OUT OF THE WHIRLWIND
Whirlwind Series – Book One
Inserting her key in the front door, Hope paused. Should I shout the news as soon as I enter? Or, try to pretend I’m sad?
Hope Montgomery was so excited she could hardly contain herself. The doctor had just confirmed they were having a baby around June 20th.
Being sad won’t work. Dean says I have a face that expresses everything. I know! Maybe he won’t remember my appointment today. Hope figured chances were in her favor for Dean was what she lovingly called – a one tasker. If he was doing anything when she told him something, Dean would appear to be listening, but usually Hope had to tell him again later.
Dean….The thought of him brought a dreamy look to Hope’s eyes. He was her first true love. From the first hello at her sister’s wedding reception, there was an obvious attraction. At the time, Hope was 29 and Dean was 31. He was good looking, of medium height, slight build, dark hair, with thoughtful brown eyes encircled by dark rimmed glasses. His whole demeanor shouted – bookish, scholarly-type. Dean told her later that dating hadn’t interested him that is until he met a petite, perky brunette with sparkling blue eyes who totally captivated him. The next day he had asked Hope to dinner and six months later they were married. Dean was a self-employed computer programming software engineer. Hope was a loan officer at a large, well known bank. Both of the jobs were very lucrative and their combined incomes jumped them into the “well-to-do” category. They soon learned to indulge their every desire. Their first joint decision was to upgrade their home. So, they promptly purchased an expensive condo in East Grand Rapids, hired an interior decorator and patterned their spacious, elegant home after the Rich and Famous. When things became too costly for cash, they freely used their high limit credit cards.
Now standing at their door preparing to enter, Hope’s mind ran full circle back to the coming baby. Feeling her excitement rise once more, she smiled while turning the key in the lock and opening the door.
“Dean, I’m home,” she called out while removing her black suede coat. The November wind was nippy, but there hadn’t been any sign of snow yet. Actually, for once Hope was glad. Next week was Thanksgiving and she figured that would be soon enough for snow.
Closing the hall closet door, she straightened her blouse and smoothed her skirt while wondering why Dean hadn’t answered.
At that precise moment, Dean was doing a last survey of his handiwork on the dining room table. He had heard Hope’s greeting, but wanted to make sure everything was in order before acknowledging her arrival. Everything looked perfect. Normally this wasn’t something he did. Wanting to have this time alone with Hope, he’d let their maid have the evening off. Unfortunately, he should have let her set the table first. It ended up being an adventure locating the fine china, crystal glasses, and silver. Satisfied all was finally ready, Dean turned towards the doorway. Hope was going to be surprised.
Taking time to turn on the surround sound stereo to soft background music, he then hurried to intercept her in the long hallway approaching the dining room. “Hey, there my love,” he greeted, wrapping her in a bear hug.
As Hope snuggled in his arms, her resolve melted away like vapor. Looking up into his face, she began, “The doctor . .,” but that’s all she spoke before Dean gently laid three fingers on her lips to still them.
Leaning closer he softly said, “Before you say anything, I want to show you something.” So saying, draping his arm over her shoulder he wheeled her towards the formal dining room.
Hope stopped under the brick archway, pleasantly surprised with what lay before her. Dean had transformed the large white oak table into a small, cozy dinner-for-two; beautifully decorated with linen and candles. The center was graced with a lovely bouquet of large yellow roses accented with ferns and baby’s breath.
“Oh, Dean! It’s beautiful!” She paused then turned towards him. “You remembered the appointment.”
“Yes, I did.” He momentarily looked as proud as a peacock, then quickly sobered up. “I wasn’t sure what the doctor would tell you, so I wanted to be ready either way.” He pulled her into his arms and kissed the top of her head. “So, what’s your news?”
Hope told him what the doctor said while sliding her hands underneath his cardigan to better rub his back, snuggling close in the process. Dean’s thoughtfulness made her feel very special. He started to pull away, but Hope pulled him even closer. Chuckling he rubbed the back of her neck. Hope considered purring, it felt so good. Instead, she brought her hands around to his chest. Sliding them up to cradle his face, she leaned slightly away. They stared intently into each other’s eyes, before Dean lowered his head to kiss her.
