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Then Comes Marriage
By Angela Hunt Bill Myers
ZondervanCopyright © 2001 Zondervan
All right reserved.
Chapter One"What do you mean, you've made a horrible mistake?"
Heather thought her mother's voice seemed to come from far away, or maybe the problem was the clogged feeling in her ears. She couldn't hear anyone when she was crying.
All the words she had rehearsed in the car jumbled together and came out in a broken wail as she lifted her tear-blurred gaze to meet her mother's. "It's Kurt! I never should have married him! I thought I could tough it out, but this time he's gone too far!"
Her mother reached out from the doorway, quick to draw her into the privacy of the house, but Heather didn't care if she woke all of Pinehurst Drive with her wailing. All the neighbors had been at her wedding last year when Mr. and Mrs. Kurt Stone were born; it seemed only right that they should witness Mr. and Mrs. Kurt Stone's dismal death.
"Shh, honey, come on in," Mrs. Irvin said, her arm falling around her daughter's shoulders with affectionate familiarity. Heather sobbed anew, realizing that Kurt's embrace had felt that tender-once. She'd probably never feel his arm around her again.
Mrs. Irvin shut the front door with a forceful shove, then pulled Heather into the living room. Wiping her streaming eyes, Heather saw her father standing in the kitchen doorway, his tattered robe loosely tied around his paunch. The long strands of his silver hair wavered in the kitchen's fluorescent light.
"Can't a body sleep in on a Saturday morning?" His voice emerged as a gravelly croak, but his eyes glimmered with anxious alarm. "What's come over you, girl?"
"Hush, dear, go back to bed. I'm making our daughter a cup of tea." Mom moved toward the kitchen, nudging Heather's bewildered father out of the way as she moved through the doorway.
For her dad's sake, Heather tried to rein in her emotions. "I'm okay, Daddy." She gave him a quivering smile. "As long as you haven't rented out my bedroom, that is. I may need it for a few days. Just until I can get a place of my own-"
"Frankie!" he yelled over his shoulder, cutting her off. "You'd better fix this! Here I am trying to get rid of Billy, and Heather wants to move back in!"
Heather pressed her fingers to the bridge of her nose and closed her eyes, trying to resist the fresh wave of sorrow that wanted to pour out her eyes, her mouth, her heart. What was it with men? Here she was, trying to crawl back into the bosom of her family for comfort, and her father acted as though he wanted to put up a barbed-wire fence to keep her out.
"Come into the kitchen, honey," Mom called, her voice amazingly cheerful for someone whose only daughter had just confessed that her marriage was a sham and her entire life a disaster. "Let's have tea at the kitchen table so your father can go back to bed."
Gulping back hot tears, Heather moved past her father and automatically slid into the kitchen chair she had vacated right after high school graduation. She sat silently, fingering the tattered edge of a faded plastic place mat, until the teakettle whistled. Her mother moved to quiet it, then looked at her daughter. In her glance Heather saw compassion mingled with something that looked suspiciously like humor.
She wouldn't think this was funny for long.
"Tell me all about it, Heather," she said, switching off the stove as she lifted the kettle. "I've got all morning, so you can just take your time and tell me everything. I'm assuming you and Kurt had a fight?"
Too shattered to speak, Heather nodded.
"A fight is not the end of the world." Mom poured the steaming water into two mugs and lifted a brow. "So, what did you fight about? Money?"
Heather shook her head as her eyes filled again. How could she begin to explain? The differences between Kurt and her went far deeper than money. She and Kurt were all wrong for each other; they were complete opposites in interests, temperament, and methods. What sort of madness had possessed them to think their marriage could actually work?
As her mother placed a mug before her, Heather took a deep breath. "Last year at the wedding, all the signs were there. I should have seen them. I should have known we wouldn't last a year."
Mom fished a spoon out of the cluttered flatware drawer, then sent it clattering across the table toward Heather. She explored the kitchen counter for a minute, then lifted a mound of newspapers and retrieved the sugar bowl from beneath them. Her expression softened into a smile as she sank into her usual chair, the one at Heather's left hand. "Why would you say that, honey? I remember sitting at your wedding and thinking you were the most perfect couple I'd ever seen. I knew I had never seen a bride as beautiful."
"None of that matters, Mom." Heather ripped open her tea bag and unwrapped the string, dropping the bag into the steaming water. It was good to have something to do with her hands, no matter how small the task. Of course, Kurt thought she couldn't even handle hot tea properly. He had a little routine-after his tea had steeped, he settled his tea bag in the curve of his spoon, then wrapped the string around the bowl of the spoon until every blessed drop of liquid had been squeezed into the cup. His exact, precise ritual was almost feminine, but no one would dare say so in Kurt's presence. He was a brawny six-foot-two, with dark hair and startling blue eyes that could stop a woman from across a crowded room. They had certainly stopped Heather.
But she had never seen him drink hot tea before the wedding. He'd been a coffee man on those cold winter nights they dated, and he drank Diet Coke the summer before the wedding. She didn't even know he liked hot tea until three months after the honeymoon. It was one of the thousand things about her husband she didn't know and would never have guessed.
She used the edge of her finger to wipe tears from the wells of her eyes, then stared into her mug. "You know, I didn't even know Kurt when we got married," she said, watching as brown streamers of tea swirled in the hot water. "Do you remember when the flower girl started whining in the middle of the ceremony? I didn't even notice, but Kurt did."
"What did he tell her, anyway?" Her mother tilted her brow as she stirred her tea. "I always meant to ask you. We were all surprised when he leaned over to talk to that little girl right in the middle of the ceremony."
"He promised her a new toy if she was quiet"-Heather rubbed her temple as her head ached with the memory-"but said that if she didn't shape up he'd sit her on the front pew with Daddy."
Her mother's mouth twitched with amusement. "I always wondered how Kurt got her to behave." She brought her mug to her lips and blew on the hot liquid for a moment, then smiled at her daughter. "To be perfectly honest, I don't think anyone was paying much attention to that little girl. Most people were still thinking about how you tripped up the stairs. I don't know why you insisted on wearing those three-inch heels."
"I wanted to look him in the eye when we said our vows." Heather's throat closed as she remembered how much she had wanted Kurt to see all the love in her heart. "I-I can't talk about that now, Mom." She shook her head. "Maybe my tripping up the stairs was an omen-God's way of telling me I was about to make a mistake."
"That's sheer foolishness." Mom lowered her mug as her brown eyes brightened and filled with conviction. "Your tripping was an accident, that's all, and I think Kurt was pretty smart to threaten that fidgety flower girl with your daddy. He kept her from ruining the entire ceremony."
Heather refused to return her mother's smile. "It wouldn't matter now if it had been ruined. I should have seen the signs-they were all right before my eyes, in living color. There I stood, all teary-eyed because I was thinking about Kurt and our future life together, but all he was thinking about was how to deal with that wiggly kid."
Heather lowered her gaze to her mug. The tea was black now, probably too strong to drink. In a fit of pique, she lifted the tea bag out of the cup and dropped it, heedless of the drips, on the lime-colored place mat.
"We're so different," she whispered, staring at her distorted reflection in the dark liquid. "Our marriage was a mistake. And now I'll have to find another apartment, and somehow I'll have to find a way to keep going even though-" The tears were rolling down her face again, hot tracks of loss and regret.
Excerpted from Then Comes Marriage by Angela Hunt Bill Myers Copyright © 2001 by Zondervan. Excerpted by permission.
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