TITLE: Faithfulness (Chapter 5)
By Nichole Hall
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The following week after the funding was in order, Than made his way to City Hall. There were plans to be approved and building permits to be obtained. This should have been a pretty straight forward deal as he had all his paperwork in order. However, the city officials wouldn’t grant him approval on the plans and so he couldn’t get his building permit. The changes they wanted made were minor changes, but Than had been doing this enough to know there wasn’t anything wrong with the plans he’d submitted.
Two weeks went by before he was able to get final approval and obtain the building permits he needed.
Than hadn’t been to Melanie’s much as he was running all over town trying to get things in order for building. He finally had to have his dad call the mayor, which was something he absolutely hated doing, in order to get everything finalized. On his way back to the hotel Than’s phone rang and he looked at the caller ID. He couldn’t handle one more business call today if his life depended on it. When he saw Heaven Bound light up the screen, he felt relief flood his spirit. Imagine that. He never thought he’d feel relief from a woman calling him who wasn’t a business associate.
But he and Melanie had formed the beginnings of a friendship and he was glad of it. He skimmed the surface with his finger answering the phone and said, “Have you decided where you want to go?”
“Yes” Melanie said in a confident tone.
“Took you long enough.”
“Well, some things came up and I couldn’t get it together. Did you ever go to Laine’s?”
“How about we go there for dinner.”
“Should I pick you up at the shop?”
“Yep. Can you be here in ten?”
They pulled up outside of Laine’s and he still felt a combination of knots and butterflies. He climbed out of his Speedster, felt the cool breeze tickle his face and heard leaves rustling on the side of the roads and by the front door. Even though he didn’t want to be in this town one thing he’d missed was Maine’s fall weather. The red, orange and yellow leaves gave Hawthorne a cozy feeling that couldn’t be denied. It was almost October and fall was definitely upon them.
They went inside and the hostess showed them to their booth. Mel had sweaty hands but waited until she sat down to wipe her hands along her cords. The waitress left with their order and shortly she returned with their drinks and Mel’s salad.
Mel took a drink of her soda and then started stirring her salad. She asked Than how the property search was going. He’d informed her that he’d already signed a contract and now that the location had been chosen, the wheels were set in motion. They’d be starting construction within the week.
“How long will it take for everything to be completed?” Mel asked as she finished off the last bite of her salad.
Than buttered some bread and popped a bite into his mouth. “If all goes well anywhere from three to four months; if I run into complications, it can take as long as six.”
Mel motioned for the waitress to refill her drink. “What kind of complications?”
“Well, an obvious complication is the weather, but there are others. Do you know the mayor in town?”
“Steve Tackett? Sure. He and my dad use to play on the farm together when they were kids. He’s like a second father to me. Why do you ask?”
He took a swallow of his own sweet tea and said, “I’ve just run into some trouble is all.”
“Really? What kind of trouble?”
The waitress had brought their food and Melanie started on her main course while Than explained.
“First, I had difficulty getting a realtor to help me. Until you referred me to Ali, I didn’t think I’d find anyone who’d sell to me. Funding didn’t cause me any problems but that’s because Tyler is handling all of that. But once funding was taken care of I had to get the plans approved by the city. That took two weeks longer than it should have and I’m just now obtaining my building permits.”
“You think someone has it in for you?”
He cut into his steak and managed a bite before he answered. “Maybe.”
“I can’t imagine why anyone in this town would be out to get you.”
“They have their reasons.”
“So what are you going to do?”
He’d finished his meal, wiped his mouth with his napkin and shook his head. “Not sure yet, but I do know one thing. I’m going to find out who’s at the bottom of this. Whoever they are if they keep jerking me around like they have been, I could be here through the summer.”
Than stood up and lay money on the table to cover their bill. He took Melanie’s elbow and guided her out the door of the restaurant. As he stepped over the threshold he bumped into a man making his way through the entry.
When Than looked up to see who he’d ran into his eyes burned with anger. But before he had a chance to react Than found himself on the ground with a shiner and a bloody nose. It took all of his willpower to walk away. The sheriff came out of the restaurant when he heard the commotion and held the man back as he threw murderous accusations toward Than.
Melanie ran over and helped him up, “Are you okay?”
He swiped at the blood running from his nose with the back of his hand. “I’ll be fine.”
