Akihiko.

He entered the room bowing to all but his almond brown eyes were fixed upon Hannah. She felt her cheeks begin to flame. Hitomi took her arm with a smile and helped her to their room, closing the Shoji screens behind them.

“Akihiko has asked if he may take you to a traditional Japanese Tea Room for your first day.” She explained, trying to hide her grins. “I think he is smattered on you.”

Hannah burst out giggling but quickly clapped her hand over her mouth. “I think you mean smitten.” She grinned.

With Hitomi’s assistance Hannah got cleaned up and changed her clothes. The doctor had left both crutches and a wheelchair for her use. She hobbled out on the crutches while Akihiko carried the wheelchair out the front door. Armed with her camera, guidebook and purse, the family bowed and waved goodbye as Akihiko helped her into her chair.

It was all happening so fast her head was in a whirl. He maneuvered her and the wheelchair into the elevator then out to the street where he took her to a local train station. Hannah should have felt nervous, after all, Akihiko was practically a virtual stranger, but it all seemed fine somehow and she had God’s peace that passes understanding. Soon they were both on a bullet train and speeding into the Japanese countryside.

Soon Akihiko was pushing her chair towards an old Japanese tea house that had a gorgeous view of Mount Fuji. It had dark wood walls and a green tiled roof. She left the chair outside and Akihiko helped her into a small room with Tatami mats. They made her as comfortable as possible and then the ceremony began.

A beautiful geisha sat down inside the room and played a traditional Japanese song upon her Shamisen. Another geisha entered the room, sliding the shoji screens aside silently, and carried in a tray that contained the tea implements: the chashaku (tea scoop), sensu (fan), chasen kusenaoshi (whisk shaper), chasen (bamboo whisk) and fukusa (purple silk cloth) as well as the green tea powder.

Hannah watched in wonder at the elaborate preparations to prepare a simple cup of tea and could feel Akihiko’s eyes upon her the whole time. It was not proper to speak during the ceremony so they both were silent. The hot tea was first passed to Akihiko who after sipping, turned the bowl three times in his hand then offered it to Hannah.

She accepted with a shy bow and sipped the slightly bitter, hot liquid. Once the ceremony was completed Akihiko helped her back into her chair and took her further into town to a noodle house where they could talk freely and eat. They spent the rest of the day together and when the sun began to set, they boarded the bullet train again back for Tokyo. They reached the Nakaguchi home by 8pm where the entire family greeted her at the door and assisted her in. Once she was settled in a chair, Akihiko clasped her hand in his, placing a small parchment wrapped gift in her hand.

“Thank you for accompanying me today.” He said, smiling shyly. “I leave you now in the good hands of the Nakaguchi family. I hope to see you again many times before you return to America.” With another bow to her and the rest of the family he showed himself out of their apartment.

Hannah looked down at the little bundle in her hands and carefully unwrapped it as Hitomi looked on. Inside was a delicate gold necklace upon which hung letters in Japanese.



“What does it mean?” asked Hannah turning to Hitomi.

“In your language it means Destiny.” Hitomi replied.

 NOTE:  Hannah loved her story(above) so much that she requested a second chapter.  She just couldn't stand not knowing what would happen next.  So here, by popular demand, is the first "chapter two" to a wish fulfillment story...

CHAPTER TWO

“No way!” squealed Mirriam’s voice over Hannah’s cell phone when she had finally gotten a moment to herself to call her best friend. “He gave you a gold necklace??! Hannah!” she continued in her best Darth Vader impression. “He is your DES-TIN-EEEEE!!”
Hannah giggled, the whole experience from the moment she had gotten off the airplane up to now had been rather surreal and it was just now starting to hit home that she may have, indeed, met her “Mr. Right”.
“Did he try to kiss you or anything?” Mirriam interrogated, wanting to know every last teeny tiny detail.
“Of course not!” Hannah replied shocked. “No one kisses me until I’m married! Not even on the cheek! Which reminds me, I need to call my parents and let them know I got here safely.”
“Are you going to tell them about HIM?” Mirriam asked.
“Well yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees,” replied Hannah, wondering how she was going to break the news to her parents about Akihiko.
“Well tell me ALL about it after you do!” Mirriam said. “I have to get going and update my blog now. This author put me in a “wish fulfillment” story and I want to blog about it.”
“What’s that?” Hannah asked, curious.
“I’ll send you the link over email.” Mirriam replied mysteriously.
“Okay, bye!” Hannah said then dialed her parent’s house. She had sent them a quick text message that she had gotten there okay but knew they would want to talk with her too.
“Hi Dad!” she said when he answered the phone.
“Hanny!” he exclaimed, overjoyed at hearing her voice. “How was your flight? Did you get to catch up on your sleep? How are you liking Japan?”
“The flight was long and uncomfortable, I’m not quite caught up on sleep yet and I LOVE Japan!!” (Of course she didn’t say why.)
“That’s wonderful, honey. We’re very proud of you. I bet by the time you get back you will be fluent in Japanese!”
“I hope so...” Hannah hemmed, trying to think of an appropriate way to broach the subject. “Uh, Dad, I have something rather important to tell you.”
“So soon? You’ve only been there a few days,” he replied. “What could have possibly happened in that short time already?”
“I think I may have met...uhhhh...ummmmm...HIM.”
“Him?” repeated her dad. “Who-him?”
“Him-him!
“Honey, you’re losing me. Give me a hint here.” Said her dad, completely bewildered.
“Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad, you’re not making this easy.” Hannah moaned. “Remember all those talks we’ve had about when I get old enough for boys to take an interest in me?”
“Yes,” came the reply. “Are you trying to tell me that there is already someone interested in you in Japan after only 2 days?” His voice was incredulous.  Hannah then described everything that had transpired from the plane change up to the present moment, leaving nothing out. When she was done the silence on the other end was almost deafening.
Then her dad cleared his throat. “Well, Hanny, I trust you to live and abide by the morals and guidelines we discussed and agreed upon together. If I didn’t trust you, I wouldn’t have agreed to let you go to Japan. I’m glad you have been open and forthright with me and I have no doubts that you will act responsibly. Mom and I love you very much; and all the animals here send their greetings. Have a great time, soak up all the local flavor and come home safely to us.”
“Okay, dad!” Hannah said, relieved. “I promise to keep things appropriate. I’ll bring everyone back some great souvenirs.”
“That’ll be great, honey. Goodbye and keep in touch and take good care of that ankle.”
“I will, dad. Love to you and mom.”
Hannah hung up the phone and fell over onto her side with a big sigh. Well that was over with and it went better than she had expected. Now she could move forward with a clear conscience.

