Head in the clouds. Feet on the ground. Heart in the story. Christa Kinde is a cheerful homebody whose imagination takes her new places with every passing day. Making her home between misty mornings and brimming bookshelves in Southern California, she’s been writing for more than a decade, but the Threshold Series is her first foray into fiction. Learn about Christa’s books, Bible studies, short stories, weekdaily serials, and more at ChristaKinde.com.
Part Thirteen: Nice Guy
You can find Part 1 HERE
You can find Part 2 HERE
You can find Part 3 HERE
You can find Part 4 HERE
You can find Part 5 HERE
You can find Part 6 HERE
You can find Part 7 HERE
You can find Part 8 HERE
You can find Part 9 HERE
You can find Part 10 HERE
You can find Part 11 HERE
You can find Part 12 HERE
“Are you asking for my help, Captain?” asked Taweel.
Jedrick dragged his gaze away from the spot where Trumble was tutoring Marcus. Few could rival the silver-haired First One in close combat, but lessons had given way to a baffling game. Laughter rang through the glade as Marcus and the rest attempted to follow Trumble’s example, walking on their hands.
“Help. Advice. Insight. Anything.” Offering upraised palms, Jedrick said, “The better I know him, the less I understand him.”
How can I explain? His gaze returned to the young cherub in time to see him shed breastplate and boots before rejoining Milo, Baird, and Levi. Unencumbered, Marcus found his balance more quickly. My Sending is sure, but I cannot see the path before me. With a small nod, Jedrick said, “He talks, thinks, and acts in ways most cherubim never would.”
Jedrick ventured, “You were an overseer. Many names have come under your hand.”
“True. His experiences have shaped him. As did the Caretaker who found and raised him.”
Taweel’s eyebrows shot up.
Smiling faintly, Jedrick said, “Hence my plea. I am truly at a loss.”
The big Guardian huffed in amusement as Gideon—another of his Hedgemates—outdid the rest by flipping across the clearing in a series of backward handsprings. “You say Marcus is dissimilar,” said Taweel. “How would you describe typical cherub behavior?”
“We plan. We fight. We protect.”
“Marcus is … he can ….” Jedrick searched for words to describe the young warrior given into his keeping. “He talks. He struggles. He does try.”
Taweel huffed again.
Jedrick frowned. “You are amused?”
“You are alike.”
The Flight leader cast a sidelong glance at his apprentice, who dangled from his ankles in Gideon’s grasp. “Alike? What do you see?”
“Protectors plan; Marcus plans aloud.” Granted. Jedrick folded his arms. “Go on.”
“He struggles because he is a fighter.”
Jedrick slowly inclined his head. The challenges of a Graft are unique. His battles cannot compare to ours, but they are no less real.
“And any with eyes can see Marcus’s desire to protect those God has set in his path.” Taweel’s lips twitched. “That is why he tries so hard.”
“To be a cherub?”
“To be Faithful.”
Marcus could tell that Mr. Turnquist had been in charge of putting away the outdoor Christmas decorations. If his foster mother had done the job, the lights would never have been this tangled.
“Get it?” asked Landon.
“Yep.” Marcus handed over the strand of green lights he’d rescued from the chaos inside a red-and-green plastic storage bin. “Test them for me?”
“I got this!” His younger brother dragged the lights over to the outdoor outlet next to the kitchen door. They lit up, and Landon cheered. “Here’s another one for the tree!”
“Bring it over,” Mr. Turnquist called from his ladder.
Despite the mess in the bins, there was a method to how the Turnquists strung their lights. Multi-colored on the house, blue on the bushes, and green for the tree in the front yard. Earlier, Brianna had helped Flopsy poke a line of candy canes into the snow beside the driveway, but that was the limit of the girls’ outdoor involvement.
“Can you find any more blue?”
“Yep, I see some,” replied Marcus. “Hang on.”
Russ came outside and shuffled over to chat with Mr. Turnquist. Marcus could hear the old man talking about his church’s advent services and the upcoming Christmas concert. Mr. McIntey attended the big Presbyterian church on Main Street, the one with stained glass windows set into gray stone. Although Marcus searched for some sign of curiosity on Mr. Turnquist’s face, he only found polite disinterest.
Landon was another matter.
“Will Santa be there?”
“Nope,” Russ replied easily. “We mostly have singing and instruments.”
“Like ‘Jingle Bells’ and stuff?”
“And stuff. These songs are older, and they’re all about Jesus.” Russ gently added, “At Christmas, we celebrate His birthday.”
“Oh, there’s refreshments, sure enough. The ladies of the church always put out plenty for everyone.” The old man tried to steer the conversation back toward God. “Do you know the Christmas story? About the angels, the shepherds, and the wise men?”
Landon perked up. “Is there sheep? I seen sheep in a zoo once.”
Russ rubbed his chin, then chuckled. “We don’t have any, but if your folks have time, the Baptist church over on the east side of town does a living nativity. I go every year. Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
“Can we go?” Landon asked, tugging at Mr. Turnquist’s coat.
