It’s not supposed to be this way, Marcia thought. The end so final, yet unfinished. She sighed, uncertain where she should go or who to turn to. People offered to help, but she just could not even think of anything that they could help her with. She knew they could help her with the practical everyday tasks, but what she really needed was healing for her soul and that was something no one could provide. Her heart broken and fragile like glass left her feeling vulnerable. The longing was unbearable and indescribable.
The last few months had been the worst. Everyday she had tended to his every needs. He was so emaciated at the end, it saddened her. She felt so helpless. The disease had progressed much faster than she thought it would. She wished there had been more time to do those things that they had waited to do when they retired, but it wasn’t possible now. He was gone and she was alone.
©Kimberly Balles 2019
She held the letter tightly to her chest, an unexpected find. Tears filled her eyes as the pain resurfaced. This morning. she had decided to go in the attic and sort through things she no longer needed. It had been a chore she was dreading, because memories would bring reminders of their years together. Grief would come she knew that for certain, but a letter from him that she had never opened or seen was breaking her resolve.
She drew it close to her chest while tears streamed down her face. She was sitting on the floor with her legs crisscrossed. She pulled the letter away from her chest and stared at the front of the envelope not wanting to open it, but just savor the expectancy of what this letter would say. Julia was on the front in his familiar writing. She recollected the times he said her name in everyday life and moments of passion. They had shared so many moments and it so quickly ended.
Deciding to open it, she flipped open the envelope and tore open the flap. She scanned it briefly and then read from the top.
If you have found this letter, I know it’s because you finally got the gumption to go through the attic and get rid of things that belonged to me. I don’t know how much time has passed, but one thing I do know is that this pain you may be feeling is still there. It will take time and give yourself that time to grieve.
I want to tell you one last time how much I love you and that I am trusting that God will take good care of you. Don’t lose faith in the God we have served. He was not surprised at this and He is big enough to carry you through. The lessons you learn from this will help you make an impact on the world in more ways than you or I could imagine.
As you decide what to discard and what to keep take your time .Get help from friends as it will be too daunting to tackle on your own. Keep what means a lot to you for I know those will bring you the memories you need to help you through your grief.
I have cherished every moment we have spent together and loved you more than you can imagine. Knowing this remember than God’s love is indescribable. He will be always be by your side.
Always my love,
She stared at it for a long time tears streaming down her face. He filled her every day life with joy and loved her unconditionally. One thing she knew for certain this letter would help her through her pain. It was definitely one she would keep and cherish the rest of her life.
She put it back in the envelope. She rose and headed towards the ladder leading to the kitchen in their house. There was so much to do, but she had time. Once she descended the stairs, she decided to put this letter on her dresser where she could see it when she was getting ready for work. As she placed it, tears welled up again. Enough crying today. She headed to the backdoor to enjoy the sunshine. She decided to do some gardening as it was very therapeutic in helping her sort through her problems.
©Kimberly Balles 2019
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com
Sarah awoke with a start. She had been anticipating this day for months and now it was here. The morning sun’s rays were filtering through the curtains of her bedroom window. She looked up and saw her wedding dress hanging on a hook from the top of the bedroom door. It was so beautiful with small flowered delicate lacing circling the skirt of the dress and the bodice soft and lace free. The veil was going to hang to the middle of the back with matching lacing along the edges.
She crawled out from under the covers. It was May and the temperature was going to be about 75 with no rain in the forecast. As she sat up she noticed a post-it pad sitting on her nightstand with the top post-it note itemizing the list of things to do today.
The first order for the day was to shower and put on clothes to wear while she had her hair and make up done. Then she would head back home and meet her mother and her best friend, put on her wedding dress and finally the veil. She did not want to miss anything that needed to be completed in order for their wedding to be a memorable one.
©Kimberly Balles 2017
The Time Key
Her key did not fit in the lock on her apartment door. Try as she might, it would not go in. She looked at the door to make sure it was her apartment. In bold gold numbers were the numbers 1761. It was definitely her door. She couldn’t understand why this key was not fitting. She had lived in this apartment for a year and had never had this problem before.
She decided to go to the main office to see if they had changed the lock for some reason. As she headed there in the pouring rain, she mumbled quietly to herself about this predicament she was in. It had been a long hard day and all she wanted was a warm bath and end the night with chamomile tea and a good book. Now she was having to trudge through the rain with no umbrella to the main office.
When she arrived she was drenched and angry. She opened the doors and there sat the receptionist eager as always to help. She explained her situation. The young woman looked up her apartment number and said “No there have been no changes to the lock to your apartment, Ma’am. She flinched at the title Ma’am, but decided to let it go. “Well can I speak to the manager please, I need to get into my apartment and my key does not fit into the lock.”
“I’m sorry, he’s not here, but if you like I can get the janitorial staff to assist you,” the young woman offered.
“Would you please?” Debra asked.
“Sure, I’ll be right back.” She got up and went into the back office. Debra could hear mumbling, but was not able to overhear the conversation. The young woman returned and said that the janitor would be right with her. As Debra stood there still dripping wet, she could see the time to have a relaxing evening dissipate.
