A Gathering Of Angels by Katherine ValentineA Gathering Of Angels by Katherine Valentine

A Gathering Of Angels

byKatherine Valentine

Paperback | August 31, 2004

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In A Miracle for St. Cecilia?s, Katherine Valentine created a charming Connecticut town where ordinary people experience extraordinary things. Now in A Gathering of Angels the citizens of Dorsetville continue to discover the daily wonders of faith.

While Father Flaherty toys with taking up kickboxing to trim his growing waistline, another town expansion proves more ominous: Barry Hornibrook, driven to build a riverfront hotel, turns to questionable sources for desperately needed money. But this is Dorsetville, where anything is possible?and by the time this beguiling tale is over, a tragic fire, a German shepherd, and an influx of dentists will all play a role in changing the community forever.

Full of delightful surprises, A Gathering of Angels proves to be another heart- warming tale of hope.

Katherine Valentine is an American folk artist who has been a regular guest on Lifetime's Our Home show and an instructor with the New York City Museum of American Folk Art and the Brookfield (Connecticut) Craft Center. Her 1980 near-death experience, the subject of several books, has been featured on television shows, including Good M...
Title:A Gathering Of AngelsFormat:PaperbackDimensions:288 pages, 7.7 × 5 × 0.53 inPublished:August 31, 2004Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0142004847

ISBN - 13:9780142004845

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Chapter 1It seemed the town green had been filled with the sound of hammers, diesel trucks, rock music and hordes of construction workers in various modes of undress for months. In fact, it had been eighteen months since both the Sister Regina Francis Retirement Home and St. Cecilia’s renovations had begun. Although the retirement home had been completed right on schedule, due exclusively to Mother Superior’s vigilance, the repairs on the church and the rectory had barely begun, due to Father James’s constant indecision and unwillingness to hold anyone accountable to a timetable.“Sometimes things take longer than we think they should,” he had told Mrs. Norris, the housekeeper, whose expression showed she wasn’t buying it.The rectory kitchen and most of the rooms downstairs had remained in a type of renovation limbo since the project had begun, suspended somewhere between being ripped apart and being put back together. The refrigerator stood on the back porch, where it had been moved last fall so the tile man could examine the kitchen’s subflooring. Since that time only the plywood flooring had been replaced but new linoleum had yet to be laid. Father James couldn’t decide between a brown brick pattern, which didn’t come in no-wax finish but was a heavier grade, versus the gray slate pattern that was no-wax but was much thinner. Mrs. Norris had watched Father James, slumped over the tile samples for weeks, looking as though the decision might be eternal and therefore never subject to recall.“If we get the no-wax, that will certainly cut down on your workload,” he told her. “But the other will last longer and be more beneficial to the church’s long-range budget. I don’t know, Mrs. Norris, what do you think?”She had told him repeatedly it didn’t matter to her in the least what he chose. Pick whatever one you want, she said. She wouldn’t be around long enough to care one way or the other. Mrs. Norris had decided that she was dying ever since embarking on a family genealogy the previous fall that uncovered the gruesome fact that none of the women on her father’s side of the family had ever lived past the age of sixty. Mrs. Norris was sixty-two, which could only mean that her death was already two years overdue. Although Doc Hammon had been unable to diagnose what she was in peril of dying from, Mrs. Norris held firm to her belief.“Genes don’t lie,” she said, tight-lipped.And it was a good thing she was dying, she told Father James, because if she wasn’t she would have quit as soon as the first construction worker laid siege in her kitchen. But, since she was dying, she had decided to conserve her energy for things that really mattered—like finding the four-quart bowl of ambrosia that she had made yesterday afternoon before going home and which was now missing. It was meant for the luncheon this afternoon after the retirement home’s dedication ceremony. The entire town had been invited. Even the bishop was to attend.