“Check with your sister. Brenna likes that sort of thing.”
“In the meantime, I have a nativity set on my dining room table.” Russ said, “If your dad doesn’t mind, I can show you.”
Mr. Turnquist shrugged. “Little statues of all the players from the story Mr. McIntey’s talking about. You can go if you want.”
Landon cheered, and Russ followed him back inside.
“You can go, too, Marcus. If you want a break.”
He shook his head. “That’s okay. I know the story.”
His foster father’s eyebrows lifted slightly. “You’ve stayed with religious families before?”
Marcus was prevented—or perhaps spared—from answering by their new neighbor. Sheldon sauntered out the side door of Russ’s house and angled their way. “Hey, that’s lookin’ good!” he said. “We’ve been doing Christmas sets all week, but I miss this part of the holidays. Can I lend a hand?”
“Jump right in,” Mr. Turnquist said. “Marcus could probably use the help.”
Sheldon ambled over, and Marcus mumbled, “Sorry. This is pretty much a wreck.”
“Not a problem. I’ve untangled so many power cords. Certain members of our band don’t have the gift of tidy.”
“One of those guys who helped you move in?”
“Two of them,” Sheldon said with a lopsided grin. “Baird and Levi are exponential.”
They shared a laugh and grappled the remaining knot of lights. Somewhere along the way, Sheldon began humming “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” and Marcus couldn’t resist joining in.
Sheldon shot him a look and amped up his volume.
With a smirk, Marcus matched him note for note, only to have his soul squeezed by delight when Sheldon dropped to a harmony line. Nice and tight and tinged with the joy of discovery.
After their duet played itself out, Sheldon asked, “Ever done any Christmas caroling? Our church does the neighborhoods down in Harper every year. You’d be welcome.”
“Baird would flip. You wouldn’t believe how shy some guys are about singing.”
Marcus grinned but shook his head. “Probably not, but thanks.”
“So … Russ says you’re more than just a good kid.”
“He talked about me?”
“He loves you.” Sheldon explained, “His last tenants weren’t believers, and I think it hurt his heart some. So he made a point of finding a renter who shares his faith. And that’s me.”
“You’re a Christian.”
“Without apology. How about you?”
Marcus’s joy soared even higher at the young man’s plainspoken manner. “I’d follow Jesus anywhere.”
“That’s cool. We have all the important parts in common.”
“Mind if I ask you a personal question?”
“Go for it.”
“What’s it like, being a foster child?”
Marcus shrugged. “Different.”
Sheldon frowned slightly. “Different than what?”
“Huh. You know, family isn’t always about blood ties.” With a cautious glance in Mr. Turnquist’s direction, he asked, “Do you like it here?”
“Yep. This is a good place, and I’ll stay if I can.” And because he figured Sheldon would understand, Marcus said, “But living here hurts my heart some.”
A sigh. A slow nod. “They’re not believers.”
“But they have you,” Sheldon offered.
“And they have Russ.”
“Yep.” But the Turnquists had been tuning out Russ McIntey’s faith for years. But something’s changing. God was clearly at work. Marcus quietly added, “And now they have you.”
“Sheldon, is it?” Mike Turnquist came over to offer his hand. “Won’t you stay for dinner?”
“Wish I could, sir, but I have work. Another time?”
As Mr. Turnquist fished for alternate evenings, Marcus’s thoughts turned inward … and heavenward. One became two. Two became three. This gathering of the Faithful is God’s hand at work, but I don’t understand His strategy. If only he could see a clear path before him. I’m here. Send me.
But the expectant silence in his heart went unanswered.
Marcus had been keeping a closer eye than usual on his older sister. He could tell Brenna wasn’t enjoying the seasonal festivities, although she kept up a pretense for Flopsy’s sake.
She might disguise her hurt from the others, but she couldn’t hide from the younger brother who saw the world through heaven’s eyes. Dropping beside her on the couch, Marcus rested his elbows on his knees. “Yo.”
Brenna’s smile was so brittle, he was sure it would break.
“You okay?” he asked.
“Not buying it.”
Her expression shattered, and she shook her head.
“He came into the store this morning. And he didn’t see me.”
“You hid from the guy?”
“No.” Brenna blinked back tears. “I was right there, ready to face him with a smile. But he pretended I wasn’t there.”
“He ignored you?”
“I might as well have been invisible.” Anger put steel under her tone. “It was like he threw a switch and turned off the charm. Guess I’m not worth the effort anymore.”
Marcus poked her arm. “It’s good you can see the truth.”
“I know, I know,” she grumbled. “But why does it have to hurt so much?”
“Because you loved him for real. And because you’re not the kind of person who can throw a switch.”
She grabbed his hand and squeezed. “Was that a compliment?”
“Caring’s good.” Marcus squeezed back. Caring for the right things is better.
Next Month: Angel Unaware, Part 14: “Night Guard”