Minutes later, the janitor appeared, a ring of keys in his hands. He carried a large umbrella, enough room for the two of them to walk back to her apartment. He made small talk about the weather on their way back, With each stride Debra responded appropriately, glad he did not delve into her private life or where she worked. It was difficult living the life she lived in two different worlds, but that was what she signed up for and would be working there until she retired.
Finally, they approached her building and he held open the lobby door for her. What a gentleman, she thought, rare these days. The walk to her doorway seemed endless. Perhaps, because she was so tired and needed some food. Dinner, she had forgotten she needed to eat too. That would be first on her list once she got in.
They approached her door and the janitor flipped through the keys looking for the one that would fit her door. He went through the roll once and then again.
“Sorry, ma’am” your key does not seem to be here. That’s funny, because I checked the ring before I left.”
She felt her impatience rising within. “Now what should I do, sir?”
“I’ll head back to the main office and look for it on my way back. Go have a seat in the lobby, you look like you could use it,” he stated and with that he left her standing there wondering if he would return. She had not thought to ask him what if he would return if he didn’t find it. As she headed to the lobby, she contemplated what she should do if he did not find the key. Perhaps her friend, Tiffany, would let her stay the night.
She sat down in the deep arm chair cushioned chair allowing the support of the chair to relax her body. As she sat there, it occurred to her that she could call a locksmith. Rather than wait for the janitor, she pulled out her cell phone, looked up locksmiths under google, and dialed the first one she saw not wanting to waste time to look at reviews.
The man who answered the phone sounded kind. She explained her situation and asked if he would be able to help her. “Yes, ma’am! I’ll be right over.” There is was ma’am again. What was it with people here, she thought. Why did everyone call women, Ma’am? She relayed her address and ended the call. He said it would take him 20 minutes to get there.
So she waited, glad she was able to sit, even though she was soaking wet. Despite being wet, she started to feel tired. She relaxed more realizing this might be the only part of the evening where she might actually get a chance to rest.
She went through the events of the day from the chase to the arrest. And as she dozed off, her last thought was nodding off, she recalled her boss saying to her before she left. “Check your key to make sure it is the right one.” What did he mean by that? she thought. Why would my key not be the right one. Suddenly she remembered why it wasn’t fitting. She was not at home. She was just passing through. Her evening had not even begun yet. In fact, it would soon be morning.
She jumped up, propelled into action, and headed out the door. All that had transpired was not real, but fictitious. She was part of a plot a story that would never end unless she found her way out. She remembered the movie with Jim Carey where he lived in a world that was not real and everything was the same everyday. This was not true for this world, she thought. Everyday, was different even the mundane things.
As she walked outside, she saw blue sky and the sun rays illuminating the earth creating shadows where the trees stood. She remembered her way out. She walked to her car, got inside, drove off heading towards the place where she knew she could escape this reality she was in.
As she drove she recalled the events that led to this situation. She remembered opening a door with the same key, supposedly returning home from work. Her job was a police detective in this reality. She finally arrived at the warehouse, got out of her car, and headed over to the door. After opening it, she waited for her eyes to adjust to the low level light in there. And then she spotted it. A singular door that looked as if it led to a hallway of some kind, but very similar to her apartment door. She walked over gripping the key in her hand. She hoped her assessment was correct or she had just left a janitor and a locksmith who were attempting to help her.
She reached the door and slid the key into the lock. It fit. Breathing a sigh, she turned the key, turned the knob, and braced herself for stepping through the door. She could go back and live that life, but she knew it was not her life. It was the life of a story one that was being written as she lived it. So she pushed on the door and entered what she knew was her life.
There behind the door was a blue sky and sun same as she had seen in the old reality, except this was with more trees than she had seen in awhile. And there before her stood her apartment building set off of the street surrounded by plush landscaping, flowers blooming, spring scents, birds chirping their songs. She paused to enjoy the moment. Nature had always centered her and she needed that now.
Finally, she headed towards the apartment building and into the lobby. Once inside, she headed for the elevator, and pressed seven. The doors slowly glided closed. As the elevator ascended she pulled out her key chain. Now knowing which key was her apartment door, she found herself longing to be inside her apartment. True her day was just starting, but she was close to her home.
The doors slid open, she stepped out, and walked to her apartment door. Number 7611. And there it was with the same type of bold, gold plated numbers. The door even looked the same. Odd how the numbers were so similar, but now that she was back she did not want to concern herself about it. She lifted her hand and started to insert the key, but it wouldn’t fit. Where was she at now? What reality had she entered and where should she go for help?
It intrigued her that wherever she went her job and name stayed the same. With that thought, she decided to head over to the police department where she could assist in whatever way possible. A different reality meant a different purpose for her here to resolve in this time period. She would have to work this one through before she knew the answer to that.
Rebecca awoke with a start when she heard a commotion downstairs. Her heart started pounding in her chest. Whoever it was seemed to not be concerned about being quiet. She grabbed her phone, ran to her closet, opened the door quietly, stepped inside, and quietly closed the door behind her.
With hands trembling she dialed 911 and heard the dispatcher ask what her emergency was. In a soft voice, she informed the dispatcher that someone was in her home. The dispatcher asked for her address and Rebecca conveyed that to her. “Police are on the way” she told Rebecca. “Stay on the line until I know you are safe.”
