Carole Mortenson



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Leslie left the church at The Old West Town still angry with her sister Lindsey for not staying to help with their daddy's preparation for tomorrow's Sunday service before she came to conduct the Christmas practice. She wanted to argue more with her, but decided it was neither the time nor the place with all those other women around. Maybe she'd talk with her later.

Even with all of the headstrong and sometimes unconventional ideas Lindsey had, Leslie was amazed that her sister had been conducting a women's Bible Study group once a week for the past year. It was the one area where she acceded to their father's wishes. At times, she had overheard Lindsey listening to him carefully while he went over minute details of the curriculum and dictated in what direction she should go with the Bible Study lesson that week. Knowing her sister like she did, Leslie was further amazed that—for all she knew—Lindsey seemed to be following their father's instructions.

Hiram Hobbs was determined that the Bible Study group—especially since they were all women—be taught in the way that adhered to the hierarchical structure of the fundamental evangelical church where he was pastor. That is to say, the man was the head of the house, and the woman was in submission to the man. He kept a heavy hand on his own flesh and blood—as well as his church family—to make sure they didn't deviate from the Scriptures. The curriculum that was used in each Bible Study lesson was in line with what he believed the Bible taught. Hiram had told his two daughters that the stance of the church—indeed, that of the Bible itself—was that if a preacher could not take care of his own family, he could not be entrusted to take care of his church family.

Leslie taught the group of Kindergarten through Second Grade youngsters at church, and her father didn't bother going into details with her about what she taught. The basis of her lessons was formed around children's pictures, and little kids could hardly be misled with that kind of teaching.

Leslie knew Lindsey enjoyed teaching the women's Bible Study group and had never missed a week. She held the Bible Study at home a couple of times when they first started. Then she moved the meetings to the second floor of the Alpine Coffeehouse on Saturday evenings. Lindsey said they could have coffee and tea and relax there in a more informal atmosphere before a warm fire in the long wintertime or out on the deck in the summer.

When Leslie probed deeper concerning why they weren't meeting at their house anymore, Lindsey told her that the women who attended the Bible Study group didn't like being around their father because he insisted on sitting in on their Bible Study. It was supposed to be just for women . Still, Leslie thought this group of women might need a little watching over. They were not what she would call faithful churchgoers and could really benefit from Bible Study under Lindsey's capable hands. Leslie had hardly seen them more than once or twice in church. Annette was the only one who came to church on a regular basis.

Lindsey never asked Leslie to come to the Bible Study at the Alpine Coffeehouse , and Leslie really didn't care about going. In the long run, where Lindsey held the Bible Study made no difference to her. She was just surprised that it had already lasted for almost a year. Their father had resisted the move to another location, but Lindsey got her way in the end—as usual.

As far as the Christmas program was concerned, it continued to grate at Leslie, because Lindsey still got her way. When it came to preparing for the annual event, Lindsey said she was having an all-women choir this year, because there weren't enough men who were interested. She knew a few ladies who could sing pretty low notes. Leslie thought there should be men in the choir, but she didn't argue about it when Hiram agreed with Lindsey's decision.

When it came time to start practicing for the Christmas program, Lindsey—being the choir director at church—thought Leslie should be the lead soloist because of her beautiful soprano voice, and Lindsey would be the conductor of the Christmas choir. That was the only thing about the program with which Leslie totally agreed. Since the two women were the pastor's daughters, no one in the church objected. But there was a reason for Lindsey's decision.

Lindsey herself wasn't able to sing, owing to a childhood accident. She had suffered a throat injury when she was ten years old while riding a tall, rangy gelding named Traveler. The horse swerved and changed directions at the last minute to go underneath a tree limb, brushing her off his back. Lindsey swore it was deliberate, as the horse had never liked her. Her father had told her not to ride him, because the horse was getting more ornery the older he got. But even at the age of ten, Lindsey was already exerting herself against her father's wishes and getting her own way. For all her stubbornness, she landed on her head and neck, and it was thought by throat specialists that she would never speak again. She recovered, though, leaving her voice slightly husky and raspy. However, the accident rendered her incapable of singing.

