Katie Ganshert was born and raised in Iowa, where she currently resides with her husband, their nine month old son, and their black lab, Bubba. She keeps busy balancing her roles as wife, mother, 5th grade teacher, and writer. Although she fell in love with writing as a kid (her mother has crates of her stories stacked away in the basement), she didn’t start writing seriously until her son was born. She writes inspirational fiction, heavy on the romance. She is an active member of ACFW, dabbles in short stories, has completed three novels, and looks forward to writing more. You can find Katie at her website http://katieganshert.com/ or on her blog: www.katieganshert.blogspot.com.
I first saw her in the fragile moments before sunset, when the sky’s illumination cast its line out into the lake, fishing for the pinks and oranges sparkling from the water’s surface. She sat on top of a picnic table, her bare feet resting on the bench, and tipped her chin toward the sky. Hair the color of corn silk cascaded over her shoulders and the sun’s farewell turned her profile to the hue of glowing embers. I stood there, watching, wondering at God’s irony, until the sun disappeared behind the horizon and the water turned an inky blue.
When she reached for her sandals and spun toward the parking lot, her hand flew to her chest and her wide eyes gave way to a startled expression. She didn’t move until her hand detached from her breastbone. And even then, her steps were hesitant.
“Sorry for scaring you,” I said as she approached.
One corner of her mouth curled and she shrugged. “It’s a public beach.”
“Usually a deserted one, though.”
The other corner of her mouth tilted upward, completing her smile, and she stared at me through a thick cloak of dark lashes. “You come here often?”
A low chuckle emitted from my chest at the choice of her words.
She cocked an eyebrow. “What’s so funny?”
“Usually it’s the guy who throws out pickup lines.”
Her forehead wrinkled.
I addressed her confusion by repeating her initial question. “You come here often?”
The wrinkles disappeared. Laugh lines took their place, the kind that crinkled her eyes in the corners. “That is funny. But I promise, I wasn’t picking you up.” The mischief dancing behind her electric blue corneas caught me off guard. Was she flirting? My stomach rolled as if I’d stepped onto a fast-moving elevator.
Lord, I told you I wasn’t ready for this. Not yet.
Earlier that day, I’d promised my brother I’d get back out there. I assured him Emily hadn’t completely obliterated my heart. Only squashed it for awhile. I told Joe I needed to wait for it to reinflate before I attempted to give it away again. He told me that after a year, there was no reason it shouldn’t be back in working order. And then he said he would pray for me. I’d told him God was on my side with this one. Joe had just laughed. Like he knew better.
“So honestly, of all the beaches on North Lake, what brings you to this one?” she asked, looking around the rocky sand and thistles lining the shore. Not exactly postcard material.
“I could ask you the same thing.”
Her smile came easily. She stuck her hands in the pockets of her windbreaker, the straps of her sandals looped over her forearm. “It’s the best beach for watching sunsets. And a quiet place to pray.”
So that’s what she’d been doing in her serenity. Praying. Somebody was laughing. It was either God or Joe. Or maybe both. “What do you pray about?”
A slight breeze tousled her hair. She tucked the loose strands behind her ears and scrunched her nose. “Huh-uh. It’s your turn.”
“Okay then. I come here to find healing.”
She snorted, then slapped her hand across her mouth. An odd response to my honesty. “I am so sorry,” she said, her palm muffling her words.
I smiled despite my frowning eyebrows. “What’s so funny?”
Her hand fell away. “It’s just…. my name’s Jacey. It’s Greek.” She shifted her weight and dug her toes into the course sand. “It means healer.” When she looked up, patches of red bloomed across her cheeks and flushed down her neck, disappearing behind her zippered windbreaker.
She held up her hands. “No joke.”
Sometimes Joe said God had to chuck bricks at my head to get my attention. He said I didn’t know how to open my ears. Maybe he was right.
She took a few steps toward the parking lot, her bare feet meeting the pavement. I didn’t see any car but my own. “So now you can tell people you found it. When they ask.”
I turned, following her retreat. “Found what?”
“Healing.” She raised her hand and waved, a smile decorating her face as she walked away, her sandals still strung over her wrists.
“Hey Jacey,” I called, a shock of impulse rippling up my spine.
She stopped and looked my way.
“Do you want a ride home?”
She shook her head. “No thanks. I like walking. You spend your time.”
“Are you coming back?”
I could hear her laughter from across the parking lot. It floated toward me, warming my skin. “That’s the beauty of the sunset. It happens every day.”
“Maybe I’ll join you sometime.”
She lifted her hand again and sent me another wave. “See you sometime, then.”
I watched her go, another chuckle rumbling inside my chest, which didn’t feel so deflated anymore. Jacey. Healer. I walked to the lone picnic table, sat down, and looked across the darkening tide, eager for the sun to rise. Eager for it to make its worn trek across the sky so it would begin its lazy decent toward the horizon. Eager to watch the sunset unfold with Jacey. Joe was right. It was time to get back out there. A year after Emily, and God had brought healing.