Wednesday, October 31, 2012


The third message on her phone was Tyler. He sounded excited. Or at least churned up about something that had him tripping over his tongue. Abby was intrigued at what could destroy his usual calm, suave phone personality.
"Hey, Abby, thanks for calling back so fast," Tyler blurted, as soon as she identified herself. "I hope you're free for a couple days next week. I need to ask a big favor -- and maybe I can do you a favor, too. There's an airport near Bluebell City, isn't there?"
"Umm, I don't even know where Bluebell City is." Abby stared at her windows, which were fogged over after ten minutes of sitting in her car, breathing heavily from her struggle with the storm, while it got chillier outside.
"Southeastern corner of Iowa. Probably the biggest city close by is Davenport."
"Well, Davenport has a municipal airport. Why do you need to go there?"
"My buddy Antonio wants me to come for opening night of his first solo directing production. It's my old school, Southeastern Christian, so it's kind of special to both of us. Opening night is the seventh. I thought maybe you could fly me over on the evening of the sixth, after rehearsal. Antonio would put us both up at his place -- big old house, you'll love it -- and I'd spend some time with the kids during the day, we'd go to opening night, and you could fly us home the next morning. There's this great indoor market close by, if you're into that kind of thing. Or if you just want to goof around, relax, there's a spa. I'll spring for a massage, if you want one."
"I would fly to Alaska for a good massage." Abby thought that was the stupidest response she could have made, but her brain seemed to be snagging on something she couldn't identify.
Maybe it was the thought of going somewhere with Tyler with no children to interrupt or demand their time? No emergencies?
Maybe it was just the shock of hearing Tyler's voice after all those odd, intense looks at the picnic -- which were outnumbered by the times he couldn't seem to meet her gaze. She had thought maybe he had finally let all the accidents and interruptions discourage him, and he had given up. She had convinced herself something had gone very wrong during the picnic. Maybe his father's comments had made him start thinking and he had realized he didn't like the direction their relationship was ambling toward? Maybe he realized what was just starting to form between them, and it scared him? Maybe he was trying to give her the brush-off, but politely.
After all, he was calling her to fly him somewhere, like a business proposition. Although, why would he offer a place to stay and different things she could do to keep busy while she waited for him, if it was just business? What guy who wasn't interested would be thoughtful enough to offer to pay for a massage for her?
"I should have said it first, but I'm hiring you to fly me there, so I'll take care of all the expenses for the plane. And any jobs you can't take because you're committed to me."
Was it just her imagination, or did a silent chime go off in the air when he said those last four words?
"Please, Abby? It means a lot to me, seeing my former students, my old school." Tyler took a loud, deep breath. "And it'd mean a lot to me to show it to you. There'll be some free time. We'd finally have a chance to get to know each other better."
"Yeah, get to know each other," she echoed. Abby shook her head and pinched herself and hoped she didn't sound as breathless and brainless as she felt. Could he hear her heart pounding at five thousand miles an hour?
"No kids to get in trouble. No cars to break down. No errands to run. It'd mean a lot to me. Please say yes?" Tyler asked, with a curious mixture of laughter and pleading in his voice.
It meant a lot to him. Abby didn't need to see his face to know that, or even hear him say the words. It was clear in his voice. It struck a chord inside her that understood everything he was feeling; a longing to get away from everything and everyone they knew, every distraction, every obligation, and just get to know each other.
"Two nights," Abby whispered, fighting an insane urge to giggle.
"What was that?" Tyler asked.
"Let me get this straight, okay? You want to fly out Thursday night, see the show Friday night, and fly back Saturday morning? Your friend is putting us up at his house."
"And he'll have a driver from the school pick us up wherever we land, and give us his car for our use the entire time we're there." Tyler chuckled. "Weakening?"
"Big time." Abby swallowed hard against a choking sensation. She had an urge to jump up and shriek; half excited glee, half terror that something was going to go wrong in a big way. Her plane would probably blow up Tuesday afternoon and she would never get to go to Bluebell City, wherever it was in Iowa, with Tyler. Alone with Tyler.
"So it's a date?" His voice seemed to crack a little on the last word.
"It's a date."
                Abby barely heard as they finalized the schedule. Those words kept reverberating in her head. Tyler hung up a few minutes later, to call his friend and double-check the arrangements from that end. She sat still for a long time, staring at the phone after the light on the screen went dead.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


