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The Unlived Life of Russell Stone, Part 10

In choices, divorce, fear, fiction, love, marriage, relationships, single on October 4, 2011 at 12:02 am

A Novelette

by Cheryl Courtney Semick

Rachel is absorbed in Mrs. Stone’s book of poetry amidst a restless sea of defendants and plaintiffs, all waiting for their day in court. It’s 9:45 AM.

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When lies are love and love is a lie

When truth is pain one can’t deny

How does a heart fulfill its vow

When fear refuses to allow

The lie to live within its walls

Or let grace heal us when it calls

“Rachel?” My attorney sits down next to me as if to wake me from a deep sleep; his voice sounds distant and muffled. I look at him and can see in his eyes that I have changed.

“Rachel, they’ve cancelled our hearing and they can’t give us a reschedule date so I’ll call you, okay?”

I nod my head, unconnected from the news that my dissolution was again delayed. Steve had still not arrived and for some odd reason that bothered me, not in a disgust sort of way but more like a longing—like I wished he were there.

“Are you okay?” Jeff’s face was closer now, his look tense.

“Yeah—yes, I’m okay.”

“I don’t believe you,” he said, standing up and straightening his tie. “Let’s stop by Sully’s for a drink, my treat.”

Normally, I would have relished such an offer—especially from him—but this wasn’t an offer; he sensed something had changed in me and it unsettled him. Something had changed, but neither of us knew what it was.

“No thanks,” I said as I stuffed Mrs. Stone’s journal in my briefcase. “I need to get back to work. There are some issues that need my attention and a pile on my desk that won’t go away unless I show up …”

“You dodging,” he interjected. “What’s going on Rachel?”

We board the elevator with another attorney and client pair, orbiting some crucial strategy for their case and I clam up. The lines from that last poem have me paralyzed. I wrestle under its tethers—its voice screaming at my soul in a faint whisper: When fear refuses to allow

My mind butts into the conversation and attempts to apply logic: Is that what is wrong with me? Did I drive Steve away because I was afraid his love for me was a lie? Have I not extended years of grace to him already? When is it time to move on?

“Rachel, I insist, let me buy you a drink, we can take my car,” Jeff takes me by the elbow and escorts me off the elevator. I’m in such a trance I don’t resist and now we’re in his Jaguar heading to Sully’s.

“No,” I say.

“No? No what?” Jeff swings into a space in the parking deck and puts the car in park.

“No, I can’t be here—with you—I can’t do this.”

He laughs, “It’s a drink, Rachel, not a date. C’mon.” I don’t move and he lets a few seconds pass to see if my decision wavers. It doesn’t. He starts his car back up and pulls onto Main Street. Nothing more is said between us and by 10:10 AM I’m back in the parking lot at the Afterglow Journey Center. I don’t look back as Jeff pulls away; I sit on the bench outside the front door, numb and captive to words I’ve never heard. They are foreign and faint, yet strong and powerful—and I’m listening.

To be continued….

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Read from the beginning…

The Unlived Life of Russell Stone, Part 9

In choices, divorce, fiction, marriage, relationships, Writing on October 3, 2011 at 11:31 pm

A Novelette

by Cheryl Courtney Semick

Rachel’s court date is delayed. She stuffs Mrs. Stone’s journal in her briefcase and heads out. It’s 9:05 AM.

The first poem in Mrs. Stone’s journal was short, but drenched with pain—my pain. Betrayal and lies all wrapped up in a cloak of romance. It stung, and dredged up nasty memories of when Steve first rode into my life like a prince. How hard I fell for his deceptions!

My cell rang and pulled me from the prose.

“Rachel, your case got moved to 9:45. Where are you?”

It was my attorney. Great guy—why didn’t he ride into my life instead of Steve?

“I’m still at the office. We had a passing last night and I had to meet with the widow. I’ll be right there.”

“Okay. Steve’s not here yet.”

“Big surprise. See ya,” I said, and clicked off. I shoved my cell into my briefcase along with Mrs. Stone’s journal. The courthouse is just blocks from my office so I determined to jump right back into those poems as soon as I could.

