Short Story by Daphne Crause
“It is Saturday afternoon and there is nothing to do. What a pitiful situation,” Joanne thought to herself.
She was bored and frustrated and couldn’t find something constructive to do. The situation became worse when her younger sister was getting ready to go to the movies with some friends. When that happened she would be at home all on her own.
Her parents had gone to the shops, but she hated their long shopping trips so she opted to stay home. Her older brother had gone with friends to have a fun game of soccer. Now with her sister going out what could she do?
She tried a few things that usually made her feel good, but this time was different. Nothing seemed to change her mood.
She tried reading in the sun on the swing seat. That didn’t last long. Then she tried making her favorite snack of apple slices and peanut butter. That also didn’t make her feel good like it usually did. This was just crazy.
She finally decided to listen to some music on her iPod, so she went to her bedroom to fetch the iPod. As she walked into the room the phone rang. Her sister Linda ran down the passage towards the little alcove where the phone was.
“I’ll get it,” she yelled. “It’s likely Josie telling me that she is late again.”
Joanne found the iPod and was digging for her earphones when she heard Linda coming down the passage towards her room.
“It’s not for me. It’s actually for you. It’s a guy.”
“Huh? I’m not expecting anyone to phone me.”
Joanne walked down the passage, settled herself on the comfortable padded chair and picked up the phone.
“Hello this is Jo speaking.”
“Hey beautiful,” came the cheery voice from the other end.
Joanne stared at the handset for a few seconds as if her mind was playing tricks on her. There was only one person who ever called her beautiful.
“Phil? Where are you calling from? I thought you were only getting back on Monday.”
Phil laughed and said,
“Yup, so did I. But actually it all went so well we got everything up and running 2 days ahead of time. Ben was so thrilled that he said we could come back early. Some of the guys wanted to stay for 2 more days of holiday, but I didn’t want to do that. I’ve been missing you like made.
“I got in this morning on the 10 o’clock flight. I’ve just been unpacking and sorting a few things out here.”
“Wow that is great. I must say this is a wonderful surprise.”
Phil was quiet for a few seconds then he said,
“Listen, are you doing anything this afternoon? I know sometimes you go to the Flea Market and browse around.”
“No there’s nothing up this afternoon. Actually I’d love it if I did have something to do. Everyone else is out of the house, and if truth be told I’m real bored here.”
“Good, then I have a solution. How about I pick you up shortly and we go for a ride into the country? I know a beautiful little hotel about an hour and a half’s drive from here. We could go and walk around a bit and maybe have something to eat there. How does that sound?”
“Oh that sounds absolutely wonderful. I’m looking forward to that.”
They ended the call and Phil arranged to pick Joanne up in half an hour. She put the phone down and did a kind of dance of joy on the way back to her bedroom. Linda noticed that she was no longer looking blah and depressed and asked,
“What’s the sudden change with you?”
“That was Phil on the phone. He’s back early from his business trip so I’m going out for a ride with him this afternoon. He saved me from an afternoon of boredom.”
She looked at her watch and said,
“Oh dear I had better move it. I want to put some makeup on and change my ugly clothes before I meet him.”
Just then the doorbell rang and Linda’s friends arrived.
“I’m off. Enjoy the date. I’ll enjoy my movie,” she said waving goodbye.
“Thanks, you too. See you later then.”
Joanne set about undergoing a transformation. She had on some casual, torn denim shorts and a baggy cream crop top at that time. She also didn’t have a scrap of makeup on. She was an ordinary plain Jane today, and it was certainly not how she wanted Phil to see her again. She wanted to look nice and presentable.
First she put on some smart black slacks that made her lovely figure stand out. Then she found a pretty blouse in her favorite bright pink. It instantly made her complexion look rosier and brightened up her face.
She swept her shoulder length wavy hair up in a tortoise shell clip, put on her favorite perfume and then began the task of putting on some makeup. She put some cream eye shadow onto her eyelids. It immediately made her eyes stand out more. She finished that with green eyeliner and black mascara.
She put some pink blusher onto her cheeks and ended with some bright raspberry colored lipstick. She looked at the finished product in the mirror and she smiled. Now she truly looked and felt beautiful.
Phil had called her beautiful from the time they had first met 6 months ago. And every time he called her by that name she felt like a queen. They met at a work function and dated from time to time. They also met fairly often at the office canteen and had lunch together.
Grabbing a pen and some paper she quickly wrote a note for her parents to see and pinned it onto the corkboard at the entrance of their house. Then she sat and waited for Phil. She didn’t have to wait for too long because he was there within 5 minutes.