Lindsey gained a small measure of satisfaction when old Traveler died a few months after the accident from a mysterious ailment which affected his brain functions. Being a horse expert, Hiram deduced that might have been the reason he had been growing meaner with age. Lindsey, as a little girl, wished someday she could be as smart as her daddy concerning horses and thought of becoming a horse trainer.

Not being able to sing didn't stop Lindsey from loving music, though, and often from her bedroom late at night for the past two months, her father and sister would hear the Christmas music being played over and over again. Lindsey wanted the Christmas program to go off without a hitch. She imagined herself conducting the choir as she listened to the music, holding the conductor's baton properly and the women's voices rising perfectly in unison as she 2directed.

When the time grew close to Christmas, Lindsey also convinced their daddy that they should perform the program at the church in The Old West Town . Leslie thought they should keep it at the church where their father was the pastor, because it was tradition. But Lindsey was adamant about holding the program at The Old West Town. She said the tourist trade was always slow at that time of year, and since she was the manager of The Old West Town —and the program was a western-type musical, called A Bit of the Old West— that would be the best place to have it. The ladies could dress in western wear, and maybe some of the townspeople who never came to their church would come to see the program. They could perform it on a Saturday afternoon, put up some flyers around town in a few strategic locations and even sell tickets for it. She was sure that enough people would come so that they could have two performances. Hiram Hobbs thought that was a good idea, too—and never listened to Leslie's arguments. Lindsey had her way—again.

Yes, Lindsey had her way about almost everything.


CHAPTER SIX – THE CHURCH ( Sunday, December 4 )

"Hurry up, boys, or we're going to be late," Sylvia yelled into the twins' bedroom. "And don't you dare wear identical clothes! You scare some of those little old ladies in the church half to death when they see one of you in one place and turn around and see the other one of you across the room in another place!"

She explained to Sarah as she came back into the kitchen, "Some of the old ladies in the church are having a hard time telling Lilly and Lori apart." Then she laughed. "They haven't figured out yet that I have twin boys, too."

Sarah stood by the kitchen table, almost ready to leave, and took a final slurp of her coffee. She wondered what she was getting herself into. Was this church she was going to—under protest and only because Sylvia insisted—filled with nothing but old ladies?

"Have you been going there very long?" she asked, pulling on her winter coat.

"No. Less than two months. Shortly before Rich left, I thought it would be a good idea to get the kids involved in something else, because they did everything with their dad. Especially the boys. I just don't have time to do things with them. The church is close by, too. I don't have to drive clear across town. But that place is really something else!"

"What do you mean—something else?" Sarah prodded.

"It's extremely fundamental—" Sylvia's voice trailed off. "But you'll see for yourself," she added. "I mean, it seems to be okay for the kids, but for the adults—" Her voice trailed off again.

Sarah stepped down into the garage and started to ask Sylvia what she meant again. Before the words could leave her mouth, the two boys came rushing out of the house—pushing her out of the way in their haste to get to the car first. Sarah was taken aback by their rudeness. The two girls followed, and Sylvia came last and locked the door behind them.

The boys started fighting over who was going to sit in the front seat. Sylvia told them to settle down, that their Aunt Sarah was riding in the front. All the kids squeezed into the back seat of the small compact car then—pushing, shoving, and arguing over who got to sit by the windows.

Sarah thought to herself, Why did I let Sylvia talk me into this? I didn't really want to come. But she just said I was coming, and that's all there was to it. I didn't have the heart to argue with her about such a small thing. God, those boys are brats!

When they reached the church two miles away and pulled up into a small unpaved parking lot, the four kids dashed out of the car as soon as Sylvia got out and pushed the front seat forward. They were already inside the church by the time Sarah's feet touched the ground. Sylvia didn't holler at them to stop and wait. She knew the girls were anxious to get to Sunday School. They loved their Sunday School teacher. The boys had made friends with the other boys in the Young Teens class, also, and wanted to renew their weeklong separation.