The courthouse is crazy. Seems everyone is suing someone, but no one wants to be here. My heart rate rises at each floor on the elevator. I watch the numbers change. Four is where my marriage will be declared dead. I hope Steve isn’t here yet.

My attorney is pacing by the elevator doors as I step from them with a dozen other nervous souls. He grabs my elbow and leads me quickly to a bench. We drop and he barrels into typical, 90 mph lawyer-speak.

“Slow down Jeff, I don’t even know the meaning of half those words!” He sighs.

“Rachel, if Steve doesn’t show up, we can still go forward with the divorce. I’ll ask the judge for favor, given that you have been amicable throughout this process and I think he’ll go for it. I don’t think Steve has any more leverage to stop this again.”

I shudder. The past year-and-a-half of motions, continuances and the deposition damaged my emotions beyond anything I had experienced in my life. Why won’t he just let go of me?

“Okay. Good plan, thanks Jeff.” I pulled Mrs. Stone’s journal from my briefcase, un-wrapped the cord from around its cover and leaned back against the stark white wall.

“Where’d you get that?” Jeff asked.

“From someone at the facility. It’s poetry.”

Jeff raised his brows, “Looks valuable.” I smiled, catching his sarcasm. He knew I was not the poetry type and I detected his curiosity as to this odd distraction.

My eyes found the second poem. A lump formed in my throat as its first line: When lies are love and love is a lie …

I sensed a hunger form deep inside—I need something from this book. If you had asked me on that day what I was looking for in its pages, I couldn’t have told you. I just had this strange ache inside me; a strong force that held my wrist as I dangled over a deadly precipice. I wanted to do nothing but read that journal. I looked at my watch. It was 9:20 AM. Still no Steve.

To be continued….

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Read from the beginning…

The Unlived Life of Russell Stone, Part 8

In choices, divorce, fiction, judging, lessons, marriage, office, plans, relationships, stress on October 3, 2011 at 9:58 pm

A Novelette

by Cheryl Courtney Semick

Rachel walks to the elevator with Mrs. Stone’s journal in her hand. It is 8:45 AM.

I don’t remember walking to the elevator. In fact, I don’t remember anything from the moment Mrs. Stone handed me her journal until I opened it and began reading.

“Read this before you go to court,” she had said.

You must know that I am a very private person. In fact, the only reason I’m writing all of this down is because—well, you’ll figure that out soon enough. What I’m saying is, only my assistant knew of my court date. On my watch, gossip is grounds for immediate termination, so I’m quite sure Kevin wouldn’t risk losing his cushy paycheck just to indulge in a few morsels of that nonsense. So how did Mrs. Stone know I was due in court by nine?

I always maintain a professional distance from our patients and their families—most especially with the Russell’s. Her connections to our Board, her national renown as a poet and Mr. Russell’s condition all combined into a big red flag. When Mr. Stone was admitted, I held a mandatory powwow to explain that his time with us would require extreme discretion, not only with the patient’s personal information, but with the staff sharing their personal information in idle chit chat to him. Be kind, compassionate, attend to his needs and that’s all, were my instructions.

Until Angie got her panties in a bunch over Mr. Stone, all was well. Somewhere along the line she took it upon herself to play judge and jury over him and if I hadn’t addressed that when I did, we would now be facing repercussions of a most unpleasant sort. I hope she’s grateful I spared her a pink slip. Regardless, I’m confident she didn’t let spill any info on me to the Stone’s either—even if she does know about my divorce.

I put that aside and focused on the journal. I had 15 minutes to get to the courthouse so I knew I couldn’t possibly read it all before then. I gathered some work and stuffed it into my briefcase then thought I could take the journal with me.

I picked it up and turned it in my hands. It was made of leather, smooth on the outside, though worn from years of use. Inside was the rough hide, unfinished, with thick sections of ivory pages folded and sewn into the spine by some kind of heavy-duty thread. Its construction was definitely crafted by an artist and felt priceless, like it had been given to a mortal by a Greek god or goddess and held magic powers … to preserve for my eyes only, centuries later. Okay, so I watch a bit too much sci-fi.

