Café Chocolaté: Chapter XXIV

Chapter XXIV – Timothy Teller

When Timothy first caught sight of Eddie lying on the floor with a stab wound to his chest, time seemed to freeze and he with it. It could only have been seconds before Ginger screamed and Adrian stated the rather obvious need for medical attention, but it felt like an hour. Memories raced through Timothy’s mind, all but blinding him. Then, he heard Adrian, the images vanished, and he could work.

He heard everyone around him, while he cleared and checked the wound, kept watch over Eddie’s vitals as best he could, and applied pressure with the towels that Adrian and Anna had found. He only spoke when he had to, and kept the majority of his attention on Eddie and stopping the blood flow. He needed to stop it before it grew critical.

The fighting between Ginger and Mary alarmed him, but he decided that he could only do one thing at a time, so he didn’t even turn to watch them. Eddie’s distress worried him, but he could scarcely assuage that either. When the injured man asked for Ginger, Timothy couldn’t be certain that calling her over would be a good idea, but Eddie seemed to calm somewhat while she remained quiet beside him.

When Kimberly began her interrogation of Ginger, Timothy became annoyed.

I’m trying to save a man’s life. Who argues that someone cares about a possibly dying man? Insanity.

He grit his teeth and held his tongue, though he wanted to tell the older woman to be quiet. Eddie appeared to ignore them all and Timothy wished he could do the same.

“Well?” Kimberly’s voice grated on Timothy’s nerves every time she spoke. “Why do you care so much?”

He glanced at Ginger. She looked exhausted as she watched Eddie. “Because…” She barely looked at Timothy when she raised her head. She saw something and her eyes hardened. “Because, Eddie is my younger brother.”

Eddie’s eyes flew open and he stared at Ginger. Timothy blinked and tried to process this new bit of information.

“I knew it!” Fabian sounded exultant. “I just knew it!”

“I don’t believe it!” Kimberly snapped.

Ginger tilted her chin up. “You don’t have to believe it. He is. Your belief of a thing does not determine its truth.”

“If he’s your brother, then why on earth have neither of you said anything before?” Kimberly seemed determined. “Did she say anything to you and your cousin?”

“No.” Adrian’s voice came from somewhere behind Timothy. “No, neither of them did.”

“Then, if it’s true, then why haven’t you said anything?”

Eddie cried out in pain as Timothy shifted the pressure on the towel, and Ginger sighed.

“Because…” She watched Eddie, who squeezed his eyes shut against the pain. Timothy just saw her grimace. “Because, we parted ways four years ago.”

“Parted ways?” Fabian sounded amused. “Sister, you two are co-workers – and didn’t one of you mention earlier that you have been co-workers for years? That’s not parting ways.”

“I disowned him.” Ginger’s annoyance flared again. “Just trust me, I did.”

“Must have been fun working together then.”

Timothy wished that Fabian would be quiet.

“What did he do?” Kimberly asked.

“Do?”

“You disowned him, so what did he do to make you disown him?”

“He has a criminal record and she didn’t want to be associated with it!” Mary’s voice made Timothy jump. “I can see it in her face! He’s been in trouble with the law before!”

Ginger practically snarled. “You don’t get to make any assumptions, Mary Dill! In trouble with the law? You are going to be in trouble with the law whenever we get out of here!”

“I-I-I was protecting us!”

Ginger glared, but Timothy caught her eye.

“Don’t.”

“Don’t what?” She spoke through grit teeth.

“Don’t keep the argument going.” Timothy glanced down at Eddie’s drawn face. “If this is your brother and you want to help him, do not engage.”

“She’s a liar!”

“And you’re going to change her mind?”

Ginger frowned.

“Just tell us what he actually did.” Renee still knelt nearby, ready to offer assistance if needed. “Truth is the best contradiction for falsehood.”

“He didn’t do anything!” Ginger raised her voice somewhat and Kimberly heard her.

“If he did nothing, then why did you want to get rid of him?”

“I didn’t say I wanted to get rid of him!”

“You disowned him!” Kimberly almost seemed to laugh. “Of course, you wanted to get rid of him.”

Pressure applied to Eddie’s wound seemed to be doing its job at last. Timothy didn’t dare to stop just yet, but he began to feel a bit hopeful.

