Bill sat in the red cushioned chair inside the administrator’s office. His short legs swung back and forth. Bored, he started counting the boards on the floor, but the familiar sound of footsteps in the hall caused him to look up. The office door opened, and Joshua stood there with a smile on his face.
Joshua said, “Billy, I have a couple who would like to meet you. May they come in?”
Bill smiled, and he nodded vigorously. A man and woman walked in. He wore a navy-blue suit against his fit body. The man had thick, black wavy hair that he combed back. He was at least as tall as Joshua and looked like a giant to Bill. The woman reminded Bill of one of the porcelain dolls the girls in the orphanage played with. She was the most beautiful woman Bill had ever seen.
Bill slipped off his chair and attempted to straighten the suit that was too large for him. The woman kneeled and smiled, “I’m Barbara Brown, and this is my husband, Richard. We’re your brother’s parents. How would you like to come with us and live with your brother?”
Bill’s eyes widened, “You mean like a forever family?”
Richard kneeled down next to his wife, “That’s exactly what we mean.”
Before Bill could stop himself, he hugged both of them. Then his vision faded.
He felt a pain in his chest, and the room came back into view. Tears streamed down his cheeks, and he could feel Joshua holding him in his lap. He was crying as well.
Bill blubbered, “Why? Why can’t they adopt me? They said they love me.”
Joshua rocked Bill back and forth. “I wish I could tell you. Your mom doesn’t want to give up custody.”
Bill felt his cheeks flush, “Then why isn’t she here? Why doesn’t she come to get me?”
Joshua said, “We need to pray God will reunite you with your mother.”
Bill pushed himself off Joshua and slipped off his leg. He glared at Joshua and said, “Pray, what good will that do? If God cared, he would have given me to the Browns. This sucks, and so does God.”
Bill ran out of the room and back into the darkness.
Bill and his new boss, Gerard, stood in front of his office. “Everyone, your attention, please. This is Bill Johnson. He’s the new Investment Branch Manager. Bill was very successful with several large corporate clients while on Wall Street. We hope to see him bring the same success to everyone here in our little corner of Charlotte.”
The workers politely clapped. Gerard waved over a beautiful African American woman.
Gerard introduced her. “Bill, this is Carol Lewis. She’s your new administrator.”
Bill stuck out his hand, “A pleasure.”
Carol politely replied, “The pleasure is all mine.”
Gerard continued, “She’ll get you up to speed on things. You’ll be lost without her, so keep her happy. If you two will excuse me, I have a noon flight back to London I need to catch.”
They said their goodbyes. Carol took Bill into his office and showed him around. She bent over at a filing cabinet to show him where the personnel folders were kept. Bill couldn’t help noticing how she filled out her dress.
Without looking at him, Carol said, “I’m glad you appreciate my booty, but I don’t date my bosses.”
Bill’s face got warmer, and he stammered, “I was looking at the filing cabinet.”
Carol stood up. “Uh-huh. Just so you know, that’s a hard no.”
Bill asked, “Are you always this blunt with your new bosses?”
Carol smiled, “Only the cute ones. Now come over to your desk, and let’s get you logged into the system.”
The office faded, another pain shot across his chest.
He sat with Lori at Capital Grille for lunch. They gazed into one another’s eyes. Bill reached over and held her hand while he ran his thumb gently across her skin. Lori shivered and pulled her hand back.
“We need to slow down.”
Bill smiled, “So, you feel it too?”
Lori cocked her head, “Feel what?”
Bill’s grin spread across his face. “The electricity between us, but it’s more than that. It feels like you’ve been beside me my whole life. It’s like we’ve always known each other, but there’s an unseen excitement that you can physically feel.”
Lori leaned back in her chair. “You know, Carol says she thinks you’re using the office to find a girlfriend.”
Bill’s face felt warm, and then he scowled. “I’m not using our office to pick up women. I normally don’t date coworkers.”
Lori answered, “I’m a little more than a coworker. I’m your employee. If we get caught fraternizing, we could both be fired. Maybe you can afford that to happen, Mr. Hot Shot Wall Street, but I came to this job directly from my MBA at Queens. If I lose my first job sleeping with my boss, my career is ruined before it’s started.”
Bill leaned forward, “Listen to me. I won’t let it happen. Besides, I’m not the kind of boss to show favoritism to someone just because we’re close.”