She snatched a tissue from her purse and held it under his nose. “What was that all about?”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
They drove back in silence. When he pulled up next to the shop he cut the ignition and they got out of the car. She opened the door to the coffee shop and flipped on a light. He plopped down in a chair, propped his feet up and lay his head against its plush back. Mel put on some coffee, grabbed an ice pack and a couple of towels and said, “So. Are we gonna talk about what happened tonight?”
“Wasn’t planning on it.”
She wrapped the ice pack in one of the towels and placed it on his cheek bone. The other towel she gathered and told him to hold it under his nose to make sure the bleeding had stopped. She poured his favorite drink into a mug, came over and sat on the coffee table in front of him and waited.
After ten minutes of silence his nose had stopped bleeding and he took the towel away from his face. He raised up, drank half his mug of coffee in one gulp and said, “What do you want to know?”
“Well, for starters I’d like to know who attacked you and what you’re connection to him is.”
He let out a defeated sigh and said, “His name is Michael Shaw. He’s a doctor here in town.”
“And, he was my father in law.”
He stood up and went behind the counter to wash out the bloody towel. Even this brought back memories and he knew he’d have to tell her the whole story. He refilled his mug and sat back down across from her. He took another drink of his coffee and continued, “She died five years ago.”
“To make a long story short, she died in childbirth. Michael blames me, as does most of the town.”
She put a comforting hand on top of his and said, “How could that have been your fault?”
He stood up and pushed a hand thru his hair. He took another drink, dragged his feet to the window and said, “She wanted to have a home delivery. She wasn’t high risk, and we had a midwife, so there wasn’t any reason to say no.”
“What happened to the child?”
Melanie felt the wetness take over her eyes. She knew what it was like to lose a father, but she suspected it was just as difficult if not harder to lose a spouse and a child. She prayed for God to put the words on her heart that he needed to hear.
She swallowed and said, “Will you tell me about them?”
He came back to the couch and sat down across from her. He began describing his wife and in a very soft voice he said, “She was beautiful. She had a great heart and a beautiful smile. My favorite thing about her was her laugh.” A small smile came across his face as he felt the joy her memory was bringing him. “She was a simple woman, beautiful in her own way and eyes that could look into your soul. She was the only woman I ever loved.”
He looked up at Melanie and was amazed by the compassion her eyes held. A few tears slipped down her cheeks and he gazed at her wondering if he knew how to love another.
She grabbed a Kleenex from the coffee table and said, “I’m so sorry for your loss. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain you must feel. If it’s not too difficult—will you tell me more about what happened?”
Than’s face was in his palms and he tried to regain his composure enough to finish telling Melanie what had actually happened.
“Her labor pangs started early that morning. She progressed pretty rapidly for a first pregnancy. By dinner time she was about half way there and continuing to progress.
I was so proud of her. She didn’t cry once.”
He stood up, walked around the counter to refill his coffee cup. He dropped down on the sofa, this time next to her. “It was about midnight and she had been pushing for 45 minutes. Finally the baby had come, but there was no heartbeat. No sign of life. Then everything happened so fast.” Than moved to the window staring at the night’s sky. “I knew something else was wrong by the look on the midwife’s face. She told me to get more towels and I did as she asked while she worked to save Kim. The blood just kept coming and coming and the midwife couldn’t stop it. I knew it was bad when she’d flipped open her phone and called an ambulance. When the paramedics arrived she was already unconscious. They worked on her on the way to the hospital, but it was too late.”
Melanie stood up and joined Than at the window. “That's awful.”
“What’s done is done. No going back.” Or forward he muttered to himself.
“I take it you haven’t seen Michael since then?”
“Not since the funeral. Immediately after, I moved back to North Carolina. With Kimberly gone, I didn’t have any reason to stay. The memories were too much. Still are. Besides, I never had any reason to talk to him until now.”
Than strolled back to the counter for a third cup of coffee, this time putting it in a to-go cup. He grabbed his jacket, faced Melanie and took her hand. “Thanks for listening.”
Pulling her hand away she glanced down at her mug and ran her finger across the rim. “Can I say something?”
“It’s a free country.”
“You know you are going to have to talk to Michael Shaw to get past this don’t you?
He threw his jacket on and checked his phone for the time. “Says you.”
“Yes. But more to the point, from what happened tonight, it doesn’t seem like you are going to get your building built until you do. You asked me earlier if I knew Mr. Tackett. He’s a great guy. But this town was built on a ‘good ol boys club’ and if Michael Shaw is as prominent a doctor as you say he is…then you’re building won’t get built without his consent.”
“No. He’s on the city council and I can tell you you’ll have a fight on your hands.”
“It seems as though I already do.”
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