The metallic click of the latches closing echoed loudly in the now empty room. With the last of his tutoring over for the evening, Rennie lifted the battered violin case off the desktop and walked it over towards the door, setting it next to his equally worn guitar case. He’d been glad he’d had it along. In preparing for the move, Rennie had shipped some of his more valuable instruments ahead to his sister’s. The others, like his old Suzuki violin that both Katie and Lena had started on, and his old battle-scarred Martin, he’d just packed in the trailer with the rest of his stuff.
Unfortunately for the three Harrison sisters who made up his last session, however, the Suzuki was the only violin he had with him. They’d been taking lessons back in Hazelton but their own instruments were long gone with just about everything else their family owned – so today they had to take turns. The girls were good sports about it but Rennie could tell it bothered them. And, to be honest, it bothered him as well, not to mention it really slowed up his instruction time. Picking up his iPad, he glanced over the list of names and instruments he’d compiled. Thankfully it was something that would be easily solved by either Monday or Tuesday.
Placing it in his soft leather satchel, Rennie proceeded to draw out some sheet music along with a hymnal and walked over to the grand piano. Arranging the materials on the music stand, he glanced at his watch and then moved to sit down. He still had a little bit of time for practice. Sean had called him earlier in the day, asking if he would play the piano for worship tomorrow. With a flourish across the keys, Rennie warmed up his fingers with a few scales.
It turned out that Rennie’s earlier pessimistic assessment of the organ’s condition was spot on, putting it out of commission for easily a few weeks, or at least until a company in St. Louis could get out and work on it. On top of that, their regular organist had more than enough on her plate with all the damage to her own home, so the good father wanted to give her a break, as well.
Taking a look at the list of the next day’s hymns, Rennie opened the hymnal to the first one. It was pretty familiar, so he spent only a little time on it before turning to the next one. As far as filling in, Rennie was more than happy to do it, though there were a few things that concerned him. Still, with a little preparation, he thought as he ran through the liturgical responses, there shouldn’t be any problems.
The big key, he realized, looking through his possible choices for prelude and recessional pieces, would be simplicity. It was as Rennie was polishing a pared-down version of Bach’s “Little” Fugue in G Major, however, that he realized he had company. Turning his head, he caught sight of a far too enticing feminine figure leaning in the door frame, just watching him.
“You surprised me today.” Josie’s voice was low and sultry as Rennie’s fingers on the keyboard stilled. Her arms were crossed as she gazed at him, an amused expression on her face. “First there was my mustang,” she said, as she began to seductively walk towards him. “And, of course, you made me cry.”
Rennie found he could only sit and stare as she approached. From the sway of her jean-clad hips to even the way she held her hands, he could only marvel at the effect she had on him.
“Then you tried to peck and run,” her clear blue eyes twinkling as she shook her finger at him. “Silly boy, thinking you could escape me.”
He could feel his breath catch as she drew near. Coming up behind him, tingling sensations danced on his skin as Josie enticingly ran her fingertips up his bicep to his shoulder. Rennie could feel his pulse race as she stirred things in him he’d never felt before.
“And then, imagine my surprise,” she softly murmured in his ear, her lithe arms sliding over his shoulders, “when I come in here and find my new boyfriend isn’t merely ‘pretty good with a guitar, ‘ but the second coming of Eric Clapton or Keith Urban.”
Once firmly enclosed in her gentle embrace, Rennie could feel Josie pull him back to herself. He did not resist. Closing his eyes, he laid his head back on her chest, her fingertips now running lightly over his. He reveled in her soothing touch, like parched land soaking up the summer rain. He started to wonder how long it had been, but both the question and answer were quickly pushed aside.
“What am I going to do with you?” She asked softly with a lilting laugh.
Rennie responded with a quiet sigh. His attraction to the captivating brunette was undeniable and unlike anything he’d ever experienced. Coming out of the blue as it had, Rennie found himself ill-equipped and totally out of his depth, but liking it, nonetheless. Still, he had the distinct feeling he was missing something. It was as if there was something seemingly just out of reach, calling for his attention, like a ringing cell phone he couldn’t find.
While momentarily shaking off the odd sensation of discontent, Rennie was clearly torn. His own mind and heart were at odds with one another, the barely visible indent on his ring finger signaling why. Ever since that morning in the hotel hallway, he’d struggled to rein in his own rapidly developing feelings for the blue eyed beauty – but it wasn’t working. Truthfully, he was having as much success as trying to hold back raging floodwaters with his bare hands.
