|Chapter 1: Broken Engagement|
|GLOWhome|| Huge snowflakes drifted softly down from the pewter-colored sky. outlining each individual branch and
twig in the woods and piling up on the ground. Inside, logs burned in the
fireplace, crackling a cozy counterpoint to the Brahms symphony on the
stereo. The delectable aroma of baking bread and simmering soup wafted
from the kitchen.
On this late-winter afternoon, Kate sat by the window quilting. She looked with satisfaction at the squares of coral and indigo blue, entwined in an Irish Chain pattern that outlined crisp squares of white in which she was quilting a hearts-and-flowers pattern. It was to be a wedding gift for her youngest son and his bride-to-be.
Kate sighed contentedly. Could anything be more perfect? she mused. Glancing out the window, her busy needle paused as her eye caught the scarlet flash of a cardinal flying across the snowy yard. Yes, she thought with a smile, God always has something more.
The front door opened, and Michael. Kate's husband of thirty-two years, blew in with a blast of cold air, disturbing her reverie. "Six weeks in South America should be quite a change from this weather!" he exclaimed. stomping the snow from his feet.
Kate smiled. "Don't rub It in! You've got ten more days of this stuff."
"And then, sunny Argentina!" Michael found room for his jacket in the closet.
"Well, I suppose Argentina will be nice." Kate admitted, "but how about hot, sticky Brazil? And besides, you'll miss seeing Danny."
Michael dropped into his favorite chair by the fireplace. "Yeah, I wish I were going to be back in time for spring break." He sighed. "Seems like I've had to be away so many times when the kids were home."
Watching him, Kate's eyes lingered lovingly on his face and the dusting of gray at his temples. It didn't seem possible they had been married for so long. But here they were, grandparents, and Danny, their youngest, was busy with wedding plans.
Michael looked at his watch. "I'm surprised Danny hasn't called yet. He always calls on Sunday."
"I'm anxious to hear about their wedding invitations," Kate responded. "I think he and Angela were supposed to decide on them this week." As if on cue, the phone rang. Kate grinned and raced Michael to answer it. She won, and Michael went to pick up the extension in the study.
"Hi. Danny" Kate said warmly. "We were just talking about you and wondering when you'd call. How's everything going?"
"Well, I got an A on my paper for Children's Lit. I think Dr. Johnson likes Harriet, the Spy as much as I do!" laughed Danny. "I still have two more papers to finish before break, but I think I'll make it. Did I tell you I'm going to be the 'good' thief on the cross for the passion play?"
"No, you hadn't told us," Kate said. "If only you weren't clear across the country! I would love to be there to see it....Well....I'm dying to know. Did you and Angela get down to San Jose to pick out your invitations?"
There was an awkward pause. Then, hesitantly, Danny said. "Uh, Mom.... Dad....I don't know exactly how to tell you this, but, uh....Angie and I have decided to postpone our wedding."
Kate was stunned! For a moment, she felt as if ice water were coursing through her veins. "But why?" she finally managed. "What's happened? Have you had a fight?"
"Oh no," Danny answered, a bit uncomfortably. "It's just that we have such different philosophies of life. We need some time to work things out."
Questions raced through Kate's mind. What did he mean, "different philosophies"?
"You and Angie haven't broken things off completely, have you?" Michael asked. "She's such a sweet girl, Danny. Mom and I really like her a lot."
"Oh, we're still good friends, Dad," Danny said quickly. "I'm sorry to make you feel bad, but I thought I should let you know." He sounded anxious and troubled.
"It's OK, honey." Kate tried to be reassuring. "It's just such a surprise ... After you've been engaged for over two years, it seems like you would have known before this if you didn't share the same outlook on life ... But I know this isn't easy for you. We'll be praying for you, honey, and I hope everything will work out."
"Thanks, Mom." Danny changed the conversation to a more comfortable topic. "Aren't you leaving on a trip pretty soon, Dad?"
They talked about Michael's upcoming trip to South America as part of his responsibilities as a church administrator. Kate wanted to know more about Danny and Angela, but she forced herself not to ask any questions. Danny would tell her when he was ready, she was sure of that. They had always had a very close relationship.
