Ugly wouldn’t describe it. The scene would forever be chiseled into Chase’s mind, an indelible stain that would last until the day he died. On Valentine’s Day, three months before he was to graduate high school, he came home weary from a cross-country run with the track team. His distraught mother confronted him on the front porch
“Chase Winters, you ruined our family name.” With the back of a meaty, freckle-spotted hand she swiped tears cascading down her face. His rail-thin dad, usually pert twin fifteen-year old sisters and little brother, pushed open the screen door and shuffled out behind her, sniffling loudly.
“Pack your bags and go.”
When his mother had her mind made up, she clamped down like a bull dog. Arguing with her would be futile. “What have I done?” he asked, shaken to the core by his mother’s harsh dictum. He searched each distressed face for a clue. “There is some mistake.”
“I wish to God there was,” she mumbled, “but, truth is truth. Harry Larrymore just left. He said Linda is pregnant and you …”
“Mama, that’s not …”
“Yes, it is! He said if you ever set foot on his property again he will kill you. Oh, Chase…” she cried, slumping onto the dusty porch, “you’ve ruined our…”
“Mama, I love Lin…”
“Enough!” She struggled to her feet and swept the moaning audience aside with a swipe of her meaty arm. “Pack your clothes and get.”
That had been three years ago. He had randomly thrown stuff into an old suitcase and went to a buddy’s house. Tim’s mother fed half the town’s stray animals and one more didn’t rock her boat. She asked Chase to help with chores and offered up the couch.
Three days later he joined the Army. The recruiter provided bus ticket and meal money to Fort Carson, Colorado, sending him away from Texas and the family that no longer claimed him. The weeks blended together; he graduated basic training, volunteered for the 101st Airborne at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, became a paratrooper, completed Ranger training, and afterwards was accepted into Officer Candidate School in Birmingham, Alabama. He had just graduated as a 90 day wonder: commissioned 2nd Lieutenant.
Today, three days into a two week leave, Linda and her father were dead-center on his radar. But first, he needed to talk to Reverend Phillip Larrymore, Linda’s grandfather. Parking his newly purchased Buick convertible before the church, he entered and found the pastor in his study.
Looking up, a smile broke widely across the minister’s face. “Chase, is that you? I almost didn’t recognize you in that uniform. You cut a fine appearance, young man.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Does Linda know you’re here?”
“No, sir. Not yet. I wanted to see you first.”
“Well, it’s good to see you. Lance, that son of yours, is the apple of his grandmother’s eye.” He looked intently at Chase. “I hope you are here to talk about a wedding.”
“That I am, sir. Will you tie the knot for us?”
“Of course I will. It would be an honor to …” The minister frowned, realization dawning. “But, Harry …”
“He’s not going to stand in my way.” The words came out forceful, the tone iron hard.
Reverend Larrymore’s dark eyes widened perceptibly. “Chase, I hope you aren’t threatening Harry.”
“No, sir. With your help a private wedding in the chapel is all I’m asking. Linda and Lance, and if a witness is needed, maybe your wife or secretary can help us.”
“Harry won’t stand for that, you know. I don’t see how…”
“That’s why, I’m here Reverend. You led me to faith right here in this office. Linda and I plan to get on with our lives. I’m counting on you to intercede. My folks were wrong about me. You have the same problem with Harry, except you don’t know it.”
Reverend Larrymore tapped a No.2 yellow pencil softly against a Matthew Henry’s Commentary, trying to grasp Chase’s comment. “Explain yourself, Chase. What are you saying?”
“I’m not the black sheep my family thinks I am. I’m not Lance’s father. But I’ll love him like my own.”
“Linda and I have been corresponding through a friend.” Chase took out an envelope from a jacket pocket. “In here is proof of parentage from a DNA lab. Your son Harry, sir, is the black sheep in your family. I hope you can forgive him. Linda and I have.”
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