Be among the first to know when I post new chapters, to new books!

Click Here
Keep up-to-date on all the announcements and website news!

Subscribe today!

My policy is to follow the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12); I hate spam too, and will never sell or give away your email address.
Chapter Eighteen
A Safe Place for Madison

"Hear me speedily, O LORD: my spirit faileth...."
~ Psalm 143:7 ~

The knife. The moment she finished her second hot dog, Madison remembered the knife she'd hidden in the upstairs bathroom. Her happiness tip-toed away.

She had cut herself Saturday night, and now, here it was Monday, and she'd already done it again. This time it was worse. She didn't have to take another look at her wounds to know that. It hurt worse than last time, and the fact she'd done it again so soon, probably didn't help.

Stupid, stupid idiot. Can't you stop hurting yourself?

Discouragement sank the last of her hunger, and she put down the third hot dog. Why couldn't she stay happy for a little longer? What was wrong with her? Terry had liked his present and that had sent her over the moon with joy. Now, she felt as though she were in a night with no moon at all.


She looked up, saw the concern in Terry's face and realized she was still crying.

Terry put down his food. "Is it your hip?"


"Then what is it? You're in pain-- I know you are, I saw you moving around in the store."

"Please, Terry..."

"Please, what?" Terry heaved a sigh, leaned back in his chair and stared at her. "I'll do everything in my power to help you, but I have to admit, I'm in over my head. You need help. What I'm doing isn't enough."

"Do I have to leave?"

"Did I say that?" He gave her a mild look of reproof. "I'm not giving up, okay? I just think you need more help than I alone can give. I know I've mentioned this before, but I'd like to take you to a friend of mine-- a psychiatrist."

She said nothing.

"His name is Dr. Jacoby. He's a professing Christian, and he's been a good friend to my family. I trust him."

"Terry, I can't."

"He won't hurt you, Maddie."

"I can't." She pushed away from the table, and pain winced through her belly as she stood. "Don't make me. You can't make me."

"Maddie, calm down."

"I'll run away if you make me-- I will, I swear I will."

"Maddie, sit down."

"I won't."

"Maddie." Terry nodded to the chair.

She sat down.

"If you want to leave, then I won't stop you. I will try to talk you out of it, though." Terry folded his arms. "You need to stay, and you need Dr. Jacoby's help."

"You can't make me."

"That's true-- I can't." Terry leaned forward, reached across the table and lightly touched warm fingers to her wet cheek. "Please, Maddie. You aren't getting better. You're so pale, so delicately fierce, I'm afraid you'll die before my eyes and there won't be a thing I can do to stop it from happening."

The memory of her fearing if she passed out after cutting herself that day, that she might die, came back and haunted her.

God, please help me! she cried in silence.

"Maddie, I can't bear to watch you in so much pain." His hand withdrew, but his eyes continued to plead.

"Do you think I'm crazy?" She swallowed hard. "Do you think I'm insane and that's why I need a psychiatrist?"

"No," Terry paused, as though trying to pick his words carefully. "I think you've been hurt and you need someone to help you work things out. And then there's that--" he nodded to her belly. "You keep reaching for your stomach, and I'm beginning to think that's what's causing your pain tonight. Did you tell your doctor about that pain, or did it come after your last visit?"

She didn't answer.

"If you can't tell me, then maybe you'll tell Dr. Jacoby. Or maybe you want me to take you back to Dr. Nelson?"


"She's your primary physician, Maddie. You can trust her."


"Then speak with Dr. Jacoby."


Terry's mouth opened, he sucked in a sharp breath. "Okay." He pushed to his feet. "I have to start clearing the table. Go brush your teeth, get anything you'll need for the night, then we're going home." His eyes didn't meet hers as he gathered the dishes, then headed for the kitchen.

Relief washed through her. She breathed deeply, got up and started for the stairs. She wouldn't have to see anyone, and they wouldn't find out about her cutting.

A muffled sound came from the kitchen, one that stopped Madison in her tracks.

It couldn't be. She'd seen him do it once before-- that time he stood in the rain, when he thought no one was watching-- but surely, not now.

She crept back through the dining room, hesitated at the kitchen and peeked inside.

He stood at the sink with his back to her, his shoulders heaving.

With a pang of shock, she realized Terry was crying.

Not knowing what to do, she stood there and watched him clamp a hand over his mouth, most likely to keep the sounds from traveling upstairs, where he thought she was.

She edged away from the kitchen, not wanting him to catch her watching.

Terry, oh Terry. She wanted to put her arms around him and make him feel better, but couldn't.

Why was he crying? She tried as quietly as possible to go upstairs without making any noise. If her belly didn't already hurt so much, she'd take the knife and cut again.

What had he said to do? Brush her teeth? She needed to obey.

She went into the bathroom at the top of the stairs, leaned heavily against the bathroom door and wished she were anyone but herself. If she were normal, he wouldn't be crying. That woman-- that Emily-- she would know what to do. Emily would soothe away his tears and make him forget he was sad.

He was sad because of her-- Madison Crawford-- and no one else. This was Madison's fault.

She had made him cry.

Seeing Dr. Nelson again was out of the question. A physical exam would prove she hadn't stopped cutting, so Madison could not, and would not, go back-- not until her scars had healed over so they looked old enough to escape fresh notice.

But that psychiatrist. She wouldn't have to take off her clothes for an exam, would she? What did psychiatrists do, anyway? Talk?

Please, Terry, don't cry.

She slumped onto the floor, her tears coming faster than she could stop them. This wasn't fair, but he was crying and the thought of that was more than she could bear.

Glimpsing the clothes hamper, she remembered the knife and pushed herself up. She reached behind the hamper, drew out the knife and clamped a hand over her mouth to smother her sobs the way Terry had done. Tugging down a bathroom towel, she wrapped the knife and continued to cry. She hated tears. They were a sign of weakness, and yet she was helpless to stop them.

She pulled herself up, located one of the shopping bags with her clothes and shoved the towel inside so it hid under the jeans and shirts. This wasn't fair, she thought as she found her pajamas and put them into another bag to take to the Johanneses' house. It wasn't fair. Terry wasn't playing fair.

She swiped at her wet cheeks, then opened the bathroom door and headed downstairs, making as much noise as possible along the way. He had to know she was coming so he could stop crying.

Psychiatrists did a lot of talking, they had long couches where people stretched out and stared at ceilings and blabbed about feelings. That's the way it worked on television, wasn't it?

It took courage to keep going. She was drowning in grief, and if Terry wasn't careful, she might die right in front of him, just like he'd said. It wouldn't be because she'd bled to death accidentally, but because she couldn't bear to see him cry. Her blood would simply stop pumping out of sheer grief.

The closer she came to the kitchen, the more she heard splashing sounds like someone washing the dishes.

Madison leaned against the kitchen entrance, watched Terry scrub then rinse each plate, then start on the glasses. Those strong shoulders didn't heave anymore and she closed her eyes in grateful relief.


For a moment, he didn't respond. Then, with a sniff, he said, "Yeah?"

"I'll go." She leaned her head against the wall, opened her eyes and watched those strong shoulders come to a stop. "I'll let you take me to that psychiatrist."

He raised a shoulder, dried his face and said nothing.

"I'll go." Though the words wouldn't come easily, she forced herself to say them. "If you want me to go, then I will."

Terry didn't turn around, but remained at the sink with his back to her.

"Why?" he asked.

She couldn't answer. He finally turned, and she saw the tears that said he'd been crying.

"Why?" he pressed.

Madison shut her eyes rather than see those tears. She tried picturing them in the English sitting room, but the image wouldn't come.

"Maddie, why?"

"Because I like you." She willed herself to look at him and her insides ached.

