Saturday, May 9, 2009

Chapter One

Liam smoothly touched the plane down and taxied it toward the hanger. Another perfect landing. Sighing, he relaxed against the unforgiving fabric of the pilot's seat. Austin pushed his head into the cockpit. "Scott wants to know if that bump was turbulence or a landing."


"He wants to know who to blame for the coffee spill on the floor when and if you find it."

Suddenly Austin's dark head disappeared. Echoes of chuckles followed. Liam rolled his eyes and started to climb out of the cockpit.

Of the three young men, Austin was the stocky one. He has an air of strength about him. Strong common sense and an easy going attitude dominated his personality. As well as being the leader of the group, he could give one the impression of a graceful bear. Big and strong, yet affectionate, he easily won others trust. He had thick, black hair and deep, enchanting dark eyes that sparkle when he joked around.

Scott jumped easily out of the plane and shook his longish, brown hair out of his grey eyes. Thin and lanky, his walk in perfect control, he swung out the baggage and carried it to a corner of the hanger.

Liam began checking the plane and settling everything into its place. His dusty blonde hair, badly in need of a haircut, kept falling in front of his sea colored eyes. An absentminded look was in his eyes, as it was often lately, as he quickly finished pulling out the climbing gear.

"Where is this mountain we are supposed to climb?" Scott asked as he shouldered his bags.

"I don't know. Hey, Liam where is this mountain?" Austin called across the hanger to where Liam was pulling his bag out of the plane.

"What?" he answered.

"Mountain, climb, Wake up." Scott made the shape of a mountain with his hands and almost dropped the cooler on Austin's toes.

"Oh, the mountain is about five miles east of here," Liam answered as he stuffed one of his books back in the pocket of his suitcase.

"Liam, what are you thinking about?" Austin asked looking a bit worried at Liam's lack of enthusiasm.

"Do you remember those girls we knew in High School?" Liam asked as he walked with them.

"Yeah, there were Claudia, and Kathy and . . . what's-her-name." Austin's eyes got a faraway look to them. "I would like to see Claudia again. We promised to get back together after college. But I haven't heard from her for quite awhile."

"What do you mean Kathy? There were Claudia and Kristy and . . . Great! I can't remember her name either." Scott looked at Liam out of the corner of his eye. "Do you remember, Liam?"

"Yes, I remember. Her name was Dawn,"

Both boys looked at Liam trying to see anything in his face that might give him away. They had been doing this every time a former girl friend's name came up. This time they were rewarded with a slight dimming of the eyes.

"Come on Romeo," Scott nudged Liam playfully. "We have a mountain to climb."


The small jeep wound its way slowly through the mountains. Inside Dawn reached for her once hot mug of strawberry tea. This was her favorite time of day, sunrise, the beautiful colors and the peaceful silence.

Briefly, she checked her mirror to see if the other girls were still asleep. Claudia lay in the middle seat with her head on Kristy's lap. From the look on her face she was dreaming of someone special. It would be a pity to wake her up in a few minutes.

Claudia's willful temperament and strong ideas were well hidden under her pretty face. Her dark brown hair, always in perfect order, was a nice frame for her dark, golden brown eyes. As the years had passed, she had slimmed out and learned to smile more.

Kristy had a no nonsense look about her pretty blue eyes. Now her light brown hair fell across her pillow as she slept. She was still catching up on some lost sleep from studying for midterms. Always energetic, she usually ran circles around Claudia, but lately she had been quieter.

Dawn's friendly and nice outlook usually brightened everyone around her. She had long blonde hair that she always kept pulled back away from her face and hazel eyes that hid behind her glasses. Right now her eyes had less sparkle than usual because she was tired from driving all night.


Austin clung to the rock face about ten feet above Scott. Resting, he looked up at the sky above him. The wind had picked up in the last hour. There were clouds gathering, and the light was quickly disappearing. "Maybe we should look for some shelter," He called down to Scott. "It looks like a storm coming up."

