The next morning Callie was jotting down lists of things to do when there was a knock at the front door. Callie was delighted to see Phoebe on the front porch and welcomed her in. Phoebe followed her to the dining area. “Already hard at work, I see,” Phoebe said, sliding out of her coat and draping it over the back of a chair.

Callie nodded with a sunny smile. “Please, sit! Can I get you some coffee?”

“No, I’m fine, thanks,” Phoebe answered, sitting down next to her. “I came to see if there’s anything that I can do to help.”

“I’m just making my lists now,” replied Cassie, gesturing at the papers on the table. “Top of my list is packing and getting ready to move. I would love your help with that.”

“You have it,” Phoebe assured her. “Speaking of which, I haven’t gone through your mom’s things yet.”

“You’re welcome to any time. Hank can take the boxes over here if that would be more comfortable for you.”

“I wouldn’t want to put him out.”

Callie laughed. “He’d be offended if we didn’t ask. Besides, he really likes you – he’d be happy to do that for you.”

“I liked him a lot too. I didn’t realize when I first met him that he would become my nephew!”

Callie picked up her phone and typed in a text. A few seconds after she sent it, the phone beeped. Callie smiled. “He said he’ll bring them out this afternoon. Do you want any of the furniture?”

“No,” Phoebe answered, “I don’t have anywhere to put it anyway.”

Callie typed something else in the phone, then smiled at the reply. “He said Daniel offered to help.”

“I was impressed by him too,” Phoebe replied.

“We can take everything down to the basement so you can take your time going through it all,” Callie offered.

“That would be great.” Phoebe hesitated. “You’ve already been through Lizzie’s things?”

Callie nodded. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, Aunt Phoebe. If it hadn’t been for Hank …”

“I’m glad he was there,” Phoebe said quietly.

“Me too.” Callie looked away as she remembered that day. “He helped me realize that my mom will always be with me, loving me unconditionally.” She looked back to see Phoebe studying her curiously. “What?” she asked with a half-laugh.

“You seem different – I don’t mean in a bad way,” Phoebe added hastily. “I mean, you’re calmer, more reassured. Is that because of Hank?”

“Partly, I guess,” Callie nodded. “But most importantly it’s because of God.”

“I wanted to hear about that,” Phoebe said, leaning forward. “Is this a good time?”

“Sure,” Callie agreed readily, “but let me get some coffee first, it’s a long story. Or would you like something else to drink?”

“Coffee’s fine,” Phoebe smiled.

As Callie made coffee, she explained how God kept trying to reach her. The pastor’s remarks in his sermon, watching War Room with Mina, her revived interest in prayer, what Mr. Toscopoulos said to her, and her ultimately giving herself to God completely. Callie came back to the table with two coffee cups and gave one to Phoebe before she sat down.

“After that, I tried to keep my word to Him. I tried to not be afraid and to be courageous. And I’ve tried to be alert for those times when God knocks on my door, to give me a choice, or an opportunity, to do the right thing.” Callie laughed at herself. “I make mistakes all the time, but I keep trying, because I love Him so. I learned that from Mr. Tocopoulos – how powerful love can be. So I always try to do things that will please Him. And when I need Him, He is always there.”

Phoebe asked curiously, “How do you know?”

Callie lifted her hands, palms up, as she tried to explain. “Sometimes I feel his love flooding through me. But often it’s just an odd coincidence – meeting someone at just the right moment, getting something unexpectedly just when I need it, hearing a song or seeing a majestic view of a forest that calms me or reminds me of the unlimited power of God – I think he tries to reach me in any way I will understand.”

Phoebe looked doubtful. Callie suggested they watch War Room together. “In fact, maybe we should have a movie night before the wedding, just us girls.” She added with a mischievous grin, “We’ll tell the guys it’s the bride’s party.”

Phoebe burst out laughing. “Wouldn’t they be surprised to find out what we’re doing!”

Callie wondered if she should mention the Ware Information Network, but decided that would keep for another time. “Anyway, if you have any questions, you might want to talk to Mr. Toscopoulos. He’ll be at the wedding.”

“I just might do that,” Phoebe responded thoughtfully. Then she sat up, put her hands flat on the table, and said briskly, “Well, let’s get started on packing.”

“Those things won’t pack themselves!” they said in unison, then dissolved in laughter.

“Oh, Grandma Park used to say that all the time,” Callie grinned. “’Those dishes won’t wash themselves, young lady!’”

“Or, ‘Those clothes won’t put themselves away’!” Phoebe laughed, wiping at the tears in her eyes. “Oh my gosh – okay, we better get started on your packing.”

“You’re right,” Callie said, getting up with a sudden surge of energy. “I’ve got some unused boxes in the garage left over from when we packed up Mom’s stuff. We can use those to get started.”

Hank came over that afternoon with Daniel and three high school kids who looked like they were on the football team. The boys had gone to the farmhouse to help clear out the attic. When they heard what Hank and Daniel were doing for Phoebe, they tagged along to help.

Callie felt her spirits lift when she saw Hank. Maybe someday I’ll get over this, she thought, watching as he carried in a couple of boxes from the truck outside. Then I won’t get all silly and weak-kneed every time I see him.

He caught sight of her and, wearing an impish grin, winked at her.

