And it's not in a class...
Chapter 21: Crystal’s First Real Test
Two weeks later, on a Thursday morning, Professor Parker came up to Crystal as she and Erick were about to leave for her next class. “Crystal, would you and Erick consider stopping in my office for a few minutes after your last class, today? Maybe an hour? There’s a transfer student coming in starting next week, and I think we’re going to need your help. If you can stop by today, I can arrange for her and her mother to meet us at 5:00 and we can all talk about the situation. I'm pretty certain she will need to talk to you two, maybe for some time, before she will be in an emotional position to do her best in her classes. Would you mind?”
”Not at all,” Crystal said without hesitation. “Can you give us a general idea of her situation so I can think about it a little between now and then? That way I'll be more prepared for her questions.”
”Sure, Crystal. Her name is Melinda Graham, she’s 20 years old, an accounting major like you. And that could be a plus. We want to schedule her in the same classes you are taking so you two can be there to prove to her that it can be done,” he said, smiling. “And yes, I’ve talked to your other professors and we’re all very proud of how you’ve done so far. That’s an additional reason we’re asking your help, along with your innate ability and knowledge of how to deal with these situations so well. You’re the real life proof that Melinda needs to see right now.”
”Thank you, Professor,” Crystal blushed. “I... deeply appreciate... the compliment," she stammered, still wonderfully surprised by such a compliment. "Um… what’s her physical and emotional situation?”
”You're very welcome, Crystal. I meant every word. Now. She has all her limbs, but her legs are permanently paralyzed and she may lose the use of at least one of her arms. Doctors aren’t sure yet. The biggest problem is her emotional state. She’s very down, just as you described to this class two weeks ago that one young man’s girlfriend would be. You see, Melinda was riding in a car her boyfriend was driving and he lost control of it. He hit a guardrail and the car rolled over. The roof of the car caved in and hit Melinda’s head, pressing down on her spinal column. Hence, the leg paralysis and questionable use of her arms. What hurt her the most, probably, is that she was a basketball standout in high school and had come here on an athletic scholarship. Without that scholarship, staying here will be hard for her, but she wants to try. That's another emotional weight she doesn't need right now. And the accident cost her her boyfriend too, because he couldn’t cope with what had happened to her, along with the help she needs now. I’ll let her tell you that story tonight. It will help her to talk about it, as you both know. Any more questions for now?”
”None yet, Professor,” said Crystal. “I’ll let her answer any others I come up with tonight. You’re right. Talking about it with someone who understands is always a big help. We’ll see you in your office at 5:00. Or as close to that as we can get there after my 4:00 class,” she laughed. “These things only go as fast as the driver can push them,” she said, grinning and looking teasingly at Erick as she tapped her hand on the side of her wheelchair.
”Thanks a lot, honey!” Erick laughed back.
Professor Parker smiled. “I’ll see you two lovebirds at 5:00. And this thought is for both of you: don’t ever change. You’re priceless to each other, and to this crazy world, just as you both are right now.”
Erick and Crystal looked at each other, and noticed they were both getting emotional thoughts after Professor Parker’s wonderful compliment. “Thank you, Professor Parker,” Crystal managed to mutter. We deeply appreciate… your honesty here.”
He smiled again. “That’s exactly what it is, Crystal. And I’ll tell you something else. I’m not the only one of your professors that feels this way about you two. We all do. You two are a breath of fresh air to everyone who meets you. Stay just as you are. Forever. See you at 5:00,” he said even more warmly as he left for his next class.
"God, Erick, I... knew we were getting something of a reputation by now for the way we're so willing to help others, but... did you have any idea that... we... God, honey, I can't even find the words for this. Can you?" she asked, obviously overwhelmed at Professor Parker's wonderful compliments.
"No, honey, I can't," Erick said, himself still a bit dazed. "But I will say one thing."
"What's that, Sweetheart?"
"It sure is a nice feeling to be this well respected, isn't it, darling? We have to be doing something right!"
"I know, honey, and I'm totally overwhelmed here," she said as the tears started creeping into her voice. "I mean... I never thought I'd find anyone to love me, much less respect me, and now... not only do you love me more deeply than I ever thought anyone would, you respect me just as much as you love me, and now, I'm respected so much by my professors and others so very much for simply doing something I feel led to do, that... it's a lot to take in sometimes. You know what I mean, honey?" she asked as the tears took over.
