Beads of cold sweat poured down Jason’s face as he choked back tears. “I will not cry,” he told himself.
Strong fingers gripped the back of his neck, shoving his face against the mirror. “What do you see?” screamed his father.
Jason knew better than to answer. “Worthless! That’s what I see! Did you hear me? You’re worthless!” One last smack of his face against the mirror, and Jason slid to the floor, blood dripping from his nose.
“I’m leaving, and when I get back, you better be gone boy,” his father’s breath filled his nostrils with the smell of old beer.
Jason was used to the drunken rages, but this time something was different. As his father’s jeep pealed out of the driveway, he went into action, shoving his only other shirt and jeans in a plastic bag. Slipping out the door, his feet pounded the ground in a steady rhythm, putting endless space between him and Stoneridge Park.
The officer walked into the room. “Store manager here said you stole this beef jerky son.”
“I’m not your son!” defied Jason.
“What’s your name?” asked the officer.
“Okay Jason. Why did you take the jerky?”
Jason stared at the officer, curling his lip in anger, and crossing his arms firmly against his chest.
“What’s your last name Jason?”
“Okay,” he paused. “Can you tell me where you live or give me your phone number?”
“I live here and there, and I ain’t got no phone.”
“Where are your mother and father?”
“Mom died and I have no father.”
“Surely you have a grown-up who takes care of you.”
“How old are you?”
Turning to the store manager he asked, “May I use your phone?”
“No problem,” said the manager.
The officer quickly dialed. Jason could hear the phone ringing on the other side. Someone answered on the third ring, but he couldn’t make out what they were saying.
“I need to speak to Letty please.”
Jason could hear elevator music flowing from the phone as the officer waited for Letty.
“Yes, Letty. This is Officer Perry. I need you to find a placement for a ten year old boy.”
“We’re proud of you Jason,” said Mr. Forsythe. “You’ve come a long way. An MBA is nothing to sneeze at.”
“Thanks Dad,” said Jason. “I owe it all to you.”
“No Son, we just obeyed God and took you in. A college degree, now that’s your doing.”
Jason wrapped his arms around his father’s neck. “Go with God Jason.”
“I’ll do my best Dad.”
“Do you know where this house is?” asked Jason.
“No,” said Ellie. “The realtor just said it was perfect for our first home. Three bedrooms and fenced in backyard. Isn’t this fun?”
“Not exactly,” he said.
“Come on,” she giggled. “It’s an adventure.”
Jason was intent in following the realtor and didn’t notice the Stoneridge Park sign to his left. They pulled up next to a pale blue house. “This place looks familiar,” he said.
“Really?” questioned Ellie.
“Yeah, but I can’t place it,” he said.
“Good afternoon Mr. Forsythe. Mark Guthridge. Guthridge Realty.”
“Call me Jason,” said Jason shaking his hand. “This is my wife Ellie.”
“Well, let’s get started shall we?” suggested Mr. Guthridge. “This home is 1500 square feet and has a fully fenced backyard. There are three bedrooms, two baths, and an indoor laundry room.”
He held open the front door as Jason and Ellie stepped inside. “Oh look!” squealed Ellie. “A fireplace.”
Jason caught his breath as painful memories surged through his mind. Determined not to crush Ellie’s sense of adventure he pasted on a smile and gave her hand a squeeze. They continued the tour, Ellie and Mr. Guthridge seeing the perfect fit while Jason confronted demons from his past. They entered the master bedroom when Mr. Guthridge’s phone rang.
“If you folks’ll excuse me, I need to take this call,” he said.
“No problem,” said Ellie. “We’ll keep looking.”
Jason stepped into the master bathroom and gazed intently into the mirror. Ellie stepped behind him, wrapping her arms around his middle. She moved to kiss his cheek, but stopped short. “What’s wrong?” she asked.
“Tell me,” he said. “When you look in this mirror, what do you see?”
Looking in the mirror she said, “I see strength, courage, and tenacity. I see a man I’m proud to call my husband.”
Fresh tears clouded Jason’s eyes. “Thank you,” he said as he sank to the floor and wept.
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