Surrender To Me (Book One)

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Chapter 2-Backstory

Looking back, I remember so very clearly when Thomas and I moved from our Indiana farm, where we lived for twenty-four years of marriage, to our upscale, suburban Chicago home. We enjoyed our posh new residence for a short time and celebrated our twenty-fifth anniversary just prior to Thomas’ death. During our marriage we loved each other with everything in us. We lived as much as we could, and we pulled from life every ounce of joy and laughter to which we could lay claim. To be sure, neither of us were perfect individuals, but we certainly qualified as one of those couples who are ‘meant to be.’

Now, though, Thomas is gone and I’m living in downtown Chicago all alone, forging a new life without him.

I find living in a city to be quite an adjustment for someone who has always been a country girl. I have the same general complaints as most city people who are new to the city: It’s hard getting used to all of the noise. Traffic congestion is miserable. Parking is practically nonexistent. The ridiculously tall buildings block direct sunlight from the street level except from eleven to two each day. I suppose the sunlight criticism could be unique to me. I’m not really sure. The stars are virtually impossible to find at night thanks to pollution and bright city lights. Also, there is the general lack of connection between people as they pass one another in the act of living their busy lives. I do have to admit, though, that last one doesn’t bother me too much.

Chicago isn’t the largest city in the world by any means but compared to where I’ve spent the majority of my life, it seems enormous. The city offers many things that small- town life does not. The sidewalks don’t rollup at dark. There is always a myriad of activities from which to choose. Also, if you don’t like the person or people you’ve recently met there are plenty of other people with whom you can associate.

I’m about as rookie as it gets. My actual city residency extends to the grand scale of a whopping two weeks, but I’ve already learned that city life is vastly more expensive than life in the country. While I can afford any type of life, I’d rather live simply and spend my money on more important things. I did manage to find a nice little place for what I was assured was a bargain price. It doesn’t take me long to get my new home Ellie-ized and, while it’s nothing fancy, it seems much more like home now that I have put my personal stamp on it.

I’m anxious to get my personal life squared away so I can begin working on the task that brought me to the city in the first place. Since Thomas passed away, I’ve decided to devote myself to full-time charity work. I have far too much passion and energy to waste at home as a grieving widow. I haven’t yet sold the place we shared, I might never, but I have to move forward, and I feel like this drastic residential change will jumpstart my new life.

My attorney and financial advisors have proven true to their word in their ability to connect me with the power people of this city. I mean it probably isn’t much of a stretch for them given that the power people are also clients of theirs, but their input and connections have created a great foundation for my base of operations.

Today, I’m attending my first meeting of the Charity Network Council. This is a new organization comprised of a variety of people from throughout Chicago. Local attorneys and politicians, area doctors, other elite individuals and, from what I understand, pretty much anyone who’s interested in helping others, are welcome to participate.

Evidently, there is growing unrest among Chicagoans regarding class wars. I don’t believe this counsel is naïve enough to think that they can eradicate the problem of class wars, but I think it’s an awesome and noble venture to help those who don’t have enough. What better way to accomplish an objective than by setting an example?

I am an old-school holdout, though. I’m one of those people who don’t believe in handouts, but I’m all for helping hands. Personally, I think the welfare program that was started in this country several decades ago has created a bottom tier of people who feel entitled to have everything handed to them. I’m 45 years old and I know that life isn’t supposed to work that way. I’m a person with solid faith in God and the Bible teaches that if you don’t work you don’t eat. Our welfare system has, by now, taught several generations of Americans that you can sit at home all day, play video games and pop out babies while someone else pays to put food on your table.

I’m aware the welfare initiative was implemented as a temporary solution to a horrific problem. However, the temporary solution out grew its original purpose and became the horrific problem. I firmly believe that the welfare system has crippled our country. Generations of people have been robbed of the opportunity to work.