“Well, it just didn’t get up and walk out of here.” Mrs. Norris was bent at the waist, her head deep inside the refrigerator, as she moved items back and forth as if a four-quart bowl could be hidden easily. “No, it’s just not in here.”Father James could hear the refrigerator door slam shut, then Mrs. Norris’s heavy footsteps march back into the kitchen. He also noticed that Father Dennis, seated beside him at the kitchen table, seemed inordinately engrossed in the Lifestyle section of the morning’s paper.Hands on hips, right foot slightly extended, tapping out a malevolent code on the plywood flooring, Mrs. Norris asked in her most testy voice, “Which one of you took it? Fess up.”She looked straight at Father James, who, through habit, involuntarily slid guiltily down in his chair.“I doubt that it was you, Father James.”He sat up higher.“Not that you wouldn’t be above taking a taste here and there. You didn’t get that pouch by eating just celery. But since the doctors put you on that restricted diet, you’ve been pretty good about staying away from the things that might tie your intestines up in a knot again.”Father James wondered how long his intimate bodily functions would be up for discussion. Since the discovery of his severe case of diverticulitis, coupled with a cholesterol reading of 280, Father James’s diet had been greatly curtailed. Even his beloved coffee had been denied him. Worse yet, everyone in Dorsetville seemed to know about it, which gave him precious little opportunity to cheat.“No, Mrs. Norris, I didn’t take your dessert,” he said mournfully.“That’s what I thought,” she said, turning to stare at Father Dennis, who appeared oblivious, completely engrossed with the newspaper. She tapped his sleeve.“Did you say something to me?” asked Father Dennis, as though surfacing from the depths of some great tranquil ocean. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t listening. This is such an interesting article.”The housekeeper leaned over Father Dennis’s shoulder and read, “‘How to Create Crochet Antimacassars of the Depression Era.’ You really expect me to believe that you’ve taken an interest in chair coverings?”In response, Father Dennis meekly lowered his head and awaited further blows.“So it was you! How could you? You knew it was for this afternoon’s luncheon.”Father Dennis bowed his head even farther toward the table. “Forgive me, Mrs. Norris, for I have sinned.”Father James repressed a smile while asking, “Who did you feed this time?”“The construction workers next door,” he said meekly.Father James looked at Mrs. Norris. She appeared as though she were about to explode. Father Dennis was in for it now. If only the young prelate had listened to his warning. “Take anything you want from the rectory but never invade Mrs. Norris’s kitchen,” he had said. Apparently his words had landed on deaf ears.Last week the young priest had snatched a chocolate sheet cake to surprise his fifth grade catechism class. He was under the mistaken assumption that Mrs. Norris had baked the cake for the two priests. Unfortunately, it had been promised to the seniors’ Wednesday night Bingo game. Mrs. Norris had rained down fire and brimstone over that one. The seniors hadn’t been too happy either.Father James commended Father Dennis for his big heart and his acts of charity, but Mrs. Norris’s kitchen was a place that he feared even the Lord Himself wouldn’t tread without permission.Father Dennis hastened to explain. “They worked so hard putting in that last piece of marble behind the altar. I thought a little celebration was called for.” He quickly added: “You might as well know that I used up all the ice tea, too.”Mrs. Norris pulled out a kitchen chair and sat down with a plunk. “Father Dennis, you are hastening my demise. I don’t know how much longer I can hang on with this type of constant aggravation.”Neither man argued or tried to convince her otherwise nor stated what they knew to be fact— Mrs. Norris was healthier than the Platt family’s stable of Morgan horses. Both men had watched her clean the rectory from top to bottom in less than three hours without getting winded. Was that the profile of someone near death’s door?They had tried reasoning with her in the beginning of June when she had first concluded her fate. Their arguments hadn’t made the slightest impression. Nothing could convince Mrs. Norris that she was not soon for the grave. By July they had given up trying and learned to simply ignore her histrionics.