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The Gifts of Faith - the Stranger - (Ch. 4)

Shauna's imagination became her best friend as a little girl. As an adult and writer, imagination fuels her creative spirit.

The stranger.  Appearances can be very deceiving.

The stranger. Appearances can be very deceiving.

1952 classic MG.  Nathaniel rides in style.

1952 classic MG. Nathaniel rides in style.

Daydream to Nightmare

The bell over the door brought Faith out of her reverie and back to reality. For the first time in ages she saw a soul… and it wasn’t pretty.

The worms frightened her and caused the butterflies to wreak havoc with her belly. As soon as the stranger entered the shop, the butterflies came alive with a vengeance.

Up until this moment, when Faith saw souls they appeared as wispy rings of soft colors, undulating gently as if ripples in a pond.

That was not the case on this day.

At first glance, the gentleman who rang the bell over the door of Bouquets and Rainbows was strikingly handsome. His black hair was neatly pulled back into a ponytail, revealing a strong chin, high cheekbones and sensuous lips. His crystal blue eyes were mesmerizing, but Faith felt that spending too much time looking at those eyes would cause her very soul to heat up and begin a slow burn from the inside out.

What disturbed her most was what she saw in his soul; she’d never seen one like it before in all her days on this earth. Rather than soft and airy, this man’s soul was thick and reminded her of decaying flesh. She’d never encountered a human soul in this form or shade of darkness. His didn’t undulate, rather it writhed continuously, and all the while what appeared to be worms, weaved their way in, out and around his inwardly breathing aura, as if feeding. She felt the worms not only fed his soul but were nourished by it, gaining strength with every movement.

Faith was repulsed and frightened by what she saw. Why is this man here? What business does he have in our quaint peaceful town? And why has he chosen my store?

Gathering all her strength and trying hard to ignore the increasingly feverish dance in her belly, Faith greeted the stranger with a smile.

“Good afternoon! Welcome to Bouquets and Rainbows. How may I help you?” You’re doing just fine, girl. Don’t let him see your fear.

“Why, thank you. You have quite a beautiful little town here. I was out for a leisurely drive from Oakwood and found myself drawn to the old time charm of Flowery Branch. That’s my car right outside the window.” He pointed to a classic 1952 MG convertible, the likes of which this town had never seen.

“It certainly is beautiful. The weather is perfect for a ride in the country. What may I do for you, Mr….?”

“Ah, forgive me. My name is Nathaniel Baxter. I see from your business license that you must be Faith?”

His charm and good looks would seem to be any girl’s dream, but Faith saw the nightmare roiling within. Be strong, girl. Don’t let him see what you see.

“That I am. Now what can I do for you, Mr. Baxter? Are you interested in a bouquet for someone special? Do you have something particular in mind?”

Faith realized that as she put her mind to conducting ‘business as usual’ her resolve strengthened and the butterflies subsided.

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All Faith could see were the dark shadows of his soul

All Faith could see were the dark shadows of his soul

Unexpected Request

“I feel I must be honest with you”, Nathaniel replied with a sheepish grin. “I saw you through the window as I was driving by. You are quite lovely, I must admit. My goodness, you had such a pensive look on your face! As if having a mind of its own, my car drew itself to the curb and here I am! May I be so bold as to ask you to join me for a cup of coffee and perhaps a bite to eat?”

Faith was taken aback by the offer but was pleased that she remained steadfast in appearance. His arrogance may have had something to do with it and for that she was thankful.

“I appreciate your kind offer, Mr. Baxter but…”

“Please, call me Nathaniel.”

“…my partner is out at the moment and I have no one to run the shop if I leave.”

“Then I’ll wait until she returns or you close up shop. It’s nearly 4:30. The sign on the door says you close at 6:00 p.m. That’s right about dinner time. What do you say? Will you do me the honor of having dinner with me?”

Faith was a bit nonplussed by his persistence, but refused to show it. Although she had gained strength over her fears of this man, the worms continued to writhe and roil before her eyes.

She wanted to puke.