Erick hugged her one-handed and wiped the tears from her eyes. "Yes, my love, I can tell it's a bit much for you, honey. But it sure feels good, doesn't it?" he asked warmly as he began pushing her chair toward the doorway.
"Yes, darling, it sure does," she said just as warmly. "If this is what it feels like to make a difference for people, I want to keep on doing it."
"Have you thought yet about what you're going to tell Melinda tonight, honey?" Erick asked later as they ate lunch.
"Partly, honey. I'm having problems with what to say if she brings up the athletic scholarship. I don't yet know how I can turn that part of things into something positive for her, and Professor Parker's comment sounded like it might be a big issue if it affects her ability to stay here at UK."
"I know," Erick said slowly. "Honey," he said gently, "keep one thought in the back of your head. There will be times, whenever you're helping someone, that you won't BE able to turn everything into a positive. I"m not saying you won't think of something this time, as good as you've become at this you just might. I just don't want you getting disappointed when something doesn't work. OK? Look at me, baby."
Crystal looked up at him. "I know, Erick. This is one of those times when being as caring as we both are about people can hurt. But I know you're right. I'll be ok. It doesn't change my mind about doing this, either. Now OR at church. I just plain feel too good doing it. It's too satisfying," she said, cracking a smile. Then she saw the tears in his eyes. "What'd I say, honey?" she asked, concerned.
"Nothing, baby. You've just made me even more proud of you than I've ever been before. You've always been compassionate, and caring, but since the accident it's really become a wonderfully strong part of you. And I like what I see. It makes me even more proud that you're my wife."
Crystal sniffed so the tears couldn't get the best of her at his loving words. "God, Erick. I love you for what you said, but you... don't see it, do you?" she asked, half smiling, half serious, and still about to cry.
"See what, honey?"
"Oh, sweetheart, honey, you wonderfully unselfish man. Darling, it isn't the accident that brought this out in me. Not at all. It's your love, darling. It's your love and devotion for me that's doing it. You showed me from the very beginning, during that phone call when I told you about the accident, that it didn't matter to you. The accident I mean. That you love me in spite of it. That you love me, respect me, want me and really, truly need me in your life. And that showed me something. It's like Sandra said that day I called to tell them about the wedding. I told her to keep her spirits up, and she says "If you can do it, Crystal, I sure can!" As soon as I fully realized how much you were willing to love me and care for me, how much you truly need me, I also realized that if I am deserving of that kind of love from you, which I still don't think I am, and if I could be that much of an inspiration to Sandra, that I should remember that, and pass it on to others. To show them that they deserve it too. All the accident did is give me an open door to doing the same thing for others who are disabled. They'll talk to me more easily now than they would have otherwise. I didn't see it then of course because we hadn't been together for your love to bring all this out in me yet. But I realized it a few weeks back, and was reminded of it when Professor Parker started telling me about Melinda. No, honey, it isn't the accident that brought this out in me. It's you, and the way you love me. I owe all these good feelings I'm getting helping others to you, baby. You showed me what real love and compassion are, even then, in that phone call, and you're still showing me. And I love you for it."
”God, Crystal,” Erick began, obviously emotional. “I know you had to say it now, because we both promised we wouldn’t hold back the answers to direct questions. So that we’d both know the answers we heard were honest, heartfelt first reactions like we both want to hear. But… God. You really got to me back when you found out I hadn’t even been close in thinking I knew how much you love me. And now, you turn around and tell me that it’s my love for you that’s bringing this out in you. Sweetheart,” he said as he wiped his eyes, “I think we’ve just proven again that what you said about our love being something no one else will ever believe is true. I… don’t know how in the world I’ll ever be able to thank you for a compliment like this, my love. Just to know that my love has genuinely touched you that deeply means the world to me,” he said, his voice trailing off as he fought to keep his crying from being heard. She put her hand out and held his as they looked at each other silently for a few moments and he pulled himself together. Once again, they needed no words between them. They let their eyes do the talking. A few minutes later, they headed for her next class.
Erick knocked on the door of Professor Parker’s office at 5:08 that afternoon.
”Come in,” Professor Parker called.