“I might not even make it to the dedication ceremony this afternoon.” She began to fan herself with the ends of her apron. “I certainly don’t have the strength to go to the market, buy more ingredients and make a new batch of ambrosia. And what will I tell Mother Superior and the sisters, who are counting on my dessert?”The mention of Mother Superior gave Father Dennis cause for deeper remorse. The woman scared him half to death. Reminded him of his mother’s sister, his Aunt Ethel, to whose farm he was sent each summer to take in the fresh country air and lose some of his “baby fat.” The only thing he had taken in, however, was his Aunt Ethel’s continual displeasure, and all he had lost was his self-respect.Nothing that he did could please her, although he had tried his hardest. He’d gotten up at four o’clock in the morning with Uncle Artie to milk the cows, but somehow he’d always manage to fall asleep and fall off the milking stool just as his aunt walked into the barn to tell them that breakfast was ready. He had even nailed rusted wire fencing back on fence posts until his hands bled, but his aunt never saw this. Instead, she always seemed to appear on the rare occasions that he would slip into the pond to float on his back, stare longingly into the heavens and wish that summer was over so he could go back home.He was “listless and lazy,” according to his Aunt Ethel, and his mother was much too soft on him.“If you don’t practice more self-discipline, you’re going to grow up to be as fat as one of my prize heifers,” his aunt had concluded, a prophecy that seemed to be closer to coming true with each passing year. Last time he had stepped on a scale it had registered three hundred and fifty pounds. Father Dennis was barely five feet five inches tall.Beads of sweat now formed around Father Dennis’s upper lip. “I’m truly sorry, Mrs. Norris. I am.”“Um! Fat good you’re being sorry is going to do. What am I going to tell the bishop? He loves my ambrosia. Looks forward to it each time he visits. And not just any ambrosia, may I remind you. It won a blue ribbon at the Goshen fair three years in a row. Well, you’re going to have to go right next door and tell Mother Superior the dessert that she was counting on for the luncheon has disappeared.”Father Dennis looked pleadingly over toward Father James, who hunched his shoulders as though to say, You’re on your own.The thought of confessing to Mother Superior brought on an immediate case of hiccups, a nervous tic he had developed in childhood.Dealing with Mother Superior often gave him the hiccups, which was why last October Father Dennis offered to conduct the Blessings of the Animals on Saint Francis of Assisi’s feast day if Father James would take his place, working with Mother Superior on the Pumpkin Harvest, even though Father Dennis was allergic to every animal known to man. He also knew that blessings would have to be bestowed on the Galligan twins’ boa constrictor and little Jennifer Crawford’s two ferrets—savage little beasts that literally bit the hand that fed them—and a plethora of dogs and cats.Father Dennis had stoically performed the ceremony, willingly enduring days of red welts, itchy eyes and nasal congestion. In fact, he would have walked on nails...anything rather than have to work side by side with Mother Superior.“What if I run to the store and buy some more ingredients...hiccup?” Father Dennis asked hopefully. “Couldn’t you make a new batch without letting on what had happened to the...er...hiccup...last bowl?”“If I live that long,” Mrs. Norris said listlessly.“You can’t leave,” Father James reminded him. “You’re saying Mass this morning. Besides that, you offered to pick up Bishop Ruskin at the train station. I’m without a car, remember?”Father James’s Jeep had blown a tire rod yesterday morning as he traveled the back roads from Woodstock returning from visiting patients at Mercy Hospital. Triple A had towed it to the Fergusons’ garage, Tri Town Auto. He had meant to call there this morning and find out how long he would be without wheels.“Can you go to the store and pick up what Mrs. Norris needs?” asked Father Dennis with somewhat of a desperate twinge to his voice.“No problem,” Father James assured him. He hated to see his young assistant squirm. “I planned to walk down to Main Street and pay a visit to Lori Peterson at the Country Kettle. I could easily swing by the Grand Union on the way back.” He turned to Mrs. Norris. “I shouldn’t be gone more than an hour or so. Will that give you enough time to make another bowl of ambrosia?”