Work does great things for people. It provides a paycheck. It brings dignity and a sense of accomplishment to those who participate. It inspires everyone involved to reach higher and do better for themselves and those they love. If everyone is working, the load of a functioning nation is spread across many shoulders, thereby, decreasing the load on each shoulder.

My late husband, Thomas, and I were both raised in working-class families. Thomas’ parents were farmers who toiled the fields and raised cattle for 70 years. My dad was an over the road trucker. My mom mostly worked at home with us kids but would work outside the home when finances dictated a need.

Thomas’ chosen profession was that of teaching school. I never felt called to any particular career, so I pretty much followed the same track as my mom. I took care of the home, my husband and our three boys. From time to time, as the need arose, I too would take an outside job.

Our parents saw to it that Thomas and I got to go to college. In turn, Thomas and I got our three boys through college. None of it was easy, but boy-oh-boy was it worthwhile! They are all very hard workers. They learned from Thomas and I what hard work means the same way Thomas and I learned from our parents. America has lost much of that and welfare is the reason.

I know my opinion will make a lot of people angry, especially people on welfare. They feel threatened if someone talks about taking away their golden egg laying goose. Honestly, though, it’s not enough to take welfare away from those who use it, and especially, from those who abuse it. People have to have jobs to transition to before welfare can be phased out.

There has to be a starting point from which businesses, politicians, and anyone else interested can come together to provide jobs, and the skills that are needed for them, so that our economy can be put back on track. Our big powerful government, with all of its recklessly wasted resources, appears impotent when it comes to this necessary change. With this being the case, it’s left up to ordinary citizens to fix this mess.

It’s imperative that this conversion be made because there’s a crisis coming. It’s racing toward us at light speed. So many wealthy people, especially huge corporations, manage to wrangle free of paying taxes. When these people don’t pay their fair share of taxes the coffers for the poor and needy are seriously depleted. Unfortunately, that leaves the middle class to meet most of the welfare bill.

Currently, there are more people in the middle class than the upper class, but the middle class is shrinking at an alarming rate. Very few middle-class people move higher up the scale to the upper class. They almost always slide down to the lower class. So, while the lower class grows in size and its consumption rate increases proportionately, the middle class shrinks and there are fewer and fewer people to pay for welfare and America’s economic infrastructure.

Given my political stance, is it any wonder that the Charity Network Council appeals to me? I think it’s an awesome grassroots opportunity to be involved in real, honest, effective change, so I’m all over it. I’m sure my hopes are too high, but I’m going to give it a go. For the first time in my life I have the means and opportunity to do something great for God. I’m not going to blow it.

Today harbors the second meeting of the new Council. The first meeting was two weeks ago before I moved to the city, but I feel relatively sure that I didn’t miss a great deal as it was largely an introductory get-together. I’m meeting my attorney inside so he can introduce me to many of the new people I’ll need to get to know.

To be honest, I’m kind of terrified. I’m really stepping out of my comfort zone because, in addition to not being a city girl and having all these lifelong connections, I’m incredibly awkward socially. Staying my anxiety enough to meet new people, remember names, and learn who is friends with whom, who hates who, along with all the other land mines waiting to derail my efforts, is going to tax me in a mighty way. In spite of my inherent disadvantage, I understand how much God has done for me. I want to offer others the same chance He’s given me. So, from a ministry standpoint, I’ve got to move slowly and set up a good foundation from which to work.

Another serious consideration, in addition to my personality quirks and personal opinions, is my wardrobe. Back home it doesn’t matter so much what a person wears. Blue jeans, a T-shirt, barn boots, and a raincoat, when it’s called for, are the fashion standard of the day. Here, though, I know my wardrobe can certainly sell or undermine my efforts, especially if I want to move within the circle of people who can really help me with my charity efforts. Hopefully, with some work I can fix this shortcoming as well.

