After the Storm

Chapter Twenty-Four

   Once more, work became Diana's all-consuming passion. Reading a manuscript with a Christ-centered message, her mind often wandered to Steven's unpublished book. It could not be published, of course, without his authorization, and she had carefully explained to Tim that when Steven returned in the fall and if he agreed, The Search must be a lead book at next year's booksellers' convention.

   "So, where's the manuscript?" Tim asked one day.

   Diana shook her head. "We gave it back to Steven, never dreaming we would ever be publishing religious books."

   But the inspirational division was a firm reality, and Tim had immediately endeared himself to the staff, beginning each workday with prayer and showing himself a friend to those who sought him out. He had even called Brian in California, offering him a job as Sullivan's West Coast representative, and Brian had accepted after two days of prayerful consideration.

   Tim moved into his parents' Lake Forest home until his May wedding date, and Marcie literally glowed with health, much to the amazement of the doctors.

   With Diana, they joined a small group of believers who worshiped together on Sunday, growing in their knowledge of life in the kingdom of God. It no longer seemed absurd that Tim's friends could leave all and follow Christ. It seemed more incredible to Diana that she could have possessed such an abundance of material goods without having given more than a fleeting thought to the less fortunate.

   Diana recalled a startling scene in California one Sunday morning at the Vineyard Fellowship. Before the service began, people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds had lined up for a sack lunch provided by members of the Fellowship. Diana had watched, tears filling her eyes, as she thought of her parents' estate and of her opulent lifestyle, which could feed this entire group for months. Guiltily, she thought of her buying spree at Neiman-Marcus and could not justify her extravagance in the face of this basic need for food — a sack lunch with a sandwich, a piece of fruit, and a cookie.

   Tim had explained soberly, "They're there every Sunday, Sis, waiting for a handout. Our group began preparing lunches about a year ago, and now we're in the planning stages of renting a halfway house for them. I'm especially burdened for unwed mothers who need a place to go until their babies are born. I'll be staying in touch."

   Remembering this jolting experience, Diana took a cab through Chicago's Skid Row and on to the south side, appalled by the rickety tenement buildings and undernourished children, their patched clothing scant protection against Chicago's bitter winters. She had previously avoided this section of the city, feeling that these people had nothing to do with her and enjoying a smug satisfaction in her own affluent lifestyle. But now her heart broke for the poor and homeless, and she began to devour articles and newspaper clippings of that other world, so different from her own. She longed to obey the commands of Jesus to feed the poor, clothe the naked, and house the homeless.

   Brian's words passed through her mind. "When God gives you a gift, you'll know it." Was this her gift, this gift of mercy, the gift of giving?

   Steven was never far from her thoughts as she fantasized their reunion, a small doubt often surfacing. What if he had fallen in love with the girl in California? She refused entrance to that possibility and prayed that the Lord would make her life complete and beautiful, with or without Steven. Unaccountably, she was feeling a peace and fulfillment that she would never have imagined possible.

   It was only when her thoughts focused on Ralph Roper that Diana grew fretful and restless. Dave had traced him to Geneva and lost him again. There must be a way to find him, she thought, but a small rebuke pointed to an unforgiving spirit. Her sense of justice reasoned that he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. He had done nothing redemptive, had only caused heartbreak and destruction. He deserved no mercy.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

   On a Saturday in April, Diana and Marcie spent the day together, shopping and strolling along the Magnificent Mile. A brisk breeze was blowing in from the lake, tangling Diana's chestnut hair and whipping Marcie's short blond curls around her face.

   "I still have to pinch myself, Di," she said as they stopped to watch gulls swooping down to pluck fish from the rippling water. "Tim and I — to have found each other again after all these years."

   "It's pretty wonderful, Marce."

   Marcie gave her friend a searching look. "Do you have any idea where Steven is, Di?"

   "No, but I am hoping he'll be back at the university for the fall semester."

   Then she told Marcie of seeing Steven at the lecture session on the UCLA campus. Tearfully she explained how she had called the university to locate him, but when she had seen him with a beautiful young girl, she'd backed away.

   "You should have waited, Di. Maybe there was an explanation."

   "Tim was furious when I told him. If he had been with me, he would have charged to the front of the auditorium. But I couldn't, Marcie, I just couldn't." Diana blinked away tears. "Come on, enough of that mournful talk. Let's go to Spiaggias for lunch — my treat!"

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

   The ceremony was held under a dazzling sun and cloudless sky. The Vales' Edenic lawn swept downhill to a tiny brook where trees arched thick, creating a natural canopy for the exchange of the nuptial vows. Diana, standing next to the bride, heard the precious promises, a smile hiding the pain in her heart.

   Mingling with the guests at the catered reception on the lawn, Diana found herself comparing her mother with Beverly Vale. Mrs. Vale's smile was warm and genuine, embracing the friends who had come to share the happiness of the day. Catherine's mouth was fixed in the caricature of a smile, but her lips were set, a familiar sign that she was not fully pleased. What would it take to make her mother happy? Beauty, wealth, social prominence — none of these had brought her fulfillment. In an unguarded moment, her smile slipped, and Diana saw a look of repressed anger. She must be worrying about Tim, Diana thought. Catherine probably believed he had married a girl who might suffer a relapse and bring him grief, even though it was this very girl who had brought Tim home to Chicago.

   Brian lingered by Diana's side, inviting her to dinner the following evening before he went back to California. But Diana politely declined. She could not bring herself to spend time with anyone else when she was hopelessly in love with Steven Cartright.

   In a flurry of rice and laughing good wishes, the couple left for their honeymoon retreat. Though her heart swelled with gratitude for God's favor on the newlyweds, there was an aching void that happiness accentuated.

   Diana felt a touch on her arm and turned to find Dave Morgan.

   "I must talk to you first thing Monday morning." Dave's tone was grave. "I have something important to show you."

Chapter Twenty-five  ||  Table of Contents