You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Today's Wild Card author is:
and the book:
WestBowPress (May 23, 2012)
***Special thanks to Kathryn Hewitt for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kathryn currently lives in Camden, South Carolina with her husband and four boys.
Visit the author's website.
SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:How do you know, at 15, what love and affection really mean? Ruth learned all too soon that love is commitment and affection has a price. But who will ultimately make the commitment and who will pay the price?
At 15, Ruth thought she had her life planned out. That is until she met Luke, a charming new cadet from the local military school. After entering into a seemingly harmless teenage romance, Luke’s possessive attitude and subtle remarks begin to undermine Ruth’s confidence sending her into an emotional tailspin.
A beautiful young girl is suddenly lost in a grown up world trying desperately to hang on to a love she thought would last. Shattered dreams and hopeless tears become the bricks that formed walls around Ruth; yet just below her broken heart, a beautiful vessel was being formed.
Join Ruth on her wedding day, five years later, as Ruth’s childhood friend helps her journey back to face the demons of her past...
- List Price: $22.95
- Paperback: 308 pages
- Publisher: WestBowPress (May 23, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1449749445
- ISBN-13: 978-1449749446
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” Proverbs 16:25
She stood at her vanity mirror and wished away the pimple beginning to rear its ugly head under the surface of her skin. She had such a clear complexion, she rarely got pimples. Irritated, she dabbed a little Neutrogena Spot On and began applying concealer.
Ruth never wore much make-up; sometimes foundation, but always mascara. Her mother would fuss when she put it on her long, dark lashes, but she didn’t care. Wearing little make-up elsewhere justified the dramatic look of her lashes, and it made her feel better. So on went the mascara and a touch of cherry lip gloss, and she was ready to go. She slid on her running shoes, took a quick turn around in the mirror, then hurried out the door.
It was early September, and she was excited to be going to church. After all, it was Wednesday Nite Live. Her youth group would gather in the Youth Activity Center, otherwise known as the YAC room, to hang out, sing worship songs, and have a Bible study. All of the teenagers would be there, herself included. She loved being in fellowship with her friends. She found great comfort in being with other believers.
Ruth hadn’t long been a true believer. She was raised in the church, but what Southern child isn’t? In the South people belonged to a church. It defined a person to a social circle. Few church goers were true believers, and she, for years, had been among the majority, the pew warmers, so to speak. But just two years ago she accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior and had taken on a new role in her life.
She prided herself in walking in faith and following the teachings of the Bible. She joined the Fellowship of Christian Athletes as soon as she entered high school and enjoyed talking with other believers in her school. She took a stance against common teenage behavior and shared her beliefs with as many people as she could. She was laughed at, challenged, and called names because of her beliefs, but she didn’t care.
Her passion, however, was teaching others to save themselves for marriage. She talked with her friends about not having sex until they got married and how much better they would feel emotionally and spiritually if they just waited. For this, she was laughed at the most. But it didn’t matter. She openly shared that she was a virgin and intended on staying one until she took a walk down the aisle.
So, this was why she enjoyed coming to church on Wednesday nights. She felt like this youth group was the only place she could be herself without the ridicule of other people. She was safe in a place where other people shared the same beliefs that she had.
Leigh had just called to say she wasn’t going to make it to church. Ruth was disappointed, since being with her best friend as much as possible was one of the main focuses in her fifteen-year-old life.
Leigh could always make her laugh no matter what the circumstances were. Her lively spirit brightened the atmosphere around her. People were drawn to her always perfect thick brown hair, her beautiful brown eyes, and a smile that could stop anyone in their tracks. Her slightly dingy, yet grounded personality always made Ruth light up. Leigh was full of wisdom beyond her years and was a solid rock in Ruth’s life.
They rarely saw each other during school, and their social lives were driving them in different directions, but something still held them together. Tonight, though, Ruth would have to go to church without her.
This particular night they were going to watch a video from the Back to School Retreat, which the youth group had gone on the weekend before. Over 85 youth and chaperones joined the fun for a weekend of interesting events at the White Oak Conference Center in Winnsboro, SC.
The retreat was exactly as it says: a retreat, an escape from their parents, their chores, peer pressure, and the daily grind. It was a time when teenagers could be teenagers without an adult breathing down their necks.
