Do I have everything? Thomas wondered as he looked into his barely full suitcase. He went into his bathroom and returned with his shaving bag. I think this is the last of it. Maybe I should add a few more clothes just in case. Thomas pulled out shirts and pants and added them to his suitcase. He looked over his belongings. That should be it.
Thomas snapped his suitcase with finality. He picked up a smaller bag from the floor, grabbed the suitcase off of the bed and looked around his room as if it would be the last time he would see it. Thomas slowly walked down the steps calculating the trip ahead.
A woman's voice broke his concentration. “There's your Dad, Adam.” Thomas took a long, slow breath as he descended the steps in silence. He watched his son's caregiver and employee rock Adam back and forth.
“Martha thanks for manning the store and for watching him on such short notice.”
Martha looked at Thomas as if he just spoke an unknown language to her. “It won’t be my first time taking over your store, Thomas. And as for, Adam, he is at my house all the time anyway. You just happen to be out of reach now.”
Thomas flashed a look of hurt and anger. “I can’t do this right now, Martha.”
“We are going to have to do it at some point, Thomas.”
Thomas lowered his head. “It's time for me to go.”
“Give our love to John, George and Sadie...and Grace if you see her.”
Thomas, who was heading out of the door, froze at the mention of Grace’s name. If I see her? Will I see her? Of course I’ll see her, but I haven’t seen her in nearly five years with the exception of a faint memory at Greta’s funeral. He breathed another slow, deep breath and nodded to Martha.
“Thank you again for taking care of, of … everything while I'm away.” Thomas kissed Martha on the cheek and barely looked at Adam.
“Your son would like some love from you, too.” Thomas looked at Adam, his face filled with regret. “Bye.” Thomas rushed out of the door before Martha could tell him that a 'bye' was not enough love. Peace at last. Why does Martha keep bothering me? She knows I'm not ready.
You're just afraid.
He pushed God’s voice away and focused on the long drive up the road that led to his childhood home. Several hours later Thomas pulled in beside his grandfather’s car, got out and stretched the length of his 6’ 2” frame.
“A sight for sore eyes,” George Elliot walked out to the porch. “Thomas, how are you, son?”
Thomas looked at the man who had served his family faithfully for the last fifty years. A man, tall in stature, with a solid frame and a heart as gentle as he was strong. A friend and someone he had confided in when his own Father had passed away. He walked up the steps and held out his hand. George grabbed Thomas and hugged him, almost lifting him from the porch.
George held the screen door open for Thomas, walking in behind him before securing the door. Thomas set his bags down in the parlor and turned to George. “How is he?”
George chuckled, “Good. Dying, but good. He's been asking after you...and for that Grandbaby.”
Thomas tried not to think on his son. He had not even looked at him long enough to know who he looked like. He heard Martha say that he carried his Father’s features with a hint of Greta her and there. Greta. Thomas’s mind went back a few months prior to his now deceased wife. He sighed, thinking about the events that led to her untimely passing.
George recognized Thomas's mood and put his arm on his shoulder. “Come on son.”
Thomas nodded and Mr. George led him upstairs to the room of John Thomas Wellington, announcing his arrival as he opened the door. Thomas saw Ms. Sadie Bassett rocking in his grandmother’s favorite rocker. She stood to greet him with the same bear hug George had given him minutes earlier minus almost pulling him off his feet.
“How are you Ms. Sadie?”
“Good for an old gal. Great to see you, Thomas. How are you?”
“I am alright, Ms. Sadie. Glad to know you are doing well.”
“Why, thank you. And I'm sorry about Greta and missing the funeral. You received my package for you and Adam didn't you?”
“Thomas, I don't know why she is asking you. I told her I gave it to you. She asked me a hundred times about it when I got back.” Thomas glanced over to his Grandfather.
“I'm talking to Thomas. Thank you.” Sadie countered.
Thomas couldn’t help but smile. There was always plenty said when Ms. Sadie and John were in the same room. They had been going at it for as long as he could remember. Kept the entire family in good spirits during the good and the bad. He shook his head focusing on the seasoned women staring up at him. “I received the package, Ms. Sadie. Thank you for thinking of us.”
