Scion of Gethsemane

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Summary

The lives of two women merge for better or worse in a tale that's both uplifting and grimly realistic. Together, they journey down a long, dark road. Gethsemane is a place of great suffering, so called because of the agony and suffering that Jesus had experienced in the garden of Gethsemane before being betrayed by Judas. In this story, the Drus' inner city row house is a kind of Gethsemane for Jasmine Dru because her life there is so difficult. And although Paige is the woman pictured on the cover of the book and at times endures more than her fair share of suffering during the story, Jasmine Dru is the actual scion of Gethsemane to which the title refers. (The cover image is only a detail of the complete sketch, which includes both Jasmine and Paige with the trunk of an olive tree between them.) And the question to be answered throughout the story is a simple one: Will Jasmine live long enough to escape her own personal Gethsemane, or will she be destined to live in that hell forever? Or, worse yet, will she succumb to the evil found there just as Jesus had so long ago?

Genre:
Drama / Other
Author:
B.A. Braxton
Status:
Complete
Chapters:
42
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
18+

CHAPTER ONE: Discovering Discontentment

Paige Barhydt was like most people; she relished time by herself. And on this first day of May, all she wanted to do was to relax in a Center City park and eat her lunch in peace before heading back to work. Her solitude was fleeting, however, as she spied Martin Larson coming up the path. Cutting her break short just to avoid him was an attractive option. Instead she stayed put, and in the end she was glad; talking with Martin that day changed her life forever.

Martin’s shoulders invariably slouched forward, as if he were trying to compensate for his six-foot, three-inch stature. His feet also shuffled as he walked, and his clothes always appeared a size too small: his shirt sleeves were too short and his pant legs, way too high. A thin, 1950’s-style tie rounded the look. The black-rimmed glasses perched on his nose were so thick and heavy, Paige would’ve sworn that he was legally blind.

“May I join you?” he asked when he reached her, sounding uncharacteristically polite.

“Sure,” she said, sliding her lunch and purse over to afford him more room to sit. “Would you like an apple?”

“No, thanks,” he said, making himself comfortable on the bench, “I’ve already eaten.”

Even while sitting, Martin was a whole head taller than she. Resting his elbows against the back of the seat, he regarded Paige deliberately, from her golden hair and lavender twill dress, down to her sheer stockings and matching lavender pumps. She was beginning to understand how protozoa felt under a microscope.

A strong breeze came as she took another bite from her chicken salad and celery sandwich, prompting her to reach for the plastic wrap before it blew away. The leaves of the tall Norway maple behind her started rustling, causing a delightful distraction from the sounds of horns blowing and tires screeching out on Philadelphia’s Market Street.

“Sitting behind a desk all day is a drag when you’ve got weather like this,” Martin said, pushing his glasses up with a long forefinger and studying her impishly. “That’s a pretty dress you’re wearing.”

“Thank you.”

Martin looked snooty, with that arrogant sneer, wide, confident eyes, and regal nose. His Adam’s apple was like a little elevator in his long neck, making a curious, two-inch ascension with every swallow. Marty worked in the collections department with such zealousness and efficiency, one would think that he was collecting for his own personal gain rather than for the benefit of his superiors.

“So, you and Christian have been dating for four years now, right?” he said, still observing every move she made. Most of the people who worked with her at Ralston’s routinely felt the need to stick their noses into other people’s business.

“Five years, actually.” Martin was a sharp man who was also a virtuoso at discovering discontentment, and he noted her lack of enthusiasm with one raised eyebrow.

“Marriage must be right around the corner for you two….”

“We’re not planning to get married just yet.”

“What’s the holdup?”

“What’s the rush?”

“It’s none of my business, but….”

“That’s right,” she said, not caring if she sounded short with him. Martin hesitated, his mouth still open from being interrupted mid-sentence. His surprise soon mellowed into a savvy amusement. At least he finally stopped staring!

A homeless man digging in the garbage nearby caught Martin’s attention. The back of the man’s neck was a fiery red, and his eyes were intent on finding anything of value: a half-eaten soft pretzel, some soda left in a can, a crust of pizza, anything. He was obviously a man in need.

“Just look at that,” Martin said, using his chin to point the guy out. “Seeing vagrants like him make me sick. Why doesn’t he get a job like the rest of us?” Martin glanced at Paige for a moment, and then allowed his cantankerous eyes to scrutinize the homeless man again. “What good is he, anyway?”

“You don’t know his situation. Maybe….”

“His situation is that he’s not working. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be eating out of trash cans. You and I are taxpayers, and there’s no reason why he can’t be one, too.” Martin looked over at the fellow again. “Get a job!” he shouted, this time catching the old guy’s attention. The man scratched the stubble on his chin and watched Martin, his manner suggesting a docile spirit. He seemed like a sweet old man who was down on his luck and didn’t want to offend anybody. After grabbing his sack filled with unknown treasures, he scooted off to avoid anymore of a fuss.

