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Thursday, June 13, 2019

Chapter 3 The Box of This and That and Everything

'Twas like daylight suddenly slipped into dusk. Through the arched windows, colors of the rainbow reflected onto dancing dust particles. Then time stopped altogether.

Beth drew a long, meaningful breath as if taking in all the fragrance of another world, time, and space. She turned the weighty iron key of Grandpa Seth’s peculiarly crafted box, listening for that click. It arrived with an echo and deep sigh, the way Grandpa used to exhale when she was in no particular hurry. She gasped as she felt his presence engulfing her. It was almost unbearable. But she lifted the lid, nonetheless, to explore the contents inside. Here eyes widened.

An orchestra of sweet music flowed into the open space. It was his favorite hymn calling her from long ago: “It is Well with My Soul.” He had hummed that tune while working on his wood carvings in his farmhouse barn. She hummed along, fully aware that the box had no batteries or wind-up key. Everything around her seemed to move twice as slow as the smell of old books and pressed flowers seeped out. Memories flooded her soul. Droplets of tears found a path down her face as she took out the contents one by one, none more precious than Grandpa’s old Bible.

She blew off a thin layer of dust. Crushed rose petals and cherry blossoms fluttered around her like butterflies. Closing her eyes she could see Grandpa smiling. Standing straight, without a cane, without a clunky tank of oxygen. That's how she remembered him best—shoulders back, strong arms to hold her, always begging her to play Hacky Sack with him.

A smile lit up her face as she turned her attention back to the box. “Wow,” she whispered taking out a heavy leather bound book. “He left me his Bible. This meant so much to him.” Her fingers brushed over the names of her family tree. “He loved us all, didn’t he? He just didn’t trust us.”

“He trusted you.”

Beth giggled. “I guess he did. We used to read this Bible whenever we were together.”

“Yes, he told me he looked forward to that every day.”

With much care she opened its frail pages. Sticking to the inside of the cover was a note, smeared with crafty lines and artsy hearts, addressed to her and the boys: Here is the deed to my favorite worldly possession—my acres of desert land. No family member, except your grandma, knew about it, and I suspect none of them would care to know about it. Granted, my dear Beth, you will have to clean it up. I’m afraid since your grandma passed away I have neglected it. This will be hard work as it’s in the middle of the desert, though I am convinced you will not shy away from hard work. It will require a lot of raking, digging, sweeping, pruning, chasing critters and a rattler or two. But if you don’t give up you will find trash-ures.”

“Trash-ures?” Beth crunched her eyebrows together. 

Mr. Weatherly chuckled. “There’s more.” He took out a bundle of keys.

“To the old V dub van?"

“And one to the house … in the desert.”

“There’s a house?” She closed her hand over the keys. “Did I mention I was homeless and … between jobs?”

“You did, indeed.”

She polished the keys with the tail of her shirt. “I love that van!” The keys clanged together as she clutched them over her heart. “I know it must be falling apart by now but I don’t mind. It’s better than that bus from Hell … um, I mean ... Grandpa taught me how to drive in that van.”

Mr. Weatherly clicked the heels of his shoes together and gave a courteous cough. Then he took out a lumpy manila envelope from the box which Beth swore had already been emptied.

“Not quite the inheritance you expected, but like your Grandpa said, “you’ll find the trash-ures if you don’t mind the work. Here’s a little money to buy necessities.” His voice was hushed. “From Grandpa’s Beth-Fund.”

“Grandpa had a Me-Fund?”

“Indeed, he did.” He put the envelope in her trembling hand. “Every time you declined his offer of help, he stuffed money in this envelope. It's quite hefty. Now … let’s go see that van, shall we?”

Just then, Gabe floated ominously out of the elevator and ushered them inside. He’s got a little of that doomsday look, Beth thought. She could only adjust her eyeballs and thought better than to ask the giggling Caleb if he saw what she saw.