Excitement was evident as the vans made their way from small town Westbrook to Winnsboro. The sounds of old friends reconnecting and new friendships beginning filled the air, interrupted every so often with a sudden outburst of singing silly songs like Grin Again Gang or Put Your Hand in the Fan. Once they got to the conference center there were no cliques; it was just them, the youth group fellowshipping together as one body of believers, celebrating their beliefs and just plain having fun.
The theme of the retreat was the Olympics. Each year everyone looked forward to gathering into groups led by their Juniors and Seniors and creating their own countries based on what piece of cloth they were handed. These cloths became their headbands, armbands, flags, or whatever else the youth could make out of them. They were the symbol of the team’s country and ultimately the inspiration of their country name.
This past year Ruth’s citizenship was to the Grand Republic of Deeresokvia, proudly bearing the John Deere tractor on their nation’s flag. They competed against other countries such as United Toilets, the country of Smurfland, and the mighty nation of Care Bear Union. The fierce competitions between these countries lasted throughout the weekend.
Games of Ultimate Frisbee, water balloon tosses, relay races, sack races, and other Olympic style games were played with determination to claim the gold medal at the end of the weekend and be deemed the dominate country of the world!
Making her entrance into the YAC room, Ruth scanned the place and spotted her friend Jenny sitting on a love seat next to a couch crammed with Institute for Military Guidance cadets.
She sighed when she saw them there. Part of her wished they wouldn’t come at all, but it was a ministry, she was told; as if coming to church could change the life of one of them. If this place was the only way they would ever hear about Jesus, then she guessed it was worth it for them all to come.
But not all of them did come. The IMG bus would drive the ones wanting to go on Wednesdays and Sundays, but other than that they were on their own. Seeing as how they weren’t allowed cars on campus, the cadets had to make friends with those old enough to drive so they could escape their military life on campus for a few hours of normality.
They were a nuisance to the girls, forever staring at them, undressing them with their eyes, but none were ever a threat. They were boys going to an all-boy school with no hope of seeing a female figure unless they came to church. So here they were.
Three of the cadets on the couch Ruth ventured to call friends, but the fourth she didn’t know. Assuming he was new to IMG, she walked cautiously by them, saying hello to the cadets she knew, ignoring the one she didn’t.
She rarely got respect from any of the cadets, and she figured he’d be the same as the rest. So she walked past, trying not to get too close, but the clumsiness in her came out full force as she tripped over the new cadet’s shiny black shoe.
Ruth turned around quickly to apologize, but nothing came out as she looked at him. He certainly was good looking, like God had painted a beautiful picture and set it on His mantle for all His guests to see. If only for a split second, it made Ruth second-guess her decision to stay single.
Embarrassed by the thought, she turned a pretty shade of pink as she apologized quickly and walked away. But as she passed she couldn’t help but look back over at him. There was something about him that sparked her curiosity, and it wasn’t just because he was a great piece of eye candy. It made her intrigued, yet uneasy at the same time.
He sat on the couch, slumped against the back with his arms crossed in front of his chest. His short, dark brown hair was spiked on the top of his head. He had olive skin, and his tan from the summer sun was still visible on his face. His eyes, the color of the ocean just as the sun begins to set, caught her stare and held it. Ruth couldn’t look away. He smiled a crooked grin and tilted his chin up at her.
Completely flustered and embarrassed that she had been staring, she turned away, scolding herself for being so silly. Whatever the reason for her intrigue of this new cadet, she ignored it and sat beside Jenny with a thump. She covered her face with her hands and shook her head.
Jenny’s petite stature, shoulder-length blonde hair, and perky little nose that gave a slight nasal sound to her voice made everyone immediately like her. Ruth hardly ever saw Jenny without a smile. Even when she cried, her eyes always had the look of laughter in them.
“Ruth, what is the matter?” Jenny whispered in her ear.
“See that new cadet sitting beside us?” Ruth mumbled through her fingers.
“Heck, yeah, I see him. He’s a looker.”
“Yes, well, after tripping over him, he caught me staring at him. I’m so embarrassed!”
Jenny burst out laughing. Raising her head to tell her to quiet down, Ruth looked just in time to see all four cadets on the couch looking at them. The new guy leaned forward, around everyone else, to get a better look.
“Great, Jenny. Thanks for all the attention!” she said, slamming the pictures down between them and sinking into the back of the loveseat, wishing it would swallow her.
