Friday, August 29, 2014

A BOX OF PROMISES, Excerpt #13

Jacob was well-behaved for the rest of VBS, which worried Ray. One day of contrition, she could accept and believe. Two days? Almost pushing the envelope. For the entire second week of VBS, Jacob didn't try any more nasty tricks on her. No hand buzzers or cans of grape pop shaken just moments before she opened them. No gum chewed in class and no spitballs when the children were given cartons of chocolate milk with straws. Ray wondered if she had been transferred to an alternate universe.
Dillon let everyone know the very next morning after the gum-and-cut incident that Miss Ray had to cut her hair because Jacob put gum in it. The little boy stoutly declared he liked her new haircut, and his father even complimented Ray when he came to pick him up after VBS on Friday. He even insisted that since they were going to see each other every day, she should call him David.
She learned during subsequent snatches of conversation all the next week that he actually worked for the Allen Michaels crusade team in a support capacity, and he was very interested in her volunteer work with local churches every summer.
"A co-worker of mine, Eve Leone, started out the same way," David said, on the final Friday when he picked up Dillon after the closing ceremonies. "She and her husband are in charge of the two training camps for summer term youth missions now, the music as well as construction outreaches. You definitely have to consider an internship with AME next summer," he added, after Ray said she knew Eve and they laughed about the seeming coincidence.
"That's what she's been telling me, too."
"If you need a sponsor, just ask. I don't have a business card, but Dillon will remind me when he catches up with you at St. Ambrose. I'll tell them what a great job you did with the kids here."
         "That'd be great." Ray wished he were single, so she could get away with hugging him.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A BOX OF PROMISES, Excerpt #12

"Casey?" Jillian Winthrop popped up from her assigned seat at the end of the sixth-graders table and waved, gesturing at the aisle seats where the adults sat for meals.
Still not used to being considered one of the adults, Casey mused silently. She grinned. Her grin got wider when Jillian and some of the other girls gestured like they were directing an airplane on the runway.
The campers were assigned seats, but the staff rotated among the tables. The theory was to make it easier for the girls to get to know the activity leaders one-on-one at meals. It also gave the counselors a break from the cabins to which they were assigned.
"Hurry!" Glynnys Chalmers half-slid out of her seat and held out her hand as if she would pull Casey into the adult's chair at the table. The rules were that once the third gong had sounded in the dining hall, the campers were not allowed to leave their seats except to use the restroom. Standing up wasn't "leaving the seat," but stepping away from it was.
"What's the hurry?" Casey said, stepping up to her chair.
          The girls' eyes got wide, in perfect synchronization, and they glanced past her. Casey swore she felt a chill in the air as she turned and looked over her shoulder. Brandy stood two tables away, fists jammed into her hips, her plastic surgery-refined nostrils flaring, sparks in her eyes. Casey idly wondered if constant flaring of nostrils would undo that bit of expensive sculpting. She had heard from no less than six girls in the last two weeks, all of them related to Brandy in one form or another, that she used to have a nose an inch longer and an inch wider, with a pronounced hook. Some of the boys in their massive, wealthy, influential clan were taking bets that by the time she finished with law school, Brandy would have had more surgeries than Michael Jackson.

Monday, August 25, 2014

A BOX OF PROMISES, Excerpt #11

Casey feared she had made a major mistake with her vow. She should start saving now to pay for pizza for five.
What made her decide she would get a date for the end-of-camp dance when she had landed a job at an all-girls camp? The closest male was on the other side of the lake, and there were nearly one hundred man-hungry girls who actually practiced their walk and their talk and their laughter, on the beach below her lifeguard chair, standing between her and any guy over the age of twenty.
Better to stay in her lifeguard chair -- once she was able to actually climb up into it. Because of course, with all this rain, nobody wanted to go anywhere near the beach, forget about getting into the water.
Casey missed her chair. Rising above the too-perfect bodies of girls who had probably had their first plastic surgery, liposuction, and tube of mascara in fourth grade, she felt separated and safely invisible. There was no one to look at her uniform of tan shorts and taxicab yellow tee-shirt.
         That perch gave Casey a perfect view across the lake and over the narrow strip of land that protruded out into the water. She had a clear view of the activities on the beach of the boys' camp on the opposite shore. The boys came to play soccer, while the girls came to work on their tans and stay out of their rich parents' way. Saturdays, the two camps took turns hosting dances. Casey needed to figure out some way to communicate across that distance, establish a relationship with just smiles and shrugs, with her counterpart in the lifeguard chair on the other side of the lake. So that he would recognize her and ask her to dance, and ignore the rich, fashionable, glittery high school and college-age girls filling the dance hall. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

A BOX OF PROMISES, Excerpt #10

The old joke of "That's not a tan, that's rust," took on new meaning for Casey by the second week of her summer as a lifeguard at Camp Sunnyside.
She felt rusty, and not all of it was because this was Colorado's wettest summer on record. She spent more time helping supervise indoor recreation in the dining hall than she did sitting in the lifeguard chair. Casey hadn't planned on getting to know any of the girls under her care. How well could a lifeguard get to know the wide range of fashionistas, divas, geeks and rebels who walked the beach below her lonely, elevated perch, anyway? "Ignored" was safer and more comfortable when it came to the rich and elite girls who were sent to Sunnyside. She was too clean for one group, too smart for another, not pretty enough for a third, not fashionable enough for a fourth group, not cool enough, not enough of an athlete. Forget about the other rich girls who were ostensibly here as part of the staff. They were almost worse, as if they had to put everyone else down to make up for  being expected to work. Why were they here, anyway? To get them out of their parents' way, just like their high school and middle school sisters and cousins?
           By now, Casey had decided that money had a certain smell that only social climbers and people in possession of lots of it could detect. Since she didn't carry the right aroma, she didn't exist to anyone in the high school cabins. The middle school girls were different. They liked Casey -- maybe because their older sisters and cousins were as snotty to her as they were to the younger girls. Funny, but they were the best part of her summer, so far.