Sarah looked at the surroundings. At the corner of the church's front lawn stood a large sign that read—in huge letters— FAITH COMMUNITY CHURCH . Below that were the days and times of the services and the pastor's name: Reverend Hiram Hobbs . The name didn't register in Sarah's consciousness. She looked at the square church, and thought it was kind of small, not at all like the churches she remembered seeing when she'd drive down the streets of Denver. It was stuccoed on the outside, painted with an old-fashioned whitewash. Some of the windows were stained glass. The roof was flat. Very simple, she decided, and very old . But it fit right in with the surrounding neighborhood. The houses situated around the church looked to be more than fifty years old, and huge cottonwood trees and stately pines grew everywhere.

On the way to the front entrance, Sylvia told her that the adults had Sunday School the same time as the kids. Sarah rolled her eyes at her sister again as she followed her. She hoped she wouldn't have to sit in a Sunday School class, and was already thinking of how she could get out of going next Sunday.

They walked up the half-dozen concrete steps to the entrance. Sylvia opened the plain, unadorned wooden door and walked in. Sarah followed. Instead of turning to the right and going into the main sanctuary, Sylvia turned left into a short vestibule, where she hung her coat on a peg and then proceeded down a stairway at the end, which led down to the basement.

Sarah had only enough time to glance into the sanctuary as she hung up her coat. She thought it wouldn't seat more than a hundred people. She noted the pulpit platform, which was built like a stage—enclosed on three sides. Heavy, dark purple curtains covered the side walls, and a bare cross was attached to the back wall with curtains hanging on both sides of it. These curtains were a lighter shade of purple—almost lavender. A small choir loft was situated at the back of the pulpit platform.

Some people were going up to sit in the choir loft. She questioned Sylvia, who said the choir practiced during the Sunday School hour so they would be ready for the morning service.

Folding chairs were set up in rows downstairs in the main part of the room. Simple wooden doors opened up into four small classrooms lining one side. All the doors were open, and Sarah could hear children laughing and talking. This was evidently where Sylvia's kids had Sunday School. There were no other rooms, and she hadn't noticed any unattached buildings outside.

They sat down near the front. One by one, the doors to the small classrooms closed, and the folding chairs in the main area began to fill with adults. Sarah halfway turned in her chair and watched the people as they sat down, noticing there weren't many older people at all.

A rather nice-looking man—tall, trim, and middle-aged, with hair starting to gray at the temples—walked up to the front. He placed his Sunday School materials next to a podium which had been set up on a four-foot-long metal folding table.

It was 9:45. The Sunday School teacher, whose name was Will, welcomed an older gentleman who was new to the class after everyone had settled down in their seats.

"Sylvia, would you like to introduce your guest?" Will asked.

Sylvia's face flushed with pleasure as she stood, pulling Sarah up with her, and introduced her.

After they sat back down, Sylvia showed her the lesson they were studying out of a small pamphlet. For the next half hour or so, Sarah tried to pay attention, but was interrupted from time to time by the faint strains of the choir singing upstairs. She also watched her sister during the class more than she paid attention to the lesson. Sylvia and Will appeared to have more than a passing interest in each other, as Sylvia kept smiling at Will, and Will gave her the impression he was directing his lesson more to Sylvia than anyone else.

A bell rang at 10:30, and Sunday School was over. Thank goodness, Sarah thought. I'm glad that's over! I didn't understand a bit of what the teacher was talking about. Though I really wasn't paying attention.

People started getting up from their chairs and trickling upstairs for the morning service.

"Go on up to the sanctuary, Sarah, and get seated somewhere," Sylvia said. "I'll be right up. I have to use the restroom first."

"I can wait for you," Sarah said.

"No, no. You go ahead and find a place to sit down before the pews are all filled. Otherwise, we might have to sit in the aisle on a folding chair."

"What about the kids?" Sarah asked. "Shouldn't we wait for them?"

"They have their own Children's' Service down here at the same time the adults have their worship service upstairs. So go on, will you?" Sylvia said, shooing her away.

