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by Jan Ackerson  
9/24/2006 / Short Stories

Jim slipped into the banquet hall just as the lights were dimming for the pre-dinner slide show. The colleges most illustrious alumnus had been asked to speak as a kickoff for homecoming weekend, and she was just taking the stage. Stupid flat tire, he thought.

Jim spotted a cluster of friends from his days in the dormitory, seated across the hall. Reluctant to disturb the speakers presentation, he pulled out an empty chair at a rear table. Glancing at the people seated there, he spotted not one familiar face and decided that as soon as the meal started, he'd excuse himself and go sit with the old gang.

In the dimly-lit room, Jim was finally able to relax. The flat tire which had caused his tardiness had also rattled his usual calm demeanor. He offered up a quick prayer: thanks for getting me here safely, Lord. Uninterested in the slide show, he began to study more closely the others at his table, hoping to recognize at least one friendly face.

His eyes were drawn repeatedly to a young woman sitting across from him. She was facing the screen, her face in partial profile. He found her stunningly beautiful. Her hair was golden, her faceflawless, her eyesserene.

Instantly, Jim was reminded of Tara, the girl who had almost become his fiance. She too was lovely, but flawed by superficiality of spirit. Jims mission was to do big things for the Lord, and Taras life after college had taken her farther and farther away from Him. Finally Jim had realized that he needed to let her go. It had been an ugly scene, and Jim was not in a hurry to repeat it. He had a quick word with his Heavenly Father--I dont want another girl like Tara, Lord. But Id sure like to talk to that girl.

When the lights came up, Jim introduced himself to the people at his table. Most of them, he discovered, had been freshmen the year that he graduated. He was about to excuse himself to find his own friends when the beautiful girl flashed a smile at him that made his heart thump. Maybe, he thought, Ill just eat here

Over rubber chicken and artificial mashed potatoes, Jim learned that her name was Carrie. She was luminous, speaking with great joy about her work with the music ministry of the church. She spoke of directing a childrens musical, and of volunteering in the local homeless shelter. Carries blue eyes sparkled, and Jim found himself utterly entranced: here was a woman with true inner beauty. Once again, Jim sent up a quick prayer: Oh, Father, could it be? Have You brought me to this place to meet this beautiful woman?

Too quickly the program drew to a close, and Jim found himself eager to continue his conversation with Carrie. Would you like to go out for cappuccino? I know a great little coffee shop not far from here.

Carrie blushed, and her eyes took on an expression that Jim could not read. I dont think sobut thanks anyway. Ive really enjoyed talking with you.

Then come with meplease? If I start to bore you, just tell me, and Ill bring you right back to your car. Jim looked to Carries friends for support. They were watching him intently. Finally, one of them said, Go for it, Carrie. I dont think he bites.

WellI do love cappuccino. Okay, Ill go with you. Still seated, Carrie leaned over and fiddled with something on the floor. Jim watched with surprise as she stood two footed canes upright, then used them to push herself to a standing position. She made her way slowly to the coat rack, leaning heavily on each cane. Jim noticed braces on each leg.

Carrie finally made her way back to Jim, whose face now had an unreadable expression of its own. You know what? Ive just rememberedsomething. II cant go out for coffee after all. I have to goIm so sorry, Carrie.

Jim turned and fled the banquet hall.

Jan is a Christian who has traveled through sorrow and depression, and has found victory and grace. She dedicates all writings to her Heavenly Father. Check out Jan's website at
Copywrite Jan Ackerson--2006

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