Sneak Peek Into ~ There Abideth Hope
University of Illinois, Chicago Campus
Lynne Temple’s frame hit the wrestling mat on the gym floor. “Oomph!” She gasped for air as she leaped to her feet, resuming her fighting stance, arms extended, semi-flexed, gloved fists ready. “Bring it on, Jimmy Boy.” She squared off against her muscular opponent.
She and Jim circled each other a few feet apart. Her eyes locked onto his, tracking every slight movement.
He grinned. “Gotta watch that leg sweep, Sis. It’ll take down the best of them, especially when the kicker’s got the extra reach, like me.”
Lynne set her jaw and narrowed her eyes. At six feet, three inches, he towered over her. Why couldn’t she have been a little taller than five feet eight? She’d have bruises on bruises after this bout.
Although three and four years her senior, her brothers, Jeff and Jim, had always treated her as their equal. Too bad her brothers couldn’t get home on leave from the Marine Corps more often to help with her training.
“Oww! At least there’s not a dust cloud filling our nostrils like there used to be when we sparred in the barn back home.” One of these days, she’d get the better of him. “Remember the ballet lessons Mom insisted on for poise when I was in high school?”
Jim snickered. “Yeah. But they helped with balance and endurance.”
“Strengthened my bones too. Good thing, the way you guys tossed me around in that barn. But I loved it.”
He let out a bark of a laugh. “We never could get Mom to see how these exercises build character. But I’m glad you kept up with it. After seeing some of the guys who hang around campus, you may need these skills.”
Lynne’s shoulders and thighs throbbed from repeated collisions with the floor, but she resumed her position. “Come on, Big Brother. What are you waiting for? Afraid of your little sissy?” That should get him riled.
Her mind ventured back to a Midwestern summer day when the heat had turned the barn into a sauna. She and Jim had jabbed, kicked, blocked, and lunged. Sweat streamed down her face and drenched her gloves and rubberized sparring helmet as she’d weaved and parried. Black and blue marks on her body were common back then. Not so much anymore.
Lynne dodged another leg sweep. “Ha! Missed.” And Mom…dear Mom. She’d had a stern admonition for them when they got back to the house.
“You know, Jim? Should’ve brought a change of clothes to the barn out there on the farm. We could’ve jumped in the pond out back to clean up after we finished with our bouts. Mom would’ve never known.”
“Yeah, right. Keep telling yourself that, Lynnie. You know Mom.” He winked.
“Okay, Sis. Pivot, high kick, left, right, again, again, recover. Now balance, spin, round kick, left, right, again, again, recover. Jab, jab, left, right, again, again. That’s it. You’re doing great.”
“You’d think I was trying out for a tournament.” She bent her frame, hands on her thighs, catching her breath.
“Awesome.” He gave her a high-five. “Let’s quit and go through cooldown exercises.”
Lynne’s limbs felt like hunks of lead. Her insteps ached, and her muscles burned with fatigue, but she made it through the cooldown and collapsed on the mat. “I can’t move a finger.”
Jim reached out his arm, grabbed her by the wrist, and pulled her up as if she were a feather.
“Thanks. I sure love it when you and Jeff take time to visit me on your leaves.”
“We do too. Hey…remember the day Dad stuck up for us when Mom got all upset over our fighting? Just before you left for Chicago.”
“How could I forget the way her jaw dropped when we walked in covered in straw bits and dirt? She said you’d beat permanent black and blue welts into me one of these days. Then it was my turn for a tongue lashing. ‘Lynnie, just look at you. Anyone would think you’d been caught in your father’s combine.’ Boy, was she upset that time.”
Lynne mirrored Jim’s grin. She reached into her backpack and pulled out a shiny red apple. “Mom worries too much.” Lynne sunk her teeth into the fruit.
Jim stole the apple from between her teeth. “She’s a mom.”
“Hey, Stinker, get your own.” Lynne tried to snatch it back as he held it high over her head. “Gimme that.”
“Nope.” He stuck his tongue out at her. “That day was when Dad reminded Mom you had your heart set on becoming a nurse, and that meant school in the big city. He said the training we gave you might help you out in a jam someday.”
“Dad just didn’t want to alarm Mom, but he was right. Although nothing’s ever happened here on campus, even though it sure isn’t as quiet as living in Kewanee, Illinois.”
With a pounce like a puma, Lynne launched a successful grab at the apple before Jim could take another bite. She eyed the enormous hole in the fruit and grimaced at him, then reached into her backpack for a second apple and handed it to her brother.
“Thanks, Squirt.” He tapped the back of her head. “Another year of this training and you’ll be able to take on any guy in my outfit.”
She took a bite of her apple. Take on any guy? “Jim, do you think Mom’s accepted my decision to have a career in the Navy? I’m still not ready to settle down like I know she’d rather I did. Haven’t met anyone I’m serious about yet. You think there’s something wrong with me?”
Her brother picked up his gym bag and cocked his head at her. “Not a thing wrong with you. I, for one, am glad you haven’t met Mr. Right. Jeff and I wouldn’t be able to give him a thorough checking out the way things are right now with us overseas most of the time.” He chuckled. “Nothing’s wrong with you. I saw the way the guys eyed my gorgeous, hazel-eyed sister today.”
He ruffled her short brown hair. “Look, not every girl gets married and starts a family right out of high school, or even college. You do what you think is right, okay? Just like you always do.”
The siblings headed for the exit. “The Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps here at the university has been great. I’m excited about finishing next spring. I’ve prayed about it, and God’s given me peace. With Dad having been a Navy Corpsman, I knew he understood.”
Jim nodded. “They both stand by your decision.” He turned to her. “Just before I left to spend the day with you, Mom hugged me and said, ‘God’s kept you and your brother in His hand all this time. I guess He can take care of Lynnie too.’ It’s just hard on her.”
“Thanks for telling me that, Jim. Serving is something I have to do. After I pass my exams and finish my last year, which won’t be easy-peasy.” She passed through the door Jim held open. “This year at school has been the fun part. New friendships, studying together, pizza parties. And I’ve been close enough to go home often. It’s been a real adventure. Good memories. Not a sour note among them, so far.”