Chapter 18

Two days later, I awoke to the sandpaper tongue of Blue-Casey licking my chin. Caitlin bounded into my bedroom with news. “Mommy, it snowed last night. It snowed!”

I was not as enthusiastic as my daughter. Snow meant winter. Winter meant cold weather. Cold weather meant bundling in toques, scarves, boots, and mittens. It seemed to take forever just to get ready to go outdoors. I’d much rather spill out of bed and into a pair of shorts and sandals any day.

“Can we go tobogganing?” Caitlin broke my train of thought.

“Oh, I don’t think so Caity-Cat. This is only the first snow of the season and I doubt that it’ll stay.” Caitlin’s smile faded so I added, “But maybe we can go shopping for some winter clothes.”

Caitlin’s eyes opened wide and she gave my legs a tight hug.

“Now, let’s get you ready for school.”

After Caitlin ate breakfast, dressed and was on her way to school, I returned to the apartment to tidy up and get myself ready for the Women’s Coffee Break.

The snow melted quickly on the warmed sidewalks, leaving ever-growing puddles underfoot. The sign today read:

Try our Sundays.
They're better than Baskin-Robbins.

I hung up my coat in the church foyer and then started for the kitchen.

“Hi, Betty!” I started to recognize the women here and remember their names. I poured a coffee and grabbed a chocolate chip cookie before finding my regular seat. I looked around for Sarah, but she hadn’t arrived yet.

Another woman I recognized from weeks before came over and sat beside me. She had the build of a small refrigerator and smelled like honey-suckle.

“Hi. My name is Susan. I remember you from the gardening seminar. You asked about the window box. How’s it going?”

“Great,” I said with enthusiasm. “I never would’ve imagined that I could have a small garden this late in fall. I especially like the dogwood. Very festive.”

She studied her reflection in the teaspoon she’d used to stir sugar into her coffee. “Have you thought of adding a red velvet bow?”

“What a good idea. That’d look great for the upcoming holidays.”

Rebecca stood to open in prayer. We sang some songs, and then broke into our smaller study groups.

Sarah came in a little late again this week. She apologized with a ripple of giggles. She wore an apricot silk top and black suede pants. She looked great. I had only thrown on a button-down blouse with a pair of blue jeans.

Margaret had her brown hair pulled back babushka style. She asked us to open our Bibles to Isaiah, Chapter 61, and Verse 8. I took notes as Margaret explained how we needed to trust God to take care of things for us. It wasn’t our job or even our privilege to vindicate ourselves. We needed to forgive and let God handle dishing out the justice.

I remembered my sister saying that God was the judge. I shared this with the group and asked if we could look up the scripture Janice had given me. Pat, whose lips were as shiny as a McIntosh apple, read from the book of Romans, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. Romans 12, verse 19.”

Diane added, “Forgiveness is an act of trust. By forgiving de men who killed my brodder, I put my trust in God as a better justice-maker dan I am. I leave the fairness to God and believe dat He will dish out justice and mercy.”

Shirley looked out from behind the curtain of long, brown hair and asked, “Was that easy to do, Diane?”

“No. No, of course not. I had to put a great deal of trust in God.” Diane raised her palms in the air for emphasis.

Margaret said, “There are a lot of good reasons that God would ask us to leave matters of revenge and justice to Him. Why do you think He would do this?”

Sarah spoke up. “I believe that God is wise and all-powerful. He is the One who knows all things and so knows best how to see justice is done.”

Margaret nodded in agreement. “Is anyone familiar with the phrase ‘heap burning coals on his head’?”

Pat answered, “Yes. I heard of that. At first, I thought that it was a vengeful act. But then I learned that it was actually doing someone a favor.”

Shirley interrupted. “How could heaping coals on someone’s head do them a favor?”

Pat smiled and said, “In the Old Testament times, if a family’s cooking fire went out, it was hard to start a new one. So a family member would go to a neighbor to ask for some burning coals, which would then be wrapped in a pan and carried back home on the head.”

I sat up a bit straighter. Interesting, I thought.

Diane clicked her fingernails on the table. “I disagree,” she said. “I learned dat ‘burning coals’ is meant as a picture of repentance. It meant dat showing kindness to an enemy is de best way to make dat person feel sorry for what he has done.”

“In any case, the outcome ultimately affects both the offender and the offended. To leave room for God’s wrath by not seeking revenge strengthens the character of Christ within us.” Margaret closed her Bible and looked at her watch. “We live in a culture that thinks very differently about how to treat those who have wronged you. But the message here is not to repay anyone evil for evil.” After saying this, Margaret closed with a prayer for all of us to trust in God that justice would be done and she reminded us to read through the next chapter in preparation for the following week.

Sarah walked me to the stairs before giving my arm an enthusiastic rub. “Have a great week, Heather.”

“Thanks, Sarah. I’ve got a lot of work to do.” I patted my Bible study book and waved goodbye as I took the stairs two by two.


Later at the dental clinic, Connie greeted me with a smile playing with the edges of her mouth, “Well, don’t you have rosy cheeks. This cold weather looks good on you!”

“Thanks, Connie.” I was surprised by her kind remark. “I’m not a fan of autumn turning into winter but I guess it just takes some getting used to. So, what’s with the silly grin?”

Connie brightened, “Remember that guy I told you about last week? The one with the BMW and thick sideburns?” I didn’t, but I nodded anyway. “Well, he’s called! We’re going out again tonight.” Connie put the back of her hand to her forehead and leaned back in her chair. “I think I’m in love.”

