Nearly a year has passed since Scott and Bailey’s Christmas wedding. Now they are expecting joy in the form of twins!
The day arrives for the opening of Barkley House, a missionary retreat provided by Bailey’s inheritance, but an unspeakable evil descends upon Bailey as she awaits her ride to the opening ceremony. Scott can’t find her.
Shocking revelations accompany Bailey’s ordeal. Will she ever find joy again?
Series: Express Series
I squeezed the couch cushion with both hands as a Braxton Hicks contraction tightened in my lower back. Or was it a real one? Eight months in, so it could happen right now. I focused on ivy shadows dancing behind the lacy window curtains until it passed. Moving around in the mid-morning air would help.
My usual get-off-the-couch ritual proved more difficult every day. I spread my swollen feet, anchored one hand on the arm of the couch, pushed off with the other hand, and propelled the basketball stomach into the air. The few feet from the living room couch to the front porch of the inn stretched miles away, but I waddled there anyway.
I wiggled into a porch rocker and willed a cooler breeze to materialize. My perfect, snowy wedding nearly a year ago spoiled me for every December to come. The piney woods across the road shone green in the sunlight. Normally I’d seek refuge from the heat with a stroll on the fragrant, dead pine needles. My football-sized feet prevented any pleasure jaunts among the cool shadows.
Could I even find shoes that didn’t hurt for the Barkley House dedication this afternoon? Maybe I could get away with dressy flip-flops. That was standard East Texas footwear all year round anyway, except maybe three days in February. The snow last December surprised everyone.
I decided to just rest for five more minutes. My speech needed practicing. I also needed to pull our wedding cake topper from the freezer. Maybe there’d be time for a private first-anniversary celebration tonight. Two weeks early, but the actual date was too close to my due date.
My sweet, hard-working husband balked at leaving me alone. I’d shooed him on. I’d promised to keep my cell phone near me and Phoebe was just up the road at the diner. So much work to be done and I couldn’t help Scott with any of it.
“Welcome to the Grand Opening of the Helen Barkley Missionary Retreat,” I whispered. I planned to keep it short, given I couldn’t stand very long. “I may never be able to erase the picture of Pinewood Manor, my grandmother’s home, and one of Marshall’s finest antebellum mansions, smoldering in ashes in this spot just a little over a year ago. But the building of Barkley House has brought healing. Mother and I know that Gran would be pleased that we have a resting place for missionaries, because they were so close to her heart.”
There was that old, black vehicle again. I’d seen the classic car creeping around Exit 477 several times over the last couple of days. The canopied lane that banked the road to our home seemed to draw strays. I’d been one of them.
Now, how did the rest of it go? “On this special day...”
The car pulled into the driveway.
My tortoise speed preempted a stand-up greeting, but I leaned forward in the rocker.
The reflection of tall pines on the windshield hid the driver’s face from view.
My heartbeat sped up, and I placed a protective hand on my stomach. I reached for the phone in my maternity jeans pocket. I’d left it on the coffee table. So much for my promise.
The driver climbed out but stood by the door. He ran a hand through a head of hair more gray than brown. He hesitated as if he might slide his fiftyish, slight build back into the car. Instead, determination flashed in his dark eyes as he took a step away from his vehicle and slammed the door.
Probably just someone scouting out a weekend stay at the inn for Christmas. Couldn’t he see the CLOSED UNTIL SPRING sign?
I rubbed my damp palms on my jeans, and tried to swallow.
A shock raced up my spine, and my vision blurred. The pines, the black car, and the ivy covered porch rails melded into blackish, green waves. I was five years old again, crouching in the back of a Pinewood Manor hall closet. The musty coats making me cough. The fear he’d hear. He’d raged at Mom for a long time. I’d covered my ears. But as he’d stormed down the hall, I heard the words that became my prison.
“You baby her too much, she’s too fat, and she’ll never amount to anything!” Slam.
Beloved, you are free.
The heavenly whisper steadied me a bit. I remembered. Yes, Father. The present returned and my dad’s words that I’d worn like skin nearly all my life fell away. Move, Bailey. Get up and go in the house. What does one say to the father who abandoned my precious mother and me in a molten rage and never so much as called in over twenty years? ‘What do you want?’ formed in my brain, but never registered with my mouth.
He stepped onto the porch and lunged right into my space, both his fists tightly knotted by his side. His eyes narrowed into sinister slits. “You’re coming with me.”
“No, I’m not.” I managed to push out of the rocker and tried to turn toward the front door.
He grabbed my arm and pain shot to my fingers as he pulled me down the stairs.
I stumbled, but managed not to fall. I jerked my arm as hard as I could, but his grip only tightened. A sharp pain and a kind of pop ripped inside, below my babies. “Help!” A pain and incredible pressure gripped my lower back. “Please, I’m due any minute. Let me go!”