Her heart skipped a beat as she heard his car pull into the driveway. A moment later he walked around the corner and up to the front door. She opened it up and smiled.
“Hey stranger. It’s good to see you again.”
He put out his arms and gave her a big hug, then he said,
“I’ve really missed you. It’s good to be back. Are you ready to go?”
“Yup,” she said.
She locked the front door and followed him to his car. He opened the door for her and she felt like a lady once again. Then he got into his side of the car and put on some of their favorite music. He let it begin to play softly in the background before he reversed into the road and they began their journey.
The trip into the country went far quicker than Joanne thought it would. It was also a great time for her. Even though she had grown up in that city, she had never been to the place that Phil was taking her to. It was on the opposite side to where she and her family went from time to time.
Phil took the highway through the city, then they took an exit that took them onto a smaller road. Soon the familiar sights of factories and built up areas became less and less. As they continued Joanne could see the distant mountains getting closer and closer.
Joanne got a sense of excitement as they neared their destination. In between all their talking she watched the scenery going by like an excited child going on a holiday. Soon the road moved from being level until it started to climb. They began to climb up and twist and turn until they finally reached the top.
They parked in the parking lot and began to walk down a paved pathway to the hotel. The hotel was built on a plateau at the top of the mountain and it was surrounded by lush green grass on either side of the path.
Everywhere they looked they could see other mountains close by or in the distance. And each one looked as though they had specially been painted a different color. Some looked green, some purple, and some of the distant ones looked almost blue. It was a beautiful sight.
Phil took her hand as they walked.
“Are you thirsty? Would you like something to drink? We can maybe just get a little something quickly. Then I would like to take you and show you the most awesome scene I’ve ever laid my eyes on, but we can do that just now if you want something to drink first.”
Joanne was thirsty, so they headed for some tables and chairs on an outdoor balcony overlooking the lawn. They sat down and ordered some orange juice, then while they waited for it to be brought Phil continued talking.
“By the way I’ve booked a table for us in the restaurant tonight. It’s absolutely gorgeous.”
Joanne smiled and said,
“Wow that sounds nice. Hey I’m really enjoying myself. I am so pleased that you brought me to this beautiful place. Would you believe that we have never been here?”
“You haven’t? Then you have been missing out on something amazing. Our family used to come here often for holidays. It’s close by but yet completely out of town. That’s why I know all the places here.”
Joanne closed her eyes and basked in the warm, bright yellow afternoon sun. She was enjoying every minute of not having to be cooped up bored at home. It was also great to be with someone that she was becoming increasingly fond of. She had begun to like him more each time he took her out or they saw each other.
The orange juice arrived soon and the two of them sipped the sweet liquid pretty much in silence. There was no real need to talk right now. They were just enjoying each other’s company.
A Beautiful Sunset
Once they were finished Phil looked at his watch and said,
“It’s only about 20 minutes until sunset. We should move it if you want to catch the best sunset you’ve ever seen.”
They got up and walked again towards the parking lot. This time they turned and went further up a road until they reached a sign that led them onto a dirt path.
After 5 more minutes they reached a fenced in lookout point. It overlooked a deep valley below them and they could see the high mountains on the other side of the valley. Joanne looked down and for a brief moment her stomach did a little turn. It was the same kind of feeling she sometimes got when she was high up in an airplane and looked down.
The sun was beginning to turn an orangey yellow color now; a sure sign that it was about to set. It was still shining pretty brightly in front of them, and whatever the rays touched turned everything to a bright golden color.
Joanne stood speechless for a moment, then when she finally spoke she said,
“Wow it is so awesome. You can’t but help feeling the presence of the Lord when you look at this creation hey?”
“No you can’t. I just feel such a sense of peace at the moment. I’m in heaven right now – sitting with you and in my favorite surroundings. What more could I want?”
They went to one of the benches and sat down. Then they watched in silence, arm in arm, as the sun began to dip between two mountains. In a few minutes it was all over, and all that remained was the bright orange afterglow. They sat and just took in the beauty of the scene in front of them. Then Phil said,
“We’d better head back shortly. We can go for supper. I’m sure they already have the table reserved for us.”
They walked slowly back to the hotel, enjoying the scenery and the smell of the flowers. The wind had picked up and it seemed to make the scent of the flowers along the path smell more strongly.
When they got back to the hotel Phil went to see if their table was already set up even though they were 15 minutes early. It wasn’t ready, so the two of them went into the hotel lounge to order something to drink while they waited.
