As promised I have a little surprise for my Mocked by Faith fans; and a sneak peek for those who haven't read it yet. This is a chapter written for the original contest that led it to being published. Please excuse any errors since it was never edited for the book. I hope you enjoy a look into the mind of a father struggling to find the right person to arrange his son's marriage to.
James McNear's - Readying and Remembering
Four short days after our arrival, we were headed home again. The only reason we even visited my family in Minnesota was that I had wanted to acquire a dealership near there for the last ten years. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be going home with a new dealership, a new home and a wife for my son. As my wife sleeps on the plane, I spent the time thinking back about how we ended up on this flight in the first place.
It all started eighteen months ago with one phone call from my son saying he was not coming back from a day trip with his friends.
"Dad, please understand I need to find the woman of my dreams. I know it sounds silly, but it is just something I have to do. I know she's out there waiting for me, I just have to find her," he begged over the phone.
"Justin, don't be ridiculous! We will find the right one for you. Just come home, your mum is worried sick about you," I demanded.
"Sorry, Dad, I can't do that, I have to find her. She haunts my dreams every night," was the last thing he said before hanging up the phone.
His friends returned home that night without him. They swore they had no idea where he ran off to, but I did not believe them because Justin told his friends everything. I spent that night in his room wishing I hadn’t failed my son. It was also the night I discovered his secret. There is only so much you can hide from your parents.
There under the bottom edge of his bed were three loose floorboards. At first when I found the floorboards, I thought maybe I was going to find liquor or drugs, but my eyes bugged out when I saw the brown sketchpad. When did he start drawing? As I started in the front of the book thumbing through the pages, I was astounded. Every page was covered with emerald green eyes. The emerald green eyes of the woman who haunted his dreams. When he first said it, I thought he was speaking in a metaphor, but now I knew he meant it. He had been dreaming of a woman with green eyes, but not just any green, they were like gemstones glistening in the sun.
The haunting images were striking to say the least. I looked back over the years that it took to draw them all and realized he started drawing them as a child. Without a word to anyone, I put them back in their hiding place for safekeeping. So, this is what pushed my son to leave. The next day I went to Minister Peter and asked him if he knew of anyone with emerald green eyes, but to my displeasure, all the photos he showed me were of average green eyes.
Over the next four weeks we searched for him everywhere, the whole community knew he had run off in search of impure girls. For the first time in my life, I went to church daily to pray instead of my usual weekly attendance. I prayed he would find her, and hoped if he did, that we could persuade her to join our faith. It was disheartening that I felt my faith faltering because it did not give me what I needed. Just when I was about to give up on my faith for taking my son, my phone rang.
"Dad, I want to come home." He cried.
"Son, where are you?"
"A small town on the coast named Plymouth. Please, Dad, come get me. I was wrong to ever leave!" He sobbed harder.
"I'm coming, son, just don't move!"
I had my keys in my hand before I hung up the phone. Jane begged me to bring him back safely and not to yell at him as I got in the car. She knew that at times my temper could get the best of me and I would say things in the heat of the moment that I didn't mean. The three hour trip meant nothing to me except that my son was coming home.
My prayers were suddenly answered, and I wasn't going to screw it up again. My knuckles were pure white from gripping the steering wheel by the time I reached the beach. He was right on the beach when I pulled up and hopped out of the car.
"Dad!" he bellowed as he ran right into my open arms.
"It's okay, son, we'll fix this," I was never more thankful to hold my son that night.
"I promise, Dad, I'll marry whomever you think will be right for me. I won't fight it!" I could see in his eyes that he meant every word.
As we drove home, he cried and told me some of what had happened over the last month. So many young girls had thrown themselves at him.
I never told him about the sketchbook. Ultimately, I thought it best to let him have his privacy about his art. If he ever wanted to show me them on his terms, I would be there to see them, but I would not force him. I had to admit they were really good, you could actually see how haunting the green eyes were depicted. I guess when you are tortured by something for so long; it becomes part of you.
