Out of the Pit (Short Story — Day 7)

Tuesday evening Brad and Patty went to Lexie’s and Patty and Lexie prepared dinner for the three of them and for Bruce and Officer Watts as well.  During dinner, Bruce filled them in about the last two days of the investigation.  He also informed them that earlier that day he had obtained a warrant for the phone records of Kurt Bigler, as he was the one that was renting Kevin’s old apartment.  Bruce explained that if he could find the calls to Lexie’s apartment on Kurt Bigler’s phone bill, he would have enough evidence to arrest him for harassment and stalking.

Lexie couldn’t believe how quickly and easily this case seemed to be going.  It had been so much worse with Kevin, but then, she had been involved with Kevin before anyone even knew he was a serial killer.  She was relieved that this would soon be over.

After dinner, they went to the living room.  Brad and Patty sat on the love seat and Lexie and Bruce sat on the sofa with Bo at their feet.  Officer Watts sat on the recliner.  Halfway through “With Six You Get Egg Roll”, Officer Watts was snoring gently and Bruce slipped his arm around Lexie’s shoulders.  He felt her grow tense for a few seconds, but then she slowly relaxed.

Lexie considered telling Bruce to remove his arm from around her, but it felt warm, comforting and safe, feelings she hadn’t felt for weeks.  By the end of the movie she had snuggled closer to Bruce and had fallen asleep.  Brad and Patty got up to leave, being as quiet as possible so as not to awaken Lexie.  Brad gently woke Officer Watts and the three of them left Bruce and Lexie sitting on the sofa.

Bruce watched Lexie sleep for a few minutes, then reached out and tenderly brushed some auburn curls from her cheek.  He gently kissed her forehead and she stirred and opened her eyes.  She looked around and realized that they were alone.

“I guess I must have drifted off,” she said.  “Why didn’t anyone wake me?”

“We figured you needed your sleep.  We all know you haven’t been sleeping well lately, and you seemed to be sleeping so peacefully, we didn’t want to disturb you.”

Lexie smiled up at him, and Bruce couldn’t resist.  He leaned down and placed a short, tender kiss gently on her lips.  He waited a few seconds, and when she didn’t pull away or protest, he kissed her again, longer, slower and tenderly.

The first kiss had caught her off guard, but when Bruce place his lips on hers a second time and lingered longer, she pulled away.  It wasn’t that she didn’t enjoy his kisses.  She did, a little too much, but she couldn’t do this.

“Lexie, why won’t you allow yourself to love or be loved?”

“Bruce, I am so unclean and unworthy of the love of a good man.”

“Whatever your past sins are, Lexie, you don’t have to carry them around for the rest of your life.”

“Brad tries to tell me the same thing, and so did that Pastor David.  I’ve been reading the Book of John in the Bible, and I sure wish that Jesus were here today so he could touch me and cleanse me and forgive me.”

“He is here, Lexie.  Not like he was in the Bible when he walked among men, but he is still here and he still cleanses, and he forgave you when he died on the cross and rose again.”

“How can I talk to him?  I can’t see him.”

“That’s what faith is — believing in something you cannot see.  You believe the wind is real, don’t you?  Yet, you cannot see it.  You can see its effects as leaves rustle or a piece of paper blows down the street, and you can feel it blow your curls about but you can’t really see the wind.  It’s like that with Jesus, too.  When you have the faith to believe in him, you will be able to feel his presence.  You can see him in all of nature’s beauty.  you can talk to him just like you talk to me or Brad.  In the beginning, it helps to close your eyes while you talk to him.  It helps you to be able to focus and not to feel embarrassed or self-conscious.”

“I’m going to have to give it some more thought, but not tonight.  I’m tired.  Do you need anything before I turn in?”

“No, thank you.  I’ll be here on the couch if you need me.”

“Okay then, come on, Bo.  Good night, Bruce.”

“Good night, Lexie.”

Bruce spent the next hour in prayer, asking God to bring Lexie to the saving knowledge of the Lord, asking God to help him wrap this case up soon, and asking God to allow him to have Lexie as his wife.  Then he finally went to sleep.

Out of the Pit (Short Story — Day 6)

     Bruce got the finished sketch from the police department sketch artist on Monday morning.

     Saturday morning Bruce went to the apartment building where Kevin lived eight years ago.  He sat in his car in the parking lot and observed any activity in or out of any of the apartments.  When he saw a young woman coming out of the apartment right next door to Kevin’s, Bruce got out of his car and approached her.

