Excerpt from A Steadfast Surrender







    The intercom buzzed. "Claire, your husband, line one."

    Ex-husband. Claire Adams' money-grubbing, selfish, two-timing, ex-husband. "Tell him I'll call him back."

    "I already tried that. He says it's an emergency. He says he'll hold."

    He can hold till the Second Coming for all I care.

    "Claire?"

    "All right, all right, I'll take it." She settled in behind the desk at her mosaic studio, closed her eyes, and tried
    to find the calm before the storm that was… "Ron. My two-timing ex. What can I do you for?"

    "Plenty. Obviously. But beside that, I have a proposition for you."

    "Haven't you done enough propositioning?"

    "Very funny."

    "Do you hear me laughing?"

    "Are you going to dredge up the past or can I talk about our future?"

    "We don't have a future, Ron."

    "Don't be difficult."

    She opened her mouth to respond, then closed it. Talking with Ron made her emotions dry and brittle, like a
    slice of bread left on the counter overnight. She tapped into a verse that had been her mantra during the
    divorce: "O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a
    dry and weary land where there is no water." Ron offered no water. No refreshment. No relief. Only the
    refreshment of God had seen her through his womanizing and her eventual surrender of their marriage.

    "C.C.?"

    She took a cleansing breath. "Can we wrap this up, please?"

    "Don't be so quick to cut me off. This benefits you too."

    She snickered.

    "You like boating, don't you?"

    It took her a second to register the word. "Boating?

    "I want to buy a boat. I want you to pay for half."

    The laugh was full now. "And why would I do that?"

    "Because I'd let you use it. Like I said, you like boating."

    "I liked boating. Past tense. Those days are over, Ron. And since you dumped me for a younger model, I think
    it's inappropriate for me to pay for half of a boat she will use."

    "But, C.C., you know I've always wanted one."

    Ron could make instant gratification an Olympic event. "Then buy one. But leave me out of it."

    "You know I don't have that kind of money. You've always made more than me."

    Ron's ego hadn't liked that fact when they were married, and had taken advantage it since the divorce. Claire
    was generous in the settlement, willing to give up some cash and possessions for the whole thing to be done
    with as soon as possible. Maybe 'that had been a mistake. "Do unto others" was hard to maintain when others
    got greedy. She sucked in a breath and steeled herself. "My answer is no."

    "No?"

    "Why doesn't your beloved Tiffany pay for it?" There was silence, and Claire began to laugh. "She's left you,
    hasn't she?"

    "I kicked her out, if it's any of your business. She was an absolute leech."

    "I know the feeling."

    "You should see the bills she ran up."

    "A disgusting opportunist."

    He sighed. "So I'm alone now. All alone."

    "Oh, I'm sure you'll find another young babe to keep you warm."

    "Tiffany was hardly young. She was thirty."

    "And you are?"

    "You know very well how old I am, and my love life is none of your business. Not any more."

    But it had been her business once. Ron left Claire because a pretty girl stole his heart and promised him a life of
    passion and adoration. Lola lasted thirteen months before Ron realized her portrayal of a high-living Lolita was a
    front for an empty bank account, which she wanted Ron to fill. Besides, Lola the Lolita liked to roam more than
    her Lothario.

    In spite of Ron's infidelities, Claire had wanted to work things out. Not because she loved him so much, but
    because she knew it was the right thing to do. Saying "Till death do us part" in a church meant something to
    Claire. Yet just as it took two to argue, it took two to make up. And Ron didn't want to work at their marriage.
    Not after he discovered other women who made him feel young again in a way Claire couldn't. Or wouldn't.

    She didn't blame him entirely. Just mostly. Claire knew she worked too much and had tunnel-vision toward her
    art. But in her own defense, she'd never forgotten a birthday or anniversary, she'd hung up Ron's towels without
    complaining, and she'd made him his favorite cheesecake that was unsurpassed by any la-di-da restaurant
    charging six-bucks a slice, even though it kept her in the kitchen way past her preferred time limit.

