Catherine Cantrell loved her husband. She hadn’t always loved Mark, not in the beginning. But day by day, month by month, year by year, she had grown to care for him deeply. He had become her best friend as well as her husband. She only hoped that she was a worthy helpmate. God knew she tried her best to be everything he wanted in a wife.
The oven timer chimed, reminding her that the apple pie she had prepared from scratch was done. As she donned a pair of oven mitts, Mark breezed into the kitchen. When she smiled warmly at him, he returned her smile. She opened the oven door, reached inside and removed the hot pie, then set it on a cooling rack atop the granite counter.
“Something smells good,” he told her as he placed his empty coffee mug in the dishwasher.
“Apple pie for dinner,” she said.
When he nodded approval, something inherently feminine within her longed for him to touch her. She needed a kiss on the cheek or a pat on the butt or a little hug around her shoulders. Any basic act of affection would do. But Mark was not the affectionate type. She should have accepted that fact long ago. After all, it wasn’t as if they were newlyweds or a couple who had been and always would be madly in love. But they did have a solid marriage, one based on mutual respect and admiration. That was far more than most couples had.
“How’s next Sunday’s sermon going?” Catherine asked.
“Not well. For some reason I can’t seem to keep my mind on my work this afternoon.”
On Mondays, Mark worked at home instead of his office at the church. And she was home on Mondays, too, since she and her business partner, Lorie Hammonds, closed their antique store on Sundays and Mondays.
“You were up late last night with the Jeffries family. I heard you come in after midnight.” Catherine removed the oven mitts, stuffed them into the drawer with the pot holders and turned off the oven. “And you were so restless that I doubt you got more than a few hours’ sleep. Maybe you need an afternoon nap.”
“I couldn’t get that family off my mind,” Mark admitted. “It’s been difficult for Debbie and Vern coping with the loss of their only child. It has truly tested their faith.”
“Losing a child has to be the worst thing that could happen to a person. If anything ever happened to Seth, I don’t know what I’d do.”
“If, God forbid, that ever happened, and we lost our only child, we would do what I’m trying to get Debbie and Vern to do—put our trust in the Lord.”
Catherine sighed quietly. A good minister’s wife would never question God’s plan for each of His children. But in her heart of hearts, she knew that if she ever lost Seth, she would die. Her son was her heart and soul.
When Mark looked at her, apparently wanting a reply to assure him that they were in agreement, she avoided making direct eye contact with him. She didn’t doubt Mark’s love for Seth, but she also knew that her husband would never love their child as much as she did.
The distinct doorbell chime saved her from having to either lie to her husband or disagree with him and be lovingly chastised for her lack of faith.
“I’ll get it,” she said. “Why don’t you go in the den and take a nap?”
“Maybe later. I’ll get the door. It could be FedEx delivering my birthday present.”
Catherine smiled indulgently. “We just ordered that new set of golf clubs two days ago. They probably won’t arrive until next week.”
“A man can hope, can’t he?”
Laughing softly, she shook her head as Mark, whistling to himself, hurried out of the kitchen. Her husband had four great loves: God, his family, his parishioners and golf.
She doubted that his much-anticipated fortieth birthday present had arrived so soon. More than likely their visitor was not FedEx but instead her mother, who had phoned shortly after lunch to ask if she could drop by on her way home from her weekly trip to the grocery store.
Catherine wiped her hands on a dish towel, laid it aside and removed her apron. She was a messy cook and had learned early on the necessity of wearing protective covering when she baked.
As she opened the kitchen door and made her way toward the foyer, she thought she heard the murmur of voices. Mark was talking to someone, but she