"I'll ask Liam," Scott called back. Turning to look over his shoulder he spotted Liam hanging five feet below him. "Hey, is there any place we can hole up for a while. There's a storm coming up and it is getting pretty bitter."

"There is a lodge about three miles from the place where we reach the road." Liam called up to them as he reached for his next hand hold. Scott passed the message up to Austin, and then they lapsed into a silence interrupted only by heavy breathing and an occasional cough.

Austin and Scott reached the top first and were waiting for Liam when Austin turned to Scott. "Have you noticed Liam lately?" Austin asked softly.

"Yeah, he is too quiet." Scott pulled his coat closer. "It seems like he has no interests other than books and his plane. I had to practically beg him to come on this trip. Maybe it is that girl Dawn."

Austin just shrugged before leaning over to help Liam over the lip of the drop. Silent again, they headed toward the road with Liam in the lead.

Austin was cold, but he quit thinking about it after stepping out into the open because it only made it worse. The snow hit his face like needles of ice. As it thickened, they could hardly see the road that they were following. All that Austin was aware of was the howling of the wind and the ice forming on his gloves.


Squinting, Claudia peered into the blinding snow. She could hardly see three feet ahead. Kristy squinted at the road map trying to find the right mountain, let alone the right road.

"How are you supposed to read one of these?" Kristy asked.

"I think you are holding it upside down," Claudia said without looking away from the road.

"Then you read it," frustrated Kristy shoved the map way from her face and looked out at the road.

"I can't, I'm driving," Claudia replied.

"I wish Scott was here," Kristy spouted out after a few seconds of silence.

"Scott who?" Claudia asked. "Where did this Scott come from? I don't remember a Scott coming up in conversation lately."

"That is because I just thought of him out of the blue," Kristy looked thoughtful. "Remember in high school, when I wouldn't shut up that one time and he threatened to kiss me."

"Yeah, I remember that. It was before you liked him and that wasn't a good threat anymore." Suddenly Claudia frowned. "Do you see something up there?"

"I don't know. It is really snowing now and hard to see. Maybe we should wake up Dawn," Kristy suggested. "She'll know what to do."

"First I think we should find out who or what it is."

Slowing she pulled over to what she thought was the side of the road, next to the figures. Kristy slowly rolled down the window yelled out to them. "Hello?"

One of the hikers came over to the car ahead of the other two.

"Scott?" Kristy turn white and her mouth dropped open.

Chapter Two

"What is going on?" Dawn mumbled as she sat up rubbing the sleep from her eyes. "It's cold in here."

"How do I put this delicately?" Claudia said as she grinned into the mirror. "Kristy just saw a ghost."

"I sure hope I'm not a ghost." Scott spouted indigently above the wind. "I am too cold to be a ghost."

"Can we get a ride?" Austin asked. He had walked over to the jeep to see what was keeping Scott. "Claudia! Is that you?"

"What is going on?" Liam asked coming up to the window to see what everything was about. Seeing Dawn he smiled.

"That is what I want to know," Dawn said to Claudia. "Why don't we discuss this with the window shut? I will say it again. It is getting cold in here."

"Good idea." Kristy said as she opened the door.

Somehow all three boys managed to squeeze through the door and settle into seats. After some organized chaos, Austin was in the passenger seat across from Claudia, Scott and Kristy in the middle seat, and Liam and Dawn sharing the back seat with almost all of the baggage between them.

"Does somebody have the map?" Claudia asked as soon as the commotion had died down. "I still don't know where to turn to get to the lodge."

"I don't know, I thought it was on the floor." Kristy answered and turned around to look at Dawn.

"Don't look at me," Dawn answered her look. "Look at the floor."

"Is this it?" Austin asked after some looking. He was holding up a wrinkled and torn map.

"Kristy!" Claudia moaned in despair. "Now we have no chance of getting there or back."