“Well, you know I am always thinking of you and you're welcome. How is that son of yours?”
Sadie felt Thomas stiffen under her embrace. She waited for his reply. “Martha is taking great care of him. And thank you so much for taking great care of my Grandfather.” Thomas added quickly changing the subject. Sadie noticed his avoidance as did everyone in the room, but they did not press him.
Sadie grunted. “I'm gonna say it like your Grandmother used to, I am the only one that will put up with him. So I might as well keep him.”
As they all laughed at this sentiment, Thomas walked over and hugged and kissed John. “How are you Grandfather?”
“Well, for a dying man I feel wonderful.” Thomas looked at his Grandfather lying in his bed. He looked frail, but still full of life. He pushed down the anger that rose within him for not coming to see his Grandfather sooner.
He knew he should have come, but he was being selfish and prideful and trying so hard to keep Greta happy. He was so stupid falling for all of her lies and deceit. He shook his head trying to push away memories of their life together. No time to live in that regret now. He was here and he would stay as long as his Grandfather needed him.
Thomas shifted his attention to the lady who sat at his Grandfather’s side. There she is. Grace Francis. His eyes raked over her silky caramel flesh. She sat there as pretty as ever holding his grandfather’s hand. He suddenly became aware of how he must look to her. Disheveled? Old? Maybe worn?
He mustered his courage and looked into her eyes. Wow. Those soft beautiful eyes held warmth and love. Just as he remembered. Grace was his childhood friend and overall partner in crime. He remembered their many pranks and punishments. They were always in trouble for one thing or another, but it made for an exciting and memorable childhood.
Then they got older and things began to change between them. A change that he enjoyed at that time, but he would not allow his thoughts to travel there. He did allow his mind to travel to the memory of one of their last conversations. A memory that has haunted him for most of his marriage with Greta. A memory that held the cause of his failed marriage.
Thomas, I cannot believe that you would marry her. She is only interested in you for your money. She heard Wellington Steel and you became a dollar sign to her. She is going to break your heart and leave you hopeless and pathetic.
Hopeless and pathetic? Is that what you think of me hopeless and pathetic?
No, I see you as a strong leader. A man who is warm, loving, respectful, full of so much promise and success, but she has changed you into a hopeless and pathetic puppy following her around. Jumping at her every whim. The sex must be amazing because that is the only thing that could have you behaving so stupidly.
Now I’m stupid. You are batting a thousand right now. Thomas walked away from her throwing his hands in the air in frustration.
She walked over to him and spun him around. I am and I’m not finished. Have you told her about your plans for opening your own store? The money allotted to you from your parents once you marry. Does she know how much the Wellington family is worth?
I assume so. Does she know that your plans are to live in the store loft?
No, she doesn’t know. Afraid that the dust and small quarters will cause her to leave you? Thomas, this woman has turned an intelligent, strong willed, outspoken man, namely you, into a coward and I am done with you! Grace stormed out of the room.
Thomas stood there looking behind Grace. He knew where she was going, but he dared not follow her or should he? He sat down on the couch and put his hands in his head. A half hour passed by and Grace had not returned. He grabbed a flashlight and went out to their secret garden. He found her kneeling at her favorite chair crying. He walked over, picked her up, and held her in his arms.
Grace lifted her head and looked at him. Thomas, I’m not sorry for what I said, but I am sorry for how I said it. I spat it out at you and I am sorry for that, but you know that I’m right. You know it! And I don’t know why you have allowed this woman to take over your life. You are better than this. You are inviting unnecessary turmoil into your life that is only going to cause you tremendous pain. I love you and I don’t want you to go through the inevitable heartbreak that she will cause you if you marry her.
She is pregnant, Grace. Grace pulled back from him.
Is that what she told you?
And you believe her?
Yes. He said hesitantly.
Have you been to the doctor with her? Do you have proof?
You should, Thomas. Because I bet all of my inheritance that she is lying. Grace jumped up from his arms.
Grace, why would she lie about something this serious?
Would you marry her if she hadn’t told you? Thomas rubbed the back of his neck. He knew he couldn’t lie to Grace. He never could nor did he want to.