He smiled at the metaphor, realizing it was actually a bit backward. It wasn’t his feelings that were the issue, Rennie realized as he looked down at the lithe arms enfolding him. The problem was somehow keeping a certain raven haired force of nature at bay, all the while knowing a large part of him didn’t want to even try. Unexpectedly, however, the anxious feeling was back, clamoring for his attention.
Uncertainty gripped him. What was it, wandering out there at the very edge of his consciousness? Josie’s seductive voice whispered sweetly over his head, but it only served to deepen the disquiet. Clouds darkened on the horizon, spoiling what should be a wonderful, romantic moment. Suddenly unsettled annoyance gave way to deep dismay, as Rennie finally realized what had been stalking him all along.
It was guilt.
Josie could not believe the day she’d had. With all the surprising ups and downs, it was like she was a yoyo on a string. But now, with her arms around her sweet Rennie, it was all good. Sarah was right; she had gone all “gaga” over him! Smiling to herself, she gently squeezed him tighter and affectionately kissed the top of his dark blonde head.
The way the two of them had just clicked, simply astounded her. It wasn’t something she’d been looking for and was unlike anything she’d ever experienced in her life. But even with how close they’d become in so short a time, Josie could tell Rennie was holding back with her. She didn’t mind, though.
“Well, not too much anyway,” she silently smirked.
His reticence was perfectly understandable, considering all he’d been through. Toss in the fact that he was still technically married and it made even more sense. Not that any of that was going to discourage her in the least. She’d called dibs, after all! But she knew instinctively that, with a lot of patience and persistence, he’d let her in eventually. She also knew deep down that if their relationship stood any chance at all to be more than just a rebound, they’d have to take it slow.
“Now, if my mind could only convince my heart of that!” Josie chuckled softly to herself.
She was musing to herself about how the kiss in the hall had been a good step in the right direction, when she noticed Rennie bring his right hand up to his face. Tipping her head slightly, she glanced down only to see him wiping a silent tear from his cheek. It wasn’t the first.
“Oh no, baby, no.” Josie hurriedly sat opposite Rennie on the piano bench, with her denim covered knees facing away from the keyboard, and took his saddened face in her own gentle hands. “Baby, what’s wrong?” she asked somewhat fearfully, as she softly smoothed away the tracks of moisture with her thumbs and searched his eyes with her own.
Obviously struggling for control, Rennie momentarily stared down at his own hands and silently shook his head. It wasn’t so much a denial as a delay, but Josie was clearly worried.
“Please, Rennie, talk to me,” Josie fervently pleaded; now taking his strong yet graceful hands in her own. “What’s the matter?”
After what seemed to be several minutes, the troubled object of her anxious heart blew out a long slow exhale. With a haunted look in his eyes, Rennie turned away, though clearly not looking at anything in particular.
“She was right.” His voice was quiet, yet strained.
“Who was right, baby?”
“Helen,” he finally responded. “She said I never really loved her.” He paused again without adjusting his gaze.
“Oh, I used to deny it at the time,” he continued with a shrug. “I would even try to do some of the romantic things guys are supposed to do – flowers, compliments, an evening out for just the two of us – all in an effort to convince her otherwise but she would never let it go.” He paused, and then let out a weary sigh. “And now, because of you, I’m starting to realize she might have been right all along.”
“What do you mean?” Josie asked, the confusion and concern evident on her face.
A wane version of his crooked smile emerged, as he turned back to her. Their eyes met briefly before he sadly looked back down at his hands firmly ensconced in hers. “Never, in all the time I’ve known Helen – not back in high school or college or even after we were married – did I ever feel for her what I feel for you.”
It took a few seconds for the implication of Rennie’s words to sink in. Feeling her eyes grow to the size of saucers, Josie was thankful he was momentarily looking away. She knew how she felt about him and was both thrilled and terrified that he might feel the same way, but the flustered brunette struggled mightily with how to respond. “Are you saying that you... ?”
“Is this love?” Rennie anticipated, looking up and catching her eyes yet again.
Josie nodded mutely.
“I honestly don’t know,” he answered with a weary shrug and then gently squeezed her hands. “But it seems like more than just infatuation to me, though that’s clearly a part of this, too.”
Rennie paused; to Josie it seemed as if he were at a loss for words. But then, as she watched his face intently, she came to realize that that wasn’t quite it. Instead, what she was witnessing was an internal struggle. It seemed to her that he knew what he could say. He just didn’t know whether he should or not. It was fear, something she’d seen with him once before.
Finally, with a look of resignation, he let out a long sigh and looked down at their linked hands, yet again.