Chapter 4 has arrived! In this chapter, you will be able to see the love story of Skip and Penni start to unfold even more than it already has along with a discovery of something in their own backyard practically. When we last left them, Penni was getting her ankle attended to by the orphanage nurse as well as Skip and Coleen had just left the room. We pick up the story while Penni is inside the nurse’s office getting fixed up and we are able to read a protective Coleen’s conversation to Skip. I hope you enjoy! (This chapter consists of 3,746 unedited words)
If you need to catch up on any reading, here are the previous chapters!
While Penni was inside the nurse’s office getting her cast on, Coleen and Skip waited patiently outside the room talking.
“Penni is kind of going through a very emotional time right now. Therefore, I would really appreciate it if you would kindly leave her alone. I’m her best friend, so therefore I think I know what’s best for her. And you…” Coleen looked Skip down from head to toe taking in his disheveled appearance, “…are not what’s best for her right now. Actually, you’re the whole reason that she sprained her ankle, and the reason why we’re sitting in these very uncomfortable chairs right now in the first place.”
“And I take full responsibility for what happened, but I think what happened in those woods was part of God’s plan for Penni. Although she came out of it with a sprained ankle, she also came out of it with a new friend. Take this verse for instance. You may or may not have heard it before, but I’ll read it anyway. It’s taken from the book of Proverbs, chapter 18 and verse 24, ‘A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.’ I want to be like a big brother to Penni, to protect her, be there for her, to cheer her up when she’s feeling down. This, by the way is what I was doing, because someone had stabbed her in the back, for a lack of better words. You should be thinking this was your fault, not mine. You’re the one that broke her heart, I just happened to be on my usual evening walk, but didn’t want to bother her and Lord willing, maybe I can be something more to her in the future.”
That last part must have went over Coleen’s head, because when Skip said it she didn‘t make even a move. He let out a sigh, wondering if the verse he just recited or the words that he spoke might have gotten her to thinking…
After supper the next evening, when things settled down, Penni was upstairs resting in bed and there was complete silence, did Coleen really get to think upon what Skip had said to her yesterday.
“Didn’t the verse go something like ‘A person who has friends must show?’ No, that is not it. How did it go again?” Coleen nestled back into the blue, long-backed wing chair, trying to remember the verse.
She glanced around the room and her eyes fell upon the Bible sitting on the side table across the room. It seemed to be calling her name, “Coleen, why don’t you come over here and sit down in this comfy chair beside me and read me? I’m over here Coleen. Come…Sit…Read Me…”
Coleen shook it off, got up and walked toward the door to make sure no one was out there playing a trick on her or something. She looked back at the Bible, “Ok, maybe I’ll read for just a little bit.” Coleen then walked toward the Bible, picked it up and started reading. She got so intent on reading through Proverbs, that she lost track of time. Seconds turned into minutes and minutes turned into hours.
A tap on the shoulder followed by the sound of someone calling her name is what brought Coleen out of her little bubble. She looked up and saw Penni, a crutch under each arm with a smile on her face, followed by a questioning gaze.
“What book are you reading Coleen?” Penni asked.
“Oh, it’s nothing really.” Coleen sat the Bible down to where she first had located it. That reply seemed to satisfy Penni, because she went on to ask if she could sit down, motioning to the second chair that occupied the spot on the opposite side of the round, antique table.
“Mind if I sit down? There’s something I want to talk to you about.”
“Go ahead Penni, I’m listening.” Penni braced her crutches up against the wall behind the chair and waddled over to take her seat.
“Ok, I’m going to get right to the point, so please don’t get upset, but something tells me that you don’t like Skip very much, which confuses me a great deal, because were you not the one who praised him so well in the dining hall just yesterday morning during breakfast? What was it that made you change your opinion?” Penni’s brow furrowed in confusion.
“To tell you the truth…” Coleen took a deep breath and sighed, “I’m kind of afraid that he will end up being your new best friend. I wouldn’t blame you if you chose him over me, after what I made you go through yesterday.”