Akihiko called upon the family the next day and spent the day with all of them and especially his school buddy, Kamiko, but his brown almond eyes constantly flitted back to Hannah, causing her to blush with pleasure constantly. Just as he was bowing and saying his goodbye’s, he finally turned his full attention upon Hannah.
“Please excuse my forwarding,” he said, with a formal bow, confusing his English words. “May I ask the pleasure of accompanying you to a Kabuki performance?”
“Kabuki?” exclaimed Hannah, unable to suppress the joy in her face. She had always longed to see a real Kabuki play but there was no such thing back where she lived. The closest she could get to seeing such a thing would be to recent a National Geographic DVD or something similar.
“I would like to escort you to see a performance of Kanadehon Chūshingura at the National Theater this coming Saturday.”
“May I have your permission to do so?”
“Oh! I would LOVE to!” Hannah exclaimed, reminding herself not to jump up and down on her injured foot. “Thank you!”
The smile that spread over Akihiko’s face went from ear to ear and he almost seemed relieved. He bowed low and to Hannah’s amazement and shock, lifted her hand and kissed the top as if he were a knight in medieval England. A thrill raced up Hannah’s arm, then neck and through her hair. She could almost swear that every strand was suddenly standing on end as if electrocuted! She could hardly wait to tell Mirriam!! Kabuki and a kiss on the hand in the same day!!!

Hitomi was almost more excited than Hannah was. To see one of the most famous Kabuki plays at the National Theater was no small deal.  She took Hannah shopping the next day to find a suitable dress to wear (one could not go to the National Theater in blue jeans and cotton shirt!) she explained.  They found a lovely pale pink dress with cherry blossoms printed on it that was both modest and very feminine.

The morning of the play, they both got up early and Hitomi fussed over her, styling her hair up in a French chignon and placing delicate pink enamel combs on either side.  They had become as close as sisters in one week Hannah wore no makeup or jewelry except for the beautiful “Destiny” pendent Akihiko had given her.  When the doorbell rang signaling his arrival, she found herself hardly breathing she was so excited.  By now she was able to walk unaided and with only a slight limp but he treated her like fine porcelain, tucking her arm into his and steering her in the right direction with his hand on the small of her back.

They arrived at the National Theater (where Akihiko’s uncle worked who had arranged for the last-minute tickets). Hannah couldn’t believe how incredible and imposing it was. Because of Akihiko’s uncle their seats were fabulous, 5 rows back right in the middle. Because the programs were written in Japanese, Akihiko explained the plot of the play.
Kanadehon Chūshingura or the “Treasury of Loyal Retainers” is famous story of the Forty-seven Ronin who track down their lord's killer, and exact revenge upon him before committing seppuku as required by their code of honor upon the death of their lord,” he whispered as the curtain went down and the lights dimmed. The music began and the actors (all male) took their places upon the stage.
Hannah had a difficult time understanding everything that was going on but midway through the play she ceased to care because all she could think about was Akihiko taking her hand in his and holding it throughout the duration of the play.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Two Peas in a Pod

It had been one of “those” days. Sandra’s students had been exceptionally rude, uncooperative and snotty all week and she was done. It had taken every ounce of strength she possessed to keep her cool and deal with them according to the current parameters. How she longed for the days when principals and teachers could paddle their young charges into better behavior but now the inmates were running the asylums!

It was Friday afternoon and she had a short weekend in which she must cram grading of papers, reading challenges, dealing with family, cleaning house, etc., before it all started over again. Something had to give. She felt like a rat on a treadmill! She was burned out and needed some kind of retreat. She lugged her papers, books and laptop to the car and drove home, going over in her head all the things she needed to take care of before she could go to bed. She was exhausted just thinking about it.