Lori answered, “And I’m not the type of woman to go out on a date with her boss, but here we are.”
Bill asked, “So, what are you saying?”
Lori responded, “I’m saying, let’s slow down. If things look serious, we’ll have some hard decisions to make.”
Bill nodded silently.
His stomach cramped, and the restaurant disappeared.
He stood in his Condo in uptown, looking out over the city lights.
From behind, Lori’s voice sounded like an angelic chorus in his ears, “This looks familiar.”
Bill answered, “Let’s hope the phone doesn’t ring.”
Lori’s arms slipped around Bill’s waist, and a shiver of pleasure and desire shot through his body.
Lori whispered in his ear, “Oh, is that a tremble of expectation?”
Bill giggled before he could stop himself. He felt Lori’s fingers loosening his belt, and she blew in his ear.
Bill’s body trembled again.
Lori took his hand and led him towards the bedroom. The door shut, and the room turned dark.
Something pressed against Bill’s chest.
Lori paced around Bill’s apartment, “I’m late. Do you know what that means?”
Bill answered sheepishly, “You’re always late.”
Lori picked up a pillow and threw it at him. “This isn’t funny.”
Bill smiled, “I think it’s great news.”
Lori stopped and waved her arms, “Great news! Are you crazy? Maybe I can end it without anyone finding out.”
Bill leaped to his feet and wrapped his arms around her. “Don’t you dare say that. I’d rather die first. That’s our baby. Our family.”
Lori wiggled loose from his embrace. “Don’t you dare say that. I’m not some baby momma.”
Bill shook his head, “That’s not what I mean. Don’t you see? I want to marry you.”
Lori rolled her eyes, “Oh, so now you propose after you knock me up? That’s some game.”
Bill dropped to his knees, “Does this help?”
Lori crossed her arms, “Where’s the ring, big boy. Don’t have one, huh? Funny, you want to be a family so badly you didn’t already have a ring before you got me pregnant.”
Bill flopped down on the couch and exhaled in frustration. “I was planning on it. I just wasn’t planning on you getting pregnant first.”
Lori sat down next to him, “Well, that makes two of us. I told you we should take things slow.”
Bill answered, “I thought we were, and we were careful.”
Lori responded, “Not careful enough.”
Bill grunted, and pain pierced his lower back. The apartment faded.
He now found himself on his knee at the beach. Tears trailed down Lori’s cheeks, and she nodded vigorously. Then she faded from view. Light filled his vision and took the shape of a middle eastern man. His dark eyes glowed. Light surrounded his body, and any shadows disappeared.
The voice was warm, loving, comforting. “Bill, my child of many questions. Do you still doubt me?”
Bill gasped and could not stop his smile. Joy and peace filled his soul and the space around him.
The man continued, “I am the Father to the fatherless, a comforter and protector to those who are oppressed. My grace is from everlasting to everlasting.”
Bill fell to the ground. He stammered, “Please, I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were there.”
The man’s voice filled the air. “Didn’t know? Who have you been speaking to? Who did you ask into your heart they night in the chapel?”
Bill pleaded, “I wasn’t sure. He seemed like nothing changed. I didn’t know what to think.”
A hand lifted Bill’s chin. The bearded man’s eyes glowed with flames behind them. “Stand.”
The man continued, “I adopted you as my son. I paid for you with my blood. Would a father reject his son? Am I a man?”
Bill dove into his arms and his entire being seemed to vibrate. Bill stumbled back one step.
Two shadows appeared and then came into view. Bill gasped when he saw Lori and himself walking beside her.
Lori smiled and said, “It’s okay, you can touch me.”
Bill grabbed hold of her and buried his face in her hair and neck. She seemed younger and smelled like a field of flowers and a tropical paradise all at once.
Lori whispered in his ear, “You have to let go, honey. I have something to show you.”
Bill stepped back.
Lori pointed to the young man, “This is our son.”
Bill’s forehead crinkled, “I don’t understand.”
The man put out his hand, “I’m your son.”
Bill stood there confused and then said, “But you were killed.”
He and Lori nodded.
“Oh,” said Bill. “What’s your name?”
Lori answered, “His name is Tom.”
Bill asked, “Why?”
“You’ll understand one day. Come with us.”