It was morning when I returned with him sleeping in the car and without waking him; I carried him into the house to where his mother was anxiously waiting.
"Oh, thank the heavens, he's home," she whispered as she held all the doors open on the way to his room.
I watched him sleep for hours, still not believing he was finally home. His mother was frantically trying to have everything ready for when he woke up. He definitely needed a shower and a good meal. I have never seen my son look so disheveled and hurt; it made him appear so young. I was right then and there that I started my new mission in life, to find him a wife with emerald green eyes.
Over the next eighteen months, that mission seemed destine to be a failure. That is until I went to my brother's house while I was negotiating a new dealership acquisition. My jaw dropped when on the mantel in his living room I saw them, the emerald green eyes of an angel.
"Who is this with the boys?" I asked my brother Joseph.
"Oh—that's Alexia Cross, isn't she just lovely? She’s one of their best friends. Why?" He cocked his eyebrow at me.
I didn‘t dare allow myself to hope. "She is probably spoken for . . ." I mumbled more to myself.
Joseph laughed. "Actually—no, her parents are really . . . selective about who they'll match her with. They have turned down every offer so far."
I gasped at the realization. "Really, how old is she?"
"She'll be eighteen in a week. Why?"
I let the optimism well in my heart. "I was thinking she might be a good match for Justin."
That caught my wife's attention. "May I?"
"Of course, Jane. Why don't you speak with Minister Jeff, James. I know he has been working diligently on finding someone for her. He should be in his office today. I could take you there if you'd like."
Seeing my wife eagerly nodding spurred me on. Joseph told me so many wonderful things about her as I drove to the church. If her eyes didn’t fuel my fire, his description of her personality sure did. Joseph was right, Minister Jeff was in his office.
"Good Morning, Minister Jeff. You remember my brother James from England?"
"Why, yes, I do. How are you?" I accepted his hand to shake.
"Very well, thank you. I was hoping to speak with you for a moment about Alexia Cross."
"Well then, you have my undivided attention, please carry on." He smiled, taking his seat behind the desk.
"Honestly, we have been searching for a match for my son Justin. I won't mislead you; he is currently attending the re-virgining retreat in England. He was led astray, but he wants me to choose a match for him, and I have been searching for the right one for the last year and a half."
"I see, but you believe him? He is recommitting to our lifestyle?"
"I do, and for the last eighteen months, he has thrown himself into our faith without any reservations."
"Okay, well—I'll be honest. They have been reluctant to select anyone, although that doesn't mean they won't entertain the idea. I'll tell you what I can do: tonight is the last New Couples Dinner before the wedding season begins. You and your wife bring Justin's portfolio to the dinner. I'll go and speak with her father this morning and hopefully—he'll meet with you there. That will also give you a chance to see her in person. Also, we have one date left on the calendar so I will pencil you in until we know the outcome."
"It sounds perfect, but might I ask you to relay a few changes I'm willing to make to the standard contract?" I scribbled down the changes I hoped would be acceptable.
"Until tonight then."
I grinned like a fool, nodding.
When we got back, I filled my wife in on the details of what was going to happen this evening. She grinned as much as I had. I could see the gleam in her blue eyes, the same gleam I saw the day we were tied to one another. The day our parents promised us to each other was the happiest day of my life.
I could see she was getting jumpy as the time to leave approached. As always, I kept her grounded enough so she wouldn't jump the girl when they arrived. The girl was absolutely stunning, and perfect in every way, from the way she carried herself to the mysterious look in her gem-colored eyes. I knew the moment he saw her eyes, he would know she was the one for him.
"Minister Jeff, good evening. Are they coming?" I asked, walking up to Minister Jeff.
"Yes, his interest is definitely piqued. In fact there they are now."
Jane fiddled with her dress as they crossed the room. She knew this could be our only chance to ensure Justin had the bride of his dreams.