“I suppose. That is, if the good Lord hasn’t called me home by the time you get back.”Father James stood up, pushed his chair in under the table and began to brush crumbs off his black shirt. “Well, in case that should happen, why don’t you leave out the recipe card so Father Dennis and I can whip up a new batch while we wait for the undertaker.”Shades of the old Mrs. Norris rushed to the surface. “Go ahead. Make all the fun you want. A person knows when their time is up. I don’t care what those doctors say. I’ll be going home to my glory any day now. You’ll see.” She looked over to Father Dennis. “And if you don’t keep out of my refrigerator and cupboards, you’ll be coming right alone with me!”«The humidity had dropped and a slight cool breeze blew in off the river. Puffs of cumulus clouds floated on a perfect blue sky that the mountains surrounding the valley seemed to hold aloft with tall, pointed spears of the pine trees to the north and the spindly oaks to the south.Father James stepped out of the rectory’s side door and felt his spirits lighten, a combination of the fine summer day and the excitement of that afternoon’s ceremonies. Even the rectory and church swathed in scaffolding—a stark reminder of his inadequacies as a building supervisor— couldn’t depress him. In fact, it seemed to heighten his mood when he remembered that only two years ago the church was in such disrepair that it had been scheduled to be closed. But God had miraculously intervened by way of Mother Superior, Sister Mary Veronica, and her order, the Daughters of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who had decided to open a retirement home across the street and insisted that St. Cecilia’s former pastor, Father Keene, become the home’s first official resident. This forceful woman had also convinced the archdiocese that both the nuns and the home’s residents would be in need of a church and a priest, ensuring St. Cecilia’s survival. She had even managed to finagle the archdiocese into renovating St. Cecilia’s from top to bottom, which meant that, for the first time in nearly thirty years, the buildings finally met with town codes.Yes, it was a fine day for celebrating, Father James thought, as he heard the inner words of the Apostle Paul: Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ. He bound down the rectory’s four wooden steps and did a slight jog along the stone pathway that lead to the sidewalk, being certain to rein in his stride before rounding the church’s façade. Lord help him should anyone think he’d taken up jogging! Lately it seemed that no matter where he went someone was giving him unsolicited advice about adopting a healthier lifestyle, most of which had to do with exercise.“Kickboxing,” Jeff Hayden, his recently married best friend and one of Dorsetville’s newest residents, had suggested. “It’s perfect for your busy schedule. It’s an aerobic exercise and cardiovascular workout all in one. Make you feel lean and mean.”Retiree Timothy McGree, who was St. Cecilia’s head usher, had suggested a stationary bike. “It’s just the thing you need. Thirty minutes a day. That will lower your cholesterol.” As an afterthought he added, “And eat lots of oatmeal.”Father James hated oatmeal.Ben Metcalf, Timothy’s best friend for over seventy years, had been privy to this exchange. Shaking his head, Ben countered, “Those bikes are only good for the legs. What Father needs is a treadmill with a hand glider. Works both the upper and lower portion of your body all at one time. I have one in my bedroom. Why don’t you drop on over and give it a try?”There had also been suggestions for hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding, swimming, yoga and aerobics classes, none of which sounded the least bit interesting to Father James, who had steadfastly ignored any form of exercise for over forty years and didn’t see why he should take it up now.Father James arrived at the Country Kettle and pushed open the front door. Aromatic smells filled the air—Harry’s famous rich coffee, bacon smoked and cured right up the road in Goshen and home fries seasoned only as Harry could. Father James breathed in deeply, savoring the smells. It was like coming home.In fact, everything about the County Kettle made you feel right at home, from the faded curtains on the front windows to the worn wooden floors. Mismatched plates and mugs made the customers feel more like they were visiting a favorite relative’s house than a restaurant. In fact, since Harry bought most of his dishes at local tag sales, practically everyone could point to some plate, saucer, cup or mug that had once graced their own kitchen tables.The windowsills were filled with live potted flowers. The walls were covered with various needlework designs donated by the town’s women. A carved bear, made by one of Chester Platt’s men with a chain saw one