When she got home, she checked the mail and found nothing but a brightly colored envelope in her mailbox. No junk mail, no circulars, nothing else. She looked at it closely. Her heart practically stopped when she recognized the handwriting of her sister, Gloria, on the envelope:

“Special surprise inside for my little sister, Sandra”

All the other items in her arms slid out and fell unnoticed onto the pavement as she began to shake. If this was Brad’s idea of a joke, it wasn’t funny! She began to fume. She ripped open the envelope and suddenly the world around her began to spin faster and faster. It felt like she was caught in a tornado but instead of dust, rooted up bushes, and farm animals swirling around her, the wind was glittering like fairy dust. When the whirlwind finally stopped she struggled to catch her breath. Her heart was pounding and she felt dizzy. She looked around and sucked in her breath.

“Toto, I don’t think we’re in Florida anymore …” she murmured to herself. She didn’t know where she was! She looked around and saw beautiful, undulating meadows as far as the eye could see, weeping willows scattered here and there and in the midst of it all, a lone white clapboard cottage with a wrap-around porch, a white picket fence, geraniums growing in the black window boxes and lacy white curtains blowing in and out of the windows with each sigh of the wind. Under the eaves an orange canary was trilling a beautiful tune in its cage. With a surge of nervous anticipation, Sandra walked up to the front door and raised her hand to knock. Before her fist could meet the door it flew open and she found herself enveloped in a giant bear hug, her vision obscured by a cloud of curly, golden brown hair.

“Sandra! Sandra! Sandra!” cooed the familiar and beloved voice rocking her in strong arms. Tears burst out of Sandra’s eyes and she pushed herself back enough to take in the view. Standing there, alive, healthy and beaming was her dearly departed sister Gloria! “Welcome!” Gloria bellowed, her grin spreading from ear to ear.

“What, who, when, how-“ screamed Sandra looking her up and down over and over again, sounding like a journalist pursuing a story.

“The Master decided you deserved a weekend retreat quilting, crafting, talking and eating!” Gloria announced, her face beaming. “I have all the supplies we need, all our favorite foods but no television, no phones, and no surly students. Just the two of us! Two peas in a pod!

“How is this possible?” Sandra demanded, allowing Gloria to pull her into the house by the hand.

“With God all things are possible!” Gloria responded with a mysterious wink, making it quite clear Sandra was going to get no further explanation. She entered the cottage and oogled at its’ cozy charm. White painted floorboards, bright area rugs, white wainscoting, cheerful yellow walls with red accessories here and there, a large quilter’s table with two chairs with a quilt already started stretched across it. There was a smaller crafter’s table with supplies spread all over it, a cheery fire in the fireplace, and a sideboard loaded with all the comfort food one could want. In the background soothing Christian worship music was playing.

“The Master thought of everything!” beamed Gloria, rubbing her hands with glee. “I’ve have been longing for this day for over a year!”

At these words, sobs bubbled up outside of Sandra and she covered her face with her hands, remembering the sorrow and grief at losing her sister and best friend in the whole world and the day of the funeral when she had had to say “goodbye”.

“Gloria-“she choked, unable to express what she was feeling. Gloria’s smile didn’t fade but her eyes became tender and understanding.

“I know it hurt to lose me, Sandra…” she said, enfolding her sister in her arms again to comfort her. “But I really am in a better place. Heaven is more lovely than I could ever express and doesn’t it make heaven seem that much more real now that you know that someone you love is there waiting for you?”

Sandra nodded feebly, unable to speak.

“We won’t be parted much longer,” Gloria said, rubbing her back tenderly, “and you will always have this time together again to look back on and find joy and hope when you need it. Now, dry your tears, sit down and let’s start! What do you want to do first?!”

With that the sister’s sat down and spent what seemed like an entire week talking, laughing, quilting, eating and just enjoying one anothers company. Sandra never saw her sister cook anything but every day and at every mealtime there was new and wonderful food all prepared, piping hot and then mysteriously cleaned up so that they could spend their time just having fun.

It all came to end too soon for Sandra and the day arrived when there was no more food prepared and all the craft projects had been completed, much to the sister’s satisfaction. It was the best time Sandra could ever remember having, completely free of responsibility, deadlines and interruptions. Just “Sandra and Gloria” time. She was sad to have it end.

“There is one more thing…well, several more things, surprises really, we have for you before you return.” Gloria said, sitting her down in a large, overstuffed cotton chintz floral chair.

“What?” asked Sandra, wondering what on earth could possibly be better than the week she had just spent with her sister? Her soul felt thoroughly refreshed but she was still apprehensive at having to leave and face the real world again. The pressure, the deadlines and the students who acted as if they were felons serving a prison sentence instead of being given the privilege of getting an education that would help prepare them for life…

“Just wait and see!” Gloria grinned, sitting down in a chair next to her, clutching Sandra’s hand to her heart with excitement. At that moment the doorbell rang, practically making Sandra jump out of her chair in fright. For an entire week there had been no noise but the sound of their chatter, laughter, music and eating. It was so abrupt it really startled her. With a grin and a wink, Gloria went to the door, and flung it open to reveal a tall, distinguished looking executive.