“Okay, I will, but tell them to hurry please.”
Shortly, she heard heavy footsteps climbing the stairs. Whispering a silent prayer she pushed herself back further into the closet and ducked down beneath her long pants hanging in the closet to hide.
The bedroom door opened and she held her breath praying whoever it was would not find her. “Rebecca”, he called out, “Where are you? You can’t hide from me.” The very thing she feared had come true, her ex-husband had found her and broken the order of protection that she had on him. Her desire to escape was so strong now, but she stayed put. The closet door swung open and she held her breath, fearing he might hear it.
He moved some clothes around and now she was glad the light bulb in her closet was burned out. For some reason he did not bend down to look. He slammed the door and she could hear him head over to the bathroom calling her name again.
The dispatcher told her the police were there and to stay put. She nodded daring not to say a word. Then she heard Jake leave the bedroom and head downstairs. He must have decided she wasn’t there, because he strode over to the front door and she heard the police officers say “Hands up!”
Jake said “I live here, I was just leaving. My wife is at the hospital.” The officers commanded him again “Hands up and on the ground!” Apparently they don’t take people’s word for it. “Hands behind your back.”
“Cuff him!” one of the officers said. She heard her name being called, a different voice this time. One that sounded concerned. She slowly opened the closet door and peeked outside the bedroom door. An officer was climbing up the stairs and behind him she could see Jake laying on the ground hands handcuffed behind his back.
She told the dispatcher the officer was here. “Don’t hesitate to call again, if you need assistance.”
“Are you alright?” the officer asked. She nodded shaking now. “Sit down here. When you are ready, I need to ask you a couple of questions.” Rebecca relaxed a bit feeling the tension leaving her body. It wasn’t completely gone, but the crisis was averted for now.
Jake yelled from downstairs, “I knew you were in there somewhere. I love you Becca! Don’t you know that by now?” She did not respond.
“Put him in the squad car” the officer stated. He turned to look at Rebecca. “You’re safe now. Are you able to answer some questions?” Rebecca nodded. He proceeded to ask her the details of what had happened. She relayed all the information including the Order of Protection on Jake. The officer made notes and informed her that she should call her lawyer about what happened to find out what she should do now.
With that she started to cry, knowing that she would have to move again more than likely to another state. Just when she had settled into this beautiful town and had developed such wonderful friendships. Worse yet, she would have to leave without them knowing and not even give two weeks notice. She knew from her history with Jake and law enforcement that she could never truly be safe. Her lawyer had informed her of this possibility and to not get too attached to people in her new location. Even he did not know where she was living.
She looked up and the officer was looking at her with concern. Again he assured her she was safe. He asked if she had someone’s house she could stay at for a couple of nights. “I can call my coworker, she’s invited me to stay there a few times.”
“I suggest you do that, ma’am. It would ease my concerns about your safety. By the way, I am Officer Cal Bradley.” Now that her breathing had calmed down she seemed to be able to think better. “I’ll bring you to her house so we can know you are safe.”
“Thank you.” she replied.
“No problem, mam, I’m just doing my job. I’ll be downstairs, just holler if you need me.” With that he turned and headed down the stairs.
She grabbed her bag and packed a few things just enough to get her through the next couple of days. Jeanine answered the phone quickly, “What’s wrong, Rebecca?” Rebecca quickly explained everything. “No problem. I’ll be on the porch waiting for you.”
“Thank you Jeanine. I don’t know what I would do without you.”
“That is what friends are for. I’ll see you soon.”
Rebecca finished packing, changed her clothes and headed downstairs. The officer was waiting just as he said. “Jake is on his way to the police station. He won’t be bothering you for awhile. Breaking an Order of Protection is a misdemeanor and carries a maximum sentence of up to one year in jail.” As reassuring as this could have been, she knew that on good behavior, he could be out sooner than that. She prayed the officers did things by the book or charges could be dismissed.
The officer escorted her to his car opening the front door for her to climb in. He took her bag for her and put it in the backseat. It was only when he climbed into the driver’s side that she got a good look at him. He was very handsome, dark hair, square set chin, and the deepest blue eyes she had ever seen. If this had been different circumstances she knew that he would have been someone she would have been interested in and he was definitely attractive.
She gave him her friend’s address and he plugged it into his GPS. He asked her about her job and where she was from. “I work for a real estate company as an administrative assistant. I am originally from Iowa and after that I moved to Michigan to go to college. I hope to take some college courses soon to work in the field of psychology.
“Wow, Rebecca. That’s impressive! What draws you to be interested in that?”
“I’ve always been good at listening to people and some life experiences that I have had has drawn me to that field. I’m not sure where it’s going to lead me, but I’m going to give it my all.”
“Well good for you! I like hearing stories of people who want to make a difference in other people’s lives.”
“Thank you, I am very excited, but this situation with Jake is disheartening. I thought he wouldn’t find me here. How could he find me?”
“I don’t know Rebecca, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he knows someone in law enforcement who was able to track you down.”
“I can’t believe this happened. I thought I was safe.”
“You are safe for now, Rebecca, that’s all that matters to me. I think you’ll find that Havencrest is as safe as its name.”