"It's not because you think I'm forcing you, is it?" Terry sniffed away more tears. "I don't want you to go because you think I'm forcing you."

"Terry, I have to. You're crying."

"You are too," he pointed out.

"I am not."

He gasped half a laugh, then turned back to the sink.

She watched the back of his head, those shoulders as he finished the dishes. Her belly hurt, her insides hurt where her heart was supposed to be, and at the same time, little shimmers of happiness glinted through the pain. She kept watching his back, keeping her distance but knowing he had cared enough to cry.

How could that be? All men were raging monsters, but not Terry. Not her sweet, wonderful Terry.

"Did you brush your teeth?" he asked over his shoulder. The tears had subsided-- she could hear it in his voice.

"I forgot."

"Your teeth will rot out," he warned.


He sniffed again, let out the water in the sink and turned to face her. He looked braced and ready for something difficult. "What?" he asked.

"You have a dishwasher, so why did you clean those by hand?"

A laugh came to his lips. He palmed his eyes. "I guess I needed to keep busy." He pushed away from the sink, gave a wide berth around her as he passed into the dining area. "Are you ready to go?"

She nodded and followed him into the living room. He handed her a coat, and when she reached to take it, their eyes met.

Wow. He was so incredibly wonderful she felt she had to be dreaming. This had to be a dream, a wonderful, wonderful dream she didn't ever want to end.

He groaned softly. "I wish you'd tone it down. You're going to get me into trouble, if you keep looking at me like that. Why do you do it, anyway? What do you see that other women don't?"

The question surprised her. Before she could answer, he turned away.

"Forget I asked. Let's get out of here before we start crying again." Terry grabbed his coat, his keys, went to the front door and opened it. "I'll get in touch with Dr. Jacoby."

"Terry, I like you."

He winced as though the words gave him pain. "It'd be better for the both of us if you didn't."

"But I can't help it."

"Try, Maddie. Please try." He hefted the keys, then nodded to the door.

She just had to ask.

"Do you like me?"

His mouth shut and pain came to his eyes.

"Terry, please. Do you like me, even just a little?"

He looked away, motioned to the door and kept his lips clamped shut.


He shook his head, and motioned to the door more forcefully.

Wet stung her eyes but she obeyed and went outside.

He locked the apartment, then moved to the passenger door of the jeep. He opened the car door, held it for her as she climbed inside then put her bag on the floor by her feet.

Madison looked up at Terry, and saw the kindness in his face. He liked her. She didn't see desire in those deep brown eyes, or physical need; all she saw was Terry, her best friend ever.

He shut the door, rounded the hood while her insides shimmered and danced even more. Her breathing came in large gulps, and when Terry climbed behind the wheel she felt strange.

"What's wrong now?" he asked. "You aren't going to faint, are you?"

Her ears began to ring, her face felt hot.

"Maddie, don't you dare." Terry scrambled from the jeep, fumbled for his keys, and after that, Madison's world went blank.

* * * *

She was doing it again. The first time had been after he found her in the rain, had carried her to his jeep, and she'd panicked and keeled over in the passenger seat in a dead faint.

He raced to the kitchen, grabbed a glass, filled it with water, and hoped he wasn't already too late. As he came back, he saw through the windshield that he was. She'd passed out cold, just like before.

He opened her door, tipped the glass and let water splash down her face.

"Maddie, wake up." He poured more water and her eyes fluttered open. He set aside the glass, took her hand and rubbed it between his own. "I don't think you panicked, so what was it this time? Why did you pass out?"

"Terry, what's going on?" Lauren appeared from her apartment, came over to him dressed in a bathrobe and house-slippers. "What happened?" she asked.

"Maddie fainted."

"Why?" Lauren moved to the other side of the jeep, got in through the driver's side and began rubbing Maddie's other hand.

By now, Maddie had recovered enough to look embarrassed. "I'm all right. I breathed too fast, that's all."

Terry leveled her a look. "I warned you, didn't I? I've been telling you to calm down."

"I'm calm," she nodded, and tried to get her hands free. Terry let go, but Lauren wouldn't.

"Does she need to see a doctor?"

"I'll leave that up to Maddie," Terry said, watching that pale face regain more color. Even though it came because of embarrassment, he was glad to see her not looking so pale.

"She needs to be more careful," Lauren said, still rubbing and patting Maddie's hand. "She has to think of someone besides herself now."

The comment slid past Terry.

"You need to take better care of yourself," Lauren went on, now addressing Maddie. "Don't overwork yourself, and make sure you have a diet rich in calcium. Calcium grows strong bones, you know."

Picking up on that, Terry nodded. "I have her drinking calcium-fortified milk."

"It's the least he can do," Lauren mumbled. She gave Maddie's hand one last pat before getting out of the jeep. Lauren gave Terry a no-nonsense look that puzzled him. "I hope you intend to take care of her."

"I'm trying," Terry shrugged.

Lauren shook her head, turned and went back to her apartment where her husband, Ralph, stood watching from a window.

"I really am," Terry sighed. He looked into the jeep and found Maddie calmer than he had seen her all day. "Are you okay?"

She nodded.

"Do you want a doctor?"

"No, I breathed too fast, that's all."

Afraid of the answer she might give, Terry wasn't about to ask again why she fainted. He felt he already knew. Did she pass out every time she really liked a man, or was this a first for her? That was another question Terry wasn't about to ask.

Though he'd never had this kind of trouble before, Terry didn't let the situation go to his head. He was flattered, but not so flattered he suddenly saw himself as anything but what he was-- a middle-aged man who was still single, and had trouble attracting women. No wife, no children, no family of his own. A failure.

Depressed again, Terry locked his apartment. Maddie liked him, and it only pointed to the fact that this woman needed professional help. He needed to call Dr. Jacoby.

Grateful he had her permission, Terry turned back to the jeep. And stopped. Maddie sat holding the glass of water, her head leaned back against the headrest, her eyes closed and looking very much happy and content. Sleeping Beauty, he thought with a sigh. God had really outdone Himself when He created Maddie.

At that moment, Terry caught himself smiling.

* * * *

She didn't say a word on the drive home. Fine by Terry. He didn't want her to work herself up into another faint. When they reached the house, she kept quiet, though Terry thought he detected some dread in her silence.

He unlocked the front door, stepped inside the living room only to find everyone had turned in for the night.

"Where is everyone?" Maddie whispered.

Terry thumbed at the clock. It was one-thirty in the morning.

He closed the door softly, glanced at the couch and smiled. Izzy had already made a bed for Maddie, no doubt guessing that Terry wanted their guest to stay a little longer.

Terry made a mental note to hug Izzy in the morning.

Some of the dread eased in Maddie's posture, that chin that no longer hugged her chest, and it occurred to Terry she hadn't wanted to face John and Izzy.

"Do we have to tell them I fainted?" Maddie asked in such a low whisper, he nearly didn't catch all the words.

"No, but they'll probably hear about it from Lauren." Terry rubbed a hand over his eyes. "Go to bed as soon as you can. Your furniture's coming tomorrow, so you'll need your rest."

She nodded, and started off with her grocery bag for the half bath in the office.

What a day, Terry thought as he looked about the dimly lit room. The night-light was already plugged in, so he headed into the office to see if anything had come for him in the afternoon mail.

He clicked on his desk light, found two boxes and a pile of envelopes, all addressed to him. Shedding his coat, Terry dropped into his chair and stared at the mountain. He didn't feel like going through it tonight, but tomorrow was probably going to be busy with getting Maddie's apartment ready.

Besides, he thought with a grin as he lifted the larger of the two boxes, Maddie would need this. Taking a pen knife, he slit open the packing tape, looked up as the bathroom door opened.