"Hey, should we help them out?" Scott asked Austin with a teasing wink.

"Sure, why not," Austin threw his bag to Scott. "We would only be saving their lives, again."

"Like you have a choice," Kristy said as she poked Scott in the ribs with her elbow. "If you don't tell us, I will make you."

Scott threw the bag over his shoulder so that he could get at Kristy. It landed in Liam's face.

"Take the first left after the shack in the left side of the road." Liam volunteered after pulling the bag out of his face. "Hurry up and drive so Scott can't throw any more things at me."

Scott couldn't answer because he was laughing too hard.


An hour later the car was quiet. Claudia had asked Austin to drive because she was having a hard time seeing. Now they were talking about dreams, Claudia's dream in particular. Scott and Kristy were very interested. All of them seemed to be enjoying them.

Dawn and Liam were another matter. Dawn was so tired she had fallen asleep almost as soon as it had gotten quieter. Liam had his nose in a book. At least it looked like he did. Really he was having a major conflict between his head and his heart. His heart said that he should sweep Dawn off her feet and ask her to go out with him, again. His head said that it had been too long. Sure, she had promised to always love him, but that was six years ago and they hadn't seen each other since.

"Liam you really need a haircut," Dawn was leaning on the baggage that separated them and looking up at him with her large eyes. When he turned, she smiled at his surprised look.

Speechless, Liam didn't know what to say or do. Suddenly he leaned over and kissed her.

"He's doing it again," Austin announced from the front seat, he had been watching them from the front mirror.

"Who's doing what?" Claudia asked. She was surprised because he had cut her off mid-sentence.

"Liam's getting ahead again," Scott explained as he leaned toward Kristy as they rounded a curve.

Liam drew back and hid his face behind his book. But, he turned it so he could see Dawn. She smiled at him but looked a little disturbed.

After a few minutes they arrived at the inn.


The building was small next to the mountain behind it. Built out of logs and bricks the main lodge was low and rambling. There were at least five cabins and none of them looked used.

"It looks warm," Scott commented hopefully as he helped Kristy out of the jeep.

"In this weather anything looks warm," Austin answered. Swinging out the luggage they each took some and headed toward the building.

The door was answered by a rather large man. He said his name was Thomas. After ushering them in he started to pepper them with questions.

"So what brings you folks up here in such terrible weather?"

"Scott, Liam and I were mountain climbing," Austin answered as he started to untangle the bags.

"The girls gave us a ride," Scott explained.

A plump woman entered and Thomas introduced her as his wife Maddline. After the introductions were handed around, she whispered something in her husband's ear.

"We have a slight problem with rooms," the man said as he scratched his head. "You see we weren't expecting visitors in such a storm and well, I have only one bedroom with heating."

"Great," Liam frowned at nobody in particular.

"Couldn't some of us sleep in the lobby?" Dawn asked Thomas.

"Sure, but the floor is awfully cold and hard," Thomas said looking doubtful. "I guess we could keep the fire going all night."

"The girls can have the room," Austin said, "We were going to end up on the ground anyway."

"Fine," Maddline said cheerfully, "You girls come with me and I will show you the room."

"Lead the way," Claudia replied as she shouldered her three bags.


Maddline led them to a small room with two single beds and one dresser. After making sure they had everything they needed, she left them to their unpacking.

"What do you think?" Claudia asked as she unzipped her suitcase.

"I think that Austin likes you even more than before," Kristy answered as she swung her suitcase onto the bed. "What do you think?"

"I think Scott is in love again," Claudia said. "I get the bed next to the door."

"What are you going to do?" Kristy laughed. "Sneak out to talk to Austin after curfew?"

"Well, Dawn what do you think of Liam?"

Dawn looked up from her duffle bag. "I think he hasn't been taking care of himself."

"You mean his need of a haircut?" Kristy smiled. "You and your hair business."