“Again, I appreciate your offer Mr. – uh - Nathaniel, but I really can’t. I have other plans.”

“Well, you can’t blame a guy for trying. I hope to see you again sometime soon, Faith.”

With that, he turned and headed for his car.

Damn, he looks good in those jeans. Faith, what the hell is wrong with you?? You of all people see he’s a snake in disguise. Don’t be drawn in by his charm. His venom will be the death of you. Or worse….

Six Months Later

Business was better than it had been in years. With the mild winter, Spring came early and the gardens were flourishing, which meant a constant supply of blooms for Bouquets and Rainbows. Faith and Sarah spent most of their weekends tending to the gardens, weeding, pruning and singing to the blossoms as a mother would her child.

Finally, after months of hard work with no break, the girls deemed themselves a well-deserved holiday and settled in to do much of nothing. They agreed to meet at Faith’s house one Sunday in October to spend the day in their pajamas watching TV and munching on junk food.

Faith and Sarah were enjoying an afternoon movie and some popcorn when the doorbell rang. Lily, (Kitty’s gift to Faith before she died of old age) was annoyed by the interruption and leaped off Faith’s lap to see who had the gall to interrupt ‘Forest Gump’ when they were all so cozy. It didn’t matter that they’d seen the movie umpteen times; they’d probably watch it many times again – it’s that good.

Sarah hit pause on the remote while Faith answered the door.

When she returned to the living room, Faith looked white as a ghost, which was out of character for her. Faith had always been so strong; not much fazed her - ever.

In her hand was a ceramic tea kettle adorned with live Lily of the Valley. The aroma immediately permeated the room and brought back memories.

“Who are they from, Faith?” Sarah wasn't sure she was ready for the answer.

Shauna L Bowling

Refining, Defining or Rhyming

All Rights Reserved

Let's Give Sarah Some Time

Catch up on the Beginning of the Story Here

The Gifts of Faith (Ch. I)

The Ache in her joints was enough to foretell the impending weather. As if to validate her premonition, the smell of rich earth was emanating from the air. Rain was soon to come - and with a vengeance. Faith always seemed to prepare but never knew what to expect. She didn't know why, by her 'feelings' never proved to be misgivings.

The Gifts of Faith - The Rainbow (Ch. II

As the colors became more brilliant, the yellow hues seemed to separate from the rainbow, reaching to the earth in a gentle golden rain. Even Kitty stopped chasing butterflies as the earth-bound rainbow shower changed from gold to white then gold again before settling in the meadow just ahead.

The Gifts of Faith - Bouquets and Rainbows (Ch. III)

The fragrant scent of Lily of the Valley always takes Faith back to that day 20 years ago when she met the soul of her sister Hope. Thinking back, she knew the day would be memorable when she witnessed a rainbow arcing its way to the earth mere yards from where she stood in her favorite meadow. The events of that day would forever change her life, although she was unaware of it at the time.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Shauna L Bowling


Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on November 24, 2014:

Mary, Lily of the Valley is one of my favorite flowers. Unfortunately, they don't grow in Florida, but I remember them as a little girl when we lived in Pennsylvania. For such delicate little flowers, they have an awesome fragrance.

Mary Craig from New York on November 24, 2014:

Oh my, someone intruding into Faith's life? What beautiful pictures you paint with your words Sha. I can almost see the flowers the 'girls' are working on out in the field and smell the beautiful scent of the Lily of the Valley...a favorite of my mother and mother-in-law. I'll be off to chapter 5 soon.

Voted all but funny.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on June 24, 2014:

Take you time, Ruby. You'll probably catch up before I get the next chapter written. Nathaniel is a hunk. What's his story? Hmmm.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on June 23, 2014:

This is another great episode! Nathaniel sounds like he won't take no for an answer. He sounds like a hunk from your detailed discription. Loved this.. It's taking me awhile to catch up but i'll get there...

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on April 26, 2014:

Paula, your comment keeps me moving on. I love writing fiction. I wasn't aware of that until I began this story!