“Awe Coleen, nobody can take your place, ever! Besides I can talk more freely of some things with you that I can’t ever talk about with Skip. For instance, with you I can talk about boys, makeovers, and just girl stuff like that in general. With him, I can talk about sports like baseball and my personal favorite, college football! You know, the Ohio State Buckeyes beat the Oregon Webfoots ten to seven in the rose bowl Wednesday afternoon! That was a pretty intense game.” Penni started to giggle when she saw the distant look on Coleen’s face. “See, I just lost you. Now you know why I can’t ever talk to you about that, no offense or anything.”
“None taken whatsoever, I completely understand where you’re coming from. I think I feel a little bit better about things now, but it’s still hard for me to think about someone else in your life. It’s always been just the two of us for the most part, you know?”
“You’ll get used to it sooner or later, it will definitely take some getting used to, for me included, but we can do it. People make new friends all the time! Besides, you do have Mark now too.”
“I’m glad that we’ve had this little chat Penni. I think it has helped me understand some things a bit better and see this situation in a different light. I will try my hardest to get to know him better, I promise you that and I mean it with all of my heart. But for now, we need to get ready for bed.” Penni looked down at her wristwatch with a yawn and nodded in agreement. Coleen arose from the chair and grabbed Penni’s crutches, and then helped her get up the stairs, undressed and into bed.
On this bright and sunny Saturday morning, Penni was feeling up to go for a little walk before breakfast. She wanted to go back to where it all happened, where her heart was shattered, her ankle got sprained and most of all, where she gained a new friend.
“That is definitely one day that I’ll never forget.” Penni said to herself while taking her green cotton dress out of the battered trunk at the foot of her bed. “It’s just way too exciting for me to let it slip out of my mind.” She hobbled over to the attached bathroom trying not to put any weight on her tore up ankle but didn’t want to clatter around with the crutches and wake everyone up. She shut the door behind her and took off her white nightgown, then slipped the ragged green dress over her head. Next, looking in the mirror, she folded the collar down around her neckline and began running a wooden brush through her hair. When Penni was satisfied with the way she looked, she exited the bathroom, grabbed her crutches that were lying under her bed and swung herself forward followed by the crutches, repeating the motion until she reached the staircase. “Oh great, my least favorite part, at least going down the stairs is easier than going up.” Penni switched the crutches around to where both were under one arm, grabbed hold of the staircase railing with the opposite hand and proceeded down the stairs, first swinging the crutches down to the next ledge, stepping down with her injured leg and then following suit with her other. “I think I’m actually getting the hang of this now!” The auburn haired orphan reached the bottom with ease, and then proceeded to walk outside.
When Penni approached her destination, she saw someone already there leaning against the tree, reading something. She approached the person, and when she got closer, she realized who it was. “It’s Skip, and he looks like he is reading some sort of book!”
Skip felt like there was someone watching him, so he looked up and he saw Penni looking over at him, reading. “How long have you been standing there?” Skip asked startled. “You snuck up on me a lot better than I snuck up on you that’s for sure, and you’re even on crutches! That’s just not fair, not even a little bit!” They both started laughing at the recollection of their first encounter.
“Boy, you are reading one funny book!” said Penni trying to get over her spill of laughter.
“What makes it funny? It’s actually a pretty serious book.” Skip said.
“Oh, I don’t know… I think it might be because of the wording of some of the sentences and maybe even some of the words it uses. I don’t know how you can read such a book that’s all. Like that sentence there…” Penni sought out the verse she read earlier, that she thought was quite amusing. “…’A slothful man buries his hand in the bowl, and will not so much as bring it to his mouth again.’ I mean, what is a slothful man? , and what does it mean that he won’t bring it to his mouth again? Skip only smiled at Penni. “What’s wrong? I can be entitled to an opinion, can I not?” asked Penni.
“Oh, sure, everybody is entitled to an opinion. It’s just, sometimes you have to read the whole chapter, occasionally the whole book to fully understand what God is saying in that particular passage. In this verse, the author is condemning laziness, hence the reason for calling him a slothful man. He is using a bit of humor to get his point across. By being too lazy to lift an eating utensil back to his mouth after scooping food, means that this guy has got to be pretty lazy! A slothful man is a person who can work, but doesn’t want to. He basically wants things served to him on a silver platter. He lacks the common sense, the want to, and the responsibility to provide for his own needs. He would rather sleep than work. God is calling them into action. He wants them to work, and to honor Him with their lives by doing so. By not providing for his needs, he is basically spatting in God’s face. God gave him the ability to work, there are those who can’t for whatever reason, and when God gives you something, you better use it to glorify Him.”