Thursday, August 21, 2014


"Aw, come on, Miss Ray," Jacob wheedled at the end of the torturous day. "You know I didn't mean it." Then he flashed that killer smile that was going to break a lot of hearts when he hit high school.
If he lived that long. Right now, it was pure mischief, adorable despite being framed in cookie crumbs and stained bright red from punch. Jacob had conned five of his classmates into handing over their punch and cookies. They all had the impression that it was a game, and they would get their treats back -- up until the moment Jacob inhaled everything with the speed of a tool shop power-vac. Ray ended up with the duty of impressing on Jacob just why his little game was wrong, while Brenda and Jilly replaced the stolen snacks before the other five children cried any louder.
"You didn't mean to eat all those cookies? I hope you get a killer stomachache and nobody feels sorry for you and you miss out on a great dinner tonight." Ray managed to hold onto her scowl for all of ten seconds. Then Jacob brought a mangled chocolate covered graham from his pocket and offered it to her. It was Ray's favorite, and he knew it. She sputtered, trying to stifle laughter.
       The laughter stopped when she got to the pool half an hour later with Trish Bingham, and discovered that when Jacob hugged her good-bye, he had deposited his four-ball wad of neon green bubble gum in her hair. By that time, it had spread in the heat as they hurried to the pool, capturing a fistful of hair. Then it hardened after her first long plunge into the cool water, and seemed to be stuck to not only her hair, but her scalp. Right at the nape of her neck. It wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't a shade of green that was almost radioactive, and showed up wonderfully among her reddish-brown hair.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


"Face it," Megan said, as she gathered up the church floor plans, the spread sheets with the names of teachers and their specialties cross referenced with duties, and the clipboard with the list of supplies that still had to be found and errands that still had to be run. "We are geniuses. This is going to be the smoothest-run VBS in a long time."
"At least until they add a new Sunday school wing on the building and a new, bigger gym. Maybe they should consider digging a basement?" Ray added.
Megan laughed, which seemed to attract Michael's attention. He called something to her as she headed for the gate out of the pool area. She walked over, looking tired and sweaty. Michael gave her a large paper cup with a straw in it. Ray thought he took an awful long time getting the drink for her. Maybe Michael was as tired as they were.
"So, the two of you are running the Bible school this year, huh?" Michael called to her, when she had to give in to the demands of the clock and her stomach and leave to get dinner before her night class.
"Oh -- yeah -- Bible school. It's great." Ray stumbled and realized she had lost her grip on her towel. She fumbled it, jamming it into her big canvas bag, as she walked over to the refreshment stand. "Max and Tony have this incredible program. They took all the heroes of the Bible and gave them funky names, like in Marvel Comics, and turned them into superheroes. Then we teach the kids they have superpowers, just being themselves, and they can be superheroes and…" Her face felt hotter than it had yesterday. "Tell me if you're bored, okay?"
        "No, not boring. I like comic books." Michael leaned on the counter, resting on his elbows. He had the most incredible smile, kind of shy, a little crooked, and just as warm as his eyes.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Ray spent more time over the weekend preparing to teach third and fourth-graders at Tabor Christian's VBS  -- and looking for Michael -- than she did on the next book for class. The Heart of Mid-Lothian was interesting, sometimes heartbreaking, but she honestly couldn't summon up much sympathy for the heroine's twit sister and her nobleman boyfriend. What kind of man made the woman he loved go through a total makeover just so she would be acceptable to his family? The whole social censure scene irritated her.

Unfortunately, she had pages to catch up on, and managed to get so caught up in reading Sir Walter Scott's second most popular novel -- at least, in Dr. Krupman's opinion -- Ray forgot to put on sunscreen. She felt slightly radioactive and prickly by the time she got back to the dormitory Wednesday night. That put her in a bad mood when Megan Elliott called her at the dorm to talk about VBS and arrange to get together to finalize some details. Megan had snagged the position as assistant to the VBS coordinator this year. Ray felt a mix of envy and pity -- envy for the great credit to put on her resume, and pity for all the hassle Megan was going to have to put up with for two weeks. Tabor Christian always held Vacation Bible School for two weeks, instead of the usual one, just because they had so many children who came for VBS, thanks to the expanded reach of the Mission. This year, Max and Tony Martin had worked with Jennifer Deverall to create their own curriculum, instead of buying two different VBS packages from a publisher. Ray admired the newlyweds for coming up with the program amid all the fuss of preparing for a wedding with paparazzi and gossip rags and at least half of Hollywood looking over their shoulders. On top of that, the theme of "You Can be a Superhero, Too" was the most brilliant thing she could imagine to catch the imagination and interest of the children who attended. Ray wished she could be that creative when she worked with the children. How was she going to catch the attention of the people at Allen Michaels Evangelistic if she couldn't come up with something like that? Maybe it was  a good thing Megan was going to be second-in-command this year…