CBN.com This magical
tale set in the hills of North Carolina will captivate fiction
enthusiasts everywhere as they discover that miralces sometimes
come in unexpected packages. Read an excerpt below.
Bing Crosby crooned, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas,”
through the grocery-store sound system. The smell of fruitcake
and fresh pine filled the air. People pushed shopping carts full
of hams, turkeys, and fixings for cranberry salad and green bean
casserole and all kinds of other holiday dishes up and down the
store aisles. Scores of voices chattered, threatening to drown
out Crosby’s music. A Christmas tree decked with red bulbs,
white lights, and gold beads almost reached the ceiling near the
front of the store. Electronic doors opened and closed every few
seconds, and a blast of cold air jumped into the grocery each
Sitting at a card table about ten feet from the doors, Jenna
Newsome pushed back her sandy blond hair and smiled at the old
man standing on the other side of the table. She’d known
Handy Jones, a mechanic who lived about three miles out of Hilltop,
North Carolina, for most of her thirty years. At least twenty
cakes and ten pies sat on the table between them. A stand-up poster
with an eight-by-eleven-inch picture of a baby boy stood behind
the pies and cakes. The words “Support Mickey’s Miracle”
were written in bold letters above the picture.
“You want two cakes, is that right?” she asked.
Handy, dressed in worn overalls and a red baseball cap with “Chew”
written on it, handed her fifty dollars. “Two ought to do
real good,” he said, his voice heavy with mountain twang.
“They’re only fifteen apiece,” Jenna said.
“You spend fifty dollars on two cakes, and Martha will skin
you when you get home.”
Handy refused the twenty she tried to hand back. “It all
goes to help Mickey, don’t it?”
Jenna nodded. “Yeah. Ladies from Hilltop Community Church
made and donated the cakes and pies. Every dollar we make goes
to pay for Mickey’s medical costs.”
“Keep the change then,” Handy said. “Martha
won’t mind. Heck, she probably made a couple of cakes herself.”
“You’re mighty nice,” Jenna said. “Every
dollar makes a difference.” She pulled a brown bag from
the floor, opened it, and sat the two cakes inside. A man, this
one a lot younger, stepped up behind Handy.
“How much you got so far?” Handy asked.
“Not nearly enough,” Jenna said. “About forty
thousand dollars, and we’ve been at it close to two months.”
She glanced at the man behind Handy, and her eyes widened as she
recognized Rem Lincoln. What in the world was he doing back in
“That’s a heap of cakes to sell,” Handy said.
Jenna smiled at Handy again but didn’t really feel very
happy. “Most of the money came from donations,” she
said. “People didn’t even get a cake.”
“Folks around here got good hearts.”
She handed Handy the bag and tried to stay positive but found
it tough. As the chair of a group raising money for a bone marrow
transplant for a baby boy with no health insurance, she knew better
than anybody that things didn’t look good.
“How much you got to raise?” Handy asked.
Rem shifted, and Jenna thought he was going to leave without
speaking. Maybe he didn’t recognize her.
“Close to two hundred fifty thousand,” she said,
her eyes still on Rem. “Within the next couple of weeks
too. If we don’t get it by then, it might be too late.”
“You needin’ a miracle, I reckon.”
“You can say that again. Say hello to Martha for me.”
Handy tipped his hat and stepped away. Rem moved to the table,
and Jenna sat up straighter without quite knowing why. Rem wore
khaki pants, a chocolate-brown V-neck sweater, a navy waist-length
jacket, and an expensive-looking watch. He had dark hair, cropped
closely but not severely. Although no taller or heavier than average,
he carried himself just like she remembered—with a coiled
energy that seemed about to burst from the hiking boots on his
feet. Rem’s eyes locked on hers, and she stared into them
against her better judgment. They looked like black bullets, only
Her face warming, Jenna wondered again if Rem remembered her;
they’d graduated high school together twelve years ago.
“Long time no see,” he said.
She glanced down. “I’m surprised you remember me.”
“How could I forget?” he said. “Yeah, you’ve
changed a little, but I’d recognize those eyes anywhere.
Bluest things since God made the sky. You’re Jenna Newsome,
former editor of the Hilltop High Herald. Best student
in every English class ever taught at Hilltop, head of the Code
of Conduct Council, and secretary of the Bible Club. A most serious
young woman, if I recall correctly.”
“You recall more than I’d like,” she said,
trying to ignore the flirty comment about her eyes.
“I saw you a few years ago at my mom’s funeral,”
he said. “I asked my dad about you; he said you’d
moved up to Winston-Salem for a while but then came home. What
brought you back?”
“It’s not worth telling,” she said, firmly
shaking her head. “It grieved me when your mama passed.”
“It surprised me you attended her funeral,” he said.
“She went to my church. I wanted to pay my -respects.”
“That’s right.” He laughed. “Everybody
goes to everybody’s funeral up here on the mountain.”
“And they bring a casserole to the house -beforehand.”
