The man adjusted his red silk tie then wiped a non-existent speck of dust from the sleeve of his charcoal grey suit. The gold watch on his left wrist sparkled and the diamonds in his cufflinks winked at Jeff. His perfectly styled blonde hair was swept back from his face so that there was no hiding how handsome he was.
“I just want you to know that I think you are absolutely correct in what you’re doing right now. I completely agree and can say I’ve never been prouder of you than I am in this moment.”
Jeff had been alone here at the table, nursing a cup of coffee, and couldn’t recall the man sitting down to join him. “Excuse me, sir, but I think you’ve confused me with someone else. I don’t think I know you.”
The man smiled but it never touched his eyes. “Oh, Jefferson, we’re old friends. I’ve had my eye on you for a very long time. A very long time indeed. I’ve always wondered when you were going to grow a backbone and take care of this little problem of yours.”
The Charcoal Man patted Jeff’s hand and smiled even bigger and Jeff smiled back. He suddenly felt better. He’d come to the diner that morning with the intention of confronting his stepfather but he’d almost talked himself out of it when The Charcoal Man joined him.
He was so busy enjoying The Charcoal Man’s approval that, at first, he didn’t notice they were no longer alone. There was someone else sitting to his right and he was nothing like The Charcoal Man. He was dressed in a pair of old jeans and a plaid shirt with unruly brown hair and a matching beard. His eyes were a deep brown and they looked at Jeff with compassion and love.
Jeff’s newly found confidence started to crumble. As he looked into the eyes of his new companion, he felt tears start to well up as he remembered every punch, slap, kick, and curse he’d ever received from his stepfather. He saw a tear fall from the other man’s eyes as well.
He quietly spoke to Jeff, “Do not listen to the voice of the deceiver. He will feed you a poison that tastes like honey. He speaks to what you desire without caring for what you truly need.” He reached out, placed a hand on Jeff’s, and just quietly looked at him.
Jeff looked down at the table and felt a weight begin to lift from his heart. It was in this moment that The Charcoal Man spoke sweetly in his ear. “This fool would let your stepfather get away with all of it. All the abuse. All the threats. All the fear. No one is going to make him pay but you. You need to do this. Think of your mother. Think of your sister. Be a man and PROTECT them…NOW.”
The words became more insistent as he spoke and Jeff wanted to believe it because it felt right. He wanted to do what this man was saying. Jeff looked up and saw his stepfather walk in the door. His hand went to his coat pocket and closed over what rested there.
“Yes.” The Charcoal Man insisted. “Do it.” Jeff looked and saw hunger in his eyes.
Jeff started to get up but first looked to The Other Man. He was looking back at Jeff with sympathy in his eyes. He whispered, “The Lord will repay. You are not alone. I am always with you. Your Father sees all and the scales will be balanced.” He held out an open hand with the palm up. “Trust Him.”
Jeff sat looking down at the scarred hand before him. He then looked back towards his stepfather. The war raged within him as he wanted to go over and end this forever but...he looked back into the eyes of The Other Man. He wanted to trust him. He wanted peace.
He pulled the gun out of his pocket and looked at it for a moment. With a sigh, he placed it in the outstretched hand of The Other Man and released it from his grip. He looked at the gun that was in the complete control of The Other Man and thought of taking it back.
Instead, Jeff stood up and walked out of the diner without looking back.
At the table behind him, nothing remained but a cold cup of coffee.
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