Everyone of us gets an impression of a person when we meet them for the first time. That impression might be good or it might be bad. The heroine of my latest book, Nursing the Soldier’s Heart, which the second book in my Village of Hope series and is on sale now, forms a first impression about the hero before she even meets him. How does that happen? You can read an excerpt to find out.
The familiar recorded voice on the other end of the line made Kirsten Bailey’s stomach churn. The phone number had an Atlanta area code, but if it was a cell phone, no telling where the owner resided. She mustered some politeness and repeated her daily mantra. How many messages would she have to leave before she got a response? She slammed down the phone.
“Why are you abusing the phone?” Jen Chafin, the other late-shift nurse, swiveled in her chair as she tucked a lock of auburn hair behind one ear.
Kirsten grimaced. “Cora Barton asked me to call her grandson again. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve left him a message. The man obviously doesn’t care about his grandmother.”
“Are you calling the right number?”
“Absolutely. The voice mail message says, ‘This is Brady Hewitt. Leave a message.’” Kirsten shook her head again. “I hate the expression on Cora’s face when I tell her I haven’t reached him.”
“Does he have a job where he’s out of signal range for a period of time?”
“Cora doesn’t know what he does.” Kirsten shrugged. “Sounds like he’s a ne’er-do-well who picks up jobs here and there when he feels like it.”
Jen turned back to her computer. “Does Cora have any other family?”
“I don’t think so, otherwise, I’m sure she would’ve asked me to call someone else. Her daughter died in a car accident when her grandson was young. Cora raised him.”
Jen stopped typing. “That certainly makes him ungrateful.”
“My thoughts exactly. How could someone ignore a grandmother like Cora? She’s one of the sweetest women I know.”
“Next time you could always leave a message telling him what you really think.” Jen laughed halfheartedly.
“I’d like to, but I have to keep it professional.” Kirsten grimaced. “At least Cora has lots of friends here at The Village to make up for her inattentive grandson.”
Jen nodded. “And speaking of friends, look who’s coming down the hall.”
Kirsten peered over the counter. “Annie and her kids. That’ll make Cora’s day.”
Kirsten waved at Annie Payton and her two small children, Kara and Spencer. The kids let go of their mother’s hand and raced to the nurses’ station.
Shaking her head, Annie caught up to her children. “Sorry, Kirsten. They’re excited to see you.”
“That’s okay.” Kirsten greeted the youngsters with a hug. “Who are you here to see?”
“Ms. Cora,” the children said in unison.
“We want her to get better, and Mommy says our visits will help.” Kara scrunched up her little nose. “I hope Ms. Cora gets out of here soon.”
“We all do.” Kirsten turned her attention to Annie. “How are the wedding plans?”
Annie’s face brightened. “Everything’s falling into place. Just ten more days.”
Kirsten came around the counter and gave Annie a hug. “I’m so happy for you and Ian.”
“Thanks.” Annie glanced down the hallway. “Guess we better get down to see Cora. Talk to you later.”
Kirsten waved as the trio went down the hallway. Seeing Annie and her children made Kirsten long for the family she’d almost had. But she shouldn’t dwell on what could have been. She had to concentrate on the here and now.
“Are you going with someone to Annie and Ian’s wedding?” Jen asked when Kristen returned to her computer.
Kirsten frowned. “That’s another sore topic.”
“Yes. Maybe we should work and not talk at all.”
“But I can work and talk at the same time.” Jen waved a hand over the computer keyboard. “You know the rest of the evening is usually pretty quiet. Besides, you can’t leave me hanging like this.”
Shaking her head, Kirsten looked straight ahead as she input some data. “No fair. You have a husband who’s a built-in date for such occasions, so you don’t have to worry about someone trying to find you an escort.”
Kirsten released a harsh breath. “Yeah. Ever since I came back from Brazil, he’s been pushing some guy at me. I think he’s hoping I’ll find someone here, so I won’t go back.”
Jen nodded. “I can understand that. Lauren’s a college senior, and I’m hoping she finds a job close to home when she graduates. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have a child in another country, where you could never see them. Look at it from your dad’s point of view.”