After a few more seconds of Jenny’s uninterrupted laughter, she regained her composure and picked up the photos.
“Ruth, these pictures are great! I wish I was photogenic.”
Sitting up to look at them with her, Ruth began to regain her own composure. Her mother decided to try her hand at a little photography, so she grabbed the camera and Ruth, as the model, and began snapping away in their rock garden. Swinging on the wooden swing, sitting by the flower bed and reading on the deck; the pictures went on and on.
“Mom was holding the camera too close. I kept telling her they were going to come out blurry, but she didn’t listen.” Ruth shrugged, a little frustrated. They were great pictures, but she had been right and, when they came back from the photo lab slightly blurry, it had made her mad.
A young Hispanic girl with her sister walked by the couch, accidentally bumping into Ruth. Ruth said hello, and she responded shyly in broken English. They were part of a new Hispanic family who had just started attending the church and didn’t speak much English.
“Hola, Amiga!” Hurtz said as he snickered and punched Robins playfully in the arm.
Timothy Hurtz and Ken Robins were two of the four cadets sitting on the couch. They were living up to their IMG reputations by demonstrating typical cadet behavior, high fiving each other as if they had accomplished a huge task.
“Yeah! Coma Esta, Senorita?” the arrogant new guy chimed in, snickering along with Hurtz as the girls walked away.
“Guys, come on!” Ruth turned to them, giving them her most evil glare.
Hurtz and Robins tried to stifle their laughter. They both knew Ruth pretty well and were two of the few who actually respected her. They also knew how sensitive she was about how people are treated. So, they straightened up a little when she gave them the “look.”
The new guy just stared at her, so she took a stance against her belief in not making fun of others and was ready to defend it by all means necessary. Despite the growing color change in her face and the heat rising in her neck from the waves of those ocean blue eyes crashing into hers, she stared back.
“Ruth, we were just saying hello. We weren’t being mean!” Stopher Eddings, who had remained quiet until now, insisted with a smirk and a giggle. Ruth released her stare on the new guy.
“You keep it up and you know what’ll come next!” She squinted at them, and they laughed at her. She giggled back at them, knowing good and well she’d never do anything except fuss at their bad behavior. As she turned back to Jenny she overheard that new cadet.
“Is she some kind of royal you-know-what?” he asked Eddings.
Within a second Ruth was standing in front of him, staring down, arms folded across her chest. He looked up at her and smirked as if challenging her to do something other than speak.
That smirk was about to drive her crazy. At that moment all she wanted to do was slap it right off his face. Jenny joined her stance, though Ruth was sure she was unaware of what had just occurred. As they vacated the couch, Hurtz reached over and grabbed the pictures they had just abandoned. He and Robins began thumbing through them.
“Do you have a problem with me?” Ruth questioned the cadet.
“Hey, Ruth, come on, now. He was just joking,” Eddings offered. Her stare never wavered from the new guy.
“Yeah, Davis doesn’t know you. He was just kidding,” Robins said, passing a few of her pictures to him.
The new cadet finally took his eyes off her to look at the picture. He smiled, took one of her favorites, and put it into his pocket. Feeling a little flattered, Ruth backed off and sat on the arm of the couch.
“So what’s your name?” she asked him.
“It’s Davis,” he replied. She rolled her eyes and slid onto the couch, pushing Hurtz over to make room for herself.
“Yes, dear,” she said sarcastically, looking around Hurtz and Robins to see him. “But what’s your first name? You know, the one your mama calls you?”
“Luke,” he answered, not looking at her.
“Wow, aren’t you one for conversation?”
Luke Davis didn’t reply. He just leaned up, looked around Hurtz and Robins and gave her another crooked smile.
Ruth didn't know what made her want to continue their conversation. There was something challenging about him. He had a way of saying, or not saying, just the right thing to make someone mad enough to keep pushing him. She thought he enjoyed taunting her and she, like a fish to a baited hook, bit right at it.
“Okay, Luke,” Ruth said, dragging out his name. “If you want to keep that picture of me, then you’re going to have to give me a little more conversation than one word answers.”
He huffed and sat back against the couch, his hand unconsciously resting over the pocket that held her picture. Something cool and mocking was in his eyes, and it sent a shiver up her spine.