Honestly, I’m not sure if I would right now, but I am not going to turn my back on my responsibility.
Then you don’t love her?
I love her, but I am not in love with her, Grace. Thomas walked up to Grace and held her face in his hands. I am in love with you.
Then why aren’t you marrying me?
Then why aren’t you marrying me? Because I was a coward, Grace. I am so sorry. Thomas sighed. He knew that Grace was not the cause of his failed marriage. He and Greta were. Her lies and his belief of them. That is what caused his horrible marriage, but he chose to ignore that truth. The lie allowed him to remain distant and cold and he was good at that. At least for the time being.
Oh, no! She smiled. Those sweet lips smiled at him. Those lips that he used to kiss. Lips he thoroughly enjoyed kissing. He shook away the longing within him for her and acknowledged her smile with a nod.
Wow! There he is Thomas Arlington Wellington. Her friend. Her confident and the love of her life. The one that she had spent almost every waking minute with. The one who knew her thoughts, her dreams, her secrets, her heart.
The only problem is that she hadn’t seen him in five years with the exception of his late wife’s funeral. He looked wearied and stressed, but behind the hard lines that overtook his face and the sadness that stilled his eyes lay the handsome young man that she fell in love with so long ago.
She longed to hold him and let him know that he was not alone, but considering the look on his face she didn’t even think she would receive a smile from him more less allow her to touch him.
Her mind wondered to one of their last conversations where he told her he was in love with her. She did not know where the present thoughts of his mind lay. Either way she would be who she was as always and offer him warmth regardless of his current emotional state, so she smiled softly at him.
It must have been the wrong move, because she watched his body stiffen as he nodded her way and turned his attention back to John. Oh, well. She turned her attention there as well, to the current love of her life, her Papa.
Grace noticed that familiar look in his eyes and kissed her Papa on the forehead. “I will be back in a little bit with your dinner.” John kissed her hand reluctant to let her go, but he knew she was giving space for him to talk with Thomas. George, Sadie and Grace quietly left the room closing the door behind them.
John watched his family disappear behind the door and then settled his attention to the lone man in the room. He watched Thomas trying to get a hold of his emotions after seeing Grace. John knew that it would be difficult for him to see her. Difficult for them to see each other, but he had a solid remedy to help them along. Too bad he would not be around to see the beautiful outcome.
Well, he knew it would be hard at first, especially for Thomas, but Grace would bring the beauty Thomas needed. With God’s help, it would turn out just as the Francis and Wellington family always wanted, but for now, John watched Thomas struggle between the anger, bitterness and guilt he felt.
“Thomas.” He said quietly deciding not to bring Grace into the conversation.
Thomas finally looked at his Grandfather knowing the uncomfortable line of questioning that was to come. He decided that he would steer the conversation. “How are you really, Grandfather?”
“Well, you know I'm dying son.” John said with a chuckle. “The doctor said my lungs are bad due to all that smoking I used to do. Then I caught this nasty illness that I haven’t been able to shake and now it has overtaken my body. It’s a doozy. Has me coughing, in pain, dizzy and sometimes hard of breathe. My oxygen is here by the stand for when I need it.”
“Grandmother told you for many years to stop.” He shook his finger at John. “You should have listened and maybe this sickness wouldn’t have caught you so strong.”
“That she did my boy and you are right. I should have listened. How is my great-grandson? How is Adam?”
“Well, Martha takes good care of him.”
“Yes, you said that already, but how is he doing? And back to the unspoken question, how are you really?”
Thomas stood, annoyance flashing across his face. He walked to the window. “Why does everyone keep asking me that?”
“Because we all care about you and we are going to ask until you honestly tell us how you are doing.”
Thomas took a deep breath. “I'm sorry. I know. I just get so upset. I cannot bear to look at him for fear that I will see Greta's face and the inevitable flood of emotions that will follow. Anger. Hurt. Embarrassment. Shame. Fear. I just don't know what to do sometimes. How to handle it all. I have nothing to show for my marriage, but lies, betrayal and debt and all this flood of emotions. How can a Father not look at his own son?”
