Authors: Carrie Daws
Tags: #General Fiction
Table of Contents
© 2012 by Carrie Daws
All rights reserved
Printed in the United States of America
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture was taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Cover Design by Matthew Mulder
Page Layout by Kelley Moore of Points & Picas
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And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
CHARMING TOWN, AMBER GRIFFIN THOUGHT
as she kicked a plod of snow and walked past a sign welcoming her to Crossing, Oregon, population 725. Many homes featured broad porches, picket fences, and snowmen of various sizes. As she considered snatching a carrot nose for breakfast, she thought, This is the kind of town where everyone knows everyone and you expect Sheriff Taylor to stroll down Main Street.
Stepping over an abandoned mitten, she paused to watch two girls playing with dolls on the other side of a picture window. Her eyes lingered on the hearth and the fire burning in it. “If only people were as reliable in person as they are on TV,” she muttered.
As homes gave way to storefronts, Amber came upon a park that seemed to be the town’s center. She walked to the nearest bench, brushed snow off the seat, and eased her frigid muscles onto it. She stomped her feet, her toes aching in response. At least I know they’re not frostbitten.
With no good options the night before, Amber had forced her way into a dilapidated cabin a few miles outside of town. The thin mattress and worn quilt she’d found made sleep difficult in the plummeting temperatures, but the walls had kept the snow off of her. She’d slept in worse places.
An old Ford F150 rumbled down the street, blowing its horn at two boys practicing wrap-arounds with their hockey sticks. The boys waved in response just before the truck stopped at the hardware store. As a gray-haired man got out of the truck, Amber noticed a small yellow cross on the tailgate.
Next to the hardware store was a Christmas tree lot with a large sign promising to have trees ready by November 28th. Is that next Friday or Saturday? Amber wondered, trying to think back to when she last knew the date.
Across the street she could see a barber shop, a diner advertising lunch specials, and a two-story lawyer’s office with a couple of jeeps parked in front. A woman stepped out of the law office and Amber watched her follow the sidewalk around the square to enter the General Store. Now what kind of legal troubles could that Barbie doll have?
An ice cream shop and the local newspaper sat quietly next to the General Store. Quite a variety in this little area. Maybe someone will let me stock shelves.
Amber forced herself to get up off the bench and cross the street to Micah’s Hardware. Rock salt crunched under her shoes as she mounted the steps of the blue storefront. She stepped inside, taking a moment to stomp her feet on the rough welcome mat. As warm air enveloped her, she noticed walls covered in tools. Aisles lined the middle of the old wood floor, all angled to guide people to the front counter. She suddenly realized how quiet the store was and looked to see two men leaning on the counter, staring at her.
“Can I help you?” The man behind the counter straightened as he spoke. His blue jean overalls hung limply around his thin frame, and his light blue shirt echoed the icy color of his eyes.
Amber swallowed hard, balling her fists to help her summon the remnant of courage left in her. “I’m wondering if you need any help around the store.”
“It’s a bit slow this time of year. Can’t say I really need much help.” His eyes narrowed slightly.
Amber nibbled on her bottom lip. Her skin was beginning to prickle in the warm air and her muscles relax. She pushed herself to ask, “Do you know of anyone in town that may be hiring? Just for a few weeks,” she quickly added. “I’m not looking for anything permanent.”
“If you mean to stay out the winter, I could use some help.”
Amber tore her eyes from the tight line of the first man’s face to look at the second man. A good seven or eight inches taller than her slight five-foot, two-inch frame, he had the look of working outdoors, with his jeans, work boots, and weathered face, despite a roundness to his midsection. About the same age as the first man, he resembled an older John Walton from the popular television show. Almost trustworthy, she thought.
“I could probably hang around for three or four months, depending on the job.”
“My wife and I own a small loggin’ business just outside of town,” the man continued. “I’d like her to have some company ’round the office while the rest of us are busy elsewhere. Truth be told, she ain’t the best at keepin’ up with the paperwork, and you’d be takin’ a load off my shoulders if you could help with that.”
“How far is that from here?” An office job would certainly be better than that last dishwashing job!
“Oh, ’bout ten miles,” he said. “Job includes room and board if that’s what you’re wonderin’. You can stay in our extra room and eat all your meals with us. Your evenin’s and weekends would be yours to do with what you want.”
Amber hesitated. This sounded too good to be true, and in her experience that only brought trouble.
