Terry's Journey: Chapter 8

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Chapter Eight
Looking Ahead

"But I will hope continually, and will yet praise Thee more and more."
~ Psalm 71:14 ~

If Jake had been the one to spill the good news, he would have been thoughtful enough to call. But not Abby. She shot off an email and dumped the good news into their lap without any ability to remark or ask questions. That was Abby.

That night, Three Mile Bay called San Diego for more of the details that Abby had left out. Such as when they were arriving, and what had finally made up their mind to come. With everyone on an extension in separate rooms of the house in New York State, Abby fielded their questions from her living room in San Diego while Jake put Ricky to bed.

"We've given it a lot of thought, Dad. College has overall been a good experience for Jake, and I'm delighted he graduated with honors. I really am. I'm proud of him. His professors say he has real potential, but I have to admit it's been rough at times. Almost everyone here has been incredibly kind and supportive, so I don't have any right to complain."

"But something is wrong," Izumi spoke up. "I can hear it in your voice."

"It's not so much wrong, as it was never really great to begin with. He struggles through friendship with the others students, never really able to just relax and be himself. The others don't know how to treat him because everyone here knows he's on an advisory board for a state penitentiary. Even worse, they know why."

"How could they possibly know that, unless someone told them?"

"Mom, remember that newspaper clipping I emailed you after we got here? The piece from the local newspaper? It's made Jake a minor celebrity. Everyone is super polite and kind in the extreme-- you saw that when you were all down here for the graduation."

"Yes, the college president gave us an extensive tour of the campus. It was very impressive."

"See what I mean?" Abby groaned. "The college president-- who doesn't give out tours-- gave one to my family. It was because of Jake."

"But isn't that a good thing, Abby?"

"Mom, they won't let him fit in. They are kind, and I believe genuinely glad they can point to their student body and say such a person as this was able to graduate with honors. Jake makes them look good. I hate to put it so bluntly, but it's true. As for the more genuine friends, they often aren't able to cope with the trauma of knowing what happened to Jake. They feel awkward around him, like they just can't forget."

"Then why did you have to give so much information in the article?" John asked.

"They didn't get that from us, Dad. Remember the commission? They got a transcript of the entire thing, Jake's testimony included. They had more than enough to do their column. Like I said, I'm not complaining. The reporter was well-meaning, but I wish the story had never been run. Now that he's graduated, I think it's time we came home."

"What does Jake have to say about all this?" Terry asked.

"He won't admit to me that people treat him differently. In short, he pretends all day long that he's fine, that it doesn't matter, that he can take it with a grin and keep his mouth shut. I can't. Hold on a minute. Jake's coming. Pick up the extension in the living room, Baby."

"Dad, Mom-- Uncle Terry? Hey, did you get Abby's email?"

"We sure did." Terry summoned a happy tone, maintained it carefully for Jake's benefit. "It's fantastic news. When are you coming? We can have the little yellow house fixed up and ready for you by the time you arrive. There's the gas, electricity, water to turn on, and there's probably a foot of dust on the floor by now."

"Don't go to any trouble."

"It's no trouble, Jake. You're bringing our Abby home. We're more than happy to do it."

"Thanks, Uncle Terry."

Abby spoke up. "We have some things to take care of here, but we should be able to leave sometime this month. I don't know yet when we'll arrive. Dennis said I can keep the pay increase I received when coming to California-- that I'd earned it, and not to think that just because I'll be working from home again, that I'll be any less indispensable to him. It was kind of him to say."

"There's no shame in working from home," Terry said. "We saw 'Bassin' the Weeds with Dennis,' last week. You looked good, Abby. I keep telling people that our Abby is on television and they won't believe me until they see the show for themselves."

"Yeah, well." Abby hesitated. "I won't be making guest appearances anymore. I'll continue to write for the magazine and the website, keep my name in front of everyone. It'll be good."

Terry winced at the strained silence that followed. He heard a deep sigh, Jake's voice in the background.

"It won't hurt my career, Jake. We talked about it and we agreed."

"But you don't want to leave."

"Yes, I do. I want you to be happy. What's not good for you, is not good for me. Now say something so they won't worry."

"Dad, she doesn't want to leave."

"I don't know what to tell you, Jake. I'd love to have you guys back here-- you both know that."

"Jake, this is Mom. How do you feel about the move? Do you want to come home?"