They arrived at her friend’s house sooner than she had expected. She was enjoying being with this man, but getting attached would not be a good idea. He got out, pulled out her bag from the back seat, opened her door, and helped her climb out of the car. Jeanine was standing on her porch waiting with her robe wrapped around her. The officer walked her to the porch and bid her a good night. But before he left, he pulled out his card, wrote something on the back. “My cell number is on the back. If you need anything just call me.” He touched the rim of his hat and walked to his car. He opened his car door and with his arm draped over the doors top, he repeated again, “I mean it Rebecca, call me if you need anything.” And with that he climbed in his car, backed out of the driveway, and drove off.
She turned to Jeanine relieved that someone was there for her in her time of need. Maybe she would be able to stay in Havencrest if she can put this business with Jake behind her once and for all. Time would tell, but for now she needed to sleep. They both headed inside the house and Jeanine showed her to the spare bedroom. Gratefully, she sat on the bed, breathed a sigh of relief. She was safe for now.
The next morning, she dressed quickly and walked to Jeanine’s kitchen and she noticed how much Jeanine’s decor was so much like her personality. It was a cozy home with a freshness about it that brightened up one’s spirit easily. Rebecca loved what she saw so far and was looking forward to a nice breakfast before heading off to work.
But as she walked into the kitchen she saw Jeanine lying on the floor with her eyes wide open, and lifeless. She was laying in a puddle of blood and it seemed to be everywhere. She froze. Her heart started pounding in her chest and she couldn’t breathe. Somewhere in the faint recesses of her mind a thought surfaced to call 911.
She ran to the bedroom and found her cell phone. She dialed 911 and sat down on the bed, her hands were trembling. “911, what is your emergency?”
“I need the police, my friend has been murdered. There is blood everywhere in the kitchen. Tell them to hurry please.” The dispatcher asked her for the address and Rebecca was able to relay that information.
“Stay in the living room and watch for the emergency vehicles.” They are on their way now.
After Rebecca hung up, she remembered Officer Bradley’s words last night, so she dug in her purse for his card and dialed his cell number. Her hands shook as she dialed his number. “Officer Bradley” she heard on the other end. The sound of his voice calmed her. Rebecca quickly explained the situation and that the police were on the way. I’ll be right there, Rebecca. Do you see any unusual cars outside?” She opened the curtains ever so slightly, being careful to hide herself from the window.. Sure enough, there was a black sedan with tinted windows and it looked like two people were in it.
“There is black sedan out there, but it could be a coincidence. What should I do?”
“I’m staying on the phone with you. Go find a place to hide until I get there, Rebecca. I’ll find you, he said.
“You’re scaring me. First Jake and now this.”
“Just hide Rebecca!”
Rebecca looked around trying to find a place that no one would expect her to be. Then she remembered Jeanine had told her she had a hidden storage area in the walls of the basement in case of a tornado. She ran downstairs and searched each wall, then recalled that to be safe from tornadoes you had to be in the Southeast corner.
Walking towards the wall, she could not see anything, except a chest of drawers. As she got closer, she saw that it was not solid wood and then she saw a little door handle on the side of the piece of furniture. She opened it and there inside was enough space for her and another person. There were numerous supplies for a long term stay if needed. She walked inside, turned on the light. After shutting and locking the door, she sat down on the bench and waited.
She picked up her phone, but there was no cell service. Great, no cell service. Rebecca wondered if she should get out of the shelter, but Officer Bracey’s words echoed in her mind and knowing he was coming helped, but she was still feeling afraid. It was then that she realized that the only one she could rely on now was God. So she said a prayer, asking for his help and protection from danger. Claiming his promise that he would keep her safe. As she did that she felt herself relax and a peace wash over her. Listening for any sound was difficult in the shelter, but she knew it was best to wait than take the chance that someone would hurt her.
She could faintly hear people walking around upstairs. They must have come without their sirens on. She decided to sit tight until Officer Bracey found her. Right now, he was the only one she knew was for her. She could hear scuffling of footsteps coming down the steps. “No one here” came the voice.
“I know I saw her come last night. An officer dropped her off.”
“Well, she’s not here. She probably ran after she saw that lady laying on the floor in the kitchen. What did you have to kill her for? You’re leaving a mess and the boss is not going to be too happy about you calling attention to this with your reckless behavior.”
“I didn’t mean to kill her. She was coming towards me and I just grabbed a knife from the counter and stabbed her.”
“Did you have to stab her seven times? Just hit the mark and be done. No sense making a bloody mess of things.”
“Yeah well, you’ll have to tell that to the boss. Come on, we better get out of here before someone comes and finds her body. No one will know
Rebecca could hardly believe her ears. Someone was after her. Maybe Jeanine was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Why didn’t they look for her after they killed Jeanine? These two men must be the ones that had been in the vehicle in front of Jeanine’s house. Jeanine, she wouldn’t be dead if I hadn’t been here
©Kimberly Balles 2017
Chapter 1 – The Chase
Her steps quickened at the sound of footsteps behind her. It was just a matter of time before he caught up with her. Yet his pace seemed to increase. She started to run, but still heard the sound of his boots hitting the wood planks that stretched out in front of her. He was drawing closer to her. What would she do if he caught up to her? How long could she run, before her feet hurt. She was wearing heels and they were taking a toll on her feet as she increased her speed. Turning to look at him, she saw he was only a few feet away. Who was this man chasing her and why? The darkness of the night prevented her from seeing him.
