Oliver has been in Savannah, recovering from a bad accident...
When she first saw Oliver after he came home from Savannah, Samantha’s heart fluttered then pounded. All she could do was cling to his hand a little longer, hoping to see the affirmation of love in his eyes. Instead, she saw a stranger who seemed at odds with her. He had found someone new, she was sure of it now.
But how could it end after all this time when she had waited for him to recover and come home, eager to consummate their love. Their differences didn’t matter anymore, once she realized how her children had suffered under her harsh, religious convictions and how she was depriving herself of love as well.
The changes she had made, giving them some space, allowing them to make their own choices about movies and games and even some of their friends, had brightened the atmosphere with laughter echoing throughout her home. Living as she had, half alive under a dark cloud, was not God’s best for her. And how she had hoped Oliver would come home whole in every way, just as he had been before that fateful day of his accident. But, he was not the same and she knew she wasn’t either and with every new turn, she felt like she was teetering on the brink of doom.
“Mary, I hate my life,” she said suddenly as they walked into Dryer’s department store. Mary stopped walking and gawked at Samantha.
“I just asked you to come help me pick out some shoes,” she grinned.
“Oh it’s not that, silly; let’s go talk somewhere after you buy your shoes.”
After Mary found the perfect shoes to go with her new dress, they stopped at a quiet café. Both ordered Latte and sat, enjoying their drinks until Samantha couldn’t stand another minute of silence.
“Mary, you can’t know what it’s like right now to cope with the kids and everything—I can’t, you know, figure out how to do this. I’ve tried to keep going like we did before, when Colin was alive but it doesn’t work anymore. So I’ve let go of some of the restrictions we had laid down long ago, but I can’t find the balance to make it work.”
Mary just sat nursing her drink, watching Samantha’s face. She wasn’t as eloquent as Alicia, but so much more comfortable to be around. Sometimes her down to earth advice far outweighed Alicia’s. “Well?” Samantha asked impatiently.
Mary sat her cup on the table and folded her hands. “You can’t find the balance for them or for you? The way I see it, they seem pretty happy lately. What are you so worried about?”
“It seems so wrong compared to the way Colin would have dealt with them. They are watching movies and seeing friends that I would never have thought of letting them get away with six months ago. At the same time, I think about their future. They need to have some idea of what the world offers, so they can make comparisons and make their own choices. You don’t have kids but you’re a Christian, what do you think?” Samantha took a deep breath, hoping Mary would assuage her misgivings.
“It’s a hard question and…well, to be honest, I don’t have the answer. The only thing I can say is, look at it this way, you’re going to mess up some time, no matter what you do. It took me a long time to get over my mother’s smothering me; she robbed me of my friends and social life with her religious superstitions when I was a teen. But here I am, I’ve survived and I still believe in God,” Mary grinned and drew the last bit of liquid from her cup.
On her way home, Samantha pondered her conversation with Mary. She made everything sound so easy, but she had no children and had never married. Still, Mary had good sense and lived a quiet, uncomplicated life, sticking to her principles. Samantha felt somewhat relieved. Maybe it was a lot simpler to use a little common sense with the kids.
Thinking back over her life she wondered, who had mentored her when she became a Christian at the age of eleven? No one had forced her to abide by any rules-there were no rules in her home. She had gleaned from Gracie’s family all she needed to push forward, until she reached a measure of maturity in her faith. What was it that really mattered and what was the mystery of the Faith that nothing shook it throughout the years? It wasn’t the same with her family; she’d had different needs and learned a measure of contentment and forgiveness early, despite her miserable relationship with her mother. God had become real to her in hardships.
Samantha felt she had created so much pressure for herself with every decision she had made lately and with every inch of territory she was giving up to accommodate her children. The values of the world were spinning ever to the left while she and Colin had tried to stay centered with biblical precepts that never changed. In so doing, they had created a greater and in her opinion, unhealthy distance between the children and their peers. With good counsel, Samantha felt she would find a way to make peace with the changes in her family life. Yet, choosing between Oliver and Pastor Boyd; she knew whom she preferred. In these days of confusion, of finding her way, she couldn’t call Pastor Boyd, she needed time, to pray, to understand her doubts. Now, she had to pretend and put credence to her mother’s accusation.
Just thinking of her mother sent a chill through her, she couldn’t dismiss the implication of her remark, calling her a hypocrite. It had sent her spiraling into despair. Sometimes the truth hurts; was it the truth? Train up a child in the way he shall go and when he is old he will not depart from it. She knew there were many like passages in scripture. Train up-she was trying to do just that. Oh, Colin, these are your children. I know what you wanted for them, God help me, and I’m failing you somehow...