 Lynette came up every other weekend to visit. Kat accompanied her during mid-term break and they made like tourists. She had fun visiting the souvenir shops, findig gifts for Candy and Chad. Daniel was more than relieved that she had fallen in love with her cousins from the start. Kat enjoyed her visit to the studio more than any of them expected, and was suitably impressed by how much work went into the daily filming.
"Even if it is the soaps," she said, with only a trace of her former scorn.
The three of them laughed together over the change in her attitude. The merriment continued over their dinner, which they had made together in the handkerchief-sized kitchenette in Daniel's apartment.
Still, the flying visits and phone calls every other night weren't enough. Daniel waited and prayed and thought about it and prayed some more. The day before Halloween, he called Lynette in the middle of the day to ask the question that had been waiting for a yes for twenty-one years.
She wasn't home.
Daniel laughed and asked her anyway.
When he got home that night, his answering machine blinked, and he dared to hope there was an extra, jaunty rhythm to the tiny green spark in the semi-darkness of his depressing little apartment.
Depressing because Lynette wasn't there.
"I'm coming up on the afternoon shuttle," she announced, without identifying herself.
She gave the flight details three times, contradicting herself each time. Daniel laughed, knowing he would be able to find her in the enormous airport, no matter what.
"Oh, and if you haven't guessed, the answer to your question is yes. Of course. Forever. How long does it take to get a marriage license in New York, anyway?"
Daniel glanced at his watch. His laughter caught in his throat as he dashed for the door again. Now was definitely the wrong time to be late.
Hopefully, getting a license wouldn't take as long as the taxi would take, to get him to LaGuardia to meet Lynette's flight.
After all, even patience and faith could be overdone.

Monday, October 29, 2012


"How many of these did you buy?" Tanya asked, after Danny and Pam had grabbed their cookies and run outside to play after dinner. She settled down at the table where Tyler still sat, picking at the remains of his spaghetti. She put the box on the table between them and picked out her own cookie.
"What you see is what you get," he managed to say with a smile.
"Something's wrong, big brother. Want to talk about it?"
"What makes you think anything is wrong?" Tyler conjured up a smile and twirled five more strands of spaghetti on his fork.
"You had dinner waiting when I got home. It was my turn to cook tonight. The kids were fighting over the TV and you didn't even hear them. And you bought enough of your favorite cookies to feed an army, but you didn't eat a single one. What happened?" She took a bite, waiting for him to respond, but Tyler just ate a few more pieces of spaghetti. "How was Abby when you picked up the kids?"
"Oh, fine. I guess. She was leaving as I came in. We waved to each other, like always."
"How late were you?"
"You must have been really late. I think Abby would have waited for you for a little while."
"Waited for me." He smiled and it seemed he could feel his heart beating again. "You think she's interested?"
"I know she is. The question is, when are you going to ask her yourself?"
"Oh, Tyler, I know that grin! You're up to something, aren't you?" Tanya chuckled and slouched in her chair. "Spill, big brother. You have some big plan in the works and something didn't go right and now you're thinking the whole thing is stupid. Am I right?"
She was right, of course. It struck Tyler that his sister was a woman, too. She knew what it was like to fall in love, to feel uncertain and afraid and put all her hopes and dreams on someone else's shoulders. Maybe since she had been hurt, she would have a little more insight than he did. Maybe he was so close to the question, he didn't have any perspective.
He certainly couldn't ask Abby's brother, could he?
Tyler tried to picture Al coming to him and asking for advice on sweeping Tanya off her feet. That wouldn't work. But Tyler could clearly picture Abby asking her brother for advice about him. Had she? Would she?
"Promise me you won't laugh," he began slowly. When his sister crossed her heart and then held up three fingers in the Girl Scout pledge, the heaviness in his chest evaporated. Tyler reached for a cookie and started talking.
Half an hour later, Tanya was silent, crumbling her cookie and eating one crumb at a time as she stared, eyes unfocussed, at a spot hanging above the table. Tyler picked up his second cookie and took a bite. For some reason it seemed dry, so he got up and poured glasses of milk for them both.
"I don't know what I'm going to do with you," Tanya finally said. She shook her head, then tipped it and studied him from under her lashes.
"What did I get wrong? You think Abby will slap me with a restraining order?" he joked.
Too bad the joke tasted sour in his mouth and put a lead weight in his stomach. Abby had a good sense of humor, didn't she? A sense of adventure? And what could be better proof that he wanted to get closer to her than to share what had been a big part of his life for so long?
"How come a guy who stages such incredibly romantic scenes on stage can't get it right for himself?"
"Well, if I hire a private plane, Abby's going to suspect--"
"She's not going to figure something's weird when you ask her to fly you to nowhere Iowa?"
"As far as she'll know, it's just taking me for the opening night, to support a pal. And she gets a little vacation, expenses paid." He sighed and felt something collapse inside him. "I don't know, maybe I figured it would be a sign that she was interested in getting to know me, if she liked the idea of seeing the college." Another sigh. "So, I'm totally helpless?"
"Hmm, not entirely." Tanya grinned. "You have to admit, the two of you have been so jinxed with accidents the last few months, or your schedules just don't line up, you might be on the right track taking her a couple hundred miles away."
"That's what I'm hoping."
"Don't hope, big brother. Start praying really hard." Then she leaned forward and brushed a kiss on his cheek. "You and Abby belong together. I feel a little guilty about all the demands the kids and I have been putting on you. It hasn't escaped my notice that we're part of what is keeping you two apart."
                 "If it wasn't for you and the kids, I probably never would have met Abby. Don't forget that."