     “Excuse me, Miss.  My name is Bruce Rivers.  I’m a detective with the police department.  Would you mind answering a few questions?”

     The young girl stuck her right hand in her jacket pocket, and said, “I guess so.”

     “Is the apartment next to yours occupied?”

     “Which side, A or C?”

     “Apartment C.”

     “Yeah.  Some creepy guy lives there.  Moved in about three months ago.  Guess nobody but a creepy guy would want to live there.”

     “What do you mean?”

     “Everyone in this apartment complex knows the story of that apartment.  I’m not thrilled about living right beside it, and I avoid the guy that lives there at all costs.”

     “What makes you think he’s creepy?”

     “First of all, he seemed eager to rent that apartment, and he leers at me.  You know, almost like he’s looking right through my clothes?  That’s why I carry this.”  She pulled her right hand out of her jacket.  In it, she was holding a taser.”

     “You carry a taser?”

     “You bet.  No creep’s gonna get the chance to kidnap, rape and murder me.”

     Bruce took the artist’s sketch out and showed it to the young lady.  “Have you ever seen this young man?”

     “No and that’s not the guy that lives next door.  The guy next door has dark hair and dark brown eyes.  He goes to the college down the street, and someone said he works at the coffee shop on campus.”

     “Thank you, Miss, uh . . .”

     “Sabrina.  Sabrina Duncan.”

     “Do you go to the college, Miss Duncan?”

     “No.  I graduated last year.  I’m working for Delmar Technologies down on Orange Street.”

     “One last question, Miss Duncan.  Do you know your neighbor’s name?”

     “All I know is his first name is Kurt or Keith, something like that.  Like I said, I try to avoid him.  Is he in trouble?”

     “Maybe.  Thank you again, Miss Duncan, you’ve been very helpful.”

     Bruce’s next stop was Grater College.  He went to admissions, showed the artist’s sketch and was told the young man’s name was Mitch Wakefield.  The lady checked his schedule and told Bruce that Mitch was currently in chemistry class and the class would be over in forty minutes.  Bruce asked for directions to the classroom as well as to the campus coffee shop.

     Bruce headed to the coffee shop.  He ordered a cup of coffee and noticed the young man’s name tag said “Keith”, but he had red hair and freckles.  He asked if there was a Kurt or another Keith that worked at the coffee shop.

     “I’m the only Keith, but there are two Kurts, Kurt Rathman and Kurt Bigler.”

     “Do either of them have dark hair and dark brown eyes?”  Bruce asked.

     “They both have dark hair.  I couldn’t tell you the color of their eyes.  I don’t pay that close attention to a guy’s appearance.”

     “Right.  Well, thanks, Keith.  Can you tell me when either of the Kurts are scheduled to work?”

     “Sure.  I’ll go check the schedule.”

     Keith went into the back and returned in a few minutes.  “Kurt Rathman works from 2 til 6 this afternoon, and Kurt Bigler works tomorrow morning from 7 til 11.”

     “Thanks, Keith.  Have a good day.”

     “No problem.”

     Bruce got to the chemistry classroom just as class was leaving out.  Mitch came out with a couple of girls.  “Excuse me, Mitch Wakefield?  May I speak with you for a few minutes?”

     Mitch looked at Bruce.  “Who are you?”  

     The girls kept walking and called “see ya later” to Mitch.  Mitch wasn’t happy about staying behind.

     “I’m Detective Bruce Rivers and I have a couple of questions for you.”

     “About what?”

     “You made a purchase at Pretty Posies Flower Shop last week, but the flowers weren’t from you, were they?”

     “Is it a crime to run an errand for someone now, Detective?”

     Bruce didn’t like this kid’s cocky attitude.  “That all depends.  Who did you run the errand for?”

     “Some guy.  He approached me in the cafeteria and asked me if I’d like to make some easy money, and of course, I was all ears.”

     “What’s the guy’s name?”

     “I never asked, and he never said.”

     “Didn’t you think it was odd that he wouldn’t make the purchase himself?”

     “Naw, he said he was doing a secret admirer thing, and he didn’t want to take a chance on the lady finding out who he was before he was ready to reveal his identity.  He gave me cash to make the purchase, plus fifty bucks cash for doing him the favor, so I wasn’t going to pry.”