So, in the interest of self-preservation, I walk around downtown Chicago for a couple of days studying the kinds of clothes people wear. Finally, I come across two ladies who are leaving one of the high-end stores. I just love their look because they are so put together. Their styles are very different from one another, but each of them looks amazing. I stop them and ask for advice. They are very gracious and agree to help me. It’s extremely obvious, even to a newbie like me, that they feel beautiful and this confidence radiates into their demeanor. I want the same feeling for myself. Turns out they are great friends, and both use the same personal shopper. They give me her name, telephone number and high recommendations.

The personal shopper’s name is Mandy Persinger. I give her a call and she agrees to meet me for a late lunch, so we can get to work on my wardrobe. I let her choose the restaurant. I figure the best way to get to know the city is to pick people’s brains about their favorite places. Mandy doesn’t disappoint. She chooses a rather obscure little place that sells hoagies, fries and sodas. It works out great because I happen to love hoagies, fries and soda. We meet there in the early afternoon while the place is largely empty and is ripe for a lively conversation.

Mandy’s age pretty much catches me off guard. I expected someone a little older. She’s slightly younger than my two youngest boys. I will say, though, that she looks great in the clothes that she’s chosen for herself. I tell her I think it’s amazing that someone as young as herself picked the clothing ensembles for two ladies I met.

I want her to know I came to her because she made them look amazing. She bridges the generational gap extremely well. She tells me that being a personal shopper is the part-time gig that’s helping her attend fashion school. I really like her. She’s going to go far with her career. One day, I’ll get to be one of those lucky people who say, “Mandy Persinger? I knew her way back when!”

After we agree on a price, we get some shopping scheduled. I want my wardrobe filled with clothing that fits my personal sense of style, suits my body type, and keeps in mind the kind of people with whom I’ll be meeting. Sounds like a tall order when I think about it, but there’s no doubt in my mind that Mandy can meet my expectations. I’m just going to have to keep an open mind and not be a stick in the mud. I remind myself I need to have fun with Mandy and step out of my comfort zone!

By the end of the second week Mandy has helped me accumulate an incredible wardrobe that makes me feel beautiful because it makes me look beautiful.

For today’s council meeting I choose a lavender suit with a beautiful fitted skirt. When I check my appearance in the mirror, I must admit I’m pleased with what I see. All 5’3” of me is draped in lavender. The suit frames my figure perfectly. The jacket has narrow feminine lapels with a little girly skirt around the bottom of it. The fitted jacket accents my ample bosom and my narrow waist, but doesn’t hide my bottom, which, I’ll concede, for my age, is still quite pert.

The hemline of my skirt hits me just below the knees. My calf muscles are adequately displayed while the vent in the back makes the skirt incredibly user friendly. I finish my look with some gorgeous lavender pumps and a matching handbag.

I’ve always been one to go easy on the makeup factor, but I check it anyway. Blush? Who says someone over the age of twenty-five can’t wear shimmer on her cheeks? Check. Mascara? I use navy blue to highlight my bright blue eyes. Check. Lip gloss? It’s a sheer pink to highlight my fair complexion. Check. Wrinkles? Check, but there’s not much I can do about them. I so wish I could!

I fuss over the curls that hang shoulder length around my oval face. Grey hairs appear in my ebony hair, but not at a rate faster than my ability to keep up with them. Thanks, God, for that! I like my hair best when it’s long, layered, curled and free to accent my face, but on off days, days when I don’t wash and set it, I put it up in a high messy ponytail. If I don’t use the ponytail, my hair makes me nuts. I love it when my hair is freshly washed and curls bounce as I move, but once I sleep on it the volume goes to nothing and the ponytail reigns supreme.

Overall, I look as nice as I ever have. Mandy has nailed what I now consider my signature look. I feel chic and confident, like I belong. Yes, hiring that girl was a tremendously sound decision. I’m ready to start my new life so I grab my handbag and head out the door.

