Apparently, this post was empty the first time I posted it, so we will try it again.
Here are the final three chapters of Right On Time Christmas. I was going to post two this week and the last one next week but I think that last chapter will have more impact if you read them all together.
I hope you have enjoyed Stephen and Caylee’s story and can see God’s persistent love of us through their story. I hope you can also see that His timing is perfect, even if it doesn’t line up with ours.
Three days had passed. Stephen sat on the sofa and looked at the television but not really watching it. He resisted the urge to call Caylee and talk to her. He did need time to process everything. But after three days of no contact his heart screamed the same thing. She was the one. Always had been.
“Sarah comes in two days.” Mom’s voice interrupted his thoughts, or maybe she was reading them. She was really good at knowing what he was thinking.
“I know.” Stephen didn’t tell Mom what was going on. He couldn’t give her hope, but somehow she seemed to know.
“Should you tell her not to?” Mom sat beside him.
“Why?” How much did she know?
“You’re in love with Caylee.”
“Yeah.” A smile spread across his face. He was in love with her.
“Maybe it’s time to tell her. And when I say her, I mean both of them.” Mom patted his leg.
“You’re right.” Stephen jumped up for the sofa. “I have to see Caylee first. I’ll call Sarah later tonight.”
Mom stood and placed her hands on Stephen’s arms. “I always knew this would happen you know. You two belong together.”
“I hate when you’re right. Usually. But not this time.” Stephen drew her into a hug then headed for his car.
Three days. Caylee threw herself down on the couch. Maybe Stephen had decided not take a chance on her? Who could blame him after all the times she hurt him. But she wouldn’t this time. This time was the real thing. She loved him.
She let loose a laugh. She loved Stephen Meyer. She never dreamed she would feel that way. After all the guys she went through, Stephen had always been there, why did it take so long for her to see the truth?
A knock sounded at the door and her heart leapt. Could it be Stephen? She stood, straightened her shirt, glanced in the mirror, not so hot. Oh well.
She reached for the door with a smile and opened. Her heart dropped to her feet. Why was he here? Now?
“Hey sweetie, I was hoping we could talk.”
Josh? Here, on her doorstep, looking way too handsome and put together, his brown puppy dog eyes reminding her why she fell for him in the first place.
“Can I come in?” He stepped forward and that yanked her out of her thoughts.
“Uh, sure.” No, he can’t come in. Wonder if Stephen showed up? But she moved out of the way. When Josh passed her he grabbed her arm and kissed her forehead.
Wait, he broke up with her, why was he acting like he was back in her life?
“Let’s sit in the living room.” Her words sounded choked even to her.
He sat beside her on the couch, which felt way too close.
“What are you doing here?” She finally asked when he slipped off his coat.
“I miss you. I miss us.” He reached for her hands. “I made a huge mistake.”
What? Josh admitting he was wrong? But he wasn’t this time.
Being with Stephen was like being with no other man she had ever dated. It was easy, yet exciting. He knew her so well, better than she knew herself.
She studied Josh and couldn’t think of their break up as a mistake.
“I don’t think it was a mistake. As a matter of fact I think you broke up with me right on time.” Caylee smiled, confidence filled her heart.
“Right on time?” Josh pulled his hand away. “What are you talking about?”
“It’s hard to explain but the timing was perfect. That’s what God does. He is always right on time, not my time.” As she spoke hope flooded her. She had never been more sure about something as she was right now.
“Are you okay?” Josh drew his eyebrows together.
“Never better.” Caylee nodded. “I appreciate your apology and I do forgive you but I’m okay. We aren’t for each other. You’ll find someone else who will make you extremely happy.” Just like she did.
“Okay.” Josh stood and grabbed his coat. Caylee followed him to the door. “I’m glad your doing well then. I guess I was getting lonely since Christmas is only a few days away.”
Caylee leaned around him and opened the door. “I get that. But you can’t make something happen that isn’t meant to be. I wish you all the best Josh, you are a great guy.”
Josh stepped out on the porch and Caylee followed.
“I hope you have a Merry Christmas.” Josh drew her in for a hug. No sparks, no regrets. Yes, she was in love with someone else.