     “Thank you, Mr. Wakefield.”  Bruce turned to go.

     “So, what’s the problem, Detective?”

     “Maybe nothing.  Just a routine investigation.”

Out of the Pit (Short Story — Day 5)

     After dinner, they played a game of Parcheesi in an attempt to relax a little.  Brad could tell that Lexie was very tired, so when he took his last piece into home and won the game, he suggested that he and Patty go home.  They both hugged Lexie, and Brad told her to get some rest.

     Lexie and Bruce moved to the living room.  They sat at opposite ends of the sofa and Bo lay on the floor between them.  

     “So eight years ago, you were a rookie on the police force.  Now you’re a detective.  Detectives don’t usually pull the babysitting jobs, do they?”

     Bruce grinned and said, “No, but I made the request and reminded the captain that the original case involving Kevin was the first big case I was involved in, and the captain is unaware of my feelings for you, so he granted the request.”

     Lexie’s cheeks grew pink and she shifted in her seat.

     “Don’t you mean past feelings?”

     “No, Lexie.  In eight years, I’ve never gotten over you.  I never met another woman who captured and held my attention like you do.  I’ve thought about you often and wanted to look you up, but . . .”  Bruce’s voice was husky and it grew softer and faded out on the last sentence.

     “But we don’t even know each other.  You just met me on that last night — the night Kevin’s secret came out and everything exploded.  You saw me fall into a place that I couldn’t get out of without the help of medicines and an institution.  You never knew the real me then, and you don’t know me now.”

     “I want to.  I know you feel something when our eyes meet and the electricity that happens when I merely touch your hand.  I’ve seen you react to both.”

     “I’ll admit that there is a physical attraction between us, but I haven’t allowed myself to dwell or act on feelings of physical attraction since . . . since Kevin.”

     “Living like that must be lonely and sad.  Don’t you think it’s time to take a chance again?”

     “I don’t know.  Maybe this is the only life I deserve after my past sins.”

     “You do know that your sins have been forgiven, don’t you?  But, you have to be able to forgive yourself, and if Christ loved you enough to die for your sins, who are you to continue punishing yourself for them?”

     “Are you a Christian?  Do you read the Bible and go to church?”

     “Yes, Lexie, I am a Christian.  I try to read my Bible daily, and I go to church most every Sunday, except for the ones I have to miss for my job.”

     “Brad and Patty do too.  As a matter of fact, Brad tried to set me up with the associate pastor of their church just a couple of weeks ago.  That’s probably why Brad wasn’t happy about you making a move.  I think Brad considers Pastor David what I need.”

     Before Bruce could respond, the telephone rang.  Lexie jumped and looked fearfully at Bruce.

     Bruce said, “It’s okay, Lexie.  I’ll turn on the tracer and then you answer the phone.  If it’s him, try to keep him talking for at least three minutes.”

     “I don’t know if I can do that.”

     “Yes, you can, Lexie.  You’re stronger than you think you are.”

     They arose from the sofa and Bruce went to the tracer equipment while Lexie moved to the kitchen phone with Bo right on her heels.  Bruce put on the headphones and flipped a switch, and Lexie picked up the phone.

     “Hello?”

     “Hi Kitten.  Did you like the flowers?  Were you surprised that I remembered?”

     Lexie’s hands were shaking, and when she spoke she could hear the quiver in her voice.  “The flowers certainly were a surprise.”

     “I miss you, Kitten.  Will you bring flowers and make dinner for us next Friday night?”

     “Where?”

     “You know the place.  You used to come every Friday eight years ago.  I can’t wait to hold you and kiss you again Kitten.  The yearning is growing unbearable.”

     “Please, tell me who you are and why you are doing this.”

     “Kitten, it’s me, Kevin.  Don’t say you’ve forgotten me, and remember, you are to be the queen at my table of ladies because you are my favorite and the most beautiful.”

     Lexie hung up the phone.  She was trembling all over and she began to cry.

     Bruce went and put his arm around her shoulders and led her back to the sofa.  When her crying reduced to sniffling, she asked, “Was that long enough?  Did you get it?”

     Bruce shook his head regretfully.  “But he asked you to meet him at the same apartment.  Could this guy really be stupid enough to use the same location?”

