This is the second "intense" story in my series. Again I would love your thoughts about how you connect with the character.
This is the opening chapter to the second book in the Sarah series. The first book (e-book available on Amazon) is called Sarah's Smile.
He was there. The one who walked from her life when she needed him. The one who only communicated through cards she threw away without opening. She didn't want his written words. She wanted his arms to hold her, his shoulders to ride on, his heart to connect with and his lips to kiss her goodnight and say "I love you."
Now he was there. At Tash's special place. Tash didn't live there. God took her home thirteen years earlier, when she rushed onto the road without checking for cars. Only her body remained below the grass and soil marked by a small stone Angel.
Sarah had not invited him and knew, by the shocked look on her mother's face, the invitation didn't come from her either. Usually her mother visited Tash first, while Sarah waited in the car for her turn to kneel, remember and try to talk. Sarah knew this was not a requirement, but rather a pattern they had grown comfortable with.
This time Sarah went first, while her mother confronted the man, who had abandoned them eleven years ago, her arms showing her dislike for the intrusion into their special time. While Sarah's father, hands raised, slowly backed toward his car.
Tears fell where Sarah's knees pressed into the grass, as her fingers gently touched the cold stone reminder. Other than photographs, it was the only physical reminder. Her memories were not real. They were a blending of her mother's words and childhood recollections, which seemed more distant every year.
"Happy birthday Tash," she offered, remembering she never called her sister Natasha, as her mother often did. Instead, repeating the simple version she used as a five-year-old, when she last talked with her sister.
"I've finished Grade 12." The words seemed hollow, carrying none of the joy she felt at graduation, ten days earlier.
She wanted to be happy but he had ruined it. He had forced her to think about an all too recent talk JJ had given at church, and a promise she had made soon after.
"How can I forgive him, Tash?" she said, knowing the Angel would never respond. "All I want to do is yell at him."
You need to heal.
The words surprised her as they appeared in her mind like a strong thought. She had heard of others receiving a message from God, but this sounded like JJ. As she tried to recall if it was a memory from JJ's first sermon, the words returned.
Her eyes drifted toward the carpark. Her father sat motionless on the hood of a old brown car, while her mother seemed much calmer. They looked like they were talking.
Rising to her feet she felt her heart begin to pound, and her mouth go dry. She longed to run to her mother's car and lock herself inside, so this man could never reach her.
"What if I forgive him Tash, and don't really mean it? What happens then? And what happens if I tell him I hate him and mean it?"
Silence answered her.
Slowly she turned and began her journey toward her father. Toward the man who knew how twisted and broken she was, yet still left. Toward the man who said he loved her more than anything, yet still left. Toward the man she still doubted she could ever say the word 'forgive' to.
Words needed to be said. One set was born from years of pain and anger. These words were like blinding flashes in her mind. The second lot were calmer and, hopefully, would lead to a better life beyond his hurt. She knew she should choose the second group, but longed to yell the first. Only one could be said.
As the gap closed she became conscious of her twisted limbs, as if a part of her mind hoped he would have stayed if she was like everyone else. Against her will she felt herself trying to straighten her left arm, twist her left leg forwards and force normality into her fingers. She stumbled, recovered, felt the heat of blood rushing to her cheeks and grew angry, at herself for her foolishness and him for not wanting her as she is.
As abating embarrassment allowed her focus to lift she noticed two sets of eyes looking at her. Her father had not moved, while her mother hurried closer. Sarah hoped her mother was intent on redirection, which would save her from the building turmoil.
"He wants to talk to you," her mother quietly shared, as the gap between them closed to two steps. "You don't have to, you know."
The words, which filled her mind at Tash's grave, now seemed to be on repeat, as other words joined them.
It has nothing to do with him. You need to heal.
Sarah knew she had to, but anger was winning.
"I have something to say to him," she said, not convinced if the words would be kind or condemning.
Her mother stepped between Sarah and the recipient of her words.
"I don't want stop you saying what you need to say."
Sarah wished she would.
"I just want you to forgive you father. If not now, then sometime in the future."
As tension built, Sarah's eyes dropped. She fought for control.
I will not cry in front of him, she silently decided. I will not let him see me any more broken than I am.
As her mother moved aside she added. "I'll support you whatever you say, but please let God deal with him. Forgiveness will let us heal and we both need that."
With the path cleared Sarah's eyes locked onto the man twenty steps away. Words were forming in her mind and she was sure her mother would not like hearing them.
Six steps separated them when her father spoke.
"I only deserve your anger Sarah, and even your hatred. What I did was wrong."
"Don't talk," Sarah snapped, stopping four steps from the man who looked much older than she remembered.
He obliged, looking at her with eyes that looked tired.
"I promised my friends and pastor, that I would forgive you the next time I saw you," Sarah began, her tone as cold and hard as the stone reminders, filling this place.
"Even a minute ago I didn't know whether I could. I didn't know whether I would mean the words, if I said them. Now I know."
Sarah noticed his face drop slightly, as if he was expecting the worst. He still didn't speak.
"I forgive you," Sarah stated, her tone unsoftened. "Not because you deserve it, but because I need to move on with my life, because I need to let God heal me and he won't do that while I still hate you."
Sarah felt her mother's hand gently touch her shoulder. The memory of her friend Nicky's comforting hug and words "I'm proud of you Sarah Glee" flashed in her mind.
"I love you Sarah," her father gently offered, as he slowly slid from the car hood.
"Stop!" Sarah snapped, thrusting an open hand forward, no longer caring that none of her fingers pointed in the same direction.
He jolted back, as if slapped by the words.
Struggling to hold some of the anger from her voice, Sarah continued. "I'm not ready for your words, I'm not ready for you to touch me and I'm not ready for your love. Not yet, maybe not for a long time, maybe not ever."
Anger had made her stronger than she had ever been but, as her father's head lowered, Sarah felt her mental walls beginning to crumble. She wished Nicky could be here.
"I just want to go home, Mum," she said, as she turned and began walking toward her mother's car. Before completing the third step of her journey, tears were already flowing over her cheeks. She could not turn back now.
"You actually said that!" Nicky exclaimed. "When I helped you find your voice, I only thought you would speak up when people like Cassandra Levin said stupid things, not take down randoms in cemeteries."
"He's not a random, he's my father," Sarah said.
"When was the last time you saw him, and I don't mean yesterday."
"Eleven years ago."
"Then he's a random," Nicky stated, before smiling broadly. "Anyway, I'm proud of you for saying how you feel. I'm sure he now knows how you feel."
"But what if he never wants to talk to me again?"
Nicky stared for a moment, as if giving the question appropriate thought. "You said he sends cards at Christmas."
"Yes, and I said what I do with them."
"Read the one he sends this Christmas."
Sarah sat still, the coffee shop sounds filling her ears as her mind tried desperately to decide to accept the statement or be angry at her friend for the suggestion.
All she could offer, as tears formed in her eyes, was "What if he doesn't send one?"
Beyond the question, Sarah knew there was another, which fear stopped her from speaking.
What if he does?
© Rod Loader