The Charity Network Council meets in an area on the first floor of the Dawes corporate building. When I arrive, I find a large meeting room that can be fitted in different ways to meet a variety of conference needs. There’s a slightly elevated stage on the far end with step access on each side. For this meeting, chairs are arranged in rows and divided down the center by an aisle. There are numerous folding tables lining the walls for much of the room’s length. Even with all the seating and storage capacity there is ample room on each side, as well as, in the rear of the space, for mingling and networking.

I’m incredibly grateful that I’ve got such a great group of city savvy people working on my behalf. I really like the attorney that I’m meeting today. His name is Peyton Stanley. He’s from the largest firm in town and sits on the board of the new council. So, Peyton’s in the know, and his efforts on my behalf put me eons ahead of where I’d have started without him.

I walk into the meeting feeling confident about my ability to fit in. I look for and find Peyton. I stand outside the circle of friends he’s speaking with, but opposite him so he’s aware of my presence. Peyton is an older gentleman, tall with angular features and a trim torso. He has a prominent nose which supports wire-rimmed glasses. His accented tone drips old-school, southern charm. I’m guessing he’s from Georgia, but then I don’t have much of an ear when it comes to accents. He might be from Mississippi, Louisiana, or even South Carolina for all I know.

In no time, Peyton excuses himself and comes forward to welcome me to the meeting. He places his hand on the small of my back and urges me forward.

“This way, Eliza, let’s get you introduced to some of these folks.” For the next several minutes, Peyton and I move from person to person. I do my best to remember names and connections by way of business dealings, friendships or family ties.

All in all, there are probably a hundred people in attendance and Peyton introduces me to twelve or so before the meeting starts. He assures me I will eventually meet everyone.

One person, in particular, is memorable. Peyton introduces him as Jackson Dawes. This man is tall, muscular and gorgeous. He’s living, mobile artwork. I don’t want to stare. I don’t want to be rude. I don’t want to embarrass myself, however, it’s incredibly difficult not to overtly look at him. My slim interest in self-preservation is fading fast. Mr. Dawes is dressed to the hilt in a dark gray Armani suit. As my luck would have it, the lavender of his shirt nearly matches the lavender of my suit. His tie is a deeper shade of purple.

“Jackson,” Peyton begins. “I’d like you to meet Eliza Morgan. She’s new to our city and really wants to get involved with the Charity Council.”

Mr. Dawes steps forward and says, “Hello, Mrs. Morgan. It’s nice to meet you.” He bestows a megawatt smile upon me as he reaches for my hand. When our fingers touch, I swear an electrical current crackles between us. I look at him. He looks at me. AWKWARD!

My ability to think clearly is shanghaied. My ability to articulate speech left with the hijackers as well. I clear my throat hoping to chase away my insecurities and gain a second or two to collect my thoughts.

“Nice to meet you as well,” I finally return his greeting.

Mr. Dawes recovers his manners more quickly than I and rescues me from the intensity of the moment. “How long have you been in our fair city?” he asks, smiling with his entire face. His eyes literally shine with life and vitality as he turns up the wattage of his smile and a spectacular iridescence presents itself in his gaze.

“A whole two weeks,” I answer him, doing my best not to be flustered. He continues to hold my hand in his.

“Wow, you are new,” he agrees. “Have you found a place to live?” he inquires.

“Yes, I closed on a condo a little over a week ago. I’m about to get settled into it.” Suddenly, awareness and understanding hit me. “Jackson Dawes? Of Dawes Incorporated?”

“One and the same,” he answers me with another dazzling smile. It appears as if he enjoys the recognition of his effect on me.

Slowly, I pull my hand from his, swallow and do my best to continue. “Well, you’re building is just beautiful. I love how open and light it is.”

“Thank you. Getting it renovated was a huge job, but so worth it,” he readily admits.

“I have to agree with you…”

I’m so enamored with Mr. Dawes that I fail to notice that Peyton slipped away from me. “Ladies and gentlemen,” comes Peyton’s voice over the PA system. “If you’ll take your seats, we’ll get started.”