"Thank you for coming. Chris, Katrina, please let me introduce you to James and Jane McNear. They have just purchased one of the newly built townhouses." They both smiled and accepted our hands to shake.
"Is that her? She is beautiful." Jane appraised Alexia from a distance.
"Could we talk about this privately?" I asked the minister.
"Yes, of course, I need to begin the ceremony. Why don’t you use my office," Minister Jeff offered. After a few nods, we left the main room to discuss the only reason we had came tonight.
I began immediately once the office door shut. "I know what you must think, even my family thinks it’s true, but he refuses to speak of the girls he’s dated."
Chris heaved a heavy breath. "Well, after talking to my wife about this, we have agreed to give him the chance to be faithful to our church, the fact that he is reconfirming himself to our ways, we think he might be a good match for our Alexia."
"That is very gracious of you, thank you. Now—from what we have heard about your daughter, she is a bright young woman and quite beautiful, I might add. Here is a photo of Justin and his medical records." I handed over Justin’s portfolio. "As you can see he will be a very good addition to your family, as will Alexia be to ours."
The seconds ticked away, marked by the clock on the wall. Chris and his wife huddled over the records, reading every word, while we did the same of Alexia’s.
She couldn’t be any more perfect. The class picture on the top showed a beaming smile. Her grades were always excellent. Physically there were no imperfections. Not a single incident marred her records.
"I have to say: I am a little surprised about the amounts of the Bride Price and Dowry. Don’t get me wrong, both are very agreeable, but twice the normal amounts," he finally said.
I smiled, feeling confident this could happen if I played it right. "I have postponed this for far too long. I only want what is best for my son’s future; and I wanted you to know we are serious about this. That is why they are doubled. Justin has made it clear: he will abide by any choice I make. And, I think Alexia is the right choice for him."
"We apparently suffer from the same problem of finding the perfect person for our children. I can respect that, and honestly, I think we can agree our children will be good for each other. I’ve added in we‘ll be purchasing them a house here." With a firm hand shake we nodded our agreement.
Chris spread out the three copy of the contract for us all to take turns signing. Katrina followed her husband using the gold, metal pen to seal our children together.
Jane’s eyes welled with tears when she signed after me. She’d cried so many nights over every lost chance Justin had. Her heart had broken every time someone said no to our son. No parent wants to hear their child is unwanted.
"Come here, sweetheart." I pulled her to my chest. "Alexia is going to make Justin very happy."
"We should ask for a date for the wedding as soon as possible. If our community doesn’t have any we may have to do it in England," Chris muttered, holding Katrina.
"Just in case you said yes, Minister Jeff gave us June twenty-fifth."
"One month away? We need to start planning tomorrow! I‘ll call Patty to start looking for a house." Katrina laughed.
"Can I help?" Jane peeked up from my shirt.
"It’s your son’s wedding, of course you can help."
"Let’s sign this and get back before the announcements are concluded. I want the world to know they are contracted.
As we walked back to the dinner, Chris and I discussed my wanting to to supply Alexia with a car from the dealership. If Justin were here I’d have expected him to do it for her, but with him being at the retreat the duty to see to her care fell on Chris and I.
We waited while Chris approached Minister Jeff on the stage. He took the impending news well.
Raising his hands, the minister called the room to order, "Okay folks, if you would be so kind as to allow an addition to tonight's agenda. We have a very special announcement to make. Alexia Cross, would you please come up here."
I fought back a grumble when they all stared at the poor thing. We’d seen those looks in England.
"Tonight Alexia Cross has been contracted to marry Justin McNear from our sister church in England! Since he was unable to make the trek himself tonight; we will be holding their tying ceremony on the day of their wedding, which will be held next month. So please join me in congratulating the future bride."
Even though everyone clapped the looks continued from several of the parishioners. We’d been through the same thing with Justin. It seemed her community harbored the same ill will toward her parents taking so long to find her the right match. No doubt from the length of time it took for Chris to accept. Were for us it was Justin himself who made finding a potential pairing near impossible. Those days were over now, and both of them would now be able to build a life they’d be proud of.