"It isn't just that," Dawn answered, "It seems that he has lost weight, not just him, but Austin, too."

"What about Scott?" Kristy asked as she tried to shove her clothes into her drawer of the dresser.

"He looks like he hasn't had a vacation since we left."

"Dawn," Claudia said softly, "I think I am in love again."

"Just great," Dawn threw up her hands in despair, "We get a full-blown case of love sickness on only the second day of our trip. Now, I will have to listen to you two moan and help you get their attention."

"Just one minute," Kristy exclaimed, "And you don't have a touch of this virus?"

"’Fess up, Dawn," Claudia said.

For an answer, Dawn, signed something with an indecisive look on her face.

Claudia grabbed her hands and said, "Oh no, you don't. No speaking in hands."

"Guilty as charged," Dawn answered, "What is my sentence?"

"She has to teach Liam sign language," Kristy said, "So someone knows what she is talking about all the time."

Just then there was a knock on the door. "Come in," Claudia called, letting Dawn go. It was Liam who had come to tell them supper was ready.


After a delightful dinner, they gathered in the parlor to talk. Dawn stood by the window silently watching the storm. Claudia and Austin sat on the couch. Kristy sat on the rug in front of the hearth. Scott took the rocking chair. Liam took the overstuffed chair in the corner.

"So what have you girls been doing since we last saw you?" Austin asked leaning back.

"Yeah," Scott turned to Kristy, "I was wondering if you had finished school yet."

"Not yet, I finish college this spring."

"Then why are you guys up here during the school year," Austin asked.

"A friend of mine got two free vacations and gave one to me." Claudia explained. "Of course, I couldn't go by myself. So, I went and dragged Kristy out for Thanksgiving vacation and rescued Dawn from about ten dozen kids and dragged them up with me."

"Sounds like you had your hands full," Liam said to Dawn as he moved toward the window.

"Yes," she answered, "They are a rowdy bunch in their own way."

"What age groups?"

"Oh, quite a few different ages," Dawn answered still looking out at the storm. "They are all deaf but are great to work with."

"So you use sign language?" Liam asked. Dawn nodded and looked down at her hands. "You’re nervous, aren't you Dawn?"

"Excuse me," she said and slipped into the dining room. Puzzled Liam returned to his chair to think things over.

Scott looked at Kristy and asked, "How long has Dawn been so withdrawn?"

"I don't know," Kristy said looking thoughtful, "I remember her not talking as much after she moved."

"I think we should get them back together again," Austin said. "Liam needs something, and I think that Dawn needs a boyfriend. They would be able to help each other. What do you think?"

"I think that it is a great idea," Claudia agreed. "But how?"

"Well," Scott began.

Chapter Three

"This is going to be so easy," Austin whispered to Claudia at the breakfast table the next morning. "Look at Liam, he follows her every move."

Claudia just smiled as she watched Dawn out of the corner of her eye. "Kristy and I were trying to talk her into teaching Liam sign language. Do you think he would be interested?"

"Sure, I think that is a great idea," Austin whispered back. "We get Dawn to teach him and then they get to be alone. Besides that gives us time for ourselves."

"It's not like we are going anywhere in this snow," Claudia smiled and bit into her roll.

"Yeah, God has perfect timing," Austin said as he looked out the window. The snow was still coming down but, not as thick as it had been the night before. About two feet were on the ground already.

After everyone was done eating, Thomas cleared his throat to get everyone's attention. Once he was sure he had it he said, "I am very sorry that I have to ask this of you, but would you mind helping us with a little problem? You see our plow is in the garage by the side of the house. In order to get to it, we have to shovel from the front porch and then shovel around the door so we can get it out."

"You don't need to say any more," Scott interrupted jumping up from the table. "Just point me to a shovel."

"We will all help," Claudia said. "With all of us shoveling it will take hardly any time at all."

