Tuesday, March 2, 2010
It was cold, but the stove held no fire.
Molly's schoolbooks were not by the door.
Once again she had stopped to admire
the doll in McCallaway's Store.
Thus begins Jacob Kikkert's narrative poem, a poem written in grateful summary of the events that restored his faith in a loving Heavenly Father who intercedes in His own way in the lives of His children. The Doll in McCallaway's Store's two tales become one as you follow the extraordinary series of events that bring three families together through a little girl's prayer and the porcelain doll she wants for Christmas. I invite you to become intimately, even spiritually, acquainted with a palette of compelling characters, some of whose lives continue to teach and inspire in my second and third novels, The Willow Switch and Because He Makes Her Cry.
“I don’t think you know where you’re going,” accused Mark wryly from the passenger seat. “I hope we find it before it starts raining again.”
“I know what I did wrong,” answered Camille. “I should have turned at the last light, that’s all. We’ll just go to the park and start from there.”
She had not paid close attention to their route two nights earlier when Jacob, Ann, and Molly had driven her home, but she knew she could retrace the route she and Jacob had taken on foot from the park entrance. As they drove past the pullout, she smiled as she imagined what might have happened when Dave’s father opened the trunk of the Jaguar, but her smile was short-lived as she also pondered what might have been had God not seen fit to intercede by sending Jacob to her rescue.
She glanced at her doll—she had dressed her in her favorite outfit, the green dress with off-white lace—and then at the carnations she had purchased for Ann, both lying on the seat between them, and she forced her reflection to the more pleasant events of that memorable weekend. Her smile returned.
Camille had been quite taken with her handsome rescuer. Her knight in shining armor was everything she hoped the man she would someday marry might be: chivalrous, handsome, kind, devoted to his family, and, best of all, prayerful and receptive to the promptings of the Spirit. It was just her luck that he was already married. Not only had he saved her virtue but he had also restored her faith in manhood in the moment that faith had been most vulnerable. She needed the assurance that there really were good men in the world, and Jacob had given it to her.
She had also been delighted with the other members of the family.
She was particularly captivated by Ann’s deep blue eyes. They were her doll’s eyes, and although she did not understand why, she hoped desperately that Ann would accept her as her friend. She had likewise marveled at another similarity, by how much little Molly’s hair was like the doll’s, whose name both she and her mother shared.
Carmen had returned with the car shortly after she and Jacob had arrived at the apartment, but since Ann had loaned the car to Carmen to use both that evening and the next morning, she had to go upstairs for the keys. This gave Camille a few minutes alone with Molly, who was thrilled with the chance to show off her dolls. They sat together on Molly’s bed.
“This one is Ruthie; she’s the oldest. This one’s name is Katie; she fell and broke her arm. And this one is my favorite. Her name is Nancy. La abuela gave her to me.”
“They’re wonderful, Molly,” Camille exaggerated. She was totally smitten. “Maybe someday I can introduce you to my doll.”
“What’s her name?”
“Well, strange as it may seem, her name is Molly Ann.”
“Really? I like that name.” Molly laughed. “What does she look like?”
“Well, she has beautiful dark curly hair like yours, and a pretty smile and blue eyes like your mother’s (“astonishingly like your mother’s,” she thought). Someday I’ll bring her by, if you’d like.”
“I’d like that very much,” said Molly, nodding excitedly, and she gave Camille an unexpected hug. “You promise?”
Camille hugged her back. She was now even more determined to further foster this new friendship with Jacob, Ann, and Molly, good people who personified her dreams for her own future, and she was glad she now had an excuse to return. Perhaps Molly would be the little sister she had always hoped for. Perhaps the similarities between Ann and Molly and her Molly Ann were far from coincidental.
Her parents had not expected her home from the library so early, and she had made it almost halfway up the squeaking attic stairs before being detected.
“Is that you, Camille?” her father called from the study where he and her mother were reading.
“Yeah, it’s me. I’ll be down in a minute,” she called back.