Her destination was a half mile away. If she could increase her speed she may be able to make it to the meeting point in time. Wearing a dress from the 1800’s as beautiful as it was slowed her down. She never expected someone to be chasing her. What would he do if he caught up? Would her friends see her or would the darkness make it difficult for them. She heard him closer now, so she picked up her pace, running as fast as her feet could take her, knowing that if she did not he might…no she would not think about that now.
Her eyes remained focused ahead. From this distance she could see the meeting place and barely made out the figures waiting for her. Relief washed over her, but it quickly faded as she felt a hand grab her shoulder and within seconds he pulled her in a tight grip covering her mouth with his gloved hand. She fought with every ounce of her being. As she struggled, he whispered a name, a name she did not know. “Claudia, why are you running from me? I would never hurt you, I just want to talk.”
Now that’s odd, if he wanted to talk, why wouldn’t he call out her name?
Struggling seemed to make his grip tighter, so she stopped and he slightly relaxed his grip. It was then she used the full force of her leg and thrust her heel into his groin. He immediately released her from his grip. She flew out of his reach and ran with as fast as she could, finally reaching her destination.
Her friends were waiting unaware of what had occurred. “Took you awhile. Did you learn anything that can give us insight into the murder of Jameson Wright?” Breathing hard she simply shook her head no.
Once her breathing regulated, she relayed her encounter with the man who had mistaken her for a woman named Claudia. One of the team members asked if she was alright. She reassured them she was fine and that if it wasn’t for her daily running back home, he would certainly have caught up with her sooner. Knowing where to injure a man to temporarily incapacitate him helped. The men in the team shuddered as they knew exactly what that pain felt like. The women slightly chuckled to themselves.
The team leader interjected, “Well, let’s be on our way and report what we learned here. It appears there is not anything else to share, although I am curious about the relationship she had with this man. You didn’t happen to get his name did you?”
“No, I was rather busy running and trying to escape from his hold on.me.”
“Okay then, let’s get to it.” His hand was poised ready to press the sequence of numbers to return them toward home. The team members ran to the.place.that would bring them through the portal while the team leader proceeded to sequentially press the numbers on the console. He quickly ran to the rest of the team. Just as the portal opened, they saw a man running towards them. “Claudia, Claudia, why did you run away? Who are these people?”
The woman he called Claudia quickly ran out towards him giving him another kick in the groin. He doubled over in pain.”I am not Claudia and whoever she is, you should not pursue her this way. If you love her then woo her and don’t ever scare or hurt her. She deserves better than that. I cannot stay to explain anymore. What you will see as we leave will both frighten and amaze you, but I assure you telling anyone will make the townspeople think you are crazy. Nod your head if you understand.”
She ran back to her team and slowly each of them stepped through the portal. The man now recovering from the pain gaped in awe of what he was seeing. She was right nobody would believe him. Why did that woman look exactly like Claudia? Who were these people and what were they doing here?”
©Copyright Kimberly Balles 2017
By Invitation Only
The invitation was lying on the entry table unopened. Monica looked at it laying there. Another wedding and I’m still single. There had been no dates in the last six months and every man she was interested in was either married or dating. The rest were too old or not attractive. Like other social media websites, dating websites were a place where men and women could create a false impression of themselves. It is only when you meet the person that you discover that they misled you and you cannot wait for the date to end.
She picked up the invitation and looked at its glossy seal. It was from her best friend, Monique, who after six months of dating was embarking on her future of getting married. Monica carefully opened the invitation so as not to rip it apart. Pulling out the invitation she read:
Daniel and Monique
Together with their parents
Request the honor of your presence
As we join together to become husband and wife
On the third day of June, Two Thousand Seventeen
At four o’clock PM at St. Matthews Catholic Church
1321 Hargrove Way Wichita, KS
Reception following at
29 North Main Street Wichita, KS
Daniel and Monique are registered at Macy’s
Macy’s was expensive, but she would look at the registry and buy the same item for less money online or at another store. That might be my only option, she thought. Being a maid at a hotel is not what she thought she would be when she grew up. At first she thought it would only be temporary until she got on her feet and could make a new start in her life, but finding jobs in the small town of Hickory was difficult. If only she could afford to move to a bigger city then she might have a better paying job.
Monica’s move to Hickory was sudden. She had been married and found out her husband was having an affair. When he finally admitted it and said he wanted a divorce, she acquiesced. After all, what was the point if he didn’t want to be married to her. It was devastating to her and she could not imagine getting into another relationship after her experience with Jeff. It was odd, because he was attentive as he always had been and their sexual activity did not diminish. Yet, he wanted out and she moved away. She couldn’t handle the possibility of running into him at the store. It would have been awkward to her and maybe him. There too was the possibility of seeing her husband and his lover together and that she knew she could not handle.
So she left Chesterton and headed to a nice small town Hickory, Iowa. She had no plans to settle here, but it seemed lite a beautiful place as she was passing through. Monique still lived in Chesterton, so she would need to go back there to attend the wedding. Unfortunately, there was the possibility of running into Jeff as he knew Daniel through work. What a conundrum she was in now. She either accepted the invitation and take the risk or decline and miss out on her dear friend’s wedding.
