Unplanned (A Kennedy Stern Christian Suspense Novel Book 1), page 1
a novel by Alana Terry
The characters in this book are fictional. Any resemblance to real persons is coincidental. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form (electronic, audio, print, film, etc.) without the author’s written consent.
Copyright © 2015 Alana Terry
Cover design by Damonza.
Scriptures quoted from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“You look really familiar. Did you go to Harvard?”
Kennedy glanced up from her reading at the red-haired stranger. “I’m there now. Are you?”
“I was.” He moved to the seat next to her on the subway and furrowed his brow. “Graduated two years ago. Were we in the same class together maybe? I was a journalism major.”
Kennedy had at least another hundred pages of Dostoevsky to finish by the end of the weekend, reading she couldn’t get done chitchatting on the T with former journalism students. “No, this is my first year.”
He situated his leather case on his lap. It looked heavy. “I swear I’ve seen you before. Did you grow up around here?”
She lowered her book but kept it open to the right page. “No, I’ve been in China for the past ten years.” She thought about her dad’s paranoia, how he still reminded her from a dozen time zones away to stay wary of strangers.
“China?” The journalist leaned forward. “What part?”
Kennedy had lost track of the times she had been asked that by Americans who wouldn't know where to look for Beijing on a map. Sometimes, she took pity and said she lived near the Chinese-North Korean border. Other times, she gave the actual name of the city or province and watched their eyes go blank while they nodded absently. That was usually the tactic she employed when she didn’t particularly feel like talking.
“Jilin Province,” she answered, picking up her book again.
The man’s eyes grew wide. “Really? Were you near Longjing by any chance?”
Kennedy couldn’t tell which impressed her more, the journalist’s familiarity with the Chinese geography or his accent-free pronunciation. When she left Yanji at summer’s end, she couldn’t wait to get “home” to the States. There wasn’t anything for her to miss back in China. But when she got to campus and saw how different most of her classmates were, she realized how wrong she had been. She actually carved time out of her studies last month to go to the Asian-American Students’ first meeting, but she was the only white girl there and never went back.
“We actually lived in Yanji,” she told him.
The man nodded in apparent recognition. “I spent a year abroad in Longjing. I'm going back in a few months.” He patted the case on his lap. A camera, maybe? “Working on my first international documentary.”
The T’s automated announcer called out the name of Kennedy’s stop. She stood and gave him a wave and a little Americanized half bow. “I've got to go, but good luck with that documentary.”
“Yeah, good luck in school,” he managed to reply before Kennedy stepped onto the platform and hurried to the escalators, checking the time on her cell phone.
She adjusted her book bag when she emerged from the subway station. It was one of the chilliest days she could remember since arriving back in the States. The air was crisp and invigorating, and she walked with brisk steps. What a strange coincidence to meet someone so familiar with her home region. She thought about mentioning it to her parents when they talked next. Then again, her dad would probably reprove her for divulging even that amount of personal information. Oh well. Kennedy was on her own now, and she couldn’t waste her life scurrying from every shadow. Besides, Cambridge was a safe town with a public transportation system that was infinitely easier to grasp than the one back in Yanji. She didn’t venture off campus much, but when she did, she never felt insecure. She pitied folks like her dad who lived their lives in constant terror. Why couldn’t he be a little more trusting of people?
A burst of leaves fluttered to the pavement, and she quickened her step. She wasn’t late, not yet, but she walked fast enough that it would have impressed an Olympic speed-walker. She hadn’t seen her childhood pastor in years. His would be the first familiar face she saw since arriving back in the States, and she was anxious to catch up with him.
When Carl emailed her a few weeks ago, she was thrilled at the prospect of getting together. Finding the time to do so was a little more difficult. At least his new center was only a few hops away from campus on the Red Line — a convenient coincidence. Not coincidence. She could almost hear Carl correct her in his melodious baritone voice that would make James Earl Jones drool with envy. Providence.
Either way, she was excited to see him. She still remembered his wife Sandy, her Sunday school teacher for years and years, and the one who let Kennedy practice time and time again on her hair until she perfected the art of French braiding.
She saw the dark green sign for the pregnancy center, felt the smile spread across her face, and swung open the door. A little bell announced her arrival. The room was empty except for the fumes of day-old paint.
“Hello?” She held her breath. Was anybody even here?
“Kennedy!” Carl Lindgren bustled out of a back office, arms extended jovially. “You made it.” His voice reverberated off the walls. He grabbed both her arms to draw her in for a rib-crushing bear hug. “You sure have grown since you were little.”
“It’s great to see you.” She didn’t have to feign her enthusiasm. The past two months had been a whirlwind of college orientations, lectures, homework, and already two all-nighters. Seeing Carl’s face was like stepping into a sauna in the middle of winter. The turpentine vapor intermingled with the scent of his shirt, a combination of barbecue, home-cooking, and after-shave that almost matched her father’s.
“When your family left for China, you were such a little thing.” He held his hand at the level of his waist. “Now look at you. All grown up, off on your own.”