As they stepped back in to daylight the garden released its new colors as falling cherry blossoms showered upon them. The weeping willow shook loose the sprays of water received from the waterfall, and washed Beth and her boys from the inside out.

"Bright!" Caleb shouted as he bathed in sunshine and cherry drops under the willow tree.

"Refreshing," Beth whispered. She chose to thank Grandpa’s God, Jehovah Jireh she remembered, and kept these things to herself. Who was she going to tell anyhow?

The sage green van with a few rusty spots, waited for them at the edge of the gardens. Beth cupped her hands over her mouth. This is perfect! Our own little house on wheels. It was clean and  had full tank of gas. The back had been loaded with bottled water, a large ice chest crammed with food, and healthy snacks oozed out of a picnic basket. Blankets were neatly stacked in the overhead of the roof that opened up into a red and white striped tent framed by two windows, a skylight, and a new solar panel. “Trash-ures.”

“Make sure you look in the glove compartment.” Mr. Weatherly squeezed his arm through the open window. “Besides all necessary papers your grandfather left you his journal. It will answer all your questions … like he was still with you.”

Beth shuddered. “Is he—?”

“No,” Mr. Weatherly said with a smile.

She hugged Mr. Weatherly—an honor reserved only for her grandfather. “Thank you.”

Gabe appeared from the apple orchard with Caleb on his shoulders shouting, “Look Mom, we picked blueberries, strawberries, and Skittles®!”

“Skittles?”

Caleb giggled while slapping his kneecaps.

“Get in the car, little man,” she replied. “I guess we’re off to the desert.” She double checked to see if Gabe’s feet were touching the ground. They weren't but she kind of expected that.

Mr. Weatherly and Gabe secured the children. “We’ll see you three soon,” they both said just before Beth thought the two had become one.

She blinked twice, shaking those cobwebs out, but gave up on any explanation. Taking one last sweeping glance of The Grand Seville and its gardens—the fountains, the waterfalls, and ivory statues, the climbing rose caressed by ivy; lilies white, sunflowers gold, and cherry blossoms drifting like snow in perfect spring weather—she started the engine.

Mr. Weatherly, of course, disappeared and left no proof he was ever there before she heard the sputter, then a hum of the engine. Scanning the paths through the gardens for the sweet man and Gabe, too, was useless. They were nowhere. “Indeed,” she said.

The van sputtered but settled into a smooth hum as a musty, but cool air whipped through when Beth clicked on the air conditioner. She laughed. “Oh, how I love you, Grandpa. I’ll take good care of it.” 

But as she left the garden, the darkness of the storm confronted them as the old van maneuvered into the world she dreaded. She blew out all her anxiety and whispered Grandpa's favorite quote, “It is well with my soul.”


Saturday, April 20, 2019

Chapter 2, Part 2: A Memorial Song

Side Note: Part 2 is a tad bit different, a little (or lot) more poetic. My brain seems to function this way lately. When creativity calls one must grab it, whatever form that may be, and what comes out might be strange but we're all somewhat peculiar. It's acceptable in the writing world.

Chapter 2, Part 2: A Memorial Song


“Tsk, tsk,” said Mr. Weatherly shaking his head
as he straightened his suit and bothersome tie.
He cricked his neck, once to the right, and once to the left.
“Truly, we should be more careful,” he sighed,
“of who and what we allow inside.”

Beth nodded. “In total agreement am I,”
as she giggled and shivered from toe to eye.
The bitter winter of Mr. Weatherly’s firm had swarmed, at last,
into the bloom of spring.
And the ceiling sang out with morning glory,
clusters of grapes cascading,
as the fragrance of jasmine entered the story
when summer tales began.
The rushing sounds of waterfalls springing loose from rigid walls
as the cherry blossoms drifted soft over the crystal falls …
settling below on the pinewood floors
then wafting away through open doors.

But Beth she looked beyond the falls and noticed her family in stress,
as Gabe retracted invisible wings and he led them away like sheep who don’t sing,
like sheep away to slaughter.

