If given a choice, p.1

If Given a Choice, page 1

 

If Given a Choice
 


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If Given a Choice


  if given a chance

  Tracie J. Peterson

  Copyright

  Copyright © 1994 by Tracie J. Peterson. All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the permission of the publisher, Truly Yours, PO Box 719, Uhrichsville, Ohio 44683.

  All of the characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events is purely coincidental.

  ONE

  “It’s over, Jenni,” Brian Givens said, getting to his feet.

  For all her twenty-one years, Jennifer Campbell had never been more shocked. “What do you mean?” she asked, the pain reflected in her expression. “You’re really going to call off our engagement?”

  “I have to. I don’t want to marry you anymore. I’m tired of competing with your God for attention.”

  “God? Is this about my faith again?” Jennifer raised a questioning eyebrow and pushed back her thick brown hair.

  “You know it is. Your faith has always interfered with our relationship, right from the beginning. I want more Jenni, and you won’t give me what I want.” Brian’s words were delivered without feeling or emotion. “I don’t love you anymore, Jennifer.”

  Jenni felt as if she’d been kicked in the stomach. For over two years, she’d planned to marry the very dashing, very ambitious Brian Givens. She’d been the envy of all her friends, and even her family seemed to find Brian an acceptable candidate for son-in-law. The only questionable issue was Brian’s lack of interest in God.

  “You don’t love me anymore? And just when did you stop? This minute, two days ago, last night?” Jennifer’s voice nearly cracked. She couldn’t help but think of the way Brian had held her the night before. He’d wanted her to come back to his apartment after their date. When Jennifer had refused, Brian had grown angry.

  “You’re just made about last night,” Jenni tried to persuade. “I thought you understood.”

  “It’s not just last night,” Brian retorted. “It’s every night. It’s everything! I can’t further my career with a bunch of religious rhetoric – therefore, why bother? I’ve always taken care of number one, and I’ve never seen myself as a team player with God.” His words shocked Jennifer as he continued to drive his point home. “You are such a naïve prude, my dear Jen. A prudish, narrow-minded Christian. You know nothing of living, only of waiting.”

  “But, Brian, hasn’t it been worth the wait?” Jennifer questioned, suddenly feeling uncomfortable with the turn the conversation had taken.

  “You’re the only one waiting around, Jennifer. I put aside such childish notions long ago. Too bad I had to satisfy me needs without you, but that was your choice.”

  Jennifer jerked her head up, and the flash of anger in her accusing eyes made Brian laugh.

  “Surely you aren’t naïve enough to believe I’ve been faithfully waiting for marriage just to have sex?”

  Jennifer grimaced. He made intimacy between two people sound cheap and insignificant. All at once, the revelation of Brian’s true character came through the façade of what Jennifer had allowed herself to see for so many years.

  “I don’t even know you.” The words escaped her lips. “But sadder than that,” Jennifer said, staring blankly at Brian, “you don’t even know yourself. You need God, Brian. Not as a team player, but as the Master of the game. You need salvation through Jesus Christ, or you won’t even get to play the game!”

  Brian ignored her statement with cool indifference. Instead, he brushed of his suit pants, re-adjusted his tie, and picked up his suit coat. “In two weeks we’ll both be graduating. I’ll take the bar in July, and then, well, who knows. It’s an election year, and I have half a dozen people interested in bringing me on board.”

  “You’ll be a successful lawyer and I’ll be the up and coming young business woman. So why are you throwing away a perfectly good relationship – just because I’m a Christian and won’t go to bed with you before we’re married?” Jenni’s voice was sarcastic.

  “Sarcasm doesn’t become you, Jen. Be a big girl about this. Go make your own way. You can have any kind of future you want. You can have it all!” Brian’s brown eyes gleamed with greedy enthusiasm. Jenni began to wonder what she’d once found so attractive in those eyes. They suddenly seemed menacing.

