In the tradition of Jan Karon, an inspiring story of six troubled people and the strength they find in each other and their faith. Darrell Miller was running from the ugliness his existence had become, from the men who knew what he'd seen. He found refuge from his terror in the last place he expected—a church. With the kind of people he'd never known before, people whose lives would intertwine with his in a special and most unexpected way.…
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Read an Excerpt
By Bobbi Smith
Copyright © 2005
All right reserved.
Darrell Miller's shoulders were hunched against the bite of
the early December wind, and his collar was turned up to
shield his face. He seemed to be just another one of the
poor men who shambled their way to work every morning down
this main street of the city's once well-to-do north side.
None of the others on the street paid any attention to his
passing, and that was fine with him.
He paused at the corner to quickly glance back the way he'd
come. Only then did his nervousness reveal itself. There was
a grimness to his expression and a wariness in his dark eyes
that set him apart. He was no mere working man heading for
his job. He was a hunted man.
Behind him, the street appeared normal. Traffic was the same
as always. Yet, he knew there was no safety on this corner.
He had to keep moving. He had to hide, to disappear.
Shoving his hands deeper into his pockets, Darrell started off
again. He wasn't sure where he was going. He just couldn't
let them find him. Not after last night.
Memories of the horror he'd accidentally witnessed assaulted
him, and he mentally prepared himself for what was to come.
Though he longed to believe there was hope, he knew there
could be no hiding from them forever. They were relentless.
They would never give up looking for him.
Silently, he cursedGod for what had happened. At 26, he was
an ex-con who was trying to build a new life for himself, but
he realized now that he might as well be dead. They would
never let him live. Not with what he knew.
He'd taken the job on the late shift at the small factory even
though the money was poor, to steer clear of the ugliness of
the drug gangs. Yet, the events of last night had proven to
him how stupid he'd been to think he could escape his old
life. He'd tried to avoid any contact with his old
'friends', staying as far away as he could. But in spite of
all his effort, he was trapped in a web now, and he doubted he
would be able to break its lethal hold.
Why now? He agonized as he continued on down the street,
fighting the instinctive urge to run, to flee to safety.
There was no safety for him. There never would be again.
Darrell heard a car coming. Rather than glance up to see who
it was, he kept his face averted, wanting anonymity. The car
seemed to be slowing. Terror ate at him-Was it them? Had
they found him already?
He did not want to die. Not now! Not like this! He could
hear the car closing on him. His heart was pounding as his
adrenalin surged. He was desperate-
The church bell pealed, ringing out only once to signal the
The sound startled Darrell to the awareness that he was
standing at the bottom of the few steps that led up to the
doors of the old Catholic Church. It was a massive building,
constructed some hundred years before when this part of the
city had been growing and thriving. Except for the steeple,
the church was mostly devoid of external decoration. All
that marked it as a House of God were the leaded, stained
glass windows that glowed softly from the inner lighting and
the name of the parish, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, carved
into the cornerstone.
Darrell was no Catholic, but right now with the car almost
upon him, he was considering conversion.
Desperate for a place to hide, he climbed the few steps and
let himself in. The heavy door closed solidly behind him,
and he was enveloped by a sense of warmth and safety.
"The Lord be with you," the priest intoned from the altar.
"And also with you." The answer of the sparse gathering of
parishioners seated randomly in the pews for the daily 6:30
Mass echoed in the cavernous interior.
The church had been there forever, for all that Darrell knew,
but he'd never been inside it before. The beauty of the
place surprised him, but he didn't have time to think about
it. He needed to disappear, to vanish. He moved forward a
few rows and slid into a pew close to a side door just in
case he needed to make a quick exit. There were several
other worshipers nearby, but he didn't pay any attention to
He faced forward.
He did not look back.
For all that most of this part of town was starting to fall
down, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church stood as testimony to
the beauty that could still exist in the world. The ceilings
were high and arched. The walls were painted pristine white
and the ornate trim was gilded. Biblical scenes were
highlighted in a rainbow of colors in the stained glass
windows, and the faint scent of incense hung in the air.
There was something different about this place-something
Darrell had no idea what Catholics did, except kneel and stand
and kneel and sit. He figured as long as he was half-way
hidden there in the back pew, he could watch the others,
follow their example and look like he belonged.
The front door opened again, and Darrell tensed. He cast a
glance in that direction, fearing it was them, dreading what
might happen next. He was prepared to run, to flee for his
Despair threatened to overwhelm him. Was he not even safe
here in this House of God? Was there no haven? No safety
for him? Even as the questioned tormented him, he knew the
answer. He edged closer to the aisle, watching, waiting-
A woman appeared, moving slowly up the aisle. Her movements
were awkward for she was burdened by the life she carried
Darrell almost let out an audible sigh of relief. It was just
a pregnant woman.
