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					Eleanor Kirk              P.O. Box 249, Cottonwood, AZ, 86326               (928) 646-3572
                               eleanorkirk@hotmail.com
                                     October 24, 2004


Re: A Desperate Silence
A Desperate Silence is the story of Jillian Tasaki, a beautiful, talented Christian wife,
who knows that God hates divorce, but the day her eye hemorrhages from the stress of
living with a man who refuses to talk to her, she wrestles with the dilemma of how
strictly to interpret that prohibition.

Although her seemingly perfect family, youth leader husband, super achieving sons and
adopted daughter, is the envy of her small Hawaiian church, Jillian is alone, locked into a
desperate silence by an awful secret. When her husband suggests she see a Christian
therapist, she tells the counselor of the childhood molestation that left her feeling too
contaminated to relate to others, a human machine dedicated to pleasing God to gain his
acceptance.

As she loses the vision in one eye, Jillian‟s spiritual eyes are opened. Convinced by her
therapist that God already loves her just the way she is, she steps out of her machine
mode into a living relationship with her heavenly Father and invites the Holy Spirit into
her life. The tidy house on Lanai Street soon becomes a spiritual battlefield. Her husband
and son stop attending church, but after she rebukes the demon tormenting her adopted
daughter, the girl is baptized.

When Jillian‟s husband buys an apartment and moves out, she has abandoned her
perfectionism enough to understand that God actually makes provision for divorce.
Suitcase in hand, she bids farewell her island home and boards a jet bound for a life of
freedom in Christ.

This 110,000 word novel is complete and available on disk.

I am a freelance writer, high school teacher and member of the Sedona Christian Writers
Guild. Dr. Ronda Chervin published a few pages from this novel in the e-anthology
Images of Grace.

Sincerely,



Eleanor Kirk
                                        Chapter 1



       The tidy little house on Lanai Street hadn‟t experienced a peaceful evening in

weeks, but Jillian had thus far managed to hide her turmoil from its other inhabitants.

Tonight was different. If she had been a pressure cooker, the safety valve would have

blown ten minutes ago. She tried to muffle the moans she could no longer suppress as she

rocked back and forth on the cane-backed dining chair, long, slender fingers over her

eyes. A mug of raspberry tea cooled, forgotten on the corner of a bright yellow placemat

where a heavily underlined Bible lay open before her. She closed it gently. I can’t look

again -- not now! Why is this happening to me? Wrapping her arms protectively about

her queasy midsection, she rose and turned to stare out the open window. Across the

silent, tree-lined street, a sliver of moon cast a silver glow on the glassy waters of

Hawaii‟s Kaneohe Bay.

       A tall, slender figure in a white nightgown, she tucked the shiny, chestnut curls

that fell to her shoulders behind her ears and held her breath to listen to the soft murmur

of her husband Don‟s snuffle. Sound carries well on the damp, ocean air, she thought. I

mustn’t make any noise that might awaken him or one of the children.

       With a sigh of resignation she slumped into her chair, opened her Bible and

forced herself to look at Psalm 23. An anguished sob escaped the lips she had pressed so

tightly together. The lines still curve downward. That has to mean new veins are again

growing in the retina of my left eye. She put a protective hand over her stomach, which

felt as though she‟d just swallowed a good-sized rock. Oh God, I don’t want another

laser surgery that leaves another blind spot.
       She dug her toes into the green shag carpet and stared at the mug of raspberry tea

she‟d made to calm her roiled stomach. She dipped a finger into the berry brown liquid—

lukewarm. Why do I keep waking up at 2:00 a.m.? Why do I feel so empty? I won’t be

facing an empty nest for years. Her eyes followed the familiar lines of the green and

yellow wallpaper. After twenty years in this house, she suddenly felt as though the walls

were closing in on her.

       “What‟s the matter?”

       Startled, she looked up to see Don squinting in the light, almond eyes mere slits

beneath a tousled, mass of wavy, jet-black hair. His baggy blue pajamas straightened

slightly as he pulled himself up to his full five foot one and three-quarters inches. She

trembled with hope. Would he listen?

       “It‟s my eye.” Her voice sounded strangled. “I‟m seeing curved lines again.” He

stood silent as a statue in the moonlight, his dark, handsome face an inscrutable mask.

“Please…I might not feel so anxious if you‟d talk to me. This silence is killing me.”

       The wrinkled pajamas twitched slightly. Then he turned, mumbling. “No, I don‟t

….” She couldn‟t hear the rest. He disappeared down the darkened hall, leaving her

alone. She shook her head to clear her thoughts. How silly of me to hope he’d listen. He

wouldn’t even listen to my secret when we were courting. An persistent thought wrestled

its way to center stage. My “perfect family” is an illusion. She let her eyes wander over

the kelly-green couch and bright yellow chairs in the next room as she wondered why

she‟d never realized that before. Scanning her memory for the first inklings of this all-

too-obvious fact, she realized she‟d had a suspicion fifteen years earlier, the day before

Jeremy was born. She let herself remember.
       Cross-legged on the shag carpet in front of her mirrored closet doors, she had

watched her vast stomach ripple with the baby‟s exuberant movements as the sweet,

lemony smell of plumeria blossoms wafted in on a gentle breeze that fluffed the sheer

white curtains. Outside, a cardinal chirped insistently. Hawaii was a beautiful place to

live, and she‟d always known that Don, who grew up in the islands, would never be

happy anywhere else. She rocked gently back and forth as she spoke, more to the air than

the bulging woman in the mirror. “How was I to know that he‟d spend the time left over

from his busy teaching schedule working at the hospital?” She rubbed her ripe midsection

as her eyes filled with tears. Bowing her head over her squirming middle, she prayed,

“Lord, please help me. I can‟t make it by myself. I feel so alone…so depleted.”



       Forcing herself from her reverie, Jillian walked to the sink and dumped the cold

tea. Yes, that was the first time I let myself think that something might be wrong. Plopping

the soggy teabag back into the cup, she added hot water. A faint smile curled her lips as

she remembered the warm joy that had filled her when she held Jeremy‟s warm, sturdy

body in her arms. She sipped the hot liquid, scarcely aware she was doing so. Fifteen

years was a long time to bottle up the things she needed to say, and tonight she felt as

though she might explode if she couldn‟t abandon the illusion of perfection long enough

to tell one human being of the ache in her heart, an ache so all-encompassing that she

could no longer paint a veneer of hope over it. God, have you abandoned me too, she

wondered as she set the empty cup gently down in the sink.
          She sat down at the table determined to think, to find a way out of this monstrous

illusion. Two weeks earlier she‟d had a plan. Fingering the woven yellow placemat, she

forced herself to remember. Her plan had been born of pain. Not that anything had

happened. Nothing ever happened. Life went on as always, everyone else connected with

one another while she remained excruciatingly separate. She‟d waited patiently for Don

to find time for her, but before he finished one project, he started another. After years of

waiting, she determined to talk to him. Two weeks ago, when the boys had grabbed their

sleeping bags and headed up a nearby hill, she seized the moment.

          Don had been sitting in the chair opposite hers, watching through the window as

the last of the sunset pinks and purples faded from the sky. She handed him a tall glass of

fresh-squeezed orange juice, and he twirled the tumbler in his small hands, playing a

bright, tinkling tune with the ice cubes.

          She took a deep breath. “There‟s something I‟d like to discuss with you.”

          “Uh-huh.”

          She leaned forward, trying to sound nonchalant. “I was wondering how you‟d rate

our marriage on a scale of one to ten.”

          The tinkling stopped abruptly. He stared at the table as wrinkles creased his

tanned forehead. Jillian held her breath as he laced his short, brown fingers. “About a

three.”

          Her mind reeled. He knows! Maybe there’s hope. Urgency edged her words.

“Would you like to talk about what we could do to make it better?”