John stretched out his arms to his grandson. “Come here, Thomas.”
Thomas reluctantly walked back to his Grandfather’s side tears already falling from his eyes. John held him in his arms. “It's alright son. Let it go. God is a restorer. He is a healer. I know that you have stopped being a believer for now, but God believes in you. He loves you and has surrounded you with loved ones to tell you so. It is time to forgive, son. Time to release the anger and bitterness and forgive, so that you can move forward in your life. And so that you can take care of your son.”
Thomas knew what his Grandfather spoke was the truth, but he was not ready to receive those words. Not ready to forgive. Anger suited him best. It helped him cope. I’m just not ready.
Sadie, Grace and George sat at the kitchen table chatting. They looked up at Thomas’s voice. “Do you need help preparing dinner?”
Everyone looked up at him, but Ms. Sadie responded. “Thomas, don't come in here acting all innocent. We know your Grandfather sent you to ask when dinner was coming.”
Thomas smiled because that is exactly what John had sent him to do. “Things haven’t changed much around here, have that?”
“Not much, except not seeing you here.” Sadie did not hesitate answering. She stood taking the warming plates from the oven fussing at John the whole time. “Hoary old goat. Still as demanding as he was in his youth. Wants everything done when he wants it. I ought to keep him waiting.”
They stood to help Sadie, laughing at her carrying on. George pulled the tray of drinks from the Frigidaire and Grace grabbed the tray of dinner plates Sadie sat on the counter.
“Let me get that.” Thomas took the tray from Grace. You are supposed to be mad with her. Why are you helping her? He ignored his evil voice and responded to her thanks.
“Thank you, Thomas.”
“You’re welcome, Grace.”
Sadie and George noticed the exchange, but remained silent. They headed up the stairs and prepared John's bedroom for dinner. George blessed the food.
Father we thank you for your bountiful blessings and for our family. Bless this meal that it be nourishment for our body and bless the hands that prepared it. And thank you for bringing our Thomas home. In Jesus Name. Amen.
They all agreed with an Amen and began eating oven-baked chicken, corn on the cob, roasted potatoes and greens.
Thomas savored every bite. He had not had a home cooked meal in a few weeks. He shook his head as he remembered Martha telling him that as of the following day she would cease to bring his meals because he needed to rise up and start to take care of himself. His meals were not too bad, but they were nothing compared to this. He smiled in delight as he took a forkful of greens. Well, his enjoyment must have showed because he noticed everyone looking at him. Thomas smiled sheepishly and they all burst into laughter. Thomas couldn’t help but join them.
“That was delicious, ladies. Thank you.” John paused to smile at the women in his life. “I am so glad to have my family here with me. This is a great way to transition to heaven, surrounded with love and in peace. I am however missing my great-grandson.”
“I'm sorry that I didn't bring him, but Martha needed to run the store. Her middle daughter is helping and the youngest is watching Adam. I wasn’t sure how he would endure the ride or how I would take care of him and you. I just felt it better to leave him with them.”
Thomas noticed the color draining from his Grandfather’s face. Grace rushed to his oxygen mask and put it around him. Grace saw the fear on Thomas’s face.
“He’s okay. When he gets excited or overly emotional, he loses his air sometimes. The oxygen will help. He usually comes back to himself after about 10 minutes or so.” Thirty minutes passed and John did not look any better. George reached for the phone and called the Dr.
Dr. Jackson walked out of John's room. Sadie, Grace and Thomas stood. Dr. Jackson looked at them sorrowfully and sighed. “It's not good. His lungs are getting weaker. He needs to stay on his oxygen for a little longer this evening. He will need to have his mask on more often during the day to assist with his breathing. I have given George the instructions. Sadie, just keep him comfortable. All of you. And try not to excite him. I will be back tomorrow afternoon.”
Sadie put her hand on the Dr.’s arm and walked him out. Thomas watched them from the hallway. He saw Sadie bid her goodbyes, while Grace stayed with the Dr. and talked awhile. He watched them from the window. Heat brewing with every passing minute.
