Lincoln Snow gently closed the door to Jeremiah’s office. He sat down across from him with a concerned look on his face.
“Jerry, I’d like to talk to you man-to-man for a minute. I’d like to just put aside the pastor and deacon thing if you would.”
Jeremiah wanted to say, “I’m glad you can put away the ‘deacon’ thing. Slice me, my friend and I bleed ‘pastor,’” but he just nodded and motioned Lincoln to go on.
Jeremiah knew this had something to do with Abby and Michael. He trusted Michael and really didn’t want to get involved in their relationship, but he had to listen. In the past couple of years of their relationship, Lincoln had pulled him aside for a few of these man-to-man talks. They were usually harmless and boiled down to Lincoln being over-protective of his only daughter.
Lincoln continued, “I want to be delicate here, Jerry, but Michael’s decision to go to New York came as quite a surprise to Abby and me.”
He said the words “New York” like he had bitten into a lemon. Jeremiah was stung but kept a poker face. “Go on,” he said.
“Well, that was pretty much it. He came by the house and told us today.”
Jeremiah’s mind was reeling. He couldn’t let on.
“How do you know his decision is permanent?” he asked, thanking God for the brilliance of the retort. The comment seemed to work. Lincoln looked down and tilted his head.
“I guess I never thought about that. I guess he mentioned something about financial aid—”
“And Abby said that it was a done deal.”
Jeremiah stared at Lincoln with all of the calming reassurance of a long-time pastor. “Lincoln, I have known you and Debbie for over twenty years. You folks have helped me build this church. I assure you, Michael’s intentions toward Abby are only honorable. It’s the only way he knows.”
Jeremiah paused before speaking again.
“Michael is a little confused about his future right now, but whatever direction he goes, I assure you that he will act in Abby’s best interest. I will see to that.”
Lincoln stood up and stuck out his hand.
“I’m sorry Jerry. It just took us by surprise. I was sure that they . . . you know . . . like David and Tara . . . you know.”
“I know, Lincoln. I’ll see you in the other room in a minute.”
Lincoln shook his hand, nodded and left the room.
Jeremiah collapsed in his chair. “Why?” he asked himself. Why hadn’t Michael said anything to him?
Michael pulled into the parking lot of Cindy’s apartment building. The three-story walk-up was clean, but far from luxurious. He looked at the red brick utilitarian structure. This definitely wasn’t how he imagined his sister would end up after college, literally shacking up with a crazy ex-Marine.
Cindy was always operating outside of the box, but she was certainly a looker. Perhaps some guys stayed away from the preacher’s daughter; probably thinking there was a special place in hell for guys who goofed up those kinds of relationships. Cindy’s attitude was probably just her way of telling the world that she was normal.
He didn’t see her car anywhere. Ramon’s Harley was also missing. He went up the stairs and knocked on her door. No one responded. He knocked again. Still no response. He looked at his watch. It was six o’clock in the evening.
“So much for the surprise visit,” he said, and headed down the stairwell. As he placed his key in Harriet’s door, he caught a flash of red reflected from the outdoor lighting. He turned. Some hot looking chick in designer shades was parking a candy apple red BMW in Cindy’s parking spot.
“The sunshades at night thing is getting old. Maybe this chick is related to Ramon.” He chuckled quietly.
Maybe he’d stick around for a few minutes and see what would happen when Cindy showed up. She hated pretentious little rich girls like this. She’d kick Buffy out of her parking space in about ten seconds. He leaned against Harriet, watching.
“Get your butt over here and help me,” Michael thought he heard Cindy’s voice, say.
“Excuse me,” he said and walked over to the car.
Cindy took off the shades. Her long jet-black hair had been quaffed into a short blunt French look and dyed blond. Her makeup was immaculate. She wore tan leather pants and a tan camel hair sweater. She smelled divine. She looked like someone from the cover of Cosmopolitan.
Michael’s knees went weak.
“Cindy?” he asked.
As Michael stood in the parking lot struggling to find words to greet his sister, Jeremiah Knight was dialing home. Kathryn had to know something about this. He spoke with David earlier today and everything seemed normal. Cindy . . . well that was another story.
He waited impatiently for someone, perhaps Michael himself, to pick up the telephone. No answer. He hung up and immediately speed dialed again. No one picked up.
He hung up the telephone for the last time and stood to his feet. Leaving a message would be pointless; he would be in this meeting for the next four hours. Michael was going to some New York law school. He’d told Abby and her father that he was leaving town. No one had bothered to let him in on the news.
“Preposterous,” he thought and picked up his meeting agenda. Lincoln was always overreacting about something or the other. His relationship with Michael was stronger than that. Michael would have leveled with him. “Enough of this second-guessing,” he assured himself. He would get to the bottom of it all later.
Barbara buzzed his office. “Good night Reverend, I’m leaving for the day. All of the deacons are here.”
“Thanks Barbara,” he said, and scuttled to the meeting. He couldn’t stand being late for anything.
Cindy spun around and struck a pose by her new car. Michael was still star struck but managed to say, “You look great.”
Cindy twirled some more. “Thanks, Little Bro. Let me know when you want to take Abby somewhere special and I’ll let you borrow the car.”
“Forget about the car. I can’t get over you—”
“Easy there cowboy. What was I before the makeover, chopped onions?”
“Aw, you know what I mean. The new car, the new . . . you . . . must cost some . . . you know, bucks,” Michael said, slightly changing the subject.
“More than you can imagine, Little Bro. Here, hold these. Let’s talk upstairs.”
They entered the apartment and Michael plopped down on the living room couch. Cindy sat across from him and put her feet up on a hassock.
“God, my feet hurt,” she said.
“That’s what happens when you shop til you drop, Imelda.”
“Ha, ha, don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.” She flipped her fingers through her new hairdo. They burst out laughing.
“Come on, spill your guts. Tell me all about your new found bucks.” Michael was now more interested in Cindy’s story than his own.
“Soon you’ll be moving out of this place and into the Heights,” he said in jest.
“You sound like Ramon.”
“OK, now you’ve really got to fess up. The last time we talked, you were a social worker and Ramon was unemployed. That, my dear sister, was two weeks ago. Now unless you hit the lottery—”
“We did, in a way. Ramon hit the employment lottery. He got a really good job with an international logistics company.” Cindy smiled.
“Logistics? Oh, you mean Ramon’s driving a truck?”
“Bingo,” she said and laughed. “He’s been working around the clock for the past fourteen days. I’m not complaining though. It gives me space and it’s primo money.”
Michael nodded his head. He’d heard that some independent haulers brought in a lot of dough, not Richmond Heights money, but decent enough. He got up and poured himself a glass of milk.
“I’m glad things are turning around for you and Ramon, Cindy. If this is any indication of your new direction, then I’m on board.” He paused.
“Any talk about getting hitched?”
“Pass me a diet coke, and butt out Jeremiah,” Cindy said.