Sarah started up the stairs, hesitated, and then looked back to see where the restroom was—filing it for future reference. Sylvia started to walk past Will, and Sarah saw him put a hand on her arm, stopping her. He said a few words to her, leaning towards her ear. Sylvia nodded and then walked over to the door marked Ladies and went inside. Hmmm , Sarah mused. That's interesting . She filed that for future reference, too, and continued up the stairs.

Now where am I supposed to sit? she asked herself. Up close or in the back? She was standing at the back of the sanctuary looking around when someone touched her on the shoulder. She jumped.

"Well, hello," the someone said. "Sorry if I startled you. I didn't expect to see you here."

Sarah turned to look into the smiling face of Lindsey Hobbs! She could feel her own face beginning to turn pink with embarrassment.

"Lindsey!" Sarah exclaimed, mouth dropping open. "What a surprise! Do you go to this church?" What a dumb question. Of course , Lindsey goes here. She's right here !"

"Yes. My father is the preacher," Lindsey responded. "And I'm the choir director."

"Ahhh," Sarah said, still open-mouthed. "Well, what a surprise!"

"You already said that," Lindsey responded again, still smiling.

"Oh," Sarah said, finally closing her mouth and thinking how strikingly beautiful Lindsey was this morning. She was dressed not in a pair of jeans and a cowboy shirt, but pleated dark slacks and a silky white blouse with billowing sleeves. Her hair was loose and framed around her face in wavy curls. She had on just a hint of eye shadow and a trace of light pink lipstick, both of which highlighted her face.

"Are you here by yourself, or with someone?" Lindsey asked.

"Uhh...I came with my sister and her kids," Sarah explained. She composed herself before her mouth flopped open again. "They've been coming here for about two months, and she said I had to come because she'd told people here that I was coming to live with her and the kids for a while."

"Great!" Lindsey sounded enthusiastic. "I'm glad you came. Where are you going to sit?"

"I don't know," Sarah said, looking around again. "My sister just told me to come upstairs and sit down somewhere." Then she felt Lindsey's hand on her elbow guiding her toward the front of the sanctuary. She felt sparks fly at the contact and then decided it was probably static from Lindsey's silk blouse.

"Why don't you sit up here close to the choir," Lindsey said. "You'll recognize most of the ladies in the choir, as they're in the Christmas program, too." She let go of Sarah's arm, and Sarah slid into the second pew from the front. She noted there was ample room for Sylvia to sit next to her. The four kids would be downstairs for their own service. Lindsey proceeded up to the platform behind the podium and sat down on a pew located in front of the choir loft.

The small organ and ancient upright piano in front of the platform at opposite sides of the sanctuary began to loudly pound out some church music, and people started milling in from outside the church as well as up from the basement. Many adults never came to Sunday School and gathered just for the morning worship service, so almost every pew was filled by the time everyone was seated.

Sylvia slipped in beside Sarah and pulled a hymnal out of the rack in front. She looked at Sarah and whispered, "Why did you sit so close to the front? I usually sit near the back."

"You told me to sit somewhere, Sylvia!" Sarah whispered loudly, exasperated with her sister. "You didn't say where ! Besides, Lindsey wanted me to sit near the choir."

"Lindsey?" Sylvia asked her, raising her eyebrows.

"Yes. The choir director, sitting up there on the platform. She's the one who's directing the Christmas program, too."

"Oh... that Lindsey." Sylvia said under her breath.

"What did you say?" Sarah asked.

"Nothing," Sylvia said quickly. She opened her hymn book and started turning pages.

A tall, rather large man in a black suit, white shirt and black tie, stepped up to the podium, welcomed the congregation and then introduced someone else who announced the events that were happening at the church for the next week. The service began with a hymn. Lindsey directed the choir in Blessed Assurance , inviting the congregation to join in on the chorus. Sarah thought she looked as if she were thoroughly enjoying herself—very efficient and self-assured.