The cover page was all blank with only Mrs. Stone’s handwriting: “This book belongs to Margaret Lynette Stone,” it read. Below her name was what looked like a proverb, but I couldn’t place it: By your patience possess your souls.

I couldn’t help myself, I had to peek. It was 8:50 AM, just one page …

To be continued….

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Read from the beginning…

The Unlived Life of Russell Stone, Part 7

In choices, death, divorce, fear, fiction, help, judging, love, marriage, obedience, relationships on October 3, 2011 at 9:41 pm

A Novelette

 by Cheryl Courtney Semick

Mrs. Stone’s story of the late Russell Stone hit a nerve in Rachel. It is 8:30 AM.

The anger rising in me was shocking. I wanted to run like villagers do when the volcano they live by day-in-and-day out starts rumbling. Mrs. Stone could see the eruption forming on my face. Still, she calmly continued.

“People judge these unlived lives as actors, manipulators or lazy bums, having no idea that they are starving for an ounce of acceptance and love in any form. They remain children in their mind with no definition for what drives them or what was stolen from them; they just know they are different from everyone else.”

I felt punched in the stomach and filled with shame. I held her gaze so she couldn’t see that I am one of those judges; that I am only an hour away from dumping such a soul.

“But why did you marry him, knowing he could never be a real husband to you?” I asked. She took in a deep breath; a strange peace engulfed me as she exhaled, something I still can’t explain, though I’ve rolled it over and over in my mind ever since.

“I didn’t know all this when I married him. He seemed as normal as any man,” said Mrs. Stone through tears. “At first I felt deceived, but to honor my vows, I had to love him unconditionally as I am loved by my Creator; that is only fair, don’t you think?”

I shrugged, non-committed. I wasn’t a religious person, but I had to agree that if the Creator loves me unconditionally, I should give my fellow man the same courtesy. I mean, that made sense, I guess. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a moral, good, considerate person. I obey the law and all, but her take on it seemed unrealistic.

“But how could you play along with it all? It doesn’t seem fair to you,” I said, my voice now pleading, my mind oblivious to the clock.

“Over time I learned that his feigned normalcy was more than just an act—it was a desperate cry for help,” she said. “I knew that my love for Russell had to be bigger than me. It had to reach beyond my romantic dreams, beyond my rights as a woman, as a wife. I had to love him more than he could ever love me.”

I choked. Shaking my head I pushed all these super woman ideals as far away from me as I could. She had no idea that Steve and Mr. Stone were one and the same and I wasn’t about to tell her. I needed to extricate myself from the Stone’s upside-down world and focus on my court date. I glanced up at the clock. It’s 8:40 AM.

“I’m sorry Mrs. Stone. With all due respect, I have a 9AM meeting I can’t miss. Please forgive me for rushing off like this. The staff will help you with the paperwork we need you to complete before Mr. Stone’s burial. I will call you later today.”

Mrs. Stone smiled serenely and looked down at the journal in her hands. My hand was on the door handle when she called my name. I turned around.

“Please take this and read it before you go to court.”

I gave her a sideways look as I took the journal from her trembling hand. How did she know my ‘meeting’ was in court?

To be continued….

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Read from the beginning…

The Unlived Life of Russell Stone, Part 4

In death, divorce, fear, fiction, healing, marriage, office, relationships, stress on May 9, 2011 at 2:03 pm

A Novelette

By Cheryl Courtney Semick

Rachel is on the hunt to find out who called Mrs. Stone. Somehow, Mrs. Stone had learned of her husband’s death before Rachel called, which normally wouldn’t be an issue, but in the case of the Stone’s, it is far more than an issue.

My anger rose to another level by the time I reached the first floor. I determined that whoever made that call will feel its full force.

“Hi Ms. Cox, is everything okay?” Tina, our facility receptionist, popped out of her chair at the sound of my heels grinding across the lobby’s ceramic tile.

“No, Tina, it is not,” I shot back as I marched past her desk toward Mr. Stone’s nursing unit. Angie would be my first victim. I heard Tina pick-up her phone as I rounded the corner, undoubtedly to warn the unit that I was on my way.

