An Excerpt From Wesley's Women

...Abby knocked timidly on his door and called to him.

"Come in."

Everything was a blur after that -- the discharge, the farewell to his father and step-mother, retrieving the plastic bag that held his belongings from the closet.

She didn't become clearheaded again until they were in her SUV rolling out of the hospital parking lot on the way to his apartment.

He was as handsome as ever, and more dear to her than he had ever been, but he was different. The experience had changed him. He seemed folded in on himself, tucked inside a protective shell. It pained her and it worried her. But it would have been unrealistic to expect him to bounce back from his ordeal just because he was going home.

"Um," she said as they inched their way through the traffic. "When I was out earlier, I was going to stop by the supermarket and pick up up a few groceries for you, but I wanted to get back to the hospital. If you like, we can stop on the way and get you a few things."

"All right."

He replied to her questions or comments readily enough, but he said nothing of his own accord.  He had always been a man of few words, but this was heartbreaking.

She had no idea what he was going through, what his thoughts and feelings were, but she knew he did not need a flow of chatter from her, so she curbed her words, as well.

In his tiny kitchen, they put the groceries away together.

"Wesley, are you hungry? Would you like me to make you a sandwich or something?"

"Yeah, I'm a little hungry. I can make a sandwich, though."

"But I want to."


"I think I'll have one, too."


They sat on the tall stools at the breakfast bar and Abby scarfed down half her sandwich before she realized Wesley hadn't taken a single bite.

She wanted to ask if he was all right, if there was something wrong with the sandwich, if there was something else he wanted, something she could do for him -- but a small voice inside told her to zip it. He needed love, all the love she could give, but he also needed space. So she took another bite and ate in silence.

She looked up once to see him gazing at her with an odd expression and her brows rose. His face crumpled and he tried unsuccessfully to stifle an explosive sob, then wiped tears from his eyes and brought himself back under control.

"Aw, hey, c'mon," she said softly. "It can't be that bad. Some ham, some Swiss, a little mayo, but if you'd rather have Miracle Whip--"

There was another, smaller explosion, half sob, half laughter. "Could you come over here please?"

She slid off the stool and walked the single pace to him and he took her in a tight embrace. She circled her arms around him as he buried his face in her shoulder. He shook and he cried, really cried, deep, wracking sobs that used up his breath, and he had to pause to inhale deeply and the sobs would begin again. Tears soaked her shirt.

"My poor Wesley," she murmured, "so hurt, so broken. But it will be all right I promise you. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Weeping may remain for a night, but joy comes in the morning."

Gradually his sobbing slowed and tears stopped, and his breathing normalized. He straightened and looked at her, straight into her eyes.

"It's not a very manly thing to cry on your woman's shoulder."

"That's one of the things shoulders were made for. Women's. Men's. If men weren't supposed to cry, God wouldn't have given them tear ducts. Oh, Wesley, my dear, wonderful man, I can't begin to fathom what you've been through. It oppresses my spirit just trying to think about it. But to me, crying seems like a totally understandable response."

He shook his head, not in negation but amazement. "Nothing I do shocks you, nothing I say makes you shudder or cringe. I can't understand you but ... I love you." He swallowed hard and took in a shaky breath. "Thank you for saving my life."

She pulled him close and kissed him. His answering kiss matched hers. One eager kiss followed the other and soon eagerness turned to passion. Abby deeply regretted that she had to bring this under control.

"Maybe someday," she said, soft and low, against his mouth. "But not now, not yet."

She let go of him and stepped back to see him gazing at her with a sultry look of desire.

"It must be morning," he said, his voice laced with the longing that burned in his eyes.

She nodded understanding and assent. They dared not embrace and kiss again and temp passion, but for now, joy was more than enough.

After a few moments, Abby pointed to his sandwich and said, "Um, are you gonna eat that, because I'm still a little hungry--"

He laughed, then, a genuine, deep, old-Wesley laugh that stretched his sunshine grin across his face and scrunched his eyes to slits. "Let's half it." 


Wesley's Women is a work in progress. Publication tentatively set for first quarter 2021.

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