Everyone rushed to get their coats, hats, and gloves. In about ten minutes, they were all outside shoveling away. In about one hour, they reached the garage.

Dawn was so glad that they were almost done that she missed with one of her loads and hit Kristy with it. Kristy didn't even waste a minute. Swinging around she threw a snowball at Dawn, who ducked so the snowball hit Scott smack in the face. Laughing Dawn tackled Kristy with another snowball that went wide and hit Liam and sending his hat flying. Before long it was a free-for-all. When Thomas came out, Claudia was trying to shove a snowball down Austin's coat while he was trying to tackle Scott. Kristy was chasing the whole group waving a shovel full of snow trying to stop Austin from getting Scott. Dawn was running off with Liam's hat, with Liam, hatless and his hair covered in snow, right behind her. Taking a sharp turn, she took off running as fast as she could around the garage. Liam headed around the other side to catch her.

"I came out to tell you lunch is ready," Thomas yelled so he could be heard over the yelling. "But if you are too busy we can just wait."

Scott stopped suddenly, as if a wall of cement had appeared out of nowhere in front of him, this gave Austin a chance to tackle him, which is just what he did, driving both of them into the snow bank. Kristy and Claudia were not far behind. Claudia ended up in Austin's lap and her snowball in his face. Kristy did an unintentional flying leap over Scott's head. She landed on her back on a cushion of snow staring up at the sky.

"We will be inside in a minute," Austin said after spitting snow out of his mouth. Turning to Claudia, he looked into her eyes and said, "You owe me one." With that he helped her up and then they headed into the lodge.

Scott crawled over to where Kristy still lay in the snow. "Are you ready for lunch?"

"Sure," she said offering him her hand. "Would you mind helping me up?"


When Dawn headed around the barn she only got halfway around when Liam caught her, she ran straight into his arms almost knocking him over into the snow.

"Where is my hat?" he asked as she tried to get away from him.

"You can't have it," she said laughing as she pushed at his chest. "Please let me go."

"Not until you give me my hat," he replied, "Or. . . ."

"Or what?" she stopped struggling and looked up, suddenly serious, straight into his eyes.

"You tell me why you are avoiding me." He moved one of his hands to touch her hair. "I love you, Dawn. I always have, ever since I woke up in your arms. At the time my shoulder hurt but I didn't care. I understand if you don't love me, but why are you avoiding me? You're crying! Am I hurting you?" He loosened his arms slightly as he looked at her a bit concerned.

She shook her head as best she could with it buried in the front of his coat. Silently she shoved his hat into his hand. "It isn't your fault," she whispered, "It is just me." Tears came again as she thought about it. Turning away she ran toward the back door to the lodge and disappeared inside.

Liam just stood there in the snow for a while, staring at his hat and thinking.


"This isn't going too well," Scott said to Austin, Kristy, and Claudia as they all sat in the lobby after lunch. "Dawn came in crying before lunch and wouldn't eat a bite. Then Liam comes in after lunch, mopes about stealing glances at Dawn, and then leaves to sit by the fire with a book."

"I don't know what happened out there but it didn't help their relationship much," Austin said leaning back to put his arm around Claudia.

"Maybe we should try a different plan," Kristy suggested as she perched on the arm of the couch.

"But we don't have a different plan," Scott said, "Anyone have suggestions?"

It was silent for about a minute before Austin spoke up. "I have an idea."

After about a half hour of frenzied planning they scattered to all parts of the lodge to set their plan in motion. The deadline was the next night.


Dawn sat on her bed on the floor of the room, which she was sharing with Claudia and Kristy, with her Bible in her lap. She was so confused and frustrated. Things had gotten so complicated since she had left home three days ago. She had been caught in a blizzard, met up with her old sweetheart, and fallen in love all over again. True, she loved Liam, but she loved God more and He said that she cannot date and with the prospect of marrying an unbeliever.