          “No,” he said flatly. “I don‟t want to talk about it.”
       Her heart turned to stone, but she couldn‟t give up, not yet. “I can understand that

you don‟t want to talk about it now, but maybe you could give me some idea of when we

could discuss it. In two weeks? A month? Or …?”

       His eyes wandered to the window. “I said, „I don‟t want to talk about it.‟” He

emphasized each word without raising his voice. Don never raised his voice. The echo of

ice on glass resumed as he sipped the last of his juice, placed the empty tumbler in the

sink and walked away. Her long-awaited conversation was over—before it began! The

defeat stung bitterly. He’s locked me back in solitary confinement, she thought, but this

time there’s a small light in my cell, the realization that he knows the marriage is in

trouble.

       That night Jillian had curled up on the couch numbly clutching her Bible. Like a

thousand dollar vase blown over by the wind, her precious “Plan A” lay shattered. She

didn‟t have a “Plan B,” not yet. Opening her Bible to the book of Ephesians, she read,

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord, for the husband is

the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church.”

       Next, she reached for The Christian Home, a small volume the church considered

a definitive marriage manual. “Wives should discuss their marital problems only with

God or, in dire need, a woman from the congregation,” she read. That would be fine if I

had a woman friend, but I don’t have any friend, unless you count the man who teaches

at the church school. “What do you want me to do, Lord?” she whispered. “I see only

two alternatives, divorce and death. The Bible says you hate divorce.” She waited for an

answer that didn‟t come. “All right then. Divorce is out of the question.”
       The words of surrender that had sounded noble two weeks earlier now produced a

deep sense of horror. Invisible iron bands seemed to squeeze the breath from her lungs.

“Lord, help me,” she gasped; “I don‟t want to die! I‟ve got to talk to someone.”

       A prominent psychologist who specialized in families instantly came to mind. She

had seen his film series, listened to his radio programs and read his books. He is a man,

she reasoned, but writing a letter is not the same as talking. With a sigh of relief she

snatched a packet of notebook paper from the file cabinet and placed several sheets

before her. “Dear Doctor….” As she wrote, her thoughts spewed out with the force of

molten lava fountaining into the night sky. To her amazement, the jumbled mass landed

on the paper neatly organized.

       “My husband‟s love and respect seemed to have ended when I no longer brought

home a paycheck. Don‟s the only child of a doting mother who, though very poor, gladly

scrimped to give him every expensive toy he wanted, from amateur radio equipment to

flying lessons. Now he seems to expect the same from me. I cut the family‟s hair, bake

bread, cook from scratch, sew our clothes, make drapes, reupholster the furniture and buy

my clothes at the Goodwill.”

       The faint scratch of pen on paper was strangely comforting. She felt a little less

alone with each page she filled. After the fourth page she stretching her arms and

indulged in a protracted yawn.

       “He seems dissatisfied with my efforts,” she wrote, “even though the money I‟ve

saved has allowed him to travel to Alaska, Samoa, New York and California. He‟s

revived his interest in amateur radio and undertaken more expensive hobbies like

SCUBA diving and sailing. Although he‟s gladly paying slip fees for his twenty-five-foot
sailboat, there‟s no money for the load of dirt I want to fill in the back yard.” She put the

pen down to massage the kinks in her neck as a rooster crowed in the distance.

Compelled to finish, she picked it up in her cramped fingers.

        “Don‟s mother Victoria selected our beautiful model home before we arrived in

Hawaii. She owns half of it, even though he‟s easily able to make the payments. I‟ve

painted the house several times. Don refuses to make repairs. When forced to fix

something, he acts resentful for days. He rarely mows the lawn and won‟t ask the boys to

do it. The kitchen steps have crumbled. The bathtub is rusted through. The yard‟s a

jungle. I haven‟t grumbled because I want to be submissive, Christian wife, but I seem to

be trapped in a desperate silence. What should I do?”

        Done! She felt an anticipatory tingle as she signed her name, carefully creased the

pages of flowing script and slipped them into an envelope. Then she crept into bed beside

the snoring Don feeling felt calm enough to take a quick nap before the alarm went off

and another perfect day began for the “perfect family.”



        Deftly knotting her favorite royal-blue scarf, Jillian pinned it securely to one

shoulder of her white blouse, tossed her reddish brown curls into a carefully orchestrated

jumble and fingered a few wispy bangs over her forehead. She scowled at her reflection

in the vanity mirror. Those black circles under my eyes make me look like a zombie. On

her way through the kitchen, she scooped her keys from the counter and donned her

sunglasses.

        Liz, chomping her way through a monstrous bowl of granola, called out, “Bye,

Mom.”
       “Bye, yourself. Don‟t forget to lock the door when you leave.”



       Jillian scarcely noticed the sparkling, silver waterfalls an early rain had splashed

into each crevice of the green velvet slopes of the Koolau Mountains. Distorted letters

leered at her from each sign she passed, unrelenting reminders of her dismal dilemma.

Soon the invisible iron bands squeezed her chest so tightly that her breath came in

shallow gasps. Emerging from the Pali Tunnel, she let her eyes wander from the Waikiki

shoreline, jagged with high-rises, to an inky blue horizon, as distant as her hopes. Just get

me through this day, Lord. I’m so tired.

       The moment she began to climb the stairs at Hirakata University, the oppressive

tightness in her chest was gone. Taking an exuberant breath, she bounded up the second

short flight and fairly skipped into the office. A pudgy colleague looked up from the tiny

sign-in desk. “Wow, Jillian, that scarf is gorgeous. You look like a model in that outfit.”

Professor Tasaki sighed with relief. At work she could relax. She knew exactly what was

expected of her and accomplished it with excellence. Her Japanese students spoke

Spanish with flawless accents and wrote it almost as well as the English they‟d studied

for a decade.

       Teacher mode carried her through the day, but as she drove to her emergency eye

appointment that afternoon, the iron bands again tightened across her chest. Panting, she

pushed open the mauve door of Dr. Liu‟s fourth-floor office and submitted to the familiar

routine: burning drops in both eyes followed an hour wait in a darkened cubicle. Every

dismal scenario she could imagine had paraded across the giant screen of her mind in

vivid Technicolor before the specialist, a slight middle-aged man in a white lab coat,
strode purposefully into the room and scrutinized her eyes in silence. “I‟ll need a

fluorescein angiogram before I can give you an accurate diagnosis. Get your pictures

taken today. We‟ll discuss the results tomorrow.” Here we go again.

       In a back room, a diminutive Japanese nurse injected a yellow dye into a vein on

the back of Jillian‟s hand. “Look straight into the camera. Good! Now follow the black

arrow.” The shutter clicked repeatedly as Jillian tracked the pointer through blinding

flashes while the background morphed from fluorescent yellow to pink to green.

       When the nurse finally turned off the camera, Jillian numbly groped her way to

the underground parking garage, where she slipped dark plastic lenses behind her

prescription sunglasses and started the car. The dazzling afternoon sunlight transformed

the four lanes of traffic that choked the one-way street into a dizzy dance of light and

shadow. Okay, Lord. You’re on. I have no idea what I’m seeing. Making it home turned

out to be the easy part. No matter how hard she tried, the only thing she could think about

the rest of that day and long into the night was what Dr. Liu might say. The thought of

another surgery turned her stomach to a slab of granite.



       The next afternoon she held her breath as the harried specialist again shone a

powerful lamp into her dilated eyes.

       “I‟m sorry to inform you of the growth of a new vein in the retina of your left

eye.” The hint of apology in his voice surprised her. “Unfortunately, this new vein is too

near your central vision to laser.” He flipped on the lights and traced an angry red line on

the florescein angiogram clipped over a lamp on his desk. “Any attempt to intervene

would cause blindness.” She swallowed dryly as he scribbled on her chart, mumbling,
“Histoplasmosis.” He swiveled to face her, his smooth face noncommittal. “Did you ever

live in Ohio?”