  “I can have it all – all but you,” Jenni said sadly. She picked up her graduation cap and gown, and then she squared her shoulders. “Well, I guess the day wasn’t a total loss,” she said flippantly. “At least the Union got our caps and gowns.”

  “I’m sorry that you’re so upset, but it’s really for the best. I guess I’ll see you around.” Brian walked toward the Student Union.

  Jenni gazed out across the university’s campus and sighed. Everywhere around them were signs of the times: graduations, semester conclusions, and springtime love. Only the damp humidity of a Kansas day awaiting a seasonal storm made the world seem less than perfect. That and Brian’s announcement.

  Crossing the campus to the parking lot, Jenni felt hot, angry tears fall on her cheeks. Why was this happening? She’d always thought God had sent Brian her way. She’d even seen him as god’s pet project for herself. Someone she could take to church and influence for God.

  She unlocked the door of her car and got in. “Dear god, why is this happening to me? I love Brian so much, and now, now. . .” she sobbed. “Now there’s nothing but the pain. I was so sure that Brian was the right one. How can I ever trust my feelings again?” She cried for a long time, but the question remained unanswered.

  Jenni finally dried her eyes and headed for home. She pulled into the driveway at exactly five o’clock p.m., noticing the absence of her parents’ car. Her father wouldn’t be home for hours, and supper wouldn’t be served until eight or nine that night, if at all. That’s the way it went during an election year.

  Jennifer was proud of her father. Keith Campbell was well known in the Kansas legislature as a real representative for the people. He was happy to try to live up to his reputation and he did his level best to get out and meet as many people in the district as was humanly possible. “Unfortunately,” Jenni sighed, “there’s never enough of Keith Campbell to go around.”

  Jenni gazed up at the three-story house that her family had called home for nearly fifteen years. The houses on either side were stylish and affluent, but their home had its own Victorian charm.

  She walked up the porch steps and paused, suddenly wondering what she should do next. Up until today, she’d planned to be Mrs. Brian Givens. Now she was just plain Jennifer Campbell. No purpose. No direction.

  ❧

  Later that evening, Jennifer found a quiet moment to explain to her mother what had happened with Brian. Ann Campbell listened thoughtfully, throwing in an occasional question here or there. When Jenni felt that she’d said it all, she fell silent, waiting for her mother’s response.

  “I’m really sorry that you have to go through something like this, Jennifer,” her mother said gently. “But I must say this, it’s better for this to happen now, than after marrying the man.”

  “I know, it’s just that it hurts so much,” and with that Jennifer’s resolve gave way to tears. Ann Campbell was holding her daughter, when her husband entered the room.

  “What’s wrong?” Keith Campbell immediately questioned, pulling up a chair beside his daughter and wife.

  “It’s Brian,” Ann Campbell began. “It seems he doesn’t want to share Jenni with God, and thus would rather not have her at all.”

  The angry look that crossed Keith Campbell’s face was not seen
by his daughter. His wife, however, knew that look only too well. Keith had never trusted Brian’s motives where Jennifer was concerned.

  Keith got up from the table and returned with a well-worn family Bible. Jenni expected to hear a verse about being unequally yoked with non-believers, or some other verse with the same theme. But instead, her father surprised her with another. “If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.”

  Keith Campbell read on and ended with a verse that comforted Jenni in a way she’d not thought possible. “However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”

  “Praising isn’t easy,” Ann Campbell said as she pushed back a tear-dampened strand of her daughter’s hair. “But our God inhabits praise. We must see His hand in this matter, and trust Him.”

  Jenni nodded, knowing her mother was right. “Thank you for ready, Daddy. Thank you both. I knew it was right to talk things over with you.”

  “There’s Somebody else you might want to talk things over with,” Keith Campbell suggested with a glance heavenward.

  “I know,” Jenni replied with a deep breath. “I think I might owe Him an apology for doubting the wisdom of this decision.”