Erick opened the door, then wheeled Crystal into the office, closing the door behind him. He pulled Crystal’s chair up to the side of the last empty chair in the room, sitting in that chair, having put Crystal on the side of him next to Melinda’s wheelchair, intentionally, to help Crystal's communication with her. He immediately noticed Melinda trying to look at Crystal without being obvious. He made sure she didn’t see him noticing her. She appeared to Erick that she would be about 5'5" tall if she were standing. Slender, though not as slender as his Crystal. Her hair was coal black and flowed down to her shoulders. Erick found himself thinking, "Her ex boyfriend is going to regret walking away. It won't take her long to find someone."
”Thank you, Crystal, and Erick, for taking the time to meet with us. Mrs. Graham, Melinda, this is Crystal Sandlewood. Oh, I’m sorry, Crystal,” he said as she chuckled. “I mean Crystal Metcalf, he corrected himself, “and her husband, Erick. They were married a few months ago, but after the school year began. Sorry, Crystal," he said, smiling. She nodded understanding so as not to interrupt him. "Erick and Crystal, this is Melinda Graham, the transfer student I mentioned to you this morning, and her mother.” Once they’d all greeted each other, Professor Parker began.
”Melinda, and Mrs. Graham, I noticed you both looking at Crystal, and I think it would be safe to say you’re wondering about her situation. Right?”
”Right,” Melinda said quietly. I just… didn’t want to pry by asking. I know I wouldn’t want to talk about mine to a stranger if I didn’t have to, so I couldn’t blame her either.”
”Honey…” her mom began.
”Mrs. Graham, may I talk to Melinda a moment?” Crystal cut in. “I don’t mean to cut you off, I’m sorry for that. But where our bodies are concerned, Melinda and I have been through similar traumatic feelings. Fear, Denial, and thinking we’re not whole human beings for starters. Fear of not being loved anymore because we‘re not ‘normal’ now, fear of not deserving to be loved, wanting to deny the whole thing happened, hoping it would all turn out to be a bad dream, sometimes even being willing to settle for a nightmare or two about it as long as it turned out not to be real, and certainly not feeling like a whole woman.” Softening her voice and leaning over to Melinda, she said gently and softly, “Am I right, Melinda?”
Melinda looked at her and Crystal saw the surprise she hoped she’d see on Melinda’s face. Melinda nodded slowly as she tried to find the courage to speak. “Yes… yes, Crystal. All of it,” she said as she fought heavy tears. Crystal wasn’t sure if they were happy tears, knowing that someone understands, or if they were still sad tears with memories of what caused it all for her coming to mind. Gently, Crystal continued.
”Want to know how I knew?” she asked softly.
”Because you’ve been here, right?” Melinda asked softly, looking Crystal in the eye. Crystal looked right back at her, to make sure Melinda noticed how firm Crystal meant to be with her feelings.
”Right, Melinda. And only five months ago. For someone who feels like we do, five months isn’t very long, but feels like ages.”
”I know. Even my few weeks feels like centuries right now. And… you have a husband who cares for you. That… has to make it easier than mine is.” Crystal knew Melinda was referring to her lost boyfriend.
”Melinda, look at me please?” Crystal asked gently. When she did, Crystal continued.
”Melinda, yes, I have Erick now, but when this happened we hadn't met face to face yet, so I didn't know if I'd still have him with me after he found out or not. Just like you and your boyfriend, I had met Erick before my car accident. And, just like you, when I found out my leg and arm were gone, I thought Erick was gone from my life too. For two reasons. He lost his first wife to death from a car accident years ago, and I didn’t think he’d want to face dealing with the aftermath of another one. And secondly, I didn’t think he’d want to face all the hassle and lifestyle changes that caring for someone in my condition would mean for him. So, I was feeling exactly the same way five months ago that you are now.”
”Yes, but he didn’t leave. Mine did.”
”Melinda, maybe it’s better that you found out now about how your boyfriend felt about this than later.”
”Why?” Melinda asked. Crystal could tell her tone was curiosity and not sarcasm or disrespect.
”Because you know as well as I do that in our situations we have to have someone we’re comfortable with to help us, yes, but it also has to be someone we can trust. That we can count on at every turn. At least you found out where he stood on this before you had the chance to let yourself become dependent on him, on having him around. Finding it out later would have been even tougher. You know, if he’d tried for a short time then bailed out on you. Wouldn’t that have felt worse?”
”I… don’t know. At least I’d know he tried. This way it makes me wonder about his love altogether. Wait a minute! That’s your point, isn’t it?” she asked, perking up a little. “Even if this hadn’t happened, it could have been something else later on that he may not have been able to handle. Maybe you’re right. Maybe he didn't love me as much, or at least as deeply as we both thought he did.” Crystal saw both Melinda and her mother smile.
