Jackson's Yada Yada series has sold half a million copies, and this new offshoot series-the Yada Yada House of Hope-promises the same. Gabrielle Fairbanks moves to Chicago with her businessman husband, Philip, leaving their sons behind at boarding school in Virginia. She literally stumbles over a homeless woman, an event that changes Gabby's life. She looks her up at Manna House, a homeless shelter, and first finds welcome and eventually a job. But her husband is hostile toward both Gabby and her job. Can she juggle her angry husband and his new business, her sons when they come home for the summer, her ill mother, her job and her growing interest in God? While the plot certainly generates interest, readers may become weary of Gabby's lack of grit when it comes to Philip, as well as his selfishness and anger toward his wife. But the book's dramatic ending highlights both, leaving readers eager for the next installment in the series. (Dec.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.\
Sometimes you find hope in the last place you look
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Where Do I Go?
By Neta Jackson
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2008 Neta Jackson
All rights reserved.
Looking thirty-two floors down was almost enough to bring up my lunch. Philip knew I had trouble with heights. So what kind of sadistic joke made him buy a penthouse, for heaven's sake! Not to mention floor-to-ceiling windows that curved around the living room, like putting a glass nose on a Boeing 747.
I groaned. It'd take me a week to wash the inside of those windows. And who in the world washed the outside—?! My knees wobbled. Uh-uh. Couldn't go there or I'd lose my lunch for real.
But the view ... oh my.
I stood in the middle of our new living room and tried to take it all in. Trees dotted the park along Chicago's Lake Shore Drive, wearing the fresh new wardrobe of spring. On the other side of the Drive, the western edge of Lake Michigan lapped at the miles of beaches separated by occasional rocky retaining walls and disappeared southward amid the misty skyscrapers of Chicago's Loop. Tall, billowy thunderheads caught the late afternoon sun. Earlier that day, cars had hurried along the Drive, like toys zipping along a giant track some kid got for Christmas. But now, at the height of rush hour, the far lane was packed solid as commuters headed for the northern suburbs.
O-kay. Looking out at the view wasn't so bad. I stepped closer to the window, keeping my chin up, refusing to look straight down. Near the beach, cyclists whizzed along a bicycle path, swerving around joggers. Dogs with their masters chased Frisbees or dashed into the water after a ball. No one was in the water—too early in the spring, I guessed. But the sand sparkled in the late afternoon sunshine. What I wouldn't give to—
"Is that all, Señora Fairbanks?"
I jumped. The sweet face of the maid, who'd been setting up the catered buffet in the dining room the past hour, looked at me expectantly. Dark hair. Dark eyes. Plain white blouse with a name tag that said "Camila." Black skirt hugging her chunky legs. A wedding band on her left hand. Obviously hoping to go home and take care of her own family.
"Oh. Yes, yes, I'm sure it's fine, Mrs.... Mrs....?"
She reddened. "Just Camila, señora. Gracias."
"Well, then, call me Gabby." I glanced at the Fairbanks' heirloom grandfather clock patiently ticking away in the corner of the large room. Almost six o'clock. Philip had said to expect him between seven and eight. "What do I need to do when the guests arrive?"
The short, stocky woman smiled with relief. "No problem. Cold salads in the refrigerator. Beef tips and saffron rice in the warming oven set at one hundred fifty degrees. Will be safe. Just take them out." Picking up her bag, she disappeared quickly into the entryway—called a "gallery" in the Richmond Towers brochure—and out the front door of the penthouse.
Still standing in the middle of the living room, I suddenly felt bereft. I was alone. Again. Philip had been gone since seven that morning. The boys were still in Virginia at boarding school. Philip wouldn't hear of taking them out so close to the end of the school year. And so we'd moved, lock, stock, and oriental rugs, to Illinois so Philip and his new partner could hurry up and dream big dreams in their luxurious office in downtown Chicago. And here I was, not only alone, but stuck up here in the sky, like an eagle impaled on a flagpole.
I imagined Camila in the elevator, riding down, down, nodding at the doorman, going outside. Free.