“Why don’t you do me a favor, Martin, and keep on walking,” Paige said, looking around self-consciously. “I don’t want anyone to think we’re together.”

When Martin stood up, his lanky figure reached high into the sky. “Well, I should be getting back,” he said, resting his big hands on his narrow hips as his attention settled on a man coming up from a transit stop in a wheelchair. “Now there’s a man who deserves a handout.”

After stopping by the garbage cans to throw something away, the man in the wheelchair took the orange cap from his head and wiped his brow with the back of his hand. To Paige’s horror, Martin’s feet shuffled over to him, shouted a greeting, and then tossed some coins into the hat he was holding. Martin’s face just beamed as he walked along after, whistling a tune as if he believed he’d done something good!

Paige sat observing the stranger’s bewilderment and knew that he deserved some sort of an explanation. So she dropped the rest of her sandwich back into the bag, picked it and her purse up, and then trudged over as the man looked on. His perplexed face watched as she came near, and he only looked away once to reach inside the Flyers’ hat in his hand and take out the money.

“Hello,” Paige said.

“Hi,” he said, glancing over at Martin as he crossed an intersection filled with city buses and taxicabs, and then lost himself not a moment too soon behind a skyscraper.

“Sorry about that,” she said, pointing to the change in his hand. Redness must’ve come to her face because it felt so hot.

He jingled the coins in his hand. “Is this yours?” he asked, grinning; it must’ve been obvious how embarrassed she was.

She smiled bashfully. “No, but the fellow who gave you the money is a coworker of mine. Sometimes he doesn’t think about what he’s doing.”

The man examined the coins in his palm. “Well, he left me with a buck fifty. I can put that toward the purchase of a chili dog.” When he looked up at her, the breeze tousled his fine, brown hair. “I’ll cover the difference if you’ll let me buy you a chili dog.”

“No, thank you. I brought my own lunch,” she said, holding up the bag.

“I’ll trade you. I’ll buy you a chili dog, and I’ll eat what you have.”

“Why don’t you buy yourself a chili dog?”

“Miss,” he said, glancing down at the money in his hand, “I’d just as soon throw this money away in that garbage can over there than spend any of it on myself.” He paused. “So, what would you like on your chili dog?”

“Cheddar cheese, no onions,” she said, smiling.

“It’s settled, then.” As he rolled his wheelchair over to a vendor’s cart, Paige found it difficult to keep up. A squirrel darted clear of the path they were on, probably for fear of being run over. By the time Paige finally caught up with him, the vendor was already preparing the sandwich. Delectable aromas coming from the cart only whetted her appetite for food with flagrant amounts of fat and calories.

“What’s your name?” she asked while catching her breath.

“Dennis Dru. And yours?”

“Paige.”

The vendor gave Dennis his order wrapped in tinfoil, and then he handed it to her. “I hope you don’t mind, but I also threw in a soft drink.”

“Maybe you should keep that. I usually grab a cup of coffee after I go back to the office, so I don’t have anything for you to drink.”

“That’s okay. Let’s sit over there,” he said, pointing to a bench close by. He wheeled his chair beside the bench and she sat down next to him. After putting the soda on the seat between them, she held her lunch in one hand and the chili dog in the other. “So, what do I have for lunch?” he asked, pretending to peer inside the bag.

“Half a chicken sandwich. I’m afraid I beat you to the first half.”

“That’s okay.” Putting the bag down, she gave him the sandwich. Before partaking, however, he watched as she took a bite from the chili dog.

“Wow, that’s hot!” she said; she’d been so preoccupied by his company, that she hadn’t noticed the jalapeños mixed in with the chili con carne.

“I’m sorry,” he said, as she started fanning her mouth. “Ordering the Mexican version is kind of a habit for me.” Drinking soda gave her the momentary illusion that her mouth felt better. Meanwhile, Dennis finished his sandwich in three bites.

“You’ve got an apple, too,” she told him.

“No kidding? Let’s have it.” As she took a red delicious apple from the bag, its gleam seemed exaggerated in the sunlight, almost like the eternal pause from a still life. After handing it to him, he started polishing it on his shirt. “Do you live around here, Paige?” he asked before taking a bite.

“Yes, Chestnut Hill. I usually take the subway down here, though, to avoid having to park my car.”

While drinking more of the soft drink in her hand, Paige noticed a couple of kids playing with a Frisbee. They seemed to be having so much fun, tossing the disk and then leaping up to catch it. The boys were very good at the game, and watching them proved to be most entertaining. But when Paige glanced down at Dennis’s lifeless, atrophied legs, sadness returned to her face.

