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"One and a half weeks left," Shelle said to herself as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes and swung her feet over the side of the bed. She made her bed, got dressed and fixed herself and the room and then went downstairs. James was already up, getting breakfast, so she went over to the piano. Her hands stroked the black smoothness of the lid and then she lifted it and started to play. Music filled the room and James began to sing as he flipped pancakes. They ate and everything was done, so James lay full-length on the couch with his feet thrown over the side and Shelle just stayed at the piano.

"Well, Shelle, there isn't much to do around here," James said from the couch. "Where would you like to go?"

"Oh, I don't know," Shelle said. "Do you think we could go to London?"

"Yeah. I've got to drop by my company and see what's going on anyway."

They both got up and fixed themselves. James wrapped himself in a long black coat while Shelle wore Lindy's yellow one. They drove off and talked the long drive to London as storm clouds threatened to shower them with rain. When they arrived, they had lunch at a small cafÈ, but left quickly as soon as photographers showed up on the scene. But as they quickly walked away, a lady photographer asked politely if she could please take their picture.

Shelle looked to James for help. She didn't mind, but would James?

"Sure," he consented, with a little uncertainty.

"Just stand there, you two," the lady said as she adjusted her lenses.

James and Shelle stood together, James's hand on Shelle's shoulder hugging her and Shelle's hand 'round his waist. They both smiled; Shelle muttered a joke and James's famous grin came out and Shelle just grinned as naturally as she could and two daisies she'd picked at the cafÈ peeked out of her pocket.

"And so tell me now," the lady asked when she had finished, "who is this charming young lady?"

"My niece," James answered, winking at Shelle. "Her name is Shelle Stanley."

"Well, well," the lady said. "I didn't think I'd see you again in the public eye for quite some time, Mr. Mac, but I was wrong. I bet you're having fun gadding about London with this little miss, a'n't cha? Well, well, the dead are forgotten too soon nowadays."

James almost hit her. Shelle felt his anger; how dare this rude, stupid twit speak of them-and Lindy-in such a degrading manner? She put a hand on his arm, calming, restraining.

"I am very sorry, miss, to find that you have a grievous misunderstanding of the situation," Shelle said gravely, in a fine tone that instilled more than one meaning into her words. "First of all, I asked James if we could come to London. It's not like he wanted to or anything, but he did and that's very kind of him. Second, we can't have any fun 'gadding about' because we're constantly being followed by people like you." She spat the words out as if they hurt her mouth. "Third, James will never forget Lindy and neither will I. I think the people that truly love James and Lindy will understand this better than I can explain. I also think you, ma'am, are a rude person, butting into affairs that don't concern you. Now if you'll please excuse us, we'll be on our way. Let's go, James."

Shelle took James's hand and marched away, angry and defiant. James was proud of Shelle, but he was also angry with the woman.

Their anger spent as they approached James's office/company building. They had run through alleys to escape more photographers, reporters, and fans.

"Hello, James," the passing workers inside said.

"Hey, Jeff," James said after they had reached a recording studio a few floors up. "What's the scoop?"

"Oh, well...." Jeff prattled on with business figures, money, current events, everything.

Shelle sat off to the side, not paying attention, for she had spotted a piano inside the studio. She edged her way past the two chatting men and sneaked inside. She was alone with the sounds of silence. She went over to the piano and began to play, singing along with herself. It calmed her and she relaxed in song.

"Hey, girl, d'you want me to run a tape for ya?" A voice garbled something in some headphones lying on the piano. Shelle put them on and responded with a "What?"

"I said, d'you want me to run a tape?"

"Record my stuff?"

"Well, I should think so."

"I think I'd like that," Shelle replied. "What's your name and what are you?"

"I'm Fred Martin," the voice said in her ear. "And I'm a human bein'."

"I think I know that," Shelle snapped.

There were some laughs on the other end before she got the answer: "I'm pretty much everything. I produce, I mix, blah, blah; y'know."

"Oh," was Shelle's reply.

"Name of yer song?"

Shelle remembered an old recording of James and his first band. One of his band mates was saying, "For the Benefit of Mr. Site! This is take one!"

"Anything and everything played by Shelle Stanley. Take one."

"Okey-dokey, kid."

Shelle sat at the piano again and started to play. After awhile, she started to sing along with herself. Then she heard a maraca being shaken and a trumpet. She turned and saw Jeff with the maraca and James with the trumpet. They played for a little while, James eventually switching to his guitar. When they finished (or, to be more accurate, when they'd had enough), Shelle said,

"We're done, Mr. Martin."

"Alright." He stopped the tape and disappeared from sight. Seconds later, he emerged with the tape and a smile on his face.

"You've got style, kid," he said to Shelle as he handed her the tape. Then he turned to James and hugged him. "Haven't seen you in awhile," he was saying.

"Yeah, well." James's eyes threatened to give him away, but he held himself in. "Just came to check up on everything. We still have to do other things too, so we'd better go."

Fred nodded understandingly and James took Shelle's hand and they left quietly. On the way across the offices of James's company, something caught Shelle's eye. There was a portrait of Lindy on a wall with lots of flowers under it and heaped upon it. Diagonally across from her portrait was one of James and Lindy together and this one was also garlanded in blossoms.

Shelle took the two flowers out of her pocket, smelled them, and then when James wasn't looking, she let go of his hand and placed the flowers on the tops of the two portraits. She took James's hand again and they left the building without a word and got into James's car as it started to rain.

"James," Shelle said as they buckled up, "there's a place I'd like to go to before we go."

James looked like he was about to yell at her, but Shelle kept her face expressionless.
"Where to, Shelle." He didn't ask. He just said it.

"To a church," Shelle replied calmly. "Take me to a church."

He didn't even protest. He was tired, which accounted for his mood, but he turned the keys and off they went. Soon they were at the steps of a beautiful church. Shelle got out, but James remained.

"C'mon, James," she said. He only shook his head. She shrugged and went in, hugging her coat to herself.
James watched the yellow-coated dark-haired girl trudge up the stairs of the church as the rain plastered her hair to her head.

Once inside, Shelle felt warmed. Lamps and candles cast a cozy light over the long rows of pews as they burned. No one else was in there. Shelle wanted to go to the church; she needed to. She sat in a middle pew and bowed her head to pray. She knew she could pray on the farm and she didn't walk into churches to pray either. But today, she wanted to and there she was.

James waited for her but she didn't come back out. He got out of the car and went inside and found her, quietly praying, her long eyelashes brushing her cheeks. Tears were running down her face. It was the first time James had ever really seen her cry and he felt astounded. Why was she crying? He sat with her and put his arm on her shoulder. He found that she was limp, very limp. She lifted her head once to see whom was next to her and then she bowed it again.

Pray, James, a voice said within him. It doesn't do any harm. It's good for you. Pray to God, tell Him your troubles. He will fix them.

He knelt obediently, bowed his head, and closed his eyes. He prayed so fervently and sincerely that tears ran down his face. He did not go limp, but remained strong. He felt so wholly clear and clean when he opened his eyes and then he touched Shelle's shoulder. She had finished and her eyes were dry. She wasn't limp anymore, though she limped a little without her crutches. She had left them behind at the farm. They walked out of the church and got into the car and drove home.

© Lissa Michelle Supler

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