Out of the Pit (Short Story, Maybe — Day 4)

Detective Bruce Rivers and Officer Jerry Watts arrived about an hour later.  Bo greeted them at the door.  Bruce reached down and gave Bo a friendly scratch behind the ears.  “You have grown quite a bit since the last time I saw you.”

Bruce’s eyes met Lexie’s and he felt that familiar electrical spark shoot through him.  She was even more beautiful than he remembered from eight years ago.  He knew he had never gotten over her, but seeing her now, awakened all the old feelings:  love, desire, including the desire to protect her.  His arms ached with the desire to hold her and assure her that everything would be all right.

Lexie felt the connection and the electrical current between them as well.  The attraction was as strong as ever.  Bruce didn’t look much different than she remembered, though he had, obviously, built more muscle.  There was no doubt he was strong and physically fit.  Having him here brought all of the memories flooding back, memories that could push her over the edge again, and she didn’t want that to happen.  She was afraid that if she went over that edge again, she wouldn’t be able to find her way back.

Officer Watts went to work at setting up the phone tracing equipment, and Bruce approached Lexie, who was seated on the couch where Bo had returned to lay with his head in her lap.

“Lexie, it’s so good to see you again, though I wish it was under much happier circumstances.  Looks like this brute had been taking good care of you.”  Bruce grinned and patted Bo on the head.

“He’s one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.  I still remember how you showed up that day with him in your jacket, and he wouldn’t quit squirming and yipping until you pulled him out and placed him in my arms.”  Lexie smiled at the memory.

Bruce’s expression grew serious.  “Brad tells me someone’s frightening you with some strange phone calls.”

Lexie’s eyes never left his when she said, “Bruce, I know Kevin is dead, but whoever this caller is seems to know all about it.  He called me ‘Kitten’, said he misses me and said that eight years is a long time.  That’s the part that Brad heard.  I was glad that Brad was here to answer the second call because now he knows I’m telling the truth and not imagining things.”

Bruce reached out and covered one of her hands with one of his, and both he and Lexie were aware of the electricity in that touch.  “Lexie, whoever this creep is, we’re going to find him, I promise.”

Bruce then introduced Lexie to Officer Watts, and Officer Watts explained how the phone tracing equipment worked while Bruce spoke quietly with Brad.

Bruce and Brad both left around 2 a.m., and Lexie and Bo went to the bedroom to try to get some sleep.  Officer Watts bedded down on the couch.  He’d be a permanent fixture for a while as they waited to see if there would be any more strange phone calls.

——————————————————————————————————————-

Three days passed without incident and Lexie began to relax a little, until Tuesday afternoon.  A floral delivery person came into the bakery just before closing time and asked for Lexie Whitman.  He handed Lexie a bouquet of flowers, said, “Have a nice day,” and left.

Lexie unwrapped the bouquet and when she saw it, her hands began to shake.  It was a bouquet of eight white daisies and six yellow carnations with a single rose in the middle.  There was a card in an envelope.  Lexie was afraid to open it.

After a few minutes, she gathered her courage and tore the envelope open.  The card had been typed.  It read, “Kitten, it is time for you to take your rightful place, at the table, as the queen of my ladies.  I’ll be seeing you soon.  Love, Kevin”  Lexie fainted.

Someone was waving something with a strong odor under her nose and Lexie opened her eyes to find Brad, Patty and Bruce hovering over her.  “Lexie, are you okay?”

“I think so,” she said as she sat up.  “Who would want to do this to me?  That card was signed ‘Love, Kevin’, but I know Kevin is dead. Who else could know all of these details.”

“Is there a significance to the flowers?”  Bruce asked.

“I used to take a bouquet exactly like that to Kevin’s every Friday night to put in the center of the dining room table.”

“I’m going to the flower shop to ask some questions.  I’ll see you later, Lexie.”

“Okay, Bruce.”

Brad and Patty took Lexie home, and Brad called and ordered pizza delivery for dinner.

“Lexie, did Kevin have any close friends?”

“Not that I know of.  He was a loner except for the young women he chose.  That’s why he had his own apartment off campus.”

“What about siblings?”

“No, he was an only child.  His parents are rich.  His dad is a doctor and his mom is an artist.  The only time they spent with Kevin was once a year when they took extravagant family vacations.  The rest of the time Kevin was in boarding schools until he went away to college.”

“Well, those would be the most obvious possibilities.  I hope Bruce will have more ideas.”

“Where’s Officer Watts?  He’s usually waiting for me in the driveway when I get home from work.  He’s never been late.”