“Connie Curtain in love? I don’t believe it,” I teased.

“I’ll let you know for sure after this next date.” Connie winked at me and returned to her work.

A twinge of jealousy sprang forward as I turned on my computer for the afternoon ahead. Why would I be jealous? Just then, Dr. Mott returned from lunch. His cheeks were ruddy and I wondered if he was still driving his motorcycle to work.

“Afternoon, ladies,” he called across the waiting room.

“Hello, Bill,” we both said in unison.

In three strides, Bill was in front of my desk. “The usual again this afternoon, Heather?”

“Yes, nothing special. Mrs. Armstrong finally booked her root canal. It was like pulling teeth to get her to confirm.”

Bill gave me a sideways look and then broke into laughter. The laugh lines along his eyes gave away his age but they only made him look more distinguished, not old.

“What?” Bill gave me a queer look. “Why are you staring at me?”

Quickly, I looked down at my notebook. “Oh, I’m sorry. I was lost in thought.”

Just then, Connie got up and walked back to the kitchen. Bill took this as opportunity to lean in over the counter top.

“Heather, there’s been something I’ve been meaning to ask you.”

I kept my eyes down, afraid that I would get lost in his gaze if our eyes met.

“I’m just going to get it over with and say it. Will you go out with me for lunch on Saturday?”

I nearly swallowed my gum. I hadn’t expected him to be so abrupt. I started to cough.

“I didn’t mean to choke you up,” Bill said with a smile. “Think about it and let me know before you leave today, okay?” He turned and called after Gail.

I could only nod. I tried hard to suppress my cough. I felt like a teenage girl asked out on a date to the prom. What was wrong with me?

The phone rang and I had to clear my throat before answering, “Good afternoon. Lakeside Dental Clinic. Heather speaking.”

“Oh, Heather, Dear, good to hear your voice.” It was my mother. “I know that you don’t like me to call at work but I thought you would be interested to know that Mr. Jenkinson died.”

“Who?” I couldn’t put a face to the name.

“You know, Mr. Harry Jenkinson. He lived beside us when you were young. He moved into the retirement home about six years ago. Don’t you remember? He used to give you carrots from his garden. Mr. Jenkinson.”

“No, Mom, sorry I don’t remember. Was he sick?”

“No, just old. Your father and I are going to the funeral on Friday. I just thought you’d want to know.”

“Oh. Well, thanks Mom. Give my regards to the family. I have to get back to work now.”

“Yes, yes. But in my day the telephone was answered promptly after one ring. You let it ring four times. I was almost ready to hang up. Does Dr. Mott know that you let it go that long?”

“Mom, it was Bill’s fault that I let it ring.” Immediately, I regretted letting that slip.

“What do you mean? Has he been unkind to you?”

“Oh, Mom, of course not.”

“Then what? What did he do?”

“Nothing. Just drop it, please.” I wished that a patient would come along and give me an excuse to get off the phone.

“Darling, tell me. I am your mother after all. I have a right to know.”

As always, I gave in to my mother. “Well, if truth be told, Dr. Mott asked me out on a date.”

“A date?” My mother yelled into the phone. “That’s wonderful, Heather. Where are you going? I’ll bet he takes you to a beautiful restaurant. Oh, I can look after Caitlin for you, no problem. When are you going?”

“Slow down, Mom. I haven’t even said yes yet.”

“What? Why not? For heaven’s sake, Heather, when a doctor asks you on a date, you go!”

“Mom, I’m not a child. I can make my own decisions.”

“Yes, yes of course, Dear. But make the right one here, and go.”

“Sorry, Mom but I gotta go. Bye.”

Before I could hang up, she added, “Just let me know when to come and pick up Caitlin. Bye, Dear.”

Always has to have the last word. A small grin lit my face. Mom was such a mother.

Connie returned and asked, “Why the smile?”

“Oh, my mother. She makes me laugh sometimes. She’s so nosy.”

“That’s what mothers are for,” Connie said. “What’s she nose-ing in about?”

Shoot. I had done it again. Now I’d have to get Connie off the trail. “Nothing.” I repeated, “Nothing.”

“Call me crazy, but I think Heather has a secret. What is it you’re not telling me?” Connie leaned over and put her elbows on her knees. I had to turn away from her glare. “Oh, my gosh. He asked you out!”

My head jerked to stare at her. How did she know?

“Ah, ha. That’s it. Bill finally got the nerve to ask you out! Well, aren’t we a pair. So where are you going? Oh, do you want to double date? That could be fun!”

The idea of a double date with Connie nearly got me coughing again. “Connie, I haven’t said yes yet.”

“Yet. So when are you going to tell him Yes? Want me to tell him?” Connie raised her hand to her mouth to call down the hall.

“Don’t you dare!” I leapt from my chair and pulled at her arm.

Connie just laughed at me. “You’re hopeless. You leave me no choice. If you don’t tell him within the next thirty minutes, then I will.”

“Connie, that’s not fair!” I could just die. But something inside me was relieved to have to make the decision soon. True, I would like to go out for dinner. And my mother was willing to sit with Caitlin. And I hadn’t been out for ages. I walked back to the kitchen for a coffee and found Bill sitting at the little table.

I pulled the chair out and balanced one knee on it. “What time?” I asked.

He looked up and with a broad smile. “I’ll pick you up at one.”