Sarah never paid much attention to the sermon delivered by the man in the black suit and tie. Even when the preacher pounded on the pulpit to press home a point and raised his voice in emphasis, she was distracted and disturbed by his forceful presence only for an instant. Her thoughts were elsewhere.

Sylvia whispered to her, "I told you this was an extremely fundamental church. Can't you tell by the message?"

Sarah nodded, but had no idea what Sylvia was talking about. Her eyes kept reverting to Lindsey, who sat on the pew in front of the choir loft when she wasn't directing the choir. She absent-mindedly put some dollar bills in the collection plate as it passed, while listening to Lindsey's sister sing a solo to accompany the taking up of the offering. Glancing now and then at Leslie, she noticed how Leslie's face was transformed from the harshness she had observed at the Christmas choir practice to a delicate softness as she put both voice and heart into the song.

Sarah knew she wouldn't partake of the communion. But as people in orderly fashion got up from their pews and walked to the front of the platform to be served the communion wine and bread at the end of the service, she captured Lindsey's eyes. She felt herself starting to breathe rapidly as she gazed into those beautiful deep blue eyes. It was Lindsey, however, who finally dropped her gaze to look elsewhere.

Ah ha! Gotcha again, didn't I? Sarah laughed to herself as she remembered it was Lindsey who turned her eyes away from Sarah first at the Christmas choir practice yesterday, also.

After the communion, the people started to disassemble while the choir was singing a final number. Sarah and Sylvia walked to the back of the sanctuary to collect the four kids as they noisily clambered upstairs. Sarah wanted to stay and talk with Lindsey, but Sylvia was anxious to go. After a few handshakes over introductions outside the church, they piled into the car and left. Sarah noted out of the corner of her eyes as they drove down the street that Lindsey's truck was parked about a block north of the church. She decided she might start coming to church with Sylvia on a regular basis, after all.



After Lindsey finished directing the final choir number, she immediately walked down from the platform. She wasn't in the mood to converse with choir members this morning. She looked around and wondered where Sarah was. She hadn't noticed when she left, but thought she caught a glimpse of her going out the door of the church. By the time she reached that spot, stopping to shake a few hands in the aisle, Sarah had vanished.

Lindsey drove slowly out to The Old West Town . This was the day each week she chose to take care of the financial books for the tourist attraction. She had settled on Sunday afternoons because she was loath to spend the time at home lying around 'keeping the Sabbath' all day long, as her father put it. Keeping the Sabbath—to him—meant no working on Sunday. Lindsey got around that, saying it was the only day she had when she wasn't busy with other things. She did go to both morning and evening services at church on Sunday, so he should give her a little leeway. As usual, Lindsey got her way.

She spent a couple of hours at The Old West Town , but didn't have to stay even that long. She wasn't in a hurry to get back home. There was nothing at home that made her want to be there , either. Business had definitely been slow all week at the small tourist attraction, and after she'd spent half an hour on the business ledger, there was no reason for her to stay any longer. Deanna, the person who sold tickets on the weekend, said there were only ten people who had come through so far. Lindsey hung around as long as she dared, going outside and checking on The Old West Town's buildings once, and chatting with Deanna about trivial things.

When Lindsey finally—and leisurely—made her way back home, she drove past Sarah's house and thought she might stop in for a minute. Then she decided that wasn't a good idea. She didn't know Sarah's sister and had met Sarah only yesterday. What excuse could she give?

Oh, hello, I'm Lindsey, and I'm attracted to Sarah, so I thought I'd stop and see her. God, how lame is that? You're pathetic, she told herself.

Her father and Leslie were eating dinner when she walked into the house.

"We didn't know what time you'd be home," said Leslie, "so we decided to go ahead and eat."

"I know I'm a little later than usual," Lindsey replied, looking at her watch. "I had more business to take care of at The Old West Town than I realized."

She knew she was not telling the truth when she said those words, but neither did she want to tell them that she wanted to stay away from home as long as possible. "I'm not very hungry, anyway. I'll just grab something to eat later. I want to lie down for a nap before church tonight."