“Well?” Kimberly didn’t give up.

Eddie opened his eyes. “Just let it go, Ginger.”

She didn’t respond, but sat still, watching him. Timothy couldn’t be sure if she actually saw him or just her thoughts.

“Failure to respond is admission to accusations.”

“Kimberly, please,” Anna said. “You don’t know that.”

“We don’t know much of anything,” Fabian added.

“Mary’s probably right. He was a criminal and Ginger just doesn’t want to say.”

Ginger shook her head. “I told you. He didn’t do anything. I had to… Sometimes you have to choose between two people because they aren’t compatible with each other. When I chose, Eddie got cut off in favor of… someone else.”

“You’re saying that he’s never been implicated in any criminal activity whatsoever?” Kimberly asked.

Ginger glared at the woman as her only response.

“He was!” Mary squealed. “Maybe he’s murdered before this!”

“You people are incorrigible!” Ginger glanced at Timothy and then softened her voice. “Fine. Yes. Once, several years ago, the police took Eddie in for questioning regarding a shoplifting case. But they never charged him and that has nothing to do with why I disowned him.”

“Sure it doesn’t. No charges filed also doesn’t mean that he didn’t do it.” Kimberly tapped her foot.

“He says that he didn’t do it!”

“You think that Eddie killed Gary Bradshaw.” Fabian spoke in a measured tone. Timothy imagined him with his arms crossed and watching Ginger, but he didn’t turn around to see.

“What? No, I don’t!”

“That’s why you keep protecting him so adamantly.”

“Fabian, please don’t…” Adrian tried to intervene.

Fabian pressed on. “It’s not just that he’s your brother, you think – or you’re afraid – that he’s guilty and you’re desperate to protect him.”

“That’s not true!”

“Don’t get me wrong; if my little brother had a murder charge hanging over him, I’d probably get pretty desperate too.”

“I told you that he did it!” Mary’s wail pierced the room. Again. “I told you!”

“He didn’t! Eddie wouldn’t kill anyone!”

Possibly the only one in the room doing so, Timothy watched Eddie. He’d opened his eyes, but too weak to defend himself, in a world of pain, and in obvious distress over Ginger, his face was a study in various emotions.

Adrian left the others, kneeling near Timothy. He nodded toward Eddie, speaking in a quiet voice aside from the rest of the group. “How is he doing?”

“He’s stabilizing. He still needs a hospital, of course, but he’s stabilizing for now.”

“Thank the Lord. Can I ask him a few questions?”

“You can try. He doesn’t seem able to speak very well though.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Adrian smiled a bit and bent over Eddie. “Can I ask you a few things? You can nod or shake your head.”

Eddie nodded carefully. Ginger watched Adrian, but didn’t try to intervene.

“Is Ginger your sister?”

Eddie glanced at Timothy and then nodded.

“Did she disown you?”

Eddie nodded again, this time more slowly.

“Did the police questioning you regarding a case of shoplifting have any bearing on her disowning you?”

This time Eddie shook his head.

Adrian sighed. “Were you charged with a crime in regard to the shoplifting?”

Another shake of the head.

“Were you guilty?”

Eddie shook his head again.

Adrian paused for a long moment. “Eddie, if the truth, as you know it, contradicted anything Ginger had already told us – would you tell me the truth right now, despite that?”

Eddie took his time responding, but finally nodded just before a wave of pain took over. He squeezed his eyes shut and Adrian sighed.

Timothy looked over at him.

“I wanted to hear it from him, not only Ginger.”

Mary, possibly emboldened by Kimberly’s doubts, stepped closer to Eddie. Ginger stiffened, apparently ready to spring at a moment’s notice. Adrian stood and Fabian came forward.

“You did it! Just confess!” Mary wrung her hands. “It would be better for all of us and then everyone would understand why I had to stab you! Just confess!”

“Why don’t you back up…” Fabian took another step forward.

Eddie didn’t say anything and even Ginger held her tongue.

Timothy had turned to keep an eye on the woman and saw her point a shaking finger toward Eddie. “I know that I’m right! I saw it in your face!”

“Maybe he knew Gary Bradshaw.” Kimberly still had her arms crossed. “Just because he’s not a regular here, doesn’t mean that Eddie doesn’t know him from anywhere else.”

