Redemption

re·demp·tion
rəˈdem(p)SH(ə)n/
noun
  1. the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil.

The next book in my Beach Haven series is A Soul Redeemed, so I wanted to take a look at the word “redemption” before I share a little excerpt from the first chapter.

I like the idea that redemption can also mean being saved from error, not just sin or evil. Every single one of us has erred in life in some way, big or small. We’ve all sinned, too, for that matter, but I doubt that most of us can relate to doing anything that is truly evil. In this book, I wanted to explore some of those errors and the regrets that go with them.

In short, I wanted to give a couple of my favorite supporting characters a chance to redeem themselves.

Jacqueline’s need for redemption is pretty obvious in light of her manipulative behavior in Her House Divided. To be perfectly honest, this character has really been bothering me since the end of that book. I’ve been wanting to tell her story, to explain why she does the horrible things she does. I wanted to face the challenge of somehow getting readers to like an unlikable character.

Ben, though, seems like a pretty nice guy, doesn’t he? The kind, easygoing, laid-back attorney has been sort of an understated comic relief character throughout the series. But what if he has a secret? What if he is the one who is truly in need of redemption?

That was my starting point for A Soul Redeemed.  I am tentatively looking at Friday, July 15 as a release date, but that date is not firm yet.

Ready to check out a sneak peek at Chapter one?

*****

A Soul Redeemed

Ben Jacobs took a deep breath and resisted the urge to kick the door of his car. It wasn’t the car’s fault that he was having a bad morning, after all. He tried shifting his briefcase, the box of doughnuts, the bouquet of flowers, and what remained of his coffee – having spilled half of it down the front of his suit on the drive to work – but still couldn’t manage to free one hand so he could shut the door.

Grunting, he put the box of doughnuts on top of the car and tried again. The box slid down the windshield, flipped over, and promptly landed upside-down on the pavement.

He closed his eyes. Bad enough that he had dumped the doughnuts on the ground; no man could be expected to gaze upon the tragedy of a fresh apple fritter destroyed in such a manner. The cruller and the éclair were acceptable losses on a day like today, but not the fritter.

Ben sighed. He set everything down on the ground and closed the car door with exaggerated care, after which he gathered his things and slowly made his way to his office. He half-expected the sky to open and dump buckets of rain on him just to continue with the whole theme of his morning, but the bright blue May sky remained annoyingly clear and cheerful, almost as though the universe itself were trying to get on his last nerve.

His assistant looked up in surprise when he dropped the flowers on her desk. “Happy birthday, Beverly,” he told her. “There were doughnuts, too, but they didn’t make it.”

“Thank you. My birthday is next month.”

“Of course it is.”

“The flowers are lovely, Ben. This was very sweet of you.” Beverly smiled up at him, taking in the rumpled and stained suit in one sweeping glance. “Spilled your coffee again?”

He nodded.

“And the white stuff on your shoulder?”

“Seagull.”

“Again?”

“Again.”

She chuckled. “Welcome back. I’ve put your mail on your desk,” she told him. “Along with your phone messages. Tiffany has already called twice this morning about the dog. And . . . I’m about to ruin your day a little bit more. There’s someone waiting for you in your office. I told her to wait out here, but she insisted. I’m sorry.”

Ben swore. His assistant was a deceptively tiny, middle-aged woman with the iron will of an army drill sergeant, and he knew from experience that there was only one person who refused to be intimidated by her. If that person was waiting for him in his office, his day was definitely going to continue with its downward trend.

He took yet another deep breath, squared his shoulders, and marched into his office. That’s right, he told himself. My office. Mine. This is my territory, my turf, and I am not going to let Jacqueline Davis push me around.

Jacqueline was seated at his desk rather than in one of the plush brown chairs that were intended for his clients. She was impeccably dressed as usual, in a mint-green dress that played up her porcelain skin and shoulder-length blond hair. There was an elegant grace in the way she moved when she leaned forward to rest her chin on one delicate hand, her lips curving into a humorless smile.

“Running a little late this morning, Ben?”

“Why are you here?” he asked. “Don’t you have some orphans to evict or something?”

“That’s on this afternoon’s schedule. I cleared this morning’s schedule so I could meet with you.”

“Fantastic. Beverly already told you that I have no interest in representing you,” he said. “Besides, you have an attorney, and you don’t need me.”

“Ah, that’s where you’re wrong. Please, sit down so we can discuss my situation.”

“You’re . . . in my chair, Jacqueline.”

Her laugh scraped on his nerves. She stood and strolled around to the front of his desk like a spoiled housecat strutting in front of a captive audience, and he couldn’t keep his gaze from sweeping up and down her trim figure and appreciating what he saw.