Suzie from Carson City on April 26, 2014:

Absolutely awesome....I am not even able to GUESS what's going on....what will happen. I'm just taking in the beauty and mystery and expecting to be continually thrilled & entranced.............

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on April 05, 2014:

Thank you, Epi. Your comment inspires me to keep this going until the last paragraph is written. Then it'll be compiling/editing/re-writing time. I hope to get this published when it's finished.

epigramman on April 05, 2014:

I really must say Shauna that you have such a nice immaculate way of writing - it just flows so smoothly and effortlessly .

I am so impressed with your style and literary panache.

This is a great way to finish my last coffee of the day after night shift sleep - Saturday 1:22pm

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on January 31, 2014:

Addictive? Very cool. I love a book I can't put down. You just made my day, Ghost!

Ghost32 on January 30, 2014:

Ah, yes, the trusty Devil In Blue Jeans. Most excellent. (One of my songs carries that title, The Devil In Blue Jeans, starting the lyrics with, "He never understood why some folks hated him on sight....").

There is of course no real mystery as to why Nasty Nate would show up. The brighter the spiritual light, the more powerfully the dark is drawn to it--with, as you've shown, naught but ulterior motives and bad intentions. No good deed goes unpunished if the Dark Side has anything to say about it.

I can see I'll not be able to quit reading this series tonight until I've caught up completely. It's...addictive.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on January 25, 2014:

Thank you, Eddy. I appreciate it. I know how busy you've been lately!

Eiddwen from Wales on January 25, 2014:

Captivating indeed Shauna and now waiting to move onto next Chapter.

A winner for sure.


Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on January 12, 2014:

Linda, we'll have to see. Nathaniel's purpose in the scheme of things is still formulating in my mind. As soon as it becomes clear to me, I'll move on to chapter six.

Linda Rogers from Minnesota on January 11, 2014:

I am so enthralled in this series. You are a great fiction writer my friend. This is so fun to read. That guy might be cute but what a 'wolf in sheep's clothing.' I know Faith will do the right thing about him. Or will she??? LOL

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on January 07, 2014:

Nathaniel gives Faith the heebie jeebies, too Kim!

இڿڰۣ-- кιмвєяℓєу from Niagara Region, Canada on January 07, 2014:

I don't know about everybody else, but Nathaniel gives me the heebie jeebies! Suspense and foreboding...

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on December 15, 2013:

Thanx for stopping by, Faith. The next chapter should be on the way soon!

Faith Reaper from southern USA on December 15, 2013:

Love how this story is unfolding, getting more mysterious each time. Never trust a silver-tongue devil, especially a literal one! You are a good creative writer.

Up and more

Blessings, Faith Reaper

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on December 02, 2013:

Thanx for taking the time to catch up, Nell. The next chapter should be interesting. We'll see what comes next...

Nell Rose from England on December 01, 2013:

Hi, loving the story, I had to go back a bit to play catchup, but this is certainly an eerie story, can't wait for the next episode so to speak! lol!

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on November 30, 2013:

Thank you for reading, mylindaelliott. There's more to come!

mylindaelliott from Louisiana on November 29, 2013:

Beautiful story, scary guy, but I love the story.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on November 26, 2013:

Crafty, I'm so glad you found the time. With Thanksgiving being just two days away I can appreciate the lack of time; our energies are needed elsewhere. I'm so pleased that this story is keeping you captivated!

CraftytotheCore on November 26, 2013:

Amazing! I was mesmerized from the beginning to the end. Sorry it took me so long to get over here, I never made it on at all yesterday. But I'm certainly glad I stopped by. Can't wait for the next chapter! So exciting! The photos you used here really help bring my imagination to life too. :D

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on November 26, 2013:

Dianna, thank you so much. I'm having fun with this story. I never know what's going to happen with Faith until I start writing.