He was dressed in a gorgeous pin-striped business suit, was clean-shaven and had a suitcase in his hand. He walked right up to Sandra’s chair, got down on one knee, took her hand in his and in a wavering voice said just two words: “Thank you!”

Sandra was speechless and didn’t know how to respond. After him came another man, this time it was a professor of literature, then a woman in a nurse’s uniform; on and on it went until the room was filled with professionals from all walks of life of varying ages, all standing there and looking down at her with eyes brimming with tears and smiles of gratitude.

“Gloria…” Sandra said, rising to her feet, her voice shaking. “Who are all these people?”

“We have all been students of yours at one time or another or are yet to be,” explained the nurse, gesturing to all those around her.

“I don’t understand…” Sandra said, although she was beginning to get an inkling of what was happening.

“At one time, during the course of our lives as your students, (both past and yet future) you gave each one of us either an encouraging word, a helping hand, or maybe just an understanding smile that made all the difference in the course of our lives,” said the first man. “We were on a road that was leading us nowhere but the fact that you gave of yourself to us as a teacher and mentor changed everything. We have all asked for special permission to come here and tell you thank you so that you will know that your labor has not been and is not in vain.”

“Thank you Ms. Stiles!” they all chorused, gathering around her.

Sandra turned and looked at Gloria who was crying and laughing at the same time, beaming at her little sister. “Never forget, little sister, just how very proud I am of you!” Gloria said and held her close for one last long embrace.

In that moment, Sandra knew that everything was going to be better no matter what the circumstances of life might bring. She closed her eyes…ready to finally part if only for a little while.

Gloria wasn’t really gone, she was just on the other side of the veil, waiting on the day when Sandra too would join her and their reunion would be permanent. For now, it was sufficient to realize that all she did day in and day out at school, in her church and at home had a meaning and purpose much greater than she would ever be able to know this side of eternity and for now…that was enough.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

In The Land of Milk & Honey

Wendy is a dear friend and fellow Messianic Jew who longs to live in Israel or to make what is called Aliyah but is not permitted to by the government there because of her belief in Yeshua (Jesus). It is where her heart dwells and that is why I wrote this wish story for her. When she heard of my other stories, she asked me for one and In the Land of Milk & Honey is the result.

Consciousness came slowly…lazily…gently. The bird song somehow sounded different, the air heavier and sweeter. Wendy opened her eyes slowly and beheld dappled sunlight filtering through a canopy of grape leaves, laden with heavy purple-black grapes.

She turned her head to the side and looked about her “room”. It was simple and yet beautiful. Pure white blankets glowing with the morning sunshine lay upon her. A wooden table, elegant in its simple beauty held a bowl of fresh fruit, and a pitcher of iced tea and a glass.

With a sudden intake of breath, Wendy sat up and looked through the transparent walls of her sukkot booth. In the distance were rolling hills of vineyards and orchards and to the other side in the distance, the lake of Galilee. She suddenly knew why the air felt heavier and sweeter…the presence of Yeshua.

How had she come to be in this place; the land where her heart beat like a drum with joy and all her senses were awakened as if from a deep stupor? Yisrael. She stood slowly, hesitantly to her feet noticing at once her white linen frock, glowing as if it possessed a light of its own. On her feet were hand crafted sandals. The morning sun was rising higher and with it came a breeze smelling of roses, bay laurel and the fresh scent of the sea.

She stepped outside her sukkot booth into a garden which surrounded it. It was humming with bees and fluttering butterflies, busy collecting nectar from the numerous blossoms. With pounding heart; afraid to wake up from what must surely be a dream, she slowly climbed the nearest hill, breathing deeply in and out as if each breath were nourishment. She stood and faced the holy city, Jerusalem and was stunned. It was not as she remembered it at all. The Dome of the Rock was gone, and in its place stood a gleaming temple of gold and alabaster. The filth of the Arabic section of the old city was gone, replaced by avenues of trees and streets that glistened like gold in the early light.

“Do you like it?” spoke a familiar masculine voice. Wendy closed her eyes and inhaled sharply. It was the voice of her beloved but it was not in her head but in her ears.

“Yeshua…” she breathed, holding up her arms; tears welling up and spilling down her cheeks from underneath her closed eyes. She fell slowly to her knees. “Yeshua?”

“There is a question in the saying of my name, beloved,” came the response. “You are wanting to know if you may stay here always?” “Yes,” whispered Wendy, barely able to breath or speak.

“My precious child,” responded the Master, gently enfolding her in His embrace. “There is no such thing as time where I am concerned; for I live outside of it…and you with Me. Where I am there you are also…and my eyes and heart of ever upon this place, so in a sense…you have never left Israel and it has never left you. The body which you must inhabit within the human time domain is limited but not your heart or your soul. One day time will cease to exist and both body and soul will be reunited with me in this place that remains the apple of my eye. Can you endure until that “time” and do the work I have set before you?”

“Lord, you know my heart and soul’s desire…I will always gladly serve you.”