After they had ordered Phil suddenly realized that Joanne wasn’t her usual smiling self.
“Hey is something wrong? You suddenly seem so quiet. What’s the matter?”
“I am? Umm, actually now that I think about it I’m actually feeling… Oh never mind, I’m just being stupid.”
“What are you feeling? You’re not being stupid. I’m sure there’s a real reason why you are feeling what you are.”
Phil urged her to talk.
“What is going on inside of you? Are you unhappy with our relationship or something? Do you know what is up?”
Joanne ran her fingers through her hair. This was what she always did when she was stressed or under pressure.
“I can’t really explain to you what I’m feeling all of a sudden, but it’s like I’m depressed. I don’t know what is going on. There’s no reason for me to feel like that. I still really adore you. It’s not about you at all. You have become very special to me, so I can’t understand this.”
Phil squeezed her hand to assure her that he was there for her.
“Do you know when it started? Can you identify it? You were pretty chilled out and happy until we got here.”
Just then their drinks arrived and Phil paid for them. When the waiter was out of the way he continued.
“If you can think of when you suddenly started to feel these things then you may be able to figure out what is going on.”
Joanne thought for a moment and then said,
“It started just recently, after we came back from watching the sunset. It doesn’t make sense. It was so beautiful and I also felt so at peace and blessed to just be sitting with you.”
“Jo it sounds to me as though you are experiencing what we call a trigger in spiritual circles.”
“Huh? A what?”
“It is a trigger. It happens like this. You go through a bad set of circumstances, or a bad event takes place in your life. You usually forget what that circumstance was, but then suddenly it can happen that a very similar set of circumstances takes place that brings that memory back. It comes back with all of your emotions and feelings that were similar to the first incident.
“Perhaps this sounds weird, but did you maybe have some bad experience on a mountaintop; something with similar circumstances? Think about it for a moment.”
She closed her eyes and sat for a moment trying to think back. Then suddenly a few tears began to flow down her cheeks.
“Oh Lord you’re right. I remember it now,” she cried.
“Good stuff. Tell me what happened.”
Phil took a sip of his soda as he watched her and listened to what she had to say.
“When I was 8 years old my family and I went on holiday with another family who were friends of my parents. They had three daughters and I was best friends with the one. We were staying at a resort near the coast, but one day we went into the mountains to go hiking for the day.
“We hiked up a trail until we reached the top of the mountain. Everything was going well until my best friend and I wandered off to go and see the view from near the edge. It was late afternoon and we were enjoying ourselves. The wind was beginning to pick up and my parents called us to come back because we were too close to the edge.
“My friend Amanda and I started running back towards our parents, but a big gust of wind suddenly blew. It was hard enough to make my friend lose her footing and she fell right near the edge. She tried to crawl back towards me, but the wind blew again and flipped her over the edge.”
The tears were flowing freely now as Joanne related the story. She had to stop to blow her nose quickly. Then she continued.
“She rolled down the mountain until she reached like a ledge. She was in a coma when the rescue services finally managed to reach her. She was airlifted to the closest hospital, but she died the next day.”
Phil moved from across the table to next to her and put his arm around her shoulders. He held her tightly and she felt somewhat better in his strong arms.
“What a horrible experience that must have been. Shame, no wonder that scene triggered you. But you know you will likely feel better now that you have identified what is happening. We can also pray through that experience. I can’t do it now because it is in public, but when we get into the car again we can maybe have a prayer time.”
Joanne put her head onto Phil’s chest for a moment.
“Thank you for helping me,” she said. “It really makes sense now to understand what I was feeling. And yes I would love you to pray with me.”
She sat upright then and took another sip of her drink. Then she pulled out another tissue and wiped the tears from under her eyes. When she looked at the tissue it was all black from the mascara that had washed away with her tears. For the first time she managed to smile a little and said,
“Oh dear, I’d better go and redo a bit of my makeup. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
She went to the bathroom and looked at herself in the mirror. She looked a mess. There were black streaks running down under her eyes, and she looked like she had a serious dose of pinkeye from her crying.
She wiped away the mascara with a damp tissue. Then she reapplied some more mascara and topped up her fading lipstick. She was thankful that she had brought her little basic makeup bag with her. A final look in the mirror and she felt more satisfied.
A moment later she joined Phil again. Just then the waiter came and announced that their table was now ready. They followed him into the dining room and he seated them in a special little booth in a corner of the restaurant. On the table was a slim vase with two beautiful long red roses in it. A tall red candle was also burning in fancy holder the middle of the table.