       “Yes. . . for two years . . .seventh and eighth grade. Why?”

       He shrugged. “We usually see this condition in people twice your age, that‟s all.

There‟s a virus in the Ohio River Valley that can cause it.” He placed the papers back in a

manila folder and stood up.

       “What happens if you don’t operate?”

       “The new vein may leak.” He said it as matter-of-factly as if he were reporting a

sports score. “I‟d like to see you once a month to monitor your condition.” Before she

could think of anything else to ask, he was gone.

       No surgery. But this is worse. Or is it? Maybe God will heal my eye. She

stumbled to the parking garage and climbed into the car. On the seat lay the stamped and

addressed letter she had written to the prominent psychologist. No sense mailing it. He’s

much too busy to read it anyway. Let’s just concentrate on making it home.

       Getting onto the Pali Highway at rush hour was tricky business under ideal

circumstances. On that blurry afternoon, she gripped the sweat-slick steering wheel with

white-knuckled hands as her dilated eyes scanned the creeping column of commuters.

Not a break for miles! But if I stop on the on-ramp, someone is sure to rear-end me. Her

right foot was reaching for the brake when a friendly driver waved her in front of him.

Whew! Ducking into the bumper-to-bumper traffic, she relaxed her grip on the steering

wheel, knees suddenly weak. Thank you, Jesus!
       Pulling the visor down to block the sun‟s reflection in the chrome bumper of the

truck in front of her, she pondered the fact that a total stranger helped her the moment he

saw her need! What would life be like if I didn’t have to hide everything?

       She drew in a sharp breath as a red sports car cut in front of her. Crazy driver!

Braking to reestablish a comfortable distance, she watched the little convertible execute a

series of audacious lane changes. That guy knows how to get what he wants. Tears filled

her eyes. Those nasty eye drops.

       Hugging the right lane on the mountain curves, she recalled the gynecologist‟s

advice. “Relax and stop trying to be perfect, and those frightening extra heartbeats will

disappear.” Right! Since when is trying to be perfect bad? Kaneohe Bay sparkled in the

distance as Jillian‟s mind replayed the childhood tapes recorded in her mother‟s

exasperated voice. Jillian Marie, you have all the grace of a carthorse. I pity the poor

man that marries you. If you had the sense the good Lord gave a goose….

       Jillian stepped on the brakes a little too hard and stopped abruptly at a traffic light

with a long, four-way pattern. Drumming her fingertips on the steering wheel, she

reviewed a recent summer when her mother Marilyn, a voluptuous, blue-eyed blond Don

brought to Hawaii every year. That year Marilyn had brought along her five-year-old

grandson, a keg of dynamite topped by luminous blue eyes and a sandy crew cut.

       “Okay, Bobby. You can ride Liz‟s bicycle on the sidewalk,” she conceded after an

hour‟s wheedling. Minutes later, Bobby raced home with blood on his head, screaming

like a wounded rabbit, followed by the man whose car he‟d bashed after running a stop

sign. After the police left, Jillian suggested they establish some workable boundaries for

the rest of Bobby‟s visit.
       Marilyn pulled a tissue from the pocket of the new lavender muumuu Jillian had

sewn and dabbed the corner of her eye. “You think your family is perfect! I‟m taking

Bobby home on the next available flight.”

       As polite tap of the horn roused Jillian from her reverie, she turned the radio on. I

felt more worthless and ugly every day, she remembered. First, I couldn’t sleep. Then my

mind began to slow. She gripped the steering wheel with twice the necessary force as she

moved through the intersection. Don wouldn‟t talk, she remembered. When I left him a

note explaining that I felt as though I were being sucked into a black hole from which I

might never return, he just crawled into bed and turned out the light.

       A tiny smile touched her lips as she remembered kneeling beside the bed, long

legs folded under her, face buried in the celery-colored spread. As Don snored, she

silently begged, O God, please don’t let me fall into that black hole! I’m afraid I’ll lose

you, and you’re all I’ve got.

       The reply was instantaneous. “You‟ll have to let yourself feel something then.”

       Silent tears soaked the bedspread. God hadn‟t forgotten her! She groped for a

tissue in the darkness as a long-forgotten decision came to mind. He can’t mean that

resolution I made when I was nine? Sure, I wanted to be a robot then, but that was a long

time ago, before I gave my heart to Jesus. Don snuffled in his sleep. “Please help me,

Lord,” she pleaded. “I don‟t want to be a robot anymore. Give me back my feelings.”

       Her stomach churned with the memory of God‟s answer. I felt all right: pain and

fear, pain and fear, PAIN AND FEAR! That’s okay, God. You showed me something

important. Now I see that Don agrees with my mother. They both think I’m worthless.

Who wouldn’t want to be a robot?
       As she pulled into the carport and switched off the engine, Jillian the Robot was

singing along with the radio. Christian music dulled the ever-present ache. She locked the

car and stepped into the house, still wearing the sunglasses she‟d need for several hours.

As she laid her purse and keys on the kitchen table, Liz, sprawled on the couch in tight

pink shorts and a rumpled orange T-shirt, looked up from the Reader’s Digest.

       “Hi, Mom,” she chirped. “How come you‟re wearing sunglasses?”

       “I went to the eye doctor.”

       “How‟s your eye?” Liz persisted.

       “It‟s fine,” Jillian lied, “Just fine.”



       Pastor Shaun Kinsey laid his open Bible on the walnut pulpit as his deep-set eyes

searched the upturned faces of his congregation, well-to-do men in business suits seated

with their stylishly coifed wives. The lanky clergyman ran a bony hand through his

thinning brown hair as the drone of a lawnmower drifted in through the open windows.

“Some people here today are in crisis. They come to church week after week looking for

help they never find. Do you know who these hurting people are?”

       Next to her husband in the third pew, Jillian inhaled the sweet fragrance of fresh-

cut grass as she turned to judge Don‟s reaction. His head drooped, eyes closed. A silver

thread of saliva hung from his parted lips to his purple paisley tie. Embarrassed, she

smoothed the skirt of her white polyester dress, one of two she considered good enough

for this sophisticated congregation. Luke, intent on the sermon, glanced at his father and

shrugged. Jeremy and Liz‟s had their heads buried in the papers they‟d received in youth

classes.
       The wiry pastor jabbed an energetic finger toward his Bible. “The church that

ignores the plight of hurting members is slighting its mission. Jesus Christ ministered to

those in crisis, and this church would do well to follow his example.” The scratch of a

child‟s crayon intruded on the silence that followed this closing remark. After humming a

subdued amen to the closing prayer, the organ roared into a Bach fugue, rudely

awakening Don, who stumbled to his feet at the end of the long line of worshipers that

jammed the aisle. He fidgeted as each member shook the pastor‟s hand.

       When the Tasakis finally reached the door, Pastor Kinsey grasped Jillian‟s hand

firmly. “May I speak to you for a moment?”

       “Yes, of course.” She ignored Don‟s impatient stare. “Today‟s sermon was

certainly thought-provoking.”

       The pastor cast a quick glance into the empty sanctuary, then shook hands with

the children before turning back to Jillian. “Enchanted Lakes recently became the first

church of this denomination to join the Stephen Ministries program. Three leaders have

already been trained on the mainland.” He pulled a paper from the pocket of his gray suit.

“We‟re in the process of handpicking a dozen people to serve as our first Stephen

ministers, and we‟d like you to be one of them.”

       She gasped. “But I‟m not a member of Enchanted Lakes.”

       “We understand that,” he said with an easy smile. “We‟ve selected one person

from each of our other churches on the windward side.”

