Leigh Scott rose from her bed and looked out the window at the moonlit driveway. Jeff wasn’t home yet. Her son never came home past midnight on a school night unless he didn’t have classes the next day. At least not until he’d started seeing this girl he’d met at Starbucks. Jessica.
Leigh tilted her head, broadening her view from the second-story window, hoping to see headlights. She looked at her watch again. 12:45.
He was twenty-one years old and a junior in college. Her friends said she shouldn’t be keeping tabs on him at all. But they didn’t know what she knew. They hadn’t invested the years she had in bringing him to the point that he could function independently as a college student. They didn’t know the subtleties of Attention Deficit Disorder and how it stole the hopes and dreams of those it was visited upon… and of those who loved them. How treatment managed but didn’t eliminate the fragmented thoughts and chaotic complexities that diminished her son’s quality of life.
Sometimes she felt she’d worked as hard as Jeff had to realize his dream of becoming a computer technician. He was only one year away from his degree and the promise of a job with E-Solutions, which was headquartered only twenty miles north of Cedar Ridge in River Falls, Idaho. They’d come too far to let anything interfere now.
Leigh climbed back into bed, turning on her side so she faced the window, watching for telltale lights to flash across her bedroom wall.
What if he’d started home earlier in the evening and something had happened? She sat up. Maybe she should try his cell phone again. She looked at her alarm clock. 12:49 a.m. She huffed a sigh. It had been hard raising her son alone, and times like this were the worst.
Blake. A faint sense of yearning passed through her. The remnants of grief… nothing more. She switched on the lamp above the nightstand and pulled her Bible into her lap. God was her partner now. And life was easier.
Turning to First Corinthians, she found the passage she’d been studying about the gifts of the Spirit: “… the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: … gifts of healings … to another prophecy … to another different kinds of tongues… ” She lifted her gaze from the page. Signs and wonders, available to every believer. This was the awesome power of God. The Gift. Something she wanted, something she prayed for. She closed her eyes a moment. She deeply desired to work for God.
Her thoughts returned to Jeff. There was so much at stake. It wasn’t just Jeff’s degree and job, but her parents’ home hung in the balance. The unintended consequences of carefully laid plans.
Rising, she set the Bible on the bedside table, then walked to her desk and sat down, ready to work on her book, Second Chance.
With her day job as a real estate assistant, her writing time was restricted to nights and weekends. But she was willing to do whatever it took to respond to God’s call on her life. Settling in her chair, she clicked on the bar at the bottom of her computer screen and page sixty-eight appeared. She began reading the last paragraphs she’d written. Before she got to the end of the page her eyes darted to the little clock in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. 1:03.
He was over an hour late. Maybe she should call the police.
What would she say? “My son went on a date and he’s over an hour late.” That didn’t sound like an emergency even to her. Unless you knew Jeff. He was considerate, reliable, sensible. The image of the tall, burly young man’s sweet face and twinkling brown eyes flashed through her mind. He’d been her sole focus since his father had died five years earlier. Blake’s death had drawn them together… and apart.
Leigh read the paragraphs on the screen again. Her heroine was having a crisis of faith, brought about because she hadn’t married the love of her life, whom she’d met in book one, First Love.
She stared at the screen, her mind blank. She didn’t have any answers for her heroine right now. She minimized the document and walked back to the window.
Why wasn’t he home? What was he doing at this hour? He’d said he was taking Jessica to the Wednesday night singles’ group at Grace Bible Church. That would have been over by ten. Then they might have gone out for coffee. Still, that wouldn’t have gone on until this hour.
Leigh turned off the light and sat on the edge of the bed. She should have asked more questions about this girl two months ago when Jeff had first mentioned her. But her son had never had a serious girlfriend and said nothing to indicate that this girl might be the first one. He believed in abstinence and had even spoken on the subject at the local high schools. She knew he didn’t plan to get serious with a girl until he was ready to get married, and without ever discussing it, they both knew that would be after he got a job and was financially secure. There had to be a good reason why he was late.
She heard a car door shut and ran to the window, her eyes cutting to the driveway.
The gnawing fear in her stomach dissolved into relief, then bubbled up in anger. She folded her arms across her chest as she watched Jeff get out of the car and retrieve his backpack from the backseat. Casually throwing it over his shoulder, he walked to the keypad that opened the garage door, seemingly oblivious to the fact it was long past midnight.
He didn’t even glance up at the window that he mischievously referred to as “Mother’s perch.” When she’d rented the house, he teased her that the location of the master bedroom window was why she chose this house instead of one of the others that had been available. Then he put his arm around her and hugged her. Letting her know he understood.
A smile tugged at her lips. Still, there was no excuse for being this late and not calling. She glanced at the clock next to her bed. 1:15. Raising her eyes heavenward, she whispered, “Well, Lord, what do You think? Should I wait to talk to him about this tomorrow?”
She sat for a moment as her world righted itself. Her only son was home, safe and sound. Probably already flopped down on his bed in the basement bedroom. She pursed her lips. It would be better to wait until she got home from work tomorrow night to talk to him. Right now she was still too angry to have a reasoned discussion, and besides that, he needed his sleep.
Leigh slipped under the covers. And she’d find out more about this Jessica. An uneasy feeling swept over her as she recalled Jeff first talking about the girl. How she had a troubled past of drugs and alcohol, was struggling financially and looking for a place to live. But how that previous weekend she’d found God at the Gospel Mission and was determined to turn her life around. Jeff’s gentle eyes had become serious. “She’s a new Christian, Mom, and she needs support. If I hadn’t happened to be sitting at Starbucks doing my homework on my laptop, we never would have met. I don’t think it’s any coincidence how that happened.” He’d given Leigh a decisive nod, just in case she missed the obvious. It had been a “God thing.”
She lay on her side, staring out the window into the starry sky. Yes, she had to agree, it wasn’t any coincidence that a troubled girl who needed money and a place to live just happened to have found God a few days before meeting him. A boy with a future who had God at the center of his life.
And she’d picked the right one. Ever since Jeff had been a young man he’d had a heart for the less fortunate. Volunteering in the special education class in high school, going with the church outreach group to visit the homeless, even picking up a bum hitchhiking on a snowy night. She shuddered remembering that episode. It was a miracle nothing had happened to him. He had an innocent naiveté that allowed him to embrace people and their problems without judging them. Their pastor had once said to her, “Jeff loves the unlovely.”
Leigh turned onto her back and stared at the ceiling. Jeff knew he didn’t have time to devote to a girl right now. He’d introduced Jessica to other Christian young people in his church. Now he needed to stay focused on school, graduating, and starting his career. Nothing was more important than that.
Tomorrow night she would talk to Jeff about spending less time with Jessica and more time studying. She admired her son for the interest he took in others. But Jessica wasn’t the kind of girl he would ever be seriously interested in. Right now, he needed to concentrate on getting his degree and a job and taking responsibility for the payments that would soon start on his “student loan.” The loan that was secured by her parents’ home.
He needed to forget about Jessica. Jeff needed to move on.