“I’m sorry, but I still think that it’s impossible for me to comprehend all of this God stuff, and I don’t plan to either, and nothing you say will change my mind. Why would I want to like someone who demands so much?” Penni said stubbornly.
Skip smiled even bigger at her, “His demands as you call them, are nothing compared to all that He has blessed us with.”
“Would you like to accompany me on my walk?” Penni asked trying to change the subject toward something other than God. How could this loving God that Skip so all-consuming respects, allow her parents to die at such a young age, leaving her alone in this cruel world? Skip was a little taken back by Penni’s determination to change the subject, but complied and agreed to keep her company. “Certainly, I would love to. My legs are starting to fall asleep anyway, so I think that it’d be sort of refreshing in a sense to go for a walk, especially with you and besides, it sounds like fun!”
A smile appeared on Penn’s face that stretched from one ear to the other replacing the frown that once occupied her lips, followed by a little giggle, as they started to walk off, farther and farther into the woods.
At this time, Coleen was in her room getting dressed for the day’s activities. She moseyed over to the brown trunk in front of her bed all while Margaret was doing the same thing next to her, it was quite annoying having to sleep next to the meanest girl in the orphanage since they don’t get along at all. Most of the time they fought like cats and dogs, and today she felt wouldn’t be an exception. Coleen opened the trunk lid to pick out what to wear for the day, picked out her teal colored dress, and paired it with a white apron along with her white stockings. As she was doing this, she felt this powerful urge to go for a walk, so she quickly finished getting dressed, trying to ignore the glare that she was given by Margaret for beating her to the bathroom, put on her oldest pair of shoes, and walked out the front door making a beeline to the woods.
Skip and Penni felt like they must have walked for miles. They passed a chubby little chipmunk sitting on a log, stuffing its mouth with acorns and then a little doe with cute, white spots that must have been looking for its elder. Penni hadn’t recognized any of her surroundings for the past few miles, so she stopped in her tracks turned toward Skip and asked, “Can we stop and rest for at least a minute or two?”
“Well it looks like there might be a clearing up ahead, and I think I see a bench. Do you think you could make it just a little longer?” Skip urged Penni on. There must have been something in his tone of voice, or maybe it was from the way he looked at her, that made Penni feel able to push onward, toward what looked like a clearing a few yards ahead of them.
When Coleen reached the Old Hickory Tree, she saw something shiny on the ground. She strolled on over, picked it up and found that it was a bright gold bracelet. Coleen looked it over and saw the initials P.J. carved on the inside, turned it over and brushed some dirt off the muddy, golden band to see the words “Love Always” on the outside. Just the other day she saw something very similar on Penni’s left wrist.
“Could this be the same bracelet that her dearest friend has just started wearing?” Coleen thought.
She placed the precious thing safely into her jean jacket pocket and continued on her walk, a bit faster now, thinking that she might be able to catch up with Penni, if this was indeed hers.
Back at the orphanage, Mark Thomas set out to look for Coleen. He had something very important to tell her that just couldn’t wait until after breakfast.
He spotted Margaret out by the flower garden and walked toward her in hopes that she might know where Coleen had gone. She saw him coming, fluffed her hair and straightened some wrinkles out of her skirt. She sensed that something was wrong by the way he walked and the deep line in his forehead, she was hoping to be just the cure he needed and besides, she wanted to look her best for the cutest person in the whole orphanage, taken or not.
When he reached her, he immediately got to the point of his talking to her at all and said, “Hey Margaret, have you seen Coleen or perhaps Penni this morning?” He noticed a twinge of disappointment cross her face as she began to respond to his pointed question.
“You know what? I can’t recall ever seeing either one of them yet today. You know what? I take that back, I did see Coleen this morning. She seemed to be in a hurry too, beat me to the bathroom to get dressed. Why do you ask?”
“Okay, never mind, and besides, it’s really none of your business.”
“Well, you just made it my business by asking me your question.” Margaret snapped with her hands placed on her hips.
On that note, Mark walked toward the woods, picking up the pace to a near jog to get far away from Margaret Holder and her smart comments, leaving her behind to ponder on whatever went down between them.