Maddie came out in her pink and black teddy bear pajamas, and the knife slipped, nicking his hand. Terry sucked the cut on his finger while she hurried back into the bathroom.

"I can help," she said eagerly, returning with all the first aid in the bathroom cabinet.

She looked so sweetly desirable in those pajamas, it alarmed him.

"Leave that stuff on my desk-- I'll take care of it. Maddie, just back off. I can handle this." He saw the disappointment in her face, but if she even had a hint of the thoughts that had tumbled into his mind just now, she would have fled the house and never looked back.

"Can't I help you?"

"Not now. Don't look at me like that, Maddie. Here," Terry stood, pushed the half open box across the desk. "Your coat came."

"But you're bleeding."

"It's just a cut. Put on the coat, will you?"

"But, Terry--"

"Put on the coat or get out of here. How much do you think I can take?" He one-handed the box of bandages. "What's gotten into you lately? All we did was have a quiet dinner on the beach, and then the next day you have stars in your eyes. Just back off, Maddie. You're not the only one who's confused, all right?"

Biting her lip, she took two steps back, then kept going until her back bumped into a filing cabinet.

"I should've had my head examined for bringing you home tonight. I should've left you at the apartment." Terry ripped off the bandage wrapper. "I've never had to be careful before-- not really, not like this."

"Be careful of what?"

"Just take your coat and go to bed." The bandage stuck to his fingers. He gave up and peeled it off. "Take the coat box." His eyes slipped over her figure as she moved, and he turned away. "Maddie, after tonight, you'll have to sleep at the apartment. This situation..." Terry blew out a breath. "I don't understand what's happening, I really don't. I was minding my own business, wasn't I?" He glanced at her. "What did I do to provoke this?"

"Did I do something wrong? Terry, I'm scared."

"You should be." He picked up his mail, sorted through the first few envelopes and realized they were medical bills. Maddie's medical bills. It was a reminder that Maddie wasn't a well person-- physically, or emotionally. She'd been severely wounded by that animal for much of her life.

It meant Maddie's scars ran wide and deep.

It also meant he had to steel himself. He had to be stronger. God was trusting him not to mess this up. He could not get tangled in Maddie's emotionally unbalanced heart, if she was even aware that it was happening.

Terry looked at her, saw her clutching the box to her chest, her eyes wide with fear.

"I'm sorry." He pushed out a steadying breath, dropped the mail on his desk and desperately prayed for wisdom. "I shouldn't have scared you like that, even though a little fear right now might be healthy."

"I'm sorry, too."

He gave a tired smile. "You don't even know what you're apologizing for."

She didn't answer, but hugged the box closer.

"Are we friends again?" he asked.

"Always, Terry. Always and forever."

The over-the-top answer made him pause. Was it any wonder he felt so confused? He sat down, winced outwardly as she added,

"I like you, Terry."

"I know." What in the world had he gotten himself into? "Go to bed, okay? I'm getting really tired, and... just please go to bed."

She left, leaving Terry to the pile of bills on his desk.

Instead of opening them, he lifted the remaining box, slit the tape, pulled out the packing material and stared at the contents.

Her Bible had come, along with the surprise he'd bought for her on the spur of the moment.

Later. He'd deal with this later. Closing the box, Terry left the office and went straight to bed.

* * * *

She hadn't understood most of what Terry had been saying, but then, she wasn't so sure he knew, either.

One thing she did understand, however, was her need to be more careful about coming out of bathrooms dressed in pajamas. Terry's reaction to her was unsettling, though very explainable. He'd been tired, and for the briefest of moments, had acted like a man. Her sweet Terry needed rest, that's all, and would be better in the morning. He'd already begun to sound more like himself before she left.

The new cuts were healing, even if they had looked a bit angry when she'd cleaned them in the bathroom. Each time she felt them hurt, it was a fresh reminder of her own insanity.

She ran a hand over the soft fabric of the new coat. She'd put it on like he wanted. It felt velvety and warm on her, like a fancy hug from someone rich. Nice though it was, she still preferred the other one.

Taking off the fancy coat, she picked up Terry's and climbed beneath the covers on the couch.

Tired and worn out, it didn't take long before she fell asleep, her arms still hugging his old coat.

* * * *

"Uncle Terrrrry." The sound of giggling little girls in the hallway woke Terry from his hard-earned sleep. Lifting his head, he stared blurry-eyed at the LCD clock on his night table.

"Maybe he's not in there," said a voice in the hall.

"Yes, he is. I heard him snore."

Terry frowned at the door. He didn't snore... did he?

"Uncle Terrrrrrrrrrrry."

He dropped his head on the pillow. "Uncle Terry doesn't live here anymore," he said groggily.

"Yes, he does."

He heard the doorknob turn, the giggles and laughter as they rushed into the room.

"I'm getting too old for this, girls." Terry felt the bed bounce as they piled onto the mattress, then on top of him.

"He's still sleeping," said one with hot cocoa on her breath. It breathed very close to his face, and he couldn't help smiling. "Nope, he's awake," the girl pronounced, and proceeded to tickle his cheek to get him to open his eyes.

"If he's awake, then why aren't his eyes open?" The sensible one had to be Ruthie, but he could be mistaken.

More hot cocoa breathed on his face-- a lot of cocoa, meaning he was being inspected by more than one munchkin.

"Uncle Terry? It's time to get up."

"Maybe he died," said a grave voice.

"No, he's awake."

"Prove it," came the challenge.

"Okay, I will."

Terry couldn't help feeling a little worried, but he really didn't want to get up. Didn't these sweet children know he hadn't gotten to sleep until nearly three? Have pity.

The blanket covering his feet was tugged back, and he felt a rush of cold air. Uh-oh.

Something brushed the sensitive middle of his foot.

"You're not doing it right," said an exasperated voice. "You need to use the tips of your fingers, or it won't tickle. Like this--"

"Okay!" Terry jerked back his foot and fought back the laughter as the girls piled on him with tickles and hugs. "I'm awake, I'm awake. I give up."

"I knew it," Debbie said with a smile.

"Oh, you did, did you?" Terry went for an underarm and the girl screamed with laughter.

"Okay, girls, give him room to breathe." John came into the bedroom, lifted Ruthie and gave her a hug before placing her on the floor. "Debbie, Lizzie, get off Uncle Terry." John gave Terry an apologetic smile as the last girl scooted off his bed. "Mommy's waiting to help you get dressed so she can drive you to preschool."

Rousing himself, Terry tossed back the blankets, swung his legs over the edge of the mattress. "Wow, I could use some coffee."

"In the kitchen," John smiled. "Did you see the mail on your desk?"

"Yeah." Terry blinked at the light as John opened a bedroom window. "I've been expecting those medical bills for a while."

"Anything you can't handle?"

"Nah, keep your money. I've got it covered." Terry gave him a grin. "But thanks."

"Anytime," John said, and sat down on the edge of the bed next to Terry. "So. You came in late last night."

"I guess." Terry rubbed the sleep from his eyes. "Maddie and I got a lot of things done yesterday. In fact," he gave John a grin, "her furniture's coming today."

"Need any help with that?"

"Maybe." Terry thought it over. "Another strong back might come in handy, thanks."

John nodded, his face too casual, too on purpose.

"What's up? It's not Maddie, is it? She's all right, isn't she?" Terry began to stand, but John shook his head.

"She's still asleep on the couch."

"Then what is it?"

John paused.

"Go on."

"It's about you and Madison..." John hesitated, obviously not wanting to intrude but still needing to express his concern. "Lately, you're always together, and well... she's become very attached to you. I don't know if you've noticed."

"I've noticed. Man, have I ever noticed." Terry breathed deeply. "I know what you're getting at."

"You do?"