At last they said goodbye. As Kate hung up the phone and stared out the window, a sense of foreboding wrapped chill fingers around her heart. Her intuition told her something was terribly wrong, something she couldn't quite grasp.
"I just don't understand it!" Michael exclaimed, coming into the room. 'They never seemed to have any problems that I could see."
"I know," answered Kate with a puzzled frown. "Angela seems to fit so well into our family."
In another phone call from Danny a few days later, it became clear that the wedding was really off, not just postponed. Surprisingly, Danny seemed more relieved than disappointed. To say that Kate and Michael were disappointed was to put it mildly. They had become very fond of Angela over the past two years.
"I wonder whose idea this was. He'll never find another girl like Angie!" declared Michael. "I still can't understand what went wrong."
"She was just the kind of girl I always dreamed of for a daughter-in-law," said Kate wistfully.
"Remember how she loved to help me cook last summer? And how she got out and washed the car with you on Fridays? She has a lot of good common sense, just what Danny needs to balance his idealistic views. What in the world did he mean about them having different philosophies of life?"
But Michael couldn't figure it out either.
As Kate was folding shirts and putting them in the suitcase the evening before Michael was to leave for South America, she thought about how lonely the drive to the office would be when he was gone. However, she reminded herself, by the time he gets back, I'll be used to it and be enjoying my opportunity for solitude. The adjustment never gets any easier when you have a husband who travels, she thought with a sigh.
The phone rang, interrupting her musing. It was Angela's mother.
"Oh, I'm just so disappointed!" moaned Martha. "I've been crying all week since Angela told me. What's wrong with these kids, anyway? It doesn't make any sense to me. Did Danny tell you why they broke up?"
"Just something about them having different philosophies of life, but I don't know what in the world he meant. I was going to call you myself, since you're there on the West Coast with them. Did you have any idea this was going to happen?"
"No, it was a complete shock to me. I was surprised when they didn't come down to pick out their invitations, but I never dreamed they were having any problems."
Martha's voice trembled. "I love Danny like he was my own child. I keep hoping this is just a 'lover's quarrel' and they'll patch things up and get back together soon. Don't you?"
Tears sprang to Kate's eyes. "Nothing would make me happier," she said softly. "If only we knew what had happened."
"The next time Angela comes home, I'm going to get to the bottom of this!" exclaimed Martha. "If I knew why they made this crazy decision, I'd know how to talk some sense into them."
"Well, we'd better be careful not to push them too much," cautioned Kate. "Let's pray about it. Maybe God will help them remember what a wonderful relationship they have had."
"You're right, and I have been praying about it a lot already," Martha said. "Let's keep in touch, Kate. Let me know if you find out what the problem is."
A few days later, still troubled about Danny, Kate cradled a steaming cup of hot chocolate in both hands as she stood in front of the kitchen sink and gazed out the window at the swirling white flakes of another spring snowstorm.
Snow ... Her mind drifted back to a long-ago Christmas season in Singapore. They had been new missionaries, recently arrived from Hawaii.
Nearly forty missionary families lived on two compounds in the large cosmopolitan city. They administered the work of the church in fourteen Asian countries, as well as a local hospital and college. A small yellow bus transported the school-age children living on Kate and Michael's compound to the school for missionary children, located on the other compound.
"Here come the brothers," called three-year-old Danny one afternoon, watching from the window as the returning school-children streamed up the hill under big black umbrellas. Brenden and Alex burst noisily into the house.
"Hey, Mom, we put up the Christmas tree at school today," reported Brenden, who was ten. "Why don't we get out our new tree and put it up?"
Kate looked at the gray sky and the rain streaming down the window in a tropical downpour. "As long as I'm inside with the air conditioner on, I can almost believe it's winter," she laughed. "Too bad Daddy won't be back for another week. Do you think we could figure out how to put it together by ourselves?"
"Of course we can," said Alex, with all the authority of a seventh-grader. "I'll get the box out of the storeroom."
"OK," Kate gave her assent. "While you're getting it, I'll find our Christmas records and the ornaments. We might as well really get in the mood!"