“Where are they going?” she cried.

“Ms. Beth,” Mr. Weatherly said quite sad,
“It is better you did not know …
it is better, for now, and maybe for more
to keep your sanity and just let them go.”

“You’re not sending them there—?”

“Oh no,” he said.
“but they do have some choices to make,
and they have their own journeys,
their journeys of love,
forgiveness and heartaches.
This journey is tough.
But they will be back for mercy’s sake,”
he whispered, “I hope, and soon we pray.”

Beth took a deep breath, not saying a word,
but only for a while,
before changing the topic and then she sighed
and let out a horrible cry.
“I’m so sorry,” she said.
“I wasn’t there,
I missed grandpa’s funeral.
I had such a bad day.”
And a few tears dribbled from her hazel eyes
onto her sun-kissed skin.
“Caleb was sick,
the baby, too,
and not one babysitter without the flu,
I lost my job without severance pay,
and to top it all off
someone stole my car that day.
Still—”

“Slow down, Ms. Beth, you weren’t meant to be
at Grandpa’s funeral, that I can see.”
Calm yourself … here have some tea?”


The green tea fuzzed and solidified
into a purple flower
releasing a torrent of bright blue drops
before fizzling back to how it was,
popping and snapping
a soothing spree
going down smoothly her angst to free.

Caleb giggled. “I like it here.”  

“Indeed.” Mr. Weatherly said with a smile,
Searching the bookshelf
each section, each file.
With every “hmm” the mysteries bound,
as a heavenly breeze
spun the books around
till they stopped with a whirr
at his command.
“Here it is,” he sang out loud.
“A box for Beth from Grandpa Seth,”
and it glowed at the touch of his hand.
He took a seat right next to her.
“Open this box, my dear.”  
As he handed the key to its silvery lock,
the box slid closer with a tick and a tock.

“Your grandfather said ‘remember me not
when sick and old, sad stories told.
But cherish the memories with life so full,
of days with laugher, and  … really bad jokes.'”

Beth chuckled away
remembering the day
when Grandpa wrote it down.
In his book of words, a masterpiece emerged
not one bad joke he thought to purge.
Each chuckle, each punch line delivered so bad
and purposely botched for the fun to be had.

“He certainly laughed when you were around,”
Mr. Weatherly said, “Now let’s see what is found
in Grandpa’s wooden box.”



End of Chapter 2, Part 2



Serendipity Copyright 2019 by Deborah L. Alten


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Chapter 2 Trash-ures

(Part 1)

Beth stood motionless in front of those looming doors. They ticked and clicked with a dozen clocks. The gears and cogs spun in endless furious circles. "You're late." Beth heard an echo of daunting whispers. "But not to worry, you're always on time here." 

She was sure she didn’t want any part of these doors or the meeting beyond them. Her arms drooped down by her sides, her eyebrows raised. She pouted; childishly perturbed that Gabe had left her there.


“No turning back I guess. Time to face my demons.” Her hand reached for Caleb's shoulder, the other wrapped around her baby. If she had to fight for them, she would.

“Mommy your eyeballs are popping out.” Caleb covered his mouth and closed his eyes. 

Beth straightened herself out, expecting a loud creak when the doors began to open slowly, but not a peep. Time, as it were, stopped with all the clicks, clacks, and whirs.

Orange blossoms fluttered through the gap, but flapped right back out on a chilling wind as the somber chambers of Mr. Weatherly’s law firm crept into view. A cold draft stung her skin. 

Mr. Weatherly sifted through a tall stack of manila folders. "Welcome," he said and began his opening statement. Beth could hear even from where she stood. "We are here for the reading of the will as written by Mr. Seth Matthews, prepared and witnessed by me ... Mr. Weatherly."

Beth waited for the doors to widen completely. It seemed the respectful thing to do ... not to interrupt Mr. Weatherly.