Kennedy laughed. On her own meant she lived in a dorm with a theater-major roommate from Alaska, whose entire education — from what Kennedy could tell — consisted of playing computer games, attending rehearsals, and reading an occasional play. Kennedy, on the other hand, was so busy with her pre-med studies and literature classes that she hadn’t yet experienced any of the so-called “freedoms” supposed to come with college life.
Carl gave her a quick tour of the new pregnancy center, which in reality was only slightly larger than Kennedy’s dorm room. There was a main waiting area still wanting furniture, a back office, and a single room tucked in the corner. “Here’s where we do the counseling sessions, and that door there opens to a little bathroom stall.”
“It’s really nice,” Kennedy stated automatically, while her head threatened to lift right off her shoulders because of the fumes.
Carl’s cheeks widened into one of his chipmunk-style grins. “Well, it’s something. We’ll still have to send folks to the Boston campus for ultrasounds until we get a bigger place, but it’s a start. Oh.” His eyes lit up. “Wait until you see what Sandy rigged up for us.”
“How’s Sandy doing these days?” Kennedy followed Carl to his little office, the only room with any sort of décor. A golden placard marked the territory as the Executive Director’s, and the desk was already cluttered with paperwork and framed pictures of fat, cherubic toddlers. A few finger-painted masterpieces were taped to the wall, along
Carl shuffled from side to side as he bustled around behind his desk. “You know Sandy,” he said with a beam. “She’s been as busy as ever getting this place ready to open, doing her grandma thing three days a week, overseeing all of the children’s ministry volunteers at St. Margaret’s.” He narrowed his eyes for a moment, but they didn’t lose their playful twinkle. “You know, I haven’t seen you at church, young lady.”
Kennedy had anticipated the remark and was ready with her excuse. “It’s just really busy with schoolwork and all, and it’s hard not having a car of my own.”
“I won’t say anything to your father.” Carl winked. “But you know my Sandy. You give her a call on Saturday night, and she’ll be sure to find you a ride for Sunday morning. Be sure to get her number from me before you leave. Or if you like taking the T, we’re right off the Red Line, Davis stop. Just another fifteen-minute walk from here, really.” He frowned. “But maybe you shouldn’t be walking that far alone.”
Kennedy tried not to roll her eyes. Had he been talking to her dad? She wasn’t ready to make any promises about coming to church, but she’d try finding time soon. It had been years since she had participated in an American service. She was a little nervous she might have forgotten something important. The kind of worship she was used to in China was quite different.
“By the way,” Carl went on, “Sandy told me specifically to tell you she wants to take you out for coffee sometime soon.” He gestured to the entrance of his office. “And if you shut the door, you can see her newest piece of art.”
On the wall hung a large, poster-sized calendar. Even though it was obviously made by hand, the printing was impeccable and the lines for each date were as rigid as a surgeon’s scalpel. Inside every box were color-coded sections marked Morning Volunteer, Afternoon Volunteer, and Hotline Receptionist. Kennedy almost remarked that Carl’s wife must have a lot of extra time on her hands, but then she noticed Sandy was listed as the morning volunteer for all but two days that month and was penned in for half of the afternoon shifts as well.
Carl spread out his hands. “We definitely are asking God for more workers. But the good news is you can have first pick of whatever shift you want to volunteer.”
Kennedy pursed her lips together and reminded herself that her job was to keep up her GPA, not to make everyone around her happy. “Yeah, well, I’ve been thinking since I got your email, and I just don’t know if I can make that kind of time commitment.” She didn’t want to admit that adjusting to life back in the States was taking about the same amount of mental acuity as keeping up with her chem lab and its monstrous piles of work. Her mind had been reeling ever since she landed at Logan Airport. American slang she had never heard in China, fads that seemed to upgrade themselves once a week or more ... She hardly had time to keep up her grades, let alone give herself room to acculturate back to life in the States. If she jumped into volunteer work right now, she’d probably get so confused she’d start speaking to the clients in Korean or give some poor woman a lecture on chemical ionization when she was supposed to ask her to pee in a cup.
Carl’s smile wilted for a short second, and his shoulders sank toward the floor while his chest deflated. “I understand. It’s been a long time since my college days.” His eyes twinkled once again, and he chuckled. “Compared to pastoring a church, starting up a pregnancy center satellite, and chasing around a bunch of grandkids, it sounds like a breeze.” He was talking quietly, almost under his breath. “No utility bills, no board meetings …” His head snapped up when his eyes met Kennedy’s. “Never mind. I want you to know I get it. You’re busy.” He looked at the color-coded calendar, where his wife’s was the only name on record. He smacked his lips. “Well, we’ll be having our new center kick-off dinner Thursday night. That’s where we’re hoping to get most of our volunteers from, anyway.”
Shame heated up Kennedy’s core. “I didn’t mean I couldn’t help at all.” She wouldn’t have bothered taking the T all the way to the new center just to tell him that. “I’d love to be involved when I can. I was thinking as a substitute. Or maybe I could come help with paperwork or something on the weekends. I don’t really know what you need.”
