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"They found out why he had the heart attack," said Adam. "It was related to his bout of rheumatic fever when he was young." Adam shook his head and finished the last of his coffee before getting up to pour another cup. "I don't know, Charlie," he sighed, leaning against the countertop as she ran water in the sink to wash his dishes, "many years ago, it was the fever that turned Thomas to Christ, in the first place. Seems to me, God is trying to remind him of Who's in control. It certainly isn't Thomas, that's for sure." As Adam talked, some of the water from the kitchen sink splattered onto his pants.

"You're standing too close to the sink," remarked Charlie.

"Why aren't you using the dishwasher?" Adam suddenly realized, picking up a towel to dry himself off.

"It's out of order," she explained, rinsing a plate beneath the running water.

"When did this happen?"

"Sometime while we were away," shrugged Charlie. "I found out this evening, that the drain in the shower is a little sluggish," she suddenly remembered to inform him. "It takes forever for the water to go down."

"Really?" Adam quickly brightened. "I happen to know a former Master Plumber who's quite good. He also has very reasonable rates. But," added Adam with a discouraged sigh, "night calls cost extra. I don't know if you can afford him."

"Do you think he might accept something else in exchange for his work?" wondered Charlie, trying hard not to break into laughter, for Adam's overly-grave face was almost more than she could take.

"I think he might be persuaded," mused Adam. He set his mug down and moved behind Charlie while she worked at the sink. She could feel his breath on her neck as he spoke. "One slow drain in exchange for a game of chess," he proposed.

"Not if you're going to let me win," Charlie warned him.

"Even if you get soundly beaten?" he asked in surprise.

"You mean, when I get soundly beaten," laughed Charlie. "Really, Adam, it's no fun when you don't even put up a fight."

"With you, I hardly have to," he joked. "Okay, if it's a trouncing you want, then it's a trouncing you'll get! I'll set up the chess board on the kitchen table."

"Now?" asked Charlie, looking at the clock. "Adam, it's four in the morning."

"So?" he shrugged.

"You may be used to staying up at all hours of the night," she sighed, "but I'm not."

"Are you tired?" he asked. "You don't look it."

"No," she admitted, "I suppose I'm not. I had a rather long nap, today."

"Then, I'll set up the chess board," he grinned.

Even though Charlie predictably lost, the two were enjoying their game together so much, that she agreed to be beaten a second time.

Then the sun began to peek in at the windows, and Charlie had to get up to start breakfast. When the food was ready, Adam carried a breakfast tray into Vera's room so she wouldn't have to walk to the kitchen. Kevin turned on the morning news with Chuck in the living room, and the two ate their hot muffins and scrambled eggs, while Mrs. Jacobs dropped by to see how Vera had fared through the night.

Outside, the night had transitioned into a beautiful August morning. Charlie brushed aside the curtains and looked out the living room window as a roadrunner scampered across the front yard, chasing another lizard. An arm tenderly encircled her waist, pulling her away from the gaze of the world. Behind the thickly laced curtains, Adam kissed his Charlie.

"Welcome home, Mrs. Clark," he murmured happily.

"This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it."
~ Psalm 118:24 ~

end of chapter
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