• Grace A. Johnson

BTIS--Chapter 17

Updated: Oct 30, 2020

Chapter 17

“Thank God we don’t have anything to do today,” Cade exclaimed as he set himself on top of the kitchen counter with a smile, as always.

After the Barnes’ visit, others from town made up their minds to come and greet the new light keeper. It seemed everyone finally got over their fear of Emily’s ghost. Which meant lots of story telling and smiling for Cade and Arielle. Now, they hoped that Sunday would mean everyone was going to church and spending the afternoon with their families, leaving no time for friendly visits with the Darrens.

“I know. Acting as your wife is pure torture,” Arielle teased as she retrieved Cade’s Bible from the table and handed it to him. In all honesty, playing the role of Katherine Darren wasn’t bad at all. In fact, being Cade’s real wife was a wonderful idea in her mind. But she couldn’t focus on such things when she was planning on leaving. The thought of leaving reminded her of her decision to tell Cade of her plan. It took a lot more contemplating than she had originally thought, but she figured that, no matter how much it would hurt, leaving was the best thing to do. Only she would wait until after they had their time with God.

Since Arielle didn’t want to go into town with the rest of everyone, and Cade didn’t want her to be alone, they had decided to have church at home on Sundays. She had to admit, she rather liked it when it was just her and Cade instead of a church building full of other people she didn’t know. And she wanted things to be like that forever. But they couldn’t.

Cade flipped open his Bible and began to read. “’Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom. A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself. When the wicked cometh, then cometh also contempt, and with ignominy reproach.’” He continued on with the eighteenth chapter of Proverbs, stopping in between verses to add his own commentary. Then he grabbed her hands and began to pray.

After his amen, Arielle prepared herself to break the news to him. “Cade, I have something important to tell you,” she started, unsure if she really wanted to tell him of her plans, much less actually leave the lighthouse.

He nodded for her to proceed. If only he knew what she was going to say to him, then he probably wouldn’t wish to hear, let alone seem so eager to do so.

“I’m leaving.” There. She’d said it. It was out, and the words seemed to hang between them, draping a sheet of silence over the next few moments. She dipped her head and waited for his response, but it never came.

“Ari.” The nickname broke the quiet as he reached over and clasped her hand in his. “You are not going anywhere, okay? Unless God specifically demands you leave, I’m keeping you here,” Cade stated, and she wasn’t sure exactly what he meant. If he wanted her to stay, there had to be a good reason behind it. Did he love her and couldn’t bear the thought of her gone? She knew he was honorable, and any motive he had to keep her there was a respectable one. But if it was because he loved her, why couldn’t he just say so? She knew without a doubt she loved him. Why, he could go ahead and marry her if he so desired it. She had no objection, and their situation practically required it.

She looked up and searched his cinnamon eyes. And sure enough, love glistened deep inside them. “Okay.” And she left it at that. She just gave up. She really didn’t want to go, who would? Besides, if he was pushing her to stay, she wouldn’t protest in the least.

“Good,” he said, hopping out of his seat and walking towards the fishing pole propped up beside the door, “Wanna go fishing?” He wasn’t going to say anything more? Not going to tell her why he wanted her to stay?

Well, Arielle was going find out.

***

A door slammed shut as heavy footsteps pounded their way towards Al, shaking the table before him. The footfalls he knew could only belong to one person, Carl Hampton. The man had worked for him the past six years, never failing to do his job, until a few weeks ago when his mission to break into Cade Darren’s house―if the blue door shack could be called that. Why, even Al grew up better than that. But that was aside from the point. Carl had failed. That was what angered him. Though he tried to tell himself he was over that, he could keep from thinking about what would occur if Cade got a hold of the Bible. Everything would fall apart. And Al was going to prevent that from ever happening. But now he had to deal with whatever Carl was there for.

The man neared him in one long stride. Carl was a huge man, and a great asset for the work Al did. But if the man was so bulky, how in the world did Cade, a little boy, knock him cold?

