With a dead-end job in a small town, Miley finds herself bored and longing for change. When it comes in the form of a gorgeous stranger, she’s pleasantly surprised until he’s arrested for murder. Could her long awaited love be a murderer? Or are things not what they appear. Find out in the latest installment of the Diamond Lake Series by T.K. Chapin. From the best-selling Inspirational Christian Romance Author comes a story that will keep you turning the pages in anticipation of what happens next. One Tuesday Lunch is book six in the Diamond Lake Series by T.K. Chapin.
Targeted Age Group:: 18 and above
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I wrote this book to help people who are going through what feels like an impossible situation. Sometimes, we feel as if the whole world is against us and we want so badly to control things, but oftentimes, while we are busy trying our own way, God is working behind the scenes elsewhere. This story centers on a woman who helps a stranger. My hope for this story is that it blesses you as much as it did me while writing it.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Every character in my book is based off of someone I know or have met in life. I like to add the good and the quirky personality traits I see so that readers can identify easier and draw closer to God along with the characters in my books.
Sliding my index finger around the rim of my cola at Dixie’s Diner, I sat in a booth, attempting to enjoy the last few minutes of my lunch break. Attempting was all I was doing, though, I couldn’t shake my latest funk I was in. I hadn’t been out on a date in three months, and the only friend I saw outside of Serenah was my co-workers, which were not really ‘friends.’ My hopes of starting night school this coming spring were reduced to a pile of rubble last week. My own fault, of course. A run down to the Newport Emergency Room for a late-night visit because I thought something was wrong has a way of costing a bit more on the back end, as in I hit a curb in the parking lot and had to get my bumper repaired. The funny thing is my abnormal heartbeat I went in for fixed itself before I ever saw a doctor. They still ran a slew of tests at my request. Perhaps, part of me wanted something to be wrong. It’d given the daily mundane drip of life a bit of flavor.
The routines of day in and day out work were wearing thin on me. With no savings and the only money I ever saw coming in was in the form of crumpled dollar bills stuck between salt and pepper shakers on tables, I felt stuck.
Life wasn’t supposed to be this way.
“Miley,” Wendy, my manager, said with that same dry, stern voice that I had come to loathe over the years. She’s never been the same after her husband of twenty years left her for his secretary years ago.
“Yeah?” What I wanted to say I couldn’t. She’d fire me if I told her to leave me alone on my lunch hour. That wouldn’t be kind either, though, and I think I’m a fairly nice person. At least, that’s the image I try to keep up when I’m around people. They don’t see or hear the thoughts I have on the inside.
“I need you to take an order to a man that moved into Paul’s old place up the road. You know where I’m talking about?”
“Yes.” Paul was a frequent customer before he passed away a couple of years ago. “The old blue house on Claremont Street?”
“A simple ‘yes’ would have been sufficient. The order will be ready after your break; it’s already paid for.” She turned and went back to the manager’s office without another word, slamming the door behind her. Cringing at the sound, I thought, what a miserable life she must live. To let the pain of the past dictate and seep into the future. I had my moments too, though they were secret, in the comfort of my own home.
After finishing my break, I picked up the order and headed out the door. The sun shone brightly that afternoon, but it did little to warm me. Early January wasn’t exactly the best time of year for a walk, but I surely wasn’t going to waste gas driving. Plus, I’d enjoy every second of time outside of that diner. A little chill in the air wasn’t going to stop me.
The thought of calling in sick crossed my mind daily as I would lay in bed and dread getting up only to go to work. The work itself wasn’t the issue—it was the boss. At least when Charlotte and Serenah worked with me, I had a friendly face to look forward to. They made the painful experience of working under Wendy at least bearable. Diego did also. It was too bad Diego quit a couple of months ago after being chastised for being five minutes late, he couldn’t take it anymore. I don’t like that woman.
Arriving at the sidewalk in front of the old blue house, I fidgeted with the gate on the chain link fence. It was jammed. It appeared rusty and crusted over with snow and ice. It made me curious how often it was used. Finally, after a few smacks and a couple of yanks, I got the gate open. Walking up the crumbling walkway to the house, I could hear a faint bark coming from inside the house. Please don’t have a big dog, I thought to myself as I came to the door.
The muffled sound of footsteps shuffling around inside mingled with the anxious bark of a dog. Spotting a small table on the porch near the door beside a chair, I noticed a small metal box not bigger than the size of a can of tuna. It had a combination lock on it. Part of me wanted to go look, but then the door opened.
“What do you want?” an attractive yet hostile appearing man asked, gripping the door with white knuckles.
I froze, saying nothing.
“Who are you?” the man demanded grumpily. His unshaven stubble on his chin was just enough to give him a rugged look. He took a hop through the doorway toward me as he held himself up with a hand against the door frame. He glanced to his left and then to his right at the neighbors’ houses. I did notice he was missing leg, but I didn’t look. My eyes couldn’t shy away from his gaze when he turned it back on me.