”Exactly, Melinda. This way, you know exactly where you stand, and what you have to do to get your life going again.”
"I like knowing where things stand,” Melinda said, risking a smile.
”Thank you, Crystal,” Melinda’s mother said warmly.
”You’re welcome, Mrs. Graham.”
”Please. Call me Alice. I’m beginning to see why Professor Parker wanted us to meet with you.” Please. Go on.”
”Thank you, Alice. Hearing that means a lot to me. Now, Melinda, look at me. I want to see your face when I tell you this one,” Crystal said, smiling. Good. Now. Don’t you dare, ever, get the idea that your life will never include a boyfriend, and a husband. And I can prove that.”
”Sure, you can, Crystal. You have Erick.”
Crystal knew it was her emotional pain talking, and let Melinda’s comment pass. Calmly, warmly she continued. “No, Melinda, that’s not what I meant. Listen carefully and you’ll see what I do mean. About a month ago, Erick and I were headed into the Student Union for lunch. Another student, obviously nervous, approached us, and he didn’t see my wedding rings, because the very first thing he did was ask me out to dinner.” She watched Melinda’s face intently.
”You’re kidding!”” Melinda said, totally surprised. “He really asked?” Crystal and Erick both heard her new mood, and saw a warm, appreciative smile cross Alice’s face.
”Yep, he did. I was flattered, I have to admit, and before I told him why I couldn’t accept his invitation, I told him to make sure he never loses his obvious compassion for those of us with disabilities. That it will be deeply appreciated by all of us that he meets in his life.”
”And you told him right, too,” Melinda said, smiling now. Then Crystal saw a bit of doubt in Melinda’s face, just before Melinda spoke again. “You’re not… kidding me, are you?” she asked. “Saying that just to make me feel better?” Crystal could tell Melinda didn’t mean to sound harsh, just trying to protect herself against more pain.
”No, she’s not,” Erick said, smiling. “To be honest with both of you, yes, you too, darling,” he said to Crystal, “I actually felt jealous standing there watching this young kid look at my wife that way,” he said, smiling.
As they all chuckled, Crystal said, surprised, “Now it’s MY turn to say it. You’re kidding, right?” Melinda and her mom laughed, and Crystal smiled. Inside too. She hadn’t expected this but it sure was helping her turn Melinda’s mood around.
”No, honey, I’m not. I wasn’t worried about losing you to him or anything, please know that. But I sure didn’t like the way it felt knowing this young kid was interested in my wife!”
”So… there really are others out there besides Erick who are willing to care!” Melinda said excitedly.
”Yes, there are, Melinda. So just keep your eyes, ears, and heart open when you are out and about in this world. On and off campus, OK?” Crystal said, picking up Melinda’s wide smile.
You can bet I will, Crystal,” she said warmly, a look of deep appreciation and gratitude on her face. “Thank you for showing me this isn’t as hopeless as it looked.“
Yes, I can’t thank you enough either,” said Alice. “I had no idea what to do to help Melinda.”
”You’re both quite welcome,” Crystal said. “It’s our pleasure. Um… is there anything else you want or need to talk about, Melinda?” Crystal asked quietly.
”Um… yeah.” Crystal quickly noticed the serious, depressed mood was back. “I… don’t know if I can… stay here. I… lost the scholarship with the accident.”
”And I have to continue to work if she’s going to have any chance of staying here,” Alice said slowly. “It’s just the two of us, has been since her father walked out when she was fourteen. So… we don’t know how she’ll get to school, and between classes, or home. Even if I can manage the tuition.”
Crystal immediately remembered what Professor Parker had said to she and Erick this morning. “Professor, is Melinda’s class schedule finalized yet, and are all of them as we discussed this morning?” She intentionally wanted them to wonder what she was getting at. If things were in place, she knew it would help their morale even more. And she didn’t want to get their hopes up if it didn’t work out that way. Alice and Melinda looked at her, curiosity more than evident in their faces.
”Yes, it’s all set,” Professor Parker said, smiling. As of 3:00 this afternoon.”
Erick realized what Crystal was thinking, and decided to see if it could be a complete package. “Alice, where do you and Melinda live?” he asked. Crystal looked at him, knowing his intent now, with love and gratitude all over her face. They had read each other’s thoughts perfectly - as always. Only this felt even better. Because it wasn’t for, or about themselves.