Luckily, Joe, her Youth Minister, began gathering everyone together while trying to start the video. Attempting to talk over all the teenagers, intermittently turning back to slide the video in and find the right buttons while pushing up the glasses that kept sliding down to the end of his nose, he managed to get the video stuck and solicited some of the youth to rectify the situation. She laughed to herself. He never was good at multi-tasking. Distracted briefly by the comical display from Joe, she was able to collect her thoughts and address Luke.
“Why don’t you sit here with me?” she suggested, moving to the floor. “I’ll tell you what’s going on in the video.”
Surprisingly, Luke got off the couch and sat with her. The video started as she explained about the Back to School Retreat and all the events that went along with the weekend. She pointed herself out to him as the video showed her on her stomach attempting to retrieve a white lifesaver out of a pan of flour, using only her face and a toothpick in her mouth.
He laughed at her. Well, laughed with her because she was laughing at herself. From blowing ping-pong balls across the table at other people, with chewed up saltine crackers in their mouths, to sliding down a hill on refrigerator boxes, there was nothing else to do but laugh.
“So, you never told me your name.” Luke leaned into her and whispered in her ear.
Unable to shake the warmth of his breath on her neck she sat frozen and silent. She heard him laugh under his breath as he repositioned himself a comfortable distance from her.
“It’s Ruth. My name, that is,” she finally sputtered out, ashamed for losing control of her demeanor.
“Like Ruth from the Bible. Isn’t she the one who said, ‘Your people shall be my people and your God my God’?”
Taken aback by a cadet quoting scripture, she turned to him, clearly surprised.
“Don’t look so surprised, Ruth. I’m not the only person in the world who reads the Bible.” Luke laughed.
“I’m sorry; I just don’t know many cadets who do!”
“Well, now you’ve met one. So, back to your name. Is that where you get your name from or do you have some old great aunt you were named after?”
“No great aunts named Ruth. My sister’s name is Evelyn, but we call her Eve. She was the first born, so my mom decided to name her after the first woman.” Ruth shook her head, slightly ashamed of her name.
“Well, that doesn’t explain your name.”
“My mother’s name is Naomi. Didn’t you say you knew the story of Ruth in the Bible?”
Luke burst out laughing at the idea of her mother naming her Ruth because her name was Naomi.
“I guess Orpah was a little too strange for your mom then!”
Ruth began to laugh with him, and soon their conversation became easy, like they’d been friends for years. He was from Georgia, on the coast, where he learned to surf and sail at a young age. He had two sisters, a couple of dogs, and a green Jeep Cherokee that he missed very much, but not in that order.
Luke wasn’t a typical cadet. He was friendly and seemed genuine. He appeared to be a good Christian guy, and Ruth was grateful for his company. He made her have butterflies in her stomach, but she squashed them as soon as they began fluttering their wings.
She didn’t want a boyfriend. She sort of had one already. But he was away at boot camp, and she wasn’t entirely clear on the status of their relationship. She was waiting until Thanksgiving to see where they stood, but honestly she was happy being single.
Before they knew it, the IMG bus was honking its horn signaling the cadets to hustle to the bus. They stood slowly, neither wanting the conversation to end.
“Hey, Ruth. Look, I’m sorry about making cracks at those girls. I didn’t think it would offend anyone. You seem so sensitive about other people, and I like that about you.” Luke smiled at her.
It felt like he was looking right through her. Ruth averted her eyes, not trusting what he could read in them. They made their way outside where the crisp night air wrapped tightly around her. Fall was on its way, and the Southern heat was beginning to hibernate.
“I’m glad I got to meet such a wonderful girl,” he whispered to her, but this time not on her neck.
She shivered, but it wasn’t from the breeze. Ruth looked back at him and caught something in his eyes. For a moment she saw conceit. She saw an arrow and suddenly felt like a target. It flickered out almost as soon as it appeared. Uncomfortable, she began to fidget.
Ruth looked away again and heard him snicker under his breath. Something inside of her snapped and a piece of her old self began to rise. She smiled and sheepishly turned her big brown eyes up at him.
Oh my gosh, she thought, I’m flirting! I can’t believe I’m flirting with this guy.
She nervously laughed out loud at her behavior, but then decided a little flirting couldn’t hurt anyone. Luke tilted his head, and gave her a crooked smile. She didn’t look away this time, playing his game right along with him.