Chris and Katrina hugged Alexia first while Jane and I waited in the wings.
"Oh - Alexia, we finally found someone who will love and take care of you." Katrina sobbed, clutching her to her chest.
"This will be good for you also," Chris whispered as chocked up as I was.
"Alexia, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I think you will be just what our son needs." My wife hugged her.
“Your father was right, you will make a good wife for my son.”
It felt weird to touch a woman who wasn’t my wife. The touching restrictions from my side were removed the moment we signed the contract. She was already considered my family. And as such, I’d be responsible to protect her as my own daughter.
My heart swell, just knowing I hadn't failed my son made me proud.
With the announcement made, I could finally relax. The only thing I had left to do was tell Justin.
"Listen, Jane, I don't want you describing her to Justin. I want this to be a surprise, because he may run all the way here if you tell him too much about her."
hearing my wife giggle reminded me of the day we were married.
"Whatever you say. I just can't believe we found someone so perfect for him," she cooed, embracing me.
We spent the rest of the evening getting to know her better. How we got so lucky on one trip, I will never know, but I hoped it had something to do with all the praying I had done for the last year and a half.
I was pulled from my thoughts as they announced we would be landing shortly. Gently, I stroked my wife's face with my fingers nudging her awake.
"We're landing, love; it's time to get our new life started."
"It's going to be wonderful, I just know it, I can feel it," she chirped groggily.
"Yes . . . it will be." I placed a quick, loving kiss on her lips.
We had it all planned by the time we arrived home to retrieve Krista from her friend's house. However, before I could stop my wife, she blurted out the news.
"Krista, we found Justin a wife! She is so perfect; you are just going to love her!"
"So when do I meet her?" Krista gasped.
"When we move to Minnesota at the end of the month."
Krista hissed, shaking her head. "Wait, we're moving? So - that's what this trip was about?"
"Yes, we are moving. I have a new dealership to get up and running. Justin's wedding will be at the end of June and his future wife lives there."
"Well - you better find me someone so special over there, because let's face it the pool here is real shallow," she sneered.
"I would do no less for you than I have done for Justin. I will find you 'Mr. Right,' but, as you so eloquently put it; the pool here is very shallow. You will have two years before I need to find you a husband, so it will give me plenty of time to find your Prince Charming." She smiled and nodded. "Tomorrow we start packing so we can have everything shipped in time. So let's get to work, we have just under a month to get it all done."
They did not hesitate, while I called the shipping company I use for my cars, they took off to get all our belongings ready for the move. The shipping company was more than happy to do the job. So all I needed to do was find a moving company that would bring everything to the shipyard. Again this task was not a problem because when you throw enough money at someone, they will move your stuff anywhere at anytime. Our biggest hurdle was what to do when everything left for the states. We couldn’t just very well sit on the floor.
Popping into my home office, Jane asked, "James, I was thinking would you mind if we left the beds here and bought new ones for the townhouse? Maybe we could have these donated to a family in need."
"Sure love, anything you want. I will order them today and ask Joseph to let them in when they deliver them. I’m going to keep the beds here though. What if one of us has to come back? They can be donated if we sell the house. Okay?"
I chuckled when she tickled my neck while she kissed it.
I never show my affection for my wife in public, but in the privacy of our home, she was the queen and I her lowly servant. I may be strict on the appearance of how people perceive us, but I was never short on showing her that I love her as much today as I did the day she was promised to me.
As she asked, I ordered all new mattresses and beds for the new house. I showed her them online to see if you she approved.
"Oh . . . James they're beautiful, they will match perfectly." She grinned happily.
"She's putting some things of Justin's in a few boxes we found in the cellar."
"Minister Jeff said he would have no problem finding her a match when she turns sixteen. He even showed me a few possible candidates to think about." I smiled knowing that would make her happy.
