Julia Covington was no stranger to fear. In fact, she was closely acquainted with it – the stifled sobs, the thundering heartbeat, the screaming headaches, the nightmares that just got worse every time she opened her eyes. Yes, fear was Julia’s constant companion. It kept her alert, helped her focus on details that might save her life.
Her new sense of security over the past six months was tenuous at best. Her job at the newspaper allowed her to keep tabs on activities in town. Her small apartment building had better security than most. She was beginning to appreciate the simple things in life again: sunny weather, a sale on jeans, painting her toenails. She could even return a stranger’s smile without second-guessing their motives.
The note in her mailbox was written on a sheet of paper torn from a notebook. The handwriting was neat, but unfamiliar to her. J.- CHAPTER SEVEN AWAITS YOU - THE VIOLENT DEATH WE’VE ALL BEEN ANTICIPATING. SEE YOU SOON. The words were vague enough to keep her guessing, but the message was clear: they’d found her.
“God, how did this happen?” Julia whispered from behind her curtains. The note was clenched in her hand as she peeked around the yellow gingham fabric looking for anything unusual. “God, help me to see. What am I looking for?”
For the rest of the day and into the night, Julia kept watch. She darted from window to window, looking for someone who was looking for her. She didn’t expect to recognize the face. Her former business associates, the men who had haunted her for so long, were all in prison. They must have gotten word out, hired someone to find her. If this “Chapter Seven” was in the same league as the men she’d turned against, Julia knew she was as good as dead. She wouldn’t see them coming until it was too late.
Julia sank to the floor below the kitchen window. She tried to come up with a plan. Should she call the police? No, she didn’t dare use the phone. And she wouldn’t run again. Not yet, anyway. She needed to stay put for now. To wait and pray. God would tell her what to do, where to go.
Too afraid to sleep, Julia turned to the One who had kept her safe so far. The short, frantic, one-sentence prayers she had been uttering all day turned to soul-deep pleas for wisdom, guidance, peace. She cried out to the God of Justice, who had given her the strength to stand against evil. She felt her Shepherd reassuring her of His unwavering protection. By the time dawn crept over the windowsill and warmed the kitchen, Julia was ready to face whatever danger awaited her.
After another thorough check of the locks on the door and windows, she interrupted her vigil long enough to take a quick shower. The words from the note repeated in her head like an ominous chant. Questions without answers pulsed through her. Who was Chapter Seven? Why were they waiting? Was it her violent death that was anticipated? How soon is “soon”?
Julia was towelling off when she heard the knock on the door. She froze. There was nowhere to hide. Another knock. Julia donned her robe and tied it tightly around her waist. She peeked down the hall. Nothing was out of place. She tiptoed towards the front door, trailing her hand along the wall for stability. Her furtive glances confirmed that she was still alone. No, not alone. God was there. She clung to that truth like a lifeline.
She steeled herself to look out the peephole. A young woman stood there. No obvious weapons.
Julia spoke through the door. “Hello?”
The woman smiled towards the peephole. She looked genuinely friendly. “I’m MaryAnn Sanders,” she said. “Did you get some bizarre mail yesterday?”
Julia left the chain on, but cracked open the door.
MaryAnn continued, “I accidentally put a note in the wrong mailbox.”
“Oh.” Julia sagged against the doorjamb and released the breath that she didn’t know she’d been holding.
“My friend Jessica lives downstairs. She’s in my Bible study group – we’re studying the book of Esther – but she was away last week and missed the chapter about the bad guy’s death. I hope I didn’t scare you with my cryptic note.”
The truth slowly sank in. “That’s okay. Thanks for letting me know.”
And as MaryAnn’s footsteps faded down the hall, Julia dissolved into grateful tears.
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