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Bethlehem Rescue Mission Chapter 10

Chapter Ten


Ned did something he had never done in his entire life. He closed

his eyes and muttered a silent prayer. Then he found the iPhone that had

dropped to the floor. He tentatively pushed and held down the number 1.


The phone rang once. Ned’s heart was pounding, but there was no fear

in his eyes. There was hope. He swallowed nervously, licking his lips.

The phone rang again.


“Oh God, please, just one more time,” Ned whispered, closing his

eyes.


The phone rang again.


“Hello?” Dee answered. She must not have looked at the receiver, Ned

surmised. She didn’t know it was him. She was in a hurry. He thought he

knew why.


“What time is that service you’re going to tonight?” Ned asked

quietly.


“Who…is this you, Ned?”


“Yeah.”


“Well…why do you want to know?” she asked suspiciously.


“I plan to be there.”


Silence


“Don’t even go there, Ned. That’s not even funny. You are not

going. Do you hear me? I’m not going to have you sitting next to me, or

even know you are in the building making faces or rolling your eyes. Just

having you there, knowing what you believe would make me uncomfortable.

This is a cheap, and frankly, really stupid attempt. Did you really think

that just walking into a church on Christmas Eve with me would fix

everything? Are you that delusional? The attempt isn’t appreciated, in

fact, it’s an insult,” she said, her voice rising angrily.


“I’m not going for you, Dee,” he said.


Silence.


“Fact is,” he continued haltingly, “something…happened to me tonight

that I couldn’t even begin to explain. I want to…” here he took a deep

breath, “I want to go to church for me, and…well, I’m a little scared. It

would be nice to sit next to a friendly…well, a familiar face,” he

corrected himself.


Silence


“If this is some kind of deceitful trick…I’m warning you, Ned—“


“No, please,” Ned said, a hint of fear in his voice, “I don’t need

any more warnings. I’ve had enough of those for one night.”


Silence.


“Sounds like you were visited by the ghosts of Christmas. Have you

been getting drunk and watching A Christmas Carol?”


“Oh please!” Ned blurted out, “Please, I beg you, don’t mention

Christmas movies to me…ever again.”


Then Ned heard the most beautiful sound he had ever heard, a sound he

had been sure he would never hear again. Dee laughed. It was a soft, warm

laugh. There was no anger in it, no sarcasm. It was just Dee’s laugh,

hers alone. It was tonic to his wounds.


“Uh…why don’t you call Beth and Jes and see if they want to come too.


Tell them they’ll see a miracle tonight—their father will enter a church

without a bomb.”


“Well, actually” Dee said, “they were already planning to come. Jes

drove in tonight just to be with me, didn’t want me to be alone. Will you

be able to be here on time? I don’t even know where you’re at. Service

starts at 12:00 and I warn you, I’m not going to be late, not one minute.”

Her voice sounded hopeful but wary.


Ned laughed out loud.


“Well, normally it would take me about a hour and a half for me to

get home, so tonight I’m guessing it’s going to take much less—somehow I

know I’ll be on time. I just don’t think I will be allowed to miss it—in

fact, I’m not sure that it isn’t being held entirely in my honor—and don’t

ask,” Ned finished. He smiled in spite of himself.


“Ned,” Dee said firmly, “You need to know something. They are going

to talk about God tonight. They do that in churches. They’re also likely

to read out of the Bible. They’re going to do this on purpose, Ned,

without any apology or personal explanation to you. And almost everyone

there is going to be in sympathetic agreement with what is said. In fact,”

she said seriously, “they are liable to read the Christmas story right out

of the Bible.”


Ned smiled and glanced over at the torn and shredded pieces of the

Gideon’s Bible littering the floor of the motel room.


“Well, actually, I’ve started paying more attention to the Bible

myself lately…and I think…I know, he corrected himself, “I need to re-

evaluate some things…a lot of things.”


“We’ll leave at 11:50 sharp Ned, we won’t wait for you,” she warned.


“I’ll be there on time,” he said, “somehow I know I’ll make it.”


“OK then,” Dee said, the slightest hint of warmth entering her voice.


“See you tonight.”


“Yeah, see ya soon.”


“Right, well…” began Dee.


“Oh, one more thing—“ Ned began


“Yes?” Dee barked with a renewed harshness in her voice, the tone

that was waiting for the “gotcha,” the April Fools,” she feared was coming.


Ned sighed. “I’ve never said this to you in my life. In fact, I’ve

never said it to anyone…ever.”


“What?” she asked tentatively.


Ned struggled. “Uh..,” he sighed heavily.


“What?”


“Merry Christmas, Dee…and I mean that, even if I don’t completely

know what that means yet.” There was silence for a moment. He heard Dee

clearing her throat for an awfully long time.


“Merry Christmas,” he heard Dee whisper as her voice cracked. “See

you soon. Be careful coming home, the roads are wet.” He recognized that

voice. It was the warm, loving voice he had heard several times that

night; the voice that had spoken to him through movies, through dreams.


Home.


Ned Phillips was going home. He was going home in so many ways.


young man looking pensive

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