Yeshua smiled upon her and in the instant she beheld that smile she felt the sight, sounds, smells and “feel” of the land implanted indelibly upon her mind and heart. From that moment on, wherever she placed her feet, Israel and Jerusalem went with her and before her. A secret to enjoy between her and The Redeemer as well as the hope of the real reward yet to come.

“Now, come…” Jesus said, holding out his warm brown hand to her. “Let us enjoy this day together and converse to our heart’s content. What would you like to do first?”

Courtney's Adventure

Courtney nervously steered the car down the highway, casting worried glances at her mom who was riding shotgun, her hands balled into nervous fists of extreme tension. Courtney really hated driving with her mom because she was such a nervous wreck every time. She much preferred her dad who was much calmer when she made mistakes. Even if her mom didn’t say anything aloud, she could still hear her in her head: “Courtney! You’re going too fast! Courtney! You didn’t come to a complete stop! Courtney! Courtney! Courtney!” It was enough to make her not want to drive at all but today she’d had no choice because her mom had just had a minor medical procedure with a sedative and wasn’t allowed to drive herself home and no one else had been available.

“Courtney!” shrieked her mom, stomping on a brake pedal that wasn’t on the passenger side in her panic. “Don’t you see that bus off on the shoulder!”

“Mooooooooooooooooom!” Courtney wailed. “How am I supposed to concentrate on my driving when you keep nagging me all the time-“ her eyes widened in disbelief as she took in the site of the bus and she stomped on the brake herself. The car skidded loudly to a stop. Fortunately, no one had been behind them.

“COURTNEY!” yelled her mom in protest although she had been trying to do the very same thing herself. Courtney couldn’t answer; she was in total shock as she looked at the words painted onto the side of the large tour bus: RELIANT K.

It was too good to be true! She blinked and rubbed her eyes unable to believe her good fortune. There standing in front of the broken down tour bus with downcast looks on their faces was Matthew Thiessen, Matt Hoopes, Jon Warne, and Ethan Luck. They all looked up when Courtney’s van screeched to a halt alongside of them.

“Could you use some help?” she found herself volunteering while her mother vainly tried to signal to her that she shouldn’t be talking to strangers.

“Sure could!” piped up Matt, the lead singer. “Are you a bus mechanic?” The other band members guffawed at the joke but looked hopeful.

“No but I could take you to where you need to go to get one.” Courtney replied, unable to believe she was behaving so calmly in front of her favorite band in the entire world. “There’s no cell phone service in this area for a few miles; it’s a total dead zone.”

“Yeah, we figured that out real quick!” replied Ethan. “We have a concert 50 miles from here in about 2 hours. Even if we had a mechanic magically appear now it wouldn’t help.”

“Could you give us a lift to the venue?” piped up Jon sizing up her van mentally to calculate if they and their essential gear could fit. Fortunately, they had just had the van detailed that week and all the usual junk that was in it was gone, leaving room for 4 more passengers, and their guitars.

“What about the drum set?” Ethan said. “Where are we going to put that?”

“Courtney!” hissed her mom, poking her in the ribs. “Who are these people? Let’s go! We can’t possibly help them!”

“Mom! Please do this one favor for me!” pleaded Courtney, tears welling in her eyes. “I’ll never ask you for another thing for as long as I live. SWEAR.”

Courtney’s mom looked at the naked pleading in her daughter’s eyes and couldn’t find the heart to deny her. She sighed. Teenagers and their obsessions! “Of course you will,” she relented, “but you just remember this the next time you try to tell me how mean I am!”

“Promise!” breathed Courtney, unable to believe her mom was backing down. It was a miracle! Her mom got out of her side of the van and pointed at Ethan.

“You!” she said in a motherly voice. I’ve got a cargo net in the back, we can put your drums on the rack on top. The rest of you pile in with just the essentials you need. As soon as we get to a live cell I’ll phone in your bus to our local mechanic and have it towed to his garage. Now let’s get to work!”

Courtney couldn’t believe her ears (or eyes for that matter). Was this her mother?

Her mom’s only reply was to wink at her. The two Matt’s, Jon and Ethan needed no more urging. They hauled out their guitars, cords and amps from the bus in record time and stuffed them into the van and all of them carefully helped to load the drum set on top. Within 20 minutes they were back on the road and speeding towards their destination.

“Gee, thanks for doing this!” Jon said, suddenly realizing that he did not know the names of their rescuers. “Ummm, I’m Jon, this is Ethan and-“

“I know who you all are!” piped up Courtney, bouncing up and down in her seat with glee. “You are my FAVORITE BAND IN THE ENTIRE WORLD.”

“Our fan!” exclaimed Matt, elbowing the other Matt in the ribs. “What a lucky break you came along.” We’ve been stuck in that spot since the early morning. You were the only car to stop to help us.”

“I’m so sorry!” Courtney said, ashamed on behalf of her county. Courtney’s mom twisted around in her seat to look at the men crammed into the back of the van, their instruments filling all the spare space that was left.

“Have you boy’s had anything to eat since this morning?” she demanded, her motherly instinct coming out. All four shook their heads “no” as their respective stomachs all growled as if in response.