She knew Liam to be a moral person but that alone wasn't enough. She had suddenly realized, in the talk behind the barn, that Liam did not have a clue why she was not as willing to carry on where they had left off.

Realizing she was going to have to tell him what was scaring her. She knew she had to face him, but she was afraid. Part of her was scared he was going to try to talk her into going on with their relationship, and part was scared that he wasn't going to try.

"Please, Father, give me strength and wisdom to do your will in this," she prayed before getting up to go to dinner. "And, Father, help Kristy and Claudia too."


At breakfast it was obvious something was a miss. Claudia and Austin kept stealing glances at each other and smiling to themselves. Scott and Kristy were constantly whispering about this and that. Liam had brought a book to the table so he could watch Dawn around it. Dawn was deep in her own thoughts.

Thomas helped Maddline clean up the breakfast; so, he could ask her what she thought. "The tension in that room was so thick I could hardly see," he commented. "What I can't believe is that Liam and Dawn are still completely clueless."

"I think that Liam is sweet. Did you see the way he watched her every move?" Maddline said as she dried the last dish. "He worships the ground she walks on."

"True," Thomas agreed, "I don't know what is wrong with that girl." He shook his head as went out.


Lunch was a silent affair. The only words were, "Please pass the butter," "May I have the gravy," and "Thank you."

But after lunch, the girls took Dawn back to their room. Austin took Liam to the garage for some reason or another. Scott tracked down Thomas in the kitchen and started to explain what they were planning. Thomas was only too happy to help. Maddline soon was cooking away again.

Five hours later, it was all ready. Dawn was standing outside the door of the dining room in Claudia's best dress. "Listen Dawn this is how it is going to go," Claudia explained, "I am going to blindfold you and lead you into the dining room. We are going to seat you in a chair and leave you. You cannot make a sound until we tell you to. OK?"

"Ok, but why what is this all about?" Dawn asked.

"You will find out when you take your blind fold off." This was all that she could say before Kristy popped her head around the corner.

"Ready," she said and then disappeared.

Chapter Four

Liam was sitting perfectly still. He heard the door open but couldn't see anything because of the stupid blindfold that Austin had said he had to wear. All he could hear was soft rustling of cloth.

After lunch, Austin had taken him to the garage to see something. Once they had gotten there, Austin had sat him down and explained the whole plot. They were going to have this beautiful dinner laid out in the dining room. Dawn and he were going to be led in blindfolded. The idea was to get Dawn and him alone together and get them to talk out their differences. To make sure they were alone, Austin was going to take Claudia for a drive, and Scott and Kristy were going for a walk. Thomas and Maddline were to stay to wait on them but were ordered not to say a word.

Softly the door shut. Liam took off his blindfold and looked at Dawn. She looked beautiful in the dark dress that Claudia had picked out; the darkness set off her fair hair. She was still blind folded with a black kerchief like the one he held in his hand. Just then he heard the lock click on the door behind him.

"You can take the blindfold off now," he said softly.

She jumped at his voice but complied. "Why did they set this all up?" Dawn asked as she looked at the dinner and then at him.

"They want us to get back together."

Liam watched her face as she turned this over in her mind.

"So, they have locked us together in this room until we have become friends again?" Dawn asked after a moment of silence.

"That is the idea I think they are getting at," Liam answered. "I am hungry. What do you say we discuss it over dinner?"

Dawn smiled. "Sure, please pass the potatoes."


Austin and Claudia were driving to town or at least Claudia thought they were going to town until Austin stopped the jeep. They were on a back road in the middle of nowhere.

"Why are we stopping?" Claudia asked a bit puzzled.

"I have something to talk to you about," was Austin's answer. He leaned over and turned the radio off. "I was going to tell you this six years ago but I never got around to it." He paused then went on. "Do you remember when you first saw me?" he asked watching her face carefully.

"Yes," Claudia got a thoughtful look in her eyes. "You were on the floor holding your leg. Dawn was yelling at me to do something and go help you because she was busy with Liam. I was scared and confused." She looked at him and asked, "Why do you ask?"