She stifled her laughter. Obviously that will not be today.

~~~

The next couple of days were a blur. So much to do! Callie was relieved when, the night before the wedding, the ladies decided to have their movie night and relax for a few hours.

Cara brought her pies, Phoebe and Mina made popcorn, Ginny brought chips and dip, while Ann brought sodas and sparkling water. Callie brought down some pillows to sit on instead of extra chairs. They switched on the big screen TV and dimmed the lights.

The War Room movie was popular; afterwards, there were several comments about how inspiring the movie was, and what their favorite parts were. Ginny said she had seen a small-group study based on the movie and suggested maybe they could do at that the church. Callie noticed her aunt was very quiet. Callie asked if she was okay; Phoebe smiled and nodded. “Just thinking.”

Next they watched a Christmas movie, The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, which had them laughing from beginning to end. It was great to be able to relax with her friends and take a break from all the wedding planning and pressures. No, not friends, she thought as she laughed with them over some joke. Family.

~~~

Ginny and Anne had outdone themselves. The church was decorated in shades of peach and cream. Lilies and roses seemed to be everywhere.

Cara had won the wedding dress dispute, no surprise to Callie. It was a beautiful dress, with a high neck, long bell sleeves, and a full sweeping skirt of stiff silk. Lace accented the sleeves and neck of the dress; a white sateen ribbon was tied around the waist and the long ends stretched almost to the dress’s hem.

She smiled a little as she put on the shell necklace her mother had given her so long ago. Her veil was made of gossamer thin lace, pinned in place in her honey-blonde hair. Pale peach-colored roses and dark green leaves filled the bouquet.

Callie looked in the mirror and wondered how Cara had looked all those years ago, when Hank’s grandmother wore this dress and Will waited outside at the altar. Would he have been nervous? Would Cara be looking in the mirror, admiring her dress and jittery about the big step ahead?

Callie smiled. Will would have been confident and sure, eager to make Cara his bride forever. Cara would have been calm, ready to get this done so she could get started on being Will’s wife. Callie felt overwhelmed with love for these two people who had given her so much. Lord, I don’t know why You have done all this, but I am so grateful! Help me to be the person You want me to be … the person Hank deserves. I love You so!

Hank was waiting outside in the dark blue suit his mother had mysteriously produced. He was standing by the altar, staring at the entrance to the nave, willing Callie to appear.

Daniel, standing next to him as his best man, whispered, “Good thing you don’t have laser vision. That door would be destroyed by now.”

Hank chuckled. “Just you wait. In a few months you’ll be doing the same thing.”

“Yeah, I know,” Daniel sighed. “I think you and Callie have the right idea, go ahead and get it over with.”

“I’ve already waited years,” Hank shook his head. “Not waiting any more.”

He closed his eyes. Jesus, he prayed fervently, thank You for Callie. Thank You for bringing us to this day. Please hurry this up!

The music started and his eyes flew open, fixed again on the closed double doors into the nave. The doors opened, and there she was, his grandfather by her side as escort.

She looked beautiful of course, but what fascinated him most was the expression on her face. She looked calm, confident – and impatient. Her eyes found his and she smiled, her step quickened. A slow smile spread across his face as she reached him. He took her hand firmly in his. You’re mine.

She looked at him and he was lost in wonder at the trust he saw in her face.

“Hank? Hank?” the pastor was saying. Hank’s face flushed and he forced himself back into the present. He repeated the words the pastor was saying, thinking that in a way he had already done this long ago, when he pledged that he would always be there for her.

She must have been remembering the same thing, because when she placed the ring on his finger, she smiled and instead of saying “I, Callie, take you, Hank,” she said, “I, Callie, ask you, Hank, to be my husband.” He looked straight into her eyes and answered seriously, “Of course.”

The pastor, undeterred by this change, went on smoothly with the rest of the service. And then finally it was over and she was his.

He took her in his arms and she melted against him as if they were truly one person. He kissed her gently and she responded eagerly, completely and forever his.

He felt a hand on his arm and suddenly realized where he was. He reluctantly stepped back. The pastor must have touched her arm too because her face had turned red with embarrassment. He grinned – who cares? – and was rewarded when she laughed, such a happy, carefree sound!

Then they became aware of the people in the church shouting and clapping and whistling. Hank shook his head. It seemed the whole town had turned out for this “small, simple” wedding, and he knew they had come, without invitations, only because they wanted to be here for him and Callie. He was amazed by all these people caring that much for them.

He tucked Callie into his side as they left the nave. More than anything at this moment, Hank felt satisfied. He was certain that all he had done and been had come together in this one, perfect moment. As far as he was concerned, his race had been run, and he had won by a mile.

~~~

Callie sat down at the linen draped table in the church community room, stretching her bare feet out in front of her. The room was still filled with people celebrating her wedding. She was a little tired from all the emotions she had felt today, and her feet were sore from so much dancing. But she was overwhelmingly, blissfully happy. She glanced at Hank beside her. He had taken his suit coat off in the warm room and he was leaning back in his chair, his legs also stretched out in front of them, his crossed at the ankle. He looked so comfortable, so at ease … she rested her head on his arm and he dropped a kiss on her head. “Wife,” he said proudly in a low voice.

She loved how that sounded. “Husband,” she echoed.

“We probably should be going,” he suggested. “Get back to the farmhouse and change into some more comfortable clothes.”

“Or just get out of these clothes,” she murmured.

Hank’s eyes widened and he looked as if he honestly couldn’t think of anything to say to that. Her hand slipped behind his back and landed lower than he expected. Galvanized into action, he stood up abruptly and, grabbing her hand, tugged her up with me. “Time to go,” he told her shortly.

She smiled and willingly joined him, holding onto his arm while slipping on her shoes. She brushed against him as he was getting into his suit coat, looking up to see that slow, teasing smile spread across his face. Oh, yes, she thought happily. It’s past time.

⇐ Chapter Twenty-Three   Chapter Twenty-Five

 

"That Little Thing" Copyright © 2020 by Susan Stafford