Kirsten shrugged. “I suppose. Family’s important to me. That’s why I came home as soon as I found out how sick Mom was, and I stayed even after she passed away because Dad needed me. But he needs to let me live my own life, and he needs to get on with his.”
“I’m sure the loss of your mom still weighs on him.”
“I know. It hasn’t been easy for either of us.” Kirsten stopped typing and looked at Jen.
“His duties as director here at The Village keep him busy, and that’s good. But the nights are hard for him. He didn’t want me to move into my own place, but I think that’s better for him, don’t you?”
“Probably, but your dad still looks at you as his little girl. You’re an adult, but you’re also his child.” Jen grabbed a folder from the end of the desk. “He wants the best for you.”
“I know that, but I wanted to adopt those three children in Brazil. Now that won’t happen.” Kirsten fingered the beaded bracelet on her wrist—the one Luciana, Nathalia and Rafael had made for her right before she came back to the States.
“Do you think they’ll lift the suspension of international adoptions?”
“Those children are lost to me. But I’m still trying to get a new visa in order to go back.” Kirsten tried not to think of those sweet children, but the image of their smiles and dark brown eyes looking up at her wouldn’t go away. Losing them was worse than the day she’d found out she could never have children of her own.
“What about trying to adopt children here?”
“Another thing my dad suggests when I mention going back to my missionary work, but it’s not the same. The kids here at The Village have wonderful homes with house parents who love them. The children in Brazil are in crowded orphanages with an inadequate number of caregivers. And there are many more on the streets.” Kirsten tried to shake away the sad memories. “I love my dad and want to be here for him, but he has to move on with his life. So do I. Going back to Brazil is my plan. That’s what I want more than anything.”
“Even though the kids in the children’s homes here have a wonderful place to live, don’t you think the ones who are eligible for adoption wouldn’t want a special family of their own?”
Kirsten shook her head. “I only know the children I worked with in Brazil were destitute and neglected far too often.”
“Do you ever think these things happened because God has another plan for your life?”
Kirsten didn’t want to answer that question. “For the ten years I was in Brazil, I knew God wanted me there. I want to go back.”
“Think of it this way. You’re still helping—helping your dad and these seniors who need your gentle caring spirit in their lives.”
“I’m not sure my spirit is so gentle.” Kirsten tried to smile. “Tracking down wayward grandsons and shoveling pills at senior citizens isn’t exactly what I’d hoped to be doing with my life.”
Forcing herself not to dwell on Jen’s assessment of the situation, Kirsten grabbed some more charts and prayed for an uneventful evening. Were Jen and her dad right? Should she think about adopting children here? If she did that, how could she ever go back to Brazil? Why wouldn’t God want her to return to Brazil as a missionary nurse? What better plan could He have for her?
After Kirsten finished her paperwork, she got up and checked the medication cart, then turned to Jen. “I’ve got a few meds to deliver, and I’ll have to give Cora the bad news.”
Jen shook her head. “I hope the unresponsiveness of her grandson doesn’t affect Cora’s recovery.”
“Me, too. I hate giving her distressing news.” Kirsten headed down the hall.
As she delivered the medications to her elderly patients, she willed herself to get rid of her negative attitude toward Cora’s grandson. It would do Cora no good.
Four doors down the hall Kirsten came to Cora’s room. The door was slightly ajar. A television blared with the local news.
Kirsten peered through the small opening. While Cora’s roommate watched the television, Cora appeared to be sleeping. Not wanting to disturb her, Kirsten backed away, but she caught sight of a man with a scruffy appearance sitting in the chair at the foot of Cora’s bed.
Who was he, and what was he doing there while Cora slept? Kirsten’s radar for trouble zoomed into action.
What do you think about first impressions? Have you ever gotten a first impression of someone that proved not to be true? Should we judge people on first impressions? Is it easy to push aside a first impression?
I’ll be giving away copies of the first book in the Village of Hope series, Second Chance Reunion to anyone who requests one in the comments.