Terry nodded. "As soon as she's moved into her new apartment, things will be different."

"They will?"

"I stayed up late last night thinking about it. I already bought her a cell phone, and after I show her how to use it, I won't have to be around her so much."

"That's it? That's all you could come up with?"

"I was tired," Terry defended, and John shoulder bumped him with a chuckle. "That's not all I'm planning. She gave me the green light to call Dr. Jacoby."

"She did?" John turned hopeful. "I like that-- then you could share some of the responsibility with someone else."

Terry stared at him.

"I've been trying to help," John shrugged, "but it seems all I can do is pray and watch you get in deeper and deeper."

"I know," Terry sighed.

"Do you think she'll talk to Dr. Jacoby?"

"Search me. I'm certainly going to find out, though."

John remained silent.

"Hey," Terry slapped his friend on the back, "thanks for the concern, but I'll be all right."

Though he could tell John wasn't convinced, John backed off. "Have you found anyone to get off that graffiti yet?"

"No. Have anyone in mind?"

"Actually, I do. Brian called up and said he had Friday off, that he can get his hands on a power washer and take care of your problem. If you're interested, he said to give him a call."

"Brian?" Terry didn't know how to take John's news. "That's nice of him. I guess."

John shrugged. "You can always turn him down."

"No, if he thinks he can take care of it, I'll let him try." Terry pushed to his feet. "I need all the help I can get."

"Ready for some breakfast?" John asked.

Grateful for John's friendship, Terry nodded, and the two of them went in search of coffee and cereal.

* * * *

After breakfast, Terry settled at his office desk with a Bible, intent on getting in some quiet time with the Lord. The house sat quiet with the girls at preschool, Izzy running errands, and John at his desk tapping away at email. And then of course, Sleeping Beauty on the living room couch, still fast asleep after the long day she'd had.

After the long day she'd given Terry.

Terry sighed, kept reading until his cell phone rang.

The typing stopped, and John looked over his laptop as Terry answered the phone.

"This is a courtesy call from Pre-Loved Furniture Corner," an elderly man said, most likely the store's owner. "The van left five minutes ago, so please make sure you're home for the delivery."

"Thank you." Terry hung up. "The furniture is on its way."

John closed his laptop, pushed back from the desk and started putting on his shoes. "Are we taking Madison?"

"It's her apartment," Terry said as he ducked out of the office. "Maddie?" He strode into the living room, went to the couch and proceeded to shake her by the shoulder. "Wake up, kiddo. Your furniture's coming."

"No," she whimpered, her eyes still shut.

"Hey, wake up."

"I'll be good," she mumbled, "I promise. Don't hurt... please..."

"Maddie, it's Terry." He shook her a bit harder. "Come on, princess, wake up. Don't make me toss more water in your face."

Her breathing came faster, and he gave her one hard shake before those gray eyes opened. They filled with panic until recognition set in, and she began to relax.

"You were having a bad dream." Terry straightened and took a step back. "If I'd known this was how you were going to spend your morning, I wouldn't have let you sleep in. We have to leave as soon as you're ready. The delivery truck is on its way to your apartment."

"Delivery?" She sat up, blonde hair spilling onto her shoulders.

Terry looked away. "Your furniture is coming, so get up. You can eat breakfast at my place." He tossed the new coat to her, and found she'd been snuggling with his old one. "Get up," he said, and left her to sort out the sleepy cobwebs on her own.

He went back to the office, and a few moments later, saw Maddie traipsing through in his old coat, on her way to the bathroom.

"Five minutes," he told her, and she nodded before closing the bathroom door.

"How much furniture did you get her?" John asked, sliding a wallet into the back pocket of his jeans.

"Enough to make sure she's comfortable." Terry took out his old key ring to add the keys to the new one Maddie gave him. "She bought me something."

"She did?" John came close, took a look at the keychain Terry held. "I've seen that at the MegaMart. Have you loaded it with photos yet?"

Terry grinned, punched a button and started a slideshow of the triplets' last birthday.

"She bought that for you?" John gave him a curious look. "I hope you know what you're doing."

"So do I." Terry pocketed the keychain that now held his keys. "Maddie, are you almost ready in there?"

"Just one more minute," she called back.

John lightly punched Terry on the shoulder. "I'll start up the minivan."

Terry nodded, grabbed his coat and wondered how long it could possibly take for a woman to put on jeans and a T-shirt. She didn't wear makeup-- not that she needed to-- so he reasoned it shouldn't take her long to get ready.

He glanced at the time, heard the bathroom door open and looked up and found her in the shirt and jeans he expected.

"Terry?" She came to his desk.

"Why is it whenever you say my name like that, I brace myself for something unexpected?" He tried a smile, found it came easily and decided the strain of yesterday had lessened.


"I'm still here, Maddie." He led her out into the hall. "Take off my old coat, and go put on the new one. It fits, doesn't it?"

She nodded. "I dreamed about you last night."

"You did?" Terry made a last minute check to make sure the house was locked up tight while she put on the new coat.

It looked good on her. He didn't ask anything about her dream, but when he took her outside to the minivan, she tugged at his sleeve.

"I dreamed you had angel's wings."

He slid open the side door for her.

"Your face glowed, and you said I had to walk faster."

"I did?" Terry motioned for her to get in.

"We were in someplace big," Maddie talked as she stepped into the minivan, "and I wasn't walking fast enough to keep up with you."

"Sorry about that." Terry smiled, and slid the door shut.

He got into the passenger seat, buckled in as John pulled away from the house.

"You kept telling me to hurry," Maddie continued from the back, "and then the Dragon took me and..." She didn't finish.

"The Dragon?" John asked.

"The man who hurt her," Terry explained. "I'm sorry you couldn't keep up, Maddie. It was just a dream. It wasn't real."

"I know." He heard her sigh. "I woke up, and you were still telling me to hurry."

John flicked a glance at Terry.

"When we were in the MegaMart, I went slow enough you could keep up," Terry reminded, "so I hope you won't hold that dream against me."

"Oh, no, Terry, I could never do that to you."

John slid Terry another glance, and Terry decided not to respond.

Oh, yes. The day was getting off to a great start.

Thankfully, Maddie kept her mouth shut the rest of the way to Chaumont.

The moment they parked in front of Terry's apartment, though, Lauren approached with a serious face that wearied Terry even before she uttered a single syllable. The woman was a busybody, but she made an excellent building superintendent. She knew everything that went on, and when a problem came up, she either handled it herself, or called Terry.

"How is she doing?" were the first words out of Lauren.

It took Terry a few moments to realize she meant Maddie.

"You could've of knocked me over with a feather, I was that surprised."

"Surprised about what?" Terry asked as he unlocked his apartment door to let in Maddie. "She hyperventilated and passed out. It was no big deal-- right, Maddie?"

Maddie gave Lauren a timid smile before going inside his apartment.

"But in her condition." Lauren turned to John. "You can never be too careful about these things."

"What about her condition?" Terry asked, moving to apartment number four, just one door down from his. He unlocked the door, opened it, went inside with John and Lauren trailing behind.

Lauren sighed. "I'm referring to the baby, of course."

"What baby?" Terry blinked, looked to John, and John shrugged.

"Why the baby you're having with Madison." Lauren folded her arms. "I can only assume it's your child, after I saw you out front yesterday, hugging and kissing for everyone to see. Really, you hardly even know her, but that's none of my affair. It's yours-- though I hope you know it'll hurt Emily to know she's been outmatched by someone prettier than herself. But like I said, it's none of my business. I know you'll do right by that poor girl, and whatever anyone else says, I wanted you to know you can count on me."

"Hugging and kissing?" John asked.