She pulled away and smiled, still hugging him. “You too. Be safe driving back to Columbus.”
“Thanks.” He kissed her forehead again, but this time she sensed no hidden agenda. Just parting friends.
He turned and headed toward his car. That’s when Caylee saw Stephen sitting in his car on the street.
He couldn’t believe it. Caylee in another guys arms, again. She hadn’t changed at all.
Memories of senior prom flooded his mind.
He hadn’t seen Caylee for about a half hour. He thought maybe she had gone out to the parking lot to get some air. He went out but didn’t see her. Then he noticed a car with movement. He walked over to it, why he will never know, and saw her. Locked in an embrace with Jeff Thomas. It was more than an embrace though, it was down right passion. He should have walked away but he was glued to the cement. And then her eyes opened and her gaze collided with his.
That’s when he walked away. She soon followed, her gorgeous hair that he thought she had done for him was a mess, her lips red from kissing Jeff.
She pulled him aside in the banquet hall. “We’re just friends.”
“It didn’t look like you were friends.” Fire burned in his veins, his face flaming from the anger that raged inside of him.
“Not Jeff and me, you and me. We’re friends. I didn’t think you would care if I was with someone else.” Her words slammed into Stephen’s heart and couldn’t breath for a second. How thoughtless could she be? Couldn’t she see how much he cared for her, all these years? He waited for her, he never dated anyone, waiting for her to see him. She never did. It was clear she never would.
Now, sitting on her street, watching some guy walk away from holding her and her smiling up at him that same fire lit inside of him. But this time he was done. What a fool he had been thinking she had changed. That she could actually love him. What a stupid fool.
The guy drove away and Caylee stood on the porch and waved like nothing was wrong. Stephen pulled himself out of the car and strode towards her, his mission simple and clear. End this for good.
“You won’t believe who that was. Josh, my ex.” Her words rushed out but he didn’t care.
“Save it.” Stephen stopped short of the porch and looked up at her.
“What?” Her eyebrows drew together.
“Save it. I just came to say I am going to marry Sarah.” Stephen forced the words out and his heart ached with every syllable.
“Oh.” Her eyes glistened. Was she seriously going to cry?
“It looks like we both found what we were looking for. I’ll have Sarah and you can have Josh. You and I can be what we have always been, friends.” Stephen’s words dripped with bitterness.
“But I don’t want –”
“Have a Merry Christmas Caylee. See ya.” Stephen turned and headed for his car. It was the right thing of course. So why did it feel like he just made the worst mistake in his life?
“Oh, sweetie it’s so good to see you.” Mom wrapped Caylee in a hug. She forced a smile, no need to bring them down with her.
“You too.” Caylee swallowed back the tears that wanted to continue flowing. She cried all night. No way could there be any tears left, yet there seemed to be.
“You look tired.” Dad took his turn hugging and kissing the top of her head.
“Yeah,” was all she could muster.
“Can you believe Christmas is only two days away?” Mom bustled around the house. “Oh, the tree looks wonderful. Thanks for getting it up. One less thing for me to do.” Mom threw a smile over her shoulder and disappeared in her room.
Caylee’s head was spinning. She wanted to crawl back into bed but that wouldn’t happen for several hours.
Mom came back out of her room and Dad went in, probably to take a nap
“So, what’s been going on with you?” Mom took Caylee’s hands and lead her to the couch.
“Not much.” Other then getting her heart broken by the one man I actually loved.
“I heard you’ve been spending time with Stephen.” Mom get right to the point.
“Mrs. Meyer told me. We are both so happy.” Mom squeezed her hand.
“Well don’t be. Nothing is happening anymore. He is asking his girlfriend to marry him. Probably in the next couple of days.” Oh, those words were like acid over her throat.
“I’m not really sure. I think he saw something that made him believe I was getting back together with Josh. I am definitely not. I love Stephen.” That was the first time she admitted that to anyone.
“Well, then tell him.” Mom’s eyes softened and pleaded with her. She was always a Stephen fan but tried not to push.
“I tried and he wouldn’t listen. The more I thought about it the more I thought I don’t want someone who doesn’t trust me.” Acid again. He had every reason not to trust her.