Someone knocked and Bo ran to the door, barking.

“That’s probably him now.  It’s too soon to be the pizza,” said Brad, who opened the door to find Bruce instead of Officer Watts.

“Lexie was just wondering where Officer Watts is.”

“I gave him the night off.  I’ll be staying tonight instead.”

Brad gave him a disapproving look.

“What?  It’s strictly in a professional capacity.  Don’t worry.”

“Sis, you okay with that?”

The thought of being alone with Bruce made Lexie’s pulse race, her palms sweat and caused butterflies to flutter in her stomach, but she knew Bruce took his job seriously.  “Yes, Brad.  I’ll be fine.”

The pizza arrived and they sat down to eat.  Brad told Bruce about the conversation he and Lexie had before Bruce arrived, and Bruce informed them that he might have a possible lead from what he found out at the flower shop.

“The clerk at the flower shop said a young man, about college age, made the purchase.  She said he paid cash, so there’s no credit card trail to follow, and he already had the card ready and in the envelope.  So I figure the creep making the phone calls got the kid to do his dirty work.  She had a pretty good description of the kid, which I gave to our sketch artist.  I’m hoping I can track the kid down and get some information from him, but it’s a long shot.”

Out of the Pit (Short Story — Day 3)

A week later Lexie was surprised when she was waiting on customers at the counter and David walked in the door.  He smiled when he saw her and she offered a small smile in return.

When it was his turn at the counter, David asked, “What would you recommend?”

“Well, if you like chocolate and peanut butter, the chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter creme filling and peanut butter icing are delicious.”

“I’ll take two with two cups of coffee, if you can join me for a few minutes.”

Lexie was due for a break, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to spend it with David.  She finally decided it would be a good opportunity to let him off the hook, so she said, “Okay.  I can take ten minutes.”

She gave David the cupcakes and one cup of coffee, collected his money,  grabbed a cup of coffee for herself and joined him at a small table in the back.

“I wanted to come by and check out the bakery since I’d never been here, and it gave me a good excuse to see you.”

“Look, David, you don’t have to pretend you’re interested in me and keep trying.  Brad will understand.  He knows that none of the guys he tries to set me up with ever work out.”

“Lexie, I’m not pretending.  You are a beautiful young woman, and after the discussion last week, I thought maybe you’d like to talk some more.  Maybe I could answer some more questions for you.”

“Didn’t your mother ever teach you that beauty is only skin deep?  You’re a nice guy but I don’t think we have much in common, and I really don’t think your Jesus is for me.”

“I think we may have more in common than you think. We may discover quite a bit, if we take the time to get to know one another.  We already share a love of dogs.  Why don’t we have dinner tonight?  You choose the place.”

“I’m really sorry, David, but I don’t think so.  Even if we found that we have a lot in common, you deserve better than me.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to work.”

That evening after Lexie had finished her dinner, she dug in her closet until she found the Bible her mother had given her when she was about ten years old.  She took it to the living room, put it on the coffee table and sat down and stared at it.  Bo sat next to her feet and looked at her quizzically.

“Don’t look at me like that.  It’s not like other books and I have no idea where I should start reading.”

She went to the kitchen and picked up the phone.

“Hello?”

“Hi Brad.”

“Lexie, how are you?”

“I’m fine.  I was just wondering, if I were to start reading the Bible, where’s the best place to start?”

The line was silent for so long that Lexie said, “Brad, are you still there?”

“Yes, yes, sorry Lex, I’m still here.  I would suggest you start with the book of John.  That book will explain what David talked about last week.”

“Okay.  Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.  Love you, Sis.”

“Love you, too.  Bye.”

“Bye.”  Brad hung up the phone, told Patty about the conversation, and they bowed their heads in prayer.

——————————————————————————————————————-

Lexie read from the Book of John every evening for the next week.  That Friday evening a thunderstorm hit the area.  Lexie sat on the sofa reading from the Book of John with Bo’s head in her lap, when the telephone rang.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Kitten.  It’s been a long time and I miss you.”  It was a raspy whisper.

Lexie slammed the phone down and began to tremble violently.  She picked the phone back up and struggled to keep it in her grip and dial the number.  Her hands were shaking so badly.

“Hello?”

“Brad, he’s coming for me.”  She was sobbing uncontrollably and the words were unintelligible.