“I can see that. It does complicate things a bit, but it’s all up to you.” He jerked me toward the sedan. He opened the car door, pulled the driver’s seat forward, and shoved me in the back. “Lie down, and shut up!”
I screamed until he pulled a pistol from behind his back and pointed it at my stomach. His hand shook. “I said shut up. Lie down and don’t get up until I tell you.”
Tears slid down my face as I lay on the car seat. I rubbed the red stripes on my arm and watched the pines whiz by in a green haze. My son and daughter moved within me.
Keywords: kidnapping, fear, loss, disappointment, faith, cancer, adoption, family,
Question 1: Chapter 1 finds Bailey sitting in the middle of her dream life, expecting twins, happily married, and about to dedicate the mission retreat. She is suddenly jerked from her idyllic life into a horrible, frightening situation. What can we rely on when things like that happen to us?
Answer 1: Psalm 137:7-12 reminds us that there is no place we can hide that He isn't there. Bailey was in a very dark place, but God says even the darkness is light to Him. He is always there.
Question 2: Passages of scripture came to Scott and Bailey’s minds as they struggled through their ordeal. How can we have that same comfort?
Answer 2: Psalm 119:11 says to hide God’s Word in our heart. Psalm 1 says we should meditate on His Word day and night. Regularly reading and memorizing God’s Word assures that comfort will come to our heart in times of need.
Question 3: Bailey’s friends and family rally around the situation and do everything they can to help. What scriptural principle are the Exit 477 people living out?
Answer 3: John 13:34 and 35 admonish us to love one another as Christ has loved us. Matthew 22 tells us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
Question 4: After Bailey is rescued and delivers her babies, she struggles with doubt. Where was God when she was in such dire need?
Answer 4: David often felt abandoned by God. In Psalm 13 he cries out “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?” We must remember, as David did, that our heavenly Father said “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Heb. 13:5 We have to learn to trust in His love and watchcare, and wait for His timing. Romans 8:28 says He works everything for our good.
Question 5: Bailey experienced trauma on top of post partem depression. Her father kidnapped her, shot himself, and then she delivered twins. Is it OK for Christians to be depressed?
Answer 5: Of course it is OK. We live in a world of pain (Gen. 3:14-19 and Romans 8:20-22). We don’t have to put on a happy face and pretend things are OK when they’re not. David even prayed, “Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll—are they not in your record?” (Psalm 56:8). David, a “man after [God’s] own heart” (Acts 13:22), did not gloss over his sadness; he expressed it to God. Both Moses (Numbers 11:15) and Elijah (1 Kings 19:3–5), two heroes of the faith, confessed to God that they preferred to die than live in their current reality. Neither was rebuked by God for his feelings; rather, both were met with God’s love and provision. The Bible is not shy about admitting the realities of human emotion. Sadness is part of life, and it is not condemned.
Question 6: How do we overcome sadness and depression?
Answer 6: As Moses, David, and Elijah did, we take our pain to God. We continue to trust Him and believe that what He says is true. We don’t give up! David said, ““Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 43:5).
Question 7: Bailey’s trauma became so great that she developed amnesia. When she returned to her senses, what did her Doctor recommend?
Answer 7: Dr. Harkin recommended that Bailey receive counselling. Seeking out the wisdom of a Pastor or Christian counselor is always a good idea. Proverbs 11:14 says there is success with many counselors. There are many references to admonishing, encouraging and counseling one another in wisdom.
Question 8: Scott felt helpless and worried about Bailey. He didn’t know what to do to help her. What can we do when a person needs help, and we don’t know what to do?
Answer 8: “I will lift up my eyes to the hills from whence come my help. My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved. He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” Scott had to put Bailey in God’s hands. He did everything he could to help her – help with the babies, meet her physical needs, but her inner turmoil he had to turn over to God.
Question 9: Bailey wanted to do the right thing. Her little sister has cancer and Bailey is her only family. How can Bailey take on a sick child, deal with her inner turmoil, and mother twins?
Answer 9 Matthew 19:26 says that with God, nothing is impossible. When we choose to do the right thing, God pours His mercy and Grace upon us. Isaiah 40:31 says “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint”
Question 10: Joy Express is a fiction story that has a happy ending. But just like in real life, they face a new normal. They come out on the other side with struggles and hardships, and also with blessings and joy. How can we have a “joyful” ending to every story in our life?
Answer 10: Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” If we turn to our heavenly Father in every situation, He will be there for us.
What People are Saying
Reading anything that Jody Bailey Day writes is like coming home—and like home, there are fusses and fights, and a lot of suspense and drama built into Joy Express, but faith winds through it. It draws you to toast your hands over the warmth, and hug yourself with the blazing joy she brings to everything she writes. I don’t often read faith-based fiction, as writers can sometimes get heavy-handed. You can tell by this book that Day writes like she lives, with the warm fire of faith in every word. I have read everything she writes, and wait eagerly for her next. Every. Single. Time.
Lisa C. Hannon
Author, “She’s Thinking Out Loud”