She place the invitation back on the table and headed to her bedroom to change. Time to get out of her work clothes and make some dinner. While changing she saw her wedding dress that had been preserved in its box. She had hoped for children and to pass on her dress to her daughter, but Jeff would have none of it. His career was important and he was always coming home late. Now she knew why. Jerk! How could he do this to me. I loved him so much and still it was not enough.
She looked at herself in the mirror as she finished dressing. Still a slender figure and her shoulder-length hair framed her face creating a fresh look that she loved. She cut her hair as soon as she was settled in Hickory Falls. It was time for a fresh start and a new look. It really helped her leave her past behind her, except in moments like this where suddenly reminders brought the pain and anger back.
She headed to the kitchen to scrounge up some food. No need to prepare a meal for two anymore. Her dinners consisted of simple sandwiches, salads, or a bowl of soup. It was all homemade, but much easier to plan and she no longer needed to make big meals for Jeff. He certainly had an appetite. I will not think about him now. Time to relax and take my mind off of him.
She made herself a sandwich and some soup. She grabbed a book and sat down at the table to read while she ate. The book was a refreshing read after so many of the romance books she had borrowed from her library in Chesterton. She changed to mystery novels to avoid the happily ever after endings. Life was not like that. It was difficult and painful.
And there it was again, her mind heading back to the pain of her marriage.
The invitation was not far from her. She grabbed it and looked at the date. Maybe I have something on my schedule or I have to work. Monica got up and pulled her cell phone out of her purse. Please, let something be on my calendar, something important.
After bringing up her calendar, she saw there was nothing on her schedule for that date. Of course, there were not many events on her calendar since she moved here. Her life was pretty simple and she liked it that way.
She decided for Monique’s sake to attend her wedding. As painful as it would be, she loved her friend and could not justify a good reason to not attend. With a stroke of her pen she marked the box she would attend, her name, and her choice of food. After placing the RSVP card in the envelope, she sealed it before she could change her mind.
©Kimberly Balles 2017
A Mother’s Heart
Isabella awoke from a deep slumber to the sounds of a baby crying. Immediately she knew it was the baby that belonged to the young mother, Amber, sleeping in the next room. Her alarm clock showed it was 2:50 AM. It was a late night for all of them, so she arose to take care of the baby. Amber needed her rest after the night she had.
She threw back the covers and grabbed her robe from the edge of the bed. While sliding her arms through the sleeves she stepped toward the doorway and into the hallway heading toward the bedroom where the baby was sleeping in. She quickly walked into the room towards the crib. There laying in the crib was a tiny newborn baby girl in pink pajamas named Anna.
Isabella picked up Anna and held her up to her shoulder bouncing her to calm her down. Raising her own children taught her that Anna needed her diaper changed and then she would need to be fed. She laid her down on the changing table and Anna cried harder. She knew she would have to be quick to quiet her down before she woke up her mother. She quickly changed the diaper while talking to Anna to show her that she was taking care of her. When she was finished, she picked up little Anna and held her close. Oh, the scent of a newborn baby. Tears started to come to her eyes. Such a wonderful moment was now about to be disrupted with tears. She allowed the tears to slide down her face. Oh, this pain, when will it ever go away. Little Anna started to whimper.
She carried her to the kitchen to make her a bottle, grateful for the distraction. Isabella mixed the formula together, put it in a bottle, and warmed it up in a pan on the stove. She placed the lid with the nipple on top of the bottle. Anna seemed to sense that she was going to be fed soon and started to cry again. She tested the milk on her wrist, the right temperature, she thought. Before heading back to the bedroom, she gave Anna her bottle. It was best she fed her in her bedroom where it was darker then Anna would fall asleep quicker. Besides the rocking chair seemed very inviting to her right now.
Entering the room, she grabbed a cloth diaper to drape over her shoulder. She sat in the rocking chair and cradled little Anna in her arms, shifting her weight to get comfortable, and gazed down at Anna as she started feeding. Anna gazed back up at Isabella who was safely cradled in her arms. Anna’s eyes were the blue of a newborn baby. Isabella wondered what color they would end up being. She relaxed at the sound of hearing Anna drink the milk from her bottle. Anna’s tiny fingers were curled into fists as newborns tend to do.
She smiled as she remembered those memories of her own children who were now grown up with their own children. Her first born was Michael, smart, engaging, and honest. He graduated with a law degree and was now working as a defense attorney at a law firm. Twelve years ago, Michael married Carrie, his college sweet heart. They had two girls, Aria, was 10 and Mandy, was eight. Both girls had big hearts and their love was evident towards everyone they encountered.
Her second born, David, was an architect creating high rise buildings for multi-million dollar firms. He always had a talent for creating new things and would build all kinds of things with his toys as a boy. The tree house in the backyard was designed and built by David and his father. There were many memories created by the family in that tree house and lots of laughter. David had three children, Sarah, 10, Brenda, six, and Rachel, 5. He and his wife, Cindy, had been married for 13 years and they had their hands full with those three girls.
