“If you have a few minutes I’d like to talk to you.”

“Of course,” I said.

I sent Sarah and Mark to the house with instructions to get the table set and ready for the afternoon meal.

Alex waited until the children had left. He sat next to me, looking down at his hands as if going over in his mind what he wanted to say. “Shay, I owe you an apology. I misjudged you from the beginning.”

This was a surprise, and I wasn’t sure how to respond.

“I have no excuses or justifications I can offer. I was wrong. That said, I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.”

“Alex, of course. I understand. We have all fallen short. Isn’t that what Scripture says?”

Alex grinned. “That being the case, there are a lot of short people in this world and right now I feel like a very small person.”

I smiled back. “I think you’re being much too hard on yourself.”

“I am undeserving of your generosity of spirit, Shay,” Alex continued.

I patted his hand. “We’re square, Alex.”

Another one of the elders approached us and I knew Alex had further obligations. We hugged before he left.

As I started to exit the pew, I saw that Linda Kincaid stood off to one side, waiting for me.

“How’s Lloyd recuperating?” I asked, happy to see her. Her willingness to put me up until I found an apartment spoke volumes. Her faith and trust in me would not easily be forgotten.

“He’s taking advantage of me, but it’s okay because I don’t mind spoiling him.” The smile drained from her face as she grew serious. “I heard,” she continued, lowering her voice to a near whisper, “that you won’t be moving after all. I have to say, I’m a little disappointed. I was looking forward to having you as a houseguest.”

It probably wasn’t proper to burst out laughing inside church, but I couldn’t help myself. “If I were you, I’d call it a lucky escape.”

Linda laughed, too, but once again the humor left her and she grew serious. “After Katie died, I worried about Drew and what would become of him and the children. I prayed God would send him a special woman, one who would bring joy back into his life and who would love his and Katie’s children. I’ll admit, you weren’t exactly what I had in mind.”

I laughed again. “I don’t think I was who Drew was expecting, either.”

“I don’t think I agree with that. You were just the right woman for him and for those children. You’ve opened my eyes and many others’, too. Drew is a smart man. He loves you, and for what it’s worth, so do I.”

To me that was solid gold. I impulsively hugged Linda and thanked her. “You’re going to make me cry,” I whispered.

“Hey, hey, what’s going on here?” Drew asked, joining us.

“It’s a lovefest,” Linda answered, sharing a smile with me.

Drew put his arm around my shoulders and brought me close to his side. “You ready to head over to the house?” he asked.

“You’re finished?”

“I am. Seems you’re going to need someone to help you unpack and get situated again.”

From the happy look he’d sent me after the meeting with the elders, I hoped that was the case. Linda confirmed it.

As we walked toward the house, I questioned Drew. “Is Mark okay?” It couldn’t have been easy for him to stand before the church council and confess what he’d done.

“He did great. I’m proud of him. He told them what you’d done and how awful he felt about letting you take the blame. I haven’t quite figured out what to do about the bullying. I’m going to make an appointment with the school counselor as soon as it can be arranged.”

“That’s a start.”

“This harassment of my son is going to stop and it’s going to stop now.”

Drew’s arm was around me as we walked toward the house where the children waited. “Thank you for what you did for Mark,” he whispered.

I pressed my head against his shoulder, savoring his appreciation, loving him.

“Thank you for loving me and my children,” he whispered, and kissed the top of my head. “This is only the beginning of our journey together, Shay. I can’t wait to see where God will lead us next.”

I mulled over his words as a sense of deep joy filled me. I reflected back on my time at Hope Center when Lilly had asked me what my dreams were and, at that point, I couldn’t think of a single one. Little did I understand at the time what was in store for me. While participating in the program at Hope Center I’d learned to dream again. Now, I realized, my reality had far and away exceeded my expectations. Lilly once told me that any dream would do. As I looked around me, I had more than a handful of dreams, and every one of them seemed to be coming true.

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