The woman felt his gaze upon her and glanced his way. She
smiled at him, the smile transforming her weary expression
into one that mirrored warmth and beauty. She mouthed a
silent hello to him as she slipped into the pew just ahead of
Darrell pretended to turn his attention back to the altar, but
he studied the woman for a moment out of the corner of his
eye. She was young and pretty. It was obvious that she
would soon have the baby, for her coat would not button over
the mound of her stomach. He wondered why, heavy as she was
with child, she had chosen to come to church on this cold,
miserable morning. If it had been him, he would have stayed
home in bed.
The priest's voice interrupted his thoughts, and Darrell
forced himself to pay attention. He remained where he was,
biding his time, dreading the moment when the Mass would end
and he'd be forced to go back outside. In his heart, right
then, he hoped the service would last forever. At least
there, he knew he was safe.
* * *
Jenny Emerson was glad when the reading began and she could
sit down. As hard as the pew was, it still felt good to be
off her feet. She took a deep breath, searching for calm,
seeking inner peace, but found none. Instead the same
terrifying thoughts that had hounded her for days, echoed in
her mind. How had she let her life come to this? She was 22
years old. She should have known better! What was she going
With an effort, Jenny fought down the black, strangling fear
that had been threatening to overwhelm her. Focusing instead
on the reading, she concentrated on the words of hope and
prayed that they were meant for her.
Her baby gave a vigorous kick, and Jenny rested a hand on her
stomach in a loving caress. With a kick like that, she was
almost certain the child was a boy. They had done a test at
the clinic and the nurses knew the baby's sex, but she had
refused to be told. She wanted to learn at the time of
birth. Birth should be exciting and thrilling and happy
For one moment, the dreamer in Jenny allowed her to pretend
that all was right in her world. Then the truth of her
situation returned, just as it always did.
She was almost ready.
In a few weeks, she would be giving birth.
Jenny's mouth twisted bitterly as she struggled to hold back
the scalding tears that threatened. There could be no
avoiding the truth. There weren't always "happily ever
Jenny sighed. She had come to Mass today because the end was
near and she had to make a decision. Soon, very soon, she
would give birth to the beautiful child she carried. Her
She smiled faintly, her face lighting with inner beauty for
just an instant before fading at the thought of the baby's
father, the man she loved- or, at least, had thought she
Mark- Jenny wondered where Mark was, then told herself it didn't
matter. He was out of her life. This baby was hers, not his.
He had forsaken any claim to the child in her eyes the
moment the check to pay for the abortion had arrived.
Their last conversation was still clear in her mind and
painful to remember, even after all this time....
"What do you want?" she'd replied, hoping he wouldn't notice
how raw her voice was from crying.
"Did you get the check?"
"It came yesterday." She'd kept her answer short, not
trusting herself to say more, afraid of what she might blurt
out, of what she might reveal.
"Are you taking care of 'it'?" At his refusal to say the word
baby or abortion, an anger had grown within her. She'd used
that powerful, sustaining emotion to get through the rest of
the conversation and through the rest of these last few
"Don't worry, Mark," she'd managed with tight control. "I'll
take care of 'it'. You don't have a thing to worry about."
"Jenny ..." He'd sounded concerned, and for a moment,
Jenny let herself hope. But that had been the last time.
"You don't need me to go with you or anything? My mother
"I don't need you or your mother, Mark. Please don't call me
again. There's really no point in our speaking any more."
She'd hung up on him, quickly, quietly.
There had been no reason to say anything else. His check
had said it all.
He would go on with his life. She would go on with hers.
And she had.
And she had done fine.
Until yesterday, when the doctor had confirmed her delivery
date was only weeks away. Until that moment, she'd believed
she could do it. She'd believed she could make it work - that
she could have this baby and raise it alone. But
suddenly with the event almost upon her, she was frightened,
What was to become of her? Of her baby?
And that was why she had come to Mass. She had made some
foolish choices all those months ago when she'd surrendered
her innocence to Mark.
She had thought he loved her. She'd thought they would
marry. It had been devastating to learn that she'd been wrong.
She had come here to God. God was her last hope. There was
no one else she could turn to. As Father Beck began to read
the gospel, the impeccably dressed Dorothy Pennington stood
straight and tall as she always did in the third pew from the
front, center section. A pillar of the community, a member
of the Legion of Mary and the Parish Council, Dorothy had
devoted her life to her family and her church, and it was the
latter now that was holding her together this morning. No
one looking at her would have guessed at the fragile state of
her emotions and the despairing direction of her thoughts.
"Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ," she answered as Father
Beck concluded the gospel.
