Archive | October 2020

Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 24

Janet’s solo at church goes really well. She spots Diego with her family, and it makes her more brave.

The minister launched into his sermon, speaking less time than he usually did. His words were stirring and inspiring, as he spoke of the love God had for his people. What eyes had been dry after the song, weren’t after he finished.

The service eventually wound to a close and the congregation stood for the final hymn. Instead of preparing to walk out, the choir stood, setting their folders on their seats. The music began suddenly, startling the congregation. The organist had moved to the piano. Choir members pulled out tambourines, wood blocks and one of the tenors sported a guitar. They stood up front, singing, playing and dancing to Give Me That Old Time Religion.

The minister stood at the podium, clapping and singing with them as the congregation joined in. Four of the men formed a quartet, taking the lead on the verses. The women sang a soaring harmony around them, shaking their tambourines. Everyone left the church smiling.

After the congregation left, the choir filed out. When Janet came out of the choir room, her mother, sister and Diego were waiting for her. Even Sookie was smiling and hopping up and down excitedly.

“That was so cool!” she said over and over. “You were so good, Janet!”

“Thanks, squirt. I’m glad you liked it.”

Her mother also congratulated her, then walked Sookie to Sunday school. Diego took her hands.

“You were amazing. Totally blew my mind when you started to sing.”

“Thank you. I didn’t know you were coming. I thought you had to go to Mass, don’t you have to sing or serve?”

“I talked my way out of it. I told Father the woman I love was singing for God, and I had to go hear her. It was beautiful, Janet.” He took a step closer, lowering his voice. “If I didn’t love you already, I would have fallen for you the second you started to sing.”

Several of the young men from choir knew Diego well. They came up, thumping him on the back.

“Hey, buddy. What you doing here?” one of them asked.

“Slumming. What you think? I came to hear my lady sing.”

“You’re dating?” The bass who’d helped her up the steps looked disappointed.

“Yeah. Got a problem with that?”

“No. Kind of wish…. Never mind. Janet, you get tired of him, I’ll be your rebound guy.”

She giggled, patting his arm. “Thanks. I think I’ll keep him a little while.”

“Just so you know….”

Diego put his arm around her shoulders. “Enough of that. You’ll make me forget we’re in church.” He was only partially kidding. “Come on, babe. I’m taking you and your mom to breakfast.”

“We ate.”

“Well, I didn’t. So you can drink coffee and I’ll eat.” He kissed her cheek as he put his arm around her neck.

They met her mother by the side door downstairs and went to a nearby diner. Diego ate a huge breakfast while Janet and her mother had coffee and pie.

“I’m surprised you’re so hungry,” Ilene said.

“You forget, Catholics don’t eat before church. I’m starving. I’ve been up since six.”

“Why so early?” Janet asked him.

“I had to help my dad fix some stuff. He doesn’t sleep much since he hurt his back, so he’s up at odd hours. Which means I’m up at odd hours to keep an eye on him, so he won’t hurt himself more.”

“How’s he doing?” Ilene asked kindly.

“He has good days and bad days. Today was a good day.” He smiled.

“I’m glad. I’ve been meaning to call, I just stay so busy….”

“My folks know that, Ms. Yarkowsky. You’ve got your hands full.”

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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Brand New Day by Dellani Oakes – Part 23

Janet’s mother asks her about her date, happy that Janet had a good time. She finds herself thinking about Evander.

One thing Janet didn’t know was that she was still married to Janet’s father. She’d dated a few men, but none of them had ever been for her what Evander was; husband, lover, friend. He did for her what she saw Diego did for Janet. He filled in those little holes in her soul that had been gaping ever since.

She went in her room, shutting the door. For a time, she cried. Then she picked up the phone and made a call. The phone rang three times before a man’s voice answered.

“Hi,” she said, the tears threatening to fall again. “It’s me…. Can we talk?”

Sunday morning, Janet and her family headed to church for the early service. The high school choir was singing and she had the solo. Nervous, she walked back and forth across the end of the choir room. The wide window overlooked the parking lot two stories below. She rolled her neck and shook her arms, trying to relax.

The choir director walked in, smiling. She clapped her hands as she approached the piano. It was time for warm-ups. She played a chord and they began. Janet relaxed into the routine as they continued to sing. By the time warm-ups were over, she was feeling a little better.

They practiced their hymns and it was time to line up to go in. They processed from the rear of the church, so they had to go into the fellowship hall in the basement and come up the back stairs. Janet carried her folder, keeping to herself, not talking with her friends like she usually did.

Bunny came up beside her. “Are you okay?”

“No. I feel like throwing up.”

“You’ve done this a hundred times.”

“Not a cappella.”

“So? You’ve got perfect pitch. You’ll be fine. If it was me doing it, I’d panic. I can’t stay on pitch like you. You’re going to be great.”

“I wish I didn’t have half the service to worry about it. I want to get in and get it over with.”

“Swear to God, Janet. If you don’t calm down, I’ll clobber you.” Bunny teasingly punched her friend on the shoulder before rushing to take her place.

Janet followed, stepping into her spot in line as the organ began. The minister walked in first. He was followed by the lay minister. The choir came in next, in section order, tallest to shortest. Janet was last because she was a soloist and had to step out of the pew to stand beside the organ.