What started out as a nice soft kiss soon became more demanding as Hope felt their bodies warming up. Thoughts of the baby washed away as they became caught in the moment. That is – until an alarm went off in the kitchen, startling them both.
Dean recovered first. “Sorry, Tiger, we’ll have to table this for later. I timed this meal perfectly and that alarm means supper’s on.” He lightly kissed her nose, turning toward the kitchen, he stated, “Make yourself useful and light the candles.”
Hope walked to the table. Noticing a spoon slightly out of alignment she straightened it before reaching for the lighter.
During the meal of Sicilian Grilled Shrimp, salad and bread sticks, Dean and Hope talked about the doctor visit and coming baby. They had a baby room to decorate. As the condo had four bedrooms, the one next to theirs was the most logical to have an adjoining door installed. At this point they reached dessert time and Dean presented Hope with Dutch apple pie ala mode, knowing it was her favorite. But before she could take her first bite, Dean set his fork down and grew very serious. “There’s something else we need to talk about.”
Noting his change of mood, Hope set her fork down. “Okay Dean. What?”
“As you recall, I never put much trust in life insurance policies, but lately I’ve been changing my mind. This morning for devotions, I read in the Old Testament about Job.” Dean leaned forward in his seat. “Did you know that he lost all his herds, flocks, crops, and seven children in the space of one afternoon?”
Before Hope could reply, he went rapidly on. “Job no sooner was told of one tragedy when another servant arrived telling of another!” Dean paused to look intently in Hope’s eyes. “Job’s life prompted me to think about my own. Now that we’re starting a family, I’m wondering how you two would survive if something happened to me.”
Hope protested. “Oh, Dean. Do we really need to talk about this right now? It’s time to be happy and rejoice.” She was getting irritated, for the topic of death made her nervous.
“I know you think it could bring bad luck to talk about death, but . . . .”
Getting more frustrated, Hope interrupted. “Dean, I really don’t want to discuss this tonight of all nights! Can’t we talk about it in a day or so?”
Dean studied her face for a long moment, and then quietly stated, “Hope. We both believe that ‘absence from the body is presence with the Lord.’ I don’t have a fear of dying and I don’t think you do either, but we need to be good stewards of our time and money.”
She started to protest, but Dean held up his hand. “As a soon-to-be father, I want to provide for my family, whether I’m here or not. So, I’m going to set up an appointment to see about writing a life policy on myself.”
Reaching over the table he took Hope’s hands. “Once I get the policy, I’ll show you where it will be kept in my desk and we won’t need to talk about it again until you’re ready. Okay?”
Hope had all kinds of things she was ready to comment, but instead she took a deep breath and made herself calm down. Squeezing his hands she agreed, then quickly changed the subject. “I had another run in with Lisa at work today.”
Dean knew that Hope had an ongoing conflict with her co-worker at the bank. Personally Dean felt the two women were like porcupines with quills extended whenever they came near each other. Over time he’d learned that Hope bristled when it seemed he was taking Lisa’s side, even if he truly wasn’t. “So, what did she do now?”
“She embarrassed me by practically yelling at me in front of customers.” Hope tossed her napkin on the table, and then absently picked it up to neatly fold it. “Honestly, I don’t see how she ever got the assistant manager job over me. I’m much better relating to people than she could ever be!!! The job should have been mine!”
Seeing Hope’s face flushing with the memory of the missed promotion, Dean decided it best to change the subject. “Did you have any interesting customers today?” He knew she almost always had stories to tell of people who visited the bank.
It took Hope a moment to change gears. She wasn’t sure she was ready to yet.
Dean maintained a relaxed demeanor as she frowned deeply before letting the issue of Lisa go. “Actually, Helen Gardner stopped by my office today.”
Even though Hope hadn’t gotten the job promotion she had strived for, she did have her own smaller office as Loan Officer. It was a higher level job, but in Hopes mind, it lacked the prestige and respect of a managerial one.