       “What exactly is a Stephen minister?” she wondered aloud, ignoring the fact that

Don stood, hands on hips, tapping his foot in disgust at the unexpected delay.
       “A lay counselor trained to assist another person through a personal crisis.” The

pastor nodded toward the fellowship hall. “We‟ll meet here at the church four hours each

Sunday afternoon for ten weeks of training. Then each minister will be assigned a

member whose life has been devastated by a death, divorce or other crisis.” Pastor

Kinsey‟s nine-year-old daughter, tall and slender like her father, skipped up and stood

beside him, long blond hair shining in the noonday sun, and he draped a lanky arm across

her shoulders before continuing. “Your job is to walk through the crisis with that person.

Most of what we do is effective listening.”

       Ignoring Don‟s tug at her sleeve, Jillian said wistfully, “What an exciting

opportunity to be of real service!” Too bad there’s not much hope of Don letting me

participate. With his theory that I should be paid for every hour of volunteer work, he’s

already livid that I’m on the school board.

        “Each Stephen minister will meet weekly with the person they‟re helping,”

Pastor Kinsey was saying, “and we‟ll get together for training and supervisory sessions.”

       Luke flashed a grin that showcased his perfect teeth. “Mom! That sounds great!

You‟d love it!” She glanced at Don‟s eloquent scowl.

       Luke nudged her elbow. “Go ahead, Mom, sign up.”

       Sensing that Don might hesitate to squelch his son‟s enthusiasm, Jillian turned a

sweet smile on her husband. “What do you say? Can I do it?”

       “Oh, all right!” he growled. “Sign your name and let‟s go!”

       “I guess I‟m in!”

       Pastor Kinsey grinned, “Great! Training will begin in three weeks. I‟ll send you a

schedule.”
       Don shooed his family into the car and muttered all the way home, but nothing

could stifle Jillian‟s elation at the near miraculous turn of events. She was going to be a

Stephen minister! What an irony that the one person who has no one to talk to should be

chosen to listen!



       Three weeks later Pastor Kinsey, casually clad in a white polo shirt and khaki

trousers, shook hands with each of the candidates as they assembled around long tables in

the fellowship hall. “Welcome to the first Stephen Ministries training session. Mrs.

Sumida, Chloe and I will be serving as your leaders. In addition to the twelve trainees,

I‟ve invited Dr. Emery Winslow, a Marriage and Family therapist who‟s a member here

at Enchanted Lakes. He‟ll be keeping us on track.” Nodding at the blond woman seated

to Jillian‟s left, the pastor suggested they begin by introducing themselves.

       Jillian wrote down the names of her classmates. They were an interesting mix.

Joan was about thirty-five, Jim nearer sixty-five, an energetic senior with a shaved head.

Several mousy, middle-aged Japanese and Filipino women were next. A smile curled

Jillian‟s lips as her eyes rested briefly on Emery Winslow, a stocky, gray-haired

gentleman taking copious notes on a yellow legal pad. As Pastor Kinsey handed each

person a royal blue loose-leaf binder bearing the white Stephen Ministries logo, Jillian

smiled, confident she would easily rise to the top of this new class.

       Pastor Kinsey opened his manual. “On page five you‟ll find a list of emotions.

Each person has the right to experience the full range of his emotions, not just the

positive feelings, such as joy and peace, An important part of the Stephen minister‟s job

is assisting the other person to identify and process the full range of his or her emotions.”
       Jillian stole a glance at the hefty redhead to her right. She was nodding! That’s not

right! The church book on parenting says mothers should smile all the time, no matter

how sick or sad they feel. She surveyed the room. No one else appeared troubled.

       Pastor Kinsey held up a bright red book. “I‟ll be giving each of you a copy of

Your Perfect Right, a classic text in assertiveness, which we‟ll study in a few weeks.”

       She squirmed. “The concept of expecting others to honor my rights sounds

unbiblical to me. Shouldn‟t Christians be more interested in turning the other cheek than

sticking up for their rights?”

       Pastor Kinsey ambled to her table with the air of a confident cowboy about to

challenge a competitor to a shooting match. “When Jesus rode the donkey into Jerusalem,

the priests insisted he tell the children to be quiet. Did he?”

       Her mouth felt dry. “No. He told the priests that if the children stopped shouting,

the rocks would cry out.”

       He beamed. “Right! Jesus was being assertive, taking control of the situation.”

       She nodded, cheeks burning. He’s right. I never thought of it that way. This class

was going to be harder than she‟d imagined. As the afternoon progressed, her mind raced

to sort the new ideas, many of which contradicted beliefs she‟d held for decades.



       Three weeks into the training Pastor Kinsey distributed a questionnaire that

seemed almost scandalous to someone like Jillian. “Do your religious beliefs bring you

joy? Do they make a positive contribution to your life?” I don’t judge my beliefs, she

fumed inwardly. They judge me! But as she thought about the uncomfortable questions,
she realized that if she were to judge them, she‟d have to admit that they were more than

a little painful.

        She was careful not to mention any perplexing new ideas to Don, who still wore

the same haircut he‟d had when they met. He‟d seemed grumpier than usual since Luke

left for college.

        One afternoon in early September, Jillian was stirring freshly cut basil into the

spaghetti sauce when Don burst through the door with a scowl. “Something bizarre

happened to me on the way to work,” he said with obvious agitation. “When I got close

to the school, I could hardly breathe, and I was actually shaking! After fifteen years at

Pauahi, I thought I could handle anything, but having a woman chair the science

department!” He rubbed his neck. “She wears so much perfume the whole office smells

like Liberty House!”

        Jillian shrugged. “Maybe she needs something to bolster her confidence.”

        “I‟ll say! She must‟ve spent a year‟s salary on clothes. When a guy becomes

chairman, he looks exactly the same that day as he did the day before.” He dropped into

the nearest chair with a groan.

        She set the cast iron skillet off the burner and turned to face him, her lips

puckered as though she weren‟t sure she should continue, but she took a deep breath and

plunged ahead. “Last week a psychologist who‟s sitting in on our Stephen Ministries‟

group showed an interesting videotape by Dr. Donald Joy on the relationship between

men and women. The film reminded me of your difficulty with the department chairman,

so I asked if Dr. Winslow could help you adapt to having a woman in a position of

authority over you.” A glint of hope flashed in Don‟s dark eyes. “What did he say?”
       She and placed a business card on the table in front of him. “He said he could

teach you a few coping skills. Who knows? Maybe he can help you get your cholesterol

down to a safe level.” She prayed silently as Don eyed the card with suspicion. He picked

up the phone. The call lasted only a minute.

       “I decided to go for the package deal,” he announced. “Five sessions. I start

tomorrow.”



       Don was beaming when he got home the next afternoon. He pulled a large tin

funnel from the cupboard and held it over his head, small side down. “Dr. Winslow has a

wonderful way of explaining things,” he said. “He told me that people often take in

everything others say, but it‟s better to turn your funnel over and use it as a shield.” She

chuckled as he plunked the funnel down on his wavy black hair. Her oriental version of

the tin man from the Wizard of Oz grinned smugly. “That‟s what I‟m going to do at

school tomorrow!”

       Thank you, Jesus. He actually went to therapy.

       Her joy was short lived. Don lasted three sessions before he decided he has all the

tools he needed to survive with the Wicked Witch as department head.



       Jillian was driving to church a week later when a shimmering gray splotch

suddenly obscured a portion of the road. She forced herself to focus on the image from

her good eye as unavoidable questions intruded. What if I lose the vision in my left eye?

What if I lose the vision in my right eye too? What if…? The relentless questions

dominated that day and most of the night.
       The next morning she was reaching for a cereal bowl when a sudden pressure

gripped her heart. Wobbly kneed, she stumbled to the couch, only to feel another

squeeze. I can’t sleep. My eye is hemorrhaging. I can hardly breathe. Now something’s

wrong with my heart.