I spotted Angie on the phone when I approached the unit desk and knew by her stance that she had in fact been alerted.

“Hi Rachel,” she said coolly as she set the phone back on the hook. “Everything okay?”

“Who called Mrs. Stone?”

“No one here called her. Kevin said you would,” she answered. For some reason, I believed her.

“I did,” I snapped, “but she already knew. Now, how do you suppose she knew if I’m the only one who called her?” I didn’t wait for an answer. I swallowed my rage and decided it could simmer while I focused on my own crisis. I checked my watch, 7:45 AM. Angie knew me well enough to know that this discussion was so not over and quickly caught up with me.

“Rachel, I’m sorry, I know you think I hate the Stones, but I am telling you the truth, I didn’t call her!”

“I believe you, Angie” I told her, but held my pace. The Stone saga had seeped too far into my mind and I no longer cared. “Just get back to your shift.”  Angie stopped and stood in the hall. No telling what was going through her mind, and I didn’t care about that either. I had a death report to fill out and file before I left for the courthouse; the rest could wait.

Tina picked up the phone as I appeared in the lobby and pretended to have a legitimate conversation; do they think I’m stupid? I know it’s Angie reporting back. I crossed the reception desk and there at the front door was Mrs. Stone.

“Rachel,” she said, her voice merely a breath.

“Mrs. Stone!” I embraced her and offered my condolences for her loss.

“Rachel, may I see him?”

I opened my mouth but nothing came out. I had been so wrapped up in finding out who called her that I had no idea whether or not his body had been placed in our Afterglow room for viewing.

“Honestly, I’m not sure, why don’t you sit here in the lobby and I’ll go find out.”

“May I wait in his room?” she asked

“Oh, of course, yes, please,” I took her by the arm and led her back to her husband’s room. Tina was still on the phone and I made out enough of her statements to know that another warning had been sent to the unit of approaching doom.

Mrs. Stone had a peculiar look on her face, a calmness about her that was puzzling for someone who had just lost their beloved spouse. I brushed it off and left her alone in the late Mr. Stone’s room while I searched for answers on his whereabouts.

At 8 AM, I ushered Mrs. Stone to the Afterglow room where our staff had laid the body of the deceased and lit candles all around the room; soft, ethereal music welcomed the grieving widow. What happened next shocked me so profoundly I still can’t shake the image from my mind.

Read Parts 1 – 3

The Unlived Life of Russell Stone, Part 1

In career, death, divorce, fiction, marriage, relationships on February 12, 2011 at 11:09 pm

A Novelette

by Cheryl Courtney Semick


My assistant handed me the envelope as I breezed past his desk en route to my office. I had no intention of opening it; I was due in court by nine and could not afford distraction. “Thanks, Kevin,” was my auto-response. I walked in and tossed it onto the pile I had run from late last night without registering the words that came with it: “These are the remaining effects of Mr. Stone.”

I turned to the board mounted on my door and plucked off three phone messages. “Go away Kevin,” I said without turning around. I refused to acknowledge his statue. I hate when he does that. Poor guy. My faithful assistant of eight years had morphed into a pitiful, nagging stalker, forced to haunt me day and night in order to complete the tasks I assign him; sadly, I am his greatest obstacle.

Kevin followed me in and watched me sit. He was immune to my mannequin mode so I knew that any attempt on my part to ignore him would be wasted. I also know that his postured stance by my desk meant that I would end up looking into that envelope. I turned and picked up my phone.

“I’m not here Kevin—today is D-day.”

“I’m not here either Rachel—I took the day off.” He bent at the waist and stretched his arm until his extended index finger and thumb could clasp the corner of the envelope. I watched peripherally, swallowing a laugh at the drama and inwardly admiring his increasing creativity in harnessing my attention.

With an exaggerated grimace, Kevin plucked the envelope off my desk like I had dropped a dirty sock on top of an elegant dessert buffet. “I came in to make sure you got this.” He dangled the clasped contents in front of me until my eyes locked with his.

“Kevin, I’m serious. I’m due in court by nine. I don’t have the time for whatever is in that envelope. It can wait.” He cut me off.

