The Carol of the Rooms Bonus Scene

As Terri pulled into the driveway, she noticed an unfamiliar car. Not that a visitor was at all unusual. Gramps had a variety of people stop by, many from his days in ministry.

She checked her phone. No new messages. The board for Sunrise had been meeting earlier, but she’d had a packed schedule and had been unable to make the meeting. After meetings this morning and an onsite inspection this afternoon, she had a court date. One she’d not told Alexander or Mia about.

When Terri let herself into the kitchen door, Maggie put a finger to her lips.

Maggie stepped closer and whispered. “Dad has a guest.”

“Should I say hello?” She knew many of Gramps’s visitors, but some sought his counsel and wisdom. In those cases, she didn’t like to interrupt.

“That’s up to you.” Maggie’s eyes practically danced. “Bethany wanted me to ask if Alexander and Mia could spend the night. Tomorrow she’s going to take the children to the water park.”

Terri chewed her lip. Her cousin had been so wonderful about having Terri’s kids over to play with her own. However, Terri couldn’t concentrate on Bethany’s invitation right now. She really wanted to share her big news. Mia would be ecstatic.

A deep voice from the living room caught her attention. She turned questioning eyes to Maggie.

“Got to go,” Maggie kissed her cheek. “I’ll tell Bethany you don’t mind.” With that, she headed down the hall to tell Mia and Alexander to pack an overnight bag.

Terri crept closer to the window petition. She could see Gramps and his visitor, but they couldn’t see her. They were discussing his parents. She took a moment to study him. He still had a full head of hair, but it had become peppered with white, or as Gramps said, his “wisdom.” The thought made her smile.

Mark Beaver. She never imagined she’d see him again. They’d not been face to face in over twenty years, since the day at the cabin when she sent him away. He looked good in a suit. She couldn’t make much out with his back to her.

“When my wife died …” The words drifted through the entryway.

Terri swallowed. Hard. His wife had died. Her heart filled with sadness. When? How? She’d last seen him in his interview at Wicked. And, of course, the glimpse she’d had of him praying in the rooms.

Mark shifted in his seat.

She needed to make her presence known. Yet, she didn’t want to interrupt. Maybe she should check on Alexander and Mia, but her feet refused to budge.

Mark cleared his throat. “How’s Terri?”

This was her chance. It was now or never. Her hands trembled as she took a step forward. “Why don’t you ask her yourself?”

Mark whipped around, his eyes growing wide. “Terri?” His voice caught.

“Mark.” She took a deep breath and then stepped forward.

He was instantly on his feet and met her halfway, hugging her. Then he stepped back to look at her. “You look … different.”

She tossed her head back in a laugh. “I am.”

Gramps beamed from his recliner. “Tell him about your experience.”

“Please.” Mark waited for her to be seated before he reclaimed his chair.

“It’s been about three years …” she began, telling him about her experience in the rooms and hearing the soundtrack of her life. “My life has completely changed since then.”

He leaned forward. “Tell me.”

Muffled voices drifted down the hallway. “Why don’t I show you first.” A moment later, Alexander and Mia joined them. “This is a good friend of mine, Mark Beaver.” The children had heard stories about her childhood.

“From your schooldays?” Alexander asked.

She tousled his hair. “Yes, from my schooldays.” Then she turned to Mark. “These are my children. I adopted Alexander and Mia about a year ago.”

“Now if only Libby could come live with us.” Mia sighed, probably not even realizing she’d said it. Her best friend from the orphanage often visited and had sleepovers. Mia had not been shy in her desire to make Libby her sister.

“Well …” Terri wrapped an arm around Mia’s shoulder. “I didn’t want to say anything until I knew for sure, but …”

Mia looked up with wide eyes.

“I saw a judge this afternoon. He gave permission for me to become Libby’s foster mom.”

“So, she will be my sister?” Mia jumped up and down.

“Let’s see how this goes first, but that’s the plan.”

“Can we go tell her now?” Mia’s eyes held so much hope.

Terri’s eyes met Mark’s. More than anything, she wanted to catch up.

“Let me make a call.” Five minutes later, she informed the children that May gave approval for Bethany to pick Libby up. Then the three of them would have a sleepover with Bethany’s children.

“How old are you?” Mark asked the children.

Alexander straightened his shoulders. “I just turned twelve, and Mia is nine.” He turned to his sister. “How old is Libby?”

“She’s not had her birthday yet. So she’s eight.”

Mark grinned. “I have four children. Two boys and two girls, ages fifteen, thirteen, eleven, and my youngest will turn nine next month.”

“Can we meet them?” Mia looked up at Terri uncertainly.

