Updated: Sep 18, 2020
Rochester, New York
A letter. Hmm. And addressed to her, at that. She never received mail. Never. If a letter, package, or anything of the sort was brought in, it was for Marcus. She wasn’t even allowed to ask what it was he’d gotten. Perhaps it was only an honest mistake. They did live at the same address. So surely whomever had sent the missive was confused as to who to send it to. Marcus traveled so very often that his address was all over the place at times. Or maybe it was from Gramma and Grampa. No, she highly doubted it. Why, she’d just visited them not a fortnight ago. What reason would they have to send her a letter? Unless something had happened right after she’d left.
Suddenly feeling a burst of worry, Kerri-Leigh slid her finger under the flap of the envelope and tore it open, not bothering to glance at the return address. Though she ought to. But all her concerns were replaced by utter confusion once she unfold the slip of paper and peeked at the signature at the bottom. Detective Forrest Billingham. She almost laughed, but fortunately held it in. So either the man had no idea the address of whoever he’d intended to send this letter to, or he really, truly wanted her to receive it. What business did he have with her? Maybe that was just it. He didn’t have business with her, but with her husband, yet he had decided to send it to her because he...he… All right, she had no idea. No matter. She was wasting precious time thinking it over when she could be reading the letter for goodness’ sake.
So she did just that.
This is probably most unexpected, but rested assured this letter was intended for you.
Well, that answered that question. Kerri scanned the rest of the letter, still just as shocked and confused by the time she reached the closing statement.
Having said this, I would like to offer you a position with the agency. Specifically as my partner. Please, discuss this with your husband and pray about this issue. This should not be taken lightly.
Detective Forrest Billingham
Then, just as the last word was read, the paper fluttered to the ground. A job. As a detective. The man couldn’t be serious. She, of all people, wasn’t detective material. But he obviously thought so. As did his boss.
“Surely I’m only dreaming. Because this is the oddest, most unexpected thing to ever happen in my life. Okay, right next to getting married and...” Kerri mumbled under her breath, letting the last sentence trail off. Lord, show me your will, she prayed silently, looking up at the ceiling. ‘Cuz I ain’t got the first clue as to what in the world I’m gonna do.
Arielle leaned back on her elbows and tilted her head to the sun.
It was a beautiful day, perfect for fishing, and in Opa’s case, learning how to fish. Opa stared out at the glistening lake in front of them. The bright sun shone on the water that rushed across the shore in small waves. It was a gorgeous sight. Arielle knew Opa was probably thinking about how wonderful God’s creation was.
If Opa thought the lake was wonderful, he should’ve seen the sunrise earlier that morning. Arielle had followed Cade up to the top of the lighthouse when he went to put out the light, set up her paints, and captured the beautiful scene.
Arielle released a contented sigh when something tugged on her line. She carefully jerked the string out of the water, pulling a good-sized trout on the hook. “Look, Opa,” she called to her grandfather, who turned to face her. “I caught one. Well, our first one, actually.”
Opa smiled. “Good job, Sunshine. I suppose I’m not much of a fisherman, unlike your friend Cade,” he stated.
“Neither am I. But he has fished practically all his life. I have for the past seven years, and I’m still a beginner.” She tossed her fish into the bucket in between her and Opa.
“Hmm. Isn’t this so beautiful? I can see why you love it here,” Opa said, laying his fishing pole beside him and breathing in the fresh air.
“Yes, it is gorgeous. I have a few paintings of the lake you might like to see later,” Arielle told him, setting herself back in her relaxed position. She did love it there. It was calm, beautiful, and home. Her home.
“How’s it going over here?” Cade asked, walking up behind her. He sat down on the sand alongside her, a bucket filled with fish in his hand.
“Not near as well as you,” Arielle answered, nodding her head towards the bucket. “One fish, that’s it.”
“Not too bad, I guess,” Cade said with a shrug. “Actually, that is pretty bad. We’ve been out here for hours. But you know, it’s expected from beginners such as yourselves,” he teased.
“What a compliment,” Arielle stated sarcastically. She rolled her eyes as she cast her line back into the water.
“Ahh,” Cade sighed, leaning back on the ground. “I am quite good at dishing out compliments, aren’t I?”
Arielle gave him a dry laugh. “Certainly, Mr. Darren. You are the king of compliments,” she played.
“Well, you aren’t too bad yourself, Ms. Myers.”
Arielle looked to Opa, who seemed to be engrossed with her and Cade’s bantering. “Why, thank you. Cade, I’ve been meaning to tell you something,” she started, wanting to give Opa something to be engrossed with. “You’re not only very good at giving out compliments, you’re also an extremely wonderful cook and painter,” she joked, knowing he was terrible at those things. “Not to mention handsome, amazing, and just plain terrific.” She smiled and batted her eyelashes.
