Lightning and Lace - By DiAnn Mills

Chapter 1

In the predawn hours when earth stood ready to relinquish its cloak of darkness, Bonnie Kahler reached to touch the opposite side of the bed. Empty. Just as it had been for the past two years, nine months, and nineteen days. Every morning she woke with the hope that Ben hadn’t been taken from her and his body didn’t lie in a cold grave while she struggled to keep a feeble hold onto sanity.

Some days Bonnie believed she could cast aside her sorrow and raise her children alone. She could be strong and decisive and not let her widowhood affect her every step. On those days, she believed God still cared about her and He would show her how to fight the blackness engulfing her soul.

This was not one of those days.

Bonnie drew back her hand and took a deep breath. Her head pounded. Zack and Michael Paul needed breakfast and a smiling mother before they left for school. Lydia Anne needed a mother who played dolls and dressed her sun-kissed hair with ribbons and bows. All three of her children deserved a mother who understood she carried the roles of both parents. The boys loved to fish, but she hated the thought of handling dirty worms and slimy fish. Far too long she’d expected her brothers and stepfather to fill Ben’s shoes.

Help me, Lord. I want to climb out of this selfish hole and live for You. I want only truth in everything I do.

Refusing to wallow in self-pity one minute longer, Bonnie swung her legs over the side of the bed and walked to the open window. She pushed aside the curtains and listened to the rooster give his call to morning and the cattle low in response. This had been Ben’s favorite time of the day.

“Bonnie, come watch the sunrise. It’s prettier than most,” he’d say. And she’d crawl out of bed to join him. Not because she shared his enthusiasm for the day’s beginnings, but because she loved him.

Today the sun barely lit the horizon in colors matching the fall leaves carpeting the ground outside her home. Odd how they glittered like jewels in the pale moonlight when only a half-moon illuminated them before the sun pushed it from sight. Autumn ushered in painful memories of Ben’s last days—the persistent cough that decimated his body and took his spirit to a place where she could not go.

She slowly turned to the nightstand where Ben’s Bible rested. Most days she shrank back from looking at it and exploring the words that promised to sustain her. But she always thought about reading the familiar passages. Beside the Bible sat an empty wine bottle. She startled. Had she drunk that much last night? A friend had suggested she drink a small glass of wine when she couldn’t sleep. Last night, the wine had tasted as sweet as her life had been with Ben, but today guilt consumed more than an empty flask. Her family would be appalled. Seeking their guidance crossed her mind, but she was too ashamed of her inability to cope after all these months.

“I will not give in to this,” she whispered. “Dear Jesus, help me.”

The day’s activities scrolled across her mind. She needed to meet with Thomas in the next few minutes. He was a good foreman who knew her failings. Yet he always took the time to review the past week’s work and show her where every penny was being spent or earned for the Morning Star Ranch. Soon, maybe today, she’d take more interest in the ranch.

Michael Paul wanted to take piano lessons, and today she’d make the arrangements with her sister-in-law to teach him. Lydia Anne needed more attention from her mother, the kind of attention that didn’t result in frustration and tears from both of them.

A twinge of fear took root in her heart. She’d been summoned by Zack’s teacher. His behavior at school had been deteriorating steadily since his father died.

“Don’t make excuses for him,” her mother had said. “Force him to face up to the consequences of his mistakes. If you don’t, he’ll continue to torment Michael Paul and Lydia Anne. The older he gets, the more his tendency will be to bully you. Now is the time for Zack to understand rules and authority.”

How could Bonnie instill those values in her son when she couldn’t bring herself to discipline him? He grieved for his father. All of them did. How could she help her precious children when she