Becky Melby lives in Burlington, Wisconsin. She married Bill, her high school sweetheart, 36 years ago and they were blessed with four sons, all of whom are married to amazing women and have gifted them with eight grandkids and another one on the way. Becky and her husband host and lead a Bible study on Sunday nights and they enjoy seeing the country in their motor home and rides on their Gold Wing. Reading and just being with family are Becky's top picks for fun. She started co-authoring with Cathy Wienke about fifteen years ago. They wrote three Heartsong Presents novels, Beauty for Ashes, Garment of Praise, and Far Above Rubies, which came out as a 3-in-1, Wisconsin Blessings two years ago. They also wrote a novella, Over the Wall, which came out in a Barbour Publishing 4-in-1 collection, Race to the Altar in 2007. They are currently working on another Heartsong series. This one is set in Minnesota and the first, Walk with Me, will come out in October of this year. On her own, Becky is working on a chic lit which she hopes to finish in a few months. Please come and visit at www.melby-wienke.com.
Susan Morris stared down at the phone, still warm from her hand, and dissolved into tears. She heard Jon striding toward the kitchen and dried her face with the dishtowel on her shoulder, knowing full well she wouldn’t fool him.
Jon’s eyes widened. He was carrying Kiley, ready for bed in her Veggie Tales pajamas. “Who was that? Is it your dad again?”
“It was Marissa.”
“Marissa? She hasn’t called in months! What happened?”
“She’s coming to visit tomorrow.”
“But she’s okay? Nobody died or anything?”
“She’s in town for a convention and has an opening in her schedule tomorrow.” Fresh tears stung her eyes. “So . . . I . . . invited her here f-for lunch.”
Jon grabbed a set of plastic measuring spoons for Kiley and set her on the floor. He wiped Susan’s cheek. “I’m sorry . . . I’m trying to understand, but my testosterone block isn’t allowing me. Your best friend from college calls after you haven’t seen her in two years and says she’s coming to visit and this is bad because . . . ?”
“I wish she would have given me more time.”
“Oh . . .” Jon nodded as if he’d finally gotten it. “The house doesn’t look bad. I’ll help you pick up after we get Kiley to sleep.”
“It’s not just the house. It’s me. I wish she would have given me time to grow my nails, get my hair cut, lose ten pounds, and get a part-time job so I’d have something more interesting to talk about than the price of Cheerios.”
Susan paced the kitchen with Kiley on her hip, checking the oven, the clock, and her reflection in the microwave as she waited for Marissa’s rental car to pull into the driveway. Jon was right; the house didn’t look bad. An hour of pick-up and fingerprint patrol had put things in order.
The doorbell rang at exactly eleven. Marissa swept in, gift bags and designer purse banging into Susan as the friends hugged. After Susan closed the door, the phone rang.
Marissa held her arms out for Kiley. “Go get it.”
“Everyone knows I screen. They’ll leave a message.” Susan bent her head toward the kitchen.
She heard a familiar voice speaking through the answer machine. “Don’t pick up, Hon. I know you’re busy, but could you do me a huge favor and look in the middle desk drawer and see if I left the checkbook? Thanks. Love you.”
Marissa laughed. “The joys of married life, huh? Go look. Kiley can give me the house tour.”
“Sorry. This’ll just take a minute.”
Susan ran into the den and opened the middle drawer. A piece of copy paper hid the contents. Scrawled across it were the words: Hi, Babe. I don’t really need the checkbook. I just
wanted you to know that I think you are more beautiful than the day we met. Look in the back of the silverware drawer.
Trying to tame her smile, Susan walked into the living room.
Marissa turned. “Do you need to call Jon?”
“No. Come into the kitchen while I get lunch on.”
“Can I set the table or something?”
“No!” Susan blushed, knowing she’d said the word a little too forcefully. “Entertaining Kiley is a huge help.”
“No problem.” Marissa walked around the kitchen, stopping at the crayon scribbles and the magnetic letters spelling out BEPGUMDEZITQH on the refrigerator, and the black-and-white family portraits hanging the faux-painted walls. “You’ve done a lot since I was here last. You’re good at this mommy stuff, Suse.”
Susan laughed, turning her back to Marissa as she discreetly pulled the silverware drawer all the way out. Way in back was another note: Have I told you recently how much I appreciate all you do for us? Look in the bottom right-hand drawer of the fridge. She stuffed the note in her pocket, closed the drawer, and turned to Marissa. “It comes pretty natural after the first few weeks.”
“I don’t think I could do it. I’ve been seeing this guy, Shaun. He’s starting to bring up the ‘M’ word.”
Susan set two wooden salad bowls on the counter. “Do you love him?”
“Yeah. I really think I do.”
“So what is it about marriage that scares you?”
“What doesn’t scare me? Losing me, my identity, for one thing.”
Opening the refrigerator door, Susan bent low and pulled open the bottom right-hand drawer. On top of the bag of lettuce was a note: Hi, Beautiful. I was staring at you in the moonlight last night and thinking how awesome my life is because you’re in it. I love talking to you, holding you, loving you . . . Look under the flour canister.
Susan blinked hard, folded the note, and pulled out the lettuce. “You’re not a chameleon, Riss. Being with the right guy in the right kind of relationship would only make you a better person.” She lifted Kiley into the high chair and motioned for Marissa to sit at the table. “I’ll get the lasagna.”
Before opening the oven, she quietly picked up the flour canister and read the note beneath it. My mother’s going to watch Kiley tonight. Be ready for a surprise when I get home.
Susan bit down on her bottom lip as she set the lasagna on the table. Marissa stared up at her. “I think my biggest fear is boredom. Predictability terrifies me. I envy your security; but I don’t want to give up the fun. I’m afraid I’d miss the game, you know? The flirting, the chasing, the thrill of the hunt.”
Susan concentrated on cutting straight lines in the lasagna. “Hey, I’m scared of boredom, too. It takes a little work, but the flirting and chasing doesn’t have to stop. Marriage doesn’t have to end the hunt.” She pulled the wad of folded papers out of her back pocket. “Sometimes the thrill just gets better and better.”