A missionary is about to face the women who taunted her during high school, and sharing the love of Christ is the last thing on her mind. This story first appeared in Christian Fiction Online Magazine and was part of the Eternal Weight of Glory and Other Short Stories collection.
Hear the Wind Blow
Dark clouds gathered in the western sky. Thick, gray puffs that roiled as if the Pale Horse mentioned in the book of Revelation were coming to trample me. No fear iced my veins or stuttered my heart though. Given my bad attitude, I’d half expected to see the courier of judgement.
Water from heaven splashed on the windshield and parched earth as we drove along I-20 toward Dallas. So miffed was I at my husband, I couldn’t even enjoy the unexpected, and much needed, blessing of rain.
Drew flipped on the windshield wipers, then squeezed my hand. “You won’t regret this, I promise.”
“You also promised to take me to Hawaii. Look how that turned out.” I bit my tongue when the words, as bitter as old coffee, spilled from my mouth. We’d postponed our honeymoon when the pastor asked us to join the mission team to Honduras. After a long discussion, we agreed we would rather invest our time and money helping the sweet people we’d met two years before than use it on a vacation.
Drew released my hand and gave a slow, deep sigh. “So that’s what this is about. If you didn’t want to go—”
“That’s not what I meant.” My disposition grew as dark as the skies. “I don’t want to do this, and I don’t appreciate you pushing me into it.”
“Your old English teacher is dying. The school is trying to get as many of her students at this reunion as they can. You always said you appreciated her encouragement. Do you really want to miss out on saying goodbye?”
I tugged the hem of my dress over my knees. “If those girls are there, yes.”
Meaning the three girls who ruined my final years at the Christian academy I attended during high school. The girls who, among other things, had greeted me each morning with a soft laugh and an insult disguised as a compliment. Who mispronounced my name and referred to my light brown hair as dirty blonde before offering hints on hair care. Though I tried, I couldn’t fight the anger that erupted when the reunion summons arrived in the mail.
The Pale Horse thundered in the clouds.
“We all did stupid things when we were teens, Reenie, and we all hurt others.” Drew slowed for a line of cars bottle necked at the exit to I-635, the loop around Dallas and the road that would take us to our destination. When he came to a stop, he leaned over and gazed at me with the breathtaking blue eyes that had caught my attention the day we met. “That was fifteen years ago. We’re older now. As Christians, we need to forgive. If not for the sake of your witness, then to help you let go of the past. In the meantime, you need to be there for Mrs….What’s her name again?”
Emotional manipulation. Just what I needed right now. “Mrs. Daugherty.” The teacher who helped me through those rough years. The only teacher who had the courage to acknowledge the harassment several of us had endured when the rest of the faculty had turned a blind eye for fear the girls’ affluent parents would pull their children—and their financial support—from the school. “It would help if they asked for forgiveness.”
“Maybe they will, but as Jesus said, ‘the wind blows where it wishes.’ They still may be lost in sin and rebellion. If so, then do what Christ said and bless those who curse you.”
It was easy for him to say. He wasn’t a Daniel facing the lion’s den. Not that the particular illustration of faith didn’t further convict my heart. Regardless, as Drew merged onto the loop, I prayed the trio wouldn’t show.
Hope drenched like my hair in the rain when I walked into the hotel’s elegant ballroom and saw a placard thanking several donors for making this night possible. The list included three familiar surnames. I should have figured the families wouldn’t pass on an opportunity to accept praise. I signed the guest registry, then pressed through the crowd, waving to people I recognized as I moved toward the table where Mrs. Daugherty sat. A quick hello and thanks for everything she did, and I would be out the door.
A cluster of cocktail dresses and suits surrounded the table, obscuring my view of the frail mentor. As I waited, a voice I knew all too well pricked the last thread of obedience.
“Renee, is that you?” Brooke, head of the Chanel gang, came up behind me. I continued to bob to the left and right, trying to catch a glimpse of Mrs. Daugherty. Drew tugged my hand. I ignored him and anyone else who didn’t have the courtesy to call me by my name.
“Honey,” my honey said. “I think someone wants to see you.”
I gave him the look, then faced the woman I was dismayed to see could easily compete on America’s Next Top Model. Why me, Lord?
At least she was running solo. “I thought you were addressing someone else.” I smiled at the flawless face and hair that was an expensive shade of blonde. “I’m Reenie, though you probably don’t remember since you called me anything but that during high school.”
Brooke flinched, and my husband squeezed my hand. Outside, the thunder rolled. The horseman racing to block the exit?