“Lexie, is that you?  Honey, calm down.  I can’t understand you.”

Lexie’s sobs just grew more intense until they sounded like bad hiccups.

“Lexie, I’m coming over.”

Lexie clung to the phone even though the connection was broken.  She slid to the floor and hugged her knees to her chest.  Bo lay down beside her, whining.

Brad drove as quickly as he could in the storm.  His gut was clenched in a tight fist of fear.  He didn’t know why, but his sister was terrified and he knew it was more than the storm.  He prayed that God would protect her, as he drove through the pouring rain.

Brad arrived at Lexie’s door twenty minutes after receiving her call.  He knocked but got no response.  The only sound coming from inside was Bo barking.

“Lexie, it’s Brad.  I’m coming in, honey.”  He used his key to quickly let himself in.  Bo greeted him at the door and turned to run toward the kitchen, stopping, turning and barking for Brad to follow him.

Brad found Lexie sitting on the floor in the corner of the kitchen.  She was hugging her knees and trembling.  She was no longer sobbing but was staring without really seeing.  Brad squatted down in front of her.

“Lexie, it’s me, Brad.”

After a few seconds, her eyes seemed to focus.  “Oh, Brad!”  She threw herself into his arms and clung to him.

“It’s okay, Lexie, I’m here.  Can you tell me what happened?”

He held her for a long time until he could feel the trembling dissipate.  Then she pulled away from him just far enough to look in his face, but still clinging to his hands.

“It’s Kevin.  He’s back.  He called and said he misses me.”

Brad sat looking at her for a long time trying to determine whether or not Lexie was in her right mind.

“I know it sounds crazy, but the phone rang and when I answered, it was him.  he called me ‘Kitten’.”

“You recognized his voice?”

“No.  He spoke in a raspy whisper.”

Anger suddenly welled up inside of him.  Someone was playing a cruel joke on his sister, or was it something more?

“Lexie, it couldn’t be Kevin.  Kevin’s dead, remember?”

“But no one else ever called me Kitten.”

“He must have called you that around other people.  It can’t be Kevin.”

Lexie just looked at him with fear and tears in her eyes.

The phone rang and Lexie’s eyes grew larger in fear.  Brad picked up the phone but said nothing.

“Why’d you hang up on me, Kitten?  Haven’t you missed me?  It’s been eight long years.”

“Who is this?”  Brad demanded, and then he heard a click as the person on the other end hung up.

Lexie looked at Brad questioningly.

“It was that creep again.  I don’t know who it is but there’s no way it’s Kevin.  Kevin’s dead.”

Lexie wondered if he was trying to convince her or himself.

“What are we going to do, Brad?”

“I’m going to call Bruce.  Then I have to call Patty and let her know that I am here and that you are okay physically.”

Brad dialed a number.

“Detective Bruce Rivers please.”

A few minutes passed and then Brad said, “Bruce, it’s Brad, Brad Williams.  Yeah, I know, it’s been too long.  This should be a social call, but it’s not.  I’m with my sister right now.  She’s just received two calls from some creep acting as though he were Kevin.”

“Yeah, that Kevin.  These weren’t simple prank calls.  Do you think you could stop by in the morning?  I’ll stay here for the night.”

“Oh, okay.  See you soon then.”

Brad hung up the phone.

“He doesn’t want to wait until the morning.  He’ll be here with an officer and equipment to set up a tracer on your phone in about an hour.”

Out of the Pit (Short Story — Day 2)

Brad entered the living room with Lexie behind him.

“David, I’d like you to me my sister, Lexie.”

Brad took a side step so that David could see Lexie.  David extended his right hand to Lexie and she gingerly placed her right hand in his.

“Lexie, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Thank you.”  It was barely a whisper.

David was struck by her beauty.  She was petite and just a few inches more than five feet tall.  Her hair was a cascade of rich, auburn curls, her skin a flawless, creamy white.  But it was her eyes that held him captive.  They were like two deep indigo pools he could easily drown in, and yet, he could see such pain and sadness in those eyes that it caused his heart to ache for this beautiful, but obviously tortured, woman.

“Come and get it,”  Patty called from the dining room, and the spell was broken.  David released Lexie’s hand and they walked to the dining room.  David was happy to be seated across from Lexie so he could bask in her beauty while he ate, but he had to constantly remind himself not to stare.  He didn’t want to make her any more uncomfortable than she already was.