She was mesmerized by his voice and pondered his accent—British perhaps. Not quite, but she couldn’t put a finger on it. It was music, like a flute; No, perhaps a violin—every string in perfect harmony with the next. She took it in, every word, and every note. “Tastes like honey,” she could hear Grandpa say when he liked someone’s voice with an encouraging word, “sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.”


Nobody noticed her yet nor the massive double doors that had opened without a sound. For a fleeting moment she considered walking away, but for some reason she couldn't move. It was beginning to feel very cold around her and Mr. Weatherly’s conference room didn’t match the calm demeanor she experienced in other parts of The Grand Seville.

“Mommy,” Caleb whispered. “The ceiling is moving.”  

Beth didn’t dare look up, but she did, with one eye closed and her head slightly tilting. Why does he always see these things, she thought. She almost shuddered out of her boots. The arched glass ceiling breathed. Each pane swirled and spewed out rings of smoke forming winged snakes, horned fowls, and twisted sea dragons whose eyes dripped with liquid fire. These creatures changed shape with each passing second. Mr. Weatherly, and his angelic voice, seemed oddly out of place.

“I don’t like it,” Caleb whispered. 

Beth squeezed Caleb’s hand. Get a grip, Beth, or they’ll put you away like your father. Nothing is real, nothing is real. “We’ll be okay, Caleb. Just don’t let go.”

“Won’t let go.” His little voice cracked.

Grandpa's family sat around Mr. Weatherly's conference-room tablenobody fit quite right in the large leather chairs. Grandpa's five children, thirteen grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren were itching to escape. But Beth knew that greed held them there. Grumpy greedy faces of men and women, who bore Grandpa’s last name but had no moral right to it, waited impatiently to hear what Old Man Seth had bequeathed them.

“It’s the bus ride from hell all over again,” Beth said, a little louder than she meant to. 

It caught their attention—their creepy, stiff necked, vein popping attention. It took a few “ahums,” and a dozen throat- clearing gurgles before they turned their backs on her, one by one.

Mr. Weatherly’s face crunched into a frown as he continued to read each line meticulously to wide eyed people tapping pencils and bright red fingernails on the glass-topped table, twitching their noses, and forever clearing their throats. He stopped as Beth had worked up enough courage to walk inside with Caleb by the hand, and Daniel now cradled in her home-made baby sling, which she had to check twice as she did not remember how it got there. 

Jasmine and lavender wafted through the doors behind her, gently closing, again without a sound until the click of the well-oiled lock. Click. Mr. Weatherly nodded, suddenly aware he’d been frowning.

“I’m so sorry.” She blew strands of unruly brownish-blonde hair away from her face. With stray blossoms falling off her shoulders Beth dropkicked her life’s belonging beneath the table and surrendered to the oversized leather chair. Desperately trying to avoid their grimaces and smug sighs she apologized again.

“No need, Ms. Beth.” Mr. Weatherly poured a large glass of green tea, ice cubes popping with dazzling colors, and placed a muffin, twice the size of her hand, surrounded by exotic fruit and oozing thick warm cream from its sides, before her. She spotted the sugared white blossoms and cherry on top and wondered, though she was hungry, if she could even manage a bite.

“My favorites,” she whispered and took a few gulps. Then she and Caleb dug their fingers into a delicious mess. All the while aware of the uninvited guests slithering overhead in that cold glass ceiling.

Mr. Weatherly nodded in approval and handed Caleb a cup of juice with a long licorice straw, and a baggie brimming with rainbow fish crackers. “Mighty fine Band-Aid®.” Mr. Weatherly pointed at Caleb’s elbow.

“Thank you,” Caleb said. “It’s porple.” His thin body perked up.

“Indeed it is.” Mr. Weatherly chuckled and made sure to give Caleb some extra attention.  

"Larry—"

"The bus driver?" Mr. Weatherly chimed in.

"Yep, the bus divor." Caleb's face was as serious as a four-year old could get. The tale of his journey on the bus became the center of attention—every word an exclamation. 