When Skip and Penni arrived at the clearing, they stumbled on something much unexpected, an old tree fort! There was a cluster of four trees, each holding a wooden hut up high in their branches and connected by a rotten, old rope bridge. They marveled at the sight, each hut having its own distinctive shape and size. You could see weeds growing out of aged flower boxes, while others had a broken window or two.
Both of the orphans looked at each other still shocked at the fortress that was built there in front of them. Penni sat down on the wooden bench that was almost identical to the one back at the orphanage.
“Do you think we might be able to fix it up? I’d really like to see what it looked like when it was just newly built. I wonder who made it and if they would mind if we were to fix it up.” asked Penni, eyes still fixed on the structure.
“I’m not sure, but what I do know, is that I want to get a closer look. It would be cool to get it back into working order.” Skip headed towards the wooden blocks nailed into one of the tree trunks leading up to the biggest hut.
“Oh, do be careful, some of those blocks don’t look too sturdy.”
“Don’t worry Penni. They look perfectly fine to me.” Skip began to climb and when he got towards the middle, one of the planks snapped and fell to the ground, leaving him hanging on to a branch for dear life. Penni shot up from the bench and screamed in terror at seeing her friend hanging there helpless, at what seemed to be twelve feet high.
“Skip! What do you want me to do?” Penni asked, ignoring the shooting pain that originated at her ankle and traveled up her leg. She ran over as fast as she could and tried to think of something, but couldn’t think straight for imagining what might happen.
“Penni, please calm down and be quiet, you need to go sit back down on the bench. I’ll figure something out, but you need to get off your feet!” Penni made her way back over to the bench and plopped herself down. Skip tried to keep a calm composure to keep Penni from freaking out more than she already was, but inside he was terrified. His heart felt like it was pounding out of his chest while every little sound that was made, rang in his ears.
“What’s the matter? Penni, is everything alright?” Coleen hustled into the clearing and saw her friend sitting on a wooden bench and ran to her side to comfort her trembling. Penni looked up through glazed eyes and pointed in Skip’s direction. Coleen’s eyes trailed to where Penni was pointing. Her hand flung to cover her mouth as she let out a squeal. “What happened?” Penni couldn’t bear to explain and just sat there sobbing into Coleen’s chest.
Mark heard the cry of help back further into the woods. He started running as fast as he could to follow that one blow of helplessness. His biggest fear was that something dreadful must of happened to cause that eerie shrill. He broke from the tree line into a clearing and could hear someone crying. He looked around and to his surprise, saw Coleen embracing a very distressed Penni.
“What’s going on here?” Mark asked in a concerned tone, trying to catch his breath. He turned his attention toward Coleen trying to comfort Penni Joy. Coleen looked up towards the tree, and Mark followed her gaze only to see Skip Hilton hanging on with all his might to a tree branch. Many things rushed through his mind, trying to figure out a way to get Skip down from there, and his feet firm on the ground once again. Crack The branch that was holding all of Skip’s weight was beginning to snap! The girls straightened up and started to panic.
“Mark do something!” Coleen yelled, with tears in her eyes.
Crack Mark looked up at Skip and noticed that he had his eyes closed, and his lips were moving. “Could he be praying?” Mark thought. “It sure wouldn’t be a bad thing to do in this type of situation.”
At that moment, the tree branch broke all of the way through. Penni let out a blood curdling scream, while watching her friend’s helpless body fall to the ground, an image she was sure would be forever etched into her memory. Everyone ran over to his side, searching for anything out of sorts. Skip tried to pull himself up to a sitting position, and completed the task successfully. He looked up at Penni and asked with a big smile on his face, “Am I in Heaven?” Everyone let out a sigh of relief and began to laugh. Penni threw her arms around Skip’s neck and hugged tightly. He couldn’t help but embrace her back, thanking the Lord that he was still in one piece as well as for this dear friend of his that one day Lord willing, may be more.
“Are you alright? How are you feeling? Do you have any broken bones? Sorry for the bout of questions. I just want to know that you’re okay!” Penni finally let go of Skip’s neck and gave him some space, then Mark grabbed a hold of his right arm and pulled him to his feet.
“I feel fine and think I can speak for everyone when I say, I’m hungry!” Right then, Skip’s stomach growled like a bear, almost as if it was right on cue. Everyone nodded in agreement and slowly started walking towards the orphanage.