Elaine Stock, having majored in psychology and sociology, enjoys exploring the various tangles in family relationships. A member of ACFW and its Northeast chapter, she has also attended the Algonkian Workshop. Elaine and her husband live in upstate New York, minutes from the Berkshires. With much imagination, they have restored a railroad station from the 1800's and call it home. Elaine can be reached at estock [at] fairpoint [dot] net.
“If you’re Marley, I’m sorry I’m late.”
Marley smiled. “And if you’re Billy, time doesn’t matter. I’m glad you’re here.”
Following their hearts, and ignoring advice from family members that it was too soon, a starry-eyed Marley and a smiling Billy married six months later on a frosty New Year’s Eve. While Marley completed her dental-hygiene classes a semester early and went to work at a popular dental practice, she didn’t think twice about Billy’s taking an extra two years to graduate from pharmacy college. Everyone had their own pace.
Billy repeatedly overslept in the mornings and arrived home late at night. Marley shook off her brewing anxiety, trusting that God knew what He was doing.
Why think poorly of a husband who brought home apricot-frosted roses when late for their “date night” dinner? Why gripe about a man who fetched mint chocolate chip ice cream for her sore throat an hour after rescuing the neighbor’s kite tangled in the red and golden leafed maple tree?
Two years after they married, denial morphed into anger.
Billy worked as a pharmacist for a rehabilitation hospital. With an updated kitchen, car payments, and Marley beginning work at a new dental clinic, Billy couldn’t risk his cushy job by arriving late. Never fear, Marley to the rescue.
“Billy, the alarm’s set for five.”
“That’s overkill. I start work at ten.”
“You touch the set time and you’re a dead man.”
After their fifth anniversary, bargaining moved in like an unwelcome houseguest.
While surfing the Net for vacation ideas, Billy discovered Hawaii and its swaying palm trees and sandy beaches. “Honey, look at these resorts!”
“Why bother? We’ll arrive late to the airport and miss the plane. As well as the next departing flight.”
“You’re exaggerating. We can make this happen.”
Despite Billy’s disrespect of time, Marley wanted so badly to love the man she was convinced God had paired her with. She seized the moment. “If you go an entire month without being late, I’ll not only plan a vacation to paradise, but I’ll buy you a stack of flowered shirts to kick off the trip.”
“Forget the shirts and you have a deal. I’ll be on time every single day, even if it kills me.”
The next day Billy’s mother, who lived one block away, phoned to complain he was late. Wanting to believe Billy wouldn’t dare renege on the vacation-of-a-lifetime deal, Marley hit the pavement in search of her husband.
An ambulance squealed. Her heart pounded against her ribs when she saw the vehicle halt in front of the bank.
Even if it kills me, Billy had uttered during his promise to be on time for a month.
Marley’s arms pocked with gooseflesh. Please, God, may it not be Billy dead from a heart attack. I want him alive beside me for years to come . . . whether or not he’s on time.
Into the bank she followed the medics at close clip. Instead of Billy sprawled on the floor, Marley saw a scrawny teenage girl
struggling for breath. An older girl, indentifying herself as the girl’s sister, said an inhaler was left behind at home.
Marley found Billy two doors down in a coffee house chugging double lattes with his friend Jack. She murmured praise to God, but left without a word to Billy. That man would never change.
Marley struggled with depression.
She was pregnant.
She wanted a child, Billy’s child. What she didn’t want was a husband fighting with her over the subject of time.
Marley’s unease veered an unexpected turn when she miscarried two months later. In a flash, Billy embraced her in soothing comfort.
“I love you, Marley. We’ll have other babies. I’m here for you, always.” He held her for countless minutes. For the first time in their marriage, time did not matter to Marley. Billy loved her. God loved her.
Depression over Billy’s struggle with time turned into acceptance. Her husband was loving, kind, generous, and faithful. He wasn’t a drunk, a gambler, or a criminal. He operated on his own unique internal clock, one that permitted him to sail through life to the best of his ability.
Twenty years slipped by. God was good to Marley and Billy, blessing them with three healthy children.
One blustery winter day, Marley waited for Billy to arrive home from work. She practiced a new relaxation technique as the sixty minutes ticked past his due time. When he finally came indoors, he handed her a small white envelope.
She stared at the mysterious offering, and then at Billy. “What’s the occasion?”
“I love you, that’s all.”
She kissed him. “That’s everything.”
Marley withdrew two roundtrip airline tickets to Maui. Staring at them, she whooped, causing the five-month old puppy to yip. The cat bolted from the room.
Billy fanned his fingers through Marley’s hair. “I may work on my own time clock, but eventually I get to my destination.”
“It’s about time,” she said through tears of joy.
On the day of their departure for sunshine and fun, Billy was late from running one last errand. When the mantle clock chimed on the quarter hour, Marley stood, her bottom pins and needles from sitting on the packed red suitcase. They’d never make it to the airport on time. She’d have to pick up the kids from her mother’s, then return to work the next day.
About to grab the phone, she paused when Billy unlocked the door. He smiled like a king without worries. Before she could argue how he’d ruined yet another special occasion, in stepped a man dressed in navy blue livery.
“I wanted to do something special for us.” Billy gestured toward the road where a shiny black Cadillac sat double-parked. “Our limo awaits us.”
Billy had arrived home, just in time, according to God’s timepiece.