Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: Right and Left( 07/31/14)
By Rachel Barrett
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I could have punched the ultrasound doctor for his nonchalance. His words still swirl around in my head. “Congratulations, Mrs. Feldman, it looks like you're having a son.”
I force a fake smile and accept the well-wishes. I haven't cried a single tear.
From the start, Jake and I decided kids weren't for us. My past isn't what you'd call pretty—or child-friendly—but two years of marriage had made me feel safe again.
But my stepfather changed all that. I thought I'd moved on and I'd never have to face him again, until he got out on parole, showed up at the family reunion, and followed me home. Jake wasn't there.
I know he'll be there now, waiting to hold me. To tell me that no matter what, he'll be there for me, that this will be our child.
My man is something else. Rock-solid and wise, just like my real father during the six short childhood years I knew him. Jake can always fix everything. But this time I don't know if his faith is strong enough to carry us both.
The tires swish softly through a puddle at the stop sign. Brake. I can do this.
Here's the junction. Turn right and it's a straight shot, ten minutes to my house. Turn left and you're on County Road 34, a lonely gravel stretch winding off into the mountains. You shouldn't drive it at night, and you don't drive it in the rain for love nor money.
Or do you?
There's one short step from wretchedness to desperation. I could turn left, drive onto those rain-slick hairpin curves, and quietly step on the gas....
Then I remember the night Jake caught me in the bathroom with a razor blade. His anguished face as he smacked it out of my hand made me promise I'd never try it again.
A honk blares behind me. I guess I should get out of the way. Pulling onto the shoulder, I watch a pickup roar past and splash a tidal wave over my car hood. As I sit, listening to the engine hum and the rain gush down, I realize I don't have the guts to kill myself.
I've read all those fluffy, pretty “survivor stories” and wondered where my own healing is. Maybe I'm just weak.
I need to hit something. The leather console will do nicely.
“God, I hate You!” Serious talk for a sweet-faced little preacher's kid, but all my anger and fear is exploding, and I can't stop it. I won't stop it. “I can't do this!” Suddenly I'm crying, harder than I ever cried in my life. The rain starts to let up, but my tears don't. I know I don't really hate Him. But I'm afraid.
When the internal flood subsides, I dig around for a tissue. Outside, in the sky, the billowing thunderheads sweep the cloudburst off to the north, leaving only a light sprinkling rain.
“Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold...”
I can't remember the rest...but it's enough. The storming emotions drain away with the last few sniffles, and I can think again. I have two choices, right or left.
Something tells me I can't choose just one. Hope and despair, peace and suffering...they come and go hand in hand. The two roads are one.
My breath fogs the car window as I lean on it. Scrubbing it clear, I can see out toward the mountains, to the sun breaking through in the west, and a rainbow shining over the peaks.
I switch off the ignition and sit, watching. When Jake and I got married, I told him I had lost faith in everything, including myself. That I didn't think I could do it. I still remember what he said: “God doesn't call the equipped, Lena...He equips the called.”
As the sun peeks in and out through the clouds, I tilt the seat back and think about this baby. It won't be easy. There will be days I think I can make it, and days when I just want to give up. But he deserves a fighting chance. And so do I.
I think his name will be Jedidiah. Beloved of the Lord.
Scripture: Psalm 69:1-2a, NIV.
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