"Count on you for what?" Terry asked. "For jumping to conclusions? For not even reporting what you saw accurately? I hugged Maddie once-- that's it. She was scared and needed a little comfort." Lauren's mouth fell open. "And another thing-- Maddie isn't pregnant. Not by me, or by anyone else. There is no baby."

"Well." Lauren sighed deeply, looked about the empty apartment and Terry could see her trying to piece together her tattered pride. "I'm sure I didn't mean any harm."

"I appreciate your concern." Terry felt the heft of the keys in his hand, the smooth LCD picture frame on the keychain. "It's one of the reasons why you make such a good super. You care about people, and it shows."

Lauren looked somewhat pacified. "I'm sure I try."

"You do, and I appreciate it." Terry glanced at John and saw his thoughtful face. "I've been under a lot of pressure lately, so maybe I overreacted. You meant well, and I apologize."

"There's no need for that." Lauren came to Terry, gave him a big hug that Terry had to return, or risk further hurt feelings. "If you need anything, maybe someone to keep an eye on Madison, let me know and I'll do all I can to help."

"Thanks." Terry watched as Lauren moved to look about the apartment.

"I hope she appreciates everything you're doing for her. I've never seen anyone go to such great lengths to help out a total stranger. But then," Lauren gave him a pitying smile, "you always did have a big heart. Bigger than all of the great outdoors, and that's just what I'll say, next time someone says anything about you and Madison. I'll put them straight, you can count on that."

"I appreciate it." Terry watched John, saw John lean against a wall and stare at the blue carpet.

"I have to run along," Lauren said with a smile, "but let me know if Ralph and I can help."

"Thank you." Terry nodded to her as she left.

John moved to close the door.

"Oh, man." Terry dropped his hands at his side. "I have to be more careful what I do outside, where Lauren and the neighbors can watch."

"She passed out?" John asked.

It was to John's credit that he didn't ask about the hug, or the baby. It was a sign that John trusted Terry to do the right thing, that he not only counted on it, but he didn't even question it for a moment. Unlike Lauren.

Before Terry could decide how best to explain, a large moving van backed in front of the apartment.

"Time to get to work," John said, and tugged out the work gloves in his back pocket.

Terry wished he didn't feel a wash of relief at the interruption. It seemed to him he always told John everything, but this time... this time Terry felt things strike closer to home, and it wasn't as easy for him to speak about it to John.

Pulling on his own gloves, Terry went to his apartment, found Maddie sitting comfortably on the couch with a bowl of cereal.

"Your furniture's here," he said, and she hurriedly started gulping down the last of her breakfast. "Don't hurt yourself, but come over when you can."

She nodded, and gave a neat little burp.

Fighting a smile, Terry went to join John as two men in white overalls opened the back of the moving van.

"Hey," one of the men nodded to John, "you've got a lot here. We're paid to carry it into the address on the delivery sheet, but if you want us to stick around while you decide where you want everything, that's extra. Unless, of course, you already know, and can tell us where to set it down."

"You're talking to the wrong man," John said, and motioned to Terry.

"I've got an idea where it all goes," Terry nodded. "Anything beyond that, we can handle."

"You're the customer," the man said, and started getting ready.

The delivery men began with the long couch with the deep, deep cushions, and Terry pushed out a sigh. This was going to be some work.

"We're going to have to take off the cushions," John said, eyeballing the front door of the apartment, then the couch. "Someone have a tape measure?"

One of the men tossed John a tape measure, and John started measuring the door, then the couch while Maddie came outside.

"Whoa." One of the men elbowed the other, nodded in her direction and started grinning.

Terry shot them a look, and the men backed off, probably thinking Maddie was Terry's girlfriend. No matter-- as far as those two men were concerned, she was.

"We're going to need to take off the front door." John gave the tape measure back while one of the men retrieved a toolbox.

While the men took off the door, Maddie slunk behind Terry and watched the proceedings from the safety of his back.

"Stay out of the way when we start moving this inside," he told her over his shoulder.

"I will," she said in a timid, mouse-like voice that made him smile.

He couldn't help it.

"Okay, we're ready to give it a try," one of the men said. "We're going to have to manhandle this thing, turn it on its side and fit it through the door. Anymore doors this has to go through?"

"One more," Terry nodded. "This couch goes in the bedroom."

The man gave him a puzzled look. "You're the customer," he muttered, and went inside with Terry to take off another door.

Maddie stayed outside, and when Terry came back, he found her hiding behind John.

"Now we're ready," said the man, and he and his partner lifted one side, while Terry and John lifted the other.

"Maddie, get out of the way," Terry said as she bumped behind him in her scramble to move.

They rotated, angled, then pushed and wiggled until the large couch made it inside. Then they pushed and wiggled until it fit into the bedroom.

"Over against the wall," Terry directed, and they set it down.

"That is one beast of a couch," the second man shook his head. "Glad they don't make 'em all that big."

As they filed outside, Maddie moved past them with the couch cushions. She could only manage one at a time, but Terry let her help and they started in on the second, normal sized couch.

It only took two men, and Terry had them set it against the left-hand living room wall. He placed the table and four chairs on the opposite side of the room, beside the kitchen entrance so Maddie wouldn't have far to carry food. The TV cabinet was placed against the far wall beside the tiny hallway that branched off to the bedroom and bathroom, while the oversized upholstered armchair went in front of the living room window. You had to sidestep the armchair to get to the kitchen, but there wasn't much choice, because there wasn't much space. Still, it worked.

Terry glanced at Maddie, saw her quiet, happy face and was content to start on the bedroom.

The way it looked right now, it might have to be renamed the "couchroom," for that large, deep cushioned couch took a third of the room.

He directed the pine dresser into the far corner of the opposite wall, then filled the remaining wall with a small bookcase. The way it fit so snugly, you'd have thought it was measured and bought for just that spot. Terry took it as a sign God was making things work out, and silently thanked Him.

When John carried in the foot-tall Victorian, guardian angel, Terry saw Maddie biting her lip.

"In here, in your room?" Terry asked, and after a moment's hesitation, she nodded.

The angel needed to be where she could easily see it, so he placed it on the dresser, then found a nearby outlet to plug the tall night-light in. He kept the angel turned off, but hoped at night, it might ease her night terrors and give her some comfort when she was alone and trying to be strong.

Terry knew what that was like.

He turned, saw Maddie staring at the angel.

"You can move it if you want."

She hugged herself as a man moved past her into the bedroom. "I like it there."

"Almost forgot your rabbit," the man said, and shoved a ceramic figurine with a sign that read "Home Sweet Home" into Terry's hand. "That's the last of it."

Passing the rabbit to Maddie, Terry went outside to sign some papers, then helped John put the doors back on their hinges.

It took some doing, but Maddie now had a home of her own.

* * * *

After a quick lunch in Terry's apartment, Terry loaded himself down with the blankets, towels, and things they had bought last night at the MegaMart, and headed next door to "Maddie's place."

It seemed too good to be true, but as Madison followed Terry through the front door of the new apartment, it was all still there. The pretty living room couch with the pink and red flowers, the solid table with the four chairs, and the big armchair by the window.

"Coming through," said a voice behind her, and she moved aside as John carried her new HDTV into the living room. "This goes on the TV cabinet, right, Terry?"

"Yeah, I'll call the cable people later."

"Cable, huh?"

"Well," Terry grinned before going into her room, "she has to watch something besides the local channels. Maddie, I'm going to set this stuff on your couch."

She ventured into her new room, saw the guardian angel and went to switch it on.

"You like that, don't you?" Terry grinned. "I'll carry in the things for your kitchen, but there's your bathroom towels, the bedsheets, the comforter for your bed. You can handle this, right? Do you need any help making your couch?"