“I enjoyed talking with you tonight,” he continued. “Would it be okay if I called you sometime?”
“Sure,” she said, clearly speaking before thinking.
What am I doing? I just agreed to give him my number. Stupid is what stupid does, I guess! She laughed again, rolled her eyes, and wrote her number on the palm of his hand.
I’m going to regret this, she thought, knowing deep down that she really was going to regret this.
“Hey, guys! LOOK!” Luke started shouting to his friends on the bus. “I just got the number from the prettiest girl in Westbrook!”
Luke smiled at her, winked, and began to get on the bus. She wrapped her arms around her body, trying to chase away the goose bumps rising. The cadets began hollering and hanging out the bus windows. She rocked back on her heels as he started down the stairs.
“Don’t be jealous!” she shouted back, waving at the four cadets she called friends.
Back in the YAC room, Ruth was making her way to the pool tables to speak to her good friend Timothy.
Susanne, who was stretched out on the couch, chatting away, and eating Reese’s Pieces, grabbed Ruth’s arm and pulled her down beside the couch.
“Ruth,” she whispered behind her smirk, darting her eyes around to see if anyone was listening. “So, I saw you talking to that guy. Are you going to start dating him?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I’m not sure if I even like him.”
“Well, if you don’t, then I’m going after him. Ruth, he’s hot!” Susanne and another other girl began to giggle, so Ruth just shrugged, got up, and kept walking.
She suddenly felt challenged. Luke had singled her out, or did she single him out? If she didn’t allow him to pursue her, then he’d find someone else. As good looking as he was, it wouldn’t take long for him to find a girl around here. Pride began to creep up her back, blinding her to the outcome. She’d be the most coveted girl in youth group if she dated him. The thought was pleasant.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have the most eligible bachelor in youth group on her arm when Mark, her unqualified boyfriend, came back from boot camp? Maybe if Mark saw that she had moved on, then he’d realize what he was missing and want her back.
People always seem to want what they can’t have. If he was still unsure about “them” then, she’d show him that she wasn’t going to wait around. When he decided he wanted her, she’d drop Luke like a hot potato and let the next drooling girl have him.
“Hey, Ruth. What’s got you smiling over there?” Timothy asked from across the pool table. She hadn’t even realized she’d stopped walking.
“Oh, nothing. I was coming to talk to you, but there’s my mom. I’ll see you at school.” Giving a quick wave, she rushed past him.
All she wanted to do was get out of there. There were so many thoughts running through her head, questions that she already knew the answers to; questions that she didn’t know the answers, and feelings that she didn’t understand. She wanted to crawl into the bed, but she knew she’d never get to sleep tonight.
Alone in her room at home, Ruth sat on her bed and thought about Luke. She wasn’t interested in pursuing any type of relationship, so why did she feel like she was being pulled into this? Ruth was trying to manipulate a situation into her favor.
She wanted Mark to come home from boot camp and realize what he didn’t have. She thought she loved Mark. He was the first boy she ever kissed. He made her have butterflies, and she was convinced that she wanted to marry him. Ruth fell back onto her pillow and began to reminisce about the first time she saw him at band camp last year.
She missed the first few days of camp because she was in the hospital with Viral Meningitis. By the time she got to camp, everyone had already met. Since she was in Flag line, she was waiting in the front of the band room at Westbrook High School with the other girls.
Holding her equipment, she looked around as she waited for the band director to take his stand at the podium. The marching band members were mostly in their designated sections, but there were always the few who would play on the percussion equipment or chat away with their friends in another area.
Ruth was standing with one of her best friends, Abigail, when she saw him. He was in the back, leaning on a snare drum, when their eyes met. Had it been in the movies, the lights would have dimmed all around them, fireflies would have danced around the darkened room, and everyone else would have faded away. Neither of them could take their eyes off one another. They simply stared, mouths gaping open. Their momentary solitude was broken when someone punched him in the arm.
Ruth jumped at the opportunity to grab her friend and exclaim, “Abby, who is that?” From that moment on, they were inseparable.
Abigail knew him well and gave Ruth all the details. Mark was handsome and a perfect gentleman. He was a senior that year and had plans to join the National Guard. After Guard training, he’d be heading off to the Citadel in Charleston, SC. Neither he nor she had been in a serious relationship before. She had never even been out on a date.