Soon the living room was heaped with piles of dark green imitation Scotch pine branches of various lengths. Kate looked dubiously at the long wooden pole drilled full of holes. "I don't think this is going to look very much like a real tree."
"Look! Here's a little Christmas tree!" sang Danny, picking out a small cluster of branches and dancing around the room.
"That goes on the top." Brenden snatched it from him and stood on tiptoe to push it down into the hole on the end of the pole.
Alex was studying the instruction sheet. "Put the branches with the white tip on the wire into the top row of holes," he commanded. His three slaves quickly obeyed. When all the branches were finally placed, Kate had to admit that it was a beautiful tree, indeed, except for its missing ingredient-- the fresh, evocative, piney scent of outdoors.
Three strings of miniature lights were carefully wound around the tree from top to bottom. Danny hung little red rocking horses, his favorite ornaments, on the lower branches, while Brenden and Alex competed to see who could hang the most crocheted snowflakes. Kate tucked gold filigreed stars into the bare spots.
Then with her three boys lined up on the couch and the lights turned off, Kate announced, "Now comes the magic moment!"
The sweet, clear soprano voices of the Vienna Choir Boys singing "Away in a Manger" set the mood as Kate plugged in the lights. She caught her breath at the unguarded look of wonder in three pairs of eyes reflecting the soft rainbow glow. They admired the tree in silent contentment.
"Mom, I know what you should read Danny for his bedtime story tonight," Brenden said. He went into his bedroom and returned with a well-worn blue book, which he thrust into her lap.
" 'Twas the night before Christmas..." read Kate with a smile. Danny snuggled up on one side and Brenden sat down on the other. Even Alex stayed by, listening reflectively to the familiar poem.
"Mommy, when is it going to snow?" Danny asked when she had finished.
"Oh, honey, I'm afraid it won't snow here. It didn't snow in Hawaii, remember?" Kate reminded him.
"I know it didn't snow in Hawaii, but I think it will snow in Singapore," Danny said, nodding his head with the utmost confidence. His bedtime prayer included a request for snow before Christmas. Kate suppressed a smile as she tucked him into bed and kissed him good night.
"Poor kid," Alex said when she told him about it, "he's never seen snow in his life. He doesn't know what he's missing." Alex spoke condescendingly from his much wider life experience, which included an unusual six-inch snowfall in California's high desert during his seventh winter.
The next afternoon, Kate was in the kitchen rolling out pie crusts when she heard shouts and giggles coming from the living room. She looked in to see Danny lying on the floor, looking up in blissful delight at a swirling white blizzard.
"We wanted to show Danny what snow is like," explained Brenden. He and Alex had torn several sheets of paper into tiny bits, heaped them onto the blades of the ceiling fan, and turned it on slow speed to create a realistic snowstorm.
"Do it again!" shouted Danny, jumping up and starting to gather up "snowflakes" from all over the living room.
Kate's lips curved in a smile as she looked at the snow swirling past her window and remembered the fake snowstorm of long ago. Her cocoa had cooled. As she reheated it, she remembered that Danny's disappointment over the lack of snow had been assuaged by the fun of dressing up in the nativity costumes she had made for her children's class at church. Michael had taken pictures of Danny dressed as a wise man, a shepherd, and Joseph, but his favorite costume was Mary's deep blue gown and azure head scarf. He had made an especially charming Mary, looking tenderly down at the baby in his arms. How he had loved playing dress-up as a little boy. The two little Indian girls he played with had even given him one of their outgrown saris, she remembered.
Kate carried her cocoa into the family room and turned on the TV, flipping idly through the channels until she reached the public television station. To her surprise, it was a live performance by Moscow's famed Bolshoi Ballet. The familiar strains of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake carried her thoughts back again to their first furlough, three years after their arrival in Singapore.
They had all spent many hours in planning the long-anticipated trip. After much discussion, they decided to purchase their air tickets through Aeroflot, the Russian airline, which had the lowest prices. This would give them the opportunity to spend a couple of days in Moscow before flying on to Vienna, London, and the States.
"Oh, I hope we can see a ballet performance by the Bolshoi!" exclaimed Kate. Alex and Brenden groaned.