"I can do it." She looked at the beautiful angel on her dresser. She'd placed the rabbit beside it, but it didn't look right next to an angel. She picked up the sweet bunny with the print dress, looked at the bookshelf and placed it carefully on the middle shelf. With that small adjustment, she began to feel herself at home, in a space that was hers and no one else's.

When Terry left, she took a deep breath and started to unstack the things he had piled on the bedroom couch.

Gathering all the pink towels, she crossed the room, opened her door, and moved to the bathroom at the end of the tiny hall. How had she seen Izzy do things in her own home? Madison tried to remember, then mimicked the way she'd seen the towels had been folded, the way they'd been arranged on the towel racks, then stepped back to check her work. The bathroom's off-white walls, the sandstone tile, went well with her pink towels. Really, any color would go well, and she decided that was why Terry had the bathroom in those neutral shades.

He had to be terribly smart to think of that.

She went back to her room, took the sheets out of their packaging and shook them out. They weren't fitted for a mattress, they were large, and very pink, and very perfect for what she needed. The first sheet she spread over the couch, then tucked it into place so it nearly covered all the upholstery except for the armrests. She put the two new pillows into matching pillowcases, arranged them at the head of her makeshift bed, then spread the second sheet over that, tucking it in at the foot to keep it in place. A thin blanket came next, then the comforter-- a white, quilted comforter with pink roses and sprays of baby's breath against pale green leaves. She knew which flowers they were, for she'd seen them on TV.

Something told her the sheets should probably go through the wash, but they'd been in sealed plastic, so she hoped it was all right to use them like they were. There was a community laundry in the complex, but she didn't feel brave enough to ask Terry how to use it yet.

"Here's more for you," Terry said, coming into the room and setting some bath supplies on her couch. "It looks good in here." He gave her couch a thumbs-up, then left while John ran a vacuum in the living room.

Terry had to be spending a lot of money to do this, she thought as she took the new hairdryer out of its box. He'd bought her hand lotion, cotton swabs, shampoo, bath soap, and toilet paper. The only thing he hadn't provided was trash to go into the empty wastebasket. Then again, there was always the box and shrink plastic to throw away.

She put the things in the bathroom, went into the living room as John moved about with the vacuum. She stepped over the cord, negotiated around the table and chairs and looked into the kitchen.

It was a long and narrow kitchen, but it was hers. Terry stood at the counter, placing a toaster beneath the cupboards. He looked up and smiled.

"This place is really coming together, Maddie. At this rate, you'll be able to sleep in your own room tonight."

She nodded, not really wanting to think what that would mean.

"You need to learn how to be on your own." Terry opened a cupboard, slid in some noisy pots and pans. "I know it won't be easy, but before I go, I'll show you how to work your cell phone. You'll be able to call me day or night, so even though it feels like you're alone, you won't be. Not really."

He glanced at her and she nodded like a stupid bobble-headed character on someone's dashboard. Her insides felt numb, and all she could do was nod and listen and try not to think too hard.

Terry was going to leave her here.

"Anytime you need me, I want you to call. Don't just keep nodding-- promise you'll call."

"I will."

"Day or night, Maddie. I mean it." Terry moved to the refrigerator. "Don't worry about the food. I'm going to stock your fridge and pantry, and make sure you have more than enough until I come visit you... let's say, this next Friday morning. After I leave tonight, that's about two full days for you to get a taste of being on your own. How's that?"

He looked at her, and she kept nodding.

"This will only be for a short time, Maddie. You're not being abandoned."

She swallowed hard, and started hugging herself.

"This will be good for you, you'll see."

He slid a stack of plates into another cupboard, opened a drawer and put in his own silverware. She recognized it, didn't want him to give up anything he still used, but couldn't find the words to say "thank you."

"You're going to be fine. The windows all have safety glass, there's a deadbolt on the door... it's a good one, I installed it myself." He glanced at her, and she saw him suck in a breath. "You'll be safe here."

She nodded.

"If you want, I'll sleep next door tonight, just so--" He didn't have time to finish, for she rushed into his arms.

Holding on tightly, she hid her face in Terry's shoulder, and felt his arms reluctantly come around her. She tried to soak in his comfort, enough to last until Friday.

"You're not in this alone, Maddie. I'm not walking away, just taking a few steps back so you can find your balance, and maybe even calm down."

"I understand." She didn't really understand the part about her calming down, but didn't ask Terry what he meant. When she sniffed back tears, he sighed deeply.

"You're not going to start crying, are you? Come on," he gently moved her out of his arms, "try not to cry. What would John think?"

"Someone say my name?" John asked, coming to the kitchen with an attachment from Terry's vacuum. "Should I take the vacuum back to your place, or should I leave it here? Hey, why's Madison crying?"

"See, I told you he'd notice." Terry gave a half laugh, stepped from Madison and went back to putting things away. "She's just getting used to her new apartment. Why don't you leave the vacuum in her living room closet? She's going to need it after a while, and as the landlord, I wouldn't want my tenant turning this place into a slum."

John chuckled, and went to put the vacuum away.

"Izzy called," Terry told Madison as he placed dish soap under the sink, for this apartment didn't have a dishwasher. "With your permission, Izzy would like to bring dinner here and throw you a housewarming party. It'll be nothing fancy, just us and the triplets."

"Thank you, Terry."

"So that's a 'yes'?"

She nodded.

"Then I'll give her a call."

Leaving the kitchen to Terry, Madison went next door to his apartment to gather her clothes.

And that knife.

She had to return Terry's knife to the drawer in his kitchen. He wasn't around to see, so this was her chance to put it back.

In the upstairs bathroom, she located the knife hidden in the towel in one of her bags, took it out and headed downstairs. Her heart pounded when she rounded into the kitchen, and the front door opened at the same time.

"Hey, Maddie?" It was Terry's voice, and only Terry called her Maddie.

"In the kitchen," she called, her hands trembling as she opened the silverware drawer. It was empty. Terry had given her all his silverware, and his food utensils, and the drawer was empty.

"Izzy wants to know if she should bring your things from the house," Terry said, his voice coming closer to the kitchen.

Frantic, Madison searched for a hiding place, opened a cupboard and tossed in the knife.

A second later, Terry rounded into the kitchen with a cell phone in his hand. "Is that all right with you?" he asked.

Automatically, Madison nodded, not really following the conversation. Had he seen the knife? She didn't think he had. She'd managed to toss it away before he came in.

"It's okay," Terry said into the phone. "And Izzy, make sure you leave behind my old coat--"

"No," Madison went to him, and tugged at his arm. "It's mine. You gave it to me."

"Izzy, bring the coat." Terry gave Madison a wincing look, but left his apartment while he kept talking to Izzy on the phone.

Fatigue, and the near-call made Madison shiver. Her belly didn't hurt so much right now, but only because she was busy thinking about other things besides the pain. Opening the cupboard, she picked up the knife, and quickly went upstairs to hide it in her grocery bag. If Terry had given her his silverware, his food utensils, and the knives that had been kept in that drawer, then he had meant to give her this knife, as well. Better to take the knife, then to risk having him find it later and wonder why it wasn't with the others.

Her nerves were fraying, but she steadied herself, gathered her grocery bags of clothes, her purse, and all the things Terry had given her, and slowly carried them downstairs in one great armload. Now she felt her belly, and moved carefully so the wounds wouldn't open.

It didn't seem possible, but she was moving into a brand new place, to start a brand new life. A life that would NOT include cutting.

* * * *

True to her word, Izzy brought Madison's things from the house, a hot dinner, and three noisy little girls to fill Madison's apartment. The girls ate on the living room floor, while the grownups ate at the round table a few feet away. Since they hadn't needed to put in the two leaves to make more room, Terry had stowed the table leaves under the couch for safekeeping.

