Ixora Berhanu was alone in the bed and breakfast’s office when her cell phone dinged. She dropped the pile of receipts in her hand on the laminate desk and picked it up. The text message came from her sister Marigold.
Hi. I’m in Mapleville. I’ll be staying for a while.
She sat up. “What in the world?”
Ixora read the rest of the text message and swore. Then she remembered her deliverance from the spirit of cussing. She shifted in her seat. No point being hard on herself. She was still a work in progress.
Lips pursed, Ixora rolled her eyes at the sad face emoji Marigold sent. She had no sympathy to offer. Marigold got more than enough attention from their grandmother.
The familiar tight feeling welled up in Ixora’s throat. She placed the cell phone on the desk, pushed back her chair and stood. Thoughts of Marigold always brought annoyance.
She pulled out the bottom drawer of their metal file cabinet and took out her stash of washi paper. The therapist she saw after their parents’ disappearance had introduced her to the art of origami.
Back at her desk Ixora hummed as she folded the piece of washi into a flower. As always it was a battle between woman and paper. She planned to win.
Ixora looked up when the door opened. Her friend Terri walked in. The smile on Terri’s freckled face faded when she saw the pile of intricate origami flowers and animals on Ixora’s desk. “Someone’s feeling antsy,” Terri said.
After ten years of friendship and three years as business partners, Terri had a good read on her emotions. “I’m just in a creative mood,” Ixora said.
Terri gave her a skeptical look. “Right. Well, Mitch is here for the grand tour.”
That summer, they had renovated the elegant 18th-century building. Surrounded by red and white rose bushes, it was aptly named Rose Manor. Proximity to downtown Owen Sound made their business an excellent choice for tourists. Referrals also came from local families in need of extra bedrooms for out-of-town guests.
Ixora placed her cell phone in its holster. “I hope he likes the room.”
“He will. Relax.”
“You know telling me to relax has an opposite effect.”
Terri dropped her purse on the desk. “Go and meet your man.”
Mitch was chatting with their receptionist when she stepped into the lobby area. At first glance, he looked a lot like Dennis Haysbert. “Hey, husband,” she said.
He hurried over to where she stood and gave her a hug. “Motek.”
The Jewish term of endearment made her smile. Mitch was a mighty good man.
The seven bedrooms now had themes. Ixora’s heart raced as they went from room to room. Mitch gave her a surprised look when he saw the nameplate on the last door. “You named this after our Gondar?”
It was his family’s ancestral home. She opened the door. “Yes.”
Mitch was silent as he walked around the room decorated with the warm green, yellow and red colours of the Ethiopian national flag. A rustic wrought iron Star of David hung above the king-size headboard.
“You think Mom and Dad will enjoy staying here for a weekend getaway?” Ixora asked.
Her in-laws were a big part of their lives. They had moved to Owen Sound so that Mitch could take over his father’s chiropractic practice.
“They will love it.” She relaxed as Mitch wrapped his arms around her. “Thank you.”
“We went over budget,” she said.
Mitch tucked an escaped loc back into Ixora’s neat bun. “You did a great job.”
“You’re good to me.”
He smiled. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.” Ixora moved away. They had to talk about Marigold. She led the way to the curved glass sunroom added to the back of the building.
Vibrant potted plants and plush red pillows arranged on wicker chairs gave the space a welcoming vibe. For guests looking for refreshments, they had set frosty pitchers of lemonade and cookies on a table.
Ixora poured Mitch a glass before they took their seats. “Marigold sent me a text.”
Mitch read it and sighed. “I wonder what happened.”
Ixora shrugged. “I’ll have to pick up the pieces when she dumps her responsibility on Big Momma and takes off.”
Mitch glanced at the cell phone screen. “You didn’t respond?”
Ixora shook her head.
“I had nothing good to say.”
He handed back her cell phone. “Ixora.”
Her guard went up at the slight tinge of reproach in Mitch’s voice. “Why are you not on my side?”
“I am. Because of your loss, I felt you needed time to heal. But, we are not guaranteed time. You can’t afford to miss heaven.”
Ixora frowned. “What does Marigold have to do with that?”
“I still don’t understand why you are so angry with her.”
“She cursed our parents.”
Mitch blinked. “Excuse me?”
“Marigold told our mom she hated her. She also told her not to bother coming back.”
“She was an angry teenager.”
“You know the tongue has the power of life and death.”
“I’m sure Marigold regrets those words,” Mitch said.
Ixora shook her head. “She left home without saying goodbye. The most painful thing was that even though she’d abandoned us, Big Momma danced when she got those postcards Marigold sent from her exotic destinations.”
“Big Momma’s joy reminds me of God’s mercy,” Mitch said. “He gives us second chances.”
Ixora clenched her fingers. “You’re not listening to me.”
“I am. I just don’t want you to wallow in toxic emotions. Everything we experience is a part of God’s grand plan.”
“Marigold is older. She should have been the responsible one. Not me.”
Mitch sighed. “The other day Jada asked me why you’re always mad at Aunty Marigold.”
“I’ve never said anything in front of the children.”
“Your expression sours every time you say your sister’s name.”
Ixora crossed her legs. “I can fix a smile on my face if that would make you feel better.”
“That’s not the point. Our actions define Jesus for others. Children are all eyes and ears.”
Ixora hated the thought that she was teaching her children malice. “What do you want me to do?”
“I don’t have all the answers. Only Jesus does. But I know ten-year-old Ixora needs to forgive thirteen-year-old Marigold. If not, adult Ixora will self-destruct. Jealousy is like cancer in the bones.”
She snorted. “I’m not jealous of Marigold.”
Mitch’s deep brown eyes held her gaze. “Do you feel that you deserve a larger portion of your grandmother’s love because you stayed with her?”
It made perfect sense. “Yes!”
“Motek nothing you did for your grandmother was by your power.”
Ixora rested against the pillow as the words sunk into her spirit. For several minutes, she hung her head and focused on her breathing. She couldn’t deny the truth in Mitch’s words.
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Ixora squirmed. But Marigold had no regard for their grandmother’s love.
Therefore, let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.
She still didn’t know how to let go of the hurt.
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
To move forward, she would have to cling to God’s grace with renewed zeal.
Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever.
She had to make the next move. Ixora picked up her cell phone and responded to Marigold’s text message. Sorry about what happened. Coming to Mapleville.
Thanks for reading Ixora’s story. Curious about Ixora and Marigold’s meeting? Follow their story in my latest book Knit Together
About the Author:
Vivian Kay is a Christian fiction author whose faith stories are woven around the themes of human imperfection, redemption and transformation. When she’s not writing, or daydreaming about writing, you’ll find her playing simultaneous games of online scrabble or snuggling up with a good book. Kay’s debut novel, Secret Places, was first published by Brown Girls Books (USA) in November 2015. A wife and mother, Kay lives in a quiet corner of Canada’s banana belt.
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