Everyone sat around John. Grace sat on the right side of the bed and Thomas on his left. Sadie and George stood behind them on each side.
“Papa, how are you feeling?”
John reached for his oxygen mask. Grace helped him take it off. “Weak baby girl. It won't be long now. I'll be alright”.
Sadie leaned in, “You need anything John?”
“Everyone right here is all I need”. He coughed.
Grace put his mask back on.
“John, you need to get some rest”. George turned his attention to Thomas. “You and Grace stay for a while. Sadie and I will be back to relieve you.” Unable to say anything they both nodded.
Grace climbed in the bed beside John and rested her head on his shoulder. “I love you so much Papa”.
John took off his mask and hugged Grace back. He placed his head on hers. “You too, baby girl. I love you too, so much. You are the love of my life.”
Thomas replaced the mask, knelt down beside John, and placed his head on his arm too emotional for words. John took his other arm and gently pulled Thomas to him. John held his grandchildren tightly as he rested. George and Sadie remained on the outside of the door peeking in, unable to leave, but when they saw this last gesture, the tears fell. George gently closed the door and comforted Sadie.
Grace was preparing breakfast when Thomas walked into the kitchen. “Good Morning. Thomas.”
“Morning.” He went straight for the coffee pot.
Grace sensed his ill mood. “Did you sleep alright last night?”
“Fine. What were you talking to Dr. Jack about yesterday?”
Grace turned around to face him. “Excuse me?”
Thomas glared at her. “Were you two discussing something about my Grandfather that I need to know about?”
“Thomas, you know everything there is to know, like we all do. I can’t help what went on in your house, but we don't keep secrets in this one.”
“You're keeping something, taking the Dr. from this house to talk in private after he has just given a bad report...about my Grandfather.”
“Your grandfather? Your grandfather? If you were so concerned about your grandfather,you would have come home sooner than when he is lying on his deathbed. Where were you when he was so sick at night that he couldn't sleep and so sick during the day that he couldn't eat? Where were you when he had nightmares, calling out for you for fear he contributed to your current life state? Where were you through his doctor visits and medical treatments, huh? Where were you Thomas?
If you were so concerned about your Grandfather, it would not have taken you five years to find your way back home. Secrets with Dr. Jackson about your Grandfather? Get off your high tower and do something constructive. Take this tray up to your Grandfather so that he can have his breakfast.” Grace turned back to her cooking. She sighed when she heard Thomas pick up the tray and leave the room.
Grace put the remainder of the food on another tray and took it upstairs.
“Good morning everyone. Breakfast is served.”
George took the tray from Grace. “Smells delicious.”
“Sure does.” Thomas chimed in sarcastically. “She belongs in the kitchen cooking.”
Grace, spoke ever so politely, “And you belong in your general store struggling to pay your bills”.
Thomas stood from his seat on the windowsill to say something, but Sadie held up her hand and gave both of them a stern look.
John, who was feeling much better, shook his head. “What is eating at you two? You should be getting along. And what took you so long to bring up my breakfast? I'm up here wasting away.”
Grace smiled at her Papa. He always knew how to soften her heart. “Now you know I will take this tray down just as fast as I brought it up here.”
“Don’t’ talk to my grandfather in that way.” Thomas moved closer to Grace.
John scowled at Thomas and turned back to Grace. “And I will have to come after you and get it.”
George nearly choked on his juice. “I'd like to see that.”
Sadie, who was passing out plates, “I'd pay money to see that.” They all laughed. All except Thomas who sat back down at the windowsill stewing.
“I don't understand why all of you are joking at a time like this. Grandfather is dying and you all are carrying on like it's just another happy day in Sunnyville.” He paused and threw his hands in the air. He looked at the bewildered faces staring back at him. “I've got to get out of here.”
They all watched Thomas go.
“I'm sorry Papa. Thomas and I got in an argument downstairs. I was rough on him.”
“Maybe so Grace, but what's ailing him started long before your conversation down stairs.” John took a deep breath. Let's pray so we can eat.”
Lord, thank you for this food and for the hands that prepared it. And deliver my Grandson from his troubles so that he may be free to experience your love in its fullness. Amen.
