Hold on to Joy—Part 6 7
David Grantland spent the night tossing and turning, unable to ease his restless spirit. He knew he should be happy that Neil MacNeill had accepted the Lord. As a pastor, one of his main goals was to see souls added to the Kingdom. However, the green-eyed monster kept rearing its ugly head as the idea of Christy and Neil as a romantic possibility churned in his head. God was not going to make this easy. Finally, he submitted to the Lord's gentle prodding and climbed out of bed and onto his knees.
"Okay, Lord," he declared. "I'm all ears." As he confessed his sins and asked for strength and wisdom, he found that his mind and soul were quieted. In the midst of this calm, he heard God's voice.
Since giving his heart to God, Neil found himself waking each day with a fresh hope for what life would bring. He had only been up for a short while when there came a knock at his door. Buttoning up his shirt, he hurried down from his loft to answer the call. When he swung the door open, he was quite surprised at the visitor.
"Reverend Grantland," he exclaimed. "Good morning!"
David nodded and took a deep breath. "Dr. MacNeill. May I come in?"
Still stunned, it took Neil a moment to react and step aside. "Of course. Can I get you a cup of coffee?"
"No, thank you," David replied before getting right to the point of his early morning visit. "I came because I wanted to talk to you, Doctor."
Neil's expression became even more confused. "Talk? What about?"
David paused as he glanced nervously around the room. "Mind if we sit?"
Neil motioned to a pair of chairs and the two men sat down. The doctor was now extremely curious about what the preacher had to say. Goodness knew that in the past David Grantland had always been forthright and outspoken concerning Neil's actions and beliefs. Especially when it came to a certain blue-eyed teacher.
"First off, Neil, I want to congratulate you on your recent salvation. Christy shared the news with us last night. She was quite excited."
Neil could not help but smile at that bit of information. "Was she, now? Well, she did have quite a hand in leading me to that point. She never stopped trying to show me my need for the Lord." He was touched by Christy's interest in his soul's salvation.
"We were all happy to hear about it. We've been praying for you for quite some time," David revealed.
Neil looked at David questioningly. "Have you?"
The simple question pierced David's heart like a sword and he could bear his guilt no longer. "Dr. MacNeill, I must confess that I am still struggling to be a good Christian and an honorable pastor. I admit I haven't always been adamant about praying for your soul. I've too often let hard feelings—and jealousy seep into my heart concerning you and Christy." He had trouble getting the last few words out, but held up his hand to stop Neil from interrupting.
"No, let me finish. It was wrong of me to let my own desires come before your soul, Doctor. I know I have accused you in the past of dishonoring Christy, but in reality, you never did anything of the sort. Even though I knew you had feelings for her, you behaved respectfully and never compromised her."
Neil did not know what to say. Had he always been so transparent when it came to Christy Huddleston? He had not thought so before, but apparently he had been wrong.
David continued. "I'll not pretend that I'm not a bit disappointed in her refusal of my marriage proposal. I love her." David studied Neil's reaction before continuing. "But I know that you do, too."
"I—," Neil started, but again David stopped him.
"You don't have to deny it anymore, Doctor. There's nothing wrong with loving Christy. How could you not? And now, God has seen fit to clear the path for you and her. In His own way and His own time, he has brought you both together. Just promise me that you will cherish her like the precious gift she is. She deserves it. She deserves to be happy."
David stopped and Neil was not sure what to say for several moments.
Eventually, Neil cleared his throat and replied. "Thank you, David, for coming here and sharing these things. It takes a strong man to do what you have done. I appreciate your candor, but you've nothing to apologize for. " He chuckled in his deep, throaty way. "Lord knows I've not made things easy for you over the years." Now David chuckled, as well. "However, I've always respected you and what you try to do at the mission. You are sincerely working to help the people of Cutter Gap. My people.
"I also know that you care very much for Christy and I respect you for that. You're a better man than I, Reverend. I'm not sure what will happen between Christy and me. I have some ideas of my own, but whether or not she has the same ideas remains to be seen. But know this. If the Lord sees fit to bless me with Christy Huddleston, I'll treat her like the beautiful treasure she is and spend every day of my life trying to deserve her. You have my word."
The two men looked straight in each other's eyes and a bond was formed. They might never be bosom friends, but their love and respect for Christy bound them together all the same.
David stood and Neil followed suit reaching out his hand to shake the preacher's.
"Thank you for listening to me, Doctor. I needed this," David admitted.
"As did I, Reverend," Neil replied.
When they reached the door, David turned once more to face his former rival. "I hope to see you at Sunday service. It will cause quite a stir with the congregation."
"I'm looking forward to it," Neil said.
And with one more handshake, David left, his heart much lighter than when he arrived.
Christy had dreamed the sweetest dreams. So sweet she almost could not bear to think about them too much or everyone around her would know by the huge smile and starry-eyed look on her face what a lovesick girl she was. It was enough to remember they involved Neil and herself and Angel Falls.
She sighed deeply and finished getting ready for school with a dreamy look on her face.
