Color the Sidewalk for Me, Bradleyville Series #2Color the Sidewalk for Me, Bradleyville Series #2
Brandilyn Collins
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As a chalk-fingered child, Celia Matthews wore her craving for her mother's love on her sleeve. Now 35, she returns home to nurse her father after a stroke. But the deepest need for healing is the rift between mother and daughter. Can God help them let go of the past before it destroys them both? 368 pages, softcover from Zondervan.
     

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Chapter 1

The boxes are heavy, their rough rope handles cutting into my palms. A frayed purse weights my weary shoulder. Heat shimmers from the fuel-spotted asphalt, stifling humidity wrapping greedy fingers around my throat. The squat, gray building seems so far away, and my legs are wobbling. Others move ahead of me as we file from the bus into the station. I breathe deeply, lungs filling with roiling air. My head feels light. Detaching itself from my body, it begins to float. Somewhere below are my arms, the boxes, my stumbling feet.

"Ye shall find rest unto your souls," I mumble, half dazed. "Ye shall find rest . . ."

And then the building looms before me. The door opens. My head drifts over the threshold. Distantly I survey the interior. Three people are in line to buy bus tickets; others dot plastic orange chairs as they wait. Two children are squabbling at a vending machine. I try to remember what I am looking for.

The door closes behind me. Air-conditioning slaps my cheeks. I shiver. Numbness chews away my feet, my legs. Vaguely I feel my fingers loosen, the boxes fall away. They hit the dusty tile floor with a clunk. Two women are watching me. I see the questions on their faces, feel their stares.

The world dims. My knees fold. For a time there is only blackness . . .

Muffled voices above me. Faces out of focus.

"Poor child, she's exhausted from the heat."

"And probably hasn't eaten."

"Go get her a candy bar."

Footsteps hurrying away.

The scene undulates, reshaping itself. I am in a cab, then a hotel room. So sterile, heartless. The bed beckons me. I stagger to it and collapse.

The walls close in. I suck air and my throat rattles. "Danny," I whisper. "Kevy."

After all the miles and all the running, the tears finally flow.

"Oh, Danny . . . Danny . . . Kevy . . ."

 

A gurgle in my throat yanked me to the present. My eyes blinked open. Morning sun sifted through my white lace curtains, dusting the bedcovers with flecks of gold. One of my cats stretched beside me, surveying me with lazy indifference.

Ye shall find rest unto your souls. God's promise to Granddad that he tried to pass on to me.

I lay very still, allowing my mind to adjust, as I always did after the dream. I forced myself to breathe deeply until my tingling nerves settled.

Starting at the ceiling, I reflected that I'd not had the dream in a long time. Perhaps a year. Not that it mattered. Out of the many images from the past that capriciously filled my head at any given moment, this one was the least to bear.

I swallowed, passed a hand over my eyes. Glanced at the clock. Six-thirty. My alarm would go off any minute. I reached out to turn it off.

Not until I'd pulled myself from bed did I remember what day it was. Friday. My thirty-fifth birthday and my employment anniversary. Exactly ten years ago I had joined the creative team of Sammons Advertising Agency.

Ten years.

I stepped into the shower and stood under hot water, letting it wash away the residue of my dream as the scent of lavender soap flowed around me. If only it could wash away the stain on my soul as well. Fifteen minutes later I was dressing, still pushing away the memories, as I'd done countless times in the past seventeen years. It was a well-honed defense, this distancing from myself. On automatic, I donned a cornflower blue business suit that matched my eyes, brushing my shoulder-length blond hair. With smooth skin and a natural blush to my cheeks, I needed little makeup. I knew people thought me beautiful. Not that it mattered.

By the time I was ready, my thoughts were in place, wrenched from the tragic past and firmly wedged into the present. Mentally I went over my schedule for the day. As typical, it was overloaded with clients to please and coworkers to supervise. But the day did promise a new event, something I knew I'd never forget. My "surprise" party.

A few days before, I'd been walking down the hall toward the lobby when I overheard Monica, our young receptionist, scheming with our business manager about "how to keep Celia away from the conference room while it's being set up." I almost rounded the corner and asked, "Set up for what?" when I heard further discussion about a cake and whether it should have thirty-five candles for my age or ten for my years with the firm. I'd stopped in my tracks, scarcely believing it. They were planning a surprise birthday-anniversary party—for me. I'd never imagined anyone doing such a gracious thing. For a moment I'd just stood there as the realization sank in. Then I quickly faded back down the hall the way I'd come. Not for the world would I let them know that I'd overheard. Only later when I was at my desk did I further realize whose idea the party must have been. Neither Monica nor our office manager had been around long enough to know when I started working for the firm. Only Quentin Sammons, owner of the agency, would have reason to remember that date. The thought that Quentin, busy as he was, would take time to honor me left me feeling all the more humbled. He was truly as much a friend as he was my boss, and our admiration for each other was mutual.

Quentin Sammons' agency was in its twenty-seventh year and was one of the most prestigious advertising firms in Little Rock. I had joined the firm as the lowliest of employees and had risen to an account executive. Not only was I more than capable at coming up with ideas and creating visuals; I also had a "way with words," as Quentin put it—a knack for painting a picture verbally. How ironic that the same glib tongue that had earned Mama's wrath so often when I was young would help earn my living now.

Mama.

Another thought to push away. I still had to eat breakfast, feed the cats, water a few plants before I left for work.

"Mamie! Daisy!" I called, opening a can of fishy-smelling cat food. They appeared from opposite directions, padding expectantly into the kitchen with tails raised high. I petted them both, then left them to their meals.

During the twenty-minute drive downtown, as hard as I tried to focus, scenes from my dream kept crowding into my head. Sighing, I stopped at the final red light before pulling into the parking lot of the Conart Building, the imposing six-story black glass structure that housed the exquisitely decorated offices of the agency. Forcefully then I shoved my haunting past aside. I would not think of it. This wasn't the time to deal with it anyway. It was never the time. I had too much work to do.

And a party to attend.


 
Excerpted from:
Color the Sidewalk for Me by Brandilyn Collins, copyright 2002.
Used by permission of Zondervan Publishers. All rights reserved.