Decision making’s a bear.
Well, not all decisions, just ones that had the potential to ruin her life.
Jami Carlisle tilted her face upward and expelled a frustrated sigh. “Okay, Lord, I need some advice. Robert’s getting tired of waiting, and frankly, I can’t blame him.”
She stepped onto an outcropping of rock that jutted over a small creek. Early morning sunlight filtered through the canopy overhead, painting the flora varying shades of green. Somewhere nearby, a cardinal whistled its cheery song. The McAllister woods were her refuge, her place to gather her thoughts and regroup. It didn’t matter that they weren’t hers. They adjoined her property, and she’d been coming there as long as she could remember.
She released a sigh. “Robert’s expecting me to say yes.” Actually, everyone was expecting her to say yes. The whole town had the two of them engaged and all but married the moment he’d taken her hand at the harvest party hayride in eighth grade. They’d each dated others through the years, but last summer it had turned more serious, and in the eyes of the people of Murphy, North Carolina, that was enough to cement it—she was marrying Robert.
With another sigh, Jami dropped to the cool surface of the rock and let her sneakered feet dangle over the edge. Just below, water trickled over a downed limb and around protruding rocks on its lazy path to lower ground. A breeze rustled the trees above, harmonizing with the soothing sound of the creek. But the peace she usually found there eluded her.
“This shouldn’t be so difficult.” She lifted her eyes skyward. “Robert’s a good man. He’s kind and responsible, and he’s a Christian.” There weren’t many people she felt as close to as Robert.
So what was she waiting for? A sign? She snickered at the image that popped into her head, one of those black billboards with bold white letters:
JAMI. MARRY THE MAN.
If only it were that easy. “Lord, help me know what to do.”
She drew in a long, slow breath, heavy with the musty, organic scent of the woods. For the past eight years, Robert had been there for her, ready to lend support and a shoulder to cry on when another boyfriend bit the dust. There’d been several. Most of those relationships never made it to the serious stage. A couple had. And when their demise came, Robert was there.
She couldn’t ask for a better friend. Based on everything she’d read, friendship was important for a happy marriage. But shouldn’t she feel something when Robert kissed her? Was it too much to ask for a man who could make her stomach flip-flop and her pulse race by simply walking into the room? Someone whose kisses left her breathless?
She released a snort. She’d read one too many fairy tales as a child. Or too many romance novels as an adult. Prince Charming wasn’t going to come in and sweep her off her feet, no matter how long she waited. She needed to quit stalling and take the plunge.
“Okay, Lord, this is it.” She slapped both hands against the rock, palms down. “I’m going to do it. Tonight I’m going to tell Robert I’m ready and the answer is yes.”
There. Mind made up. Life-altering course straight ahead. She would talk to Robert, then call her two best friends. She could hear Holly’s response already—“Holy cow! Jami’s finally decided to tie the knot. Someone take her temperature. She must be sick!” Holly always was a bit of a drama queen.
But she couldn’t guess Sam’s reaction. Sam liked Robert. All her friends did. But Sam insisted she wouldn’t be having such a hard time committing if Robert were the one. But Robert was the one. He had to be. It was commitment in general that was so hard. And getting married was the most serious one she would ever make.
She dropped her gaze to the water, where a small branch had become trapped in the current. It clung to a rock for a brief moment, only to be recaptured and swept away. She picked up a stone and tossed it into the water. She’d finally done it. After almost a year of putting it off, she’d made her decision. And it left her feeling much like that small branch being carried helplessly downstream.
“Lord, please let me know I’m making the right choice.”
After a final glance at the creek, she pushed herself to her feet and headed in the direction of home. Today was her last day of freedom before starting her job with the newspaper, and she had a lot to do. The first order of business would be breakfast. Then she had boxes to unload—four years of dorm life crammed into the interior space of a Pontiac Sunbird.
If she worked fast enough, maybe she would have time for a trip into town to catch up with friends before meeting Robert for dinner. She hadn’t seen anyone yet since her return. It had been early enough when she’d gotten home. But she hadn’t been able to muster up the gumption to go out.
She’d left Michigan State at four that morning, and six hours later, her AC gave up the ghost. After driving the next seven with both windows down, she’d made it to Murphy at six that evening, exhausted and looking like a redheaded stunt double for the Wicked Witch of the West. A sturdy hairbrush, a long shower and a good night’s sleep had done wonders. Now she felt like a new person. Except for the two-ton elephant sitting on her chest.
She shook her head. There was no reason to feel that way. She’d made her decision, back there at the creek. She stepped from the trees into her own backyard.
Yeah, the decision was made. But somehow, she didn’t feel any more settled coming out of the woods than she had going in.