Blackbird Has Spoken: Part 17
From Blackbird Has Spoken: Part 16
Ivy returns home and begins her life anew. Her first course of action is to lay Cloe to rest.
Thomas' wife is on the rebound having met an old flame while out dining alone. She informs Thomas the next morning that their marriage is over and she's found someone else. Though heartbroken, Thomas decides he will be praying for her regardless of her decision.
Thomas was quiet for a long time. He spoke through tears. "I don't know what to say, Linda. I don't blame you for not wanting to stay, but I wish another man wasn't in the picture. It certainly hinders..."
"How dare you, Thomas. How does it feel to have someone else in the picture like it's been for me so many times? Sure feels good to me. And FYI, its Cal Brady, my lost love from college. Surely you remember him. He treats me like a lady. He honors virtue, and respect."
"Linda, I know, I don't blame you, but I need you to know how serious I am to change. I found a relationship with Jesus Christ the other day. Linda, He's changed my heart, He's changed who I am and who I want to be in the future, a future I want to spend with you. I realize our marriage is very broken, but it's not hopeless. If you'll just give it some time, I know we can rebuild our marriage."
"Jesus Christ, eh? How nice for you. How convenient for you. I hope you two will be very happy together."
Thomas knew to continue would only serve to upset her more. With God's help he would not push, and allow God to work. God's timing was best, but he was new at this faith thing and it would be hard. In this moment, knowing there was another man was nearly unbearable. But that is exactly what he'd done to her.
"Linda, I'm not going to push you. I'll give you time, and whatever you choose, no matter how bad it is, I will always love you and I will continue to pray for you whether you come back or not."
Ivy and Aunt Gwen sat at the kitchen table sipping hot chamomile tea and nibbling on toast. Aunt Gwen looked at her niece and was warmed to see she was bright and at peace. She put her hand on top of Ivy's.
"It is so good to see you looking more at home and at peace."
"Yes I am. I really appreciate all you and James have done for me. Right now I'm trying to figure out what I want to do in life. I can't stay here forever and loaf."
"I take it you don't want to return to the clerical work you were doing before."
"Definitely not. I don't know specifically what I want to do except I'd like to find a way to help people that have had the same struggles I've had."
The phone broke into their tea time and Aunt Gwen answered. It was James. He told her he had some news about Cloe and would be home shortly. Ivy became very anxious as they waited. She'd felt like she couldn't really move forward too far in life until she laid Cloe to rest. James finally arrived and she anxiously asked what he'd found.
"Cloe has an elderly aunt who is in a nursing home in upstate New York," he said. "She was tracked down and asked to claim Cloe's remains and pay for cremation costs. She has no money other than a tiny pension, and being in a nursing home she is unable to make any arrangements on her own. Cloe's ashes are still waiting to be claimed. So if you want to, we can go pick up her ashes together tomorrow and decide what to do with them."
"Yes, let's do it," she said.
When they arrived at the crematorium the next day, Ivy was handed a large, decorative, temporary cardboard box James had ordered that contained Cloe's ashes. Her heart was racing and she fought tears. It felt kind of creepy to be holding the remains of her dear friend, and yet it also felt like a relief. She hugged Cloe's cardboard home close to her all the way home.
After dinner they discussed plans for a service for Cloe, and what they might do with her ashes. Ivy didn't think Cloe would want to sit in an urn on a shelf for years on end. She decided Cloe's ashes ought to be buried in a cemetery with a lovely headstone to give her tribute, or to have them spread somewhere. They had time to think it over. Ivy spent the next few days making the arrangements with Aunt Gwen's help. They would invite hospital staff and friends and co-workers of Cloe's if she could find them. Aunt Gwen told her there was no need to rush, Cloe was safe and sound in their home. For the next few weeks Ivy's life was consumed with tracking people down and planning the service. There was nothing else that mattered.
