Copyright © 2006 by Leah Kelley




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     Gabe avoided the tear-filled eyes of his girlfriend and stared out the diner window instead, his jaw set.  Once again he wondered how he’d allowed himself to become involved with someone with beliefs so different than his own.


     Granted she was a Christian, or at least claimed to be, but Gabe had been raised with the knowledge that just because someone attended church didn’t make them a Christian.


     He sighed, regretting the thought.  Of course Jayden was a Christian.  She believed in the Lord Jesus and His saving power.  She believed He died for her sins and would return someday for His bride, the church.  Gabe even believed that Jayden loved the Lord, but the similarities in their beliefs ended there.


     He couldn’t take her home with him.  His mother would have a cow as soon as she laid eyes on Jayden’s bare midriff.  His dad would toss her out on her ear the first time she spouted that feminist rhetoric she was so fond of.


     He stared once again into her beautiful baby-blue eyes, made even brighter by the tears that still shimmered there.  She sniffed and tucked a short blond lock of hair behind a small, perfectly shaped ear.  Her nose was reddened and her sun-kissed skin blotched from the extent of her upset, but she remained exquisitely beautiful.


     He wondered why she chose to hang around a regular guy like himself.  He wasn’t ugly he guessed, but he certainly didn’t possess the Hollywood good looks Jayden did.  He wasn’t the flowers and wine romantic type of guy, not a smooth talker, and not particularly talented in anything.  It was a mystery to him why she liked him so well, even claimed to love him despite the fact that he’d never returned the sentiment, had even tried several times to break things off with her.


    But he did hate to see her so upset.


     “Your makeup is starting to run,” he said, handing her his clean napkin.  She took it and dabbed carefully at her expertly painted eyes.


     “Gabe,” she hiccoughed, “I just don’t understand why you won’t let me go home with you for Spring Break.  You know my mom is out of the country.  I can’t go home, and I don’t want to stay here without you.”


     Gabe sighed.  He felt bad for her.  Really he did.  But take her home with him?  Oh Lord.


     He sent up a little prayer for wisdom.  What do you say to a woman whose mother would rather travel with her lesbian lover than spend Spring Break with her daughter?


     On the other hand, after spending Christmas break with her mother, Jayden had returned so confused and angry they’d argued the whole month of January, resulting in one of their many breakups.  That one lasted a whole week before she came to him humbled and sweet, pleading with him to take her back.  As usual, he was unable to resist.  He cared deeply for her even if he did want to turn her over his knee.


     “Please, Gabe?  Please?” she begged, somehow sensing his weakening resolve.  “I won’t, (sniff) embarrass you, (sniff) I promise.”


     “ you don’t understand.  My family is a lot different from yours.  There’s a lot about us you don’t know.”


     “But I love you and I know I’ll love them too, and maybe they’ll like me if you like me.  You like me, don’t you?”  He waited too long to answer.  “Don’t you?”  Her voice rose with those last words causing the waitress to glance curiously in their direction.


     “Of course I do, Jayde.  It’s just that...”


     “You don’t want them to meet me.  You’re ashamed of me.  Why are you ashamed of me?” she cried, her voice filled with hurt and bewilderment.


     “I’m not ashamed of you,” he assured her, even though deep down he knew he was lying.  He was worried about what his family would think, what his church would think, what his community would think.  “You’re beautiful.  You’re sweet.  What’s to be ashamed of?  I’m just worried you won’t get along with my family.  That’s all.”


     “But you won’t know that unless you let me meet them.  You’re not even giving me a chance.  It’s not fair.”


     She was right, of course.  If he wasn’t willing to take her to meet his parents he had no business having a relationship with her.  It wasn’t fair to her.  Since he couldn’t seem to break it off with her he needed to give her a chance to learn more about the kind of woman he expected to marry someday.


     His heart sank.  He didn’t think she’d fit in at all, but he’d give it a try.


     “Okay,” he said finally, “I’ll give you a chance.”  Ignoring her squeal and heartfelt thank you, he continued, “but you have to promise me you won’t make any trouble.  None of your feminist crap...”  She bristled but wisely didn’t argue.  “You have to take decent clothes — no low cut, tight jeans, halter tops, shorts...”


     “Shorts?  No shorts?  What in the world should I wear then?”


     “Get a dress,” he suggested.


     She looked away.







     Jayden smothered a gasp as Gabe turned his pickup onto another even narrower road.  This one wasn’t even paved.  Guardrails had ceased to exist several miles back, and Gabe didn’t seem to notice the steep drop off just inches from the truck’s wheels.  But Jayden did.  She’d prayed constantly ever since she’d seen that last guardrail come to an end.

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