Sensing Hope’s train of thought veering back to Lisa, Dean pressed, “How’s Helen?”
“She’s doing well and excited about her coming grandbaby. Remember – – her only daughter, Vicki, is due in a few weeks.”
“That’s right! I’d forgotten. Did you tell her about our baby?”
“No. My appointment wasn’t until later and I didn’t want anyone at work to hear us discussing it. Anyway, her daughter and husband aren’t going to find out the sex of the baby until birth. What do you think about that idea?”
“It doesn’t sound very practical to me. How can you decorate the baby’s room if you don’t know what it’s going to be?”
Hope studied his face then quietly stated defensively, “I think it’s a nice idea.” Seeing a frown begin to crease his brow, she hurriedly added, “But we don’t have to decide now. There’s plenty of time yet.”
They both grew silent as they picked up their forks to finish eating their dessert.
Hope’s mind wandered to when she first met Helen. She and Dean had just completed their first year of marriage, when a friend died. His death forced them to think on eternal things and what they believed about life and death. In truth, they realized they didn’t really believe anything. Hope nor Dean had been raised in spiritually-minded homes, so they weren’t sure where to start as they began searching for answers. Then one day, while Hope was in the supermarket inspecting fresh peaches, Helen struck up a conversation. As they chatted, she invited Hope and Dean to visit her church. That evening Hope had relayed the incident to Dean. He surprised her by replying, “Sure, why not?” That next Sunday they attended First Baptist, and had attended ever since. From the start, Helen and her husband, Frank, had taken them under their wing.
“Any news on the possible bank merger? I keep hearing things from the grapevine.”
Dean’s question transported Hope back to their dining room and she sighed heavily. The rumored bank merger was frequently on her mind and the minds of her colleagues. So far the bank manager hadn’t been willing to discuss the issue with anyone. “Helen asked me the same thing. She even went so far as to ask if the merger would affect my job.”
“What did you tell her?”
“I said I didn’t have any idea. All I know is what I’m hearing from other customers.”
From there, the conversation flowed to the best time for Hope to quit her job at the bank. Months earlier, she had voiced her desire to be a stay-at-home Mom should the Lord allow them to have a family. They knew it would make things financially tighter, but decided it was something they were willing to work around. Besides, Dean’s business was doing very well and he’d recently hired two new employees. They finally settled on tabling a decision until they saw how the pregnancy went and what happened if the bank merged.
Finished with her meal, Hope leaned back in her chair with a contented sigh. Then an impish sparkle leaped into her eyes. Cocking her head she said, “Tell the truth, Dean. Did you cook this dinner or did it come from the Olive Garden?”
Looking guilty, he admitted it came from the restaurant, but hastened to add, “But I did go to the florist and pick out the flowers myself.”
Hope chuckled, then focused on the lovely roses. Turning her eyes to Dean’s she stated, “I feel so blessed to have you for a husband and father of our baby.”
Feeling a little cocky, Dean replied, “Well, you should, see as how I also purchased you another expensive piece for your crystal collection!” As he spoke, Dean arose and walked to the sideboard. Opening the top drawer, he lifted out a red velvet box. Smiling, he walked to Hope’s side. Flipping open the lid, he held the box so she could easily view the contents.
“Oh, Dean!” Hope gasped as she took the box from his hand. She was staring at a pair of crystal turtles with gold shells and diamond eyes. The pair was joined side-by-side – a Mom and baby. “They’re absolutely gorgeous!” With tears in her eyes, she looked up at the now seated Dean. “What a wonderful memento for this day! I love them!”
Hope gently lifted them from the red satin lining. Right then the candlelight flickered hitting the little turtles which sent myriads of rainbows dancing around the room. Hope was moved beyond words.
After a long time, she lowered the pair back into their bed and closed the lid. Raising loving eyes to Dean’s, she whispered, “Thank you.”
Continuing to stare into each other’s eyes, the atmosphere and mood slowly changed.
Dean had been slouching in the chair. He straightened saying with a husky voice, “So, Tiger, how about continuing what the kitchen alarm interrupted earlier?”