“Hmmm. You know I try to keep my nose out of things but maybe you should try talking to him again before it’s too late. I know he has always loved you.”
“I guess I could try calling. But how horrible will I be if Sarah is in town and I call now and take him away from her?” She would feel like a fool if she was in Sarah’s shoes.
“How horrible would it be for Stephen to marry a girl he didn’t really love over a misunderstanding?” Mom spoke truth.
“You’re right, I need to try.” Hope stirred in Caylee’s heart again. She leaned over and hugged Mom. “I’m so glad you’re home.”
“Me too.” Mom brushed the hair from Caylee’s face and smiled.
Caylee rushed to her room and grabbed her cell. She sat on the edge of her bed and looked down at the phone. She could do this. She had to try.
She dialed Stephen’s number but it went right to voicemail. He must have it silenced. She could try the landline that his parent still had. After two rings Josie picked up.
“Hey, Josie, is Stephen around?” Her voice shook. Why was she nervous.
Silence for what seemed like a long time.
“He’s with Sarah.”
“Yeah.” Josie almost sounded mad. “What happened? He wouldn’t talk to anyone. Just says it was never going to work between the two of you.”
Caylee drew in a breath and threw herself back on the bed. “He saw something and he interpreted it incorrectly. He saw my ex hugging me. I was giving him the boot because of Stephen, I love him. We actually left on good terms but doing so made it look like we left on really good terms, if you get my meaning.”
“That sucks.” Josie was always so bubbly, to hear her now you would think someone died. “It’s too late. He probably has already asked Sarah to marry him, that was the plan.”
If it was at all possible for person’s heart to fall to their stomach then Caylee’s did and she had no desire to pick it back up.
“I see.” Her words were only a whisper.
“I’m sorry.” Josie sounded as sad as Caylee felt.
“Me too.” Caylee thought she knew what heartache felt like but until that moment she didn’t. This is what it really felt like. Everything in her body wanted to curl up and hide and never come out. “Don’t tell him I called. This should be a happy day for him.”
“Okay,” was Josie’s soft reply.
Caylee hang up and stared up at the ceiling all strength and desire left her body. Stephen was gone for good this time. She curled up into a ball and cried into her pillow.
“Mom.” Josie rushed into the living room. Melinda looked up from her ipad. “She loves him and he’s going to marry Sarah.”
“What?” Melinda sat up and tried to make sense of the words rushing from her daughter’s mouth.
“Caylee, she called here wanting to talk to Stephen. She loves him. He saw her with her ex but Caylee said it was over. Stephen misunderstood and now he is going to marry someone he doesn’t love.” Josie stamped her foot. “What are we going to do? He might have already asked Sarah to marry him.”
“Pray. We can pray.” Melinda smiled and peace flowed through her.
“Oh Mom, that’s your answer for everything.” Josie walked away.
“Because that is the answer for everything.” Melinda leaned forward and bowed her head. “Okay, Father. You got this. Your timing is perfect, I have always believed it. For some reason these kids need to go through what that are going through and it will make them stronger. So build their faith. Make them sensitive to your voice. May they remember as we approach this Christmas season that you entered this world right on time and you can bring Stephen and Caylee together right on time. Everything happens in your timing and we are trusting you right now that things will work out just as you have planned. It’s in Jesus’ Name, I pray, amen.”
Once again peace washed over Melinda. Nothing more she could do. Nothing more she needed to do. God would work this out, He was a right on time God.
Stephen had initially planned on proposing at the restaurant but something told him to wait. So he did. Now darkness had fallen over Holly and the Christmas lights danced over the town.
Tomorrow was Christmas Eve. The town buzzed with excitement. But now all was quiet
as they neared the bridge where he enjoyed watching the Christmas parade.
He grabbed Sarah’s hand when his favorite spot came into view. The spot he brought Caylee too. The night he kissed her. He tried to feel guilty about that but he didn’t and that wasn’t okay.
Sarah kept up a constant stream of conversation that only required him to answer with grunts and nods. Thankfully. He had trouble focusing.
“You’re so quiet.” Sarah finally noticed.
“Sorry, just thinking.” Stephen stopped on the other side of the bridge, where it was quiet and the traffic not as loud. This was it. This was the perfect place to ask her.