Bill held Lori’s hand. The electricity between them was even more intense than he remembered. They strolled from the bright light onto an unfamiliar brown hill. Before the three of them stretched out the ocean. A terraced concrete patio came into view with an Infiniti pool looking out over the sea at its lowest point.
Lori said, “Watch closely.”
A beautiful African American girl with thick flowing black hair came skipping out the back and was making her way down to the pool. A tan little boy was floating on his back and splashing the water with his feet. The girl stopped in front of a man. Bill’s mouth dropped open at the sight of himself.
The girl said, “Watch this, daddy!”
She pranced to the edge of the pool, hollered, “Cannonball,” and landed next to the boy. The ensuing chaos left the boy coughing and the girl giggling.
Harold’s voice sounded from behind them, “That’s what you get, young man, for not paying attention.”
Harold carried two beers and took one down Bill.
Bill said, “Lori, I don’t want to see you do that to your cousin again. Coughing up water isn’t fun.”
Harold bumped Bill’s shoulder, “You would know.”
Lori whispered in his ear, “Time to go.”
Bill said, “No, I don’t understand.”
Tom said, “You have a purpose.”
Bill responded, “What? A pool party?”
Lori grabbed his face and turned him back to the scene. Darla and Carol came out the back door, and both looked very pregnant.
Carol hollered, “You boys planning on making us lunch? It’s just like you two. All you want to do is sit around, drink beer, and keep the women knocked up.”
Harold responded, “There are worse ways to live.”
Darla answered, “Keep it up, funny man, and you’ll be watching our kids while I take a six-month assignment in Russia.”
Harold hollered, “Sorry,” and he and Bill snickered.
Lori turned Bill’s face back to her. “Don’t you see, you have a family to raise. A future to build. God has a purpose for you and your family.”
Bill looked deep into Lori’s glistening black eyes, “But I love you. I can’t raise a family with Carol.”
Lori answered, “I’m dead, honey. We can’t be together. I’ve moved on, and now you have to as well. Go and live the life God has given you.”
A jolt of electricity hit his body, and he doubled over. Light filled his vision, and the warm, familiar voice rumbled, “All of my creation was made for my glory. The very rocks cry out my praise. Nothing you do is without my purpose. I am He who watches over the orphan and the fatherless. Go, be blessed, and bless others. Be forgiven and forgive others. Point those around you to my love and grace. As you have received, so give. Now, live.”
Bill’s whole body convulsed. His back hurt, his sides hurt, his chest hurt.
He could hear Carol, “Don’t’ you leave me.”
Garcia yelled, “You must live.”
The light disappeared, and he could see shapes through his blurry eyes. Another massive cramp and water came pouring out of his mouth. Bill finally caught his breath and then expelled more of the putrid water until he was sure he would die anyway. A third wave hit, and by the fourth, Bill dry heaved and rolled over on the wet deck.
He wiped his eyes and blinked. Carol, Joshua, Harold, Garcia, and Maria hovered over him.
Joshua took a light and checked Bill’s eyes. He said, “I wasn’t sure you were coming back to us.”
Bill sat up and answered, “I wasn’t given a choice.”
Carol’s arms wrapped around Bill’s shoulders, “Are you alright?”
He answered, “I am now.”
Garcia said, “Okay, this is an evacuation. You’ll take the Kodiak to the destroyer that’s coming in closer from our right.”
Harold looked up, “You can’t let her sink.”
Garcia answered, “Relax. We have another ship on its way to tow her back. Darla and Frank got the pumps working when you were saving your brother below. It can’t keep the water out, but they should keep up once the ship is moving.”
Harold argued, “I want to stay with the ship.”
Garcia shook his head. “No doing. This is a CIA matter now. I have a dead fugitive in the hull, and we have three more here, including Hunter.”
Bill looked over and saw an old man with gray and red hair lying in his own blood and two others dead beside him.
Garcia continued, “You’ll get it back when we’re done with it. Trust me, you’ll be glad we took it.”
Harold said, “Fine, I’ll stay with Bill.”
Bill nodded, and Carol sat closer to him.
Garcia pointed to the ladder, “Alright, everyone on board. Bill, a doctor will check you out once you’re on the ship. All of you will be taken back to the island. Stay there until we wrap things up and tell you it’s safe.”
Carol and Harold helped Bill to his feet. They boarded the Kodiak for the bumpy ride to the approaching ship.