Terri pulled her onto her lap. “I’m sure at some point it can be arranged.” Then she looked at Mark. “That is, if you don’t mind.”

He smiled. “They’d be thrilled, particularly if we move back to the area.  I know they could use some friends.”

Her heart pounded. “You’re moving back to Charlotte?”

He nodded. “I hope so. Of course, it depends on finding a job, but I had an interview earlier I feel good about.”

She looked over at Gramps, who continued to beam, as if he knew some secret.

“What type of job did you interview …”

The door burst open, and Libby rushed in. Mia let out a squeal, and they hugged, talking in unison.

Terri excused herself and made her way outside. She spoke with Bethany a moment before taking Libby’s bags. Never in her wildest dreams did she imagine she’d have children. Now she had three. Plus, Timmy often came over to play with Alexander. He’d warmed his way into her heart and become her bonus child.

As she made her way back inside, her phone rang. “Hello,” she answered, gesturing for Alexander to take Libby’s bags.

“Terri, the board asked me to call you.” Ethan spoke over the line. “We’ve been interviewing candidates for administrator.”

She took a deep breath. “I see.” It had been difficult to relinquish control to the board, but she trusted their judgment. With mentoring Abigail, launching Generation Outreach, running the firm, and taking care of the children and Gramps, she had her hands full. She’d recently hired two junior architects to join the firm and take some of the pressure off herself. The last few years had taught her she couldn’t do everything by herself, and it was okay to ask for help.

“After much discussion and prayer, we’ve unanimously voted on the person we think will be the best administrator for Sunrise.” He listed a few reasons such as experience and heart. “But most of all, the person we have in mind has a strong faith. I think he’s an honest man with integrity who will seek the Lord.”

Terri looked through the window at Mark as he talked with her children. I bet he’s a wonderful father.

“Terri,” Ethan pulled her back from her reverie.

“Yes, I’m sorry. Set up a meeting. If he’s as great as you claim, we’ll have an offer to him before the end of the week.”

Ethan said something about the candidate being from out of town. After checking her schedule, Terri gave him a time for tomorrow afternoon. “What’s his name?”

“Mark. Mark Beaver.”

Terri caught her breath, and she leaned against the brick terrace. Mark was the candidate. What is going on here, Lord? I’ve not seen or heard from him in years, and suddenly he’s steamrolling back into my life. She looked at him again. Man, he looked good. The lyrics to “Till There Was You” came to mind. Why did I have to watch The Music Man with Gramps last night?

She cleared her throat. “Ethan, draw up that offer letter. You won’t believe this, but he’s sitting in Gramps’s living room as we speak.”

Ethan let out a low whistle and said something else, but Terri barely heard him.

By the time she returned to the group, Mark was on the phone. He locked eyes with Terri and held them. “You’re the architect behind Sunrise?” He watched her closely.

She sank onto her recliner. “I am.” She then shared how the idea for Sunrise came to her. Somewhere along the way, the children left with Bethany. “And you? Tell me about your wife.”

Sadness filled his eyes. “She died three years ago. Car accident.” He swallowed. “It’s been difficult. That’s part of why I want to return to the area. My parents are growing older, and I’d like to spend time with them. Plus, they can help with the children.”

“Hopefully, they’ll become good friends with my three.” It felt good to say “her three,” but it would also take some getting used to.

“And what about us? Would you be willing to be my friend again?”

She stood and stepped in front of him. “Mark, you loved me for a long time, and I was a fool. I’m so sorry. I should have seen the truth staring me in the face. Instead, I let anger get the best of me.” Maybe one day she’d tell him about the life they could have had together. That had been one part she’d omitted earlier. “I’d love to be your friend, and if you ever decide that you’d like to date me … then … well …I’m here.”

Mark stood and cupped her face. “Even though you’ll be my boss?”

She laughed. “Technically, the board will be your boss. But I have a feeling your interview will go well tomorrow.”

He ran a thumb over her cheek and down her jaw. “I’ve waited a long time to do this.” With that, he lowered his head and brushed her lips with his.

Terri wrapped her arms around his neck. As he broke off the kiss, she rose onto her tiptoes and pulled him closer for another, deeper kiss. Sophia must be grinning at them if she could see from heaven. She’d tried to tell Terri so long ago that she and Mark belonged together.

“Thank you, Lord, for allowing me to see this day.” Gramps clapped. “This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made.”

Terri’s heart soared. As she met Mark’s eyes, her heart exploded with a love she’d not dreamed possible until Alexander and Mia opened her heart. It was true—she’d loved Mark for a long time. Even when she didn’t realize it. And I will always love you.