       At ten to five Don breezed in the door from the hospital. Spotting Jillian on the

couch, he halted his flight to the bedroom. “My mom will be here in a few minutes,” he

gasped, “and you‟re not dressed to go out to eat.”

        “I can‟t get up. I‟ve been having adrenaline surges all day.”

       He strode to the couch in his white lab coat and peered down at her as though she

were a specimen. “Dr. Winslow taught me to shout „Olé!‟ and step aside when the bull

charges instead of grabbing him by the horns. With a smug smile he handed her Dr.

Winslow‟s dog-eared business card. You might as well use my last two sessions.”

Another miracle! Thank you, Jesus.

       After work the next day, Jillian stood before the therapist‟s ornately carved

double doors of Dr. Emery Winslow‟s modest office in the lower floor of the large two-

story house he had recently purchased a mile from the Tasaki home. Feeling frightened,

embarrassed and deliriously happy at the same time, she nervously tucked her white

cotton blouse into her skirt. Why am I grinning like a Cheshire cat when my stomach’s

tied in a double knot? She pushed the doorbell.

       Dr. Winslow threw the door open in a hearty gesture of welcome. A barrel-

chested man with the large hands of a manual laborer, he was an inch shorter than Jillian

but seemed easily twice her size. He was wearing a gray sports coat over his lavender

aloha shirt. “Hello,” he said, shaking her cold hand. “How are you?”
       “A little better than yesterday,” she admitted. “I haven‟t had any adrenaline surges

since Don said I could come.” As Jillian followed the stocky therapist down the hallway,

she realized that he reminded her of her grandfather, the one man who had loved her

unconditionally. Maybe God is giving me one last chance.

       The therapist opened the door to a large room with a row of plate glass windows

that admitted the late September sunshine. “Take a seat anywhere,” he offered with a

vague gesture toward the front of the room. “I‟ll be with you in a moment.”

       The walls of the huge room were lined with bookcases, many with two rows of

books on each shelf. Shorter bookcases made of planks and cement blocks ran the length

of the wall under the windows. Taller bookcases partitioned off the back half of the room,

which was filled with stacks of boxes arranged in neat rows. A small chair upholstered in

peach-colored corduroy sat with its back to the door facing a tan recliner.

       Piles of books and magazines littered the floor and covered the desk in the corner,

on which a tiny Macintosh computer sat flanked by rows of more books. An unframed oil

painting of a dark forest with one beam of light falling on a broken stump hung above the

desk next to a pen-and-ink drawing of an enormous male lion cradling a tiny cub

protectively between huge forepaws. She got up to investigate the papers taped to the

bookcases. Among the enlarged cartoons, she found a copy of Dr. Winslow‟s doctoral

diploma and his license as a Marriage and Family therapist.

       This man must be incredibly intelligent. I hope I can understand him. This may be

harder than the Morse code I learned to get my Extra Class Amateur Radio License.

       The psychologist‟s return startled her, and she scurried to the peach-colored chair

as he picked up a clipboard. “Would you prefer the recliner?”
       She shook her head vigorously. Reclining was unthinkable.

       He positioned a flip chart beside the recliner and rapidly sketched an iceberg that

barely protruded from the water. “Your mind is something like this iceberg,” he said,

tapping the tiny portion above the wavy waterline with a broad forefinger. “Most of it is

invisible. We see only this tip, which represents the conscious mind, but most of your

thoughts and feelings lie below the surface in this portion we call the subconscious and

unconscious mind. What‟s down there is causing your anxiety.”

       She perched on the edge of her chair, heart racing, as a million alarms rang in her

head. What is so terrifying? She studied the therapist‟s kind face. A silky wave of gray

hair fell over a broad forehead beneath which sky blue eyes that hid a hint of sadness

smiled at her through metal-framed glasses. His rounded cheeks tapered slightly to a

square chin with a shallow dimple. It was a handsome face, though lined with age, and

she wondered why she felt so apprehensive as she looked at it.

       Then she knew. Breaking her desperate silence was taboo. The alarms in her head

were screaming, “Don’t tell! Don’t tell! Don’t tell!” But she had to tell, and now! When

he stopped speaking, she summoned all her will power, reached into her purse with a

clammy hand and drew out an envelope. “A month ago, I wrote a letter to a prominent

psychologist. I never mailed it. I thought you might like to read it.”

       He sat down in the recliner and tore open the envelope. She held her breath as his

eyes moved slowly back and forth across the pages. Once finished, he tucked the sheets

back into the envelope. “I‟d like to hear something about your childhood.”

       She blushed. “My childhood?”
       “Not to assign blame,” he said with a reassuring smile. “Just to get an

understanding.”

       She took a deep breath. Was someone finally going to listen?




                                         Last Chapter



       Strikingly attractive in the white muumuu she reserved for Friday evenings, Jillian

placed Don‟s favorite glass oil lamps on the table. The house was sparkling clean except

for the legal papers sprawled across the embroidered tablecloth. She thumbed through the

sobering disclosure forms. Do I really want to take this horrendous step?

       The idea of his wanting a separation still seemed preposterous. If he managed to

find the courage to tell his mother, he would surely balk at revealing his bank balances.

She gathered the papers into a stack. He was due at any moment. Fortunately, they had

the house to themselves. Luke had been working on Kauai for several weeks. A car

pulled into the carport. Lord, give me wisdom. She fluffed her freshly washed hair.

       He burst through the door, acknowledged her presence with the briefest of nods,

then strode to the sink and began measuring water into the saucepan he‟d used a thousand

times since volunteering to cook supper on Friday nights. She had always considered the

waterless cookware a token of his love because he‟d bought the expensive set the week

they were married, before either of them had a job!
       He lit the elegant glass oil lamps. The ramen had never tasted better. She waited

until he was finishing his tapioca pudding to slide the four-page document across the

table toward him. “These are the papers you‟ll need for the separation.”

       His short fingers shuffled the numbered pages. “What‟s all this?”

       “It‟s the first step in the separation process. After we each disclose our assets on

these forms, we‟ll be ready to sit down with the lawyer.”

       “Lawyer?” His eyes narrowed. “I thought this was between us!”

       She returned his steely gaze. “It is between us, but we can‟t manage it without a

lawyer. You‟ll notice on page three that Mr. Calvert suggests you hire your own lawyer

to represent your interests.”

       He snatched up the dessert bowls and stalked to the sink. “Right! So I can get

ripped off with lawyer‟s fees? No way!” He drizzled dishwashing liquid into the sink and

turned the water on hot.

       She picked up a dishtowel. “You don‟t need to hire a lawyer. If we can come to

an agreement with my lawyer, you won‟t need one. Anyway, we both have to sign the

papers before they can go to the judge.”

       “Judge! I have to go to court?” He scrubbed the bowls vigorously.

       She carried the rest of the dishes to the sink. “I didn‟t say that. A judge just reads

the papers. If everything looks equitable, he signs them without seeing us.”

       He scoured the pan, shaking his head. “What a mess!”

       “I guess it is. Did I mention that separations are designed for people who plan to

work out their differences and get back together? They expire in two years.”
       He put the pan in the drainer and swished the last of the soapsuds briskly down

the drain without comment.

       “Before I spend all this money, I want to be sure I‟m doing the right thing.”

       He squeezed out the dishcloth and draped it over the faucet before turning to face

her. “Don‟t you get it? I‟m never going to live with you again.”

       She stared at him, bewildered. “You said you had to live in the apartment for a

year . . . to qualify for a lower mortgage rate. I thought . . .you said you were coming

back here next year.”

       He crossed his short arms over his chest. “Not next year, not in a million years!

I‟m never going to live with you again.”

       Her insides felt as though they had just melted. She took a shaky breath. “In that

case, a separation is not what we need.”

       He scooped the disclosure papers from the table, and she stumbled numbly to the

carport to watch the Honda CRX disappear into the darkness. I’ve trusted that man for

thirty years, she thought. How can this be happening?