“About good things I hope.” Sarah flashed a smile. She was very pretty and very nice. He was lucky to be asking a girl like her to marry him.
“Why don’t you sit here.” Stephen had her sit on large rock that was placed next the river. She must have been freezing in her dress in heals but she didn’t complain. “We’ve been dating for awhile now,” he began and dug in his pocket for the ring. He wrapped his fingers around it.
“Um-hm.” Sarah noticed emphatically.
“So . . .” Stephen had no idea what else to say. He pulled the ring out and looked down at it. His heart sank as realization flooded his. It was the perfect cut and setting but not for Sarah. It was perfect for Caylee. He couldn’t put this on Sarah’s hand, it was all wrong. It wasn’t her ring.
He looked up and confusion clouded Sarah’s pretty face.
“Stephen, what’s going on?”
He wrapped his hand around the ring again, even if Caylee never wore the ring Sarah couldn’t wear it either. It wouldn’t be fair to her.
“I’m sorry. I can’t do this. I thought I could be but . . .” How could he break this woman’s heart the day before Christmas Eve. As soon as Caylee crashed back into his life he should have called things off. It was clear from the first moment he laid eyes on Caylee he loved her.
“But you can’t?” Sarah stood and her eyes glistened, little puffs of frost came out of her mouth as she breathed faster.
“I’m a jerk, I know it. I don’t think I’m the one for you.” Stephen didn’t know who he was the one for but he couldn’t force this.
“Oh.” Her response was short. “Well, don’t I look like a fool.”
“No, I’m the fool. You’re a great girl but I can’t be the man you need me to be.” Stephen reached for her hand but she stepped away.
“I think I should go home then.” Sarah turned and walked away. Stephen followed and a stony silence went with them.
Normally Caylee had a rush of excitement while she got ready for church. But the only thing she felt this year was a weight pressing in on her chest and an ache in her heart that seemed to get worse with each breath.
She would have to see Stephen and his fiance. She deserved this, even if it was a misunderstanding, she had hurt Stephen so many times over the years, now she knew what he felt like. It was terrible.
“You all set?” Mom popped her head in the room.
“I think so.” She tried to fake happy, but she was never very good at that and her tone reflected that.
“Oh, sweety.” Mom walked up and gave her a hug. Caylee swallowed back the sob that wanted to rip from her throat. “I’m so sorry.”
“I’m fine. Or I will be.” Caylee pushed away and grabbed her coat from the bed. “Let’s go.”
Mom shook her head. “It’s okay to hurt.”
“Not tonight. Tonight is about celebrating Jesus and that’s what I want to focus on.” Caylee planted a kiss on Mom’s cheek and walked out. If she kept her eyes on Jesus maybe she wouldn’t see Stephen and Sarah.
Caylee, Mom and Dad squeezed into an already crowded pew. The atmosphere buzzed with Christmas excitement. The lights were dimmed and candles peppered the stage. Caylee took a calming breath, closed her eyes and sent up a quick prayer, Father, let me stay focused on You tonight.
As crowded as the church was it would be easy not to see the Meyer family as long as she didn’t look around.
Service started and before long they were lighting candles and singing Silent Night. Caylee’s favorite part of the service. Tears filled her eyes, overcome with the gift of Jesus Christ and how good He was, no matter what was happening around her He stayed the same.
She glanced to her right and there he was. His back straight and tall, his brown hair brushed the collar of his white shirt. His profile took her breath. She looked beside him but only saw Mrs. Meyer and Josie next to him. Where was Sarah?
The pastor wrapped up with a prayer and service was over. Stephen seemed to sense Caylee’s gaze on him and turned just as the lights came up. Their gazes collided and the deep ache returned to Caylee’s chest. She couldn’t do this. She had to get out of there.
“I’ll meet you in the car.” Caylee turned to her parents and fled the building.
Stephen wanted to go to her, tell her he wasn’t engaged but that didn’t change anything. She was still with Josh.
“Stephen, have you talked to her?” Josie pulled on his sleeve.
“What?” Stephen turned to Josie.
“Have you talked to Caylee? Or did Mom talk to you?”