”About 40 minutes west of here, on the outskirts of the other side of the city, Erick. Why?” He looked at Crystal. She nodded only enough to be sure he saw her answer.
”It won’t change things much for us,” she said to him quietly. “It’s worth it to me. Thank you, darling!” She leaned toward him, her lips puckered. Erick kissed her quickly, then turned back to Alice, Melinda, and Professor Parker.
”Melinda, all your transportation problems are solved. Crystal and I will pick you up in the morning, and since all your classes are the same as Crystal’s, you go between classes, and to lunch with us, and we’ll take you home each night. Do we… have a deal?” he asked, calmly smiling in the hope of cheering her up. But when he looked at her, he knew she couldn’t answer. She was crying a river.
”Thank you both so very much,” Alice began. “You have no clue how much this means to Melinda and I. Really.”
”I… don’t… know what I… can do to… show you how… much I… appreciate… this,” Melinda sputtered.
”Just do one thing for us, Melinda,” Crystal said firmly, but smiling.
”Anything I can. You name it,” Melinda said, still fighting the tears. “But… what can I do for you?
”There’s at least one thing that’s totally in your control, even now,” Erick said firmly, but also smiling. Looking at Crystal, he saw a loving, knowing look that, as always, told him they were thinking the exact same thing. Again.
”What is it?” Melinda asked. “I’d love to have something under my control right now,” she said, eagerly curious.
”You do, Melinda,” Crystal smiled. “That one thing Erick and I want you to do for us in return?” She paused, not able to resist the chance to build Melinda’s spirits a little more.
”We fully expect you to get the best grades you can, in each and every class, the whole four years you and I are here.” As Melinda’s face lit up and the tears of happiness began, Crystal added, “Think you can do that for us? It is in your control, you know,” she said, smiling.
”I… sure can!” Melinda sputtered. It’s a deal!” she finished through her tears.
”Words just won’t let me tell you both, or you, Professor Parker, how grateful Melinda and I are to all of you,” Alice said, all but crying herself.
”Now that we’ve got all the big things settled,” Erick began, “there’s at least one more detail to be made clear here,” he said, smiling. He saw curiosity on all their faces, and loved it. His smile widened.
”Honey, you sound like my dad when the three of us were working on the details to get me up here in time for school if you remember,” Crystal said, grinning. “What are you up to?” Her grin was becoming infectious. Now all the others were wearing it too.
”Just this my lovely bride,” he grinned, "and yes, I remember that conversation very well. They smiled at each other knowingly.“Melinda, there’s one other thing I expect you to do for me, dear girl. I use every daily activity I can think of to help Crystal strengthen that left arm of hers in preparation for the time she’ll really need to rely on it. And I expect no less of you.” He grinned at Melinda, and she saw it. She wasn’t worried, there’d been too much happiness here for that.
”What… can I do?” she asked, purely and intensely curious.
”I’ll handle hills and steps, but on level ground or gradual slopes, you’re going to push your wheelchair with those arms of yours,” he smiled.
”But… the doctor said I might lose the use of them,” she said, confused. “How can I…?”
”That’s just my point,” Erick said. “You’ve seen those documentaries where people who have strokes or brain surgery teach their brain to resume normal functions they couldn’t do at first, haven’t you? Moving a once stationary arm or leg? We’re going to keep telling YOUR brain that those arms work, and they’re going to STAY that way. We’re going at this with the old saying, ‘Use it or lose it’,“ Erick said, smiling. “What do you think? You want to keep those arms of yours moving?” he grinned. He saw Alice and Melinda’s faces light up like beacons. Then all of them heard Crystal’s sobs.
”What’s wrong, Crystal?” asked Melinda. “God that sounds funny with me asking you what’s wrong after all the help you’ve just given me. What is it?” she asked, openly concerned.
”It’s not what you think, Melinda,” Erick quickly assured her. “Listen carefully. Crystal and I are both very emotional people. I’ll let her tell you what she’s thinking. Honey?”
”Erick’s right… Melinda. I’m… crying because… I love… seeing him use his… ability to… improvise and… solve problems… to come up with… ways to help… others. Like… keeping your.. arms moving. It all just… makes me… love him even more. Honey,” she cried, looking up at him, “I have to hold you the right way, baby. I just have to for that one!” she cried. He began to help her up.
