Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Soul Saver

The Soul Saver
• Barbour Books (May 1, 2012)
Dineen Miller

Chapter 1

The tremble of wind chimes roused her from slumber,beckoning with their familiar call. Darkness blanketed the room in peaceful silence. The last vestiges of her dream seeped away like sun-kissed mist, leaving only the clear image of a seedy bar—and her trepidation.

Where was God sending her this time?

As she freed herself from the covers, Lexie Baltimore touched Hugh’s arm, whispering a prayer of blessing and protection over her husband. His sleepy warmth tempted her to snuggle next to him, but her fingers itched to reveal the face of her next mission.

She stepped into her slippers and slung a cotton robe over her shoulders then left the room and her husband undisturbed. At the end of the hallway, she peeked into the small bedroom that once belonged to her as a child, confirming the rise and fall of her son’s chest. In sleep, Jeremy’s lips still puckered like they did when he was a baby. Awake, he was all boy and a “young man of eight” by his own definition.

Last night’s salmon dinner met her nose at the bottom of the stairs. She crossed the kitchen to the door leading into the breezeway. The wind chimes sang in tune with her steps and spurred her to the opposite door. A familiar urgency drove her on.

In the pale moonlight, her studio appeared more like a surreal world of shadows and deceptions than a small garage made into a workroom. On a small pedestal sat her latest commission—the bust of Pief Panofsky, the renowned physicist who’d passed away last year. Hugh had gotten her the gig for the symposium to honor his life next month. But tonight God called her to a mission, the face of which he would reveal through the work of her hands.

The basic form of a head stood on another pedestal, covered in plastic, waiting for her to release its identity. She’d sensed God would send her into action yesterday and had prepared the clay ahead of time.

After trading her robe for an apron, Lexie lifted the plastic. The earthy smell of red clay filled the small room. As she kneaded the ball of clay set aside to build the details, she studied the featureless head staring back at her. The clay warmed in her fingers and softened. Her hands tingled and took on a life of their own. She broke off pieces to form the nose, cheeks, and brow. Slowly a face began to form. The process captivated her, like a bystander observing, yet she remained fully aware of her hands doing the work.

A strong forehead—her first indication of a man. Sculpted jaw with an indent in the chin. Heavy-lidded eyes above high cheeks. Short hair, average ears, thinnish lips. With precision she moved over the rest of the structure, using either her fingers or various tools to fine-tune the face into the image forming simultaneously in her mind.

As she smoothed the last bit of his features into place, the urgency left, signaling completion. The ache in her shoulders registered in her consciousness like an ignored child, petulant and demanding. Her eyelids blinked across sandpaper. By the glow coming from her one small window, dawn had broken. She’d already worked for hours, and the day had just begun.

She rinsed her hands until only her cuticles remained the orange color of the clay and removed her apron. Just as she’d seen her mother do so many times when the studio had been hers. This time she was the one who stepped back to admire her creation.

This face seemed different, yet oddly familiar. The eyes kept drawing her in—kind and unassuming. The lips seemed to perpetually smile. No obvious reasons why God wanted her to reach out to this one. She leaned on her worktable, chin cupped in her hands. How many of these images had she created over the last few years? She never kept count. The only ones she recorded were her commissioned pieces. But God most certainly knew.

The aroma of coffee chased away the earthy smell of clay. A mug slid in front of her. With a slow and somewhat sleepy gaze, she traced her husband’s long fingers, broad palm, and sleeved arm up to his familiar face. “You are a godsend.”

“So you’ve told me.”

Oops. She’d done it again. Hugh’s evasive replies to anything faith related were her signals to back off. She sipped from the mug, anxious for the caffeine to hit her bloodstream. Almost time to get Jeremy up for school.

Hugh tilted his head to look over her shoulder. “How’s old Pief coming along?”

She rested her free hand on the plastic-covered bust. “Good. I’m almost done.”

He stood in front of her unknown subject, studying the features. “Is this another commission or one of your practice pieces?”

“Practice.” How could she tell him it represented a living, breathing person somewhere out there—one she would soon meet? He’d think she was crazy. And in reality, it was practice. Physically, because she honed her talents each time she did one, and spiritually, because each mission taught her more about obedience and strengthened her trust in God. It’d all be so much easier if Hugh believed.

The deep ache hit her again. She longed to share this aspect of her faith with him more than anything—the exhilaration of God’s touch, the satisfaction of helping another human being, and the completion and peace she felt when she did what God asked of her. How could she share the deepest part of herself when Hugh didn’t even believe God existed?

She set down the mug and wrapped her arms around her husband, catching the snuggle she’d relinquished earlier. Anything to feel close to him in some way. “Don’t go to work. Stay home with me.”

A soft rumble vibrated his chest. He kissed the top of her head. “My students wouldn’t appreciate that.”

“They’re adults. They need to learn to deal with disappointment.” She smiled and let a giggle bubble up. “Besides, it’s Friday. I bet half your class won’t come.”

“Lex, this is Stanford, not community college. If I don’t show up, I guarantee you my students will hunt me down. Physics students are the most tenacious of all, I think.” He kissed her full on the lips.

His familiar smell and touch wrapped her in indescribable comfort. Could she just stay in that place for a while? For a moment, she had not a care in the world.

Then he let her go. “I’ll try to get home early for our date night. Did you get a sitter?”

“Yep. All set.”

“See you later then.” With a wink, he smiled and went out through the breezeway, grabbing his briefcase along the way.

Lexie stayed by the door until he drove off, praying her usual prayers for protection and salvation. She probably sounded like a recording by now. Four years had passed since she’d run back to God, and Hugh had chosen a different direction.

When, God, when?

She wandered into her studio, clinging to her last few moments of peace before waking her eight-year-old dynamo.

The bust stared back at her.

“See you soon. Whoever you are.”

No comments: