On Sunday afternoon, Jana decided to stop by Van’s house to deliver a few tasty treats that she’d made for him. She’d heard how much he missed her cooking and wanted to do something about it. Kristin came with her. Both women had on cool sundresses, just right for the warm summer evening. Jana’s was a light soothing purple with a lacy hem and Kristin’s was the color of a yellow mustard, the fancy kind that was only sold in specialty shops. They both looked great, definitely not like grieving widows.
When they pulled up to Van’s ranch style brick house, they heard the loud sound of an electric trimmer coming from the backyard. They gathered up their goods and walked towards the back fence, following that sound. On both sides and in the back of the large yard there were rows of thick shrubbery aligning the fence. In the middle of the yard there was another thick row of bush. That’s where they found Van.
For a moment, neither woman said anything as they watched him masterfully wield the trimmer over the bushes, turning them into artistic natural figurines. One large bush was shaped like a bird in flight. Another looked like two dolphins kissing. And the one that he was currently working on, looked remarkably like the beginnings of an elephant with this trunk raised in the air.
Kristin stood transfixed, completely in awe of his abilities. What can’t he do? she wondered with the warm peach cobbler dish still in hand.
“Van! Van!” Jana finally called out to him over the roar of the trimmer.
Van cocked his head to the side in attention and turned around. He smiled wide when he saw them. After he turned the trimmer off and laid it on the ground, he came towards them.
“Hello, pretty ladies,” he said, looking affectionately at his two guests. His hazel eyes twinkled with pleasure when he noticed the pies in their hands. “Are those for me?”
“You bet they are, brown-eyes,” Jana said, handing off her apple pie to Kristin before going over to kiss Van’s glistening cheek.
Kristin waved hello and respectfully kept her distance. Instead, she went over to the green patio table and set the deep plastic containers upon it. Both had plastic lids and could be put in the freezer later. Then she sat down in one of the green chairs and waited while the two cousins conversed as short distance away.
After a minute or two, Jana and Van came over to the round patio table. “I’ll be right back, sweetie. This man wants to taste the peach cobbler now.” Then Jana took both desserts and disappeared inside of the sliding glass patio doors.
Kristin stayed behind. Van sat in the chair beside her and took a long gulp from the big frosty cup that sat on the table. His face was shining with sweat and the white tank t-shirt clung to his muscular torso. Kristin felt heat creep up her neck at that sight. She averted her eyes as not to stare and soon busied herself with tracing the curly designs on her clothing.
“So, did you enjoy the message today?” Van asked, looking at the woman beside him, wondering what interested her most about the patterns on her dress. He loved talking to Kristin and wanted to know what she thought about things, her dress, the weather, politics, everything. When did her opinion start meaning so much to me?
Kristin looked back up into his hazel pools and smiled. “Oh, yeah. I always love hearing about the prodigal son. It shows God’s willingness to forgive us, even after we’ve made complete messes of our lives.”
Van nodded in agreement. “But you know, every time I hear it, I always feel sorry for the eldest son – the one that stayed behind. It’s a shame that he couldn’t seem to get past his resentment enough to be happy when his brother came back.”
“I agree. I noticed that he seemed to also have a problem with the Father’s decision to be forgiving towards the younger brother.” Then she thought of something else. “You know, that passage in Luke 15 ended without saying whether the older brother ever joined in the celebration or not. I’d like to think that he finally did.”
“Me too,” Van replied, taking another sip of his drink. “You sure know your Bible. You must be a seminary student or something.” He smiled at her before wiping his forehead and face with the red towel that was draped across the back of his chair.
Kristin blushed and shook her head. “Well, I wouldn’t say all that. I just love the fascinating stories it has inside. They really do minister to the soul.” Then she added with sparkling eyes, “And I also love God. He’s brought me a mighty long way, as the song says.”
“I heard that,” Van said quietly, observing how passionately she’d spoken about her love for God. That was an admirable quality in anyone, but it was especially endearing in Kristin. At least for him it was.
“Anyway, I didn’t know that you had such an artistic side to you.” She said, pointing to the various creatively-shaped shrubs in the backyard.
Just then, Jana came back outside with a tray containing three helpings of peach cobbler. One for each of them. The tray also contained a pitcher of lemonade and two glasses.
“Sweetie, Van has got talents hidden all over the place,” Jana said as she gave Kristin a glass and a bowl of dessert with a fork. Van already had his drink and the largest helping of peach cobbler which he was now eating with vigor. Sitting down next to Van, Jana patted his hand. “Trouble is, he just hasn’t found the right woman to bring them all out.”
Until now, Van mused, looking directly at Kristin as he took in another forkful of cobbler.
Kristin’s pulse raced as she lowered her gaze from those delightful hazel pools. She wanted to be that ‘right’ woman for Van. The realization of that fact stunned her into silence. But isn’t it too soon to be feeling this way about another man, Lord? Kristin mused, not knowing what the widow’s protocol was about such things.
* * *
Over the next few weeks Kristin became thoroughly integrated into her job. Through the computer center she was able to help provide computer software training for the employees of local and some regional businesses and small business owners. It also allowed her to extend select services to area private schools who wanted their students to obtain experience with the latest software and computer equipment that the schools didn’t currently have on site due to recent educational cutbacks.
Many of the clients that Kristin trained left glowing remarks about her to Brenda Combs, her supervisor. Because she made learning fun for them, several clients decided to enter into long term contractual agreements with the training center. This pleased Van and Brenda tremendously. It pleased Brenda, because her new hire had exceeded her highest expectations. It pleased Van, because Kristin was not only flourishing in his company, but was also beginning to rise up from sorrow.
Because of her increased popularity, Kristin had plenty to do. Some days she rarely saw Van at work at all, much less had time to talk with him. But she couldn’t help noticing that Claudia didn’t seem to have that problem. Somehow her co-worker always found time to be around Van, no matter how busy the center got.
As a matter of fact, Claudia found time to do a lot of things, including stealing some of Kristin’s clients. This theft normally occurred during peak phone times when Brenda was swamped with an abundance of incoming calls and would enlist the help of others. Claudia was one of many to volunteer to help with this task. Then when clients called to schedule training sessions with Kristin, she simply told them that Kristin was either booked up or wasn't accepting any new clients at that time. Next, Claudia would ‘kindly’ offer them her services and then schedule them during Kristin’s peak hours, when the other woman would be too busy to notice.
Yet, despite Claudia’s dishonesty, Kristin continued to prosper. It seemed as if she had the Midas touch. Everything she set her hands to do seemed to thrive. And Kristin’s excellent work ethics brought first-rate recognition to the computer center within the community. As a result, the center even put her picture on some of the new brochures.
The only time Kristin was able to talk with Van was when he came by to trim the lawn. And then it was usually only for a few minutes, because someone was always calling him on his cell phone about one of his business. It still amazed Kristin how Van managed to run three companies and still have time to do their lawn. Her amazement would soon grow on multiples levels in the days ahead.
© 2007 by Suprina Frazier