"This is good," John said, helping himself to more cheese casserole. "This sure hits the spot, Izumi."

"Maddie, see what I'm doing?" Terry tapped a button on her new cell phone. "See this list? These are the numbers I've entered... you're not watching."

"Yes, I am."

"Pay attention. This is important."

"Terry, she's had a long day." Izzy cleared away some of the dishes, got up to take them into the kitchen. "Maybe you could show her that phone some other time."

"I'm not leaving here until she knows how to make a call," Terry insisted. "See, Maddie? Just page through the list--"

"How many numbers did you give her?" John asked.

"Only a dozen or so," Terry shrugged.

"A dozen? She doesn't know that many people in Three Mile Bay."

"These are emergency numbers." Terry kept paging up and down. "The police, the fire department, the poison control center--"

"Thanks a lot," Izzy laughed as she came back for John's now empty plate.

John grinned. "I ate three helpings and I feel just fine."

"Maddie, pay attention." Terry placed the cell phone into Madison's hand. "Press that button. No, not that one-- here, let me get you back to the right screen."

"She needs an iPhone," John sighed. "Where'd you get that thing, anyway?"

"The MegaMart." Terry spoke without looking up. "Okay, let's try this again. Now press this button-- just once-- no, wait." Terry took the phone back, did something to it, then put it in Madison's hand. "Let's start from the top. This button scrolls up, this one down, and this one selects the number you want."

"Is your number in that phone?" John asked.

"Of course."

"Is ours?"

Terry looked up. "I don't want her calling you or Izzy."

"So our number isn't in there?"

"She's not your responsibility," Terry said, and took the phone to do something Madison didn't understand.

John leaned back in his chair. "So when she needs help, you're the only one who's going to come running? What about Izumi? What about me? We're her friends, too."

Terry looked across the small table at John. "Land line or cells?"

"Put in all of them," John nodded. "No reason why you should bear this on your own."

A look passed between the men.

"I'm not asking for your help. You've given enough, already."

"I know you're not, that's why I want her to have our numbers." John got up from the table, and moved to the couch on the other side of the living room.

After Terry spent five more minutes punching buttons, he was ready to try again.

"This time, I want you to call my cell phone," he told her. "Wait, no-- not that number--"

The cell phone in John's pocket sounded, and he pulled it out. "At least she knows how to place a call," John smiled, and answered Madison's confused "Hello."

"I'm leaving you leftovers in the fridge," Izzy said, coming from the kitchen. "You're all set, as far as food is concerned. Terry's stocked your pantry and refrigerator, so you definitely won't starve."

"Providing you actually eat," Terry added. "I won't be around to make sure you're eating regularly, but if you start losing weight, you're going to hear about it from me. You're thin enough, so eat."

Smiling, Madison nodded. She could listen to Terry forever. The way he spoke, the look in his eyes when he was saying something important, that extra long look when he noticed she was watching him. He was simply wonderful.

A groan came from John. Terry glanced at John, then returned his attention to the new phone.

"Girls, get on your shoes, it's time to go home," Izzy said, and started gathering her children. "Abby hasn't called any of us, so I'm hoping she at least left a message on our answering machine at home."

"Isn't Uncle Terry coming?" Ruthie protested when she noticed he didn't get up.

"Uncle Terry is sleeping at his apartment tonight," Izzy explained, "but you'll see him tomorrow. Come, get your things. Debbie, where's your other shoe?"

After Debbie's other shoe had been found, and good night's had been exchanged, the Johanneses left in the minivan, leaving Izzy's car for Terry to drive back the next day.

Closing the front door, Terry came back to the table and picked up the cell phone.

"I'd feel better if you kept this handy." He gave it to her. "After I leave, make sure you lock the door. That means the handle, the deadbolt, and the chain."

"I will, Terry."

"Don't open that door if you're not sure who's on the other side, and never tell a stranger you're here alone."

"I won't."

Terry looked about the apartment. "Have I told you how to recharge that phone?"

She nodded. "You set up the charger on my dresser, remember?"

"Yeah, okay." Terry pushed out a long, drawn out sigh. "You've got food, water, electricity, gas, a good phone. I'll have the cable people hook you up as soon as I can. Until then, you'll have to settle for the local networks. The TV is plugged in, and I programmed the channels. All you have to do is turn it on."

"I know, you showed me."

"I did? Oh, right. I did." Terry pushed in the chairs around the table. "When you want some exercise, get out and take a walk around the neighborhood. You don't want to get lost, so I wouldn't advise going too far, but the fresh air would do you good. Okay, then. You have all your clothes, so I guess you're set."

Hugging herself, she nodded.

"I'll be next door." Terry took a step back. "You'll hear noises overhead, but don't let it rattle you. The apartment above you is occupied by a nurse-- I forget her name-- but she's nice. If she stops by to say 'hello,' make sure you're polite."

Madison nodded.

"Okay, then." Terry moved toward the door. "Keep that cell phone handy. I'll call once in a while to see how you're doing."

"Thank you, Terry."

He opened the door. "Make sure you lock up after me. I gave you the keys to your apartment, didn't I?"

"They're on my dresser."

"Okay, then. I'll see you Friday morning." Terry hesitated, then with a sigh, turned and left, shutting the door behind him. "Lock up," she heard him say from the other side of the door, and she hurried to obey. She heard the handle rattle as he tested the lock, then silence.

She moved to the window, opened the blinds just enough to look out, but couldn't see Terry's door.

Closing the blinds, she looked about the snug apartment.

It felt empty without Terry, Izzy, John, and the triplets to fill the place with conversation and movement.

A noise came from the wall, and Madison realized she had just heard something from Terry's apartment. She climbed onto the couch, pressed an ear to the wall and closed her eyes.

It was as close to Terry as she could get.

Several minutes brought nothing but silence and a backache, so Madison climbed down, and went into her room and turned on the overhead light. She changed into pajamas, cleaned her wounds, brushed her teeth, then sat on the large couch that faced the guardian angel. It was still on, all lit up from the inside.

Needing comfort, she pulled out Terry's old Bible. He'd mentioned that her new one had come, but had forgotten to give it to her. It didn't matter. She liked this one best. It was his, had his handwriting all over it, and when she read, it was like Terry was with her.

A sound came from outside in the parking lot, and she scooted beneath the covers. She opened the Bible, found a place where Terry had made notes, and read the passage: "I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety."

The cell phone on the blanket beside her rang. A name lit up on its display-- Terry Davis-- and she couldn't flip open the phone fast enough.

"Terry? Is that you?"

"It's me," he chuckled. "I just realized I forgot to say 'good night.'"

She snuggled under the pretty comforter, hugged Terry's Bible and wished he would stay on the phone all night.

"Is your angel on?" he asked.


"That's good. I heard from Izzy, and Abby and Jake are in Elk City, Oklahoma."

"Oh. Okay." Madison had no idea what to say. From Terry's hopeful voice, she supposed that meant it was a good thing.

"Well," he sighed, "I guess this is good night. I'll be praying for you, but don't stay up too late watching TV."

"I won't. Good night, Terry."

"Okay," he said, and hung up.

She closed the phone, got up to turn off the overhead light so she could go to bed. If Terry called the next day, she wanted to be able to say she hadn't stayed up late. He would call tomorrow, wouldn't he? Please, God, let him call.

The moment the overhead light clicked off, she noticed the soft light from the glowing angel cast a warm hue over the room. The angel almost looked alive with its outstretched wings and shining face. Still clutching the cell phone, she climbed beneath the covers on the couch, then turned onto her side so she could see the angel.

Terry would pray for her.

The thought comforted her, and after a quiet prayer for God to bless Terry, she slipped into a warm, tired slumber.

