Home > The Baxters

The Baxters
Author: Karen Kingsbury

 

 

1

 


Outside Kari Baxter’s French bedroom window, storm clouds gathered in the early morning sky over Bloomington, Indiana. Dark and tinged in green. Tornado clouds.

The kind that could destroy a person’s life in a matter of seconds.

Kari’s heart pounded and she sat up in bed. Something was happening today… She thought for a moment and then she gasped.

She was getting married today.

That’s what was happening.

Her feet were instantly on the floor, her lungs grabbing at quick sharp breaths. Like she was running a race. Yes, she was getting married! How could she forget? It was Saturday, after all. Kari ran her fingers through her long dark hair and rushed to the window. At five this evening she would become Tim Jacobs’s wife.

How could that not have been the first thing on her mind?

Even before she opened her eyes?

Kari exhaled. Okay. Calm, she told herself. You didn’t miss it. Everything is fine. Her breathing slowed a little and she waited for that wonderful wedding-day peace and joy to replace her anxiety. Her heart raced and she kept waiting. And she waited some more. Then she dropped to the cushioned window seat at the base of the tall panes of glass.

Nothing.

Her eyes lifted to the stormy sky. Maybe that was it. What bride wouldn’t feel stressed by such terrible darkness overhead? On her wedding day? Like it was some sort of sign.

This was crazy. The weather couldn’t make or break her big moment. Even still, anxiety ran through her veins. Her breathing remained shaky. She closed her eyes and hugged her arms to her chest. God, help me. Please.

Across the room on the back of her door hung her wedding dress. Satin white with cap sleeves and a simple fitted bodice. Cascading tulle and a modest train. She and her mom and sisters had picked it out a week after Tim proposed. The girl at the shop called it a Cinderella dress.

A few times since then Kari had wondered if her decision had been a bit rushed. Impulsive because of the newness of her engagement. But in the last month she had talked herself into really liking the gown. A lot.

Yes, hers was going to be the perfect wedding.

Thunder rolled through the hills beyond Bloomington. The sound vibrated her window and even her soul. She was doing the right thing, marrying Tim. Right? Yes, she was. For sure. Tim was charming and intelligent and he made her laugh every time they were together. And he shared her faith.

That’s how they met, after all. At a Bible study on campus.

They would share a beautiful life together. She would support his new position as professor of writing and when she accompanied Tim to his many university events and parties, she could see herself hanging on his every word.

Kari could hardly wait!

She drew a steady breath. There. That was better. Her heart wasn’t racing as fast and she wasn’t panting. She leaned her shoulder against the window and watched the wind move through the trees. What if a tornado hit today?

Would that be a sign?

No. Nothing was a sign. She closed her eyes and exhaled. God had led her to Tim Jacobs and today when she married him she would be the happiest girl in the world. She looked at the sky again. Greens and blacks, swirling low.

Enough of this. She stood and walked to her gown. Everything was going to be okay. She ran her fingers down the length of it. Such a pretty dress. Then it hit her. This strange morning of wild emotions wasn’t because of the weather. There was a perfectly good reason. A troubling one.

His name was Ryan Taylor.

Kari walked back to her bed and lay down again. Her mom had invited Ryan’s mother to the wedding, which made sense. The two were neighbors. The Taylors had moved down the street when Kari was twelve. All through the seasons when Ryan had been the love of Kari’s life.

Right up until two years ago.

Since then, their mothers had stayed close. Another perfectly acceptable detail. Because Kari was over Ryan Taylor.

But with his mother coming to the wedding, Ryan had to know about it. Which meant three doors down he was waking up in his childhood home knowing that later today Kari was going to marry someone else. Despite the fact that for most of his life he had thought he would marry her. They had both thought so.

And something about that made Kari sad.

Like she should run out back to the path behind her house. Run through his yard, knock on his door and give him one last hug.

Even though it was his fault things hadn’t worked out.

She closed her eyes. This day was supposed to be a happy one. Didn’t her groom deserve her best? Be excited, she told herself. Don’t think about Ryan. The words had been her battle cry for the past twenty-four months.

Don’t think about Ryan Taylor.

After all, he had cheated on her. Left her to find out about his actions in the middle of his gravest hours. When his life and future hung in the balance.

Another clap of thunder shook her window.

A few months after Ryan’s betrayal, Tim entered her world. And all of life had been a whirlwind since. In the years when she was growing up and falling in love with Ryan, Kari had never imagined things would work out this way. With her marrying a different man.

Was her heart still unsure about this? Even now? On her wedding day?

She exhaled and a pit formed in her stomach. What an awful bride she was, questioning her commitment, doubting her intentions. Definitely… I’m sure about this. Absolutely. She was in love with Tim. She took a deep breath. Tim. Wonderful, kind, considerate Tim. Intelligent, well-read Tim. The brilliant writer and witty conversationalist.

Tim, the one she was marrying today.

Yes, her mind needed to be there. With her distinguished groom.

Images from the last few years came to life, and her recent past played out once more. After she met Tim at the campus Bible study, Kari came home and told her parents she had found a friend.

Only a friend.

He was in the last year of getting his PhD, teaching journalism students, and about to be hired full-time by Indiana University. But he was five years older, and Kari hadn’t even finished her undergrad degree. She hadn’t considered dating him. But they began meeting for coffee and then dinner. After all, professors and undergrads weren’t allowed to date.

“Be careful,” her mother had told her several times in those early days. “He’s falling in love with you, Kari.”

“No, Mom!” She didn’t see it. “He likes talking to me. I make him laugh. That’s all.”

Once, over dinner, Tim asked her a question she wasn’t expecting. “Tell me about him.”

Kari had blinked a few times. “What?… Who?”

“Him. You know, your greatest heartbreak.” He looked deep into her eyes. “I want to know everything about you, Kari. Even that.”

The memory froze there. Again her heartbeat came louder, faster, and she could see him. Her greatest heartbreak. The handsome face of Ryan Taylor. Did she still love him?

Even now… on her wedding day?

She rolled onto her side and let the memories come, let them soothe her nervous heart one more time. Ryan was a senior at Indiana University, and Kari a sophomore, the year his ability as a running back took the national sports scene by surprise. Before his graduation, Ryan was drafted in the second round by the Cowboys, and everyone celebrated.

After he moved to Texas, though, Ryan didn’t call as often. He seemed too busy for her. Kari tried to tell herself nothing had changed. After all, he still called, still told her he loved her whenever they talked. And that he missed her, and he would only ever love her.

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