Mary jumped and pointed at Ginger. Fabian put a hand on the excited woman’s arm. “He knew him! I see it! I see it in your face!”

“For goodness sake, stop claiming to see everything in someone’s face!” Renee probably voiced what everyone thought.

Timothy looked at Ginger, who had gone nearly white, but she neither said anything nor moved from Eddie’s side.

“Confess!” Mary resisted Fabian’s attempts to make her step back.

Eddie watched Ginger, the furrow on his brow showing utter confusion. Ginger didn’t look at him.

“Confess!”

“No!” Ginger took a deep breath, and then sighed. When she spoke again, she used a normal tone. “If I know anything, and I’m not saying that I do, I’m certainly not telling you.”

Mary tried to speak again, but Ginger had no intention of allowing it.

“I’ll speak with the people who we asked to investigate. Not to a lunatic woman who thinks that stabbing an innocent man is the best way to solve a murder.”

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Café Chocolaté: Chapter XXIII

Chapter XXIII – Ginger Thomas

Unlike Mary Dill, Ginger knew how to scream once and then stop. Even when in near panic and even when it felt like the world had gone black.

He wasn’t supposed to get hurt! Why him?

She didn’t raise her head, but slowly became aware that she could feel the rise and fall of Eddie’s breathing. He hadn’t died. Fainted, perhaps, but hadn’t died. Not yet.

A second more and she heard Adrian’s voice above her. “He has a rapid heartbeat, but I can’t tell how deeply he’s been injured. He needs medical attention – somehow.”

“Let me look at him.”

Ginger had to raise her head to identify the speaker. Timothy, pale and haggard, took Adrian’s place on Eddie’s other side. She would never have guessed the voice to be his, it sounded so strange.

Ginger looked down at Eddie’s face again. She had never seen anyone alive and yet so ashen. She realized that she trembled, but whether from fury, grief, or both, she didn’t even know.

Timothy called for supplies and Adrian went for them with Anna. Renee knelt nearby, prepared to give any assistance. The sickening sound of tearing fabric set Ginger’s teeth on edge, as Timothy pulled material away from the wound. She tried to keep from watching.

He has to be all right. He has to be.

Eddie’s eyelids fluttered and then with a cry of pain, he seemed to return to consciousness. He lurched upward and Ginger tried to help Timothy steady him.

“I need you to stay still, buddy.” Timothy gently forced Eddie to lie back down. “I really need you to stay as still as you can.”

Eddie only grunted in reply, clenching his jaw so hard Ginger wondered if he might break his teeth. She couldn’t tell if he had difficulty breathing or if he just reacted to the pain.

He’s never had high pain tolerance. Maybe that’s why he fainted.

She turned her attention to Timothy. His face still pale, he seemed calm and determined. At least his voice sounded nearly normal again.

“Will… Will he be all right?” She wondered if her own voice always had such a strain to it.

Timothy didn’t respond at first, but after a pause, he nodded. “I hope so. If I can stop the blood flow. It’s bad, but it could be a lot worse. Nothing touched his heart or any other vital organs, so far as I can tell. I think it hit his rib and stopped.”

“As far as you can tell?” Ginger barely spoke above a whisper.

Timothy only looked at her for a brief second and didn’t say anything.

He could be wrong. Being wrong could be fatal. He needs to be right.

She became more aware of her surroundings and realized the quiet in the café. Certainly, people spoke, but in hushed tones and no one stood around screaming.

On that realization, Ginger looked for Mary Dill. The woman stood a little distant, clasping and unclasping her hands together, her wide eyes darting around the room.

“It was you!” Ginger stood, all of her fury channeling into her sudden realization.

Mary saw her and froze.

You got up from the table. You have had it out for Eddie ever since he found that stupid ice pick! You tried to kill him!” Her voice escalated with each word, until she nearly shouted the last.

“I did it to protect us all! He’s a murderer!”

Ginger couldn’t listen to excuses. She ran at the woman, sending them both to the ground. Mary Dill had found her lungs, but Ginger barely knew what she herself did. Her anger blinded her as she wrestled with the flailing woman beneath her.

Someone much stronger than herself practically lifted Ginger off of her victim. She fought like a cat, but found her attempts futile. Mary still wailed.