Ivy remembered that Cloe had attended Believer's Fellowship for a number of years so started there with her plans. She visited the pastor, Roland Franks, who had been very fond of Cloe and shared what a joy she was to everyone at church. He had ministered to her many times over the years, as had his wife and many of the women. Cloe's long battle had grieved his heart and hearing of her death broke his heart yet more. He said in the last year or so Cloe's attendance had dropped off dramatically and he'd not been able to track her down. He had of course thought of the hospital, but when he inquired they would not say whether she was there or not, which was very unusual. He and his wife had always been able to visit in previous admissions. Ivy told him how she and Cloe had met and how their relationship brought healing to both of them.
"I want you to know, Pastor, that when Cloe left the hospital she had turned a huge corner. She knew she'd never be back in the hospital again. We both had a renewal in our faith, and our hope for the future. It's heartening to know she's in the presence of God."
"Well then," he said, "that's a major answer to prayer."
Ivy asked if he would officiate Cloe's memorial service.
"Of course. I'd be honored," he said.
They set the date for a Saturday, three weeks away.
Thomas and Dr. Wong slid into the booth at The Golden Biscuit. They ordered coffee and chatted while they waited for Bob, the hospital chaplain, to arrive. Dr. Wong noticed Thomas seemed distracted and a bit sad but decided to wait for Bob before inquiring. He figured it was about Linda. They chatted about the new decor in the patient office and other goings on at the hospital. Then Thomas grew quiet and pensive.
Dr. Wong glanced out the window and saw Bob getting out of his car. He caught the attention of Glenda, the waitress, and ordered coffee for their chaplain friend. Before Bob made it to the table the coffee was waiting for him. He was very appreciative when he slid into the booth.
"Oh, Huan, you are the man. Always looking out for me," he said. "There is something almost intoxicating about the smell of coffee in the early morning." He took the first sip and closed his eyes. "Hallelujah," he said. "I'm ravenous. Biscuits and gravy for me today. How about you guys?"
"I'm in," Thomas said.
The two men looked at Wong with expectancy. Wong waved his hand. "No way. Eggs and toast for me."
"Oh come on Wong. Don't be such a breakfast snob. Try it, you'll like it," said Bob.
"Come on, Huan," Thomas whined. "Don't be such a wus."
"Wong no wus." He waved Glenda over. "Biscuits and gravy, please."
"You won't be sorry," said Glenda.
"Wong, I'm proud of you, man," Bob said. "Make that three Glenda."
Glenda went off to give their order to the cook. The three men were silent for a few moments, sipping their coffee. Bob noticed Thomas' down mood.
"Hey, Thomas. You look down today. You want to talk about it?"
"I got bad news from Linda yesterday. She met an old flame and decided he was a better catch. She said the marriage is over." He stared downcast into his coffee.
Dr. Wong put his hand on Thomas' shoulder. "Oh, so sorry, Thomas. Maybe she reconsider."
"Thomas, don't you give up," said Bob. "Trust God. Huan and I are here for you."
"I know. I told her I thought it wasn't too late. I told her about my new faith and she pretty much mocked me. I told her I wouldn't push but will continue to pray for her regardless. Didn't impress her of course."
"I think that wise," said Bob. "When in the thick of anger it usually does more harm than good to beg and push real hard."
While they waited for breakfast the three men talked about the John three passage he'd given them to read. Dr. Wong had started meeting with them and had asked a lot of questions.
As they talked about the passage, Dr. Wong revealed he'd gotten it. "Nicodemus very funny to ask how man can come out of mother's womb a second time. My wife and I talk about it. She catch on fast. 'Huan, this born again is spiritual birth. First birth physical, second birth spiritual.' I say, 'I'm a doctor, Shihong. I know difference between physical and spiritual birth."
"Well," she say, "If you so smart, why are you not born again?"
Bob and Thomas' eyebrows lifted. "Wow. She's an insightful woman and sure called you out. What happened next?" Thomas asked, suddenly perking up.
"She say then, 'Huan, we need to be born again.' I tell her about sin and the cross, like you tell me. She very moved and say again we need spiritual birth. So we pray. Shihong and I never pray before. But we tell God we want to be born again. We are sorry for wrongs we've done and want Jesus as Lord."