"The moment I saw you I liked you. You came over to me looking so confused and shy. I wondered what was wrong with you."

"Hey, I had no idea where I was or who you were."

Austin turned in the seat to face her more comfortably. "Claudia will you marry me?" Claudia was so surprised that she just looked at him. He thought she wasn't pleased and said, "I am sorry. I can't get down on my knees in here but I do have a ring." With that he produced a small box and opened it to show her the small diamond inside. "It isn't much," he said softly.

Claudia smiled at him shyly, "I don't care about any old ring. Yes, Austin I will marry you."

Austin leaned over to put the ring on her finger and surprised her with a kiss. "This means I can kiss you whenever I want, right?" he said with a devious smile.


The air was heavy with the clean sent of snow and moon. Kristy and Scott pushed their way through the snow. As they got farther away from the inn, they could see more and more of the stars. The sky was a deep blue speckled with bright stars. The air was so still that Kristy was almost afraid to speak and break the silence.

Scott did it for her. “You are going to love this place. I discovered it yesterday and thought of you.”

“How far is it?” she asked.

“Just a little farther,” Scott answered. “See that tree up ahead, the one with a stump right next to it?” Kristy nodded. “We are going to turn there, and it is only a little ways past that.”

“Thank goodness we dressed warm.”

Scott grinned. “I love the snow, don’t you?”

“Yeah, this stuff is prefect for snowballs and forts.” She smiled remembering the afternoon the day before. “What makes it the best is having someone to enjoy it with you.”

“Here we are,” Scott announced. They had just stepped out beyond the tree line and were treated to a breathtaking sight. The hill fell away abruptly about four feet in front of them. Spread out like a quilt at their feet was the country side blanketed in snow. Above them was an amazing display of winter stars. The view was so beautiful that for a minute Kristy did not know what to say.

“Kristy,” Scott called her attention back to him. “There is something I want to ask you.” Kristy looked up at him. “I have been doing a lot of thinking. Right here, in fact, sitting on that stump over there. I thought about us. I reviewed in my head the years when we were dating and compared them to the years that we were apart. And . . .” He paused and got down on his knees. “I don’t have a ring, a poem, or anything prepared. I only decided to do this last night.” Taking her hands in his, he looked into her eyes and said, “I am offering you the only thing I can right now. Kristy will you marry me?”

“Yes,” she said with a smile. Before she could change her mind, Scott guided her face to his and kissed her.


Scott and Kristy burst into the kitchen an hour later all rosy cheeked from their walk. "So how is it going?" Scott asked Thomas. "Did they get anywhere?"

"I don't know," Thomas answered, "they are still in there talking."

"Good," Kristy smiled, "at least they are that far."

Just then Austin and Claudia came in. "How are they doing?" Austin asked as he helped Claudia out of her coat.

"We were just going to find out," Scott answered.

"Good, I, I mean we have something to tell everybody," Claudia said almost bursting with excitement.

“So do we,” Scott said.

Maddline opened the door and entered first with the dessert tray, followed by the rest.

Liam and Dawn were in a deep conversation. Liam's hair, once nicely combed, now stood on end from his fingers going through it. Dawn was listening carefully to him as he talked. Dawn saw them first then Liam who was watching her face noticed that she was looking at someone else and turned around.

"Well?" Austin asked raising his eyebrows.

"Well," Liam teased, "Wouldn't you like to know?"

"Come on," Kristy begged. "Are you getting back together? Are you engaged? When is the wedding?"

"Whoa Kristy," Dawn laughed. "We just started this conversation an hour ago, and we haven't seen each other in about six years."

"Thanks guys," Liam said, "If you didn't get Dawn and me sometime alone we would have never gotten this straightened out."