“Stop with the noise already!” Ginger still pulled against whoever held her back. “I didn’t kill you! I didn’t even start to kill you!”

“I was trying to protect us all!” Mary struggled to her feet. “I did it for a good cause!”

“Eddie hasn’t killed anyone, you half-witted monster! He wouldn’t!” Ginger struggled again. “The only person in here that we know tried to kill anyone is you!”

The man, who still managed to keep her from hurling herself back at Mary, somehow managed to make her turn around to face him at those words. She tried to wrench free, but even wild, she couldn’t match him for strength.

“Ginger!” He shook her lightly. “Ginger, look at me!”

Fuming, she stiffened and obeyed. She hadn’t paid any attention to his identity and when she looked up into Adrian’s face, she nearly started. She’d expected anyone else.

“You have to calm down.” He spoke firmly, but with a touch of compassion that she couldn’t mistake. “You have to calm down. You are accomplishing nothing!”

“She tried to kill Eddie because of something that he didn’t even do!” She hadn’t intended to answer in a raised voice; she couldn’t seem to help it. “We don’t even know yet that she didn’t succeed!”

“You still have to calm down.”

“She ought to have as good as she tried to give!”

Adrian shook his head. “It wouldn’t do any good whatsoever for you to go through with that.”

“She deserves it!” Before he could answer, she twisted her head to look around the café. “How did none of you see her? You were all at that table together!”

“I saw her coming toward the table.” Anna stood near Timothy, probably waiting to see if he needed her to fetch anything else, her voice low as usual. She shook her head. “I thought that she mistook her chair. Yours was next to Eddie and it was empty. I never dreamed that she would try to stab him.”

Try to? She did stab him!” Ginger nearly spat out the words.

“Ginger!” Timothy half-turned and looked up.

She started.

Timothy’s expression reflected reproach, but he nodded toward the man on the floor. “Eddie is asking for you.”

Adrian released her when she turned and Ginger hurried toward the injured man. He still looked far too pale and he clenched his jaw over and over, in a constant effort to combat the pain. His eyes, hazy and dull with pain, opened when Ginger knelt beside him.

He looks awful. He doesn’t look like he’ll be all right.

“You’ve got to stop.” Rough and strained, Eddie’s voice barely reached her ears.

She started to reply, but a sharp intake of breath stopped her. She laid a hand on his shoulder and she could feel him trembling.

“You have to stop, Ginger.” He looked up at her again, pleading. “You’re… You’re just making yourself look guilty.”

“You didn’t do anything!” She felt a lump fill her throat. She absolutely refused to cry, but hated the feeling. “You aren’t a danger; you didn’t kill anyone!”

“I didn’t,” Eddie rasped. “That doesn’t mean that you should.”

He didn’t say anything else and Ginger couldn’t answer. Her thoughts spun in several directions at once, always coming back to the pale young man fighting for his life in front of her.

Eddie groaned, his eyes closed once again. Ginger took his hand and sighed.

“Why do you care so much?” Kimberly’s cold tone made Ginger look up.

“What do you mean, why does she care?” Fabian asked. “She’s allowed to care.”

Kimberly shook her head, her arms crossed. “I don’t see her caring half so much about any of the rest of us. It’s suspicious.” She turned her gray eyes back on Ginger. “So, what makes you care so much about what happens to this particular young man?”

Ginger looked back down at Eddie. If he even heard the conversation around him, he didn’t show any sign. He didn’t even open his eyes. He squeezed her hand as a wave of pain seemed to pass over him, and then he went back to shaking and trying to breathe slow, measured breaths, as Timothy had instructed him. She wondered that he could stay so quiet and still.

“Well?” Kimberly asked. “Why do you care so much?”

Ginger sighed, her shoulders aching under the burden that only seemed to grow with each passing moment. “Because…” She raised her head, a strange defiance taking hold when she could read the expectant expressions on a few faces. “Because, Eddie is my younger brother.”

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Café Chocolaté: Chapter XXII

Chapter XXII – Adrian Terrence

Ginger appeared compliant enough as she took her seat beside him, but Adrian wondered if it was real or put on. Either the woman’s outbursts of anger tended to be short lived or she knew how to stuff them down at times.