Dorothy sat down, smoothing her skirt over her knees in an
unconsciously elegant gesture. She knew she should listen to
every word of Father's homily. She schooled her expression
to one of respectful attention as she gazed up at the priest,
but in truth, she couldn't concentrate, not on his sermon,
not on anything. Deny it as she might, the pain was there
within her, tearing at her heart with savage claws, ravaging
her soul, destroying her world. She had no reason to
breathe, no reason to exist-
Last night, Alan had left her.
"I want a divorce," he had said.
She had just walked into the house from her monthly meeting of
the Parish Council. The time on the clock had been 10:01.
Funny how she remembered that. She didn't know why she
remembered. She just did.
Dorothy wondered, as she sat there motionlessly in the pew, if
her distress showed. She wanted to shout and scream that
this couldn't be happening to her. She had tried to be the
perfect wife, the perfect mother, the perfect friend. She
had tried to please Alan in every way she could. Dear God,
they'd been married 32 years. Why was Alan doing this to her
now - now, when the children were gone and their life
together could have been better since they had time to
concentrate on each other again?
She had faced him calmly last night, wanting answers from him,
getting none. "That's not funny."
"I wasn't joking," he'd replied.
She'd stared at him then, shocked by his declaration. "Why,
Alan? What's wrong? I didn't know you were unhappy."
"I didn't either, until I met Tina," had been his answer.
And at the look on his face when he'd said the girl's name,
Dorothy had wanted to hit him, to curse him for his stupidity
and for the pain he was causing her. Instead, she'd
tightened the legendary control she had over herself.
"May I ask where you met this 'other' woman?" Dorothy knew
her tone had been haughty, but she'd had good reason. Her
world was being destroyed by this faceless woman who wanted
"Does it matter?" he'd challenged defensively.
"It matters." Her words had been terse.
"She transferred in from the office in L.A.." He'd let his
voice trail off not wanting to say too much.
Dorothy's mind had been racing. True, they hadn't made love
often in the last year or so, but Alan had never been a
particularly lustful man. She had thought their love life
was fine. He had been tender and caring and considerate.
She had never felt a lack. How could she have been so blind?
"I see." She'd finally choked out the words. Then, desperate
to get away from him before her dignity failed her, she'd
ordered coldly, "Get out."
"Get out?" Alan had stared at her, shocked by the ice of her
"Now. Tonight. Your lawyer will be hearing from mine."
She'd turned away from the sight of him, praying he would
leave, praying he would stay, praying he would fight for what
they'd shared and built together over all the years of their
marriage. They were in their fifties now. They were
supposed to be looking forward to their golden years
together. She'd held her breath ... waiting for his response.
To her horror, he'd left without another word.
Dorothy had stayed up all night. She'd tried to understand
it, and for a while, she'd blamed herself, laying guilt where
none was deserved. She'd paced the floor in endless
frustration when she could find no ease for her heartbreak.
It had still been dark, black as pitch outside, when she'd
left the house. After the long hours of torment, she had
known that she had nowhere else to go.
She'd come to Mass.
Joe Myers stood with his head bowed as he tried to concentrate
on the Eucharistic prayer Father was offering up in
preparation for Communion. Some days he listened, and it
touched his heart. Other days, like today, it just seemed
like they were words strung together. Words-words-words-What
good were words without action to back them up?
It was then that Joe realized how very angry he was this
morning. He had said the rosary upon rising, just as he
always did. The prayers were dear to his heart, and he would
continue until he was physically unable to do so, but when he
had glanced at the headlines in the paper as he'd left the
house he'd grown furious. Again overnight, people had been
killed on the streets for no good reason, shot down in cold
blood for what little money they'd had on them.
Murder-rape-abuse- hatred- Was there no end to the
misery? Didn't his prayers help - even a little?
He wondered if anyone besides him saw the beauty of God's
world? If anyone, besides him, looked in other folks' eyes
and saw the potential there for goodness and love?
His anger was heated by his frustration. He was almost 65
years old. He would soon be going home - and that was just
fine with him, as long as God figured he'd done a good job
once he got there. But sometimes, he felt as if he'd failed
in some way and he didn't know why.
Joe counted his blessings as Father prepared to give
Communion. Joe had Gail, his lovely wife of 40 some-odd
years, and two beautiful, happy children with children of
their own. Why had he been so blessed, while others had not?
Certainly, Joe knew God well enough to know that He didn't
discriminate. God wanted everyone to be happy. And Joe knew
he'd certainly been no saint. Why, then, had he been given so
many joys in life, and those around him were so lost and
Faith. Joe concluded. It all had to do with faith. If you
had faith, you could do anything, suffer anything, deal with
Joe shuddered at the thought. Life without a faith in God,
would be a life not worth living. The whole purpose, as Joe
saw it, was to do the best we could with what we had, helping
others as we went along. Smiles and helping hands were free,
and they were two of the most powerful tools given to
Excerpted from Haven
by Bobbi Smith
Copyright © 2005 by Bobbi Smith .
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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