“We need everything,” Carl sighed. He stared at the calendar. When a little tinny rendition of Brahms’ Lullaby rang out, his eyes widened, and he thrust his hands into his pants pockets. “That’s the hotline phone.” His face flushed and he patted his chest. “I don’t have voicemail set up yet. I gotta answer it.” The ringtone was almost through the first strain when he finally pulled out a small, black cell phone from his shirt pocket and promptly dropped it on the ground. His head nearly bonked Kennedy’s when they both reached down to grab it. Finally, he picked it up and punched the button.
“Cambridge Community Pregnancy Center,” he answered breathlessly.
Kennedy wondered if the caller could hear how flustered he was. A second later, he let out a sigh, and the vein that had threatened to pop its way out of his forehead relaxed a little.
“Oh. Hi, Sugar. I didn’t know it was you. Why didn’t you call me on … Oh, I must have turned it to silent … No, it’s just that I thought it was a client. I’m here with Kennedy, you know, Roger Stern’s girl. She’s at Harvard now … Of course I already told you that, but I didn’t know if you would remember … Yeah, I’ll pick some up on my way home … No, I’m not mad. I just thought we had our first call … Ok, I love you, too, babe. … Yup.” Carl pulled his glasses down a little on his nose and squinted at the phone. He scratched his cheek. “Now how do I turn it off from my end?”
He glanced up at Kennedy, and another flush crept across his dark brown skin for a second. “This is our new hotline phone.” He held up the contraption as if presenting evidence and then squinted at it one more time over his lenses. “I still haven’t figured out how it works. They have these things over in China?”
Kennedy tried to keep herself from rolling her eyes. “Yeah.” Why did everyone assume she was a transplant from the dark ages?
Carl weaved his way around some boxes to get behind his desk. “Well, we just started advertising for the pregnancy center on the radio yesterday. That means we could get a call on here any time, day or night. Sandy’s busy, and I’m, well, I’m tied up with other things.” He nearly dropped the phone again as his large hands struggled to slip it back into his pocket. “So maybe you could be our phone girl?”
He glanced up at her nervously.
Before Kennedy could say anything, Carl hurried on, “Of course, school has got to come first. Your dad told me about your program, by the way, how you’re already accepted into the …”
“You just need someone to answer calls?” Kennedy interrupted.
“That’s all. The clinic itself is only open on a part-time basis — at least until we get more volunteers to keep it staffed. But we want people to be able to get in touch with us whenever they need.” His eyes widened imploringly. “Would you? At least some of the time?”
Kennedy cast a glance at all the empty slots left on the wall calendar. How hard could it be to answer a cell phone every once in a while? “Sure. I can do that.”
Carl’s breath rushed out in a loud hiss before another smile broadened his face. “You’re an angel!” He took her by both shoulders and pulled her in for a quick hug. Then fiddling with his pocket, he managed to get the phone out without dropping it and pressed it in Kennedy’s hand. “And if I know Sandy, she’s going to want to know what kind of cookies you like most. She’s convinced any college student who’s not living at home must be starving.” He passed her a pad of purple Post-it notes. “So you write down your address here, then just you wait if she doesn’t show up at your dorm with a whole platter of them. Better write down what kind you like, too.”
Kennedy jotted down her name and room number. “I’ll eat anything home-baked.”
Carl slammed the note onto his desk and clasped his
Kennedy couldn’t be sure, but she thought she saw him wink. “Nothing at all. Just lab reports.”
“Perfect!” Carl remarked. It wasn’t exactly the same reaction Kennedy had when she thought about her twelve-page write-up she’d be working on. He picked up a pink pen, squinted at the calendar, and traded it for a turquoise one. “See how proud Sandy would be of me for using her color system?” He made his way to the wall calendar and wrote Kennedy’s name next to Hotline Receptionist for the weekend. “Oh, do you want me to teach you how to use it?”
Kennedy glanced at the model and guessed it was more ancient than the artifact her dad carried around back in Yanji. “I’m sure I can figure it out.”
Carl insisted on showing her anyway, even though it was Kennedy who did most of the teaching as well as a decent amount of correcting. When they were done, she slipped the cell into the front zipper of her backpack. “So what do I do if I actually get a call?”
He adjusted his glasses once more. “Well, I think all you have to do is press that green button and …”
“No, I mean, what am I supposed to say? What kind of calls am I going to get?”
Carl had been bustling about, apparently without aim, but now froze completely. “You’ve never done crisis pregnancy ministry before, have you?”
She shook her head.
He sat down with a loud sigh and gestured for Kennedy to take the miniature recliner along the wall. For a moment, he stared in silence, but then his eyes grew wide and his face brightened. “We got some training brochures just yesterday in the mail.” Carl rummaged through some piles on his desk. “And if you come back next week, I can get you a few of the videos we use for training back at the Boston campus. That’s where we’re getting most of our materials from, you know.”
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