Michael stood uncertainly at the back of the chapel as the funeral for Leah’s husband concluded. Although his hair was silver, his face lined, at seventy, he was still a commanding figure, emanating an aura of strength and charisma. With a weary sigh, he asked himself why he had come, although he knew it was to see Leah just once more.
He studied her and her daughters; the younger seemed familiar somehow. His eyes caressed the back of Leah’s neck, the gentle slope of her shoulders, her hand as she patted a grandchild. Even after all these years, he loved her. It seemed impossible forty years had passed since he held her, felt her heartbeat against his chest.
Michael was already engaged to Betty when he met Leah. He was thirty, a blossoming evangelist, author, conference and crusade speaker. Leah, a shy, sweet girl, did volunteer work at his headquarters. She was barely more than a teen with a baby, Tammy, and a husband, Larry, who was with the Army in Vietnam. She had sad, haunting eyes, but when she smiled, her face lit up, and her laughter sounded like gentle rainfall.
They didn’t mean to fall in love; it was wrong, forbidden. His life had been carefully planned. From the time he was a small boy, he felt called, set apart for ministry, loving God with a fervor even his parents didn’t understand. Betty would be the perfect wife and helpmate for his ministry. However, when he met Leah, what he thought was love for Betty waned in comparison. Leah became his very breath.
They planned a month’s get-away, lying to everyone that it was work related. No one knew they were together. They stayed in a secluded beach house. Michael said it was their paradise. Some would say lust drew them together, but they knew it was a love that transcended time and reason, a love that neither thought they could ever give up.
Every day, Leah drew a heart in the sand with an M at the top and an L at the bottom. Soon a wave would erase it, and Michael would hold her. “Nothing will ever erase our love,” he would say, but always tears would come to her eyes and he would gently kiss them away.
Their time together was almost up when it happened. He had been willing to give everything up for her – until that night. He slept fitfully, his heart heavy and troubled, his mind restless and fretful. Before dawn, he slipped out of bed, and sat alone on the front porch. He watched the sun come up, tears slipping down his face, the agony in his heart more than he could bear.
When Leah awoke that morning, she knew. She had always known there was One whom Michael loved more than her, more than his life. Michael could no more forsake God and his calling in life than he could stop the earth on its axis. She knelt beside him, laid her head in his lap as she whispered, “It’s okay Michael. I know you have to go back.”
Leah went inside to call her parents, and found out that Larry had been injured and the Army was sending him home. They packed their belongings, the atmosphere in their small paradise as somber as death.
They never forgot each other and their love. He married Betty and they had two sons. Leah stayed with Larry, and another daughter was born within the year.
Michael’s ministry expanded. He built orphanages, schools, and churches in third world countries. He wrote books and was a sought-after speaker. His signature mark became a heart with an M and L. No one was suspicious, ML was his initials. But he knew that Leah would know.
He didn’t do much in ministry nowadays though, his sons had taken over. Betty suffered from Alzheimer’s and Michael devoted his time caring for her. She had been a good wife and mother. He would never leave her.
Staring at Leah, her daughters, and grandchildren, it hit him, sucking his breath away. Michkayla was his child, his daughter. There was no denying the resemblance. He gripped the back of a chair as a sob tore from his lips.
It was then that Leah turned. She brought her hand to her mouth in surprise. As she started walking toward him, forty years melted away. For a brief moment, they were young lovers again, together in that long ago paradise.
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