”The ‘right way’?” asked Melinda, beginning to cry from the happy scene before her.
Erick laughed as he embraced the standing Crystal. “Yes, ‘the right way’. That’s our loving term for holding each other standing up, as if she had both legs. A lot of the time we can settle for hugging with her sitting in a chair or laying down on the bed or something, but if it’s an event or a feeling that really moves one of us to tears, then we just have to ignore her limitation and both enjoy a good, tight “normal” hug. Nothing less will do at those moments,” he explained as he squeezed Crystal one more time, kissed her quickly and helped her back into her wheelchair.
”I love that!” Melinda shouted. Um… Crystal, would you… mind if… I asked Erick to… do the same for me? Without the kiss of course,” she laughed. “It’s been.. weeks since I’ve… felt that kind of a hug.”
”Not at all, Melinda. Is that… okay with you, honey?” she asked Erick. When he looked at her, he saw that special twinkle in her eye. He lightly nodded, and only toward her.
”Sure, I can handle that,” Erick said, stepping up to Melinda’s wheelchair. “Come here, young lady,” he said, grinning. He put his hands under her arms, lifted her up and leaned her against him, putting his arms around her tightly. “How’s this, Melinda?” he asked, smiling.
”I love this! THANK YOU!” she squealed.
After about 30 seconds, Erick said, “Look at me, Melinda.” She lifted her head from his shoulder, leaned back a little and looked at him. Noticing her lips were closed, Erick quickly counted to three and planted a firm but steady grade-school type kiss on Melinda’s lips, holding it for a few seconds. Then he ended the kiss, leaned her back just a little, and said, “That’s for being such a trooper.” Then he gently seated her in her wheelchair again, smiled at her, and at Alice, and looked at Crystal. Love for him was all over her face.
”Thank… you, Erick!” Melinda said, blushing. “I… have to admit I… enjoyed that. I… needed it, I think.”
”I think you did, too,” Crystal said, smiling. She wanted to make sure Melinda didn’t think she’d been offended by it.
”You… didn’t mind?”
”Not at all, Melinda. Erick and I trust each other implicitly. I tipped him off to the idea,” Crystal laughed. I wanted to see your reaction. I knew you could use a surprise, and that’s the best one I could think of.”
”I said it this morning, and I’ll say it again, in front of these witnesses,” Professor Parker laughed. “Crystal, Erick, you two are priceless. To each other, and everyone else you meet. Never change. The world wouldn’t be the same without you two just as you are.”
”I’ll second THAT!” shouted Melinda.
”And you’re going to push that wheelchair of yours all you can for me, right?” Erick asked.
”Of course I am! Erick it’s the least I can do after a kiss like that!” Melinda said, laughing again, and found the rest of them joining with her.
”Have we got anything more we need to talk about this afternoon?” Professor Parker asked. “We can always do this again, you know.” He smiled.
”I think we’re done, Professor,” said Alice. “One look at my daughter right now tells me that much.”
Crystal smiled at Alice’s comment. ‘Thank you, Alice. That means a lot to me. Um.. Erick, honey?”
”Can you… think of a way that I can hug Melinda before we go? You um.. can’t hold both of us up.”
”Allow me,” Professor Parker said, walking over to Melinda’s chair. “Would you mind a different arm around you, Miss Graham?” he asked smiling.
”Not in the least, Professor, I’d… be honored,” she said nervously. He helped her up.
”C’mon, honey, you walked down the aisle, you can walk to Melinda,” Erick urged Crystal as he helped her turn around and head that direction.
In only seconds Melinda and Crystal had their arms around each other, Alice had tears in her eyes at seeing all the happiness before her after what she thought would be a traumatic experience for her and her daughter, and Erick and Professor Parker had wide grins on their faces from all the happiness around them, and in their hearts as they held the girls up and watched them hold each other tightly.
Remembering their meeting after the wedding with Pastor Markham, Crystal suddenly realized that the five of them were not alone in that room. Any more than their other little group had been after the wedding. Quietly, but firmly, she said, “Thank You, Lord. For guiding us to this place, at this time, and allowing us to see You work in our lives again. Amen.” She jumped, just slightly, as she heard a quiet chorus of "Amen" from the others. She smiled, inside too, loving the feeling she now had inside at knowing she had been heard, and she felt even warmer inside knowing the others felt exactly the same way about what she'd said in that prayer.