  Keith Campbell chuckled and lightly tousled his daughter’s hair. “He doesn’t always do things the way we think he ought to. That’s for sure.”

  Jenni sat at her desk reviewing the verses her father had shared with her earlier. Reading further, she was encouraged to find yet another verse that seemed directed toward her situation. “So then,” verse nineteen of I Peter 4, began, “those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”

  Jenni thought on the words for several moments, before closing her Bible and going to bed. God’s will had always been important to her, and now, when His will didn’t happen to be her will, Jenni knew that this was the exact place faith must enter in.

  She got into bed and breathed a prayer before closing her eyes. “Thank You, Father, for loving me, and for having an intricate plan for my life. Thank You for the blessing of good parents. Please watch over all of us, and help me to seek Your will as mine. Amen.”

  Two weeks later, Jennifer Campbell graduated magna cum laude, receiving her bachelor’s degree in business. She stood laughing with her parents and sister, when Brian Givens and his parents passed by.

  The atmosphere was strained, and Jennifer stubbornly refused to meet Brian’s eyes. Jenni thought she heard her parents breathe a sigh of relief when Brian and his parents moved on, but when she looked up to question them, they were all smiles.

  “Come on,” Keith Campbell said proudly. “I want to take this fine young graduate out to dinner.”

  “Can we go to. . .” Jennifer’s thirteen-year-old sister Julie started to question and stopped at her father’s raised hand.

  “It’s Jennifer’s choice,” he announced and Julie knew better than to suggest otherwise.

  “All right,” Jenni said as she consulted a mental list of restaurants. “How about the Dunraven Inn?” she questioned with a laugh.

  “Not fair,” Keith answered his daughter’s suggestion. “It has to be in Topeka, not Estes Park, Colorado.”

  Jenni tried to pout, but couldn’t keep a straight face. “Oh, all right, in that case let’s go to Annie’s.”

  “I like a girl who’s light on my bank account. Annie’s it is.”

  Jenni tried to enjoy dinner, but thoughts of Brian kept coming back to haunt her. She made jabbing stabs at her french fries, until her father placed his hand on hers.

  “Jenni?”

  “What? Oh, I’m sorry, Daddy,” Jenni pushed her plate back with a sigh. Annie’s had always served more food than she had appetite for.

  “I wish I could make things better,” her father said softly.

  “It’s okay, Daddy. Like you said, it’ll take time.”

  “Yes, that’s true. Time and space. It doesn’t help to have to see Brian on occasion, and with the campaign year getting into full swing, Brian will no doubt be on the front burner.”

  “I know,” Jenni sighed.

  “Well, I’m glad you see it our way.” Keith said, eyeing his wife with a grin.

  Jenni hadn’t missed the look that had passed between her parents. “What? Just what are you two up to?”

  “Your mother and I thought maybe you should take a little time and get away.” Jenni’s father reached into his pocket and pulled out an envelope.

  Handing it to Jenni, Keith Campbell enjoyed the look of surprise. “There’s everything in this envelope to have yourself a nice three-week stay in Estes Park.”

  “Oh, Daddy, really?” Jenni fairly squealed with delight. “Honest and truly?” She reached into the envelope and pulled out reservations for her favorite resort, along with plenty of cash to enjoy herself during the stay. “This is just perfect,” she said with tears in her eyes. “Thank you so much. You always know just what to do to make me feel better.”

  “I still don’t like the idea of you driving across Kansas by yourself,” Keith began.

  “But, Daddy, I’m a grown. . .” Jenni interrupted but was cut short.

  “I know, I know. Just hear me out. I have business in Denver on the third. I’ll ride out with you as far as Denver. From there on, you’ll be on your own. We’ll arrange for your return trip when the time comes.”

  “Yeah.” Julie chimed in with her thoughts on the matter. “You can fly me out and I’ll ride back with Jenni.” Everybody rolled their eyes at this, but Julie felt it was a perfectly legitimate offer. “Really, I could,” she continued to insist.