A cell phone rang, and Rem held up a hand to put Jenna on hold,
pulled a sleek little gadget from his pocket, and stepped back
a few steps to take the call. Something in the gesture bothered
Jenna, and she suddenly recalled that Rem had always annoyed her,
that he seemed to treat people like they worked for him. Although
no one else ever appeared to notice this, Jenna had long ago reached
the conclusion that Rem Lincoln was a snob.
Part of her wanted to forgive him for the trait. After all, he’d
moved to Hilltop at a hard time—the summer before his junior
year, when his dad became the chief of the four-man police department.
Another part, however, felt no pity whatsoever, because Rem had
quickly taken the little town by storm. A star athlete, he’d
played quarterback on the football team, point guard in basketball,
and pitcher during baseball season. In addition to his abilities
in anything competitive, he’d also whipped through his studies,
particularly excelling in math. Cutting a wide swath in the eight-hundred-student
school, he’d picked up friends as easily as a black skirt
picks up lint and by his senior year had become class president
and earned the “Most Likely to Succeed” superlative.
Every girl in the school had fallen in love with him, Jenna included,
and it seemed he’d eventually gotten around to dating all
of them but her.
Rem closed his cell phone and moved back to her. “Sorry,”
he said. “A pressing situation.”
“You were always busy,” she said stiffly.
He pocketed the phone. “I’ve got to make a business
decision,” he explained. “Almost the end of the year;
taxes and all.”
“What are you doing home?” she asked, a slight edge
rising unbidden in her voice. “Couldn’t you do your
business better in . . . well . . . where
do you live now?”
“Atlanta. Yeah, guess you’re right. But my dad, his
heart isn’t so good, and it’s been a while since I
saw him. Figured I’d come for Christmas this year, flew
in a couple of hours ago.”
He pulled a prescription slip from his jacket and held it up.
“He sent me to pick up his medication.”
“What’s wrong with his heart?”
“The usual. High cholesterol, some clogging in the arteries—too
much bacon and eggs, that kind of thing. He never exercises now
that he’s retired. Not that he did much before.”
“He getting a bypass?”
“Not sure. Since Mama died, he doesn’t seem interested
in much of anything, his health included. I come through every
now and again to check on him, usually for a day or so. He doesn’t
seem to care if I’m here or not.”
Jenna thought of her parents. Although both were alive, they’d
been divorced for about seven years and seemed to find most of
their pleasure by making each other miserable. She usually got
caught in the middle.
“I hope your dad gets better,” she said.
Rem shrugged. “He’s sixty-six. Getting older isn’t
Jenna smiled but only briefly.
“Age isn’t bothering you,” Rem said. “Unless
it’s for the better.”
Jenna waved off his flippant charm, but her heart jumped a little
just the same, and she remembered the first time she’d ever
talked to Rem, the interview she’d done for the school paper.
Serious about her writing, she’d wanted to give the students
of her isolated hamlet a sense of what it felt like to transfer
to a new place. Pen and pad in hand, she’d approached him
after basketball practice near the middle of the season. For some
odd reason, he’d seemed familiar as they sat down on the
bleachers a few feet from the court. Although she knew it was
crazy, she’d felt like she’d met him somewhere. She’d
started to say something about the weird sensation, but her courage
had failed as she opened her mouth, and she’d moved straight
to the interview.
Surprisingly, Rem had revealed little about his background, only
that his dad—a policeman in Knoxville—had gotten shot
in a drug bust and a few months later loaded everybody up and
moved them to Hilltop, where his family had long held some land.
“I had no choice in the move,” Rem had told her matter-of-factly.
“I’ll make the most of it until graduation, then sayonara.”
She’d pressed him to tell how it felt to leave old friends,
what he liked about Hilltop, what he didn’t, what was hard,
what was easy. But he’d refused to discuss any of that.
“Don’t ever look back,” he’d said, his
eyes distant and his tone slightly weary. “Something might
be gaining on you.”
Looking back now, the words sounded too mature for a seventeen-year-old
and vaguely sad too, but she’d not understood that then
and had left the interview frustrated and a little angry. Not
only had she not gotten the story she wanted but Rem had made
no romantic advances, and since he’d made a play on just
about every other attractive girl in school, that had bothered
her a lot. Wasn’t she pretty enough for him?
Rem pointed to Mickey’s picture. “A sick kid, huh?”
Jenna blinked back to the present and reminded herself she wasn’t
a teenager anymore. So what if Rem hadn’t tried to charm
her when they were high school classmates? She didn’t like
him anyway; his ways were too forward for a good Christian girl.
“Yeah, a sick kid,” she said.
“What’s wrong with him?”
“Myelodysplastic syndrome. We need money for a bone marrow
“A form of cancer, right?”
“How do you know that?”
“It’s a long story,” he offered. “How
long you been here?”
She glanced at her watch and saw it was already 9:15. Her eyes
suddenly felt grainy, and she wished she could take out her contacts,
change into soft pajamas, and sip some hot tea.
“Since about six,” she said. “Came right after
“How long you staying?”
“Store closes at ten. I’ll pack up then.”
“Makes for a long day, I guess.”