day as he waited for a shipment of lumber, stood guard right outside the door. It wore a brightly colored scarf that changed with the seasons.Father James headed toward the front counter just as Harry Clifford began to clean the grill after the breakfast rush. Several waitresses scurried about, clearing off the tables and booths filled with stacks of dirty dishes and empty coffee cups. Among them was Harry’s newest waitress, Wendy Davis.Wendy had arrived in Dorsetville four months ago. She and her husband, Harold, had bought the Cape Cod on the edge of town that had once belonged to Arlene Campbell’s Aunt Cybil, who died two years ago. The house was situated on the northern portion of Main Street right before the turn-off onto Route 7. It had once been a cute little place with a white picket fence and a small orchard of apple trees in the back. But since Cybil’s husband’s death, the place had been allowed to run down.Wendy’s husband, Harold, a top-notch machine mechanic, had been transferred in early May from New York to a tool-and-die plant over in Gaylordsville. They had been in their new home for less than three months when Wendy went in search of a job. Their house needed a host of repairs, including a new wood-shingled roof. If they didn’t want water pouring in through the ceiling this winter, Wendy knew she had better find work, a premise that didn’t bother her a bit. She had never been a stay-at-home kind of gal.Wendy, just shy of her thirty-eighth birthday, had waitressed since she was sixteen. Unlike other women who considered waiting tables a route to another career, waitressing was a career for Wendy and she took pride in it. Her white rubber-soled shoes were polished every night after supper; her crisp white uniforms were spotless; and her apron pockets carried her favorite twenty-five-dollar pen and a package of Life Savers breath mints. She wore her red hair (Clairol’s Nice ’n Easy, Natural Copper Red #109) tied at the nape of the neck in a neat ponytail and neutral-colored polish on her neatly trimmed nails.When Wendy spied Harry’s ad for a waitress in the Dorsetville Gazette she had wasted no time in applying. The résumé that she had handed Harry stated that she was a “Professional Waitress.” Harry had never met a professional waitress before, but he could see at a glance that Wendy had a great deal of experience. Listed were several diners in and around New York City, the ones that had menus that stretched on for six or seven pages and offered everything from hamburgers and fries to sole amandine. He had hired her on the spot.The next day, Wendy arrived promptly at 6 a.m. She asked a few questions: Where did they keep the extra bags of coffee? What did he charge for two eggs, bacon and toast? Then she dove right into the morning melee. Both Harry and Lori had watched with amazement as Wendy sailed through the morning rush, working both the front tables and the entire counter. By eight o’clock, she had taken on the takeout orders as well.“You call that a rush?” she had asked when it was over, looking just as fresh as when she had arrived, every hair in place, her uniform spotless.“More like a trickle back from where I come,” she said, refilling the salt and pepper shakers. Everyone else looked as though they were about to collapse.There was, however, one thing about Wendy that worried Harry. Her thick New York accent and “Don’t mess with me” attitude scared most of his locals, including the St. Cecilia’s regular morning crowd. Ethel Johnson had taken Harry aside and requested that Lori wait on them.“Fred Campbell can’t understand a word she says and my sweet Honey (Ethel’s beloved golden retriever) won’t come out from underneath the table when she’s near.”Wendy even scared Father James, who was relieved to see her taking her morning break as he strolled in. He headed toward the front counter and sat down on a red vinyl-covered stool.“Any coffee left?” Father James asked hopefully, directing this query to Harry, who was working hard cleaning the grill. Just one cup shouldn’t bother his intestines that much.“Sure, help yourself,” Harry said from behind the grill. “I think Lori just finished making a new pot.”“Nice try, Father James,” Lori Peterson said before he had even risen off his stool. “You know the doctor said that caffeine’s out. How about a cup of herbal tea? You like the Lemon Balm I gave you last time?”Hopes dashed, he lied and said he’d love a cup.Lori placed Father James’s tea on the counter. He stared at the mug, which bore a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge. Who in Dorsetville had vacationed there? he wondered.The phone rang as Wendy was walking back toward the kitchen. “Hello, Country Kettle Restaurant.”The greeting seemed a little off in Wendy’s New York accent, Father James thought.