Stepping close to the curved window, I steadied myself with my hand, daring myself to look down, hoping to see her emerge. The glass was thick and cool to the touch. Probably leaving a grubby handprint on the glass. Huh. I'd have to clean it before Philip's guests arrived. Had to have a clean prison wall, right?
Stop it, Gabby.
A jogger caught my eye as she ran through the park below, ran past the trees, did a sharp turn, and then suddenly disappeared. Wait a minute. What just happened? I squinted ... then a movement on the other side of Lake Shore Drive caught my eye. The same jogger was now running on the path by the beach!
There must be a pedestrian tunnel under Lake Shore Drive. My eyes widened. Why hadn't I seen it before? We'd been here five days already, and all this time I thought the ubiquitous Drive cut us off from the sand and water unless we got in the car and drove somewhere.
I cast another furtive glance at the clock. Ten after. Philip wouldn't be here for another fifty minutes at the earliest—maybe longer. I was already dressed in a white pantsuit and gold-strap sandals. The temperature was almost eighty—warm for April. What if—
On impulse I grabbed my keys from the wooden bowl on the table in the gallery and headed out the penthouse door. I felt slightly giddy as I stepped into the elevator and pushed the button for the ground floor, like the time I'd ditched classes in middle school back in Minot, North Dakota. When the elevator doors opened, I pushed open the security door into the lobby and breezed past the African-American doorman, not wanting to chat, and found myself on the narrow frontage street that gave limited access to several high-rise condos besides Richmond Towers.
But beyond the street, beyond the park, beyond the pedestrian tunnel was sand and water. Sand! Sand between my toes. Splashing in the miniwaves. The desire drove me on like an urgent hunger. How long, how long had it been since I'd even been barefoot?
I burst out of the pedestrian tunnel under Lake Shore Drive like a runner carrying the Olympic torch. Oh Gabby, you are so bad. I laughed out loud. Kicking off my sandals, I ran barefoot across the grass and stepped down a low concrete wall to the sand, sending a flock of seagulls hopping into the air and landing a short distance away. Delighting in the feel of the warm sand on my bare feet, I ran at the birds, sending them scolding and hopping again.
I giggled, turning around and around, arms outstretched to catch the wind off the lake, wishing I was wearing a princess skirt to whirl. Hardly anyone was on this strip of beach, so who cared if I looked stupid? No one knew me anyway.
On a whim, I rolled up my pant legs and waded into the water—and screeched. Ay ay ay. That was cold. Hurting cold! I splashed back onto the warm sand, but now wet sand clung like chiggers between my toes and up my legs. I sat down on the concrete bench to brush off the sand when I felt the first drop. And the second. I looked up. The clouds now hung low and heavy and looked about ready to dump.
Grabbing my sandals, I climbed back up to the grass and started running toward the pedestrian tunnel, hoping the grass would clean off my feet. By the time I emerged on the other side, the rain had become a chilly shower. Forgetting the paved path, I made a beeline across the grass and between the bushes toward Richmond Towers—and the next moment pitched forward on my face.
"Hey!" A raspy voice shot out of the bushes two feet from my head. "Whatchu go kickin' my cart for?" This pronouncement was followed by several hacking coughs.
I was more startled than hurt—except for my toe, which was sending stabs of pain up my leg. I rolled over and grabbed my foot, even as the rain soaked into my clothes and hair. Cart? What cart? I squinted in the fading light toward where I'd taken my fall and vaguely made out something metal sticking out from under the bush. "Sorry," I mumbled. "Didn't see it ... where are you, anyway?"
The bushes parted, and a head poked out, half covered with what looked like a black plastic garbage bag. "Keepin' dry is where I'm at, tha's what." More hacking. "Leastwise I was till Orphan Annie came along ... uh-oh. That foot's bleedin', girlie. Here, lemme see it."