“These are the remaining effects of Russell Stone.”

I blinked.

“He’s dead, Rachel,” Kevin leaned down to make sure his news connected with my brain. It had. I stiffened with shock and set the phone back on its base. “1:03 a.m. You need to call her now,” he added. “She went home last night sometime after midnight and no one wants to call her.”

I slumped back into my chair as Kevin gingerly lowered the envelope back on my pile so as not to trigger an avalanche, twirled on his heel and left. The news was eerily ironic, given that today was the death of my marriage.

to be continued…

Everything

In garden, God, healing, help, love, power, relationships on September 20, 2009 at 2:23 pm

With God I neiStock_000004551858XSmalled nothing.

He is my…

Father, Physician, Husband, Attorney, Confidant,  Travel Agent, Accountant and Concierge.

He is my Counselor, Mother, Financial Adviser, Interpreter, Professor, Gardener and Surgeon.

He’s my Nutritionist, Manager, Driver, Landlord, Planner, Negotiator, Mechanic, and Army.

He’s my Real Estate Agent, Defender, Carpenter, Banker, Insurance Agent, Creditor and Healer.

He is my Pastor, my Proxy, my Brother, my Judge.

He is my Safety Officer, Designer, Architect and Friend.

He makes me laugh.

He’s my Exterior Designer, decorating my life with sky paintings that shame the masters.

He accessorizes my landscapes with colors and shapes that fill my senses with pleasure.

He unscrambles my brain.

He calms my craziness.

He corrects me.

He is my Search Party when I get lost, kidnapped or wander away.

He collects my tears in a bottle.

He loves me.

He blows me away.

Without God, I am bankrupt.

Wagging

In Christ, God, healing, Jesus, judging, relationships on August 13, 2009 at 9:16 am

Throughout my life as a Christian, I’ve succumbed to certain beliefs and ways of thinking that I now see stunted my growth.

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One in particular I will refer to as “if this, then that.”  Most techies know this phrase as the logical formula on which computer programs function, but this formula is actually quite ancient. In fact, I was shocked when I read it in my Bible!

“If he is the King of the Jews, let him now come down from the cross and we will believe him!” This statement taken from Matthew 27:42, is one in several that were hurled at Jesus as he hung bloody and ripped to shreds on a cruel cross.

The waggers said, if this, then that. How foolish to box God up so that only one conclusion could be drawn by the scene in front of them!

Matthew begins this scene (verse 39) by saying, “And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads.”

Then it struck me. How often have I been the victim of wagging?  People who have no clue of my background, my circumstances or my purpose in life look at me as they pass by and draw a faulty conclusion: if this…then that!

Worse, how often have I passed by others, glanced at their current situation and mocked, if this, then that!

Could Jesus have saved himself?  Of course!  He said as much in the Garden of Gethsemane when his ‘friend’ betrayed him. He calmly told his disciples, who were incensed by the mob assembled with swords surrounding their Savior, “…do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?”

Wow. A legion is one thousand. Jesus could have had 12,000 angels at his side – instantly – to deliver him from the piddly earthly mob.  The swords of earth’s iron would melt in the presence of God’s army of angels wielding swords of fire. It wouldn’t have mattered though, because in the very moment the angels appeared, those mighty men, puffed up on power  and piety, would have dropped their swords, peed their pants and fainted!  What a scene THAT would have been.

But Jesus had a purpose. He told his disciples in that dark garden that if he called the angels, “How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?”

We were each created for a purpose. First to be redeemed from our sin and then to please God. This may play out in a zillion ways, for each of us has a path to follow. But how painful it is when God has us in that path and we are met on the road by waggers!

Moreover, how shameful it is for us to wag our heads at those around us who appear to be fake, foolish or out of God’s will and mock!

Scripture warns us on wagging: “Who are you to judge another man’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.” Romans 14:4

The challenge then is to stay on the path God has chosen for us and to abstain from judging the progress of others.

Lord, forgive me for wagging my head at others. I have no idea what you are doing in their lives and I am sorry for presuming that I do. And, please heal me from the wounds I have sustained from others who have wagged their heads at me.