“Courtney, take the next exit and let’s stop to get them a pizza and some drinks. Can’t go onstage and sing when your belly is agrowling!”
Courtney looked at her mom, her eyes wide in sudden mock horror. “Okay,” she hissed under her breath. “Who are you and what have you done with my mom?”

Her mom just shrugged and grinned at her. “I was a big Journey fan when I was your age. If I had seen their bus break down like these guys, you bet I would have moved heaven and earth to help them!”

They pulled up to a local Pizza parlor and while they were selecting their pizza (two pepperoni and two all sausage with onion) plus sodas, Courtney’s mom was able to use the public phone to call a mechanic who promised to take care of the bus for them. (Apparently he was a Reliant K fan as well).

Back on the road, eating pizza and sipping sodas, the mood became more sociable.

“So, do you play an instrument of any kind, ma’am?” questioned Matt T., trying to unsuccessfully bite in two the long rope of cheese that kept stretching from the back seat to the front with his teeth.

“Not now, but my daughter, Courtney here, plays Ukulele like there is no tomorrow!” responded her mom.

“Moooooooooom! Sssh!” Courtney said, embarrassed beyond all belief.

“Really?” said Ethan leaning forward. “We just wrote a new song that is just screaming for a Ukulele but we haven’t been able to find anyone to play it on the road with us and Matt is still learning. Would you like to learn the song?”

“Me?” bleated Courtney, her eyes growing as big as saucers as she looked in the rear-view mirror. “Are you kidding me?”

“I never kid,” replied Ethan with a very serious look on his face.

“He never kids,” affirmed Matt, Matt and Jon solemnly.

“But you’ll have to trade places with your mom and let her drive so you can learn the song. How fast can you pick up a song without sheet music?” Continued Ethan.

Courtney slammed on the brakes. All the guys held onto the car straps for dear life as they were plunged forward. Fortunately they didn’t lose their pizza and drinks. Her and her mom performed a quick “Chinese Fire Drill” and traded spots. At the same time Matt and Jon got out their acoustic guitars so they could help Courtney learn the song. Medical procedure be dammed this was show business!

Courtney spent the remainder of the trip turned around backwards, strumming along on her Ukulele learning the yet unperformed Reliant K’s song “On the Right Track”. She was concentrating so hard on getting it right she forgot to be nervous. An hour flew by and the next thing they knew they had reached the venue and were driving around to the performers entrance in the back where a security guard tried to stop them.

“No one allowed in but-“

“WE ARE THE BAND!” Matthew said in a commanding tone of voice, flashing his ID. “We’re late, let us through!”

The guard was about to argue but then saw the drum set on top with the name RELIANT K screen printed on the kick drum. He waved them through. Courtney’s mom swiftly pulled up to the backdoor of the concert hall and the band members piled out.

“You sure learned that song fast!” Jon enthused, unloading the gear. “If you’d like to come onstage and play with us on just that one cover it’d be great but no pressure. It’s just that we were hoping to introduce it tonight.”

“Are you serious?” Courtney said, clutching her Ukulele. “You really want me to play that song with you?”

“Well….” drawled Matt T., rubbing his head. “We will have to make you an honorary member of the band, just for tonight. Are you game?”

Courtney couldn’t believe her luck. The day had started out so lousy and now here she was with Matt, Matt, Jon and Ethan of Reliant K and she was going to play in front of their fans with them on her Ukulele. How cool was that?!

“Game on!” Courtney grinned at them. “Lead the way!”

More Than a Memory

Michele Fritzler is the sister of my first love, Barry Henriot who died of a brain aneurysm when I was 22 and he was 25 back in 1982. After his death I "adopted" his mom (Ruth) and father (Al) and had dinner with them every Sunday for a few years until Ruth and Al moved up to Oregon to be closer to their daughter, Michele, in 1991. Barry and Michele's dad, Al died in 1994.

Even though I have only seen Michele less than a hand full of few times, we have come to accept each other as "sisters" because of our mutual love for her family and especially Barry. He has been gone for so long that there is barely anyone remaining in her life that ever knew him; making his existence in the past that much more unreal. It was with panic last December that I realized that I had lost her mom's mailing address and phone number and was desperately hoping that I would get her annual Christmas card so I could tell her that my book was going to be published with a dedication in it to Barry that I had put in there more almost 30 years ago.

The rain came down in heavy drops and in only moments, Michele’s hair and clothes were drenched. Living in Oregon you’d think by now she would always be prepared with a ready umbrella but she had rushed out of the house today late and distracted by all the things she needed to get done.

Now rivulets of cold rain water were beginning to run down inside her collar and drench her from the inside out. She needed to take cover. To her right was a revolving door leading into a restaurant and without a second thought she ducked in for a quick respite and a cup of hot chocolate to warm her up.

The site that greeted her eyes paralyzed and completely disoriented her. She blinked, rubbed her eyes and shook her head, her mouth gaping as her surroundings refused to change back into reality. Before her was the living room of her Huntington Beach home the way it looked when she had lived there with her brother, Barry. Immediately tears sprang into her eyes with the familiar ache that clutched her heart.