"Sorry to interrupt, but we have to turn in," Thomas said as he led Maddline out. "If you don't mind putting the dishes on the counter when you are done it would be a help."

Everyone wished them a good night and said they would take care of the dishes.

As soon as they left Austin announced that he had something to say. "Tonight while we were driving Claudia and I came across desolate field. In the light of the moon on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, I asked Claudia to marry me. Then she made me the happiest man alive, she said yes! We will be getting married as soon as her parents and my parents will allow." With that he kissed Claudia.

"Oh, Claudia," Kristy hugged her. "I am getting married, too."

Austin looked at Scott. “I am surprised. I had no idea that was what you have been brewing about.”

Congratulations were showered on the happy couples from all sides. After which everyone had dessert and coffee. At least Liam, Scott, and Austin had coffee. Kristy and Scott were the first to retire. They were both tired from their hike. Claudia was next, since she wanted to talk to Kristy for a few minutes. Austin and Liam went into the lounge to talk. Dawn started to clean the dishes and carry them into the kitchen.

"Thank you, Father," she whispered softly, "I knew you would help. I am so glad Liam has been a Christian all along. I am so happy for Claudia and Kristy. Both couples are perfect for each other. They will take good care of each other."

"May I help?"

She jumped at the voice. Turning she came face to face with Liam. He had taken off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves. "Sorry, did I frighten you?" he asked.

"Not really," she smiled a little. "I just thought you and Austin were going to be talking awhile so I decided to wash the dishes." Dawn turned back to the sink and started to scrub the platter.

"Here," Liam moved over next to her, "let me, I need to work off some nervous energy anyway."

Dawn surrendered the wash rag and picked up the towel to dry. "Do you wash dishes much?"

"When I want clean ones." Liam's eyes twinkled as he looked at her. His hair which had been standing up before, was now hanging in his eyes. He brushed it away as he turned back to a stubborn spot on the platter. "I can cook a little, you know, macaroni and cheese, poor man's pizza, and maybe banana bread on rare occasions."

Dawn laughed as he handed her the platter and reached for a plate. "Where do you live now? Last I knew you were in Ohio going to Ohio State."

"I transferred to a college in Pennsylvania for my Junior year. After I graduated, I got a job with a millionaire as his private pilot. So far I enjoy it a lot. It gives me time to study for seminary."

"Are you going to be a pastor?" Dawn asked surprised.

"Yes. At least, I think so." Liam handed her the last plate and started to empty the water. "I know it is going to be a lot of work, but I believe that is what God wants me to do." Dawn turned to put the last plate away hiding her face from him. "So what do you think?" he asked as he dried his hands on the towel that she had left on the counter.

"I think that is great," she said as shut the cupboard, but she didn't turn around to face him.

Worried, he walked up behind her. "Am I doing something wrong?"

She turned around to face him, "No, I really think it is great." Liam looked into her eyes searchingly. "If that is what God wants you to do, I am happy for you. I know you will be the best pastor that you can be." Dawn smiled up at him. "You always do the best that you can every time."

"No, I can't," he turned around clutching his hands. "I can't do it without you. Remember when I told you that I have loved you since we first met?" He paused as if gathering his thoughts. "What I didn't tell you is that I knew then at that moment you were the one I was going to marry." He turned to face her. "Dawn, will you marry me? I can't promise you a big house, money, or a car. But I promise you I will love you and do all I can to provide for you."

Dawn was looking down at her hands. "Yes." It was almost too soft for Liam to hear.

He was so happy that he thought he would burst. Instead he stepped forward and took Dawn into his arms. This time she slipped her arms around his waist and returned the hug. Suddenly a thought occurred to him and he drew back to look at her. "You aren't just doing this because you feel sorry for me?" he asked.

"No, I was beginning to think you were never going to ask."

Liam laughed and kissed her nose then pulled her closer. "Aren't our parents going to be surprised?"

She smiled against his shirt. "I think a lot of people are going to be surprised."