       When she opened her eyes the following morning, the sun was shining just as it

always did. The previous evening‟s conversation seemed like a bad dream from which

she would eventually awaken.



       Wednesday afternoon Jeremy plopped his motorcycle helmet down on the dining

table and helped himself to the lentil stew and brown rice bubbling on the stove. “You
wouldn‟t believe what I saw today,” he said, sitting down at the table, “a cute, five-year-

old Chinese girl with a dart sticking into her anklebone.”

       Jillian passed her son the tossed salad. “Yipes! How did that happen?”

       He filled his salad bowl, then raised his eyes and dropped his mouth, the picture

of wide-eyed innocence. “Her nine-year-old brother said he just happened to miss the

target. He looked like a little monster to me.” Jeremy wiped a brown spot where a

runaway lentil had landed on his blue hospital scrubs. “Thanks for dinner, Mom,”

       “You‟re very welcome . . . drop by anytime,” She carried the dishes to the sink.

“Your brother‟s not around much since he went to work on Kauai.”

       Straddling a kitchen chair backwards, Jeremy fixed serious, brown eyes on her

face. She had expected him to grab his helmet and go. That was the routine. When he

didn‟t budge, she sat down at the table, puzzled. He shook his head. “Dad doesn‟t care

about you any more. He‟s caught up in his new life, his new friends.” He shrugged his

lean shoulders. “I guess I‟m trying to tell you that you can‟t count on him anymore.”

       Her eyes widened. The fact that Jeremy was the jovial jokester of the family made

his somber demeanor almost frightening. She stared at the faded carpet. What

transformed my easy-going offspring into a man with a mission?

       “First, he cut you off financially,” he was saying. “Now, he says you‟re crazy, and

he doesn‟t know how much longer he can stand it. You‟ve hung on all these years for us.

Now we‟re all out of the house and living on our own. We’re okay. It‟s time for you to

think about yourself.”

       Looking her in the eye, he delivered a long and well-researched speech that

mercilessly battering her fantasy that life would some day miraculously return to normal.
       She sat in stunned silence, unable to deny a single word. By the time the teenager

strapped his shiny, black helmet over his stubbly chin, she had awakened from her dream.

As the roar of his motorcycle faded, she prayed, “Thank you for sending my son to show

me what I need to do. Now give me the strength to do it.”



       A week later she sat in Mr. Calvert‟s office, pressing her cold hands together in a

vain attempt to still the deafening clamor in her heart. You’re breaking a commitment---

for better or for worse---till death do you part---you promised---God hates divorce. She

pressed her clammy hands over her heart, determined to fight the fear that swirled like a

fuming poison in the pit of her stomach. A gentle inner voice whispered, “Remember all

I‟ve told you, and don‟t be afraid.”

       Mr. Calvert, Hawaii‟s leading divorce attorney, was a middle-aged, blond man

with a thin, plain face and unruly hair.

       “I‟ve assigned my associate, Mr. Daniels, to your case,” he said, indicating a man

old enough to be his father. “He‟s had decades of experience as a family-court judge.”

       The older attorney ushered Jillian into his office, closed the glass door behind him

and took his place behind a huge walnut desk. Mr. Daniels was a well-fed man who

addressed her as though she were a small child. “After I review your papers,” he said

with exasperating slowness, “Mr. Calvert and I will develop a plan for the equitable

division of your property. If your husband agrees with our plan, we‟ll be ready to file the

petition for divorce.”

       “You said, „petition.‟ Does that mean it might be rejected?”
       His smile displayed teeth yellow with age. “Not very likely. Divorce in Hawaii is

no-fault. The only ground needed is a mutual agreement that the marriage is irretrievably

broken.” He handed Jillian a sheet of paper with a large “X” on the bottom and an ornate

gold pen. “All I need now is your signature and a thousand-dollar retainer. Your bill may

be more than twice that amount, depending on how complicated the case becomes.”

       She shook her head to still the critical voice within. “Am I doing the right thing?

My husband and I have been married twenty-seven years…I would never have considered

divorce if he hadn‟t moved out.” She shrugged. “He says he‟s not coming back.”

       The ex-judge sat for some time with his chin in his hand before he said, “I‟m

afraid I can‟t answer that question.”

       As Jillian‟s clammy fingers reached for the gold pen, nausea enveloped her. “I‟m

sorry,” she mumbled, holding her head in her hands. “I think I‟m going to faint.” Eyes

closed, she leaned back in the padded chair as a single thought emerged from the jumble

swirling through her mind. When something’s been dead a very long time, it’s okay to

bury it. With a trembling hand she signed her name, the name Don had given her a

lifetime ago. Who will I be when this insane process is over? It was a question she would

ask often in the next months.

       Two weeks later she stepped jauntily into Mr. Calvert‟s office to deliver Don‟s

sloppily scribbled disclosure forms along with her carefully typed ones. The sun was

shining, the ocean was gorgeous, and she felt alive! Each successful negotiation of

downtown Honolulu made her feel more competent. Who would have thought that I’d be

able to drive around in Honolulu by myself!
       A short month later, she was ready to present the lawyers‟ suggestions on the

division of property. Don agreed to hear the plan when he came the next Friday evening.

       She studied his face as he set the bowls of ramen on the table. “Mr. Calvert claims

that although his office handles fifty percent of the divorces in Hawaii he‟s never seen a

case quite like this one. He says it‟s going to seem as if I‟m divorcing your mother.”

       Don‟s lip curled into a sneer. “What are you talking about?”

       She tried a more soothing tone. “I‟m talking about the house. In a normal

settlement with a marriage of this duration, the wife gets the family home, but in this

case, your mother owns most of it. I have only a quarter interest.”

       “What quarter interest? That twenty-five percent belongs to both of us. Your

share couldn‟t be more than twelve percent.”

       She stared at him, not quite believing her ears. “You gave your share of our house

to your mother, and now you want to take half of mine?”

       His eyes were hard. “Of course!” he said calmly. “Where‟s my mother going to

get the money to pay you off if I don‟t?”

       The lawyer’s right, she thought. I am divorcing Victoria, and in that case, it’s

high time she became involved in the negotiations.



       An unsuspecting Victoria arrived for Sunday dinner that week. Luke, back from

Kauai for the weekend, suggested the Chinese restaurant they‟d been patronizing since

he‟d sat in a highchair. Jillian waited until the orders were placed and Victoria had

poured the tea into the tiny white cups. The matriarch was busily wiping the silverware
with her napkin when Jillian said, “I suppose Don has told you that we‟re considering a

divorce.”

       Luke choked on his tea.

       Victoria put her napkin down abruptly and said, “No, he hasn‟t.” Don sat silent

beside her like a well-trained puppy. Not one jet-black hair moved as she shook her head.

“You two should work out your problems and stay together for the sake of the children.”

She picked up her tiny cup and sipped the scalding tea while Luke stared at the ceiling.

       “The funny thing is that the children are the ones telling me I need to do

something. I don‟t have many years left to prepare for retirement, and Don‟s plans don‟t

seem to include me. What am I supposed to do when I‟m old?”

       Victoria‟s voice was icy. “You can go into a nursing home.”

       Jillian stared at her mother-in-law as though seeing her for the first time. The

dreaded dragon lady who jerked Don around on a heavy chain suddenly seemed

pathetically small and weak. She’s never once accepted me, she realized. I’m nothing to

her. She wants to dump me onto the street empty-handed. A sudden surge of

unadulterated anger made Jillian feel as though she could easily demolish the pitiful

creature before her. The waitress placed bowls of crispy vegetables, fried noodles and

white rice in the center of the table. As Victoria busied herself filling everyone‟s rice

bowl Jillian decided she was more worthy of pity than rage.