* * * *

When Madison stirred the next morning, it felt odd to open her eyes and find herself in a brand new place. Then she saw the angel, smiled, and went back to sleep.

* * * *

Something kept ringing. What was it? She pulled an arm out, dug under the pillow and located the cell phone. Without remembering to look at the display, she opened it and put it to her ear.


"This is Terry," said a wide-awake voice. "You sound like I interrupted a nap."

"No, I haven't gotten up yet."

"Maddie, it's almost lunchtime. Did you eat breakfast?"

"No," she yawned, "I was sleeping."

"Okay, get up. Go into the kitchen and find something to eat. Are you up?"

"I'm trying to be," she mumbled, still blinking the sleep from her eyes.

"Go eat something," Terry directed. "Don't make me come over there. Come on, show me you can do this."

"I will, Terry. I will."

"Okay," he sighed, and hung up.

She staggered into the kitchen, groped through the cupboards until she found cereal. Dumping some into a bowl, she ran water into it, then snagged a spoon from the drawer.

Oh, she was sleepy. It was only her in the apartment and it discouraged her from wanting to stay awake. What did it matter if she went back to the couch?

After finishing lunch, she did just that.

* * * *

The cell phone rang, but this time, it found her awake. She opened the phone and heard Terry's voice even before she placed it against her ear.

"Did you eat?"


"Are you still in bed?"

After a moment to think over her situation, she pushed off the covers, then got off the couch. "No, I'm not in bed."

"Did you just get up?"

"How did you know that?"

"Maddie, you can't stay there all day. It's nearly dinner, and you've spent the entire day in bed."

"Dinner?" she asked, beginning to notice how weak she felt. "What time is it?"

"Maddie, have you at least been watching TV? Tell me you haven't been staring at the walls all day long."

She didn't know how to answer that without lying.

A heavy sighed sounded in her ear. "Tell me what you ate for lunch."


"And what else?"

"Just cereal."

"Are we talking two or more bowls?"

"No, not exactly."

Frustration nipped at his voice, but she could hear him fight for patience. "Okay, I want you to promise me to do two things. Are you following this?"

"Should I write this down?"

"No, don't write it down-- just do it. The moment I hang up, you hear? First, get out the leftovers from last night's dinner in the fridge. Second, turn on the TV-- I don't care what you watch so long as it doesn't hurt you, and sit down and start eating."

"But that's three or four things," she yawned.

"I don't care. Just do it. Promise?"

"I promise."

They hung up, and Madison wished she didn't have to eat. But since she'd promised Terry, she went into the kitchen to keep her word.

* * * *

The next time the phone rang, she was watching TV.

"Have you eaten dinner?" Terry asked.


"Is the TV on?"


"Okay," he sighed. "I'll call you tomorrow."

This time, he didn't tell her to stay up late watching TV.

* * * *

The next day, she forced herself to eat breakfast, and when Terry called, she told him in complete honesty that she'd eaten. He seemed to take heart, and after he hung up, she went back to bed.

Lunch was the same way, as was dinner. Each time Terry called, she told him she'd already eaten.

It felt good to know he was encouraged with her progress.

* * * *

The next day-- Madison didn't know which, she'd lost track of time somewhere along the way-- instead of her cell phone ringing, she heard a knock at the front door.

She went to the window, and saw Terry with a man she'd never seen before.

Putting on Terry's old coat, she opened the door and blinked at the sunlight.

The moment Terry saw her, he groaned.

"You're not dressed."

She looked at her pajamas and didn't know what to say. Was it Friday? Was that why Terry was here?

"This is Earl," Terry said, "and he's going to hook up your cable TV. Come on, you can stay at my place until he's done."

Sidestepping Earl, she moved into the bright sunlight of the outdoors.

"It's dark in here," Earl called as he stepped inside. "Mind if I open some windows?"

"Go ahead," Terry told him. "Maddie, let's get you something to eat. Have you had breakfast yet?"

She shook her head. She hadn't counted on him asking that question so early.

He took her by the arm and guided her into his apartment.

"You're going to have to do better than this, Maddie."

"I'm sorry."

"You look like you haven't brushed your hair in days. Have you showered at all?"

"I don't remember..."

"Okay, go upstairs and clean up while I fix you breakfast."

She looked at the staircase. Tears were threatening to come, her body felt sore and weak and the light hurt her eyes.

Terry came close, and when she leaned into him, his arms didn't hesitate to embrace her. It made her panic, but he eased back and let her bury her face against his shoulder. It felt so good to just stand there and be with Terry. The last few days were a blur, but this, this was real.

"I'm sorry." Terry breathed the words in a quiet hush. "I shouldn't have left you alone for so long. From what you told me, I thought you were doing better than this. Are you all right? Besides needing a shower, and some clean clothes, are you hurt?" He pulled her back and looked her over. "Those weren't lies, were they? You have been eating?"

"I've been eating," she nodded.

"You still look weak. Have you been doing any housework at all? You could have dressed and gone for a walk, maybe even visited Lauren. Okay, not Lauren, but you could have left the apartment anytime you wanted."

Still feeling disoriented, Madison fought to find her courage. During all that time alone, she'd crawled inside herself, and now she struggled to come out and rejoin the world.

Terry squeezed her shoulder. "You knew I hadn't abandoned you?"

"You kept calling," she smiled, "so I knew you hadn't forgotten me. What day is it?"

"What day? Why, it's Friday. I was going to visit you Friday morning, remember?" He shook his head. "I should have gotten you out of that apartment sooner. I thought this time on your own would help you make decisions for yourself, maybe even help you calm down where I was concerned. It was only a little over two days-- from Tuesday night to Friday morning."

"Two?" Her mind kept blurring, then coming into focus. "It felt longer."

"I'm sorry." He hugged her, but this time it smothered Madison and she fought to get free. "Hey, hey, easy. I'm backing off." He let go, blew out a breath and watched her closely. "I've been trying to get in touch with Dr. Jacoby. He's on vacation right now, and a colleague of his, Dr. Potter, is filling in for him. I told him I thought this could wait until Dr. Jacoby got back. You can wait, right? Until next week?"

"Terry, you're the one who wants me to see that man, not me. I don't need a psychiatrist."

"I beg to differ, especially after this, but I'm not looking for a fight. I'm just glad you're sounding like yourself again."

She frowned, but already her spirit felt lighter.

"AJ will be here tomorrow, so Brian is coming over to help power wash the graffiti off my apartment." Terry headed back to the kitchen and she followed. "If you don't want to see Brian, that's fine with me, but if you do come out and watch, I'd appreciate it if you showered and changed. You look like you've crawled out from under a rock." Terry poured her some cereal, let her start on that while he popped bread into the toaster.

Brian was coming. Okay. Terry could have said a dozen smiling Brian's were coming, and it wouldn't phase her in the slightest. She was with Terry again, and that was all that mattered in her Terry-centered world. Not even the impending arrival of three more strangers could take away her contentment.

With Terry, she had ground under her feet, solid ground where she could breathe and not stumble over her thoughts so much. Hope was a slender thread that kept threatening to break, but when Terry smiled, hope came easier, as did the motions of life. God had given her refuge, a safe place in Terry's friendship, and in Terry's smile, and she thanked God for that precious gift.

Just being with Terry again made her heart do backflips of joy, let alone listening to him talk about his family. Life began to pulse inside her once more, and she couldn't help but wonder about the people who were coming, what they were like, and how much they knew about her. Not that she would matter to anyone besides, hopefully, Terry, but she couldn't help wondering if they would like her. These people mattered to Terry, so they would matter to her.

Finishing off her cereal, Madison wondered what tomorrow would look like.

"Let me not be ashamed of my hope."
~ Psalm 119:116 ~

end of chapter