Bob and Thomas got excited.
"Huan, that's fantastic. Welcome to the family," said Bob.
Just then Glenda came with three plates heaping with hot biscuits and gravy. As she set the plate in front of Dr. Wong he frowned with apprehension, then looked up at Bob.
"Bob, you better pray. Pray I don't get sick."
"Uh, excuse me, doctor. Our food does not make people sick," said Glenda. "You quit being a baby now and eat your biscuits and gravy."
"Wong? Baby?" said Dr. Wong. "Glenda, you hurt my feelings. Thomas already call me Wus."
"Aw, poor Huan," said Thomas, patting Wong's shoulder.
Bob said the blessing, then Wong smelled the food and took a bite. "Hmm, this actually very good."
"Well now," Bob said, smacking the table, "we have here a double convert".
How to use a bump key
Thomas pulled into his driveway and turned off the car. He sat there for a moment realizing how weary he was. It had been a long day. Although the day had started off well at breakfast with his friends, hospital business had been hectic and stressful, then of course there was Linda and their marriage hanging over his head. He grabbed his brief case and made his way to the front door. He found it unlocked. He could have sworn he'd locked it that morning. In fact he was sure of it. Then it struck him. "Linda?" he cried, as he burst through the door. "Linda, are you here?" He went from room to room but did not find her. He checked their bedroom last. There was no sign of her. He must not have locked the door after all. He sank heavily onto the bed and began to loosen his tie.
Thomas froze and a shiver went down his spine. He turned to see Murray standing in the doorway of the master bath. His arm was no longer in a sling, and the swelling on his face was almost gone, but his nose still looked pretty mangled.
"Murray. How did you get in here? What do you want?"
Murray pulled out a key and held it up. "I used my bump key. Clever little invention to gain entrance."
Thomas swallowed. 'What is this going to be? God, have mercy,' he prayed. "Okay," he said to Murray, "so what do you want? I don't take kindly to people breaking into my house."
"Well, not to worry, Thomas. It won't happen again." He made a slight move. Thomas followed it to Murray's hand pulling out a pistol.
"Murray, come on. You don't have to do this."
"Oh, but I do. I don't take kindly to broken bones, having my rare Pappy Van Winkles bourbon smashed, nor to so called friends becoming traitors."
"Murray you attacked me first. It was self-defense. But for whatever it's worth, I was sickened by what I'd done when I got to my car. I'll admit I went home that night but I called nine-one-one when I woke up. I stayed with you to see how you were. I'm sorry about the bourbon. I can pay you back."
"I don't care about reimbursement, Thomas," he shouted. "So you felt bad about beating the snot of me. I would expect that of you. You're weak, Thomas. I could respect you more if you had no regrets."
"Well, I do. I took a look at myself and realized that I had become a vile monster. That realization changed me. If I was a traitor, though, it was to my wife."
"Thomas, you never came close to being a vile monster. I own that title alone. You just got lucky because I was drunk. For the first time in my life I was careless, and my guard was down. But I'm not weak like you. This is more than about you busting me and my rare bourbon up. You've been talking to the law trying to implicate me for that Ludlow girl's death. They've been on my case almost daily. Snitching, Thomas, is another sign of weakness. All these years of friendship and then you turn on me." He walked to Thomas with the gun pointed at his head.
"Come on, Murray. You'll only dig yourself in deeper. They're going to look at you first if you kill me. You'll have one more investigation."
"No, I think not. I'm out of country before they find you. Get up."
Thomas didn't move.
"I said get up." Murray jerked him up, gun still pointed at his head. "Were going to get in your car and you're going to drive."
"Where are we going?"
"A little field trip to the point of no return." Murray picked up a back pack he'd brought, then guided Thomas toward the front door. Darkness had descended on the neighborhood by then, cloaking their activities. Thomas got behind the wheel. Murray directed him through the city streets, then onto highway seventeen that routed them the back way into the next county.
Murray talked as Thomas drove, but Thomas tuned him out, thinking about Linda, and praying for God to intervene, not only for himself, but for Murray.
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