Mr. Weatherly made sure that the family members around his table heard every word. Caleb smiled when he knew he had an audience. His words became more cheerful. "I told them bout Jesus, too, like Grandpa Seth tot me."

That name alone—Jesus—sent shivers through the ceiling. Caleb's innocence shone through with every word. The heart of an innocent child then began to vanquish the fearful creatures in the glass ceiling above. 

Beth took note as she leaned back with an awkward smile into the leather chair. “Caleb, let Mr. Weatherly speak for a while.” She pulled him close and brushed through his curly brown hair with her fingers.

"Thank you Caleb," Mr. Weatherly said. "Back to business then."

Mr. Weatherly continued the reading of the will, which Beth didn't expect much from. The hand-delivered invite was why she showed up. She loved Grandpa Seth. He never judged even after she had made a few bad choices and wound up with two babies before her 21st birthday without a husband—frowned upon in her family, and reason enough to be ostracized. Today, on her 22nd birthday, she no longer cared.

Grandpa Seth loved Beth regardless and laughed at her horrible jokes with botched-up punch lines, and he appreciated her creative homemade cards. Always proud she had inherited his love for art. He received a card every week, with an extra one when she came to visit.

“My Beth,” he would say as she peeked around his bedroom door. “How I love to see your face.” His old scarred and weathered countenance would beam and come alive, and though his voice trembled it was music to Beth’s ears. He could still hold a conversation but sometimes during their walk in the garden he would fall asleep in his wheelchair. She stayed nonetheless till his nurse offered to set up a room for her. “No,” she would say. “Just give him this card and tell him I love him.”  

****
At the end of the day Grandpa’s fortune fell into the hands of his ungrateful children: Four yachts—two for racing—, four mansions, three vacation homes, a dozen vintage cars, and a collection of baseball cards in original packaging.

“Nothing for Beth?” Her mother’s feeble attempt to care fell on deaf ears.

Mr. Weatherly gave Beth a reassuring wink even though the pile of manila envelopes was gone.

“Remember,” Mr. Weatherly said in a stern voice. “These things come with a price.” He handed each of them a letter. “These … things … are yours only after you complete the tasks Mr. Seth has laid out in the letters addressed to you.” He shook his head and exhaled. “I will see you all in a couple of months.”

They shrugged, they huffed, they shook their heads rapidly with pruned lips, but none seem to have any intention of opening their letters. The oldest son, Beth’s Uncle Jake, left his on the table. No one seemed satisfied with what they had received but at least the black sheep of the family, namely Beth, and her children did not receive a dime. Even her mother, Grandpa’s supposed caregiver, had said enough. And with her young lover hovering over her shoulders, looked the other way just in case she would be cut off from the rest of the family as Beth had.

The room emptied quickly leaving Beth and her boys sitting at the end of the table. The glass ceiling now emptied of unwanted creatures allowed the glory of the midday sun to filter through. When the last vestige of a spoiled child walked out the doors, Mr. Weatherly's conference room burst into a sea of colorlike flowers blooming after a long hard winter, losing its blanket of smoke and must. 

End of Chapter 2, Part 1

Serendipity Copyright by Deborah L. Alten 2019


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Monday, March 4, 2019

Chapter 1 The Grand Seville

It was hot. Temperatures sizzled into triple digits when a lukewarm rain began to mingle with her sweat. Beth’s hair was already a matted mess as she boarded the 727 bus to LA. Wishing she had never put on the cheap mascara, she caught the horrid glimpse of herself as she passed the side mirror. At least her clothes got a good washing.

Passengers glared, visibly upset the driver stopped at all. This was an unscheduled stopa Dead Stop, abandoned, invisible on any other day. "You're picking up ghosts, Larry!" someone shouted from the back. "There’s not even an ad on the bench."

The bus driver, not a patient man and rather portly, complained vigorously. “Yeah, I know! It isn't even on my route!”

“Yet, here you are,” Beth scoffed, looking for an open seat.