       “I have to admit that you were wiser than I was,” Jillian said. “You got a divorce

when your marriage was over. I held on all these years hoping for a miracle.”

       Victoria pushed her plate aside. “If we had known this,” she snarled, “we never

would have bought the house the way we did.”
       “You‟re absolutely right. Buying the house together was a colossal mistake.”

       Victoria sat in stony silence, her lips in a pout while the men picked at their food.

Jillian was the only one who ate heartily, unashamed that she had broken the biggest

family rule: Never upset Grandma.



       The next Friday evening Don reported that Victoria had contacted her lawyer and

was devastated to discover that there was no legal way to deprive Jillian of her quarter

interest in the house. With that decided, he was ready to listen to Mr. Calvert‟s proposal

for a settlement. When the papers were ready a few days later, she paged him from the

teacher‟s lounge. The phone rang moments later, and she scooped it up. “Hello?”

       His voice was tentative. “Someone at this number just paged me.”

       “Oh, hi,” she said, amused that he hadn‟t recognized her voice. “It‟s me.”

       There was a long pause. “Stacy?”

       Jillian‟s cheeks burned. Stacy? Wasn’t that the name of the masseuse who wrote

to him on the mainland last summer? He was waiting. She swallowed. “No…it‟s me,

Jillian. I have the divorce papers with me. They‟re ready to go. You can sign them

today…if you have time.”

        “Sure. Pick me up at the apartment in thirty minutes.” He sounded unabashed,

even cheerful. “You can drop me off at the hospital. I‟ll sign the papers on the way.”

       “Okay, see you in half an hour.” She pressed a cold hand to her hot cheek,

wondering why she should be embarrassed when he wasn‟t.
       He was waiting at the locked parking garage when she pulled into the driveway of

his apartment building half an hour later. Smartly attired in his white nursing-student

uniform, he jumped into the passenger‟s seat and hurriedly flipped through the divorce

agreement, scribbling his name on the bottom of each page as he directed her through the

crowded streets. When she stopped at a red light, he flung the door open. “It‟ll be more

convenient for you if I get out here,” he said. “It‟s only a couple of blocks, and in this

traffic I can run faster than you can drive. Turn right at the next intersection, and you can

get back on the freeway.”

       She watched her husband sprint down the congested thoroughfare, dodging a

makeshift path between rows of cars stopped for the light. The papers he had signed lay

on the seat beside her. So that’s the way a marriage ends! It almost seemed funny.

       Don was soon a block away, his hair a black dot above his white nursing uniform.

When he bounded onto the sidewalk, she pushed the divorce documents back into their

manila envelope. I might as well get this over with. Five minutes later she was on the

freeway, looking for the familiar off ramp that led to Mr. Calvert‟s office.

       The Municipal Parking Garage was half a block from the lawyer‟s office. She had

grown to enjoy strolling past the bustling downtown department stores, and she smiled

when she caught her reflection in a window. No longer compelled to buy all her clothing

at the Goodwill, she was wearing an attractive suit she‟d found on sale at J.C. Penny‟s. It

made her feel like a new woman. She squeezed into one of the dozen, oak elevators in the

ornate lobby of the office building and pushed the tenth floor button with a sigh. Her

difficult task was nearly finished.
       “I think I‟m finally finished with my paperwork.” She said triumphantly as she

placed the manila envelope on the marble counter in front of the receptionist.

       The bespectacled paralegal took the envelope in her neatly manicured hands.

“Let‟s see whether we‟ve got everything we need. Yes, your husband signed each sheet

of his papers. What‟s this?” she laughed. “He signed the first page of yours, too?”

       Jillian chuckled. “I guess he did. He was in a wee bit of a hurry.”

       “Just a second. I‟ll print you another copy of this page.” The woman‟s long black

skirt swished as she disappeared into an adjoining room. Jillian sniffed the bouquet of

pink carnations on the desk. Pink carnations! The very flower I chose for my wedding!

How ironic that they should be sitting in front of me when I sign the divorce papers!

       The secretary swished back into the room and laid the new sheet on the counter

with the others. “Here you go. Once you sign your papers, we‟ll be all set.”

       Jillian‟s signature was bold. She no longer doubted she was doing the right thing.

       The secretary‟s blue eyes sparkled behind stylish, silver-rimmed glasses. “You‟re

finished! Mr. Calvert will file for your divorce by the end of this week. The actual court

date will probably be three to five months from now. We‟ll notify you when your divorce

becomes official.”

       Jillian smiled. “Thank you for your help. This has been a difficult experience.”



       By the time she pulled into her carport that afternoon, the bright glow of

accomplishment had been replaced by an overwhelming sense of finality. She dropped

her purse on the kitchen table, walked to the bedroom and knelt beside the bed. Folding

her hands over the familiar yellow bedspread, she prayed, “Where will I go, Lord? What
will I do?” There was no answer. Two months ago I thought I’d be living in this house

forever, she mused. Now, Don has agreed to buy me out so his mother can keep her

investment. When the divorce becomes final, I won’t have a place to live! She stood up

and gazed vacantly out the window. I’ve finished one step, but I don’t know what do next.

       When perplexed, she often thought of Dr. Winslow. What had he said about

making decisions? Ah yes! Write down the advantages and disadvantages of your options

so you can see the big picture instead of focusing on the details. She took a sheet of paper

from her desk. If I ever needed to see the big picture, it’s now. She stared at the blank

page for a moment, then wrote down four categories: Housing, Employment, Church

Involvement, and Community Service.

       Under “Housing,” she noted that Don‟s one-bedroom apartment had cost twice

what she would be receiving for her share of the house. Guess I can’t afford to buy an

apartment. Wonder how much it costs to rent one. She got up, found the newspaper and

wrote down several astoundingly high figures. Conclusion one: Living in Hawaii has

become an unaffordable luxury.

       Under “Employment,” she chronicled the frightening fact that she had no job

security. Hirakata University, where she had taught for seven years, gave only one-year

contracts, and to make matters worse, the school was currently embroiled in an

accreditation crisis. Conclusion two: If I choose to stay in Hawaii, I may not have a job.

       Massaging her stiff neck, she studied the third category, “Church.” “For the first

time in many years,” she wrote, “I have no church responsibilities.” She bit her lip,

remembering how Pastor Chang‟s support had evaporated when a visitor complained
about the worship songs that weren‟t in the hymnal. Conclusion three: My work at

Olomana is finished.

          Under “Community Service” she penned in the subheading “Prison Work.” My

two years of weekly visits to a Spanish-speaking inmate at the State Hospital are over

now that he’s been transferred to the maximum-security facility on the other side of the

island.

          She penned a second subheading, “Toastmasters.” I served as president for over a

year, she remembered. Those thirty speeches taught me a great deal, she thought, but

they have a new president now. Maybe I’m finished with Toastmasters.

          “Spanish Church” was the third subheading. Her eyes filled with tears as she

thought, I was an important part of their worship team for two years, but recently,

several more accomplished guitarists have arrived to take my place. Conclusion three: I

seem to have completed my Community Service projects.

          She put the pen down and scanned what she had written. The big picture was

immediately clear. She felt as though a celestial hand had written, “FINISHED” across

each page. She stared at the papers, wondering how she could ever leave Hawaii. After

twenty-four years in the islands, the mainland was more of a memory than a reality.

Where would I go? What would I do?

          The vast majority of those who left Hawaii moved either to Oregon, where the

ocean was close and the scenery delightful, or to Southern Nevada, where the climate was

sunny and the cost of living low. She would go to Luke‟s wedding in Oregon in the

summer and remain on the mainland. But where?
       Her final semester at Hirakata University was an emotional roller coaster. Never

had her polite, Japanese students seemed more precious or her four identical daily

lectures more boring. In her heart she bade a fond farewell to her tiny octagonal

classroom with its semicircle of fifteen student desks. Gazing at the ocean through the

floor-to-ceiling windows, she thought of the hundreds of students she‟d taught in the

seven happy years that had re-established her professional identity. From the desk drawer

she pulled dozens of pictures of herself, wearing a lei, surrounded by smiling students.