Taking a step back, my heart raced. “Miley. I’m from Dixie’s Diner . . . I’m delivering your order.”
“Oh.” He dropped his hand that was clutched to the door jamb. His face softened, and his tone lightened. “Sorry about that.” A part of me still felt uneasy, maybe even a little scared—scared to appreciate just how easy he was on the eyes. Every muscle in my body was rattling like a window on a house near a set of train tracks. My mind was still fixated on that look he gave me a moment earlier.
“Here,” I said, shooting out my hand. Once he took the plastic sack with his meal from my hand, I turned and left, nerves still rattling as I walked away. Once I got to the sidewalk and out of his sight, I booked it back to the diner.
Arriving back at Dixie’s Diner, I discovered Wendy had already left. That was probably for the best because I was about to walk up to her and quit for making me do that. There had to be some rule about not endangering employees. Home trips weren’t part of this job when I signed up, especially home trips to attractive, crazy men who could crush me with one hand. After speaking with Melanie, another server, for a few minutes after I returned, I was able to calm down and hand it over to God. That part was hard . . . for me, at least. Handing it all over to God required letting it go. I do love God, pray and read my Bible daily, but I often find myself struggling to let go of controlling certain parts of my life. I struggle to not let my emotions take the steering wheel in the heat of a moment.
I was off by three that afternoon, so I decided to pay a visit to the wisest friend I had—Serenah. She always seemed to give all to God. She was so inspiring to me. My heart longed to someday be like that woman in my own walk with Christ. After the incident, I clung to the idea of visiting with her the rest of my shift. She would know how to help calm my anger toward Wendy.
She was good like that.
When Brody Jenkins and I broke up, I was an absolute wreck. I think I went through more tissues and chocolate covered raisins in a period of a week than most people do in a lifetime. Anyway, Serenah was there immediately after I told her about the breakup. She stayed with me for a couple of days and helped me through it. She was the best.
Arriving to the inn, I parked and went up to the door. Giving the door a few good knocks, I stepped back and waited.
Charlie answered. He looked tired, worn out. “Hey.” His voice was cold as the cool, still air of winter. “Serenah’s not feeling too well today, Miley.”
“Oh.” His words shattered my hopes in an instant. I wanted to speak to her, tell her about the difficulties with Wendy. It had been a while since I saw her last, probably about a month’s time. It was at the funeral for Emma, Serenah already had a cute baby bump at the time. Charlie must have sensed something was wrong with me. He turned and hollered into the living room, asking Serenah if she wanted to see me. She insisted he invite me in, which brought a smile to my face and a touch of warmth to my heart. Serenah was a good person. I think that quality came to her naturally.
Charlie led me inside.
Finding her lying on the couch with a dark blue checkered blanket draped over her lap and a washcloth on her forehead, my smile fell away.
Serenah looked worn out. Her eyes were red and puffy, and her face had a pale, ghostly appearance. If I were a good person, like she, I would have turned around and not bothered. But I was a bit selfish. I felt helpless over the situation with Wendy. I was going to go mad if I didn’t figure out a way to cope. I needed my friend. A dose of her Heavenly wisdom might be the key to unlocking happiness and bliss. Probably not, but she’d know what I could do to help myself.
I sat down in the chair that was adjacent to the couch she was on. Charlie came over to Serenah and bent a knee to remove the washcloth. Leaning in, he kissed her forehead and took the rag into the kitchen. He was so gentle, so kind to her. My heart longed for a man like that, one who cared.
“First off, I’m sorry you’re not feeling well . . . hope everything is okay with the baby?”
She nodded. “Don’t worry about me. Please, go ahead.”
“I’m struggling at Dixie’s . . .” I admitted. Going on, I told her about what happened with the delivery and how I had anger with Wendy. After I got done venting all, she didn’t speak right away but rolled onto her side and reached down to the floor between the coffee table and the couch. Peering down, I saw her fingers searching the floor.
“Can you see my Bible?” she asked finally, glancing over at me.
Surveying the carpet, I saw it. It was on the far end of the couch on the floor. Standing up, I went over and picked it up for her. Serenah slowly scooted her body to sit up. Each movement looked like it ached. I handed her the Bible. Her fingers slipped right in, and she began flipping pages as I sat down on the couch.
“Here we go.” She stopped flipping pages. Her eyes followed lines of verses until she stopped and looked up at me with a smile. She handed me the Bible, and I took it into my lap as she said, “Verses 23 and 24.”
23. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24. Since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
It was the exact passage I needed. Looking up from the page, I saw her still beaming with a smile through the pain of illness. Sick and unable to take care of her daily tasks around the inn, she still kept hold of her joy in the Lord. Her poise and level-headedness were admirable. “How do I do it, though?”
“It’s simply choosing to, Miley.” The fireplace popped, and she looked over. “We have a new set of choices every single day of our lives. We have to choose God, not people.”
