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PChristine, ready or not, was soon to be returned to the real world. PThe plan was for Henry to drive her to Calgary on Sunday afternoon. Laray called Saturday morning. P“This may ... this could be out of line,” he started, sounding nervous, “but I really would like a chance to see you before you go.” PIOh my,/I thought Christine, II didn’t want this to happen/I. Or did she? She wasn’t quite sure. P“All right,” she heard herself agreeing. “What did you have in mind?” P“I don’t get off until ten tonight. Could we take a short drive afterward?” P“I ... I ... sure. That’s fine.” P“I know it’s not what—” P“No ... it’s fine. Really.” P“Thanks.” PThe connection clicked off, and she stared at the phone in her hand. P center* * */center PWhen Laray arrived a few minutes past ten, Christine was ready. They exchanged little more than nods as he led her to the car and helped her in. She felt butterflies flitting in her stomach and reminded herself that she was acting like a schoolgirl. P“So are you stopping off in Calgary or going right on home?” he asked as he put the car in gear. P“I still haven’t decided. Aunt Mary has invited me to stay with them and look for work in Calgary. I really don’t know what to do.” P“Is there lots of work in Edmonton?”P“I don’t know. I haven’t tried—except for the one job I had.” P“Henry said you didn’t have much trouble getting that one.” P“No ... no, it worked out ... quite well.” PThey drove east out of the town. Christine was relieved that Laray was not taking her to the lookout again. She could imagine that local couples frequented the place. PLaray shifted into high gear and looked her way. “If you don’t mind, I’ll just keep driving while I talk. I never was very good at—at saying my mind.” PChristine nodded dumbly. P“Henry let me know that you’ve just ... had a ... a breakup. Gave a guy back his ring.” PIOh no,/I groaned Christine silently. IWhat else did Henry tell you?/I PShe cast a quick glance Laray’s way, but his eyes were on the road ahead. P“I’m sorry it didn’t work out. Those things can be pretty tough.” PChristine appreciated his understanding, but she didn’t know what to say. P“Because of that I’ve ... I’ve sort of backed off,” he continued. “I went through that once myself. I know that it takes time. ’Course I found a way to let off steam, so to speak. I went out and joined the Force. It worked. I had plenty to think about.” PLaray managed to give her a lopsided smile. PAgain silence. P“Anyway—I won’t push. I just want you to know that I think you’re pretty special—though this might not be the right time to be saying it. I don’t suppose I’ll be seeing you again unless ...” PHe did not finish the thought. Christine could have finished it for him. She knew exactly what he was saying. P“So I thought,” he said slowly, “maybe we should come to—well, to some kind of understanding. Have a little sign between us, you might say.” PChristine turned to look at him. She swallowed and waited, wondering what he was going to suggest. P“I thought maybe if the time ever comes when ... when you think you’d be ready to ... to think about ... you know ... dating again and you think maybe ... well, you know ... then you can just drop me a note in the mail. Even if I’m transferred, I will make sure your brother always knows where to find me. P“You won’t have to make any promises. I don’t expect that. Just a little note saying things are going fine. I’ll pick it up from there.” PChristine wanted to weep. He was being so gallant. So gentlemanly. Part of her wished to tell him that she was ready now. But she knew that was not true. She was not ready for another relationship. It was possible she never would be. Her heart truly had been broken by the last venture of falling in love. PShe became aware of tears coursing down her cheeks. She dug in her pocket for a hankie. She had to say something. She couldn’t just leave this kind and thoughtful man with no response at all. PShe wiped her face and blinked back further tears. “I’m sorry,” she began, her voice trembling. “You are quite right. I am not ready ... yet. I ... I have no ... no desire to get involved with someone again. Maybe someday. I don’t know ... but not now.” PShe blew her nose and began again. “I do want you to know that if ... if I were ready ... I think you are a very fine man, and I would be proud to have you ask me out. I mean that. Truly.” PHe smiled. “That’s a high compliment. And all I can ask for ... at the moment.” PHe reached for her hand, but he did not hold it for long. Simply gave it a little squeeze as if to seal their understanding and released it again. Then he found a spot to turn the car around and headed for home. PIt was a quiet drive back. It seemed that everything had already been said. P“It is a pleasure to know you. I wish you only God’s best—whatever that is.” He spoke so sincerely that Christine feared she would weep again. She did manage to tell him that she wished him the same, and then he was opening the car door and coming around to help her out. There was no move to kiss her, no arm about her shoulder or claim on her in any way. When they reached the porch, he leaned to open the door, his face very close to hers. “Just drop a note,” he whispered; then he was gone. PChristine was grateful no one was still up to observe her entrance. She was crying so hard she could scarcely see her way to the room she was to use for one last night. He was so sweet. Was she making the biggest mistake of her life to walk away? But she wasn’t ready to give her heart. Surely—surely if this was meant to be, the future would work it all out. PBut Christine’s pillow was damp before she managed to fall asleep.
When Tomorrow Comes
Copyright © 2001, Janette Oke
Published by Bethany House Publishers
Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.