He headed his next page and looked up. “You’re Ginger Thomas, correct?”

“Correct.”

“How long have you worked at the café, Ginger?”

Ginger seemed to count. She nodded. “A year and a half, at least.”

“Are you and Eddie McIntyre the only employees?” Adrian noticed her flinch at Eddie’s name.

“No. Neither of us work the weekends or the night shift. A couple of kids work those. I only know about the weekend because I come in every now and then for coffee on Saturday.”

“You don’t get food?”

Ginger laughed. “Not unless I’m starving. Have you had a sandwich here? Worst café food on the planet. The coffee is the best though.”

Adrian saw Xavier frown, though he also looked amused. He turned back to Ginger.

“What age would you call the ‘kids’ who work weekends?”

“One of them looks like she’s still in high school. The other is, maybe, twenty? I heard her talking about college classes one day.” She shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“I see.” Adrian wrote down a note. “You mentioned that you had seen Gary Bradshaw in here previously? Was that on a day that you worked?”

Ginger nodded, her ponytail bouncing. “Yes. Last week.”

“Can you recall anything specific about his visit that day?”

The woman frowned in thought, then raised an eyebrow. “I remember that he ordered a coffee and a sandwich, same as he had today.”

“Why do you remember that?” Xavier asked. Monique started to move around and he stopped speaking.

Ginger waited until the child grew still again, and then lowered her voice. “I remember all the orders. They’re like names; easy. And usually typical to the person. I can tell you your cousin’s orders. He has three that he goes through.”

“Three?” Xavier looked from one to the other and then back to Ginger.

“Yes, three. I haven’t figured out what makes him choose which one or why, but he has a mood for each one. I never know which version of your cousin we’ll get on Tuesdays, but it’s obvious once he gives his order. If it’s an iced coffee with cream, he’s very serious. If it’s hot and black, he’s completely distracted. If he orders a chai latte instead, he’s elated over something.”

Adrian cleared his throat, unsure what to say.

“I suppose everyone is that predictable to you?” Adrian could hear the laughter in Xavier’s voice.

“Oh, yes. After I’ve seen them a few times.” Ginger glanced around the café and back again. “Renee, for instance, orders an iced black coffee, unless it’s the last Tuesday of the month. Then, she orders the blended coffee with extra whip cream.”

“That’s very routine of her.” Adrian opened a blank page and wrote down Renee’s name.

I don’t know if it’s important, but I want to remember it.

“Then you have Fabian, he orders the exact same coffee every single time, with two chocolates on the side. Same with Timothy Teller; he always gets the same order. Black coffee with a shot of chocolate.”

“Doesn’t anyone order food?” Xavier asked.

Ginger chuckled. “Not our regulars. I should tell Eddie to make you a sandwich. You’ll understand why not then.”

Adrian tapped the table. “About Gary Bradshaw’s visit to the café last week. Did he speak to anyone? Seem to recognize anyone?”

“Not that I noticed.” Ginger shook her head. “He spoke to me, of course. He nearly had a run-in with Mary Dill, but it stayed peaceful. For a wonder. He spoke to Eddie for a minute when he fixed his order, but that’s all that I recall.”

Adrian looked up. “Eddie fixed his order?”

“He’d forgotten something. The cheese, maybe? On the sandwich. I was busy with Mary, so Eddie talked to him and fixed the sandwich.”

“Eddie didn’t mention an exchange to us. He didn’t mention having direct contact with the man at all,” Xavier said.

Ginger’s chin went up and her eyes hardened. “He probably forgot. We were busy and he doesn’t always remember things like that.”

Xavier nodded. “Do you know Eddie McIntyre pretty well then?”

The woman crossed her arms. “I know that he’s not the murderer, if that’s what you’re implying.”

“I’m not implying anything, Miss Thomas.”

Ginger’s glare started to return and Adrian decide to shift the conversation again. “Can you remember who else, specifically from among our friends here, might have been in the café on that day last week, Ginger?”

Ginger raised an eyebrow at ‘friends’ but uncrossed her arms. “That was Wednesday last week, I think, so myself. Eddie, of course. Mary Dill… Fabian Smith.” She paused and drew her brows together in concentration. “Renee might have been in here. She usually only comes in on Tuesdays, but she came in on an odd day last week. Either Wednesday or Thursday; I can’t recall for sure.”

