Chapter Twenty-One ~
The last few days had been hectic. Janna ran down the path, her mind whirling in fifty different directions. Lawyers, builders, insurance people… Would it never end? And then there was him. She shrugged the urge to shudder out of her mind. Jedidiah would keep her safe.
She hadn’t seen her tormentor, nor heard anything at home. Maybe he’d given up. She smiled and plugged the ear buds back in her ears. Her favorite pastor continued his sermon on the family. And she was one now. A family. The thought scared her, yet caused a rush of excitement as well. She’d never entertained the idea in the past, but found it pleasant to dwell on now.
She caught a glimpse of the glass door on ‘Hometown Meets’ as the evening sun glared upon it. She tried to push away the glow of pride her restaurant caused to swell inside her. It wasn’t through anything of herself she’d accomplished it, but through God. He’d given her everything, right down to the minutest detail in planning. Yes. Amen. And he could’ve taken it away in the tornado, but he let me keep it. And my home. Thank you God.
Her feet began to slow as the path dwindled into a few pebbles and loose dirt. Maddy Jones came out the door, waving and smiling. “Hey Janna. How was the run?” She yelled.
“Going good, thanks.” She was only slightly winded. Her broken arm ached and she cradled it in her good one as she came to a stop at the end of the trail.
Hairy’s barking encroached on her euphoria.
Janna scrunched her shoulders and turned to see what her protector was barking about. She caught an almost imperceptible movement in the woods just past the start of her jogging trail. “What is it Hairy?”
But Hairy was intent on what he’d seen. He broke away from Janna’s side and ran toward the shadow in the woods.
Where was Jedidiah? Her heart pounded. Was it him?
“Don’t freak out. Walk toward the restaurant. Slow,” she muttered.
“Is everything okay?” Maddy asked. Concern was evident on her elfin features.
Janna smiled, feeling like a wooden doll. “Yes. Hairy must’ve seen a squirrel.”
Maddy shrugged. “Maybe.”
Janna walked inside and went around the counter to wash her hands. She was planning to open it up for the first time after the tornado in just a few minutes. That’s why she’d done her jog first. She’d be too busy later to even think about exercise.
Maddy stood at the counter. Janna noticed for the first time she was hopping around like a nervous cat.
“Can I help you Maddy?”
“Yes. I…” Her voice trailed away.
“Is something wrong?” Janna was only half paying attention. She was watching out the window to see when Hairy returned.
Janna pulled her gaze from the window. No sign of him yet. “Maddy?”
“What did you need?” Janna gave her an encouraging smile. It was obvious she wanted something, Janna just wasn’t sure what.
“Oh. Sorry.” Nervous laugh. “I was wondering if you might need some help.”
At Janna’s confused look she continued, “You know, a waitress?”
Janna heard the caution in Maddy’s voice. She doesn’t want to upset me. How sweet. The question surprised her, though it shouldn’t. She needed a waitress. She should’ve realized that sooner. I probably would have the minute it got busy in here tonight.
Janna smiled. “I do. Are you applying for the job?”
Maddy shook her head. “Yes. I need to make extra money to pay Mary’s medical bills.”
“That’s right. I’ve been meaning to tell you how sorry I am to hear about that.”
“It’s okay. I’m not the only one who has mounds of debt due to the tornado.”
“I know you’re not. But she’s your daughter.” Janna’s heart flipped at the thought something more serious than a broken bone might happen to Jessie. How quickly he’s grown on my heart.
“But she’s alive. They operated on her yesterday and she’s supposed to make a full recovery. I’m so blessed. Who would’ve thought they could save someone who’s had their liver cut in half?”
“You have more faith than me, Maddy. You have the job, by the way.”
“But I haven’t even interviewed…”
“There’s no need. I have a feeling there’s no motivation like a mother determined to care for her child.”
“God bless you Janna James,” Maddy gushed. She ran around the counter and pulled Janna into a bear hug.
“God bless you too, Maddy. I hope Angela gets well soon. Maybe she’ll even be able to go to the prom.”
“The prom? Oh I hope so. I hadn’t even thought of that but she had her heart set in it. She picked out her dress months ago.”
“Who was she going with?”
“Oh, good choice. He goes to my church and sings in the youth group.”
“Yeah, and he’s cute too. That always helps.” Maddy smiled.
Janna could already tell a mountain of worry had been lifted from the middle-aged woman’s shoulders.
“Where can I get an apron?” Maddy searched under the counter.
“Oh. Are you going to start now?” Relief washed through her. She was thankful God had been watching out for her because she would’ve been in here running around like a crazy person trying to run the whole place by herself.
“Yes.” Maddy grinned. You know how busy this place gets at supper. If I don’t stay, how will you do it all alone?”
“God bless you Maddy. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that.”
She shook her head. “It’s this horrible tragedy. Nobody’s thinking straight right now.”
“You got that right.” Alarm was beginning to work its way into Janna’s mind. Hairy hadn’t returned yet. “I’m just gonna see if…” She broke off as Hairy came running down the path toward the restaurant. “There he is,” she said in relief.
“Whose dog is that, anyway?”
“He belongs to Jedidiah Crane. He just moved into town a few days ago.”
“Oh yeah. I saw him at the store the other day. He’s a dreamboat. If I was ten years younger…” She grinned.
Maddy jerked to face her. “Huh?”
Janna felt her face grow warm. “I said he’s mine.”
The door to the restaurant opened just as she spoke and Jedidiah walked in. “What’s yours?” He held something brown between his fingers.
“I was just telling Maddy you were mine.” Scorching heat spread up her neck, but she was determined to face him.
His grin was so brilliant it caused her heart to skip a beat and then pound upon her ribcage.
“Then why do you have another man’s wallet on your doorstep?”
As realization dawned the grin disappeared from Jedidiah’s lips and Janna’s heart ran cold.
“Oh no. Look inside,” she demanded.
Jedidiah opened it, looked at her and frowned. “It’s his.”