    Claire realized Ron was still talking. "--suppose I'll have to cancel the order, though I already had a weekend
    planned."

    "Poor baby."

    "Don't be mean. I thought you could be a little generous, what with your recent success. I saw the article in
    Newsweek about your work. But I guess I—"

    "Generous? Don't you dare talk generous with me. Who got the good cars? Who got the house?"

    "You said you didn't want them."

    She hadn't wanted them, preferring to start fresh, but that wasn't the point. "I have to go, Ron."

    "What if we go sixty-forty?"

    "Bye."

    "Uh-uh, don't you dare hang up on—"

    She dropped the phone in the cradle and immediately longed for a nap. What she used to celebrate as Ron's
    outspoken spunk, she now suffered as plain old petulance and temper. In twenty years of marriage he'd changed.

    And you haven't?

    She frowned. Had she? What traits had Ron found initially charming in the twenty-five-year-old Claire Adams,
    up-and-coming mosaic artist extraordinaire? Had her ambition and creativity turned into something less
    desirable at age forty-five? Had fame and money irreparably changed her?

    Actually, it didn't matter whose fault it was. Their marriage was over. It still hurt like a gaping wound, and
    every call, every contact with Ron, added a handful of salt.

    She shoved all thoughts of him aside and was actually pleased when her stomach growled. Needing and wanting
    to eat was a good sign. For months the necessity of food had been a burden, and she'd ended up losing fifteen
    pounds.

    The divorce diet. If only she could package it.

    Lunch and a meeting at the gallery beckoned. She stood to leave just as the line buzzed again. "Call on line
    three, Claire. It's your pastor."

    Claire could hardly skip that one—and didn't want too. The previous Sunday they had dedicated the mosaic
    altar she'd created and donated. He was probably calling to share some compliments with her. She picked up
    the phone. "Pastor Joe. All's well with the altar, I hope?"

    "An altar fit for a King. We're extremely grateful for it."

    "You're welcome."

    "But I have a favor to ask of you."

    "Uh-oh. I feel a request for a matching baptismal font coming on."

    "Actually, I need your culinary expertise."

    For a moment she was speechless. "Surely you jest."

    "Oh, you'll do fine. We have the administrator of a Denver shelter visiting. She's been talking at the circle
    meetings and will give a speech at the congregational dinner tomorrow night. She's staying at the Martin's.
    But tomorrow—Saturday—the Martin's have some softball function for the kids, and Molly and I have a bowling
    tournament—"

    "How's your game?"

    "I've hit three digits."

    "Ooh. Strike three, you're out."

    "Wrong kind of strike, Claire. Anyway, we wondered if you would entertain the administrator tomorrow noon.
    Have her over for lunch."

    During the divorce Claire took solace in the church she previously ignored and discovered the benefits of
    becoming a joiner. She was now on Pastor Joe's ready-willing-and-able list of volunteers and didn't really mind.
    Giving back eased the pain of what she'd given up.

    "You'd like her, Claire."

    She sighed. "Does she have a name?"

    "Michelle Jofsky."

    "Wouldn't you rather have a couple do this?"

    "I think she's been coupled out. An afternoon woman-to-woman would probably be a relief. She's a baseball fan,
    just like you. Sometimes eating pizza and watching baseball is a thousand times more satisfying than a four-
    course meal."

    That made it easier. "Pizza I can handle. Baseball, huh? A Royals fan, I hope?"

    "Cubs. You'll have to duke it out."

    "I'll kick in my Christian tolerance. For one afternoon. As a favor to you."

    "And God."

    "Who we both wish was a more avid Royals fan."

    "I'll call Michelle and tell her to be over at noon. And Claire? This is a good thing you're doing, and I'm proud
    of you. But . . ."

    "But what?"

    "Be good. Okay?"

    "Hey, you started it. But never fear. I'll give it my best shot"...(continued)



                                                               Copyright 2016, Nancy Moser
                                                                     Mustard Seed Press