“Samantha, I hope you’re not sick?” Pastor Boyd’s voice came through the phone. He seemed apprehensive. “I can’t remember when you missed several services. People have asked about you.”
Did he and the people really miss her, or were they merely nosey? They won’t all agree to the lawsuit, he’d said another time, they are mortals and jealousy does not abate along with other vices mortals have. Did they see her as a hypocrite as well? Her insides churned. If only he could help. She had to walk through this valley alone, hoping in God. Deep down, she struggled with confusion, with so much hurt and doubt.
“Pastor Boyd, I—I need some time to think things through.” She didn’t want to lie and add to her own discomfort.
“Would you like to come in; would you like for me to come to see you?” He was clearly concerned, Samantha could picture his handsome brows furrowed with worry.
“I just need some time,” she said and felt like crying, but she kept her voice steady.
“I understand, Samantha. You know I will pray for you.”
“Thank you, Pastor Boyd.”
Alicia had come up and stood beside Boyd as he hung up the phone. The question in her eyes was louder than words.
“So…,” she said finally before he could decide how to appease her. Lately he had begun to worry when his prayers for Samantha’s family seemed to go unheard. Yet, in his innermost he felt God required of him to trust and not be moved by his own deductions; or Alicia’s quick solutions.
“Alicia, I believe Samantha will be fine, she just needs some time to get her bearings. I don’t know if it’s the upcoming lawsuit that has her in such a state or if it’s the aftermath of her mother’s visit- it seems to always affect her negatively. And if that wasn’t enough, her friend’s accident was a shock to the whole family.”
“Do you think it may have something to do with Oliver Turnbull, now that he is back? But, Boyd, the children aren’t in church. She can’t deprive them of their Bible studies and church friends. They have missed several services lately. Oh--.” Alicia laid her slender hand over her mouth, a pained look in her eyes.
“Now, dear don’t jump to conclusions. We’ve been through this before. You once thought Mr. Turnbull was going to ride off into the sunset with her. I am more inclined to think she has some real anxiety over the more unpleasant aspects of the up-coming trial. She is after all a woman with great responsibilities, not to mention going to court over her husband’s death. It will recall so much pain. I wish I knew how to reassure her, but she wants to be left alone for now.”
“Boyd, you must see about her, promise you’ll look in on her,” Alicia said stoutly.
“I offered my help. That is all I intend to do at this time. She said she needs some time to think things through. It would be good to be much in prayer for her and the children.”
“Well! There are times when I would act on a matter that seems trivial to you,” she huffed, once again irritated with his slackness. “But of course I will pray for them.” She would see to it as she had before, to make sure Boyd wasn’t missing an important link in the development of Samantha’s future
“Alicia, being a woman and also Samantha’s good friend, maybe you could help her just by being there for her. I don’t recall your last visit with her maybe it would be good of you to meet with her. Perhaps you can draw her into confiding in you,” Boyd said thoughtfully.
“Boyd, Samantha and I have never met on a deeper level of friendship, it just didn’t happen. It’s because we are both pastor’s wives I suppose…”
“What nonsense!” Boyd interrupted harshly.
“I don’t mean it in a derogatory way, and it’s possible that we are just not meant for a deeper friendship, you can’t force that sort of thing. Our mutual concerns are mostly over the children. She hasn’t called me for a while now, so you see where we stand,” Alicia said somber-faced but then her eyes lit up as she looked into his eyes, “Besides that, Boyd Thompson, you are my very best friend.”
“That is music to my ears,” he said, “However, I know you long for more openness among the women you know in the church. What do you propose we do to break down the walls that keep many of us isolated from each other?”
“I have given a lot of thought to that, Boyd, I remember my mother telling stories of the women in her Sunday school department and how they bonded when they let go their inhibitions,” Alicia said feeling the warmth of passion rising up in her. “If we could pray about changing the setting in our groups into smaller clusters, women with women and men with men, I think we could bond better.”
“Of course, that sounds good, but you know how difficult change comes. We may try it with one small group; Alicia, meanwhile I would like you to make yourself available to Samantha.” Boyd said seeming to have lost interest at the mention of change. How she knew he hated to stir what he thought a good thing and his congregation was running smoothly, but not well enough for her.
Sometimes, she was jealous of Boyd who seemed the only one designated to stand before God to intercede for sinners. She knew he didn’t confide to her all their confessions, partly because he thought her too easily aroused. But he was so slow to act, as in Samantha’s case. God will provide a way was usually his conclusion to a matter
As she contemplated another lunch with Samantha, she had no agenda. She just intended to look into her face, to smile, to have a leisurely time with her and then, if anything developed, well, something would pop into her head.