He was quite puzzled himself. “Yeah, well you better keep those kids quiet.” He pointed a stubby crooked finger at her, invading her personal space.

Beth could feel those “Grapes of Wrath” about to spew from her lips with teeth ready to bite that finger off. She and her kids were hungry, suddenly homeless, and she was out of a job ... again. But she restrained herself while laboring up the last step with a baby seat dangling in one hand, and gently pushing her 4-year old into the bus with the other. If words are weapons, the driver had an arsenal, which he used as he picked up Beth’s army duffle bag—unaware of the baby bottle falling out the side pocket—and flung the bag with her life in it, onto the overhead bars. There was hardly room for the three of them and as tired and frazzled as she was she wound up having to stand in the aisle.

This must be the bus to hell. "Chivalry really is dead," she mumbled. 

The hour-long ride didn’t go well. The bus leaked through three rusty holes and rattled like its wheels were square; The baby was hungry; she couldn't find his bottle; and her 4-year old thought he would practice his new words while kneeling on the worn out leather … out loud, in sentences that only made sense to him—cute perhaps any other time, but it was 100 degrees and this rain wouldn’t get anyone to work on time. He was scolded twice by a passenger with pasty pale skin and sunken eyeballs, but mostly ignored by the others, who, Beth noticed, weren't in much better shape. 

Finally arriving at their destination exactly an hour later, Beth’s struggles continued: The baby cried—no doubt hungry; she fought with her duffle bag, which was stuck under someone’s briefcase, and her busy 4-year-old (who decided to say goodbye to each and every one of the passengers, and something about Jesus) didn’t want to get off the bus. Never mind the rain, which now pounded the streets of LA leaving puddles of murky mud in fresh potholes.

No one offered assistance and the driver began checking his watch. That’s when the massive iron bell of the bell tower struck once, in time with the distant thunder. She was late, she was stressed out, and as usual, in a hurry but getting nowhere.

As best she could, Beth straightened out on the second step and blew out a defiant sigh. “Come on, Caleb! Hang onto the elephant’s tail.” She laughed nervously as Caleb offered his best baby elephant trumpet snuffle puff, which came out more like a “ppffft.” He hung onto his mother’s shirt as if his life depended on it. And it very well could have.

Passengers were not amused but at this point she didn’t care and heaved her duffle bag through the accordion door into the rain. It hit a stray dog who yelped and ran for cover under the newspaper stand.

Poor Caleb barely got his little snuffle-puff arm out of the bus when the driver closed the door scraping the child’s elbow. He cried, but no apology from the driver. Beth scowled and swore men like him would get their just reward. That’s when the bus swerved to avoid a cycler who made a rude gesture as he rode by just before the bus came to a grinding halt. Burning rubber filled the already pungent air. 


Beth crunched her shoulders, her face, and cupped her hands over her mouth. Slightly lifting one foot off the ground, she whispered, “Oops, my bad,” and hurried through the stone archway of the English gardens surrounding The Grand Seville. And suddenly ... her world turned into Narnia. Well, not exactly, though she did take a quick look behind her to see if there was a wardrobe or any other portal not of this earth.  


Grandpa Seth had told her of this place. "Close your eyes," he would say. "God dwells ... even in LA." 

She would giggle, "Not in LA, Grandpa."

The pristine gardens greeted them with a cool breeze, snowy blossoms free-falling from a clear sky, and mourning doves cooing. 

They sat for a while on a white garden bench under a weeping willow that beckoned them with outstretched arms. 

“Mommy, the tree moved,” Caleb whispered as he pulled on Beth’s arm.

“It’s the breeze. Don’t you worry.” She looked over her shoulder and checked the pounding rain outside the arches. Then scanning the branches and the trunk beneath them, she made sure the tree wasn’t moving. A strange peace descended from every limb. Caleb had let go of her arm catching blossoms and sipping its dewdrops. "Be careful, Caleb."