When they toured the Kremlin, Kate was excited to learn that the Bolshoi was performing Swan Lake that very evening. Later, in the darkened concert hall, she looked over at her youngest son, kneeling on the red velvet seat beside her. While Alex and Brenden yawned in boredom, Danny gripped the armrests and peered between rows of heads at the brilliant stage, staring in rapt fascination as the dancers swirled and pirouetted, one with the music that tiptoed and soared around him. His eyes were shining, his lips parted in a faint smile, and he almost forgot to breathe, he was so enchanted by the magical beauty. The graceful white figures, gliding like swans, seemed brought to life by the music that swelled and burst inside of him.
Then the ballet was over, and crashing applause exploded around them. The house lights came up, accompanied by a buzz of conversation, and Danny filed out after the rest of the family, still lost in a world of wonder and delight. As they reached the street, Danny tugged excitedly at Kate's hand.
"Mommy, I want to be a ballerina when I grow up!"
Alex and Brenden laughed. "Only girls can be ballerinas, silly!" Brenden told him.
Danny looked anxiously at Kate for confirmation.
"Men can be ballet dancers too," she assured him. "Like the prince in Swan Lake."
"But I want to be a ballerina and wear a skirt that stands out like this when I twirl around," insisted Danny, holding his arms out straight at his sides and executing a pirouette.
Kate had forgotten the incident by the time they returned to their mission home at the end of the summer, but Danny had not. "Remember the ballerinas we saw in Moscow, Mommy? Will you make me a skirt like that, please?"
Kate was scarcely aware of a faint but familiar tightness as she quickly shoved an uneasy feeling deep down into her subconscious. "Oh, you don't want to wear a skirt, honey," she laughed.
"Yes, I do," insisted Danny earnestly. "I want to be a swan and twirl around on one toe like the ballerinas."
Over the next few days, Danny kept up a persistent campaign to get a skirt until at last, with a sigh, Kate looked through her fabric collection and pulled out a narrow length of material, stitched the ends together, made a hem on one edge and a casing on the other, and threaded elastic through the casing.
"There's your ballerina skirt," she said, handing it to him.
"Thanks, Mom!' Danny exclaimed happily, pulling it on and spinning away from her.
Well, he's still just a little boy, she thought ruefully. He'll soon outgrow such ideas.
And he did, Kate remembered, after he started school.
She had been awakened early one morning by a small hand insistently patting her shoulder. Sleepily, she opened her eyes.
"It's time to get up, Mom! I've already made my bed!" Danny informed her.
"Oh, Danny!" Kate murmured with a grin. "It's the first day of school, isn't it? Well, I guess we'd better get around. You sure wouldn't want to miss the school bus!"
Danny was almost too excited to eat, and when the bus driver tooted his horn, he flew eagerly to the door. Kate caught a kiss as he sped by .
As the weeks passed, however, Kate noticed that Danny's enthusiasm for school seemed to be waning, and some days he appeared quite dejected. One afternoon she stopped by the school to ask his teacher, Miss Summers, if she knew what was wrong.
"I'm afraid the big boys in third and fourth grade have been teasing him," Miss Summers apologized. "They're so much bigger than Danny, and they always want to play soccer at recess. Danny doesn't like such rough games and prefers to play with the girls. But sometimes the girls want to play by themselves, and then he is left out. I heard the boys calling him a sissy the other day, and I've talked to them about it. I'm watching to see that they don't tease him anymore."
Poor Danny, Kate thought sympathetically. It's too bad there isn't another boy his age.
At least, she realized, he seems to have lost interest in dressing up. She wondered if that had anything to do with the older boys teasing him.
Several days later, Alex, a protective big brother, reported disgustedly that he had heard some of the fourth-grade boys calling Danny a sissy. "I banged their heads together and told them to leave him alone!" he said heatedly.
Now Danny is in college, fighting his own battles, Kate mused. The ballet performance on TV was over, and she realized she had scarcely seen it, so absorbed had she been in the train of memories it had launched.
She took her empty cup to the kitchen, rinsed it out, and went to bed, disturbing thoughts running through her mind. Why do I feel so uneasy? she wondered as she drifted into a troubled sleep.
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