“Well, man, what do ya want?” Al asked, tossing Carl a bottle of whiskey as he took a gulp of his own.

“I quit.”

Al almost dropped his bottle at the sound of his employee’s deep British words. He was quitting? Right in the middle of their biggest mission yet? “Yer kiddin’, ain’t ya?” He stared at the man in disbelief. If he truly was calling it quits, it would be because he wanted to forget his life of crime or he was going to find the papers on his own and turn them in to the authorities, just to spite him. Surely not. The man was loyal to Al. He had to be joking.

“I am not kidding, Big Al. I am every bit as serious as possible,” Carl remarked, gently placing the bottle back onto the table in front of him. “I have Suzie to care for. I cannot continue like this. If I want to be the best father I can, I ought not to ruin her reputation by being a criminal. I am changing, Al. And there is no stopping me.”

Al shook his head. Nope, he wasn’t kidding. But he also wasn’t quitting, not if Al had anything to say about it. “Look, Carl, you’ve worked for me for a half dozen years, been my friend longer than that. If want to care for Suzie, send her to her aunt and uncle, then you won’t have to worry ‘bout her no more. She’ll be safe. C’mon, I need ya,” he replied.

So, Carl was probably right. He was doing what every father should do. Thinking about his child’s life over his own. Al ought to have done the same thing years ago, back when he married Maria. Then he would have been a better father to his son and daughter. He could have provided for them and cared for them after Maria died instead of drinking his sorrows away. He should have been a better husband, a better father. Should’ve listen to Maria when she tried to tell him about Christ. Shouldn’t have been so stubborn. No! He did what he did and there was no going back. He shouldn’t be worrying over the past. Besides, they didn’t matter anymore. What mattered was getting Carl back on board.

“Sorry.”

And with that, Carl left.

Al shoved the rotting table to the floor, breaking a couple of legs off it, then threw his bottle down. Blast it all! Now, he had to get those papers himself. Unless he got Smith to do it, but the dummy probably would trip over his own foot before he could obtain a Bible filled with records of all Al’s crimes in Tennessee.

It was up to him. But he had to be careful. If anyone would recognize him, it would be Cade Darren.

***

Arielle grasped the pencil tucked into her braided hair, placed the point onto her canvas, and drew the first thing that came to mind. A curve there, straight line here, then she had the waves of Lake Huron, sandy shore, grassy patch, and a foot. Her sketch was the exact image from her dream that past night. One step farther away from her past, one step closer to her future at the lighthouse. A future that included all the same pain and heartache from the day she left. But this future also included love, something she thought she would never have. All would be a dream if only the fire didn’t haunt her so terribly.

She sighed as she dipped a paintbrush that was propped in between her teeth into the light blue paint and ran the tip across the curvy line that created her first wave. After blending multiple azure tones and a hint of white, she had the perfect color. Next came the sand, then the grass, her foot and Blessing paw. Before she knew it, her painting was almost complete.

Arielle lifted her head towards the old window in front of her and chanced a glance at the view. The sun had set and the stars already broke through the pitch-black night sky. Goodness knew it was probably almost midnight.

A yawn left her lips as she stuck her paintbrush into a cup of water and placed her paints into their box. She rubbed her eyes while trudging down the attic stairs and into her bedroom. She collapsed onto her bed, and before she could close her eyes, a flame filled her mind. The flame burned brighter and brighter until the blaze swallowed her world, everything she’d known. Her parents, her home, her hope, her faith. Why would God let that happen to her if He loved His children? Why would He take her mother and vater? They loved Him and trusted their lives to Him, and still He took them and left her. He abandon her, left her to deal with all her sorrow and hurt. Why didn’t He hear her? Give her hope and peace like Cade talked about?

“Do You hear me? Your word says You do. But why don’t I hear You? Or feel You? Why have You left me?” she whispered to her roof, wishing the words would make it past the wall between her and the Lord.

I didn’t leave you, child. I’m here.

The voice seeped into her soul. Was He really there? Or was she only imagining the voice? Maybe she had been imagining His abandonment all along.

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