Saturday, October 20, 2012


That afternoon, Tyler waited until Danny and Pam had raced across the church parking lot to join their adventure club friends before he popped the hood of his car. He had spent some serious time under the hood this morning before Tanya or her children were stirring, trying to get an idea of what went where. The owner's manual and an e-book he found online weren't much help. Was it just his own mechanical ineptitude, the small dimensions of the e-reader screen, or were Corvettes that much more complicated than most cars?
"Problem?" a gravelly male voice asked over Tyler's left shoulder, almost before he had managed to prop the hood up.
He jerked and the rod slid out of the little catch slot. Fortunately, the gray-haired grandfather caught it before Tyler smashed his hand. Double-fortunately, he didn't let go of the hood as he scrambled for the rod.
"Ah -- no -- thanks. I thought I was... low on washer fluid," Tyler managed to say, the distinctive blue liquid catching his eye. He caught the rod in the hood and leaned over to pretend to fuss with the hose and the plug on the reservoir. "Looks fine now." He extricated himself from the front of his car and shut the hood.
When he turned around, he saw Candy and Chad hurrying up the sidewalk. They had walked over from school, which they did most of the time, but still, Tyler couldn't help the disappointed, dropping sensation in his chest as he thanked the stranger. There were many afternoons Abby picked up the children and brought them to the church, according to Pam and Danny. Tyler had hoped she did it on the chance of meeting up with him for a few moments. Was that arrogance?
"What's up, guys?" he called as the children hurried past him. In for a pound... Who's getting you tonight?"
"Dad," Candy called, pausing on the steps while Chad yanked the door open. "Aunt Abby has another all-day flight."
"Well, tell them I said hi, okay?"
He settled behind the steering wheel and sighed loudly. Tyler supposed he had only himself to blame. He was happy for her increased business, but furious about his plans to take her out for coffee -- dinner, if he could convince her -- to "thank" her for helping him with his engine problems, which he hadn't even been able to arrange. So, it was a shallow excuse, and he had planned on telling her just how shallow it was if their coffee meeting went well. That wouldn't happen now, would it?

