Thursday, October 24, 1929
Late afternoon sunlight filtered through the windows of the small Methodist church, casting a golden glow over the bride and groom as well as the family and friends who had gathered to witness the exchange of vows between Andrew Henning and Helen Greyson.
Andrew had fallen in love with Helen almost the instant they'd met in late autumn of 1924. She'd been sixteen at the time. Too young for him, he'd told himself, and life too complicated. He'd been nearly twenty and preparing to leave for his first semester of college up in Moscow. He'd had no time for romance. He'd needed to stay focused on one thing—obtaining his degree.
And yet romance had blossomed between them, despite the distance and long absences. Over the next four and a half years, they'd written countless letters to each other. He'd studied and held down a part-time job and dreamed of the day she would become his bride.
Today was that day. Five long years after first meeting her.
As he looked at Helen now, he knew there had never been a more beautiful bride. Her dark hair was mostly hidden by the white of her veil, but nothing concealed the rosy blush in her cheeks as she promised to love, honor, and obey him.
How was I lucky enough to win her heart? How did I ever convince her to wait for me?
It amazed him every time he thought about it. He was twenty-four years old, a university graduate—the first in his family to earn a college degree— and recently employed by a bank in Boise. His income was good, and his future seemed bright. Still, Helen could have had her pick of much more successful men, had she wanted. But she hadn't wanted. She'd chosen him. She loved him.
He wouldn't ever let her regret that choice. Not ever. When he'd proposed, he'd promised her a good life, full of all kinds of modern conveniences and luxuries, and he meant to keep those promises. Nothing would keep him from it.
HOPE SPRINGS, IDAHO
The drive through Hope Springs took Ridley Chesterfield all of about a minute or so, even at only fifteen miles per hour. Downtown consisted of a few small retail shops, including a grocery store and a large local government building that appeared to house the post office, the mayor's office, and the police station. Off the main drag, he caught sight of a couple of school buildings as well as a town park. No traffic lights. No parking meters. A slice of Mayberry RFD.
His mom had told him the town had charm. He would have to trust her on that.
After arriving at the log house a short while later, he unlocked the front door and stepped inside. The air was cool, the room cloaked in shadows. Rather than reaching for the light switch, he stepped over to the nearest window and opened the blinds, letting daylight spill into the sparsely furnished room.
His mom and stepfather—they currently lived and worked in Arizona—had purchased this property a couple of months before. Located in a remote mountain valley north of Boise, it was to be their vacation home until they retired from their respective jobs a decade or so from now. Then they planned to live in Hope Springs year round.
Ironic, wasn't it? A man without hope taking refuge in a town with that name. A laugh devoid of humor escaped his throat.
His mom had told him the two-story house had a charm similar to the town's, and he supposed she was right about that. But it also needed work, both inside and out, and for that he was thankful. The more things he had to do to keep himself busy, the better. And the more physical the labor, the better. Anything to keep him from dwelling on the circumstances that had brought him there. The less he thought about that, also the better.
"Whatever is true,'" he reminded himself aloud, "whatever is honorable, whatever is right . . . dwell on these things.'"
Easier said than done. For the past few weeks, he'd waffled between regret and rage, between the need to justify himself and the desire to beat himself up for his own stupidity and blind trust. Dwelling on what was true, honorable, right, and whatever else that verse in Philippians said was a whole lot harder than he'd imagined.
Clenching his jaw, he did his best to shut off his thoughts altogether. Instead, he concentrated on a tour of the house.