To my astonishment, an old woman crawled out of the bushes, holding the thin protection of the garbage bag around her shoulders like a Superman cape, and grabbed up my bare foot in a thin, sinewy hand, even as the rain steadied into a moderate shower. "Aiya. Gotta stop that bleedin' ... hang on a minnit." The woman dropped my foot and pulled out a metal cart from under the bushes, set it upright, and began digging through whatever was stuffed inside, her cough grinding away like a waterlogged car motor.
I scrambled up, standing on one leg, holding up the offending foot. "Oh, don't bother," I protested. "I really have to get ..." Home? I couldn't yet say the word.
She hauled out a long rag. "Oh, don't get your mop in a knot. Siddown." The woman practically pushed me down, grabbed my bleeding foot, and began wrapping the rag around it. I shuddered. How long had that been in her cart, collecting germs and vermin and who knew what—
"It's clean, if tha's wha's botherin' ya." Hack, hack. She dropped my foot. "Now git on with ya, an' leave me be."
"Wait!" The absurdity of the situation suddenly loosened my tongue. Me go home to my sky-high penthouse while she crawled back under that bush? "This is ridiculous. It's raining, and you've got a terrible cough. Come on with me. I can get you dry clothes and some cough syrup." What she probably needed was a doctor.
The old lady snorted, sounding more like a bullfrog than a laugh. "Nah, I'm okay ..."
But she hesitated just long enough to bolster my nerve. I took her arm. "Please, I mean it. Come on. Just until the rain stops, at least."
Rheumy eyes gave me a long stare, then she turned, grabbed the handle of her cart, and started across the wet grass. I caught up, steering her toward Richmond Towers. "My name's Gabby Fairbanks. Yours is ...?"
She didn't answer, just plowed on, with me hobbling along on my rag-wrapped foot. We crossed the frontage street and somehow wrestled her cart through the revolving door of the high-rise. And stopped.
The doorman loomed in front of us. His normally pleasant expression had evaporated, replaced by an enormous scowl that would have done justice to a bouncer at a skin joint. "Hey! Get that rickety cart outta here. Lady, you can't come in here. Residents only."
I waved timidly from behind the old lady. "Uh, she's with me, Mr. Bentley ... Mrs. Fairbanks."
"Fairbanks? Penthouse?" The man's eyes darted between us. "Whatchu doin' with this old bag lady?" He suddenly became solicitous, though I noticed he kept a wary eye on my companion. "Are you all right, ma'am? What happened to your foot?"
"It's all right, Mr. Bentley. I, uh, we just need to get up to the, uh, apartment and get into some dry clothes." I beamed a smile that I hoped conveyed more confidence than I felt, took the "bag lady's" arm, ran my ID card that opened the security door, and headed for the elevator.
I let out a sigh of relief as the doors slid closed behind us, and the elevator quietly hummed its way upward. Closing my eyes, I started to shiver. I really needed to get out of these damp clothes, get cleaned up and changed before—
My eyes flew open. Philip! Philip and his guests were due at any time. Oh Lord, oh Lord, I pleaded silently. Keep Philip out of here until at least eight o'clock. A new absurdity was standing right in front of me. For the first time I took a really good look at the woman from the bushes. Matted gray hair ... wrinkled, mottled skin, hanging loosely like a beige mask over her facial bones. Several layers of clothes topped by a shapeless shirt or blouse, hard to tell, hanging out over faded navy blue pant legs, rolled up at different lengths. And here in the elevator, she smelled ... stale.
Oh God. What in the world am I going to do with this, this—
"Lucy." The old woman's eyes were closed, and it didn't seem as if she had spoken at all, except for the raspy voice.
"Lucy," I repeated stupidly. "Oh! Your name. Thanks."
The upward motion stopped. The heavy doors glided open to reveal the glistening ceramic tile of the top floor foyer. Our apartment door was the only one to be seen, flanked by two enormous pots of silk flowers. "Well, come on, Lucy. Let's get you into some dry clothes and do something about that cough." And get you out of here—quick, I thought desperately.
I pulled out my keys and shoved one into the lock. Good. Got the right one on the first try. The lock clicked, and I pressed the brass latch to open the door. It swung wide and I hobbled into the gallery, Lucy huffing right behind me ... and stopped.