Adrian glanced across the room to what he could see of the pregnant woman leaning back in her chair. She looked worried as she continually rubbed on her rounded belly. It could have been the story worrying her, though.

She doesn’t look like a killer. None of them do though.

He saw Mary Dill stand, then pass them on her way to the restroom. He glanced back down at his notebook.

“You can think of no one else who might have been in here?”

“Oh, plenty of people!” Ginger almost laughed. “The number of customers ran us ragged that day! I just don’t recall anyone one else who is in here today.”

Adrian tapped his notebook with the pencil. “How about today? Tell us about Gary Bradshaw and exactly what he did.”

Ginger made a face that he couldn’t quite understand. “He sat in the same booth, got the same order that he had gotten last time, though why he would want another sandwich is beyond me.” Her gaze caught on Mary Dill exiting the restroom, but with a frown seemed to deliberately avert her eyes, trying to focus on the question at hand. “He sat by himself, same as last week, working away on his tablet. Well, I assume he worked. I suppose, he could have been playing a game or something.”

“Did you notice anything about him in particular, while he sat there?”

Ginger blinked rapidly. “Besides that it was incredibly boring to watch him? He hardly moved!”

Adrian sighed. “You can vouch that he was alive, if boring, however?”

“What do you mean?” Ginger’s eyes widened as she looked up at him.

“I mean that you just said that he hardly moved. Are you certain that Gary Bradshaw was still alive, while he sat there hardly moving.”

“Most certainly.” Ginger practically rolled her eyes. “He sat bent over his tablet. He didn’t look like a corpse. He wasn’t energetic, but he wasn’t dead.”

Adrian nodded. They remained silent for a moment.

“How about closer to the explosion and when he must have been killed?” Xavier asked. “Did you notice anything then?”

Ginger considered long and hard. She crossed her arms. “I-”

A male scream, filled with pain, cut her off. Monique jerked awake and Ginger’s head spun toward the rest of the group. Eddie’s chair stood empty and most of the others had leapt to their feet.

With a scream or a shout, Adrian couldn’t define which, Ginger threw herself from the booth and bolted across the room.

Adrian followed as swiftly as he could, only reaching Eddie after Ginger had dropped to her knees beside him. Eddie didn’t move, but lay perfectly still on the floor, the wound in his side drenching his shirt and the floor beneath him.

“Eddie?” Ginger’s voice shook, as well as her hands when she touched his arm.

He didn’t respond or make the slightest move.

Adrian’s heart slammed into his chest, but for several seconds, he couldn’t move forward. He could hear Xavier faintly in the background, probably trying to calm Monique.

Ginger shook the injured man’s opposite arm and shoulder. “Eddie!”

He remained pale and unresponsive, almost ghostly next to the growing crimson of his shirt.

Ginger grit her teeth, gripping his arm harder. Clenching one hand, she pounded it against him. When Eddie still didn’t move, Ginger dropped her head against his shoulder and screamed.

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The World is Broken

I look around and I see the cracks, the shards, the jagged pieces. I hear the creaking and groaning. I feel the shaking.

People yelling, screaming, at each other’s throats. They attack in their anger and passion, forgetting how to exercise the love of God at all, or so it seems.

Sarcasm. Name calling. Rants full of ugliness. Swearing. Twisting of Scripture. Put downs. Mocking. Damaged relationships. From friends to enemies.

Fires are burning. Destruction is rampant. Threats are hurled.

So much fear. So much pain. So much anger. Hopelessness. Derision. Manipulation. Hatred. All these things evident in the words and actions of so many.

The world is broken.

I hear it. I see it. I feel it. I can almost taste and smell it. It begins to crush me to the ground. It starts to smother me.

The world is broken. And I can’t fix it.

I can’t stop the problems. I can’t repair the cracks or put the jagged pieces back together. Not with logic. Not with cures. Not with anything.

I can’t stop the pain. I can’t make the voices gentle and the words kind. I can’t force loving tolerance. I can’t revise hatred or undo destruction. I can’t heal or bring the dead back to life.