She changed her clothes, put on her other pair of glasses, gathered her thoughts, and then slowly descended the stairs to talk with her parents. She had wanted to wait until Sunday, but her cut lip and scraped cheek were more than reason enough to not wait. It was the right time too for other reasons. It was late enough that Mark was in bed asleep but early enough not to infringe too much on her parents’ bedtime. Besides, she was anxious to have it done with. She would sleep much better with her burden lifted. She took a deep breath and entered the study.
She started crying even before her glance found her mother’s eyes. She embraced each of her perplexed parents for several moments before finally controlling her emotion. She signaled for them to sit back down on the love seat under the window, and she moved one of the chairs from the front of her father’s desk so that she sat facing them, her knees almost touching theirs.
“Mom and Dad, I love you very much. I know I have your love also,” she began. “And I know there’s nothing I could do that would cause you to stop loving me. But tonight I need something more than your love; I need your understanding and your forgiveness. I need you to listen. You mustn’t interrupt. I’ve a story to tell you, a story that begins badly but that has a very happy ending.”
She told them everything; they listened intently and tenderly. Tears flowed unrestrained down the cheeks of both mother and daughter while masculine eyes held most of them back, but obviously only through great effort. Love was expressed, forgiveness given, and a kneeling prayer of gratitude offered together with her father as voice.
Camille slept well that night, free at last from the secret guilt that had alienated her from those she loved, grateful to again be a daughter who had learned well and applied the lessons her parents had tried to teach her, and all the more certain of a Father in Heaven who hears and answers prayers and guides the lives of his children.
Sunday had dawned bright and beautiful. Camille had always found great strength and comfort in sitting with her family in church, and that morning those feelings were intensely magnified. The sacrament was especially meaningful to her, and she listened carefully to the talks and found personal significance in almost everything that was said.
Her father called Jacob early that afternoon and thanked him profusely for what he had done for Camille. Jacob extended Monday night’s dinner invitation to the whole family, or to as many as could come. Her father regretfully declined due to an engagement he and her mother were committed to attend. The director of urban forestry was retiring, and a dinner was being held in his honor.
Camille knew that her father was anxious to both meet Jacob and further demonstrate his gratitude, so a date was set for brunch the following Sunday—Thanksgiving leftovers at the Harrisons’. Jacob accepted. That same Sunday evening they would also all attend her mother’s concert, the last and most important of the three that the university had scheduled for her. Camille, who was in the study with her father during the call, hanging on his arm and his every word, was thrilled.
“You’ll fall in love with all of them from the moment you see them,” she promised, “especially Molly. She’s so cute, and she and I are practically already sisters.”
“Who’s Molly?” asked Mark, feeling unfairly left out.
Her family’s Sunday-night call to her grandmother ended with great news: She was coming for Thanksgiving—Camille had already dropped the letter she had written that afternoon in the corner mailbox. Although their two separate dinner appointments and only one car required a bit of strategic planning, the whole family would be free to welcome Annabelle at the airport at 11:30 P.M.
So far, all had gone as planned. Camille had dropped her parents off at the restaurant for their dinner at 7:30 so she would have the car. She and Mark were now on their way to the Kikkerts’ apartment. They were not expected until 8:30, but they had left early both to buy flowers and to be sure they could find the way. The plan was to leave the Kikkerts’ place just before 10:30, then pick up their parents on the way to the airport.
From the park’s entrance they continued down the hill along a street lined for several blocks by tidy, well-kept bungalow houses and large mature ash trees, the edge of the large Hispanic neighborhood known to the locals as “little Mexico,” even though there were probably more Hispanics of Puerto Rican origin than Mexican living there.
Camille turned to the right and then continued for another three blocks to where the road intersected with the main connector that, if followed to the left, eventually led back to the university. It began to pour again, very hard; the sound of the rain against the car echoed and amplified inside.
“Wow! Cool!” enthused Mark. “It never rains like this back home.”
“Cool, nothing,” retorted Camille. “I can hardly see…here’s where I should have turned the first time,” she explained, as she waited for the light to change. “Another five blocks straight through this intersection and we’re there.” She looked quickly at the clock on the dash. “And right on time,” she added.
The light turned green. She glanced again at Molly Ann and smiled in anticipation—she could hardly wait to see Molly’s face when she showed her—then accelerated through the intersection.
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