Allen and Celeste headed back inside and up to her new apartment to look around again. The value Celeste placed on this new home was immeasurable. With all she had been through over the years she’d learned way too much about strange places to sleep. To be securely in her own private apartment tucked into her own bed every night was a dream come true . . a dream she’d been afraid to dream!
Celeste stood looking at her quaint little kitchen she thought about making Allen the best sandwich ever . . her own special concoction. She walked slowly to the big window to explore the view and Allen watched from across the room then joined her. As he took her hand they both noticed that she could see all the way to the little bridge where she’d found the secret door.
“Allen, I think I’ll put the chair here for my morning coffee and Bible study!”
“Sounds good, Babe!”, Allen said as he wrapped his arm around her shoulders.
Leaning into him Celeste allowed herself to dream, to look ahead to tiny blessings like eating cotton candy at the zoo, playing snakes and ladders with family or watching a dime store pinwheel in the afternoon breeze. Maybe one day they would marry and start a family . . . . even though nomadic life can be exhilarating, she so longed to experience the quiet steady love of a solid marriage and a happy family.
Coming out of her daydream, Celeste turned to Allen and smiled . . a wistful faraway smile of day dreams, hopes and prayers. Allen gently kissed her forehead, took her hand and led her back downstairs.
As they reached the first floor Arnold met them with a set of keys. “Here are your keys so you can begin to get moved in. The odd funky key here is to your apartment. I think it’s the original antique lock! The big key is the outside back door. Once you’re settled come on into the shop anytime and update me on your ideas. Oh, and here’s my private number, just in case there’s an emergency.”, and Arnold handed Celeste the keys and a business card with his number scrawled on the back.
Celeste and Allen headed out into the sunshine just as sprinkles began and darted towards his car pausing to dance in the rain and take in that scent of fresh rain that makes a city new again. They picked up all of Celeste’s things and headed up to her new home. Looking at her pitiful pile of possessions on her bed they realized a shopping trip was needed before bed.
“Celeste, we’ll stop and do some shopping then we have a road trip to make. Let’s talk more in the car.” Allen said.
“Okay, Allen. Sounds good!” and they headed to Wal-Mart to get bedding, bathroom and kitchen basics as well as groceries to get her started.
Driving away from Wal-Mart Allen asked, “Would you go back to that hotel with me tonight, please? I want to set a game plan then do some reconnaissance.”
“Sounds interesting. .”, Celeste replied. “Let me tell you more about that night . . . I was at the cavern opening looking around . .”
“Above on the hill stood a lone man, or maybe a ghost of one who’d crossed the staff one too many times. It was distant . . ominous but hesitant . . and then it was gone.” Celeste went on, “And the opening of the cavern reeked of fear and death. I’d still love to find a safe way to explore more, though!”
Allen handed her a card that reminded her of a vacation in a cave she’d read about. “Imagine running a cavern resort! What an innovation that would be!! And with the history of the location, it would be a haunted cavern!!!”, Celeste exclaimed. Of all her high school regrets, not pursuing her interest in camping and all things outdoors was one of the most difficult. She had secretly dreamed of starting a camp for children similar to Bonnie Brook Center. A haven in troubled times.
“Allen, when did there become a ban on caring and love? It’s like satan taking over with the gradual onset of sunless days. How did we all give in so quickly . . or maybe it was gradually .. to the darkness? How is a posh favorite hat so much more important than spending the same money to offer a few items along with a hug and a prayer to someone begging on a street corner? What happened?”, Celeste wondered aloud. “How do so many children go to sleep hungry and scared?”
Allen shook his head. He had not seen this side of Celeste before. All the years he’d known her she’d been the quiet girl no one noticed, or, if they did they made fun of her. Her deep abiding faith seemed to be all she’d had to get her through. “Maybe we could get together to pray?”
“Many nights I am up sleep fasting. Would you like to join me?”, Celeste asked.
“What is sleep fasting?”, Allen asked, a bit confused. How could this stunning girl be such a mystery?