There, through the archway, in the middle of the enormous living room stood my husband, tall, dark hair, easy good looks even at forty-one, a glass of wine in one hand, talking in a big voice to a strange man and woman, gesturing as though showing off the penthouse view.
In the same instant, they must have heard us, because all three turned, staring straight at me. Silence hung in the air for a split second. Then Philip took several strides in our direction, his eyes wide. Horrified, actually. "Gabrielle!" he hissed between his teeth. "What's the meaning of this?!"CHAPTER 2
I opened my mouth—but a bump from behind nearly knocked me over.
"Hey, wha's the holdup?" growled Lucy. "Ya gotta bathroom 'round here? I gotta pee."
"Uh, uh ..." I cast a pleading grimace at my husband, whose face had turned a decidedly unpleasant purplish red. "Be right back," I whispered frantically at him. I peeked around Philip and tossed a weak smile at his guests, who held their wine glasses like startled statues frozen by the wand of the White Witch in Narnia. "Sorry!" I sang out. "A little emergency here. Be with you in a minute."
I turned and hurried Lucy in the opposite direction. Shoving her inside the powder room in the hallway just outside the kitchen, I made a beeline for the master bedroom. Could I take a quick shower, hop into something presentable, and get back to our guests before Lucy—if that was really her name—made it out of the half bath?
Philip was right on my heels, shutting the bedroom door behind us firmly. "Gabby!" He grabbed my arm. "Are you trying to ruin everything before I even get things off the ground?" He gaped at my feet. "Wait ... what's wrong with your foot? Is that blood?" His voice changed. "Are you okay?"
I pulled my arm away. "Yes, I'm fine. And no, I'm not trying to ruin your evening. I just got caught in the rain and cut my foot, and she ... never mind. Let me clean up, and I'll be with you in a few minutes." I pushed him away. I'd forgotten about my bloody toe. "Go on. Go back to your guests. I'll be there."
He ran a hand through his hair, still frustrated, and sighed loudly. "All right. But that ... that—" He flung his arm toward the hallway where I'd penned the old woman. "Get her out of here, Gabby. Now."
With a final glare, he opened the bedroom door—only to catch a raspy voice floating our way. "Now, ain't this nice. Real nice. But say, now, this here cheese'ud be good wit some sandwich makin's ... hey Gabby! Where are ya? Ya got some bread an' stuff?"
Both Philip and I flew down the hall toward the dining room—where Lucy was helping herself to the fruit and cheese platter on the buffet and stuffing handfuls of nuts into the pockets of her baggy pants.
"Out! Out now," Philip hissed—meaning the old woman, but directed at me—before heading back toward the living room where I heard him say with fake cheerfulness, "Please forgive our little interruption, ha-ha ... must've followed my wife home when she got caught in the rain ... have it straightened out in a few minutes ... oh, here, let me freshen that for you."
I turned my attention to our other "guest," who popped a green olive into her mouth, then immediately spit it out into her hand, followed by a disturbing cough or two. "Come on, Lucy. I'll get you some real food to eat."
The old woman followed reluctantly, as though she wasn't sure she should leave a sure thing for the mere promise of something more. But I quickly served a plate of the pasta salads in the refrigerator, topped with some of the beef tips and rice from the warming oven. She refused to climb onto the barstool at the granite counter, choosing to stand and shovel the food hungrily while I grabbed a phone book and looked up "Homeless Shelters." I couldn't just send her back out into the rain, Philip or no Philip, not with that cough.
No luck. Surely Chicago had at least one homeless shelter in this area! Grabbing the cordless off the wall, I dialed 01 for the lobby. "Mr. Bentley? ... Yes, it's, uh, Mrs. Fairbanks. Top floor. Do you know the whereabouts of a homeless shelter for women in the area? ... uh-huh ... uh-huh ... Is that nearby? ... All right. Thanks—no wait. Could you call a cab for my, uh, friend? ... Thanks."
Excerpted from Where Do I Go? by Neta Jackson. Copyright © 2008 Neta Jackson. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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