“Can I buy a cake?” he asked. “Help the kid
“Sure,” she said. “They’re fifteen dollars.”
Rem pulled out his wallet and handed her a hundred-dollar bill.
She bagged the cake and gave it to him, then started counting
“Keep it,” he said.
“Yeah, no problem. Tough break about the boy. How’d
you get so involved?”
She almost asked him why he cared but held her tongue and put
the hundred dollars in the cash box. “Mickey’s family
moved here last summer. I direct the day care he started attending.
His father took a job as a custodian at the high school. But Mickey
got sick before the family insurance kicked in.”
“That’s insane,” Rem said.
She nodded. “I know. But we’ve done everything we
can do. Hired a lawyer, talked to the insurance company until
we’re blue in the face. But everything’s by the book,
“The boy’s going to die if he doesn’t get this
Rem’s face reddened, and a vein in his neck seemed ready
to pop. His concern surprised Jenna, and she wondered why this
mattered to him. He’d leave town the day after Christmas
and never think of Mickey again.
A woman with a couple of children stepped up behind Rem, and
Jenna decided to move Rem along.
“Good to see you,” she said. “Take care of
He propped a hand on the table and gave her a slightly crooked
grin, and Jenna’s spine suddenly felt like someone had run
a frozen feather up and down it. Where had she seen him before?
Not high school, but somewhere else . . .
“I’m here through Christmas,” Rem said softly.
“Maybe we could get a cup of coffee in the next couple of
Jenna saw no reason to drink coffee with a man who would disappear
in a few days. “I don’t like coffee,” she said.
“Lunch then,” he insisted. “You eat, don’t
Jenna glanced at the woman and children behind Rem. The children
pulled at the woman’s skirt, and she looked anxious to get
going. Jenna looked back at Rem and thought she saw a touch of
sadness in his eyes, perhaps even loneliness. Her heart softened,
and she almost said yes but then remembered another man from about
four years back, a man who had cut up her heart and left it in
little clumps. She’d sworn she’d never let that happen
again. Of all the men she needed to avoid, Rem Lincoln stood at
the top of the list. To go out with him made absolutely no sense
“I’m awfully busy between now and Christmas,”
she finally said.
“For old times’ sake,” he pressed. “There’s
not much of my old gang around anymore.”
Jenna’s bad feelings about Rem roiled back up. “I
was never part of your old gang,” she sniffed.
Rem threw out a hand, palm out in defeat. “Okay, tiger,”
he said. “I meant no offense.”
“None taken,” she said, slightly regretful of her
Rem picked up his cake. “Can’t blame a man for trying,”
Jenna nodded. “Merry Christmas.”
Rem walked away, and Jenna gave her attention to the woman and
children. The woman’s jeans were old and the children’s
shoes scuffed and worn.
“Cakes are fifteen,” Jenna said. “Pies are
ten. All the money goes to the Mickey’s Miracle Fund.”
The woman opened her wallet, and Jenna saw she didn’t have
much money. “Make it five for either,” she said. “The
cakes aren’t as fresh as they were this morning.”
The woman smiled and handed her ten dollars, and Jenna gave her
a cake and a pie. The woman and children moved off, and Jenna
pulled fifteen dollars from her purse, added it to the ten from
the woman, and put it in the cash box. The store fell quiet for
a second, and she glanced around and saw Rem in the pharmacy at
the edge of the store. He had his cell phone to his ear as he
waited for his prescription, and she wondered what kind of work
he did that stayed busy right up to Christmas. Important stuff,
she guessed; he dressed like he had money.
She glanced down at her clothes—a pullover wool sweater
that matched her eyes and a pair of black slacks that fit well
against her slender but well-toned legs. She touched her earrings,
a pair of simple aquamarine studs. Although nearly thirty, she
kept in shape by lifting a few weights about three times a week
and running on the treadmill in her mother’s basement. She’d
blossomed since high school; everybody said so. Lost all her baby
fat, let her hair grow some, wore contacts now instead of glasses.
A lot of men found her attractive, and she knew if she lived in
a bigger town, she’d receive a lot of male attention. Of
course, she’d tried that once, and it hadn’t worked
out too well.
She sighed as her mood dropped. Here she was, a month shy of
her thirtieth birthday, and the sight of an acquaintance from
high school caused her this much nostalgia. What was wrong? Rem
made her heart race. So what? His kind and hers didn’t match.
Even if he suddenly announced he planned to settle in Hilltop
and wanted to start seeing her, she wouldn’t go out with
him. His type brought trouble; she knew that from her past. A
woman of faith didn’t waste time with men like Rem Lincoln.
She’d decided that a long time ago and saw no reason to
change it now.
Rem pocketed his cell phone, and Jenna turned back to her pies
and cakes. An elderly woman stepped to the table and Jenna said
hello, but her mind stayed on Rem. Why did he disturb her so?
Why did he feel so familiar? What if he called her and asked her
out? She’d say no, that’s what. She did hope he called
though. At least then she’d get the satisfaction of having
Excerpted from A
Midnight Miracle, by Gary E. Parker, Copyright 2005,
by Revell Books. Used by
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