Mark showed her what a real gentleman was. He opened doors for her, held her hand, and never, not once, pressed her to do anything sexual with him. They dated for almost two months before they even had their first kiss.
However, as much ‘love’ that passed between them, her heart was determined to be broken. Ruth was terrified at the thought of being in love and fought with herself on the subject. She thought it best to end their relationship before it got too serious. After all, she was only just turning fifteen. The world told her she was too young to know what real love was. She was too young to be in a serious dating relationship, so she decided to end it all and for no reason other than her own insecurities.
She sat Mark down in band class one day and tried to explain how scared she was. She attempted to make him understand that she just might not be ready for a relationship as serious as this one was heading. She didn’t realize how sharply she was stabbing him in the heart.
How could she have known that secretly he was planning a future with her? Being four years older than Ruth and in more of a position to see his adult future, he felt she was “the one” and didn’t care it could be as much as eight years before they could start a life together.
That night, Ruth realized she’d made a terrible mistake and cried herself to sleep. The very next day she went to Mark and apologized. She told him how stupid she’d been for being afraid and that he was such a wonderful man she simply couldn’t ask for more. But her words did nothing to his broken heart. She had cut him deeply, and he left her alone to cry.
And cry she did, as much as a broken-hearted teenager would cry over their first love. For weeks she would cry at the sight of him. She couldn’t eat or sleep. All she thought of was the relationship she had just ruined. She tried everything she could think of to win his heart again, but with little feat.
She did all the right things and some stupid things. She even tried to make him jealous by kissing his best friend. That plan only made her feel terrible about herself. She found out later that Mark confronted his friend about it, and the conversation ended with Mark bloodying his friend’s nose.
She never did give up, though. That is, until one of her friends told her she was going with him to his Senior Prom. So much for being a friend. She knew how Ruth felt about him, but chose to date him anyway. She didn’t even ask if Ruth would be okay with it.
Ruth had to hear about it after the fact. Mark stabbed her in the back in the worst possible way she could imagine at that time in her life, and she lost a dear friend in the commotion of it all. Ruth spent the rest of her ninth grade year drowning in self-pity.
This past summer, Mark departed for Boot Camp. By that time, they were becoming friends again, and he even came to her job at Sonic to tell her goodbye. Luckily, the restaurant was busy, so she didn’t have time for tears. His dad snapped a picture of them and sent it to him a few weeks later. She tried not to cry as she watched him drive away. She was determined to write him any chance she got, and they’d been exchanging letters all summer long.
She tried loving him through her letters and for eight weeks watched him go through a roller coaster of emotions. During that time he led Ruth to believe that when he returned, they’d be together, just like old times.
It wasn’t until after he completed Boot Camp and moved on to training school that he told Ruth he’d also been writing the girl he took to prom. That broke her heart all over, but she still couldn’t let go. Ruth was determined to be the girl in his life when he returned home in November. He was her first love and the man she thought she wanted to be with.
So now, in September, she couldn’t get involved and risk the chance of losing him again. She had decided against getting involved with Luke. With the new-found revelation, she sat up, turned on her night light, and grabbed her journal.
Ruth’s journal was her refuge. She wrote everything she felt. She’d been writing in journals since elementary school, making note of every tear, smile, and thought that passed through her.
Tonight, she wrote about her continued love for Mark and her meeting the arrogant, yet intriguing cadet that night. She poured out herself onto those pages, filling the empty lines with words she’d later re-read for assurance. When she was finished, she laid back down and dreamed.
The next day, she tried to concentrate on her Algebra homework, but her mind was muddled.
Just that afternoon she’d received a letter from Mark telling her he’d be home a few days after Thanksgiving. He said he wanted to take her out for her birthday, which was only two days before the holiday. Ruth was excited, believing that he still cared about her, but confused at the tone of his letters.
She had been noticing how he didn’t write the same way as before. He wasn’t as sweet and romantic as he usually was. He was becoming harsh and short. The letters that once were six pages long were now only a few lines.
When he asked for nude pictures of her, describing in detail what he wanted them to look like, she was shocked and mortified. She didn’t even wear bikinis in public, so there was no way she was sending him nude pictures!
The request had greatly offended her, but it also burdened her heart. It seemed as if he was conforming to his egotistical surroundings, and it worried her. The man in the letters wasn’t the man she wanted to be with.