Friday, October 12, 2012


Abby's last student of the day canceled, so she picked up a book she had been trying to read, changed her clothes, snagged a sweet tea at the McDonald's drive-through, and came over to the Mission to relax on the bench out front and wait for the children to come back. The hike was ending at the Mission because there was a wedding scheduled for that afternoon at the church, and no one wanted to worry about muddy, sweaty, yelling, tired-grumpy children running into people wearing their best clothes in the hallways and bathrooms. Jennifer was on duty with the Saturday activity crew, so they didn't have more than a few minutes to say hello and catch each other up on the important details. Doug's mother was calming down, but he wasn't, according to Jennifer.
"He actually said that if we ever get married, maybe we should think about going to Disneyworld every year for Christmas, so we have an excuse not to have to decide between our parents' houses." Jennifer rubbed her temples and leaned back against the wall outside the library, where her gaggle of charges were picking out books for what was supposed to be "quiet reading hour."
"If you ever get married." Abby rolled that thought around in her head a moment. "Let me guess -- that wasn't what you wanted to hear? The 'if,' or the 'get married' part?"
"Both." She shuddered, which was hard to do leaning against the wall. "We're barely officially dating. There's so much work to do here, and we're just starting to put Nikki's wedding together -- although they keep changing the date they want. Sometimes I can't decide who wants to elope more, Nikki or Brock. But they won't, because they're bound and determined to do it right this time." Jennifer's smirk softened into a wistful smile and a shrug. "I think sometimes there's just wedding fever in the air, making Doug think there's something possible for us."
"What about you? Do you think there's something possible?" Abby decided she liked that phrasing. It was on the tip of her tongue to share her thoughts about Tyler and ask Jennifer's advice, but the timer clipped to the other woman's belt chimed loudly. She groaned and grinned, waved goodbye, and stepped into the library, calling for the children to take their books and head back to their classroom.
Abby thought about all the people in their church who were either planning weddings or solidifying what were definitely romantic relationships. Xander and Hannah were getting married that winter. Max and Tony were taking their time, being very hush-hush about the details, but everyone knew they were headed for the altar some time next spring. Then there was the slowly growing but very visible romance between Curt Mehdlang and Toni Napolitano. And now that things had slowed down in the Recreation Department, Officer Mike and Trina, the Rec Director, were spending every free moment together. Then there was the still-surprising engagement of Chief Cooper and Angela Coffelt. Abby had agreed with a number of others in their church, suspecting the police chief's declaration of love last winter had been in reaction to Angela being targeted by the White Rose Killer, so she had been just as surprised as many others when the relationship was made "official."
                    Everybody in their church seemed to be either getting married or having babies or falling in love. Abby couldn't repress a couple deep sighs that were definitely envy and a sense of Why not me? grumbling at the back of her thoughts.

Check out the Cyber Launch Party blog this Sunday, October 14, for our NEW YEAR'S EVE PARTY.
We'll be talking about the 12 books in Year One of the Tabor Heights series, and looking ahead to Year Two, with the release of INVITATION TO A WEDDING in December, from Desert Breeze Publishing.

Stay tuned for more information!

Saturday, October 6, 2012


Sunday, Abby didn't see Tyler, though she spotted his parents across the parking lot. Thomas saw her and came over while she waited with the children for Al to bring the car around. She debated the wisdom in asking them about Tyler. She liked his parents, honestly, but Abby had no idea if it was wise or suicidal to let them know she was interested in Tyler. Especially if they approved and got involved, and she had to admit she didn't have clue one about how to proceed in the relationship.
"There was a little bit of an accident during the strike party last night," Thomas said, when he and Grace had driven over to where she and the children stood on the sidewalk.
"Was he hurt?" Something clutched in her chest as she envisioned all the things that could have fallen from the grid while they disassembled the set after the play closed. All those lights could have come down, or the catwalk could have broken loose of its anchors, or the trap door could have collapsed under him when Tyler walked across the stage.
"Just bruised, but he was at the theater until three this morning, cleaning up the mess. Seems someone spilled a couple gallons of -- what was it, Gracie?" He turned to his wife, who leaned forward to see around him.
"Something that makes gallons of suds as soon as water touches it. Nobody bothered reading the warning on the barrel before they brought over a mop and bucket of water. And someone got the brilliant idea to dilute the sticky stuff, first."
That got muttered comments and a glance toward the clouds from Thomas, earning giggles from the children.
"He had a whole crew mopping it up. It got across the stage and down into the orchestra pit and the smell!" Grace waved her hand in front of her face, her nose wrinkling.
"The worst part was how it made everything slippery. Tyler's all banged up from either falling on his own, or trying to rescue everybody else who went falling all over the place. He's worn out, stiff, achy, and wet from all the ice packs he needs." Thomas chuckled. "He didn't want to worry you, so he asked us to tell you."
"Thanks. Tell him I know exactly how he's feeling." She bent enough to touch her knee, earning nods and grins from the elder Sloanes.
As they drove away, Abby let herself wonder, just for a few seconds, why Tyler asked his parents to tell her instead of just calling her himself.
Had she done or said something to either offend him or send him running? No, she decided after thinking for a few minutes. Tyler struck her as a reasonable person. As reasonable as theater people could be. Thanks to Daniel bringing the theater world into their family, Abby had seen for herself the wide range of personalities and lifestyles among the "artistic types." Tyler was on the mature end of the spectrum. A life in the theater was rather precarious. She knew he was lucky to have landed a steady job, income that let him do what he loved. He could have been starving in New York or Los Angeles, trying to get work of some kind, paying the rent by waiting tables. She couldn't see him doing escort work or selling drugs or other shady occupations. He had proven himself a reasonable, sane, reliable person who tried to see through others' eyes. He wouldn't be able to take his sister and her children into his home, let them disrupt his life, and seem to enjoy being with the children all the time if he wasn't. Would he? She knew that just because he went to church and knew all the words and catch-phrases, that didn't mean he was a real Christian. After all, he was an actor, able to wear masks and pretend to be something completely different from what he was.
But she sensed Tyler was exactly what the face he presented to the world indicated -- a kind, mature, reliable, thoughtful man with a generous heart and a good sense of humor. And accident-prone.

