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In truth, Charlie would not have felt her father was so foolish if his testimony hadn't struck a common chord within her heart. At times, she too felt as though she were drowning. But, these were weak moments. Ever since Chuck's sudden decision to send her away to North Carolina, Charlie's spirit began to harden: she scolded herself for fainting in the airplane the night of her departure; she was angry for allowing Aunt Angela's lack of love, to hurt her; when Sherri teased her, Charlie rebuked herself for the tears she cried in her cousin's presence. With every injustice and indignity, Charlie's spirit toughened. Then there was Darren's ugly death. If she hadn't disobeyed Aunt Angela, he would still be alive! She could still see it all as though it had happened yesterday. She could see Darren's writhing body, covered in vomit, twitching and convulsing; she could hear the traffic and see the headlights; she could feel the panic welling up inside. Charlie bit her tongue to get her mind off of the terrible image.

"Great peace have they which love Thy law," continued Chuck, unaware of the fact that his daughter had not been listening to him as he poured forth his soul. After wincing in pain, Charlie could taste blood in her mouth. She had bitten her tongue too hard.

"Daddy," Charlie interrupted, "have you taken your pill this morning?" Charlie was determined not to let her father's weakness undermine her own strength.

"What?" asked Chuck, surprised that Charlie should think of medicine at a time when, he hoped, she was thinking of her soul.

"Your medicine," repeated Charlie, "did you take it?"

"What does that possibly have to do with your salvation?" asked Chuck.

"I don't think you're feeling very well, Daddy."

"Anything I'm feeling right now isn't because I forgot to take my medicine!" exclaimed Chuck, fighting back frustration.

"Then you did forget," said Charlie, in a vindicated tone. Chuck fell back in his chair and set the Bible down beside him.

"I'll go get your pill," said Charlie, going to the kitchen and quickly returning with his medication. Chuck obediently swallowed the pill and looked sadly at his only child.

"Oh, Charlie," he sighed, "it's all my fault. I should have raised you right."

"It's O.K., Daddy. I'm fine."

"Are you?" questioned Chuck. "I don't have very much time left to make things right for you. Everyday, I can feel my body changing. I never thought it would move this quickly, but it is."

"Dr. Gillis said you would have years yet, Daddy. Don't over-dramatize."

"I used to be able to dress, shave, and put on my shoes in under fifteen minutes," continued Chuck. "Now it takes me an half hour."

"An half hour's not so bad," reasoned Charlie.

"But, it's taking longer each day. How long will it be before I can't dress and shave myself at all? How long before I won't even recognize my own little girl?"

"Don't say that, Daddy!"

"I have to say it, Charlie. It's the truth. I have to face this and so do you. Our time is short. That's why your salvation is so important! I know how stubborn you can be! If I don't try to act now while I can-- while I still have some measure of influence over you, then I will have failed both you and God."

Charlie was still. She could hear the steady tick of the grandfather clock standing by the front door; she could smell the acrid odor of the greasy bacon Vera had fixed them for breakfast, clinging to the air like indigestion following a heavy meal; she focused her eyes on the dark brown carpet and wondered if it was a StainMaster like the one at Aunt Angela and Uncle Mark's house. She imagined herself pouring all sorts of messy ingredients on the carpet and wondered if they would really clean up without leaving a stain. She tried in every way to get her mind off of what Chuck had just said. A part of her refused to believe that things truly were as black as her father painted. This was absurd! This couldn't possibly be her life! She must be dreaming... she had to be. Charlie stood up and turned to go.

"Pumpkin?" called Chuck. "You will think about what I've said?"

"Sure," replied Charlie, walking back to her room.
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