Joanne began to relax more now. She was feeling a little better at last. The strong, negative emotions were gone and she could talk without crying. But she still felt a little gnawing in her stomach as she thought about the horrible scene that she saw on that day when her friend disappeared over the edge.
She forced herself back to reality and began to talk about all sorts of things just to try and keep her mind off that event. Phil obliged her and they shared about everything under the sun – their work, their desires for the future, their hopes and dreams.
The meal was everything that Joanne had hoped for. The food was the best that she had tasted anywhere. The atmosphere was romantic, and the staff made them feel special and welcome.
In the middle of the meal a woman arrived with bunches of beautiful mixed flowers for sale. Each bunch was made up of mostly one color.
“Which one would you like?” Phil asked her.
Joanne chose a bunch that was mostly red. It was her next favorite color aside from pink, but they had already run out of pink flowers.
The meal was a very pleasant experience, and when it was over Joanne was feeling a little more contented and at peace. But she still wanted Phil to pray with her in the car as he said he would.
“I hope he doesn’t forget after all this,” she thought.
Once the bill was paid they walked out of the hotel and along the pathway towards their car. When they arrived Phil did his usual and opened the door for Joanne. Then she watched to make sure that he didn’t start the car once he had settled himself in the driver’s seat. She didn’t give him a chance to forget because as soon as he sat down she blurted out,
“Can we pray still? I want to get healing for this situation.”
“Of course we can, beautiful. I hadn’t forgotten. I see you weren’t going to leave that to chance though huh?”
He chuckled, then he became more serious.
“Okay, the object of praying is to receive inner healing from this bad experience. What we basically do is to visualize that experience again. But this time you need to see the Lord Jesus there with you, because He was there.
“You see you may not have known Him yet, but you can put Him into the picture with you now. He is there to help you and strengthen you as you face that event again. Are you with me?”
“Yes,” Joanne replied.
“Good. You just pray then and ask the Lord to come back with you into that memory. Ask Him to take that negative sting out of the memory so that you can think about without it churning you up again. Then we can put it to sleep once and for all.”
He took her hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze. Then he said,
“It’s over to you. I’m here with you too.”
Joanne closed her eyes and it took her a while before she could pray. Then she began to open her heart.
“Lord Jesus I thank you that you are here with me. Lord you know what a horrible experience that was when my friend had her accident. Now I ask you to go back through this memory with me. Help me to face it again, but this time knowing that you are there to give me the victory. Please take away the sting and the pain of it. Thank you Jesus.”
She still sat with her eyes closed and began to relive the scene. Then she began to cry softly again as she said,
“I see the Lord there and He is reassuring me that I will see her again. I will see her in Heaven.”
She wiped her eyes and continued,
“You know I had forgotten that she was a Christian before I was. Her family were believers long before I became a Christian. She in fact had told me about the Lord many times but I never took the bait. I was only saved about 5 years later. This whole incident made me negative about anything spiritual.”
“Wow that is so awesome. You see the Lord is really doing something wonderful in you. Do you feel better?”
Joanne shook her head.
“Yes for sure I do. Thank you for praying with me and sharing about a trigger. I have learned something new tonight.”
“It’s a pleasure,” Phil responded.
“Now we should probably head for home. But before we do this I have something important to ask you.”
Joanne raised her eyebrows and said,
“Important? Now what could that be?”
She looked at Phil in the dim light of the car. He looked serious.
“Sorry Phil, please carry on.”
“Joanne,” he started, “I have come to realize that you are the best thing that has happened in my life.”
He paused as if he was not sure how to continue.
“I realized that I am just not happy being on my own anymore. My life is missing that extra special part of it.”
Joanne felt like a tingle going down her spine. She was excited and hopeful. Was he going to ask her to go out seriously? That would be awesome.
“Oh boy, let me just blurt it out. Beautiful, I guess what I’m trying to say is this: Will you marry me?”
Now that was even better than she had expected! Her jaw dropped in amazement and she burst into tears, but this time out of sheer joy and not sadness. She didn’t even hesitate or think about any of the details, but she just yelled,
“Yes, yes, yes!”
Phil laughed at her response. Then he kissed her.
“Thank you Jesus for answering my prayer. And thank you Jo for making this the best day of my life. I love you more than you will ever know.”
Then he switched off the interior car light, turned the ignition switch and they headed back to the city. All the way back home they continued to talk about their dreams, plans and goals – only this time they included their marriage and family plans too.