An ‘amen’ chorus followed and the eating commenced, but Grace was distracted. She walked over to the window to look out and as she suspected she saw Thomas walking off in the woods toward their secret garden. It was a clearing several feet beyond the front yard. They had set up chairs, a table, flowers, stone statues and other items to make it their own.
Grace thought about the many days they spent there when they were younger. In fact, they had spent most of their time there, talking, laughing, playing, working on homework and just hanging out. They grew up in that hideout. They learned each other well in that hideout. They had fallen in love in their secret garden. She blew out a breath she did not realize she was holding. Shaking away the memories, she sat down on the window cushion to eat.
She tuned in to the conversation before her. “I tell you what, that Thomas doesn’t seem to be getting along good. Not too good at all.”
“No, he’s not, Sadie. My Grandson is so full of hurt and sadness. Bitterness and regret. Not to mention un-forgiveness.”
“And he has every right to those feelings”. George chimed in. “The last year was the hardest for him. He dealt with a cheating wife, the death of his wife, and the birth of his son. For Thomas to have a new life to care for when his life was falling apart right before his eyes has been difficult.
And now you,” George nodded to John, “his last living adult relative on the brink of not being a living relative… it’s a lot to take in. All of this mixed with the guilt of not coming home to visit and when he does, it is to watch his grandfather pass away. I am surprised the boy hasn't had a mental break down”.
“He'll come close if he's not careful. He needs to talk with someone, but I know him. He is not ready to deal with his feelings much less talk about them. I was surprised that he opened up and told me yesterday”. John turned to Grace. “You used to be the one that Thomas opened up to about everything, including the details of his love life with Greta. That was before she isolated him from everyone.”
They all looked at Grace who stopped the helping of eggs and grits that was half way to her mouth.
“That's not surprising. They spent every waking minute together.” And sleeping ones, too, but George decided to leave that detail out. “That boy has always shared his life with you, Grace. You two have always had a very intimate relationship. He was always honest with you. What happened?” George looked at Grace carefully.
Grace shrugged her shoulders, but knew that she could not lie to the three that had helped her family raise her and continued their care of her when her family had all passed away.
“We’re waiting child.” Sadie encouraged her on.
Grace looked from one set of eyes to the other. She pondered whether she would share the encounter that she and Thomas shared so long ago. The conversation that subsequently led to an unchangeable disagreement between them, but what would it harm now?
“We had a disagreement about his wedding Greta. A few in fact.” Grace looked at them and continued. “The conversations that everyone was having that Thomas shouldn’t marry Greta, he and I actually had with more detail. It all ended in a heated argument between the two of us.”
“I questioned why he would marry a woman that he was not in love with. A woman that obviously did not love him, but loved the Wellington name and money and the status she felt it would bring her. A woman that he had nothing in common with and definitely did not have any chemistry with. It was intense and it changed the nature of our relationship.”
“Unlike the chemistry he had…excuse me has with you.” George stated.
Grace shrugged her shoulders, turning her attention back to the window for signs of Thomas. None.
“So, you two decided not to be friends anymore because of arguments?” Sadie asked.
“He thinks I am the cause of his failed marriage.”
“Did he say that?” Sadie continued her questioning.
“No, but I know him. And even though he knows in his heart that I’m not the reason, he will continue to blame me until he decides to accept the truth.”
Sadie, John, and George sat back with this new piece of information.
“You are probably right, Grace. Even though I suspect he knows the truth, it is easier to place the blame elsewhere.” John sighed, thinking on his grandson. “You two always had a strong pull to one another. Inseparable from the crib and I am very sad that has changed.”
“Changed when Greta came along.” George added. “I don’t think they have spoken since Thomas left and certainly haven’t seen each other, with the exception of the funeral.” George rubbed his chin again. “He sure did change after he met her, didn’t he.” George said as a statement more than a question.
“She must've put some good lovin' on him.” John concluded.
Everyone bellowed at that perspective, except Grace who knew better. She shook her head. “You old folks are a mess.”