“Ruth!” her step-father called from inside the kitchen, which butted against her bedroom wall. “Phone for you.”
She hadn’t heard the phone ring. Normally she would have been the first to answer.
“Okay.” Leaning back in her desk chair, she stretched behind her and grabbed the phone from its cradle. As she lifted the phone, the wheels on her chair slipped from their precarious position, and she came crashing to the ground.
“Hello?” she said, after picking herself off the ground.
“Well, hello to you!” the mystery person replied.
“Who is this?” She didn’t recognize the voice, and the only person she could think of who would be calling her was Mark.
He usually called once every two weeks, and it was about time for him to call again. Ruth sat up, rubbing her elbow and inspecting the damage to her Algebra homework.
“It’s Davis. Don’t you remember me? We met at church last night.”
“Oh, Luke! I’m sorry. I didn’t recognize your voice.” she paused, standing the chair back into its upright position. “I didn’t think you’d be calling.”
“Why wouldn’t I call? I said I would, didn’t I?” His voice penetrated the phone with ice. It was sharp and irritated.
“Yes, well. I don’t believe what guys say to me, especially when they attend IMG. No offense, but you guys don’t have the best reputation for being honest and dependable!” She laughed but meant every word she said.
If this guy was really interested in pursuing her, he was going to have to take it when she dished it out. She wasn’t about to start sugar coating because he appeared to be a nice guy.
“I’m not like other guys, Ruth. You’ll see. I’m different. I think women should be treated like gold. I don’t go around hitting on girls and dating a bunch of people.” He paused, waiting for Ruth to respond.
She refused, rolling her eyes on the other end of the phone, and picking up her Algebra homework, she remained silent. So, he continued.
“I’m getting over an ex-girlfriend I left behind. I want to find the one who God has designed for me. I want to love her with my whole heart and do everything I can for her.”
Wow, like I’ve never heard that line used before! she thought, but quickly scolded herself for being rude and judgmental.
Trying to be nice, she cleared her throat and made small talk.
“What made you come to IMG? That would be the last school I would want to attend.” She changed the subject. The last thing she wanted to hear was him babbling about his past love life.
“Well, I’m interested in the military, and my parents wanted me to go to a private school. My ex and I researched a bunch of schools together and we liked this one best. I thought we were going to stay together while I came here, but she broke up with me a few weeks before I left. She’d been cheating on me. It broke my heart.”
This guy won’t shut up about this ex-girlfriend. Let’s see if he likes it when I talk about my ex-boyfriend!’
“Luke, I’m sorry that happened to you. I know how it feels though. I’m struggling with someone myself,” Ruth offered.
She waited, like he did with her, but was met with silence, so she continued.
“He started dating one of my friends, and now he can’t decide between me or her. I thought we’d get married someday, but apparently the military is changing his mind and views on God. It’s a little disappointing, you know?” she paused, waiting for his response. Once again it didn’t come. “Okay, well I guess you think I’m rambling. So, tell me a little about you.” she said, feeding his ego.
“I just moved here from a little town in Georgia. It’s near the coast, so I’m a beach buff. I love the ocean and sailing. I’d like to take you sailing one day. Maybe that could be our first date!”
“First date? I didn’t know we were dating now! I thought we were just talking on the phone!” It irritated Ruth that he assumed she wanted to date him. He really was as arrogant as she first thought he would be and was starting to get on her nerves. Maybe she should set him straight right off the bat.
“Listen, Luke. I’m not interested in— ”
“I’ll prove to you that I’m the best guy you’ll ever be with,” he interrupted. She heard someone yelling his name in the distance, so she didn’t respond.
“I’m sorry, Ruth, I have to go. We have to be back in the barracks by ten o’clock and Eddings just told me it’s two minutes till. Can I call you tomorrow sometime? I enjoyed talking to you, and I want to get to know you better.”
“Yeah, sure. If you want. Hey, you should join the Youth Choir. We meet on Sundays at five thirty.”
“That sounds good. I’ll see you Sunday morning, though.”
They said their goodbyes and hung up. She didn’t feel quite as uncomfortable as she had before, but there was still something strange and lingering about him. It was probably his arrogance grating against her nerves. But, whatever it was, she just shrugged it off, finished up her Algebra, and got ready for bed. This night, though, she dreamed about Luke.