Twice during morning classes, she caught herself daydreaming. Luckily, the children did not notice. At least she did not think they noticed. She really had to be more careful. After lunch she could not stop glancing at the door to the school, hoping foolishly that Neil would show up like he had the day before. "Silly girl!" she chided herself. He was a doctor. He had doctoring things to do. He could not come visit her every day. He didn't even have a reason to come to the mission every day. Did he?
Another sigh, only this one with a frown. Yesterday, she had been certain he was on the cusp of revealing his feelings for her, only he had shared the story of his salvation instead. Which, she hurriedly interjected into her thoughts, was much more important. But now--- what would happen next? Would there even be a next for them?
Christy snapped her head around to find Creed Allen yanking on her arm. "Oh, Creed, I'm sorry!" she said. "What is it?"
"I was just wonderin' if you could check my arithmetic answers so I know if'n I'm doin' it right."
She smiled as she took the slate from his hand. "Of course. I'd love to."
The rest of the afternoon she forced herself to stay focused on her students. "A watched pot never boils" she remembered her mother saying, so staring at the door wouldn't make Neil MacNeill magically appear no matter how much she wanted it to happen. Once the children left, she dawdled for a while, grading papers and preparing the next day's lessons—but still no Neill. Finally, she packed up her bag and started her walk over to the mission house slumped in disappointment.
Ruby Mae was the first to greet her as Christy walked in the door. "Gee, Miss Christy. You look a mite put out."
Alice turned from her seat at the kitchen table to have a look for herself. Christy did indeed look discouraged. "Is something the matter, Miss Huddleston?"
Christy forced a smile and set her bag on the table. "No, I'm fine," she responded lamely.
"Well, you sure have been acting funny all day, Miss Christy," Ruby Mae countered. "Miss Alice, she started out this morning with a big ol' smile on her face. But by this afternoon, she just looked all aggravated and sad. Don't know what coulda made that happen. Wait!—was it Creed Allen and Sam Houston? Those two could make a saint be a sinner, I declare!"
"Ruby Mae!" Alice exclaimed. "I'm sure Miss Huddleston is just tired. Run along now and do your chores before dinner." The girl smiled sheepishly and left. Alice returned her attention to Christy. "Art thou fine, Christy?"
"I'm fine, Miss Alice. Truly. Just tired like you said."
A knock sounded from the side door. "Anyone home?"
Christy jumped up at the sound of a Scottish brogue and quickly ran a hand over her hair and skirt. Alice did not fail to miss how the light came immediately back to Christy's eyes. Interesting, the older woman noted.
"In here," Christy answered. In a moment, Neil was in the room with a small bag in his hand. The smile on Christy's face could not have been brighter, and, Alice thought, Neil looked very much like a shy school boy with a crush. She chuckled under her breath.
"Neil," Christy greeted him smiling.
"Hello, Christy," he replied softly. "Alice," he added without even looking her way.
"Neil," Alice returned with a knowing grin.
After a few awkward seconds of silence, Alice asked, "So what brings you here today, Doctor?" That seemed to do the trick for both of the other inhabitants of the room finally realized Alice Henderson was present.
"Oh!" Neil realized where he was and held out the small bag. "I thought you might be out of camphor, so I brought you some more just in case."
Ruby Mae had just reentered the room. "Oh, we don't need no more camphor. Our jar's already plumb full to overflowin' and—"
"Ruby Mae," Miss Alice interrupted again. "Please just take the bag and put it away. In fact," she said as she stood from the table, "I'll help you find another container." She hurried around the table and shooed the girl out of the room calling, "Thank you, Neil," over her shoulder.
Suddenly, Christy and Neil were alone and neither knew what to say. Christy was thinking about her dreams from the night before, while Neil was replaying his conversation with David Grantland—in particular, the part about making Christy happy.
"Would you like to sit down?" Christy finally asked. "I could get you something to drink."
"No, thank you. I don't really have much time," Neil replied. "I'm on my way to San Martin to make my rounds. I probably won't be back until late Saturday."
"Oh," Christy muttered dejectedly.
"I was wondering, though, if you might accompany me on a picnic Sunday, after services," he asked.
Christy's face lit up. "A picnic?" He nodded. "That sounds—fine," she said, trying desperately not to sound as anxious and eager as she really was.
"Fine?" he repeated, a bit disappointed in her lack of apparent enthusiasm. She nodded. "All right then," he added. "Until Sunday."
"Sunday," she repeated. Then he turned and left.
As he hopped on his horse preparing to ride off, Alice stopped him. Apparently, she had been waiting for him on the porch.
"Neil!" she called as she approached. He pulled the reins and paused to listen.
"Woo her," she said simply.
"What?" he replied in confusion.
"I said, woo her. Court her. This is your chance to start over and live the life God wants for you. So do it right." Then Alice turned and walked away. "Have a safe trip."
With one last look at the mission that housed Christy Huddleston, Neil turned and rode off with thoughts of courting on his mind.