       As spring burst into full bloom around the campus, she packed the few things she

planned to take in boxes she could carry. Thanks to Dr. Winslow, she now realized she

was entitled to her clothing and books as well as some household items. As for the

reminders of her life in Hawaii, she didn‟t want them. She donated her Allen organ to the

Spanish congregation. Her Yamaha piano went to Luke as a wedding present. That took

care of the big items Don wouldn‟t want around the house when he moved back. She

filled the empty spaces in the living room with boxes bearing neatly printed return-

address labels. Where should she send them? Oregon? Nevada? Father, please tell me

where to go.

       She found the answer in church. Two months before her court date, she spotted

the woman who had invited her to share an apartment in Portland. She‟d gotten homesick

and moved back to Hawaii! Thank you, Lord. That settles it. I’m moving to Nevada. Dr.

Winslow was willing to store her boxes, so during her lunch breaks, she began taking

them to the post office. While standing in line at the mail counter, she occasionally felt

optimistic, but more often she was just plain scared. What if I can’t make friends? I’ve

never really learned. What if I end up miserable and alone? Maybe I should stay here
where I know so many people, even though it would be financial suicide. Every day, she

reminded herself that God wanted her to go to Nevada and his will was all that mattered.

       One afternoon she finished her errand so quickly that she had time for a leisurely

stroll. As she stepped into the shade of a giant rainbow shower tree, she noticed a thrift-

shop sign in front of the corner church. Obeying a sudden urge, she stepped through the

sliding glass door. There wasn‟t time to look at everything. Is there something here you

want me to see? She cast a cursory glance at the racks of clothing. The last thing she

needed was something else to pack. The glass case under the makeshift cash register

caught her eye. Among several pieces of costume jewelry on the top shelf lay what

appeared to be a gold ring with a large diamond. She caught her breath. She wanted that

ring! But why? The woman behind the counter laid the golden circlet on the scratched

glass with a smile that creased a dozen wrinkles across her homely face.

       Gingerly, Jillian slipped the ring onto her finger. It fit perfectly! The large “stone”

was really a faceted piece of silver-colored metal with a tiny rhinestone in the center, but

the little gem sparkled invitingly in the fluorescent light of the dingy shop. From a

distance, the ring looked amazingly real.

       “How much is this?” she asked, wondering why she wanted the trinket.

       The woman squinted at the tag dangling from Jillian‟s finger. “A dollar.”

       “Fair enough. I‟ll take it.” She laid a rumpled bill on the counter and fidgeted as

the old woman‟s arthritic hands fumbled with the cash register.

       Giddy with an unexplained joy, she dashed across the street. As the tiny

rhinestone sparkled in the sunlight, she suddenly realized that her purchase looked very

much like the engagement ring Luke had bought his fiancée a year earlier. It wouldn’t do
for a church member to see me wearing this, she thought guiltily, but it may be just the

thing to ward off unwelcome attention. She ran up the steps to her classroom and arrived

just as the bell rang, breathless and happier than she had felt in months.

       Every time she looked at the ring, she felt a joyous peace commingled with a

stirring of excitement she couldn‟t explain.

       Sunday afternoon the phone rang. Dr. Winslow‟s deep voice said jovially, “I

received an invitation to Luke‟s wedding in the mail today, and I‟ve decided to attend.”

       “How wonderful! Maybe we could fly back to Nevada together.”

       “If you like,” he said with a good-natured chuckle. “What do you have to be

thankful for today?”

       She laughed with delight at the familiar question. “Well, I‟m finding a great deal

of pleasure in my latest purchase.”

       “Oh?”

       “I bought a silly little one-dollar ring at a thrift shop. I‟ve decided it‟s a promise

of the new life God‟s going to give me on the mainland. In some strange way, it‟s helped

dispel the fearful second thoughts that keep dogging me.”

       “That‟s great! A year from now you‟ll probably wonder why you hesitated.”

       “I hope you‟re right,” she said wistfully. “It‟s just that I‟ve lived half my life here,

and it feels like home. I‟m not sure I‟ll ever feel this way about any other place. They say

Hawaiians don‟t transplant well.”

       He laughed uproariously. “Courage, Jillian, you‟re not Hawaiian. You‟ll

transplant beautifully.”
       She had to chuckle. “Thanks for helping me with this move. If you hadn‟t agreed

to store my boxes, I‟d have had to mail them all the day I left!”

       “Glad to be of service,” he said cheerfully. “I‟ll talk to you later. Carry on

grandly.”



       As her last weeks in Hawaii flew past, she felt less and less as though she were on

Oahu and more and more as though she were in a strange limbo between one place and

the next. When the semester ended, she turned in her last grades, filed her request for a

leave-of-absence and mailed her last box. Sunday she‟d be flying to Luke‟s wedding.

       That Friday night, Don cooked dinner as usual. On his way out the door, he

handed her a check for the divorce settlement. She called Liz to say goodbye.

       Liz‟s usually silly voice was dead serious. “Mom, I was just reading that Precious

Moments Bible you gave me. Let me get it. I left a marker here someplace. Yes, here it

is. In Matthew 5:32 Jesus says that a man shouldn‟t put his wife away. I don‟t think Jesus

wants you and Dad to get a divorce.”

       “I know this is hard for you to understand, but Matthew isn‟t the only place in the

New Testament that mentions divorce. In I Corinthians 7:15, Paul says that if someone

who believes in Jesus is married to a person who doesn‟t, and the unbeliever refuses to

live with her, she‟s free to divorce.” She heard the rustle of pages. “Corinthians is after

Acts and Romans.”

       “I found it.” Liz read the passage out loud, her voice muted with disappointment.

       “I wouldn‟t be getting a divorce if I didn‟t think it was God‟s will.”

       “Yeah, I know. You‟ll write to me, won‟t you?
        “Yes, I‟ll write as soon as I have an address. I promise.”

        “I love you, Mom.”

        “I love you too. Remember that Jesus is always with you. Bye.”

        “Bye, Mom.”

        After Jillian hung up, she toured the yard, admiring the variegated hibiscus she‟d

planted beside the kitchen steps, the soursop tree with its prickly, plump green fruit and

the banana patch. The tallest tree had just produced a stalk of green apple bananas she

would never taste. She stroked a set of baby footprints lovingly pressed into the wet

concrete she‟d mixed for the garden walls so many years earlier. It’s time to leave, she

told herself, but a large part of her wasn‟t listening.

        Sunday morning, she tucked the last of her clothes into her suitcase. Lord, I know

this move is your will. Besides, no place on this earth is really my home. My home will

always be with you. She knelt beside her bed for the last time. “Father, thank you for

sending Dr. Winslow to lead me out of my desperate silence and show me how much you

love me. No matter what happens now, I could never be as miserable or alone as I was

before I met you. I‟m yours. Lead on, my King.”



        Meandering through the busy concourse of Honolulu International Airport, she

savored the regal purples and reds of orchid and carnation leis and inhaled the sweet

pungency of pineapples and ginger blossoms. Her mind was busy sorting through

countless bittersweet memories of arrivals and departures: the summers Marilyn had

come to visit, the year the boys went to work at a summer camp, Luke‟s departure for

college and his visits home.
       Minutes later, the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor, Diamond Head and Molokai Island

slipped silently past the tiny window of the plane. She found herself suspended between

the old life of shamed silence that lay behind and the new life of exciting possibilities that

lay ahead. As the jet whisked her through the pale blue sky, she pulled the lyrics of her

latest song from her purse and read them aloud.



       “It is you, my Lord. It is you, my King.

       You I follow in all my journey, only you.”

				
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