Chapter Fifteen ~
Janna snapped Jessie into his brand new booster seat in the back of her car. Heart pounding against her ribs, she shut his door and took a seat in the passenger side of the economy car.
Jedidiah was in the driver’s seat, his presence larger than life. Trying to resist the urge to sniff and take in the woodsy smell of his after shave, she swiped at her face and asked, “How is Beast and Snow White?” Can he tell how nervous I am?
“They’re fine. I was sure your cat would try to eat Snowy but the crazy thing climbed in her bed and cuddled around her.” He looked at her and smiled.
Janna’s heart beat even wilder. “Are you serious?” She hoped her words didn’t give away how nervous she was.
Jedidiah said, “As a heart attack.”
He smiled that smile again and she caught her breath. Stop it already he’s just a guy… Her self-reprimand fell on deaf ears because her heart didn’t pay attention. Would it always be this way? While in the hospital she’d felt a little attracted and nervous, but this was getting ridiculous. She couldn’t even breathe normal.
Jedidiah started the car, looked in the mirror at Jessie and said, “You okay back there Buddy?”
Jessie was busy pulling a long drink from his brand new Spiderman Sippy cup, but said absentmindedly, “yep.”
Jedidiah laughed. “That’s all that matters.” He started down the street toward Janna’s house. “I want to thank you for allowing me to stay in your home. It’ll make it a lot easier to keep an eye out for you know who.”
Janna’s heart fell. She was trying to forget about him. She knew he was already out, but her mind had been pre-occupied on Jessie and the death of his mother. “You can’t let him get near. You know that, don’t you?” She shrugged her head toward the backseat.
“I’ll guard you guys with my life. You don’t have a thing to worry about.”
Tears jumped to her eyes and she tried to blink them away. How could someone put his life in danger to guard somebody he didn’t even know? It was beyond her, but she believed him. She had to. She had so much more to lose now…
Jedidiah’s hand came over and covered hers. She looked at him. “I’m serious. I won’t let him…”
“I hope not.” Her voice broke.
They drove in silence, Stacy gasping several times as she took in the extent of the tornado damage. “I didn’t realize…”
“I know. It’s a lot to take in. The news said the town is a seventy-eight percent loss.”
“You’re kidding me?” Her voice broke and she sobbed openly. It was a relief, really. Holding in her emotions was just too hard in this circumstance. She’d had to be strong for so long now. Why are you doing this Dear Lord?Why? Janna wanted to ask Jedidiah a question, but she hesitated. Was he a believer? She didn’t know and couldn’t tell. “Uhm…” She stopped, cleared her throat and said, “Can I ask you a question?”
“Sure, ask away.”
She watched as his gaze slid to Jessie in the back seat. He was worried about him, too.
“Do you…Uh…Do you believe in…” She stopped and shot him a glance. She didn’t want to make him angry, and that tended to happen sometimes when it concerned God.
He laughed and gave her a cute little grin. “Do I believe in what? God?” He glanced at her and smiled again, this time chuckling. “I’m not going to bite your head off, you know. I do believe in God, very much so. He’s my Lord and Savior.”
He dropped it just like that. No embarrassment, no nonsense. Just truth. She couldn’t stop the grin. There was so much more to this man than she’d first thought. Of course, the way he’d been following her had been creepy. And then his dog had scared her to death, and then the tornado. Her grin dried up, and her face became tight.
She looked at him.
“Are you okay?”
“I was talking, but you weren’t hearing.”
“Oh. I guess my mind wandered off. I’m sorry.” She smiled over at him, not waiting for his eyes to catch hers.
“Why did you want to know if I believed in God?”
Her heart skipped a beat. He wasn’t letting the subject go. He wanted to talk about God and she fell a little more in love…Janna sat up straight at that thought and said with force. “No!”
Her gaze shot to Jedidiah. Had she said that out loud? She must’ve, if his face was any indication. His lazy smile had disappeared and was replaced by a frown of confusion. What do I say? “Oh nothing.” He was still giving a confused stare so she went on, “I believe in Him. Do you think this storm was a judgment on us?” She glanced at him, hoping her evasive maneuvers had worked.
He didn’t answer right off, but seemed to be thinking the question through.
That made her respectometer rise a few degrees. He was giving careful thought before he spoke; a sure sign of maturity.
“Yes and no.”
Confusion rose within her. This man was an enigma. Usually she could gauge their personality in two seconds flat, but with Jedidiah she didn’t know… “Okay…?”
“I think it’s a general sign of the times. You know, the world isn’t getting any better. But we have to be careful when discerning things of this nature. Jesus said those killed by the tower of Siloam hadn’t been worse sinners than any other, and that if they didn’t repent, they would perish as well.”
“Oh yeah, that’s true. I forgot about that.” She really liked this guy…
They pulled in the driveway of her house and she took a refreshing breath. Her house was pretty much untouched. There were some tree limbs on her front walk and in the yard, but other than that, it looked the same as it did the day she rushed to her friend’s house. Poor Tilly. Poor Jessie. Tears filled her eyes. This was going to be so hard.
She got out and took Jessie out of the car.
“Ja-Ja, when is my Mommy coming back?”
She stopped, horrified. She’d planned on having more time to formulate a good reply to this very question, but he hadn’t wasted any and he was looking at her with his huge gray eyes, waiting for an answer. “Uhm…Jessie, do you remember there was a storm?”
His lips trembled, and he shook his head.
“Mommy was…” She stopped. This was too hard. No one had prepared her for anything like this. How could she tell this innocent child he would never see his mother again? She looked over the hood of the car at Jedidiah, who’d stopped and was waiting for her reply, too. She shrugged.
He came around the car and took the boy from her, and walked toward the door. “Hey Bud, your mom’s…”
“Mommy not coming back, huh?” Huge tears popped up in his eyes and slid down his chubby cheeks.
Janna opened the door and Hairy rushed out in a flurry of fur and barking. Jessie’s attention was immediately captivated by the dog. She smiled up into Jedidiah’s face as he lowered the boy to the ground and said, “Jessie, this is Hairy. Hairy, this is Jessie. Hairy, protect.”
Hairy sat down on his haunches, not moving an inch as Jessie came and hugged him around the neck, wiping his tears in his fur.
Janna gave Jedidiah a look full of confusion.
“Hairy won’t leave him unless I tell him different. He will be his constant companion. Let’s get them inside. The dog won’t keep him occupied for long so we have to devise something to tell him; something true, but as devoid of hurt as possible.”
“I’m glad you said that,” she put a hand on Jessie’s back to move him and the German shepherd through the door.
“What?” Jedidiah asked as he followed them inside and shut the door.
“We.” She turned and threw herself into his arms, but not before seeing the surprise on his face.
Jedidiah wrapped his muscular arms around her and squeezed just enough for her to feel the comfort. “There’s nothing else, is there?”