Forgive the Trespassers by Vickie Phelps Genre: Inspirational Fiction
When Jake Reynolds left Archer Springs, Texas, in June 1957, he planned to return at the end of the summer, but that was before he found out his best friend and his fiancée had eloped together. Devastated and betrayed, he never returned to his hometown.
Fast forward twenty-five years. Jake receives a letter from a local land developer stating the property willed to him by his aunt and uncle will be destroyed and used for other purposes unless he returns and sells the land and house. A long-ago promise to his aunt and uncle that he would always keep the property in the family comes back to haunt him. Now he needs to return and keep his promise, but that means coming face to face with the two people who betrayed him twenty-five years ago.
Sometime later, Jake awoke with a start. His body felt damp from the heat, and he sat up. Other than the whir of the fan, silence filled the room. He climbed out of bed and stepped to the window. An orange glow danced in the sky, and the faint odor of smoke floated through the open screen. He remembered what Kay had told him about the Miller place burning down. Jake grabbed his jeans and pulled them on. He snatched his shirt from the bedpost and jerked open the door.
“Sheridan, for your sake, it better not be Aunt Nora’s house.” Jake ran toward the burning house, his bare feet pounding against the pavement. A siren sounded in the distance. The orange glow he’d noticed from his motel window grew bigger and brighter by the minute. He rounded the corner onto Orchard and slowed, heaving a sigh of relief. It wasn’t Aunt Nora’s. As he moved closer, he heard the pop and crackle of burning wood. The temperature of the summer evening blended with the intense heat of the fire made the atmosphere suffocating. Firemen sent a spray of water into the blaze, useless against the fiery tongues devouring the old timber-framed house which stood across the street from Aunt Nora’s.
All along the street, people stood in their yards staring at the destruction. A few feet away, a man and a woman talked in hushed tones, oblivious to Jake’s presence. “You s’pose this one was set too?” the woman asked. “I’m sure of it,” the man said. “They tried to get the owner to sell and he refused.” “It’s only a matter of time before there are others. The old Reynolds house across the street is vacant, too. It’ll be next.”
A wave of apprehension rolled over Jake. He wanted to shout they were wrong. He wasn’t going to let some greedy hotshot real estate developer from a backwoods town push him around. But he kept quiet. It wouldn’t be wise for a stranger to be vocal about the situation. He would have to use his head plus a lot of common sense if he wanted to save Aunt Nora’s house from the same fate. Jake watched until the flames died. Nothing remained except a pile of smoking, glowing rubble.
Marilyn Summers tossed the remote control on the sofa and ran her hands through her shoulder-length brown hair. One would think she’d be used to being alone by now. It had been a mistake to leave Archer Springs and move to a town where she knew no one. She added the sofa pillow behind her and sank into its cushiony softness. Thanks to Dale, the generous divorce settlement had enabled her to buy a new condo. She had decorated it in the soft pastels she loved, creating what she thought would be a relaxing haven, but nothing could ease the loneliness surrounding her day after day. The house felt like a tomb. Marilyn tuned the radio to her favorite AM station. Maybe some classical music would make her feel better. Dale had never cared for classical music, saying, “It’s a bunch of sophisticated noise. No one in Archer Springs listens to it. What’s wrong with country, or the old fifties music we used to listen to?”
Truth be told, she didn’t love it too much herself. Marilyn slipped into the comfort of the sofa, closing her eyes and letting the music flow over her. The truth was songs from the fifties—hers and Jake’s— were too painful to hear. When she listened to them, she would close her eyes, and his face, his arms, his lips would all be there, all so real.
On the morning he’d left with the harvesters, she woke early, dressed and was at the town square before they left. When Jake saw her, he smiled. They walked a short distance away from the others, and he pulled her close. “Marilyn, remember this. You’re the most important person, the most important thing ever in my life. Please wait for me.” To her shock, tears formed in Jake’s eyes. She had never seen him cry. She reached up and touched the wetness on his cheek. He hugged her close and kissed the top of her head as the truck convoy pulled up before the courthouse. Jake gathered his belongings and walked toward the other men. They boarded the truck, and he waved to her from an open window as they drove away. She never saw Jake again. It had been twenty-five years. Twenty-five years. Mozart had done nothing to blot out her memories tonight.
Vickie Phelps writes to encourage, inspire, and influence. She writes both fiction and nonfiction.
"Forgive the Trespassers" is her tenth book, her fifth novel. Vickie worked as a bookseller and buyer for an independent bookstore for eighteen years and loves to talk about books and share stories with other readers.
Can you, for those who don't know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
Books have always played a big part in my life. I grew up in a small town in the Texas Panhandle, the oldest of five children. There wasn’t a lot to do in our little town other than school activities, sports, and a small theater which closed while I was still quite young. The town didn’t have a library, but the school did. I was guilty of checking a book out at school, taking it home and reading it through that night so I could take it back and get another one the next day.
My junior year in high school, I was accepted for a work program, and they gave me a job in the library which was a great place for a reader like me to be. It didn’t become my profession though. Believe it or not, I became a professional cake decorator, but in the back of my mind I think I had always had a desire to write. In 1982, I signed up for a writing course. It took me a while to finish it because as they say, “life got in the way,” but in 1988, I started writing short pieces for magazines and from there moved into gift books and then novels. In 1992, an opportunity to work in an independent bookstore became available and I took it. The next eighteen years of my life, I spent eight hours a day doing something that I loved—talking about books. I’ve often told people that it wasn’t like work at all because I enjoyed it so much.
Even though I had a fulltime job, I continued to write in my free time. Now I’m a fulltime writer and “Forgive the Trespassers,” is my sixth novel. I’ve also written several nonfiction books.