“Hey, Harry. It’s Nellie Anderson. Says she’s at school. She can only talk a minute.”“I’ll take it in the back,” Harry said, wiping his hands on his apron, then practically running down Pedro, the dishwasher, as he charged through the kitchen door.“I’d say someone is in love,” Wendy mused, replacing the receiver, then heading outside for her midmorning cigarette.Father James glanced over at Lori. Both smiled. Harry and Nellie had been dating since early spring and, by the looks of things, it was getting serious. This love affair had become the main topic of conversation in Dorsetville.“Hello, Father James,” Lori’s daughter Sarah said, walking by. She had a dishcloth in her hand, a towel tied around her waist and her curly blond hair was tied back behind a pink polka- dot babushka. She looked like a miniature serving wench.“Did you finish wiping off those side tables, Sarah?” her mother asked.“Yes. Can I go in the back and color now? I’m bored.” Coloring was Sarah’s favorite pastime. The Peterson house had her pictures hung everywhere. Even Uncle Harry had several tacked up around the restaurant.“Wouldn’t you rather stay out here and visit with me and Father James?”Sarah looked down at the floor and shook her head no.“All right. You can go in the back but stay out of Pedro’s way.”Lori watched her daughter head toward the kitchen with deep concern, then poured herself a cup of coffee and settled alongside Father James.“I feel so guilty at having to drag Sarah to work each morning while school’s out for summer vacation,” Lori lamented. “There’s not an awful lot for a seven-year-old to do around here.”The coffee’s intoxicating aroma wafted up from Lori’s Baseball’s Hall of Fame mug. My kingdom for a cup of coffee, Father James silently lamented. Life wasn’t fair. The priest watched, like a dog fixed on a bone, as Lori blew on the steam rising from her cup.Lori continued. “But there isn’t much that I can do. Bob’s illness last year drained all of our savings, so summer camp’s out. And now with this new bakery business. I can’t just pick up and leave whenever I feel like it.”A few months ago, Harry had expanded the restaurant, knocking down a wall into the adjacent store and creating a bakery that showcased Lori’s famous muffins and cakes, recipes all gleaned from her grandmother’s files.“Several of us working moms have approached Mother Superior about starting a daycare at the retirement home. It certainly would be a wonderful addition to our town.”“And what did she say?”“She wants to wait until all of their residents are settled in before the nuns can seriously consider it.”“Maybe things will be a little better when Bob gets back,” Father James said. “And how is his doing?”“Not a trace of cancer,” Lori said joyfully. “Doc Hammon said the oncologists have never seen such a perfect bone marrow match.”“‘Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,’” he fairly sang. The entire town had prayed fervently for Bob’s recovery. “And I take it the bakery is still doing well.”“Too well, if you can imagine such a thing,” Lori said. “We’re sold out most mornings by ten o’clock. I keep coming in earlier and earlier in hopes I can bake enough to satisfy the demand, but unfortunately there are always a few disgruntled customers who arrive after everything is gone.” “Well, that’s a nice problem to have.”“Oh, I don’t mean to sound ungrateful,” she said, “but all this success means I have a lot less time to spend with Sarah. I’m beginning to wonder if Harry shouldn’t find someone else to run the bakery. I could always go back to just waitressing. Less hours.”“What? And deprive the town of those delicious confections? Why, I’ve yet to get a taste of your Haddam Hall Gingerbread. Every time I come in they’re sold out.”Lori laughed, “I’ll save you one next time I bake a batch.”Father James took a swig of his Lemon Balm and tried not to grimace. Replacing the mug, he suggested, “Why don’t you enroll Sarah in the Bible camp? Father Dennis and Reverend Curtis are starting one up next week. It’s free to parishioners. Classes are going to be held in the basement of the Congregational church. Arts and crafts, story time—you know, things like that. They’re using the town green for outdoor games and activities. Barry Hornibrook has even offered the kids the use of the beach by his new hotel complex. Sarah would have a great time, and it would free up some of that guilt you’re carrying around,” he teased.