Lexie thought David was attractive, but she wouldn’t say “hot”.  He had sandy colored hair and light brown eyes with flecks of gold.  His eyes were kind, but they were also probing, and he had an air of self-confidence but not in excess, and there was something else . . .  He seemed to have a peace surrounding him.  That was the thing Lexie found most attractive about him.

“So, Lexie, Brad tells me you work at a bakery.”

“Yes.  Paulette’s Bakery and Pastry Shop down on Brindle Street.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever been there.  Have you been working there long?”

“Seven years.”

Brad noticed that Lexie wasn’t making it easy for David.  She gave short answers and asked no questions.

“Lexie, why don’t you tell David about your dog?  You like dogs, don’t you, David?”

“Why, yes, yes, I do.  We had a Bloodhound when I was growing up.  My father and brother liked to hunt.”

“I have a black Labrador Retriever.  His name is Bo.”

David noticed Lexie’s eyes light up a bit at the opportunity to talk about her dog, so they talked about Bo and dogs in general, until it was time for dessert.

After the deep dish apple pie and vanilla ice cream were served, Lexie said, “What kind of work do you do, David?”

“I’m a pastor.  Actually, I’m the associate pastor at the church that Brad and Patty attend.”

David saw the change in Lexie’s demeanor immediately.  She threw Brad a look that was both wounded and angry and the bit of relaxation she had shown in her posture was gone.  He also noticed a hint of guilt on Brad’s face, and dessert was finished in silence.

After dessert, they retired to the living room where David began the conversation.

“Do you attend church anywhere, Lexie?”

“No, Pastor, I don’t.  I don’t see a need for religion in my life.”

“It’s not about religion.  It’s about our Savior, Jesus Christ, and we all need a Savior.”

“But not everyone can be saved, can they, Pastor?”

David knew he must tread lightly on this subject with Lexie because it was obvious she thought that her sins were too grievous to be forgiven.  Now he understood a little better about the pain, sadness and anger that were in her eyes.  He was also well aware of her attitude change toward him as he was no longer “David” but “Pastor”.

“Yes, Lexie, sadly it is true that not all will be saved, but those who learn about Jesus and believe that He died for their sins will be saved.  It is very liberating to know and believe that Jesus died for your sins, as it lifts the heavy burden of carrying a multitude of sins from your shoulders.”

“Surely there are sins that are too bad or have been repeated too many times to receive such, uh, forgiveness?”

“No, Lexie, nothing is too big and nothing has been repeated too many times.  The Lord Jesus Christ died for all sin — the sins that were in the world while He walked among men and the sins of men and women who have not even been born yet.”

Lexie stared at David for a long time, not saying anything.  David held her gaze without faltering and silently prayed that God would let Lexie see that he was telling her truth.

After several minutes, Lexi rose from her chair.  She thanked Brad and Patty for dinner, told David it was a pleasure to meet him and excused herself.

When Lexie was out the door, Patty began to cry and Brad’s face broke into a big grin.

“Oh, David, what a blessing.  We have never been able to talk to Lexie that much about the Lord.  Thank you so much.  I’m sure you’ve given her something to think about.  We just need to continue to pray that the Lord will soften her heart toward Him,”  Brad said.

“I’m glad that she was willing to listen to as much as she did, and I will pray for her too.”

Lexie didn’t know why she had stayed and allowed David to talk to her about his religion.  She had never let Brad or Patty get farther than one sentence on the subject.  But there was something genuine and sincere about David, not that Brad and Patty weren’t but she thought it was different because she knew them so well and knew Brad before he knew the Lord.  It was clear that David really believed what he said, and he seemed so comfortable with himself.  Oh, how she wished she could be comfortable with herself.

Out of the Pit (Short Story — Day 1)

Bright lightning lit a jagged streak in the sky and the thunder rumbled long and loud.  Lexie was grateful for Bo, her big, black Labrador Retriever sleeping at the foot of her bed.  Lexie knew she wouldn’t be able to sleep during the storm, so she climbed out of bed, put on her robe and slippers and went to the kitchen and made herself a cup of coffee.

Lexie sat at one end of the sofa and Bo climbed up and lay with his head in her lap.  Every time the lightning flashed and the thunder cracked Lexie trembled, and Bo pressed his nose into her hand in an attempt to calm her.  Lexie was terrified of thunderstorms.