She was a tall woman, her eyes almost even with his when she stopped directly in front of him. There was a triumphant gleam in her eyes that told him she had noticed exactly where he had been looking.

 

Baggage Claim

My father’s best advice wasn’t anything he ever put into words.  It was something he taught us by example, through the way he lived.

That’s not to say he wasn’t fond of dishing out advice.  He was full of helpful hints and suggestions, most of which were somehow related to trusting our instincts and paying attention to the “vibes” of any situation.  He had many fantastic stories about times he had narrowly missed death or some other catastrophic event because he listened to his gut and walked away from situations.

No father would ever want his children to live the way my father lived.  To say he had a rough life would be an insult, because his life was so much worse than just rough.  He grew up in abject poverty, lost his father at the age of twelve, lost his brothers in a freak boating accident when he was twenty-one.  After that, he basically lost the rest of his family as well because his mother and four sisters never fully recovered from that tragedy.

He was married three times and divorced twice.  He moved to California when my sisters and I were very young, so he lost his children as well; even after he came back, we all three nursed a grudge toward him that even the strongest man would be hard-pressed to overcome.

He drank.  He drank a lot.  He narrowly avoided arrests for DUI on several occasions, but only because he was a silver-tongued devil who could talk his way out of almost any situation.

Through it all, he never stopped trying to form a relationship with his daughters.  He never stopped reaching out to his grandchildren.  He never stopped working; even on his worst drinking days, he was an exemplary employee who showed up at work to offer help on the days he wasn’t scheduled.  He was a meat cutter, a manager who managed his department even on his days off.

I guess you could say that life really kicked my Dad’s ass.

Through it all, he never stopped finding a reason to laugh.  He had a quick comeback for everything.  He told the raunchiest of raunchy jokes, the kind of jokes that take your breath away and make your toes curl up in your shoes.  The kind that make you gasp and go Oh, my God, did he really just say that?

He had the kind of self-deprecating sense of humor that showed the world he didn’t take himself too seriously, but he didn’t sink into self-mocking humor that was painful for the rest of us.  No, his goal was to make the people around him comfortable, even at his own expense.

I got to know him, adult to adult, in my late twenties.  He really liked my ex-husband, although Dad insisted on calling him “Ted.”

For the record, my ex-husband’s name is not Ted.

During one particularly rough patch in our adult relationship with our father, one of my sisters blasted into Dad about all of her feelings.  She talked about having “baggage” from all those years of growing up without a father, about the anger we all held toward him for his years of drinking and hard-living.

He listened to her.  He didn’t apologize because an apology at that point wouldn’t have changed anything.  He just took it.  He sat there and took it because he loved her and he knew that she needed to tell him those things.

He always tried to organize “family camp-outs” with all of his daughters and our families at a dreary little campground in Allegan, and that year’s attempt came shortly after her outburst.  It was a tense, uncomfortable affair.  I stayed away that year, but what happened next has gone on to become legend in my family.

Everyone was short-tempered and angry and really, really wishing  for an excuse to leave early, or at the very least a chance to use indoor plumbing.  As the group cleaned up after dinner, Dad turned to my other sister rather unexpectedly and asked her, “So, do you have any baggage?”

That was unfortunate, because apparently, she did.  She let him have it with both barrels.  She chewed him up one side and down the other and let him know, in no uncertain terms, that she had baggage.  In fact, as the story has been relayed to me over the years, her exact words at the conclusion of her tirade were “So if you want to call that baggage, then YES, I have baggage!”

An uncomfortable silence fell across the group.  Finally, after a moment, my stepmother leaned over to pat my sister’s hand.  “Honey,” she said softly, “your father asked if you had any baggies.  You know, to put the leftovers away.”

“Oh.  In that case, no.  I don’t.”

Life went on.   Dad never responded or defended himself.  He forgave, although he never asked for forgiveness.  When he died a few short years later, our family gathered at the church to talk to his pastor about what we wanted for his funeral.  We discussed his favorite hymn and decided who would sing it, and then the pastor asked us, “Is there anything you want the world to know about your dad?”

The three of us looked at each other and smiled, and we all three spoke at the same time:  “He didn’t have any baggage.”

My father’s best advice was to let go.  Let go of anger, of grudges, of regrets.  Let go and move on.  Life, he seemed to say, is too short to dwell on pain.  I often tell people how grateful I am to have inherited his sense of humor, but I hope I also got even a small bit of his resilience, his strength.  His ability to let the bad things go, to bounce back and get on with his life.

Dad’s greatest accomplishment in life?  He died without baggage.

This post is part of Finish the Sentence Friday, in which writers and bloggers finish a sentence and “link up” their posts. This week’s sentence was “My father’s best advice was …”  

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