“Goodness, Ari. I didn’t realize you thought so highly of me, especially my cooking. I’ll have to make you dinner sometime. Thank you.” Cade gave her a lop-sided smile that made her stomach turn flips as it did so many times before.
Arielle released a burst of laughter. “Too bad I was kidding,” she told him, calming herself.
“Aww. But you sounded so sincere,” Cade said, beginning to laugh as well. “And I really was looking forward to burning more food.”
“Speaking of food,” Opa began, “I’m starving. What about you two?”
“Sure,” Arielle said, getting up off the sandy beach, grabbing her pole and bucket. “Race ya!” she yelled at Cade behind her, who came running up ahead of her. Together they ran through the beach, the chilly breeze whipping at her braided hair.
“I’m winning,” he called back as he came towards the house, then burst through the door.
Arielle entered the cabin only a second later, out of breath. “That...was...fun,” she said between breaths. She pushed a wisp of hair behind her ear as she walked over to the kitchen. “Oh toll. Cade, what are you doing?” she asked, watching Cade grab a skillet out of a cabinet and place the pan on the stove.
“I’m cooking. What are you doing?” he innocently replied, walking towards the pantry and retrieving a jar of sugar. He took a spoon from a drawer beside Arielle, then dumped a spoon-full of sugar into the pan.
“Watching you make a mess of my kitchen. By the way, that’s sugar that you’re pouring in the skillet,” Arielle told him.
“I know. You need sugar to make a cake, right?” Cade started to pour milk in with the sugar, but Arielle grabbed his wrist to stop him.
“Let me cook,” she commanded as Opa staggered into the room, gasping for air.
“You two need to remember I’m not as agile...” Opa started, but let his voice trail off once he caught sight of Arielle gripping Cade’s arm and staring at him like he was a little kid who was reaching into the cookie jar after she’d told him not to a hundred times before.
Arielle turned to face Opa, then dropped her hold on Cade’s wrist and took a step back. “I didn’t think you’d want burnt sugar for dinner,” she explained to her grandfather, taking the bottle of milk from Cade’s hand and setting it on the countertop.
Opa sent her a silly toothy grin. “You are quite right, Sunshine, I wouldn’t. Now, Cade, let Arielle cook this evening,” he said as if he was ending a quarrel between two young children instead of adults. Opa walked to the dining table, pulled out a chair, and sat with his arms crossed and legs propped up on the table. “My job here is done,” he mumbled.
Arielle lightly shoved Cade with her shoulder, motioning for him to sit with Opa as she put the milk bottle away, then scrapped the sugar out of the pan into the jar. Arielle quickly made dinner out of the fish they’d caught, and sat down to eat.
So far, so good, she thought to herself.
Cade walked to the edge of the small room at the top of the lighthouse and stared out of the window at the stars above the lake which seemed to dance on the water. He’d just finished turning on the light, and was about to head down the stairs, but he’d stopped for a moment.
The twinkling lights in the sky looked a lot like something Arielle would’ve painted, but she probably already had dozen of pictures such as the one he was imagining. Arielle was amazing when it came to art. Actually, she was amazing at a lot of things. And she was gorgeous. But she was broken on the inside.
Despite her attempts to hold it all together, Cade could see she was hurting. If only she’d talk to me, he thought. He’d tried to get her to say something, anything, but Arielle had always found a way to avoid the issue. The only time she’d gone deep into the subject was when Cade found her at the top of the lighthouse after she’d been informed that her grandfather was dying, but even though he was glad she’d opened up, he wanted to hear Arielle’s story when she wasn’t having an emotional meltdown, and when she was felt it time to bare her soul to him, which might never happen.
“Heavenly Father,” Cade began to pray. “I pray for Arielle, Lord. She needs You, and needs to that realize You care about her. She’s hurting, deeply, and I can’t fix that, no matter how much I wish I could. Help her find Your peace and comfort. Amen.” The prayer had been one Cade had prayed ever since Arielle had collapsed into his arms for the first time.
Cade found it odd how he felt whenever he held her. It was a friendly gesture, one he’d used with his sister, but Arielle was different; like she was made to rest in his arms, her head laying on his chest and her arms wrapped around his neck.
And another odd thing was how much he cared about her. Sure, Cade cared about Kerri, but that was his job as an older brother. It wasn’t his job to want to wipe away all of Arielle’s tears and to make her life perfect, yet he did. He wanted to be there for her no matter what, to always comfort her when she was depressed, to be there when she was cheerful.
The truth was, Cade cared for Arielle, more than he’d ever cared for someone in his life.