The voices and tears, pain and misery, shouts and screams, anger and hatred – I hear them all. They crowd in on me. I want to stop them; repair whatever it is that needs repaired. Instead, they fall onto my shoulders like a crushing burden, weighing me down. They fill my head until I can’t think for the very noise.

Because I can’t. I can’t fix it.

The world is broken.

But…

There is hope.

“Come unto Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

Through all the noise, the words are like a whisper; a peaceful, gentle pleading.

Instead of sinking under the weight of a broken world that I absolutely can not fix, come to Jesus.

Peter tells us to cast all our cares on Him, because He cares for us. (1 Peter 5:7)

He cares for us. The Creator of the Universe cares for us, His weary and burdened children. And there is nothing that this broken, groaning world can do to touch that, mar it, or take it away.

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

Nothing can separate God’s children from His love. Nothing.

So, we take this burden of a broken world, we cast it on Him, and we rest in His love. And then, I go out and I show that love to others.

Because I can’t fix it. I can’t begin to fix this broken and crumbling world. I can’t stop the lashing at a brother, the cruelty shown, people tearing into absolute strangers; I can’t fix the frustrated, ban the name calling, mend the brokenhearted, stop the fires, end the destruction, or turn the screaming into singing.

But He can.

The love of Jesus can fix every bit of brokenness, when and where He chooses. He’s still in charge. His love can tame tongues, stop destruction, turn enemies to friends. His power can bring justice, put out fires, and stop death. He can comfort the brokenhearted and reverse cruelty.

I can’t. He can. What’s more, He will in His own good time.

All of creation groans, but it won’t always be that way. He may choose to mend a part of this world now or He may, for His own glory, let the cracks merely deepen and creak, but one day, the broken world will be no more. There will be a new heavens and a new earth, and it will be glorious! The one we’re in now, is temporary and finite.

Paul said, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)

The world is broken. It needs a Savior, but I am not it. All I can do is pray and point the broken, pain filled, burning world to the real Savior and show them His love and redemption. Point them to the cross and the empty tomb.

Then, let me rest in that same loving and powerful LORD, who can both save and mend, right the wrongs and heal the pain even in this groaning creation, while I look forward to the glories of the world yet to come.

The world is broken. God can fix it. And He will. In His time.

To the KING be all the glory!

Café Chocolaté: Chapter XXI

Chapter XXI – Timothy Teller

Timothy’s reading plan worked out far better than he could have hoped. As he began the opening chapter, he discovered that he felt somewhat nervous. He couldn’t be certain how a group of adults would react to something that could be considered somewhat juvenile. However, once he began reading, he stopped worrying.

4:50 from Paddington opened up exciting from the very start, catching Timothy’s interest as well as the rest of the group, if one could judge everyone else by their absolute stillness and silence. They sat as though captivated. Maybe Fabian had been correct; perhaps they had really needed the distraction.

When Timothy passed the book and Renee continued reading on his left, he had to strain to hear at first, she read so very quiet. He wondered, if anyone across the table could catch more than a word or two, and began to expect complaints. Renee’s enthusiasm for the story, however, soon won over and she read with confidence.

On her turn, even Ginger read with interest, but as the story continued and the group’s attention deepened, Timothy’s thoughts began to drift.

Listening to Mrs. McGillicuddy’s horror at having witnessed the murder on the train struck him rather strongly; moreso than he could have expected. Even Ginger’s voice wavered when she read out the woman’s short description of the dead girl. Timothy’s breathing began to shorten, just enough that he could notice it.

His own horror at the discovery of Gary Bradshaw’s body hadn’t seemed to last long. There was a great deal going on to process and he had moved on to other things. Or so he might have thought. Until his horror began to return with the reading.

Somehow imagining a fictional killing, brought the real one into fresh relief. The renewed and ever clear realization that a real, living, breathing man, who had made the decision that morning to come down to the café, now lay as a corpse, still and cold in the corner, fell upon him sharp and heavy.

He fidgeted and tried to focus on the story, but failed. He fidgeted again.

“Are you all right?” Anna’s whisper barely reached his hearing.

He nodded, then shifted in his seat. Flashbacks, ones he had avoided for months now, crashed before his mental vision. His hands shook and he clenched them into fists to steady them.