"You may as well sit down and eat. There's still plenty here," Hiram said. "You can join us while we have dessert. We don't have to be back at the church for a couple of hours yet. Plenty of time for a nap."

Lindsey resignedly sat down and filled her plate with a pasta casserole that Leslie had baked. As she began to eat, she discovered she was hungrier than she thought. The wash of disappointment of not being able to talk with Sarah after church fell by the wayside as she listened halfheartedly to the conversation between her father and sister. Both of them began to talk about some new people who were in the church service that morning, drawing her into the conversation.

"Lindsey, wasn't that lady sitting on the second row near the front of the church the one who was singing with the church choir for the Christmas practice yesterday?" Leslie asked.

"Yes, it was," Lindsey responded, all of a sudden showing an interest in what her family had to say.

"I thought I recognized her, but I never met her yesterday," Leslie said. She started to say something else when Lindsey interrupted.

"Her name is Sarah Davis. That was her sister she was sitting with, I guess. Sarah had ridden the bus down to The Old West Town yesterday and wandered into the church where we were practicing and accidently wound up in the choir. She has a really good voice, and since she's going to be here for a while, I invited her to sing with us in the Christmas program. She said she'd be happy to."

"Well, we can certainly use the help," Leslie said. "I've made friends with her sister. Her name is Sylvia Hammond—a real nice lady. And Sylvia's two little twin girls, Lori and Lilly, are in my Sunday School class. Beautiful little girls."

"In fact," Lindsey went on, barely acknowledging Leslie's words, "Sarah is staying for a while with her sister, whose house is on the next street down from us. She didn't have a way back home after practice because the last bus had already come by the time practice was over, so I gave her a ride. Then I offered to pick her up for future practices. I thought it would be the neighborly thing to do. I don't think she has any other transportation other than riding the bus."

Leslie looked at her sister strangely and started to say something again, but was interrupted by Hiram.

"That was nice of you, Lindsey," her father said. "I hope she'll come regularly to the church services with her sister, too."

He effectively dismissed the subject of Sarah, and continued on another line of thought. "Will told me that besides Sylvia's sister, that there was an older gentleman in his class and—"

At that point, Lindsey lost interest and didn't hear much of what her daddy said. After she finished eating, she asked to be excused and went up to her bedroom to lie down for a nap. She thought of Sarah's sparkling brown eyes gazing at her intently in church from time to time, wondering what Sarah was thinking about during the service. And damn ! Sarah had finally locked eyes with her during the communion service, slightly smiling, and held her gaze for the longest time. Lindsey discovered she was breathing heavily and finally had to turn her eyes away in embarrassment. She noticed that Sarah's chest was rising and falling quicker than it normally should have, too, and wondered what she was thinking about at that time.

She didn't suppose Sarah would be coming to tonight's worship service, but she knew she had to find a way to see her again before next Saturday's Christmas choir practice. She set her alarm for 5 o'clock and fell asleep listening to the Christmas program music.


CHAPTER EIGHT – WARNINGS ( Wednesday, December 7 )

"I don't know why you need to go into Cheyenne tomorrow," Sylvia said while she watched Sarah rummage around in the fridge. "I know that Laramie doesn't have everything , but surely there is someplace here where you can get what you're looking for. It's not going to be a good day for traveling, you know."

Sarah looked up in exasperation. She had been working all afternoon at her computer after she returned from town, putting the finishing touches on Deb's material. She had skipped lunch, and all she wanted right now was a sandwich—not an argument with her sister.

It was Wednesday, and all her efforts had come to nothing as she searched the town all morning long for feed rollers for her computer printer. One of the rollers had split yesterday, and she knew she'd have to buy the whole set of three. She'd even gone to two office supply stores—unlikely candidates in town for computer parts—and came up empty. She was amazed that a town such as Laramie would be so backwards—which was the only word that came to mind. Then she realized she had the most up-to-date, state-of-the art printer and computer system that she could have—compliments of her employer, Deb. Maybe Laramie had just not caught up with the latest advances in computer technology yet.