“Is that you Michele?” sang a voice from the kitchen. The beloved voice sent a thrill through her heart and her voice caught in her throat. Had she fallen unconscious? Was she having a dream? Having received no response, Ruth poked her head through the doorway. “Cat got your tongue?” she grinned at her dumbstruck daughter.

Michele’s mouth moved but no sound would come out as she stared at the face of her dear mother who had passed away just under a year ago. At that moment a figure walked up behind her and pinched her in the ribs, making her scream. She whirled around and standing there alive and as if he had never aged, was her brother Barry.

He grinned at her and gave her a bear hug but there was no feedback from the hearing aids he used to always wear. He stepped back and pointed at his head with a lopsided grin. “I hear great now!”

Michele’s eyes traveled hungrily up and down the length of him. Same wavy brown hair, twinkly eyes, mischievous grin, dimples and plaid flannel shirt with the sleeves rolled up as if 25 plus years had never passed. The tears now spilled down her cheeks unabated and a sob of joy caught in her throat. With a look of understanding compassion on his face, Barry enfolded her into his arms and let her sob. Michele could barely hear the familiar footsteps behind her on the floor and then her mom’s arms were about her.

“Al, just don’t sit there watching the game, get in here!” Ruth yelled. At that, Michele pulled back and turned around to see her father stride towards them, his arms held out wide. She flew into them, crying even harder.

“There now,” soothed her mom in her wonderful accent. “Do you really want to spend your entire visit with us crying? You’re scaring Sonny!”

“Meooooww!” agreed the gorgeous Himalayan cat, entering the room. This was all just too much!

“I don’t understand!” was all Michele could manage, shaking uncontrollably. Al, Ruth, Barry and even Sonny all stared at her in sympathy. “Am I dreaming or dead?”

“Neither!” chorused all (except Sonny) in unison. “This is a gift, sis.” Explained Barry gesturing to the family dinner table laden with a Thanksgiving turkey and all the fixings. “The Lord thought you’d enjoy one more day and meal with us all together again.”

Michele clutched at her heart. It was all too much to take in and yet she couldn’t deny it was what she had secretly longed for more often than she could say but there was still something missing. A lot of “somethings”. As if on cue, the doorbell rang.

“I’ll get it!” cried Barry with a wink in his sister’s direction and bounded over to the door. He opened it up to reveal Michele’s husband, Dave, and all their kids.

“Uncle Barry!” they all shrieked, not the least bit shocked or bewildered. Barry hugged and pounded Dave on the back with glee and hugged each of Michele’s kids in turn as if he had known them all his life. They in turn hugged his neck with equal glee and then everyone circled around the table and grabbed each other’s hands.

“Barry, would you lead us all in thanks to the Lord?” smiled Ruth, winking at Michele.

“I was hoping you’d ask!” Barry grinned. At that everyone bowed their heads as Michele’s beloved brother led them all in a prayer of thanksgiving for a reunited family that was separated only by the very thinnest veil of eternity.

Three Wishes

I met Darlene through a comment she left on my web page about "A Gift for Henry". I came to find out that she had lost her husband, Steve, due to congestive heart failure and that he had died in her arms a few years ago. Knowing this I could only imagine how painful this time of year must be for her and wanted to do something to let her know that God sees her hurt and pain and that He cares. Three wishes is God's special gift to Darlene this Christmas

Darlene regarded the Christmas decorations in her local grocery store glumly. She hated this time of year. Absolutely hated it! All it did was accentuate the sadness that she always carried in her heart like a heavy lead balloon. As a kid she had enjoyed the holidays as much as anyone else but all that had changed three years ago when her husband, Steve, had died in her arms of heart failure. She sighed, fighting back the tears that welled up in her eyes and threatened to spill down her cheeks. She wasn’t going to cry in the check-out line! Not in front of all these strangers!

The box boy stuffed the last of her groceries into the bag and Darlene hurried out, her head down, her shoulders beginning to shake. She got into her car, her hands trembling with the grief she tried to suppress and yet couldn’t. She let her head drop onto the steering wheel and allowed the tears to come. She missed him. She couldn’t help it. Even after a few years, there was still a big hole in her heart that just wouldn’t heal.

Oh, Stevie…she thought to herself, not for the last time. If only we had had more time together…if only your heart hadn’t been sick…if only…

Darlene violently brushed the tears from her cheeks and started the car. She didn’t want to go down that road again. She had to get home, unload the groceries alone without help and get some dinner for herself. The very idea depressed her beyond belief.

She turned the key in the ignition and maneuvered out of the parking lot. She made to turn right, but the car suddenly had other ideas. It turned left. It shocked her so much she just gaped. Then the gas pedal depressed itself and the car began speeding up and driving itself. Darlene sat back and watched in shock as the car continued to steer, turning down streets she was unfamiliar with, stopping and starting without assistance from her, wondering where on earth her car was taking her and why. For some reason she felt no panic but a few times she caught the shocked glances of people in other cars as she half-heartedly smiled and waved at them as her car turned a corner without her assistance. Once or twice she gripped the steering wheel and tried to steer the way she wanted and to brake but the car was completely unresponsive. Why fight it? She thought to herself and sat back to watch what would happen. A half hour passed, then 45 minutes and the car was on the main highway heading north. Before she knew it, she had nodded off to sleep.