One thing about my wife, she did not have many friends. She devoted her life to our church and family, which kept her happy, but not thriving. I hoped that our move would change that, since soon our children would be gone and I couldn’t have her being unhappy.
Two weeks after we returned home, I had managed to find someone to run my dealership here. I would still have to visit from time-to-time as I do with the Italy dealership, but I could live with that. My dream of my wife finding friends was also coming true. Everyday she chatted with Kat and Alicia, not just about the wedding, but everyday things. With everything already gone from the house that would be going, the furnishings were a little sparse, but it was only for another two weeks, I could live with that.
"James, I feel bad that I can't go to the shower for Alexia. It's a shame no one from our immediate family will be there." I could see it in her eyes it really was bothering her.
"I tell you what; I will set up a video conference on my laptop for you so you can participate. How would that be?"
Seeing her eyes light up made it worth any trouble that I would encounter. It was frowned on for our wives to have unsupervised access to the internet or computers. Anything that would corrupt them from the outsiders was usually avoided. Besides, she was right someone from our immediate family should be there even if only by video.
"Really? You wouldn't mind? It would mean I couldn't ride out with you to pick up Justin."
I smiled. "No, love, that's fine. I need to tell him about the wedding and he might feel better if it was just us guys."
"He will be happy with Alexia; I just know she is the right one for him. I still cannot believe how beautiful her eyes are. I hope their first born has them, they are just breathtaking." She giggled, looking all dreamy over the idea of having a grandchild.
"He will be, and I know she is the one for him. As long as their first born is healthy, I could care less what color its eyes are, or what sex it is for that matter. Although, it wouldn't be so bad if it were your eyes, my love." Secretly, I hoped they would have a son first, as I had.
"Oh - I forgot, yesterday was the last day of school for the kids. Minister Peter sent this package for you to take to their school in the States. Justin's diploma is in there," She added it to the pile paperwork I’d be taking on the plane with us.
Standing, I fixed my suit and joined her on the other side of my desk. "Thank you. Now we should get moving if we’re going to the graduation." I patted her bottom end to get her moving toward the door.
"Do you think he's going to be upset that he's missing it?"
"When we talked about him going to the retreat, he said he was fine with it. He was too focused on getting his life back together rather than worry about a frivolous thing like a graduation ceremony." Deep down, I couldn't help but think he might be a tiny bit upset about missing Alexia's graduation, not to mention her birthday.
I had raised my son right when it came to making sure you were always present for your promised one's events. My eighteenth birthday was only a second thought to hers. I knew Justin would feel bad, but there was no way around him missing them. In his stead, I made sure to send a gift from all of us so she would know we were thinking of her on those special days we missed.
Before I left to pick up Justin, I had the video conference all set up and ready to go. Jane was thrilled to be included and Kat really went out of her way to make sure her half of the conference was perfect. She also let me know that the new beds were all set up for our arrival. With everything ready, I headed out for the two hour ride. Since it would be just him and me on the way back, I took the red Lamborghini. I was going to miss that car until it was delivered to us in the States.
Minister Mark met me in the parking lot when I arrived. "Good morning, how's my boy doing?"
"Quite wonderful I must say. He has given the program 130%. I have to say, I think you were right about him still being a virgin. He held nothing back and even broke down several times during our private sessions. You should be proud of him, I know I am."
"I am. So he is ready to leave?"
"Yes, I think so. He is quite worried about his future. He said you were having problems finding him a wife. Is it true?"
Grinning, I had to brag, "Well — honestly, I was looking for the right one, and I have found her. We’re moving to the States, but Alexia is absolutely perfect for him. She is the woman of his dreams."
"His dreams? Really?" The minister looked skeptical.
"Yes . . . really. Did he ever tell you about his dreams?"
Quirking his eyebrow, he asked, "The emerald green eyes?"
"That's the one, we found her." He joined my laughing.
Clapping my back, Minister Mark gestured to walk toward the porch where Justin waited. "He will be thrilled; he has given up all hope of finding her."