There were several computer stores in Laramie, but all they could do was order the rollers for her. They would have to special-order them from the manufacturer on the West Coast. It would take about three days to arrive. She couldn't wait that long.

Deb was uncertain of computer availability at conference headquarters, so she requested that Sarah mail hard copies of the statistics and graphics to her hotel in Minneapolis as soon as possible. She needed them by Friday afternoon at the latest. Sarah knew that Deb would trust her to do what needed to be done when it came to crunch time, and she had never let her down. She probably could have used the copy store in Laramie, but she was dying to see some of the country around Laramie, so decided to drive to Cheyenne tomorrow to get the rollers. She hoped that the computer store that one of the computer stores in Laramie called this morning was telling the truth when they said they had what she needed. She could fix it herself, if she had the parts.

If the computer store there wound up not having the rollers they said they had, she could always come back to Laramie and get her material copied. Or she could invest in a new printer, if she wanted to. She was sure Laramie had some good printers. And Deb wouldn't have a problem with that.

"Damn, Sylvia!" she burst out, moving things around in the fridge. "Where's the goddamn mayo?"

"I'm sorry, Sarah, but the kids used the last of it this morning to make sandwiches for their school lunches. I haven't had time to go to the store yet." Sylvia had just gotten home from work.

Can't even keep a jar of mayo in the damn house, Sarah thought. What else is going to go wrong?

S he'd had an argument with Sylvia yesterday about driving Rich's humongous SUV. Sylvia said Rich winterized it before he left on his sabbatical and didn't want anybody to drive it.

"What in the hell am I supposed to do, then?" Sarah yelled at her. "Ride the goddamn bus all over the freakin' town whenever I want to go anywhere?"

Sylvia had already made it clear that she needed her own car to run errands for the company she worked for, so letting Sarah use her car was out of the question. They argued endlessly back and forth.

Sarah had half a mind during their argument to fly back to Denver and pick up her own car that she'd left with a friend to use while she was gone. She could drive it back up here so she'd have something to get around in.

Sylvia finally relented and said she could drive Rich's car—as long as she was careful—and reluctantly handed her the keys. She said Rich would be really upset if anything happened to it. Sarah exploded then, and said Rich didn't know the meaning of upset if she couldn't drive his precious toy. Why was she up here staying with her sister if she didn't have transportation to get around town to help out with things like groceries or if the kids got sick? Or whatever! It was Rich's idea to leave her car in Denver.

"There's supposed to be a big storm moving in, Sarah, and it's just not a good time to be on the road! You just don't know how fierce blizzards can be up here!"

Sylvia was insistent. She looked in the family room and was thankful her kids were watching TV. She didn't feel like coping with them, too. She had her hands full trying to talk her stubborn sister out of going to Cheyenne.

"Oh yes, I do!" Sarah yelled back. "We have them in Denver, too, you know." Sylvia could warn her about a storm on the way until the cows came home, but she wasn't about to change her mind.

Sarah didn't like arguing with her sister. She remembered the knockdown, drag-out confrontations they used to have over the silliest, insignificant things when they were growing up. Sylvia always got the best of her, mainly because she was the oldest. Their arguments usually never solved anything in the long run. Nevertheless, Sarah was grown up now and wasn't going to let Sylvia win the arguments anymore.

"I'm sorry about the mayo," Sylvia said again. "Isn't there anything that would substitute for that right now? How about a couple of frozen burritos? I'll go to the store before dinner and—"

"Good God, Sylvia, if I wanted a burrito, I would have gotten one!" Sarah said. Here we go again.

Her cell phone started jingling its merry tune. She rushed up the stairs to answer it. She wondered who would be calling her. Deb normally e-mailed her.

"Hello, Sarah," a friendly voice said. "This is Lindsey. Am I calling you at a bad time?"

"Oh...hi, Lindsey," Sarah answered back, out of breath from taking the stairs two at a time. "No, I wasn't doing anything in particular—" she said, her voice lightly trailing off.

Four days had passed since the Christmas practice, and even though she had seen Lindsey on Sunday morning in church, she had forgotten that Lindsey said she would get in touch with her if there was going to be an additional practice for the Christmas program before next Saturday. That must be the reason she called.