“I’ve hardly been home, and when I was Mom was here at church getting things ready for tonight.” Stephen’s shoulders tensed. The look in Josie’s eyes communicated that he missed something important.
“I can’t believe you don’t know. Caylee isn’t back together with her ex-boyfriend. What you saw was her saying good-bye to him. He wanted to get back together but she said no. She loves you.” Josie words rushed out of her mouth and over his soul like a healing balm.
This couldn’t be true. He knew what he saw. Yet, hope stirred in his heart. If it was true then they could finally be together. He turned back to where Calyee stood. She was gone and so were her parents.
“I have to go.” Stephen had to find her and talk to her.
It didn’t take long to get to her house. Lights were on. He jogged to the door and knocked.
“Stephen, what a pleasant surprise. Come in.” Mr. Thomas stepped back.
“Sorry to bother you on Christmas Eve but is Caylee home?” Stephen glanced around the house. No sign of her.
Mr. Thomas’s smile fell. “She took off as soon as we got home from church.”
“Did she say where she was going?” His throat tightened and he choked on his words.
“I’m sorry son, she didn’t.”
“Okay, thank you.” Stephen had to find her. But where?
Caylee sat on the big rock next to the bridge and looked over the town. Christmas lights shined through the darkness. Oh, Father, thank you for sending your Son to shine in the darkness.
Even after her prayer her heart didn’t feel any lighter. Over time it would get easier, she believed that, but tonight it hurt. After all of this time she finally realized she loved Stephen and now he was gone.
She hugged her arms around herself to fend off the cold. She should head home and not ruin Christmas Eve for her parents.
Her heart lurched at the sound of the voice and she fought the tears that wanted to fill her eyes.
She turned and there he stood, his breath white puffs of air coming from his mouth, hands shoved in this pocket. She longed to jump up and run to him but she didn’t. She wouldn’t make herself vulnerable again.
“Shouldn’t you be with Sarah celebrating?” She couldn’t keep the bitterness from sneaking into her words.
“Sarah went home last night.” Stephen took a step toward her.
A small flake of hope danced in her chest. “Oh.”
“Yeah.” He took another step toward her. “I couldn’t ask her to marry me.”
Caylee searched his face, what was he saying? “Do you know Josh and I aren’t back together?”
“I do now.” He closed the distance and squatted down in front of her. “I’m sorry I didn’t give you a chance to explain. I assumed the worse.”
“You had every reason to. I’ve never given you a reason to believe in me.” A sob tore from her throat with the truth of those words. She hurt him over and over and didn’t deserve the kindness that poured from his eyes into her heart.
“God has given me a reason to believe in you.” Stephen took her hand and removed her glove, the warmth from his hand spread up her arm and through her body.
Tears poured from her eyes, overwhelmed by the moment. “I’m sorry for all the times I hurt you. For all the times I never saw you.”
He reached up and wiped the tears from her cheeks. “I love you Caylee. I have for as long as I can remember.”
She covered his hand with her own. “I love you, probably longer than I ever realized.”
Stephen went to his knees and drew Caylee to him. His lips captured her’s and any thought of winter melted away in the sweetness of the moment.
He pulled back and removed a box from his pocket.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t wear a ring that you bought for someone else.” Caylee didn’t want to sound ungrateful but it seemed wrong.
Stephen laughed. “The thing is this ring isn’t for anyone but you. When I told the jeweler about the girl I wanted to marry I described you. It’s always been you.”
Caylee covered her mouth as giggles bubbled out. “Are you serious?”
“Very much so.” Stephen pulled a beautiful, sparkling ring out of the box. “This belongs to you. Will you marry me?”
“Yes, Stephen Meyer, I will marry you.” Caylee nodded.
Stephan slipped the ring on her finger.
“It’s perfect,”she breathed. Like it was meant for her.
“Yes, it is.” Stephan smiled. He stood and pulled her to her feet.
“I’m sorry it took me so long to see you and realize how amazing you are.” Caylee wrapped her arms around his neck. She fit perfectly in his arms.
“I don’t know. I think you figured it out right on time.” He pulled her to him and kissed her again.
Yes, this was a right on time Christmas because she served a right on time God.