Monday, October 1, 2012


Kat had problems.
Bekka had told Daniel that her home life wasn't too comfortable, that Michael Tyler was a loudmouth, leering jerk, and Kat took summer classes so she could stay on campus year-round and not go home -- but Kat didn't confide in Daniel. He had to guess when something troubled her, and learned even before she was his student assistant that she froze up when adults, men in particular, showed too much interest in her activities, her schedule, and her feelings. By the end of September, Daniel learned to pick up a few signals to indicate when Kat was having a bad day, but he left it to Bekka to act as intermediary when he wanted to help.
So he wasn't too surprised when Kat danced into his office that morning and announced she, Amy and Bekka were moving in together.
"Too many wild parties in the dorm, huh? They're kicking you out?" He sat back and put both feet up on the only clear corner of his desk.
"Hardly." Kat tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and hugged herself before coming to rest against the doorframe. "Bekka's grandparents are moving to Florida. Can you believe they actually think she'll drop classes just like that and go to Florida with them just because they say so?"
"Yeah, unfortunately, I do." Daniel shook his head and muffled a grin.
So that was the reason for the sour looks the Sandersons had been aiming his way over the last three Sundays. They probably thought he had encouraged Bekka to resist their most recent and extreme endeavor to control her life. Why she hadn't moved out of their house years ago, he couldn't quite understand -- except that Bekka did love her grandparents, and she knew they loved her despite their stiff-necked, narrow-minded, demanding ways. They were all the family she had in the world, and she had obviously reasoned that putting up with their disapproval wasn't too high a price to pay for keeping their family together. He understood, because even if he didn't get along so well with them, he would have felt the same way about the Tabor Heights Morgans. They were the reason he had applied to teach at Butler-Williams University in the first place.
"Amy wants to be closer to campus now that she got the job at the library, and I have been dying to get my own place -- I mean, Granny gave me access to my trust fund when I graduated high school and I have more than enough money -- but I hate being alone." She shrugged and grinned, but couldn't hide that momentary glimmer of darkness -- and what Daniel thought might be genuine fear in her eyes. "So Bekka found a place at the Tower, across the street from the police station. It is going to be so great."
"Congratulations. I hope I won't have to come bail you out of jail for wild parties too often."
"Come on, Morgan!" Kat giggled and turned to leave. "Do you really think with Bekka living with us, we'd ever have wild parties? That's the great thing. Nobody would dare invade or bring drugs or anything to our parties, because of Bekka."
"That's true," he muttered, and pulled his feet down off the desk to get to work.
He did have a thick stack of essays on Greek drama to grade. Daniel was pleased that Kat welcomed the influence Bekka would have on their living arrangements. And even more pleased that Bekka's reputation as a straight-shooter, wholesome and clean-living, came across as a positive. He just wished he could get that point across to the Sandersons and other legalists at Tabor Christian, like Arthur Montgomery, who insisted on wholesale condemnation of anything connected with theater, film, art and fiction as unworthy of 'real' Christians to be involved in.