Again she checked outside the stone archway. Again she heard the driving force of a storm that couldn't find its way into the garden where a soothing mist caressed red roses, and kissed a sea of golden daffodils. She searched for the baby bottle while puffing unruly strands of hair from her face. 

"I'm so sorry, Daniel. Mommy doesn't know what happened to your bottle." She held her baby close, the car seat nestled between her legs. 

"Mommy, my elbow hurts." Caleb wiped a tear off his brown skin. 

"Well ... stop chasing those blossoms. Come here." She kissed him on top of his curly head. It took a second or two but all was well at the mention of ice cream but only after their meeting with Grandpa Seth’s lawyer. "Oh, the meeting!" Beth sighed. 

The soft showers on fresh grass did wonders for her soul, as did the coos of her baby boy after she gave him a pacifier dripping with fresh blossom water. She didn't want to leave the garden as time seemed to have stopped for them among the fountains and the daffodils. The chaos of the world, she so desperately sought reprieve from, seemed to drift away. Nonetheless, it was time to face the music and the family who had disowned her.

Still drenched, clothes disheveled, and hair plastered to her face, Beth entered The Grand Seville, a cathedral-like structure left from yesteryears. It took her breath away. She wondered how modern society had built around it, almost ignoring its grandeur and its very existence. Or maybe The Grand Seville had ignored modern society. Grandpa Seth loved this place and wrote a book about it. But no one read it except for Beth even though she and the rest of Grandpa's family could never find The Grand Seville's location.

"But you see, my Bethany," she could hear Grandpa say. "One can only find it when one is given a special invitation."

Inside the lobby two chiseled ladies of ivory, each holding a water pot with a steady flow of sparkling water, graced each side of the ornate elevator doors. As soon as she took out her invitation the doors slid open with a soft hiss revealing the elegant d├ęcor inside and a man she thought was yet another statue.

“Good morning, Ms. Beth, I’m Gabe.” He stood tall and straight, eyes sparkling, and not a strand of hair out of place. “We’ve been waiting for you.” The elevator operator adjusted his dark blue vest that stretched a little tight over a crisp white shirt. His tie matched his pantshis shiny gray pants with not a wrinkle in sight. “May I be of assistance?” She hesitated but he already had her duffle bag over his shoulder and without much effort picked up the bulky car seat where baby Daniel finally lay fast asleep.

“He must be so hungry.” Beth shook her head.

“You just fed him, didn’t you?” Gabe pointed to the empty baby bottle in her hand.

She raised her eyebrows, then hung her head. “Oh, I’m losing it ... again.”

He handed her a warm moist hand towel. She cleaned her face as best she could as Gabe led them into the elevator. The ride up was like a smooth sail on Grandpa's yacht. It refreshed her tired body—another chance to rest, which was rare. Her muscles unknotted as she slumped onto a chair appearing from nowhere and felt like a cloud of marshmallows. 

Again, time stopped, or so she thought, giving her extra precious minutes of respite. Once or twice, when she gazed into the mirror that covered the elevator wall, she witnessed the shadow of wings protruding from Gabe’s back. She rubbed her eyes. Grandpa had told her many stories of his angel encounters. Great stories, she thought. She had made him a promise to believe … one day. Never should she have promised him that. Caleb on the other hand had no problem believing. 

Out the elevator doors, that strange peace beyond her understanding, and a little too disturbing for her taste, sprinkled about like fairy dust. 

Gabe politely asked for her invitation and brought her in front of the massive double doors—reddish oak, sparkling as if fireflies had set up residence. “The penthouse conference room.” He pulled out a colorful Band-Aid® from his vest pocket and gently covered Caleb’s scraped elbow. “There you go, young man.”

Beth returned the towel, trading it for a brush and hair tie, for which she was grateful. 

“I must leave you here,” Gabe said. “Duty calls.”

He was gone before she could thank him.
End of Chapter 1

Serendipity: Copyright by Deborah L. Alten 2019


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