Finally, there was Nathaniel, the baby. Bright, energetic, and constantly moving as a child. He became a high school coach for the local high school here in Paddington, KY. He loved sports and his energy matched the kids he coached. He married Eileen two years ago and no children yet, but that was okay, because Nathaniel’s energy was devoted towards those teenagers he coached.
All the boys were close and she knew she and her husband were a part of creating their close-knit family. She was proud of all of them and had a special bond with each of them. As she thought about her children tears again crept forward and the sadness in her heart surfaced again. She hated these times when the tears erupted out of nowhere, especially when she was recalling memories that gave her so much joy. Being a mom was one of her favorite roles aside from being David’s wife. Just the thought of David brought sadness and tears. He had been gone for four years and she missed him so much. The long talks, the walks, the laughter all now memories in her mind.
She looked down at Anna, who was still drinking her bottle. The bottle was about half empty, so she withdrew the bottle to burp Anna. Anna protested a bit, but as she held her up on her shoulder she quieted down while Anna patted her back. Within a couple of minutes Anna burped and Sheila brought her down to feed her some more. Anna’s eyes looked up at her as Sheila brought the bottle back to Anna’s mouth. Anna eagerly drank from it.
She thought about the decision she made to open her home as a temporary place of refuge for single mother’s looking to get out of an environment that could cause long term harm to the mother and her children. It was a program designed to help women who could potentially face the reality of having their children taken from them. Sheila heard about it from her friend, Joanna. Joanna was also offering the same assistance to women in this program. The foster program staff were fabulous and did their best to make sure as many needs that needed to be met were being met. This choice she had made to help young women was unusual for her, but she had a big heart, so she decided to take a risk. Stays were never long term, so she knew she would have reprieves.
Amber’s boyfriend was addicted to Methamphetamine and Amber was unable to work, because she could not afford childcare and her boyfriend was high so often he could not work. Amber had researched her options and when she found out about the Shelter of Refuge. She called them and was put on the waiting list. Last night she was given the opportunity to leave her home and Amber needed no further prompting as she observed again Rick’s state of drug induced high.
Isabella knew she was trying to assuage the guilt and shame she felt from the abortion. She had never told anyone, not even her husband, that she had gotten pregnant in college. Her boyfriend did not want to have anything to do with the baby and her parents encouraged her to have an abortion. So, she went and had the abortion. Within minutes of the doctor removing the baby from her, she experienced a profound sadness at losing a baby that would have been a part of her life. The doctor told her the baby was probably about 10 weeks old and a girl. She heard no crying like she had with her own sons and that was the hardest part of all. Just silence.
Whenever the topic of abortion came up she felt shame. All the memories would come flooding back and the grief and guilt were unbearable. She suffered alone all those years and nobody knew. She decided to go into therapy to see if that would help. It did help her through the loss of her husband, but she never could share about the pregnancy and ensuing abortion with her counselor. Her therapist, Priscilla, was kind enough, but she had a rock-solid faith and Sheila could not open herself up to judgment from her.
She looked at the abortion as a mistake and something that no one would forgive her for, much less God. Lately, Isabella found the grief encroaching on her more often. Looking down at Anna, she hoped she could find some redemption from her past and at the same time help single mom’s get back on their feet. Anna was finished with her bottle so Isabella brought her to her shoulder to burp again. Finally, after much patting, Anna, let out a burp. Isabella brought Anna back down into her arms to rock her until she got sleepy.
She gazed out the window while she rocked Anna. The sky was clear and she could see the stars and the full moon. What a beautiful sight. She wished she could stay here forever and just bask in this moment. It is times like these that she sensed that God was there, although, she doubted he loved her, but she did sense he was there.
She heard a rustling in the next room. Amber was up probably to check on Anna. Sure enough Amber stood in the door way watching and enjoying the sight of another mom caring for her daughter with such love. Who is this woman that would take in a total stranger and a baby? Right now, she did not care why, she was just relieved she had a place to go until she found her own place to stay.
The scene the night before was atrocious. Ricky was high on drugs and the care worker said she had to come now or lose her place. Then the process would start all over again. Leaving was difficult, because Ricky was little Anna’s father and she thought when she had the baby he would turn his life around, but the drug was too addicting. The joy of having a child did not compare to the highs he experienced with drugs. Tonight, was the first night she slept until now without worrying about Ricky. It’s not that she wasn’t concerned, she just wasn’t consumed with worrying about him. She could not focus on taking care of Anna when she was around him.
And now in front of her was a woman who was holding little Anna with a smile that radiated from her face. Isabella truly had a mother’s heart. She hoped that they would get to know each other a little while she stayed here. She had a feeling there was more to helping her than just being a good person. Isabella continued to rock Anna until she was getting sleepier. She gently got up, placed her in her crib, and covered her with a blanket. When she turned towards the doorway, she saw Amber smiling at her.
They looked at each other knowing they were women now with the goal of helping Amber and Anna to achieve their goals. Isabella broke the silence and told Amber that Anna had been changed and fed. Amber quietly thanked her and feeling sleepy now said she was heading back to bed. She took one last look at Anna before heading towards her temporary bedroom and closing the door.