"I was wondering if you're like to ride into Cheyenne with me tomorrow," Lindsey said. "I need to get some folders for the Christmas music, and what we have in the stores here in town isn't exactly what I had in mind."

"Cheyenne?" Sarah questioned, confused.

"Yeah. Would you like to ride along with me?"

Sarah held her breath for the longest time before she dared answer, her eyes widening, the wheels spinning. Lindsey had not called about practicing for the Christmas program.

"Sarah, are you still there?" Sarah could hear Lindsey in the background, "Damn, another dropped call. What the hell is wrong with my phone service?"

"No, no. Wait, Lindsey. Don't hang up. I'm still here," Sarah finally replied. "I'm just surprised. I thought you were calling about a Christmas practice."

"We should be having another one soon. Not tonight. But I thought since you were new in town, you might not have seen any of the sights yet—especially the big, sprawling city of Cheyenne—so I thought you'd like to ride along with me tomorrow."

"As a matter of fact, I was planning on going into Cheyenne tomorrow myself to get some parts for my printer. My employer is going to be in Minneapolis tomorrow and has to have a hard copy of some material by Friday afternoon. I can repair the printer if I have the right parts. Sylvia is worried about the storm that's coming and thinks I shouldn't drive, but I was wanting to get out and see some country around Laramie, too. If the computer store in Cheyenne doesn't have the parts they say they have, I can always come back and get the material copied here in town. Or if I have to get a new printer, I can get that in Laramie, too." She knew she was talking too fast and stopped abruptly, waiting for Lindsey to digest what she said.

"Well, it looks like I called just at the right time then," Lindsey said. "I heard there's a storm coming, too, but my truck is built for this kind of weather. So should I come by about eight in the morning? It takes a good hour or more to get to Cheyenne—depending on the traffic."

"That would be great, Lindsey," Sarah said. "Thank you. See you tomorrow then. 8 o'clock."

After she folded up her phone and put it back down on the desk, she bounced down the stairs to the kitchen. "Well, Sylvia, you won't have to worry about me banging up Rich's precious SUV. Lindsey's going to Cheyenne tomorrow, and I'm riding with her."

Before Sylvia had a chance to say anything, Sarah continued, "And I think I might have a burrito after all." She reached in the freezer for a frozen burrito, unwrapped it and popped it in the microwave.

Sylvia stared at her, noting the sudden change in her attitude.

"Hey, kiddo, I'm sure you don't know, but there's some rumors going around about Lindsey."

"What do you mean?" Sarah asked, tapping impatiently on the counter with her fingers while she waited for the microwave to nuke her burrito.

"I'm just saying, be careful. That's all. Don't get yourself into something you can't get out of."

"What are you talking about?" Sarah said. "Is Lindsey is a serial killer or something?" She felt she was being pulled into another argument and didn't like it when it pertained to Lindsey. Lindsey had been nothing but kind to her since she'd met her.

"Just be careful. That's all I'm saying." Sylvia got up and grabbed her car keys. "I'm going to the grocery store now. Anything you need besides mayo?"

Sarah shook her head and sat down to eat her burrito, wondering what Sylvia meant concerning Lindsey. When she finished, she went back up to her computer to look again at the material she'd been working on for Deb. She cussed when she saw that everything—including her numbers—had mysteriously jumbled up about halfway down a page. She looked around, wanting to find someone to blame, but even Puddy was spread out on her bed sleeping, so she couldn't even get after the cat for walking around on her computer keys.

Now she had to go back and move everything around again. She didn't normally have to do things like that, and told herself that being around the kids and dealing with things she wasn't used to was the reason she wasn't as on top of this job as she ordinarily would have been. She hoped things would settle down after a few weeks. She couldn't picture herself in this state of disarray for a whole year. Living with a family was an abrupt change from living alone. Maybe she'd wind up getting an apartment after all. At least, she could keep track of a jar of mayo then!

To Be Continued...


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