Closing the Bible, I stood up and set it down on the coffee table. “In the heat of the moment, I can’t help but act emotionally and out of control. I don’t know how to stop it.”
“It starts with your inner life, Miley. Your soul. If you spend your time worrying or fretting or focusing on the bad things going on, you’re going to have more bad days than you wish.”
Shaking my head, I said, “But my circumstances—”
Serenah raised a hand. “Your circumstances change from day to day, moment to moment. You can’t let those superficial moments on the top level have an effect on the lower levels. Right? If Wendy freaks out and screams, you have a choice. Ignore it and focus on something good that’s going on. It’s not a perfect system because we are not perfect. We need God.”
Letting a bitter laugh escape my lips as I clung to ‘focus on something good,’ I shook my head. “Something good?”
“Yeah,” Serenah retorted. Her tone was becoming impatient. “You’re not dead, you have a car, you’re not hungry . . . you didn’t get beat up last night.” Surprised she would make a mention of her past, I raised an eyebrow. She shook her head. “Sorry. Just put God first and feed the good thoughts in your life. The rest will follow.”
“It makes sense.” Glancing over the couch and to the lake, I asked, “How have your numbers for the inn been going?”
Shrugging, she snuggled back under her blanket, lying prone as Charlie came in with a damp washcloth. He placed it on her forehead. She looked at me. “It’s been a hard winter. Fewer guests.”
Charlie added, “Yep. Jody always had rougher winters. The good season helps float the off-season. Luckily at the will reading we found out we inherited the diner also, so that helps float us.”
“Well, that’s good at least,” I replied. Pulling out my phone from my pocket, I saw I was running late for my hair appointment with Chantelle at Sally’s Beauty Salon in Newport. “I have to get going. Thanks for the chat, Serenah. You always know what to say.” Going over to her, I bent down and gave her a hug.
Releasing from our embrace, I said, “Thank you for everything.”
“Hey, don’t forget that we have that Feed the Hungry thing in three days.”
“I know. The tenth, right?”
She nodded. Feed the Hungry was a group that our Sunday school class from Newport Christ Community agreed to help out within the city. Serenah and I decided to go along with a few others on the tenth of January in the early morning—five, to be exact. As I left the inn, I thought about how she had already emailed me, texted me and posted a comment on my Facebook wall reminding me about being there at five on the tenth. It was annoying, but Serenah wanted to make sure it didn’t turn into last year’s event. Nobody showed but her out of the eight who agreed. It made sense why she was so obsessive with the reminders.
Laying another order in the server window the next day, I waited for the cook, Eric, to come back over to the window. He was a kid fresh out of high school who couldn’t put together a meal to save his life. Always fumbling around the kitchen and sweat pouring off his forehead, he was a poor replacement for Diego who left for more pay and opportunity at his second job at the automotive store. Wendy, though, in all her stupidity, wanted to pay someone on the cheap, and the high school dropout pot smoker was her ticket to lower labor costs. My suspicions about her disdain toward Diego because of his bloated salary were confirmed when she picked up this Eric kid.
“That salad was dry,” I said as he finally arrived over to the window. My eyes fell to the salad I set down in the window.
“What? That doesn’t even make any sense.”
Shrugging, I said, “Table three said it, not me. I asked what they meant, and they said the ranch to salad ratio wasn’t enough to even coat all the lettuce.”
He clenched his jaw. He looked like he was one bad comment away from throwing his hands up and walking out. Through his teeth, he said, “Okay. I’ll remake it.”
Leaving the window, I went back out to my table I knew needed topping off on drinks. Arriving at the table, I asked how the food tasted and took cups for refills. Mouths full, the husband and wife nodded with big smiles, and I left over to the server station to begin refills. Wendy walked over.
“When is your lunch?” she asked. Her tone made my thoughts drift negative, but I pulled them back to a happy place like Serenah told me. I have a job. That’s good, I told myself.
“It’s here in ten minutes. How come?” Setting a drink to the side, I brought the next cup up and filled it. Please don’t make me take more food to that guy.
“I need you to take an order to that house again.”
My heart pounded. “What? Why? That guy was crazy!”
She narrowed her look at me but then nodded. The nod was the kindest gesture I’d seen in months. Clearing her throat, she adjusted her footing. “I meant to call him and let him know that the meals that Don Atkins set up for him would start that day. My bad. Anyway, he knows now, I guess. His name is Hunter. He’s a Marine who lost a leg over in Afghanistan and now is living in his dead uncle’s house. Just be nice. Please? Don is paying double just to have it delivered. The money is nice.”
Sure, I thought. Be friendly to the good looking man that gave me a look like he wanted to strangle me on the spot when I was only trying to bring him some food. Go back to the same house and knock again so maybe then he could pull a gun on me? The verses pressed against my mind. I woke up today, that’s good. Clearing my throat, I asked, “How is this safe for an employee? I was fearful.”
Wendy smirked. “He didn’t expect you. It’ll be fine, Miley.”
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