Sitting in the shadows, she stared at the decorated church. I’ve arrived too late, I’ve already missed her.
There was a sound of somebody approaching, probably the janitor, who had let her in, now I’ll have to do it on my own. Oh!
Hesitantly, “Hello Audrey.”
Audrey started, hearing a voice in the nearly completely dark room, but turned with a smile to greet her. Audrey never would have been a good poker player. Stella could see all of Audrey’s emotions, completely exposed across her face and in her eyes, one by one, as she went through them. Fear, anger, anxiety, and then, is that peace I’m seeing?
“Stella, is that really you? It’s been so long.”
“Yes, I know. Twenty years now.”
“Why? What made you finally come back?”
“I guess it’s true, that old cliché, what goes around, comes around. My daughter decided to spend the holidays with someone else. A boyfriend, probably, she didn’t say who, just that she was going to be with someone else for Christmas. It drove home the final nail, I realized how much I had hurt dad, all those years ago. I’ve been thinking about you, and him, for a long time now, but it took that to make me finally get up the courage to come back.” She rushed on, afraid, unable to stop the stream of words. “I came to the church, remembering how you always did the decorations. I hoped I remembered correctly, but then I got here, and they were already done… I knew I’d missed you and I would have to go alone. I went to the house what must be a dozen times tonight, I just couldn’t go to the door. I came in here, I, I” she dropped back down to the pew with a thump, not even realizing she had stood up during her spiel to her stepmother. Her body shook with the suppressed sobs.
“Will you come home with me, then?” Audrey asked.
“Will I be welcome? How is he? Does he hate me?” Can he ever forgive me?” all came tumbling out, almost in one breath.
Audrey sat down beside her, and wrapped her arms around her. “He never has hated you, you were forgiven within minutes of your leaving, he misses you desperately and you always were welcome. He spent a lot of time, and money, trying to find you over the next few years. Then we received that picture when Pamela was just five, no return address, no name, just a picture of you and her. She’s a beautiful child.”
Audrey wiped away Stella’s tears, and hugged her again. “We put the picture in a frame, and it’s been sitting on the mantle, where your dad can see it, ever since we got it. Come, let’s go home.”
Slowly they stood up. “What made you come back tonight? The church is already decorated.” Stella asked.
Audrey laughed. “I forgot to bring the box of candles, I was going to wait and bring it tomorrow, but then I got one of those nudges. I knew I needed to come tonight.”
“God still speaks to you?” I asked, incredulously. “You’re still…” I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t want to open old arguments. I had never believed all that “stuff” about God, and being able to “hear a still small voice” was just over the line for me, even now.
“Yes, I still hear, and respond, to His voice. That’s what sent me here, tonight, so I could take you home with me. Come, let’s go.” Audrey smiled at her, giving her arm another squeeze, before standing up.
They walked, arm in arm, out of the church and next door to the parsonage.
Stella was wondering, again, if she’d been wrong about a God who cares, just she had obviously been wrong about her dad.
They walked in the door, and Stella felt like someone had kicked her in the stomach. “Pamela? What?”
“Mom! You came! We’ve been praying for you, that you would come, but…oh Mom. Grandpa, look, she’s here.”
After many hugs, and even more tears, Stella tuned towards her daughter, “so, this is the someone you wanted to be with?”
“Just one of the someone’s. I wanted you to come, too, but I was afraid to ask. Grandpa, grandma and I, we’ve been praying, that you would come home, too.”
“I guess I was too stubborn to come any sooner, but I’m here now.”
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