Isabella breathed a sigh of relief, she was too tired from all the emotions that were starting to unfold. One last look at Anna and she headed off to her own room to sleep. She doubted it would come quickly though given how she was feeling. Rest would be better though than sitting up, she thought. She closed the door to her room, took off her robe, and climbed into bed. Her muscles relaxed against the soft mattress. If David were here, she would be able to go to him and just cry in his arms. Instead she relied on herself as she had always done since his death.
She turned her face into the pillow and sobbed. Her baby, a little girl, was gone forever. She would have been 37 years old now, almost middle age. It grieved her so much that her only baby girl was aborted and she had no one to blame but herself. As she cried she realized that she could never forgive herself for what she did. If she had known about the grief she would experience and what she was missing out on, she would never have gone through with it. And so she lived with this sadness every day. Her days were busy, but when she had quiet moments the sadness would sit in her heart causing so much pain.
©Kimberly Balles 2017
He left the bar quite intoxicated and lost his balance frequently as he headed to his car. He was about to unlock the door when a sound caught his attention. He turned to look and no one was there. He again reached for the lock to open his car door and was tapped on the shoulder. Before he could turn around a black cloth was placed over his head. Despite his efforts to fight he was thrown to the ground and tied with ropes.
As he struggled with the ropes he experienced a sudden feeling of dread and terror. What was happening, he thought and why was he being held against his will. He racked his brain for reasons as to the purpose of this sudden assault and could not recall anything in his life that would lead to this. Perhaps, he thought, it was a mistaken identity or ransom for someone else he knew. But as he thought about this he could not figure out who in his circle of friends would be wealthy enough to be able to afford paying a ransom. Was he a random target? Was this an initiation for some group? Whatever the reason, he decided to stay quiet to avoid any further possibility of harm.
Suddenly he was pulled to his feet and forced to walk. He had lost his sense of direction and the effects of alcohol were still affecting his ability to think clearly. The sounds of a car or was it a van came to a stop near him and he was thrown in. So it was a van, he thought. What are you doing he asked? I am nobody and have no money. Shut up was the response or I will silence you. When we get to our destination your questions will be answered. That is odd he thought. Why not answer them now. What is the purpose of waiting? It’s not like I can see he thought or see their faces.
He felt the vehicle riding along and tried to gauge where he could be headed. Again without seeing he had no sense of direction. I will have to rely on my hearing he thought. So he listened for anything that would tell him what he could be passing. The noise of the van though was covering up any sound outside the vehicle.
After quite amount of time and being jostled back and forth from the ride the van came to a stop. He heard the door open and again he was dragged out of the van and was assisted to stand on his feet. They forcibly walked with him supporting his body so he wouldn’t fall. He could hear the sound of an elevator door ding. He was walked into the elevator. The doors closed and the only hope is that he would get his answers soon.
He could feel the elevator move and it felt like it was going up. There was quiet in the elevator with only the sound of the elevator as it went past each floor. He counted 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10. The elevator stopped and the doors opened. They walked him out again supporting his body so he wouldn’t fall.
“Bring him to the chair”, a male voice said. The voice sounded like a well-educated person, no sloppy speech or gruff sound. He was placed in a chair. “Untie the ropes”, the voice instructed. Slowly he felt the ropes loosening until his hands were freed. “Now leave”, the voice ordered. He heard the sound of footsteps walking away. How many he was not certain. Who was this person and why was he brought here?, he thought. He heard footsteps coming closer and slowly the cloth bag over his head was removed.
It took a moment for his eyes to adjust, but as he focused, he saw before him a well-dressed man, clean cut, wearing a suit and tie. The man smiled at him and he could not fathom what would happen next.
“Mr. Blane, I am sure you have many questions as to the reason you have been brought here in such a way as to suggest a kidnapping. I can assure you that you have not been kidnapped and will be free to go anytime. However, after you hear me out you may change your mind. My name is Michael Duggan, my friends call me Mike. I have brought you here, because I have a special assignment for you and I think you are just the man for the job. I have a business that is flourishing and I need someone who can go undercover to find out who may be transferring funds into an off shore account.”
“Sir, I know nothing about finances and have worked in construction all my life. I am a blue collar worker managing my own business. What possible good can I be to you?”
“You pose a very good question. You see both you and I are in similar businesses. Mine is architecture and yours works on the plans that I have drawn up. You are familiar with Global Enterprises, Inc. are you not?” I nodded my head. Here stood before me the owner and CEO of the company that had provided so much of my business. I could not fathom how I could help him, but decided to hear him out.
“If you help me, you will be paid well and with all the benefits one of my employees receive. You know enough about architecture that I am going to place you as the person who implements the plans that have been drawn up. You will not be a blue collar worker on this job and will be given all the perks that someone in my company gets. In the meantime, you can still keep tabs on your own business and I can assist you anytime you need it.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Would I be able to do this? What if the person found out and he decided to get revenge? Then what would I do? I pummeled him with questions. “Why did you bring me here in such an unorthodox manner? You could have just asked and I would have obliged. Why me? Isn’t there someone in your company you can trust? Would I still be able to live with my family? Can I tell them what is going on? Can you guarantee my safety from any retribution this person could inflict on me? Do you know who it is? If I choose not to do it, then what happens?”
Mike smiled as if understanding my concerns. “I brought you here in such a manner, because I did not think you would be open to hearing me out.”
©Kimberly Balles 2017