She awoke when the car came to a stop, not remembering what had happened and wondering if she was asleep, dreaming she was awake. She looked around and found herself and her car in a tiny parking lot in front of a little cottage, brightly lit with cheerful Christmas lights and a wreath on the door. There was nothing else in site. She got out of the car feeling stiff from her unexpected nap. She went up to the door of the cottage which was bright red, and knocked. Hopefully whoever lived her would let her use the phone or give her directions on how to get back home before the milk spoiled. She knocked twice.

“Come in, Darlene!” said a voice that made her heart skip a beat. A voice she had not heard in years but a voice that was dearly beloved and familiar all the same.

Heart pounding, she walked into the little cottage. There was a fireplace with a cheery fire crackling away, a Christmas tree with ornaments that looked strangely familiar and her favorite Christmas music playing on the stereo that she hadn’t played in years because it had hurt too much to listen to it.

“Welcome, home, sweetheart!” said the voice again and Darlene felt arms wrapping around her like a warm cocoon.

“Stevie?” she sobbed, turning around to face what must surely be a dream or a ghost. “Is it really you?”

“Yes, dear,” he responded with an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry we had to bring you here the way we did and that it took so long but I hope the memory we make will be worth it to you.”

“We? Memory?” Darlene repeated, completely bewildered. She stepped back out of Steve’s arms for a moment and rubbed her eyes, unable to believe she was seeing what she was seeing. Steve stepped forward again and gently took her hands into his.

“I’m sorry I have ruined the holidays for you.” He said, he eyes truly sorrowful. “I didn’t want to leave you at all, you know, but my heart wasn’t made to last as long as everyone else’s. Can you forgive me?”

“It’s just that I miss you so much.” Darlene said, the tears spilling down again. “I have wished so often that I could just have you with me just one more time, just a little bit longer…”

Steve took her face gently into his hands and smiled at her. “Wish granted.” He whispered and embraced her again. This time Darlene did not pull away. She melted into his embrace and allowed herself the luxury of breathing in the scent of his hair and his clothes without all the medicine smells that he had used to carry later in life when his heart began to fail. After a few moments, Steve parted them with a smile and reached for one of the grocery bags.

“Here, let me help you with that.” He said, hefting it up easily.

“No! I’ll get it!” Darlene protested, falling back into the routine of doing most of the lifting herself because of his weak heart.

“Not necessary!” Steve said, grabbing both effortlessly. “No more bad heart!” He led her into the tiny but charming kitchen and took the groceries out one at a time. Instead of the dull, boring regular items she always got, she stared in amazement as Steve pulled out their favorite beverages, foods, and treats they used to share one at a time. It was a gourmet feast and it was already prepared and hot.

Together they sat down at the table where candlelight glowed and ate and talked for hours. Then they cuddled up onto the couch together in front of the fire and the tree, listening to soft Christmas music together.

“I don’t want this moment to end.” Darlene said at last, knowing the moment for her departure was approaching soon. Steve laid a gentle kiss on her forehead and held her close.

“Do you remember our last moments together?” he whispered. Darlene choked on her sobs, the raw wound opening up again.

“Of course I do! How could I ever forget a moment like that?” she said, her heart aching. Steve held her closer and looked deeply into her eyes, his face serious.

“Darlene, I always knew I would not live very long and have a normal life span. I also knew it would be unfair to whoever I married and my kids because of it but I was selfish asked God to grant me three wishes: 1) That I would be able to marry the woman I love, 2) that I could be a father (no matter how they turned out), and 3)…” Steve paused, his own eyes filling with tears.

“Three?” repeated Darlene, wondering what it could be. Steve sighed deeply and held her closer.

“…that when it was finally my time to leave this earth and go to heaven, I would die in the arms of the person who loved me best in this life…You.

“God gave me all three of my wishes and now He has granted this one for you. He has given you one more memory…a little more time…just a taste of the joy of our being reunited in heaven so you can still go on with your life in this world and grieve a little bit less, knowing how well I loved you and how I still love you and that I’m waiting for you. The time is growing short when we will be together again forever but until that day comes, I want you to live each day knowing that I’m still loving you and caring about you. Try to find joy again in the little things again and I’ll be right there, sharing it with you. Can you do that for me?”

“I’ll try.” Darlene smiled weakly, wishing she could stay in that little cottage with him forever.

“Now lay your head on my shoulder and go to sleep,” said Steve, holding her close. “And when you wake you’ll be back to your regular life but remember that you always carry my love and my heart inside your own.”

“Okay,” whispered Darlene, clutching him tightly. “I’ll remember. I promise.”

“That’s my girl,” Steve smiled, caressing her head until she fell asleep.

Darlene awoke with a start and looked around her. The cottage was gone and so were the tree, fireplace and Steve. She was back in her little home but there on the table was the most beautiful arrangement of snow-white and deep red flowers she had ever seen. She picked up the tiny envelope and withdrew the little card that had Steve’s handwriting on it and instead of crying…she smiled.


Wish Fulfillment Stories