“Well, it was certainly nice to meet you Mr. Dawes,” I state simply as I reach for his hand.

He takes my one hand and enfolds it within both of his. Warm tingles ensue at the point of contact. “Nice to meet you as well, Mrs. Morgan. Perhaps we can get together soon and discuss the types of charity work you’d like to pursue.” He continues to hold my hand. He continues to smile with his sparkling brown eyes. The electrical current continues to make a nerve-wracking circuit between us.

As I pull my hand from his, I smile and say, “I look forward to it.” I turn and find a seat near the back of the room. Soon, I’m lost in the flow of the meeting. I take notes as it proceeds, trying to place names with faces and remember which company or occupation goes with what face.

The meeting lasts for about an hour and fifteen minutes. I spend its entirety writing furiously so I have a decent idea of the face/name matches of the participants who have spoken more than once. It’s been very fast-paced and a little disconcerting. There’s so much to learn. I take a deep breath and remind myself: You’ll get it, Ellie. Take one step at a time.

When the meeting adjourns, I stand and turn to leave the conference center. When I fix my eyes on the exit, I notice Jackson Dawes watching me as I approach. I suppose he’s been standing behind me the entire time.

He does that dazzling smile thing again and says to me, “Have a great afternoon, Mrs. Morgan. I’ll get your number from Peyton and call you soon.”

“Thank you, Mr. Dawes. You have a nice day also.” I breeze past him and make a beeline for the exit of the building. It’s warmed up a lot while I was inside. I unbutton my jacket and flap it slightly, trying to cool my body. I head toward the curb and descend the steps as they lead away from the entrance of the building.

Coming down the sidewalk towards me is a woman with a little girl. I assume the woman is the mother of the child. The little girl appears to be about five years old. The woman is in her mid-twenties, is heavyset and buxom. Her long hair is constructed in beautiful cornrows, the ends off which are confined with colorful bands. She’s wearing a loose fitting brightly colored dress and cherry red flip-flops.

The little girl is simply beautiful in a bright pink jumper and coordinating polo shirt. Her hair is fixed in pigtails, which are fastened in bright pink bands.

The two of them are talking together when, suddenly, the woman yanks hard on the little girl’s arm. The mother’s motion turns the child sideways so that she faces her mother. Now, the woman reaches out and hits the child’s face with a fierce loud openhanded slap. The child grabs her cheek as she screams and falls to the ground.

I run over to them and insert myself between the woman and the scared little girl. “Stop it!” I demand of the woman. “Stop hitting this child! What’s wrong with you? She’s just a little girl!”

Surprise and fury compete for control of the woman’s features. “Who the hell are you, you crazy bitch?!” she screams at me.

I indicate the child with a nod. “I’m here to help her,” I tell the enraged mother.

“She’s my baby and she ain’t no business of yours,” comes the mother’s hateful reply.

“Well, she’s my business now,” I inform her. “I’m not going to stand by and let you beat her.”

“I didn’t give her no beatin’. She smart mouthed me and she don’t get away with that crap,” she says like she’s the most logical person in the world.

“Slapping a child across the face so hard that you knock her down isn’t disciplining her, it’s abusing her,” I correct her line of thought.

“Oh yeah? Says who?” She steps up to my face and continues, “Maybe you’d like to take the rest of what she’s got coming since you like sticking your nose in where it don’t belong!”

I pull out my phone and begin to dial 911. Angry mama smacks my phone from my hands and pulls her arm back to take a swing at me.

Dear God, she’s going to hit me!

Suddenly, from out of nowhere, an Armani clad arm shoots in front of me and grabs the lady’s fist as it barrels toward my face. Jackson Dawes steps in between angry mama and me. He twists the woman’s arm behind her and renders her immobile. I retrieve my phone and call the police. They arrive quickly, arrest the woman and take her child into protective custody. They inform Jackson and me we need to come to the precinct so we can give statements about what happened.