“This is a nice place,” Dennis observed. “The flowers are pretty over there.” He was referring to the rhododendrons in full bloom around the rugosa roses. Earlier, April rains had allowed them to flourish.

“Yes, they are,” she said, happy that he should notice. “The lilacs smell wonderful.”

Dennis paused to take advantage of a raft of wind carrying the delightful fragrance, which loomed above the smell of asphalt and the pungent odor of car exhaust. It even ousted the smells of hot dogs and French fries that the vendors were selling, and the otherwise penetrating gases drifting down from oil refinery smokestacks along the Delaware River.

“Lilacs, huh?” Dennis asked, wiping apple juice off his hand and onto the leg of his trousers. “Nice touch.”

Everyone around them had spring fever: joggers went by in droves, while bicycle riders and folks on roller blades breezed past as their wheels droned steady hums against the pavement. Hordes of people lined up by the vendors’ carts were waiting to be served. Sea gulls vied for the popcorn scattered around the base of a cast bronze statue of a girl holding roses and gazing up into the sky. It was called “Destiny.”

“What do you do for a living, Paige?” Dennis asked, taking another bite from the apple.

“I work in the department store across the street. Ralston’s customer service.”

“Do you like it?”

“Customer service?” she asked, and he nodded. “Not really, but it helps to pay the rent.”

“Serious rent, too, if you live in the northwest. I live in west Philly.” He looked up at her. “Ralston’s must pay well.”

It didn’t. Her boyfriend, Christian, always helped her cover the rent each month. It didn’t seem appropriate to go into all of that, so she didn’t mention it.

As Dennis concentrated on finishing the apple, she studied him. He was about twenty-five years old, and his upper body was very strong, obviously to make up for the lost use of his legs. The sleeves of the shirt he was wearing were rolled up past his elbows, and he was wearing a pair of faded, denim jeans. Dennis was only average-looking with his straight, brown hair, dull blue eyes, and pallid complexion, but there was definitely something special about him.

His wheelchair was a modest one; it was made very simply, with no fancy dials on it. But from the push handles down to the foot pedals, everything on it seemed to be in excellent condition. It was clean and well cared for, and Paige admired that.

When Dennis smiled at her, his dimples seemed to brighten the world around him more than the flowers did. Paige felt butterflies in the pit of her stomach, the ones she used to feel during her adolescence. It was nice having that anxious rush of anticipation back again; it brought memories of first dates and lost loves she thought she’d forgotten.

Savoring the last bite, Dennis finished the apple. For a time, he seemed to be the only man there; Paige could see no one else. He was like the Biblical image of Adam, being persuaded to eat of the forbidden fruit, a glimpse, perhaps, into an innocence lost. Paige remembered innocence fondly. It was nice having it back, if only for a short while.

Oblivious to the importance of the moment, Dennis tossed the apple core into a garbage can as if it had been just another apple, and then put the Flyers’ cap back on his head. “Well, I’d better get going.”

“Hey, wait,” she said, trying to delay the inevitable. “I owe you a cup of coffee.”

“That’s okay. I’ll grab something when I get home.”

“Listen, I promise that the coffee I’m offering you would probably be about the best you’ve ever tasted….”

“Don’t tempt me,” he said, giving her that cute, little smile again. “Maybe some other time.”

“I’ll hold you to that.”

“It was nice meeting you, Paige.” When he gave her a friendly wink, those butterflies fluttered again.

“You, too,” she said, and then watched as he maneuvered his wheelchair past the boys with the Frisbee and then took off down Market Street.

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Further Recommendations

clguay: I’m not good rating or critiquing, with that said I am thoroughly enjoying your story. I’m excited for the chapter.

dlmccoy57: Oh my! This is so good. I want more.. please. Not a dull moment. What will happen next or will it be left for our imagination?

KatD: Such a beautiful book and love all the characters! Would love to read more about this family 🥰 Thank you!

Artemis Gold: I am really enjoying where the story is leading. I look forward to each new chapter, other than a little editing needed, I would like to see the chapters be a little longer so that the scenes of the story can move on within less chapters. Overall a really great read so far.

Nathaly : Una novela que engancha a la primera, mis felicitaciones y que continúe haciendo lo que mejor sabe hacer!!

Sofiavergara: Its really relatable and cool

Krystallynne: Its a lot of work to overcome your fears and grow from it. This can be dark at times but the way they grow together is sweet.

Connie White: 😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊

KatD: My heart...wow. This should not be happening xx

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Arici: I started reading it a couple ogf hours ago and I could not leave it until I finished. I loved it and as a member of the tribe I would like to congratulate the chief for another masterpiece to devour reading

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