After a couple of hours, the storm finally passed and Lexie returned to bed to try to get a few more hours of sleep.

Lexie awoke just as the sun was climbing over the horizon.  She took a shower and got dressed for work.  She went to the kitchen, scrambled an egg, made a slice of toast and a cup of coffee.  She just sat down to eat, and the telephone rang.

“Hello?”

“Good morning, Sis.  You okay?”

“Hi Brad.  Yes, I’m fine.”

“But the storm woke you and you didn’t go back to sleep until it was over, right?”

“Brad, it’s no big deal.  The storm wasn’t that bad, and it didn’t last that long.  Besides, Bo was right by my side the whole time.”

“Lexie, you can’t keep living like this, and you need a man, not just that pathetic dog.”

“Bo is not pathetic.  He’s smart and he provides me with comfort and companionship, and he would protect me if he needed to.”

“Right.  He’d knock the culprit down and lick’em to death.”

“Brad, unless you called to do more than make fun of my dog, I need to go.  My breakfast is getting cold and I have to leave for work in fifteen minutes.”

“Okay, okay.  Yeah, I did call for a reason.  Patty and I would like you to come over for dinner on Friday night.”

Lexie groaned and said, “Let me guess, you’ll also have a nice, respectable man present as well.”

“Lexie, I’m only looking out for your best interests.  You know I want you to be happy.”

“I know.  What time is dinner?”

“Six.  See you then.”

“Bye.”

Lexie warmed her eggs in the microwave, ate quickly and left for work.  She worked at Paulette’s Bakery and Pastry Shop.  She baked breads, rolls, cupcakes, and cookies, iced the cupcakes and some of the cookies, and helped customers at the counter, when needed.  It wasn’t her dream job, but she didn’t really know what her dream job was, and working at Paulette’s suited her.

——————————————————————————————————————-

As Friday approached, the other girls that worked at Paulette’s were busy talking about dates they would have Friday night, and those that didn’t have dates planned to go to a local night club together.  They had given up asking Lexie to join them a long time ago because she had always refused.

“You got any plans for Friday night, Lexie?” Erica asked.

“Actually, I’m going to have dinner with my brother and his wife.”

“Not much chance of meeting a hot hunk of man there, huh?”

Lexie’s cheeks burned as she said, “No, not much chance.”  She was certain that whatever man Brad would invite would have no interest in someone like her.

“You do like men, don’t you, Lexie?” Erica persisted.

Lexie’s face burned hotter and she said, “Sure, I do.”

Erica and the other girls laughed and walked away.

——————————————————————————————————————-

Friday after work, Lexie took Bo for a walk, took a shower, and decided on a pair of jeans and a sky blue sweater from her closet.  She was nervous as she drove to Brad and Patty’s.

Lexie rang the doorbell.  Brad opened the door and greeted her warmly with a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

“You look great, Lexie.  You know that sky blue sweater reflects your blue eyes, making them look bluer.  Don’t worry.  Everything will be fine.  He’s not here yet, and Patty’s in the kitchen.”

Lexie was happy to join Patty to escape Brad and his conniving.

“Lexie, it’s so good to see you.”  Patty hugged her in greeting.  “How are you?  I hope Brad’s not pushing you too hard.”

“Brad’s always pushing me too hard.  He won’t stop until he has me married off to someone.”

“He worries about you, Lexie.  We both do.”

“I know, but I just don’t think I’m marrying material.”

“Don’t say that, Lexie.  I know that the traditional counseling didn’t help you much, but I wish you’d come to church with Brad and I.  I wish you’d give Jesus a chance.”

“Patty, we’ve had this conversation before.  There is nothing and no one who can help me.”

“Lexie, that’s not true.  You have to see how different Brad is since Jesus found him.”

“Yeah, and I’d love to be able to have the happiness Brad has, but Brad wasn’t in a pit as deep as the one I was in for such a long time.”

Brad walked into the kitchen at that moment.  He took one look at the misery on his sister’s face and the tears in his wife’s eyes and said, “Things are a bit tense in here, huh?  I thought we’re supposed to be having a pleasant dinner.  David is here.  He’s waiting for us in the living room.”

“Well, why don’t you introduce Lexie while I get everything on the table in the dining room?”

“Lexie, shall we?”

Lexie followed Brad, but he knew she had her fortress built around her heart and David didn’t stand a chance.  He whispered a prayer as he led the way to the living room.