Mr. Dawes and I are standing on the sidewalk, inches from one another. My voice is breathless and completely shaky. “Wow! Can you believe this?” I exclaim absentmindedly. I rub my forehead and shake my head in disbelief.

Mr. Dawes asks me, “Do you need to sit down, Mrs. Morgan?”

I nod my head slightly. “Yeah, I think maybe I do,” I agree as he takes my elbow and leads me to the retaining wall that borders the sidewalk in front of his building. Suddenly, my remembrance of what he did for me allows me to recover my manners.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Dawes,…” I begin, but he cuts me off.

“Please, call me Jackson,” he insists as he smiles at me.

That smile, oh my gosh, that smile. It’s a good thing I’m sitting down because my knees just turned to dish soap.

“O…kay, Jackson,” I reply while I return my best ‘wind knocked out of me’ smile. “I’m sorry I forgot my manners. This whole thing has me pretty rattled. Anyway, thank you so much for saving me from her right hook.”

“You’re very welcome,” he says readily. “You know, what you did for that little girl was remarkable.”

I completely disagree so I shake my head at him. “Anyone else would’ve done the same.”

Now, Jackson shakes his head. “See,” he begins with his opposing assessment, “by the time I came from the building and saw you talking to her there were twenty other people standing around. You were the only one who stepped forward and defended that little girl. I was lucky I could get to you before she popped you a good one.”

“Well, wouldn’t that have been something?” I exclaim while fanning my face with my open hand. “My first taste of big city life and I get knocked on my keister in front of God and everyone. The embarrassment might have been the end of me. It’s all a little blurry, but I sincerely appreciate what you did for me. Thank you so much.”

Mr. Dawes shakes his head like his effort on my behalf was no big deal. “We need to go to the precinct and give our statements. Do you want a lift?” he asks, incredibly hopeful.

Hopeful? I can’t imagine why he’s hopeful.

If you’d like, I’ll drop you off at your place when we’re finished.”

If I don’t accept Jackson’s offer, I’m going to have to find a cab, coming and going. To be honest, I’m not feeling all that great. He sits beside me as he waits for my answer.

“Would it be terrible if I said yes?” I ask him. “Honestly, I’m kind of shaken, but I do want to follow through. I don’t want that lady taking her little girl home where she’ll be defenseless. I can just imagine her mother will blame her for this entire thing.”

“There’s nothing terrible about it,” Jackson responds as he pulls out his phone and tells his driver to retrieve us. While waiting, I bring my fingertips to my forehead and rub it slightly. I grimace at the discomfort in my belly.

“You okay, Mrs. Morgan?” Jackson asks me.

“Ellie,” I reply.

“I’m sorry?”

“Please, call me Ellie. Mrs. Morgan is so formal. I think we’re past that, aren’t we?”

“Yes, I guess we are. Okay, Ellie. Are you feeling ill?”

“Honestly, I think I need protein. I skipped breakfast and all this drama has hit my empty system. It’s not sitting so well.”

“Okay, then. Let’s get you something to eat,” Jackson says like nothing else matters.

Stupid hasn’t left me yet, so I say, “I thought we were going to give our statements?”

“We will, but the precinct will still be there,” Jackson says as he smiles at me kindly. A huge black limo pulls up to the curb. “Come on, Ellie. Let’s get some food into you so you’ll feel better.”

One hour later I’ve consumed one of the finest steaks I’ve ever eaten. My upset stomach has righted itself, my strength has returned, and I’m ready to face the afternoon. Jackson has his driver deliver us to the police station where we spend another hour filling out paperwork and answering questions.

When I leave the interrogation room Jackson is waiting for me just like he promised. He drives me home and walks me to my door. I ask him inside. He graciously obliges me.

“Your place is very nice,” he comments as he looks around the living room/kitchen area.

