After the death of their only child, it was time for Virginia and Richard to truly act on the power held within the five stones.
But their healing was taking a long time, and, quite frankly, proving to be an empty vessel needing to be filled.
Would they ever have a child of their own?
Would the old key help in their search for the truth? Joy was in their lives once again, a homeless teen with an alcoholic mother, still managing the journey to Just Desserts for another pink cupcake.
Was Joy the answer? And if so, what was the truth locked within her heart?
Travel with Virginia and Richard as they make their journey with God. Seek. Knock. Open. Find. Discover for yourself how an open heart - heals.
Beatrice was 9 months old when the key turned for Virginia. The summer leaves were just beginning to dry, preparing themselves for yet another fall and heavy winter in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and the little babe Virginia had finally managed to bring into this world had left it too soon.
No real cause. No real solution. But crib death was like that. "Don't turn her on her belly." "Don't put stuffed animals in her bed." "Don't smoke."
Well, she hadn't done any of those things and the baby girl that she'd waited for, for so long, was under the cold earth, never again to reach out her tiny little hands.
God was cruel.
No, that was the wrong thing to say.
She didn't know what God was. And she didn't know if she'd truly ever believe him again.
Richard was smart. He went to work. Struggled with the doughnuts and cupcakes that she still made for the tiny shop they'd finally managed to purchase away from the grocery store. He was smart because he kept himself busy, like a tall elf in Santa's shop, doing the busy stuff so the doughnuts could be delivered on time to the smiles of every heavy, needy customer.
All of her thoughts were negative now - the size of the customers, the way the air blew through the bottom of the front door in a sort of chilled whirr, the remembrance of icicles that would soon be dangling from the rooftop of their tiny home, like sharp knives penetrating her heart.
It would soon be Christmas.
And it wasn't fair. In spite of all she knew about God, all that he'd taught her, all that he'd shown her in the birth of their baby Beatrice, he had taken her daughter home. With so many children already, probably catering to his every need, he had taken her baby home. He had taken her home!
She sat, as she did most days since Beatrice's death two months ago. She hadn't put away any of the baby things, or taken down the crib. She couldn't touch the crib. She was lonely, sad and angry. She didn't know what to do with her pain, except cry.
Beatrice. What a beautiful little girl she'd been. She liked music, and when Richard danced with her, she'd smile, her first tooth protruding through her gums, like a tiny jack-o-lantern with a light inside.
It wasn't like Beatrice to cry. She was more likely to smile and giggle and drool.
She wore pink, of course. And Virginia had put her in fluffy dresses with pink bows and matching booties. She'd read her stories about princesses and queens and handsome strangers. Nights were filled with feedings and cuddling, and playing "This Little Piggy..." but that night...
Tears spilled down Virginia's cheeks. They'd replaced the couch that had sported the hole from the rock of trust. But now, even though their newfangled red couch was perfect in form and stability, she needed that hole; yes, somehow that hole would have soothed her soul.
She still had the stones; had kept the stones for these few years since she'd first walked with God. They were still with her, even now, as she sat on the couch and looked up at them on the mantel. Listening...Trust...Optimism...Tenacity...Constancy... So close and yet so far away.
She couldn't even think, let alone stand to take the first one in her hands and listen to God. She wondered what he would say...
"I needed her..." "She's a sweet girl..." "You'll have another child..."
But she couldn't think about having another child, and she couldn't think about herself, and she couldn't think about Richard. Or God.
Virginia was still sitting on the red couch when he approached. It was 7:30 p.m. and she still hadn't made lunch for herself or dinner for her husband.
"Yes?" She looked up at him and tried to smile.
He sat beside her. "How are you doing?" he asked, stroking her blonde hair though it was matted.
"Fair, I guess. You?"
"We had a big sale today. Sold almost all of the pink cupcakes." His arm reached around her back. "Would you like to go out to eat tonight?" he asked. "There's a great restaurant that's just opened up."
"Practically up the street." He forced a smile. "Italian."
She forced her own smile. "I guess it wouldn't hurt," she said.
"Tell you what. You get ready and I'll clean up a bit of the dishes..."
"Thanks." She stood and retreated to the bedroom, trying not to look at her daughter's old room across the hall. But she felt it nonetheless, would always feel her daughter within the room across from her own as if her she was still with them.
Changing from her pajamas, she slipped into a pair of jeans and a gray t-shirt, reached for a sweater, some socks, and finally a pair of tennis shoes, hoping but not really caring, that the place was casual.