“That sounds like a wonderful idea.”Sarah peeked out from around the corner. “Mommy, it’s too hot in the kitchen. Can I color over there on a table?”“Sure. Pick any one you want.”“Let’s see what you’ve been coloring,” Father James said as she started to pass by.Sarah shyly handed him her picture.Father James pretended to study it with great earnestness, then looked up and smiled. “Why, Sarah, this picture is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!”Sarah giggled. Father James felt as though he had won the Lotto.“How would you like to go to summer Bible camp?” her mother asked, suddenly feeling not quite so desperate. “There will be games to play and trips to the beach and lots of fun things to do. It’s got to be more fun than hanging around here or with Daddy when he gets home. What do you say?”Sarah looked up and frowned. “Will Jamie be there?” Jamie Rupert was her very best friend.“I don’t know,” Father James said, “but if your mom will come around to the rectory after work, I’ll give her a brochure and she can deliver it to Jamie’s mom and maybe she will be allowed to come, too.” He patted the top of Sarah’s head. “How’s that sound?”“Will I be allowed to color?”«Nellie kept an anxious eye on the clock in the teacher’s lounge. She and her coworkers had only a few minutes left before the principal expected them back into the auditorium to resume their pre- school-year briefing. Classes were to begin in just a few weeks, and several changes in the state’s educational policies and their ramifications needed to be discussed.But before she allowed ideas about possible new placement tests and curricula to invade her thoughts, she deliberately closed her eyes, blocking out everything except the memory of Harry’s gentle voice, which still rang in her ears. She turned toward the window and closed her eyes, sealing in its sound, committing every morsel of their conversation to memory. She would replay snatches of it intermittently throughout the rest of the day.Just look at me, she thought, like some moonstruck teenager. Nellie Anderson, the town spinster, acting like an adolescent. It made her giggle. Two teachers seated in reading chairs by the large paneled bookcase looked at her quizzically, but she didn’t care. How glorious it felt to be loved and adored by a man. Harry had helped to refashion her quiet, lonely world, filling her lackluster days with bright, hope-filled moments. Suddenly, she believed that anything was possible, even the miracle for which she so fervently prayed—the means to save her family home.No one except Father James knew that Nellie was in peril of losing her home, a property that had been in her family for hundreds of years. Her mother had heavily mortgaged it when her father had gotten ill, then she herself had taken sick, which greatly added to the expenses.The family lawyer had suggested that Nellie make her mother a ward of the state, place her in a nursing home, declare bankruptcy. Nellie refused. Instead, she worked more hours, even through the summer months, stopped taking vacations and personally attended to her mother’s needs. When her mother died, Nellie was left with a mountain of bills that included a balloon mortgage payment due in a few weeks’ time. She had no way of paying it.“Coffee break’s over,” one of the teachers announced, rising from his chair. “Time to get back.”There was a brief scuffling of feet and folding of newspapers and closing of books. Nellie gathered a stack of papers bearing the state’s seal that she had intended to review but, instead, had called Harry. Her movements were slow, deliberate. She lingered behind, watching the others file out of the room.She could still hear Harry’s deep, baritone voice, and the way it sounded when he called her “Honey.” She loved him so much and hated keeping her financial problems to herself. But if he knew he’d want to help. Nellie couldn’t allow that. She was much too proud.No, she would work it out alone somehow. She had been thinking about taking on a second job. The Dorsetville Gazette had advertised that office cleaners were needed over in Woodstock. She had circled the ad. She planned to drive there after today’s meeting. Another reason for her call to Harry. She needed to break their date. They had plans to meet after the retirement home luncheon today.Finally, Nellie could procrastinate no longer. She slowly made her way out into the hall.

Editorial Reviews

What a great gift this book is to anyone who knows of angels in this life and who themselves might be considered angels by others. (Monsignor Tom Hartman, coauthor of Religion for Dummies)