“Yes. We. Are.” Ms. Sadie said between laughs. “John is probably right. She hooked him good with something. We all told him to leave her alone. Even Ms. Ida at the church...and she does not have a negative word to say about anyone. I remember the conversation. She pulled him to the side the same Sunday Greta came to church.
“Now Thomas, You know how she talks, I know I ain't your Mama, but that Greta is no good for ya son. I know your family, so I know they done talked to ya about dis. Ya know sometimes we don't like to listen to our family even when dey are telling us the right thang to do. We thank they being overprotected ya know. But take it from a lady on the outsider lookin’ in. Let ‘er go son. She cause ya nothin’, but heartache and sorrow. That's what Ida told him.”
“What did he say?” Grace asked leaning in to hear the answer.
Well, he patted her on the arm and said all sweet like, “Thank you for your concern Ms. Ida, but I am a grown man and I know what's best for me.”
She patted him right back and said, “I be praying for ya son”.
Grace leaned back in her seat amazed at this new information. Sadie watched her reaction thinking about the part of the conversation that she left out, but that George and John knew well. She failed to mention that Ms. Ida told Thomas that he was to marry Grace. A conversation that all of them had, including his parents and Grace’s parents and grandparents. They all believed that Thomas and Grace were meant to be together. John turned his attention to Grace and smiled.
Grace turned her attention back to the window to check for Thomas.
“You have been staring at that window during most of our breakfast. What are you looking for, Grace, darling?”
“We know you are looking for Thomas.” Sadie replied to her shrug.
“Well, just because we argue doesn’t mean that I can’t be concerned about him and what he’s going through”.
“You sure that’s all it is?” John looked at her questioning.
Grace looked at John. She knew better than to lie to her Papa. He who had taken her in as his daughter. She decided that distraction was the best answer. “I need to get these dishes washed. I want to go to the school and see how the kids are faring”.
Sadie stood and waved her hands, “You go on, Grace. I will get these dishes or make your Papa get up and get them one”.
“I would love to see you try.” John countered.
“Don’t tempt me.”
They all laughed as Grace walked over to John and kissed him. “I won’t be gone long Papa. You and Ms. Sadie behave. See you later Mr. George.” She went downstairs to gather her things and was on her way from the house when Thomas walked up to her.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
Grace moved past Thomas toward John’s car. He decided that he better let well enough alone. Grace pulled the car out of the driveway and looked in her rearview mirror back toward the house. She saw Thomas still standing in the same spot staring her way. She slowly stopped her car and bowed her head to pray.
Lord, I pray that Thomas will perceive his need for you. I ask that you will open his eyes to see you and his heart to receive you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
She put her car in drive and continued on her way to the school.
Grace woke up to the sun shining down on her face. But when she fully woke, she heard the commotion. She quickly put on her skirt and top and rushed down the hall to John’s room. She walked in to see her Papa gasping for air and the Dr. quickly returning his oxygen mask. She walked up beside his bed and smiled at him. He returned a half smile at her as his eyes closed.
John woke up a while later with Grace’s head by his side. Thomas sat by the window looking worried. George sat in the chair to his right reading a book and Sadie sat in the rocking chair crocheting. Grace felt her Grandfather stir and lifted her head.
“Do you need anything?”
With that, everyone stood up and surrounded John’s bed. He lifted his shaking hand to the oxygen mask and with Grace’s help removed it. John spoke feebly, but his passion was strong. “Thomas my dear boy, I love you. Believe that your future life will be greater than your past life. Forgive and move forward.”
Thomas responded with a frown, a hand through his hair and then with tears.
“Sadie, George, I love you two. You have been the best friends anyone could have.” John began to cough and George gave him a drink of water. “You two put up with me when Elsie died and then when Grace’s family passed away. Thank you.”
George and Sadie both replied with an “I love you”.
Grace’s eyes were flooded with tears. “Grace. My dearest Grace. You are the light of my life. I think the world of you. You know I love you very, very much”.
“I love you so much, Papa. Please don’t go.”
“I have to baby, but you’ll be alright. Keep our family strong and hold on to your faith.”
“I will Papa. I will.”
John squeezed his family’s hands as they looked at him with love. John breathed his last breaths within those next moments and a sound went up around the world.
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