Richard smiled over at her when he saw her. He'd almost finished loading the dishes in the dishwasher - only a pan remained. "What about your hair?" he asked, turning back to the sink.
She ran her fingers through the tangled strands. "I'll be back in a minute." She turned down the hall to the bathroom. Per his request, she brushed through her hair, and pulled the long strands into a ponytail, trying to avoid her reflection. But it was no use. Her eyes looked like giant red balls, puffy and swollen like the back end of a baboon. She looked sickly, and it pained her to see what she'd become.
Was it ever going to be different? Would she ever feel happy again? Or would this sadness drag on, hanging onto her every limb as she went about her day?
"Ready?" Richard had been standing at the bathroom doorway. She had no idea how long, just that he looked at her with loving eyes, like the way he'd always looked at their daughter, except with her there was this sexy blink that always happened when he was trying to see inside her. Like now.
"You mean I can't look at my beautiful wife?" he offered.
"Not now. I'm not much to look at."
"I wouldn't say that." He breathed next to her and wrapped his arms around her waist. She watched him from the large mirror. "I think we make a terrific couple," he said.
"Without a child," she added.
The smile faded. "Let's go to dinner."
"I don't think it's supposed to be easy," he said.
She smiled, this time for real. He'd brought her to a pizzeria. The place was decked out in red and white checkered tablecloths, waiters that looked as if their smiles were painted on, and plenty of water in clear, plastic pitchers.
"Welcome to The Pizzeria," the waiter touted.
Virginia blinked over at him. The boy was in white except for the green apron he had tied around his neck and waist. He was a tall boy, and sported gangly arms and some fine chin hairs - probably his first.
"Do you have Canadian bacon and pineapple?" she asked.
The boy moved his narrow hips back and forth in a Hawaiian sway. "Of course," he said, and Virginia held her tongue. It wouldn't have been polite to tease the boy, especially if he thought he was truly funny.
"We'll get a medium Canadian bacon as well as a pepperoni with extra cheese."
"Right. And to drink?"
Richard looked over at Virginia. He winked. "What would you like?"
"Just grab me a Coke and some water, please."
"Ditto for me."
"Anything else?" The boy swayed in the nonexistent wind, his narrow hips moving back and forth in the same Hawaiian dance.
"That should do it."
"Except when dessert comes. You'll not want to miss our cookies and cream."
"What's that?" Virginia asked.
The boy blinked over at her. "A large, warmed chocolate chip cookie with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream on top."
Virginia was suddenly hungry. "I think I'll have that first," she said.
Richard laughed. "Me, too," he said, his eyes watching the waiter as he left the table.
"So what do you think?" she asked.
Richard brushed back his hair. It had grown longer since Beatrice's death, and she wondered why he hadn't cut it yet. Soon his hair would be long enough to put into a ponytail.
"Seemed kind of strange to me. Did you notice the hips swaying?"
"Couldn't miss it."
Richard took a sip of Coke. The water and Coke had been delivered moments before and Virginia had already downed half of her glass.
"So, what do you want to do this weekend?" Richard asked. At the first of the week they'd discussed going to the cemetery where Beatrice was buried, but Virginia had said she wasn't sure she was ready for that yet. He'd suggested the park. Didn't she love the swings, and wasn't it always her idea to take a load off by sitting amongst the trees?"
"What about the mountains?"
"Too cold, besides..." she smirked wearily at him, "you'll probably propose to me again."
He held up his right hand, palm forward. "Will not. I don't want to be turned down."
She forced a smile. "You know, maybe we should go to the mountains. There are good memories there. I can pack all the food you like and we can sit amongst the snow drifts like we used to."
"You really mean it?"
"Sure, why not."
It was with some reluctance that Virginia packed the food and prepared for their trip. She'd had a few days to think about the cold as well as the walk and wondered how she might convince Richard to do something else. What she really wanted to do was sleep. And eat. And sleep. And maybe he could hold her in the darkness.
"Ready?" he asked. Richard was standing at the kitchen doorway this time, and all she could think about was God standing in Paul's kitchen before Paul had died. How he'd smiled at her, how he'd prepared all of those doughnuts..."Virginia?"
"Sorry, honey. I was just thinking about God."
"Oh?" He gave her a little smile.
"It's not what you think."
"About God. I was just remembering him in Paul's kitchen."
"I bet you miss him."
"Paul or God?"
It was a wicked question, but it made Virginia think about her friend and about God. Her friend because he'd practically died in her arms, and God, because he'd died for her, so very, very long ago.