The service went by in a blur. Janet hardly paid any attention to it, waiting for her solo. Before she knew it, the director nodded to her. She stood, taking her place between the lectern and the organ. The director played her note very softly and Janet began to sing. The first note was faltering, but it added a warble to her voice that made it even prettier. It was then she glanced at the front row. Diego sat there beside her mother and sister, smiling encouragingly. He gave her a thumb’s up. Janet felt a surge of courage and her voice grew stronger.

“What wondrous love is this, oh my soul, oh my soul? What wondrous love is this, oh my soul?”

She sang the first verse alone. On the chorus, the choir joined her, singing in eight part harmony, their voices blending into an intricate tapestry behind her. The song finished in silence. The quiet was interrupted by a unified sigh by everyone in the congregation. Sniffles and nose blowing followed.

The minister, lost in the music, took his time standing. Janet walked back to her seat. One of the young men in the bass section stepped forward to help her up the steps. He smiled, mouthing “Good job,” before sitting down.

“I believe that was the best this choir’s ever sung,” the minister said. “And I know it’s not customary to applaud, but in this instance, I don’t think God would mind.” He started clapping.

The entire congregation joined in. The director signaled them to stand and take a bow. They did so, sitting once more as the applause faded.

“I wish my message today were half as good as that song. I believe the lyrics say it all, What wondrous love is this.

©2020 Dellani Oakes

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First Meeting from Bad Fall ~ A Romantic Mystery by Dellani Oakes

I love first meetings. They set the tone for the relationship, and introduce the characters to the person they will love. Frank Atherton’s not very happy. As Assistant Director at a massive retirement complex, he’s having to deal with a troublesome visitor, Ralph Penwarren. He’s been interrupted by reports of his bad behavior all day, so when there’s a knock, Frank assumes it’s about him.

Someone knocked at his door. Thinking it might be about Mr. Penwarren, he groaned quietly as he stood up.

“Be right there!” he called. He dropped his plate in the kitchen sink and went to the door. “What’s he done now?” he asked automatically as he opened it.

It wasn’t Sue or one of the other staff members. An attractive brunette stood there.

“I’m sorry? Who did what?”

“Oh, no one you’d know. Frank Atherton, Assistant Director. I just saw you on TV.” He held out his hand after wiping it on his T-shirt.

She smiled. “Marka Ventimiglia. Nice to meet you. I feel really stupid asking, but yours is the only room with a light on. I took a chance that someone was up.”

He invited her in. She hesitated a moment, then followed him inside.

“What can I do for you?”

“I’m embarrassed to ask. I’m staying in a guest room and I’m out of toilet paper.”

“Really? No spare?” He was puzzled by that. “The girls usually put it under the sink.”

He walked to his restroom. It was quite spacious, with a tub and a separate, walk-in shower. He opened the cupboard under the sink and didn’t find a spare roll of paper. Checking all the cupboards, he came up empty.

“That’s weird. Gimme a second.” He dialed housekeeping but got no answer, so he dialed the front desk. “Sue, it’s Frank.”

“Hi, Frank. All’s quiet at the moment. Whatcha need?”

“Dr. Ventimiglia is with me and she hasn’t got a spare roll of toilet paper. Neither do I.”

“Oh, gosh. You want me to run some up there?”

“No, you don’t need to. Is Kathy around?”

“She should be. Shall I call her?”

“I just tried. I’ll call her again. Thanks.” He dialed the housekeeping office a second time. No one answered. Puzzled, he hung up.

“I’ll try later,” he told his guest. “Do you need some immediately?”

She looked slightly uncomfortable. “As a matter of fact….”

“Please, make yourself at home. There’s a nearly full roll.” He gestured to his restroom. “Want some coffee?”

“Love some. I’m a caffeine addict. I also drink a lot of water. Hence the urgency.” Marka closed the door behind her.

Frank set up a pot of coffee, pulled out the half and half and sugar packets. She came out just as the coffee finished.

Smiling, he served Marka, inviting her to sit on the love seat. His laptop occupied the chair. He set it carefully on the floor and clicked off the TV.

“I’ll give Kathy a call again a minute,” he explained. “She might be on break.”

“Thanks. I’m still learning my way around. I got here yesterday.”

“I caught your show tonight. Interesting. You should get a good turn out. I’ll talk it up for you.”

“You wouldn’t believe the success I had when I was doing my clinical,” she responded excitedly. “It was amazing, the results!” she sobered slightly, catching herself before she got too crazy. “I won’t bore you with details. You’ll have to excuse me, Mr. Atherton. I get very excited about my work.”

Frank smiled, eyes twinkling. “I’m glad one of us can. I’m either playing nursemaid, mother or cop. I never thought I’d have a job like this. None of my duties were in the job description.”

“The director, Mr. Norton, speaks very highly of you.”

Frank laughed abruptly and rather rudely as he finished his coffee. “Yeah? Boy, that was lie. He thinks I want his job.”

“Do you?”

He couldn’t tell if she was serious or not. Looking surprised, he set his mug down. “Not really. Too much schmoozing.”

“Isn’t that in your job description?”

Frank laughed, shaking his head. “I’m not a schmoozer. I’m more of an in your face kind of guy. Let me give Kathy a call.” He was reaching for the house phone, on top of the console TV, when it rang. Startled, he answered. “Frank Atherton.”

© 2019 Dellani Oakes