"So had I, but then I saw Alexia, and I knew she was the one. We signed the contract that very night. I had to make her Justin’s immediately."
"I have to say most fathers wouldn’t have taken their son’s desires into consideration, you truly are a wonderful parent." He shook my hand.
"Well . . . Let’s give him his release papers."
"Yes, I think he has earned it."
Justin already had all his bags ready when we arrived. After he ran for the car, I settled the bill; he would be shocked and furious if I ever told him just how much I paid to fix his mistake. He took the news of his marriage and our move quite well. Justin sounded slightly upset, but relieved at the same time. He seemed to be warring with himself over whether he should be happy or not. I deliberately held back her description because I meant what I told my wife, he would have run all the way to Minnesota if we had told him.
With England behind us, we settled into the new townhouse. Justin seemed happy with how everything was going with one exception. He was still curious about his future wife, but with the wedding one day away, I did not want to ruin his surprise. So you can imagine my surprise when the Cross' stopped by that night to formally introduce the couple.
"Good evening, please…come in. I'll get Justin from his room."
I called out as I walked upstairs. "Justin?"
When he wasn’t in his room, I called louder. "JUSTIN!"
"Jane, where is Justin?" I asked, walking back downstairs.
"I haven't seen him since dinner. Are you sure he's not in his room?"
"No, I just checked." I could see Alexia was getting worried.
"Alexia, please relax. I’m sure he’s around here somewhere." I patted her hand, which was shaking.
"He probably saw me through his window and ran," Alexia’s voice trembled.
"I’m sure that’s not the case." I tried to reassure her.
"James, are you sure he was ready for this?" Chris asked accusingly.
"Of course, he was. He just . . ."
When Krista walked in we were all caught off guard. "He walked toward the main gate right after dinner," her words sent Alexia over the edge.
The poor thing fell apart before my eyes. Seeing her shaking was more than I could take. I called his cousins hoping he had gone there looking for a picture of his bride-to-be, but they hadn’t seen him. Joey was perturbed when he heard Alexia crying in the background. Thankfully, they agreed to go looking for him while we tried to piece the sobbing girl's heart back together.
"I told myself he would at least wait until after he met me before he ran. I was wrong, just the thought of marrying me sent him running." Alexia whimpered in Katrina's arms as she rocked her gently.
"Alexia, I am sure he's just gone for a walk or something." She didn’t believe her mom from the way her head shook.
"Dad, I want to go home now!"
Chris looked pissed and I did not blame him, I was pissed too. "Anything you want, sweetie."
Alexia cried harder at his endearing promise if that was possible. In the end, he had to run after her when she dashed out the door. I was on the edge of losing my temper, but I called his cousins again, hoping they’d found him. When they said no, I was practically out of my mind. Justin had promised he would marry whomever I selected; and now he had run off. Did he not realize how much it would cost to break a wedding contract? Not to mention we would never get shot at another one.
When his cousins finally brought him home, I lost it. It never occurred to me that he just wanted a little peace before tomorrow's ceremony. My screaming only served to put him on the defensive, which I regretted immediately. At Jane's insistence, I called the Cross' hoping it was not too late to salvage the wedding.
"Chris, it’s James. Justin didn’t run off, he just took a walk to the beach. He's home and very sorry he missed your visit."
"I see; I guess I can understand that. Could you hold on for a moment?" Chris asked.
"Of course." I could hear him explaining everything to Alexia and Katrina.
"James, everything’s fine here now. She is taking a little time to recover from her breakdown, pre-wedding nerves and all. We’ll see you tomorrow at the church. Okay?"
"Of course, tomorrow at eleven sharp, you have my word." I could see Justin was disappointed, but it was the price he would have to pay.
After Justin slipped his cousin Johnny a note to deliver — to Alexia no doubt — he went to his room. He slept about as well as I did; he paced the guestroom while I listened to his pacing. It was a long night.
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