The Gifts of Faith - The Stranger - (Ch. 4)
Daydream to nightmare
The bell over the door brought Faith out of her reverie and back to reality. For the first time in ages she saw a soul… and it wasn’t pretty.
The worms frightened her and caused the butterflies to wreak havoc with her belly. As soon as the stranger entered the shop, the butterflies came alive with a vengeance.
Up until this moment, when Faith saw souls they appeared as wispy rings of soft colors, undulating gently as if ripples in a pond.
That was not the case on this day.
At first glance, the gentleman who rang the bell over the door of Bouquets and Rainbows was strikingly handsome. His black hair was neatly pulled back into a ponytail, revealing a strong chin, high cheekbones and sensuous lips. His crystal blue eyes were mesmerizing, but Faith felt that spending too much time looking at those eyes would cause her very soul to heat up and begin a slow burn from the inside out.
What disturbed her most was what she saw in his soul; she’d never seen one like it before in all her days on this earth. Rather than soft and airy, this man’s soul was thick and reminded her of decaying flesh. She’d never encountered a human soul in this form or shade of darkness. His didn’t undulate, rather it writhed continuously, and all the while what appeared to be worms, weaved their way in, out and around his inwardly breathing aura, as if feeding. She felt the worms not only fed his soul but were nourished by it, gaining strength with every movement.
Faith was repulsed and frightened by what she saw. Why is this man here? What business does he have in our quaint peaceful town? And why has he chosen my store?
Gathering all her strength and trying hard to ignore the increasingly feverish dance in her belly, Faith greeted the stranger with a smile.
“Good afternoon! Welcome to Bouquets and Rainbows. How may I help you?” You’re doing just fine, girl. Don’t let him see your fear.
“Why, thank you. You have quite a beautiful little town here. I was out for a leisurely drive from Oakwood and found myself drawn to the old time charm of Flowery Branch. That’s my car right outside the window.” He pointed to a classic 1952 MG convertible, the likes of which this town had never seen.
“It certainly is beautiful. The weather is perfect for a ride in the country. What may I do for you, Mr….?”
“Ah, forgive me. My name is Nathaniel Baxter. I see from your business license that you must be Faith?”
His charm and good looks would seem to be any girl’s dream, but Faith saw the nightmare roiling within. Be strong, girl. Don’t let him see what you see.
“That I am. Now what can I do for you, Mr. Baxter? Are you interested in a bouquet for someone special? Do you have something particular in mind?”
Faith realized that as she put her mind to conducting ‘business as usual’ her resolve strengthened and the butterflies subsided.
“I feel I must be honest with you”, Nathaniel replied with a sheepish grin. “I saw you through the window as I was driving by. You are quite lovely, I must admit. My goodness, you had such a pensive look on your face! As if having a mind of its own, my car drew itself to the curb and here I am! May I be so bold as to ask you to join me for a cup of coffee and perhaps a bite to eat?”
Faith was taken aback by the offer but was pleased that she remained steadfast in appearance. His arrogance may have had something to do with it and for that she was thankful.
“I appreciate your kind offer, Mr. Baxter but…”
“Please, call me Nathaniel.”
“…my partner is out at the moment and I have no one to run the shop if I leave.”
“Then I’ll wait until she returns or you close up shop. It’s nearly 4:30. The sign on the door says you close at 6:00 p.m. That’s right about dinner time. What do you say? Will you do me the honor of having dinner with me?”
Faith was a bit nonplussed by his persistence, but refused to show it. Although she had gained strength over her fears of this man, the worms continued to writhe and roil before her eyes.
She wanted to puke.
“Again, I appreciate your offer Mr. – uh - Nathaniel, but I really can’t. I have other plans.”
“Well, you can’t blame a guy for trying. I hope to see you again sometime soon, Faith.”
With that, he turned and headed for his car.
Damn, he looks good in those jeans. Faith, what the hell is wrong with you?? You of all people see he’s a snake in disguise. Don’t be drawn in by his charm. His venom will be the death of you. Or worse….
Six months later
Business was better than it had been in years. With the mild winter, Spring came early and the gardens were flourishing, which meant a constant supply of blooms for Bouquets and Rainbows. Faith and Sarah spent most of their weekends tending to the gardens, weeding, pruning and singing to the blossoms as a mother would her child.
Finally, after months of hard work with no break, the girls deemed themselves a well-deserved holiday and settled in to do much of nothing. They agreed to meet at Faith’s house one Sunday in October to spend the day in their pajamas watching TV and munching on junk food.
Faith and Sarah were enjoying an afternoon movie and some popcorn when the doorbell rang. Lily, (Kitty’s gift to Faith before she died of old age) was annoyed by the interruption and leaped off Faith’s lap to see who had the gall to interrupt ‘Forest Gump’ when they were all so cozy. It didn’t matter that they’d seen the movie umpteen times; they’d probably watch it many times again – it’s that good.
Sarah hit pause on the remote while Faith answered the door.
When she returned to the living room, Faith looked white as a ghost, which was out of character for her. Faith had always been so strong; not much fazed her - ever.
In her hand was a ceramic tea kettle adorned with live Lily of the Valley. The aroma immediately permeated the room and brought back memories.
“Who are they from, Faith?” Sarah wasn't sure she was ready for the answer.
Shauna L Bowling
Refining, Defining or Rhyming
All Rights Reserved
Let's give Sarah some time
Catch up on the beginning of the story here
The Ache in her joints was enough to foretell the impending weather. As if to validate her premonition, the smell of rich earth was emanating from the air. Rain was soon to come - and with a vengeance. Faith always seemed to prepare but never knew what to expect. She didn't know why, by her 'feelings' never proved to be misgivings.
As the colors became more brilliant, the yellow hues seemed to separate from the rainbow, reaching to the earth in a gentle golden rain. Even Kitty stopped chasing butterflies as the earth-bound rainbow shower changed from gold to white then gold again before settling in the meadow just ahead.
The fragrant scent of Lily of the Valley always takes Faith back to that day 20 years ago when she met the soul of her sister Hope. Thinking back, she knew the day would be memorable when she witnessed a rainbow arcing its way to the earth mere yards from where she stood in her favorite meadow. The events of that day would forever change her life, although she was unaware of it at the time.
© 2013 Shauna L Bowling
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