I tend to focus on one project at a time, but with the non-productive time I’ve had lately, I thought I’d go through some of the ideas I’d tucked away for another day. The selection below is from a romance story I started about a year or so back; and after rereading it, I thought it was worthy of a second look. I cleaned it up and though I don’t have a title for it yet, you should be able to figure out where the story is going. Happy reading.

* * *

“No!”

Noah Stewart can live with the many strays his daughter Evelyn is always bringing home. He can deal with all the time and money his mother-in-law Celia donates to various charities and organizations. But this is simply beyond the call-of-duty.

“She is not staying here,” he insists.

Celia offers him a stern look and raises a finger to her lips to shush him. Then she takes him by the arm – rather forcefully, he thinks, considering her five-foot stature – and pulls him into the kitchen.

“She’ll hear you,” she says in a heavy Latin accent.

“This is my house!”

“Yes, and because you’re so blessed you should share with those less fortunate,” Celia replies, very matter-of-factly.

“We don’t even know her,” Noah argues, though he knows it’s all in vain. There were few arguments he’d won when it involved his mother-in-law. She might have been short and demure at times, but she was resolute and quite adamant when it came to getting what she wanted, regardless of how preposterous the request was. “Think about Evelyn. You’re really going to invite a perfect stranger into our house and have her stay here with your granddaughter? She could be a criminal, a killer.”

The odds are against it – probably – but he has to try.

Celia only snorts, though and turns back to the counter, where she had been chopping up vegetables before he came home earlier.

“She is one hundred and two pounds soaking wet,” she states, picking up the knife. “And she’s pregnant. You think she’s going to risk the life of her child to do something stupid like kill you in your sleep?”

Ignoring her comment, Noah says, “That’s the other thing. Why am I suddenly responsible for someone else’s indiscretion? Where is the father?”

Celia looks up at him, a look of incredulity on her face.

“You’re not marrying her,” she says with exasperation, “Just giving her a place to stay for a couple of weeks until Pastor Finlay finds a place for her.”

And with that, they are back to the square one. This was the original argument; the loaded greeting he received when he walked into the house after spending all day at the animal clinic he had cleverly named Noah’s Ark. Since childhood, animals were his passion. He understood them: they were grateful, simple creatures…unlike people, who were complicated and difficult to please, no matter how accommodating one was. And that was only the men. Women were a hopeless cause, which is why he should have just let Celia have her way, but Noah cannot do that this time. There were charities and organizations that were equipped to handle situations like this – charities and organizations that Celia volunteered her time and his money towards regularly. Surely one of them could handle the burden of a homeless woman.

“I’m sorry,” he says, adding a tone of finality to his voice. He is, after all, still the man of the house, even if Celia had a tendency to pull rank on him. “She’s not staying.”

Seemingly unmoved by his statement, Celia says, “Okay,” and continues preparing the food.

“Okay?” he repeats, dubiously. Could it be he has actually persuaded her to see the situation his way?

“Okay,” she repeats.

“Okay,” he says, more confident than before. Glad the argument is over, he turns to go.

“Make sure you tell her, before you go upstairs to help Evelyn with her homework,” Celia remarks, innocently.

Noah stops and sighs. He should have known better.

Turning around, he reminds Celia, “I didn’t bring her here.”

“Oh, and she will probably need a ride down to the bus stop,” Celia adds, piling on the guilt.

“Celia,” he warns, but she continues without looking up.

“She’ll probably have to sleep under a bridge tonight, so make sure you give her one of those jackets you don’t use. I remember when Rogelio and I were just married and we came to this country and had no place to go and no one to help us. It got cold on those nights we had to spend underneath that bridge…”

Noah closes his eyes. He had heard this story many times before. Though her husband Rogelio had passed five years earlier, she spoke of him often, sharing their experiences, sometimes for entertainment, sometimes for teaching purposes, most of the times for guilt.

“I’m not backing down on this,” he finally says.

“Neither am I,” she replies, placing the knife on the counter. “We are given much, so we can share much. Noah, regardless of the misfortunes we have experienced with Rogelio and Selena, we can’t let that change who we are. You use to care, you use to give so much. This girl needs our help. We should help her.”

Noah cringes; why did everything have to go back to Selena?

“Why us, though? There are other people who can help too.”

“Sometimes God tests us. Who’s to say this child isn’t an angel, sent to us? Do you really want to say you sent her away?”

Oh, now she’s brought God into this, Noah thinks, moaning under his breath. He knows he doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

“Good,” Celia interjects and returns to the vegetables. “I’ll get dinner together and afterward, I’ll get the other bedroom ready for her. She looks like she hasn’t eaten a good meal in months. We’ll have to fatten her up.”

“I didn’t say yes.”

“Well, say yes, or tell her no,” she says, and shoos him out of the kitchen with a wave of her hand.

“Don’t think I won’t,” he warns.

She doesn’t reply.

It’s because she doesn’t believe I will, Noah tells himself. Well, I’ll prove her wrong.

Noah turns on his heels and walks into the living room where Celia left the stranger. In his mind, Noah knows this isn’t a question of what kind of man he used to be, because he hadn’t changed. He was still the same man he was before Selena came into his life and after she left. This was about protecting his family and he was going to do just that.

He turns the corner into the hall, intent on telling her to go; but as he reaches the French doors that stand between him and the living, Noah finds himself struck dumb. Seated on couch with her back to him, the girl is about the same age as his sister Meredith, who will be turning twenty-three this year. She has lovely features and fair skin, her long, brown hair resting on her shoulders. Her clothes has seen better days for sure, but beyond all that, there is something unexpected about her that Noah can’t pin down.

Perhaps it’s her age and the fact that she’s homeless, he tells himself. She’s must have seen some hard times to be in a position like this so early in life.

She turns her head towards the wall. Noah quickly backs up, not wanting her to see him watching her. She returns to the television in front of her and slouches down on the couch. She looks harmless enough and Noah knows he’s not putting her out tonight.

Just as quietly as before, he turns around and heads upstairs to see Evelyn. He should feel good about himself for being so altruistic, but Noah doesn’t. In fact, he has to admit, beyond the guilt is the realization that perhaps he has changed since Selena’s departure from his life. He doesn’t trust so easily anymore and given the current situation, he can’t tell if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

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