“You could always try it out for a few days. If it ain’t to your likin’, then I’ll bring you right back here.”
Amber shifted her weight from one foot to the other. It’s only for a few weeks, and I can leave if it’s not what he says. “Okay. I’ll give it a try.”
“Good. Name’s Frank Yager and my truck’s parked right out front.”
: : : : :
Frank turned his old Ford into a snow-covered driveway and Amber stared in disbelief. The worn-out truck with the faded paint and squeaky bench seat they were riding on hadn’t prepared her for this two-story log cabin.
It looks like a magazine cover! “That’s your house?”
“Yeah. Didn’t seem like so much when all the kids were little. Seems too big now. Too quiet, I s’pose.”
Red Ace Potentilla bushes covered the landscaping around the deck that extended the full length of the house. Smoke curled out of the chimney near the back of the house, casting a slight haze on darkening skies. Noble firs towered over the home’s back corners, and an Oregon maple stood bare of leaves in the front yard.
Frank drove into the middle bay of a three-car garage. Amber stepped out of the truck, chilly air hitting her as she noticed a lavish Grand Cherokee beside her and a black Camry behind Frank. She glanced out the open garage door and looked warily at the snow.
A warm bed is worth giving this man and his job a try, she reminded herself.
Frank motioned Amber forward and reached to take her faded backpack from her. “How ’bout we get you settled in? I’ll get you introduced to my wife, Faye, and Peter if he’s inside. He’s our younger son.”
Amber nodded, beginning to move forward, and then halted just past the front of the truck. A medium-sized Australian Shepherd barred her pathway. It growled then barked a warning. Amber didn’t move. Not again!
“Sassy! Get on with ya now!” Frank came up to Amber’s side. Amber remained frozen in place.
A door opened behind the dog. “Dad?”
“Peter, get Sassy for us, will ya?”
Peter bent down to grab the dog’s collar, talking gently into its dark brown ear. The dog remained watchful but obediently sat upon Peter’s command.
“Sorry ’bout that, Amber. Let’s get you properly introduced and then Sassy’ll let you be. She loves people but is a bit careful ’round strangers.”
Amber barely nodded, her eyes fixed on the dog. Running doesn’t do any good. She’ll catch me.
“This is our son, Peter Yager.” Frank motioned to her, her backpack dangling from his hand. “Amber’s gonna be stayin’ with us for a bit, helpin’ your mom out at the office.”
Peter commanded the dog to stay then stood to offer his hand to Amber. “It’s nice to meet you.” Amber gingerly took his hand for a quick shake. Just an inch or two taller than his father, Peter looked to be in his late twenties. His jeans and tan sweater with a white T-shirt peeking out of the top didn’t show any hint of a potbelly like Frank’s. But still they were clearly related, sharing the same straight nose, angular jaw, and easy grin.
“As soon as Sassy knows you’re welcome here, she’ll leave you alone,” said Peter.
Again Amber nodded, darting a look at him then refocusing on the dog.
Frank led the way up two steps into a mudroom. Amber watched Sassy bound past him and jump through a dog door into the house before she followed Frank. Peter closed the garage behind them before asking, “May I take your coat, Amber?”
She eyed him carefully before silently removing her coat and handing it to him. He hung it on a post next to several down-filled winter coats and wool-lined hats. Frank sat down on one of two long benches lining the room and began to untie his shoes.
“Faye likes for us to take our outside shoes off before we go inside. I try to ’bide her wishes. She’s got more time to make those pies of hers if she don’t have so much cleanin’ up to do!” Frank winked a sparkling eye at her and Peter grinned.
“It’s not like Momma doesn’t look for excuses to bake as it is, Dad.”
“True ’nough. But there’s no sense in makin’ a mess that’ll keep her out of the kitchen.”
Amber sat down to remove her worn boots while the two men patiently waited for her. Good thing the truck warmed up my fingers, she thought as she fumbled with the laces.
“Peter! Was that your dad?” A door to Amber’s left popped open and an older woman appeared. “Oh, goodness! Who do we have here?”
“Love, this here’s Amber. Amber, my wife, Faye.”
“So that’s what Sassy was excited about!” said Faye. “It’s so nice to meet you.”
Amber stood, trying to avoid the wet spots on the rubber floor. Faye reminded her of a sweet grandmother, slightly plump and full of joy. As she smiled broadly, each part of her face seemed to participate, from her dancing eyes to her dimpled cheeks. Does she seriously react like this to every stranger?