He gave her his special “Come here” look.
Smiling, Hope attempted her best tiger snarl as she seductively rose from the chair….
Hope walked into the bank the next morning in a good mood. Unfortunately, it soon disappeared. Those who had arrived before her stood in pairs whispering while staring at the manager’s office. Hope didn’t know what was going on, but it didn’t bode well. She shortly learned that Lisa and the bank manager were meeting behind the closed door. No one saw them all morning. Thankfully the bank was busier than normal, so Hope was able to keep her mind occupied.
Originally she had planned telling everyone about the baby that morning, but decided the timing wasn’t right. By mid-afternoon, Hope was more than ready for her coffee break. Needing some quiet time, she decided to read her Bible in the break room while sipping a cup of coffee. She became so absorbed in the first chapter of the book of James, that she didn’t notice Lisa’s presence until her shadow fell over the page she was reading. Trying to avoid further confrontations, Hope kept reading; but, Lisa had other ideas. “Why do you waste time reading that antiquated book?”
Raising her head, Hope replied, “It’s not a waste of time to me. I read it for daily encouragement.”
She meant to say more, but Lisa rudely said, “Encouragement! You’ve got to be kidding! It’s an old book written thousands of years ago. There’s nothing in it that applies today!” Before Hope could respond, she added with a sneer, “I thought you had more commonsense and intelligence than to be brainwashed by the blind beliefs of others.”
Feeling herself heating up, Hope grew defensive. “I’m not brainwashed! This book is full of God’s mercy and love for us.” She held up her Bible for emphasis. “Take the book of . . .,” but Lisa abruptly interrupted in a raised voice.
“Wake up Hope! There’s no god of love out there waiting to bless us with good things.” Building steam, her voice rose a little higher. “If there truly was, how could he allow child abuse? How could he let children die of starvation? Does that sound like a loving merciful god?”
Hope’s face reddened, as she realized the break room door was still open. She knew other people were hearing the conversation, but Lisa wasn’t done. With a scornful hard tone, she said, “IF there ever was a god, he turned his back on us a long time ago. Grow up and stop being such a fool.”
She turned to walk away, but Hope was thoroughly irritated now. Jumping to her feet, her voice quivered with emotion. “Lisa, you’re a mean, bitter, 38 year old maid! You wouldn’t know the True Hope if He slapped your face and said, ‘Here I am!’”
Lisa swung around as Hope continued in a raised voice. “Only ignorant people argue about something they don’t know anything about!”
Lisa clenched her hands and walked back. Lowering her face to within inches of Hope’s, she stated menacingly, “Don’t ever call me ignorant again!”
“Then don’t you call me a fool again!”
The two women glared into each other’s eyes for a long moment before Lisa broke contact to stalk from the room.
Staring at the doorway, Hope stood clenching the Bible next to her breast as her knees began to shake. It took a moment for the anger to subside and then sadness seeped into her being. What have I done? Hanging her head, she sat down as a lone tear slipped down her cheek. Laying her Bible gently on the table, she caressed it with her hand as she questioned, “Will I ever get it right, Lord?” The anger and frustration were now gone, but a lump remained in Hope’s throat as she lay her forehead on the Bible. Her mind filled with the Pastor’s recent words, “You can’t expect to win people to Christ if you don’t love them first.”
Lord, teach me how to love Lisa in a way that will bring glory to You. Obviously, I need help.
Sitting up, Hope knew her break would soon end, but she needed encouragement from the Word of God. Turning to where she had been reading in the Book of James, her eyes fell upon chapter one verses 19 & 20: “So, then my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
Closing her Bible, Hope bowed her head and asked the Lord’s forgiveness regarding her response to Lisa. She then asked Him for wisdom on how best to make it right. Feeling peace seep into her soul, a much calmer Hope stood up and went back to work.
In spite of good intentions, Hope didn’t have an opportunity to talk with Lisa the rest of the afternoon. Then, just before closing, the manager finally emerged from her office; asking for a short meeting. She confirmed the pending merger and ended the meeting with the ominous words . . . “some of your jobs will be terminated.”