He could feel Anna still watching him, but he hoped that no one else had noticed. They didn’t seem to. All other eyes at the table focused on Ginger as she continued her reading; at least, as far as he could tell. He shook his head, but the images kept coming, faster and more vivid, and he found it difficult to focus on the people actually in the room with him.

“Come on, man. Keep breathing. Don’t give up on me now…”

The man in front of him didn’t respond. He didn’t move.

“Come on, man. Don’t. Not now…”

The chair on the other side of Renee scraped across the floor and pulled Timothy back into the present. He jumped and met Eddie’s hunted expression. It quickly changed to concern and he stepped behind Renee.

“Are you all right, dude?” He hardly made a sound at all as he bent slightly over him, but Timothy could tell what Eddie said. Ginger continued to read.

“I’m… I’m okay.”

“Sure. You look like it. Pale as you are.” He spoke just above a whisper this time.

Timothy wanted to counter that Eddie looked pretty pale himself, but he didn’t have the mental focus to argue. He gave Eddie a faint smile and nod, before the man made for his seat, and then Timothy grit his teeth.

This is stupid. I’ve managed to be fine for months. Why now?

Ginger passed the book off to Fabian, who read in a surprising and soothing voice. Timothy tried to listen, and managed for about three paragraphs, before the images came flooding into his head again.

Lord, I was fine when I saw the unfortunate dead man. Why now? Because for thirty minutes, it’s been calm and quiet?

In his mind, he could hear machine gun fire and shouts. Smell dust and blood. Feel the growing pit in his stomach and swiftly pounding heart.

No. No, no. Come on. I don’t want to remember. Not now.

Mary began reading and Timothy jolted to the present once more.

Timothy had never heard another reader like Mary Dill. The voices that she assigned for the Agatha Christie characters defied all logic and meaning. When she practiced a squeaking, drawled out Arkansas accent on Jane Marple, Timothy couldn’t help but stare. For the moment, he forgot everything but the incongruity of that voice belonging to a native of a small English village and to a character that he had read about since he was sixteen.

Judging by the expressions on the faces of his companions, he wasn’t alone in his thoughts. Renee did her level best not to laugh with each new and surprising piece of dialog, covering half of her face with her hand. Ginger’s eyes widened and she raised one eyebrow in silent question. Fabian mostly kept his eyes on the tabletop with a glance thrown at Mary every now and then, while he kept his jaw tensed, as if he might like to laugh, but absolutely refused to allow it.

Mary paused when Adrian asked Ginger to join them for an interview, but after a long and wary stare, she jumped when Fabian cleared his throat. Mary hurried back to the book and Timothy listened with a growing urge of his own to laugh. It would have been nice to laugh, but not at the expense of Mary Dill, no matter how annoying the woman tended to be. Despite how comical she made it sound, she read with an obvious belief that she was being absolutely serious.

That sounds like the voice Aunt Jennie gave to the fish in The Cat in the Hat when I was a kid. Miss Marple is… a puzzle with that accent.

When her turn came, Kimberly contrasted Mary with a monotonous reading that produced little inflection and no character voices. A robot might have read with more interest in his tone.

His surprise and puzzle over, Timothy’s thoughts began to drift again. He struggled to bring them to focus. Away from dirt and machine guns. Away from screams and death.

Mary stood rather abruptly, Kimberly paused, and everyone looked up. Mary raised one eyebrow, before pursing her lips and gesturing toward the restroom. One or two people nodded, and Kimberly continued her reading.

Timothy tried to stop his shaking hands and closed his eyes.

“I can’t do this! I can’t do this!”

The man in front of him continued to remain still. No heartbeat met Timothy’s frenzied search.

“God, please, not another one! Please!”

Timothy thought he heard a strange sound and he opened his eyes. Renee tried to jump from her seat, hitting against his shoulder, while Eddie, on her other side, simultaneously screamed in an agony of pain and fell from his chair to the floor.

Timothy leapt to his feet, steadying Renee, who nearly tripped on them both. One of the women screamed, but Eddie had gone silent and still.

Moving as if in a daze, Timothy  stepped away from Renee and stared at the young man lying on the floor. Eddie’s shirt rapidly began changing to a deep crimson, while all the color drained from his face, leaving him lifeless and pale. Timothy felt ill.

God Almighty, what just happened? What just happened?

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