Dianna Mendez on November 25, 2013:

I am so impressed with your writing of fiction. Your weaving story characters is well done. Faith seems like someone I would enjoy being friends with as well.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on November 25, 2013:

Anna, I knew what you meant and took it as a huge compliment! Thank you. You've made my day! :-)

Anna Haven from Scotland on November 25, 2013:

Just to clarify. I didn't mean your plot line was similar to the books I download. I meant that I read lots of books in this genre and yours is a damn fine one :)

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on November 25, 2013:

Anna, I already have an idea reeling in my head for chapter 5. Stay tuned!

Anna Haven from Scotland on November 25, 2013:

Well this is warming up perfectly! The beautiful Nathianiel has arrived with a black heart and hidden intentions. Very intriguing.

This is the kind of book I download from Amazon all the time and you have done a great job of continuing to layer in the suspense and mystery with this chapter.

I await Faith's next move with interest!

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on November 25, 2013:

DJ, you might need to get up from time to time to you know, sleep and eat? Ha ha. I'll try not to make it so long between chapters.....

Faith doesn't like the worms either.

DJ Anderson on November 24, 2013:

No, Sha. That's not fair. I had just settled in for a nice long read.

I can envision everything that you are talking about. Don't like the worms, but all else is really great.

I'll be sitting right here waiting for your next installment.


Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on November 24, 2013:

Martie, teacher of the short story, I am extremely pleased that you like The Gifts of Faith. I can't begin to tell you what that means to me!

Martie Coetser from South Africa on November 24, 2013:

Bravewarrior, you got it!


Waiting in anticipation for the next chapter :)

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on November 24, 2013:

Pearl, thank you so much for your very gracious comment. I would love to earn my living by writing fiction. I like the idea you present. My only problem is it takes a while between chapters before Faith jumps in my head and continues with her story. I will give your idea some thought, tho for sure!

Connie Smith from Southern Tier New York State on November 24, 2013:

bravewarrior, all I can say is !WOW!

You've got me wanting more of this story for sure. This is awesome writing, my friend. You are so talented and versatile! Please keep 'em coming. Have you ever thought about doing this series, or one like it, for a magazine like Reader's Digest? This is high caliber stuff, my friend ;) Pearl

Voted Up++++ and shared.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on November 24, 2013:

Bill, your comment means the world to me. I'd love to write fiction for a living. Maybe if I keep digging online I can find something to pay the bills with fiction writing.

Enjoy your Sunday!

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on November 24, 2013:

Flourish, stay tuned. I can't give you any hints or you'll have no reason to read. :-) Have you read the whole story? Perhaps you'll find at least part of an answer to one of your questions. I'm pleased this chapter has invoked so many questions.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on November 24, 2013:

I'm kind of rushed this morning but I had to stop by. One thing I want you to know, Sha, is that you are a very good fiction writer. You proved that in the contest I had last year, and this fine piece of writing just reinforces that statement. Well done my friend; great story.

FlourishAnyway from USA on November 24, 2013:

Is the handsome stranger some evil, a devil, in disguise perhaps, and does he mean her harm for some reason? Makes me wonder why he was so compelled to stop suddenly and read such a tiny detail in the business license. He was on a mission in search for her specifically. I am interested in the choice of flowers, as the lily of the valley may represent symbolically Christ's second coming, as the flowers are also known as Mary's or Jacob's tears. ??

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on November 24, 2013:

Mom, I have an idea in mind for the appearance of Nathaniel. We'll see how it pans out!

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on November 24, 2013:

Maria, fiction is my preferred genre. I just wish I could make a living at it. I'm glad you're enjoying the story. You're a great friend, always there to encourage me and I love you dearly for that!

Barbara Cook on November 24, 2013:

You have me on the hook. I'm wondering why such foreboding would come Faith's way. She has led a wholesome life--what harm and fear should come her way? Very intriguing. I'll dangle until you find the answers. Good writing!

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on November 23, 2013:

Dear Sha,

I am absolutely loving the unfolding of this mystical and beautiful story... I am appreciative that you are allowing yourself to do what I think you love best as you have time...your creative, fictional work.

The story is compelling, interesting, and leaves me wanting more sooner than you can produce...which is a wonderful!

The Stevie Nicks song was pure heaven so thanks also for me, this genre is your "thang"! Love, Maria

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