“Thank you. I tend towards traditional tastes.” My condo is a few blocks from downtown and is located in a lovely renovated brownstone. There are three other units in the building. Mine is on the left, second floor. It’s only about 1500 square feet, but it’s plenty large enough for only me. It has solid wood trim, crown moldings, and a gas burning fireplace. There is at least one wall of the original exposed brick in every room. I just love that aspect of its decor. I think the brick is what eventually sold me on the place.

My living room and kitchen are where I spend most of my time. I made one extra bedroom into a closet, which isn’t nearly full, but that’s something I intend to remedy. The other extra bedroom is my office. I mostly use it to store office furniture because I do any real work in the living room, with the TV on.

I turn and look up at Jackson’s handsome face. I find he’s already watching me. I swallow hard and find my voice. “I can’t thank you enough for all your kindness. Really you saved my day on so many levels.”

Jackson pursues modesty again. I get the impression that doesn’t happen often. “Anyone who rescues a kid like that deserves to be saved,” he replies, smiling at me.

I feel a bit uncomfortable with all the praise, so I deflect. “Well, I didn’t do much. I just saw a kid in trouble and had to help. Honestly, I reacted before I even took the time to think it through.”

“That’s what made you her hero, Ellie,” Jackson instantly responds. He smiles at me and asks quietly, “Is your husband home? I’d like to tell him how brave you were today. I think he should know about the difference you made.”

I shake my head. “There’s no Mr. Morgan. He passed away eight months ago. I’m a widow who’s moved to the city for a fresh start. Pretty cliché, huh?” I admit as I shake my head in disbelief at my own words. Here I stand in front of this amazing man and I sound so utterly ordinary.

Jackson smiles shyly and says earnestly while he shakes his head at me, “Something tells me there’s nothing cliché about you, Ellie.” He smiles even more intensely at me. He hesitates for a second, but then continues, “Why do you wear your wedding ring if he’s not with you anymore?”

Jackson’s question strikes me as odd. Why would he notice something like a wedding ring? The thought prompts me to look at his left hand. When I do, I find it’s without adornment.

Jackson’s question is a fair one, I suppose, so I think for just a second. “Maybe it’s an effort to keep him with me. It’s lonely with him gone. Then, too, I thought being new to the city might be a little easier if it weren’t so obvious I’m unattached. Word will get around soon enough. Maybe, by then, I’ll have found two or three friendly faces I can trust.”

Jackson nods his head while he smiles at me. “Sounds like a good solid plan,” he agrees.

“Well, we’ll see,” I say as I reach for his hand. “Thank you, again, Jackson, for everything. I’ll see you at the next council meeting, I guess. It’ll be nice having one familiar face I can say ‘hi’ to.”

Jackson grasps my hand in both of his which sends an electrical charge up my arm. He reaches down to kiss my cheek, lingering ever so slightly. “Good evening, Ellie. I’ll call you soon, okay?”

I nod my head in agreement as Jackson walks out my door and down the hall. I close and lock my door after him, retreat to my room and collapse on my bed. My thoughts pour over the events of the day. I say a quick prayer for the little girl.

Dear God, please watch over that beautiful child and help her mama get the help she needs. Thank You that Jackson was there to protect me from her attack and help me through the day. Thank You for taking such good care of me. I ask You to help me honor You always with my life. Finally, please forgive me when I sin against you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I lay and rest for a while, actually dozing off for a few minutes. When I wake, I change out of my lavender suit into jeans and a frilly blue blouse. I slip on a pair of casual wedges and head down the street to a little pizzeria I’ve discovered. I order a small thick crust barbecue chicken with extra cheese. You’ve got to love comfort food on a trying day.

I’m stuffed after three slices of pizza, so I box up the rest to eat later. I spend a couple of hours roaming my way through some local shops and head home for the evening. I curl up with a scoop of ice cream and nod off in front of the TV. Sometime later, I drag myself to bed. What a sad lonely end to a remarkable day.

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