After the Storm

Chapter Twenty-Three

   Tim had unfinished business in the city, and Diana stayed behind, promising to spend the day exploring the city of Santa Monica, especially the lovely park overlooking the ocean.

   After Tim left, she poured herself a cup of coffee and settled down in the tiny breakfast nook with the Los Angeles Times from the previous Sunday. She scanned the headlines and turned to the Calendar section of the paper.

   Smiling back at her were the photos of celebrities attending a recent charity event. A particularly striking couple leapt from the page. It was Steven with a stunning blonde on his arm! The caption read: "Famous author, Dr. Steven Cartright, visiting professor at UCLA, at the LOVECARE charity gala with actress Stacy Winters."

   The article following explained that Dr. Cartright would be lecturing for a week, daily at 1 P.M., at a writers' seminar on the UCLA campus. The public was cordially invited to attend.

   Checking the date of the paper, Diana realized that this was the last day of the seminar. It was noon already, and UCLA was in Westwood, not far from Tim's Santa Monica apartment.

   She surveyed the small wardrobe she had brought, quickly deciding on a winter white suit and royal blue blouse. She brushed her hair until it shone and applied make-up with unusual care. Steven! She could scarcely believe they were in the same city, only minutes apart. Her heart sang one moment and dropped the next. Who was the girl in the photo?

   Diana called for a cab, instructing the driver to take her to the UCLA campus. He sped through the narrow streets of Santa Monica, onto Wilshire Boulevard, defying the noonday traffic. When he turned into the hilly campus drive and stopped, Diana got out, paid the fare, and stood for a moment, wondering where on this vast campus she might find Steven's classroom.

   Trailing a group of students, she spotted the Administration building. There she received instructions from a fresh-faced student receptionist: halfway around the campus, down a flight of stairs, a white building.

   Her heart was pounding when at last she saw the room number. Peering through a small window, she found a large auditorium filled to capacity. Apparently, half the professional writing colony and the budding young authors of the Los Angeles area were assembled to hear the best-selling author.

   She slipped into a back row seat just in time to hear the student moderator introducing Steven. When he strode across the platform toward the lectern, her heart turned over. How handsome, how composed he was. She wanted to run down the long aisle, shouting, "Steven, I'm here! I love you!" Instead, she sat poised on the edge of her seat, composing a speech of greeting after the lecture.

   Too soon it was over, and the entire group, or so it seemed to Diana, swarmed the stage, asking questions, receiving autographs. Before Diana could make a move forward to join the others, she noticed the blonde from the newspaper photo. As Steven turned to leave, the striking young woman took his arm and walked off with him.

   Diana stood motionless, tears flowing freely. Was it true? Had Steven found someone else? Since he must think she was marrying Kevin O'Neal, why not? She watched his tall figure disappearing through a side door, and sat down, trying to still the pounding of her heart.

   "Wasn't he marvelous?" the students asked excitedly, and Diana nodded mutely.

   Yes, marvelous. Oh, Steven, have I come this far to find you, only to lose you again?

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

   Diana didn't mention her morning excursion to Tim when he returned from the city but spent the rest of the day helping him pack. Diana marveled that there were so few things to ship ahead. Except for Tim's books and personal items, he was leaving everything behind for his friends.

   With the last item packed and carefully labeled, Tim returned the key to the landlord and walked out without a backward glance.

   It was Diana who stood at the screen door, feeling the poignancy of the moment. "How can you leave so easily, Tim? You've been so happy here. I could never do it."

   "No, you couldn't, Sis. God made you with your lovely steadfast spirit and will use it. He made me a bit differently, I'm afraid. California's been good to me, my friends are wonderful, and, after all, I found the Lord here, but it's time to move on to another life. And," he said, grinning, "my girl's waiting, not to mention my future with the company. It's a fresh new beginning, and I can't wait to see what the Lord has for me."

*   *   *   *   *  *  *

   The flight back to the Midwest was uneventful until the pilot circled O'Hare for thirty minutes in a January blizzard.

   Tim sighed. "I almost forgot what I'm coming back to."

   How much would he really miss the perpetual sunshine and clear skies of the West Coast? Diana could only wonder. She had enjoyed her brief visit to California, but she loved the excitement of Chicago, the proximity of the great lake to her northside apartment and offices. Lake Michigan was her polestar. The changing seasons defined her life in a unique way, each stage representing a time of change and discovery.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

   The atmosphere at the Sullivan-Vale Publishing House was charged with electricity when Diana returned the following day. Manuscripts were flooding the offices again, and Louis Vale had hired a Christian acquisitions editor to solicit manuscripts with an inspirational message.

   "You've got a tan!" Dave Morgan greeted Diana on her first day back at work. "In the middle of January!"

   "That's Palm Springs, my friend." Diana laughed. "Uh, Dave," she asked solemnly, "how does everything seem to you?"

   "Booming, boss lady. When is Tim starting to work? His office was personally prepared by yours truly."

   "He's coming in officially tomorrow. He's off to see Marcie today. They're getting married in May, you know."

   "And you? Are you happy, Di?"

   "Yes, Dave." She touched her ring finger.

   Now she recalled the words of a haunting melody she had heard when she attended the Vineyard Fellowship with Tim.

In his time,

God will make all things beautiful in his time,

Lord, please show me every day

as you're teaching me your way

that you'll do just what you say

in your time.

   And time is what you need, she told herself.

   Dear Lord, please bring Steven back into my life . . . in your time.

Chapter Twenty-four  ||  Table of Contents