Brooke recovered and offered a fake smile. “Oh, well, it’s good to see you, Reenie.” She drew out my name just enough to let me know she hadn’t changed. Could I bless her now and leave?
She lifted her eyes toward Drew. “And this handsome man is your…?”
“Husband.” I resisted the urge to pull Drew closer to my side. I’d learned if you ignore a spider, it will ignore you. “We just celebrated our nine-month anniversary.”
“I’ve been married for six years, to an architect.” She extended her left hand, flashing a ring more expensive than her hair. “And what do you do, Reenie’s husband?”
Drew gave her an easy smile. “I’m an assistant pastor.”
“A pastor? So, Reenie, you’re a pastor’s wife?” Brooke looked at me with surprise. I couldn’t blame her since I’d left the Holy Spirit at home.
Drew cradled me beneath his arm. “A wonderful pastor’s wife and a speech therapist. We’re leaving for Honduras soon. She’ll work with children in need for three months while I minister to the congregation.”
A mask of insincerity I recognized from long ago veiled Brooke’s expression. A mask, I now realized, veiled her heart as well. “How sweet. My husband is on the board at our church. Thanks to him, we were able to renovate the sanctuary.”
She continued extolling the virtue of a man who, if present at the gathering, wasn’t by her side. I tightened my grip on Drew in silent thanks for being there for me.
When she finished, I smiled. Somehow, it was easier. “That sounds wonderful. Not to change the subject, but where are Ashley and Elizabeth? I don’t recall a time I saw you without them.” Not that I wanted to see either, but the crowd around Mrs. Daugherty had thickened. Directions would help me know which areas to avoid.
The practiced smile returned. “Elizabeth is here. I haven’t spoken to Ashley in a year, as I’m sure you know, Ms. Pastor’s Wife.”
She strolled away, wiggling her fingers at several men in a flirty little wave as she passed.
“What was that about?” Drew asked.
I shrugged. “I don’t know, but I’m ready to go home.”
He nodded toward Mrs. Daugherty’s table. “What about her?”
“With all those people crowding around her, I doubt she’ll remember talking to me. I’ll see if I can set up a visit before we leave the country.” I slid my hands over Drew’s shoulders. “Besides, I think God’s purpose here was accomplished. I faced Brooke and saw her for who she is. I think I can finally forgive and move on.”
Drew dropped a light kiss on my lips, and together, we made our way through the ballroom to the front entrance. The rain had tapered off, quenching the earth and cleansing the air. Before we stepped off the sidewalk, another voice, equally familiar and unwelcome, called me from behind. “Reenie?”
With a dread I thought had dissipated after the confrontation with Brooke, I turned. An older version of Elizabeth, wearing a red dress, her dark hair styled in a short, smart cut, stepped through the automatic glass doors.
“I overheard your conversation with Brooke.” She stopped just out of arm’s reach. “Ignore her. You know how she is. She’s been even uglier since she found Ashley with her husband.”
My heart stuttered. So that’s what happened. And Brooke had assumed I got my revenge by throwing it in her face. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
“She deserves everything she gets.”
I glanced at Drew. Wasn’t that true for everyone?
“That isn’t what I wanted to talk about.” She directed me toward a concrete pillar supporting the overhang. “Did you say you’re a speech therapist?”
I nodded. Elizabeth was far more articulate than I could ever be, so why the interest?
“I have a son. Bailey is only five, but something is….” Worried eyes searched mine. “Something isn’t right. My husband won’t allow me to have him evaluated. He thinks Bailey just needs time.” She straightened. A move that suggested determination, not pride. “But I’m his mother. I don’t know if a speech therapist is what he needs, but if you’re willing, I would appreciate your help.”
Of all the people I knew, Brooke and her gang were the last I would expect to seek out my assistance. But as Drew—no, Jesus—had pointed out, the wind blows where it wishes.
In my silence, despair plumed through Elizabeth’s eyes. “After everything I did to you during high school, I would understand if you said no.”
“I’d love to help,” slipped from my mouth. Seconds later, my heart agreed. “If I can’t, I know someone who might.”
“Thank you.” She gathered me in a hug that spoke gratitude, then gave me her number. We arranged to meet before I left the country.
After she returned to the gathering, I draped Drew’s arm over my shoulder. Despite my attitude, God had used me as He’d seen fit. I raised my eyes in a silent prayer of thanks and saw the clouds had parted, leaving behind clear skies and the distant echo of hoof beats.