  “I said we’d cross that bridge later,” Keith Campbell said firmly. “And if anyone flies out to ride back with Jenni, it will be another adult.”

  At this, Julie crossed her arms across her chest and heaved a sigh. “I never get to do anything.”

  Jenni immediately felt sorry for her sister. “I promise,” Jenni said reaching over to pat Julie’s arm, “I’ll bring you back something real nice.”

  Julie continued to pout for a moment, but seeing her father’s stern expression, she pulled her lower lip back in and straightened up in her chair. “Okay, Jen. But make it really, really nice.”

  “I will, Julie. I will.”

  TWO

  Jennie followed the familiar scenic highway to Estes. The drive up Elkhorn Avenue brought back pleasant memories of the small romantic village. Here and there, Jenni saw her favorite shops and restaurants. The colorful congestion of people told her that tourist season was in full swing.

  Jenni drove through town and headed up higher into the Rocky Mountains. Breathing deeply of the heavy pine scent, Jenni felt as if she’d come home. How she loved this place with its rocky grandeur and rippling river.

  O’Reilly’s hadn’t changed a bit. It was still the same homey looking resort that Jenni’s parents had fallen in love with some twenty years earlier. Jenni pulled up to the office cabin and went in to register.

  “Hello,” she called out as she entered. She waited at the entryway desk for the manager to appear.

  “Hi,” a young, red-headed woman greeted her. “I’m Amy and I’m the manager here at O’Reilly’s.”

  “Are you new?” Jenni asked curiously. “I don’t really mean to be nosy, but we were just here last winter.”

  “That’s okay. I’m new all right. In fact I’ve only been here for the last two months. I just barely got trained in time for the busy season.” The woman bustled around the office. Jenni watched as she typed something into the computer. “Yep, here you are. You have a reservation for cabin number eight. As soon as this finishes printing out, I’ll have you sign the receipt.”

  Jenni nodded and moved forward as the door opened behind her.

  “Jennifer Campbell!” a cheery voice called out, and Jennie looked up to see Pamela and David Walker, owners of O’Reilly’s and
friends of her parents.

  “Aunt Pam, Uncle Dave,” Jenni exclaimed as she was embraced by both. “How good to see you. I didn’t know you’d be around.”

  “We came by to check on Amy, since this is her first season,” Pamela Walker explained.

  “Yes, she mentioned that. Will you be around long enough to catch up on all the news?” Jenni knew that her parents would want her to share all the latest information with their lifelong friends.

  “You betcha,” Dave answered with a bellow. He was a big man, standing nearly six foot-four, and he towered above all three women. “I want to know how your daddy’s campaign is coming along. Is he facing any serious opposition this time?”

  “Oh, you know Daddy. He considers every opposing candidate a serious threat,” Jenni answered, the respect for her father’s attitude ringing clear in her voice.

  “And right he is to do so,” Pamela joined in. “Now, Dave, let’s let Jenni get settled in, and then we’ll take her out to dinner. Dunraven okay, Jen?”

  Jenni smiled and nodded. “You know it is, thanks. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.”

  Amy sat tapping a pen, waiting impatiently for Jenni to return her attention to registering. A look of dismay flickered across Pamela Walker’s face.

  “Amy, Miss Campbell is a guest of the resort. You should never rush a guest. We are here to serve, and that often takes more time than we’d like.”

  Jennifer whirled around, embarrassed by the fact that Pamela was rebuking her employee on her account. As she reached up to sign the receipt, Jenni dropped her oversized purse and out spilled most of the contents.

  Pamela was reaching down to help Jennifer retrieve her things, when she spied a book among the mess. “Daniel James? I didn’t know you read his work,” Pamela said with interest as she picked up the book.

  “I love his writing. His mysteries are always so intricate – I never figure them out before the end.”

  Pamela laughed and handed Jenni the book with the jacket picture facing up. “Not bad looking either,” Pam added.

 
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