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"Chad said this wasn't Thomas' first indiscretion, either," continued her brother.

Tears came to Shirley's eyes as she realized the pain that her son must have endured.

"I thought we could keep it from the boys," she wept, "but I see now, that the only person I was fooling, was myself! God, please help us!"

"How long has all this been going on?" asked Adam, pulling up a kitchen chair.

"I know of one other affair," she answered, pulling out a handkerchief, "but there's probably more. He insists there wasn't, but I don't think I can believe him anymore. I remember all those times he gave me roses and bought me extravagant gifts when he came home from one those long conventions, and I'm not sure if he wasn't trying to quiet a guilty conscience. I look back at my life with Thomas, and I don't know what was a lie, and what was real. Was any of it real?! All those times we went to church, and he said, 'Amen,' with the rest of the congregation... how could he really mean it and do this to God and to his family?" Shirley calmed a little and then looked to her brother. "I want you to know the rest. You never knew why I put Mom in a nursing home."

"Mom said you had done your best," replied Adam, not seeing what the one had to do with the other.

"What you didn't know," continued Shirley, "was that I was having my suspicions that Thomas was being unfaithful again, and I thought that it was my fault, because I wasn't paying enough attention to the boys and to my husband. Mom needed so much round-the-clock care, that I decided to place her in Mullen-Overholt. Mom knew about the affair, but she thought all had been repented of and forgiven."

"So that's what happened," sighed Adam, leaning back in his chair. "I was so hurt that you could do that to Mom, but she kept insisting that it was for the best. You could have told me, you know."

"Dad warned me that Thomas had been a wild teenager," recalled Shirley, "and to not give in to his repeated attentions without some fruit that he had repented. After Thomas' bout with rheumatic fever and his subsequent profession of Christ, I thought I had that fruit, so I dated him. Adam, I can't believe that was a lie. I think he really did mean it. Thomas stopped running with his wild friends and started reading the Bible. When I look back, those were the truest days of our relationship.

"But all that changed later on," she continued. "When I remember all those times when I had the uneasy feeling that he was hiding something, I regret not confronting him about it. I should have been willing to put it all on the line, a long time ago. Do you know why I didn't tell you any sooner? I was too ashamed. I was too much of a coward to face the truth."

"Aren't you being a little hard on yourself, Sis?" asked Adam.

"No," replied Shirley, "I'm not. It was my responsibility to hold Thomas accountable for his actions, and I failed him. I tried to ignore what the Holy Spirit was warning me, and now I'm paying for it. Some helpmate I was! I was more afraid of losing Thomas, than if he was right with God or not. No, Adam, I'm not being too hard on myself!"

"I can't believe this is happening," muttered Adam, with a heavy sigh.

"He's asked me to forgive him one more time," said Shirley. "If I thought he really meant it, I would. When Thomas got the call from Charlie about Villa Rosa, he jumped at the chance to get away from the house and from me. Lately, things have been coming to a head. I was about to call and tell you all this, when you showed up. Talk about Providential timing."

Shirley looked out the kitchen window at the Mojave landscape outside their house.

"You're going to love living out there," she mused, her mind settling on a course of action. "Adam, I'm going to leave Thomas. I've known the decision was coming, and now I see I must do it. I can't let Thomas think that it's all right to repent one moment and take it back the next. 'For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of,'" she quoted Second Corinthians seven, verse ten. "I think I'll ask Mike and Sandra to take Chad for a few days while I work things out."

"Let Charlie and I take him, instead," requested Adam. "We'll go on a trip somewhere and bring him back when you're ready. Maybe it will make things a little easier on him."
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