Stephanie’s foot slipped on something slick on the floor. She had come to expect at least one slip per day as she hustled through the busy café at peak hours.
“Hey, Steph!” one of the regulars yelled. “How ‘bout a warm up?”
Stephanie lived in a small town where everyone knew everyone, and unfortunately, everyone knew everyone’s business as well. After moving there two years ago, the fresh-out-of high school grad had learned to keep her thoughts to herself. She protected her past and present for fear she’d be the next victim.
The refill poured, she hightailed it to the kitchen to pick up her next order. Suddenly, the purr of the morning conversations was interrupted by the slamming of the front door by the newest resident in town.
Jake Saunders had arrived via motorcycle six weeks earlier. Stephanie wouldn’t necessarily call him a drifter, but he had an air of mystery about him. His rugged good looks and the way he navigated his six foot plus frame stirred an interest whenever she saw him. Mentally she put a clamp around her heart; then headed toward the kitchen.
Stephanie grabbed her order pad and made her way to Jake’s table. This would not be easy. On his last visit, he had invited her to the local county fair; an invitation she declined. He seemed just a little out of her league and fear struck a chord each time he asked.
“Good morning, sunshine,” his voice echoing across the café.
“What would you like?” seemed to be an opening Jake couldn’t overlook.
“Well, how about going out to dinner with me Friday night?”
“You know perfectly well what I meant, Jake. What would you like to order for breakfast?” Stephanie asked avoiding eye contact with the blue-eyed, fair-haired young man. To do so might activate the butterflies waiting to bounce off the walls of her stomach.
Jake placed his order, but didn’t leave it at that. “So, you didn’t answer my question Stephanie. How about dinner Friday night?”
“I gotta get this order in, Jake,” she said as she flipped her hair out of her eyes and darted her way back to the kitchen.
The sudden thought of commitment sent a shiver of panic up Stephanie’s spine. Her past had put a real damper on what and who she would let into her life. The abandonment she felt when her dad had left the family home remained overwhelming; leaving Stephanie to take care of her mentally ill mother until her death two years previously.
“Order up” rang out from the kitchen. She tucked the unpleasant memories away and thought “Perhaps I should give Jake a chance,” but that fell as flat as the pancakes Jake had just ordered.
Time passed as weeks turned into months. Jake was consistent with his desire to have their café relationship turn into something more. Stephanie finally relented. The flutter of her heart each time she saw him was something she tried to avoid, but it had become a constant with her.
Stephanie consistently avoided Jake’s questions about her past and why she was so protective of her heart. She couldn’t bring herself to tell Jake she didn’t trust anyone, least of all a man. Perhaps one day.
One late afternoon as the sun was on the horizon, Stephanie aimlessly rode her bike down to the waterfront. She pushed the kickstand into the sand and walked along the water’s edge. She looked out into the mammoth ocean knowing God had created the beautiful wonder before her eyes. She fell into the sand making knee prints. With tears streaming down her porcelain-skin face, she opened up her heart to God. “Dear Heavenly Father, please help me to understand my feelings of abandonment. I can’t do this alone. Jake is becoming an important part of my life, but I’m frightened. Will he abandon me like my father did?”
Her prayer incomplete, she brushed the sand from her knees and began walking further along the orchestrated water. Its rhythmic motion was soothing to her soul. It was long in coming, but finally Stephanie felt at peace as the waves tickled her shoeless toes.
She looked out into the endless abyss. The peace that had been elusive suddenly overwhelmed her. Stephanie’s search was over as she heard, “I will guard your heart!” With a smile forming on her earlier down-trodden mouth, she knew God had put a stamp of approval on her relationship with Jake.
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