"When you put it that way, Mom--"

"Please be honest with us, Jake. What do you want?"

The phone went silent.

"Tell her," Abby said in the background. "Mom, he wants to come, I know he does. He hasn't been happy here, and he wants to come home. I don't blame him for that."

"But you want to stay."

"Jake--"

"Abby, please. Don't do this because of me. You love it here, you know you do."

"That's enough, Jake. I've already given Dennis notice. We're going. Dad, Uncle Terry? If you could have the house ready for us, I'd really appreciate it. I'll let you know as soon as we have a better idea of when we should get there."

"But, Abby--"

"Jake, please. Not now. We'll talk about it later."

The conflicted joy in John's voice made Terry wince inwardly. He knew how John felt. "I know you'll both do what's best, Sweetheart. Take care of my grandson, give him a big hug and a kiss from all of us."

"And call us before you leave," Izumi said.

Terry wanted to add, "And tell us if you change your mind," but didn't. From what Abby had said, they needed to come home. He hated to think of her career slowing down, her leaving the successful show that had garnered so much acclaim and attention, but he had to credit Abby for putting Jake before herself.

The phones hung up, the three gathered in the living room to look at each other with thoughtful faces.

"Well." Izumi sat down on the couch with a sigh. "Sounds like they're coming."

"I pray God gives them wisdom, but I think you're right." John turned to Terry. "Tomorrow, bright and early, we need to get their house ready. When was the last time we checked their roof? It's the rainy season, and I don't want Ricky getting wet over a few leaks that could've been easily patched over."

"I don't remember the last time we checked," Terry answered, "but it's a good idea. At least they're coming back to a home that has no mortgage. They don't have any student loans to pay off, very little credit card debt, and they're healthy. I don't know what this might mean to Abby's career, but they're not in bad shape. In fact, I'd say it's a better than average start."

With an assenting nod, John gave Terry a light punch in the shoulder. "Leave it to you, to see the good in the bad."

"I'm only saying," Terry sat in the armchair while John settled on the couch beside Izumi, "they're not in bad shape. Abby still has her job with Dennis, and Jake can start pursuing his career from Three Mile Bay instead of California. They get to put down roots here, instead of somewhere else. We should be grateful." Terry leaned over, pulled off his shoes and absently dumped sand onto the carpet. "We should be grateful-- and I am-- but I wish things had gone better for Jake."

"When we're supposed to do something, or be somewhere," John said as he dropped an arm around Izumi's shoulders, "then God will make a way for it to happen. I think this only proves God didn't intend for them to stay in San Diego indefinitely."

"Look who's seeing the good in the bad," Terry grinned.

An easy smile parted John's mouth. It faded into quiet thought, then a quick jerk of light. "Little Dove, Terry and I have a favor to ask."

"Oh no. Not that-- not now."

"Why not? Terry, I'm going to ask her before you turn chicken."

"I'm not turning chicken."

"Then pipe down so I can ask her." John tugged at a lock of Izumi's black hair. "Terry would like you to go through your mental list of single ladies from church, and maybe ask one of them to come to dinner some evening. You know, to get to know Terry better."

Doom crouched hidden behind the recliner. Terry could feel it waiting to pounce. "It's no big deal, Izzy. I was only thinking you might know of someone who wouldn't mind having dinner with us... with me."

"Are you serious?"

"Yeah. Why?"

"You have never, in all the years I've known you, ever asked or even expressed a wish to find a wife. That's what this is about, isn't it?"

"Yes."

"You're serious?"

"Have I ever asked this before?"

The incredulity left Izumi's face, though she still looked stunned. "I suppose I could look around. I could start with the singles' group at church. Then there's the women who aren't group joiners."

"Make sure they're young enough to have kids," John chuckled. "Of course, if he goes for an older woman, there's always adoption."

"John, stop teasing. He's turning red."

"Is he?" John turned to look at Terry. "Well, now, would you look at that."

"Okay, time to turn in." Terry moved to his feet, picked up his shoes and saw the jovial grin on his best friend's face. "Did I make fun of you, when you were dating?"

The question met with a laughing shrug. "I never dated anyone but Izumi. And even then, it was only once. One lunch, and I was hooked."

If only, Terry thought, he could be as blessed as that. True, John had never dated anyone but Izumi. Also true they married soon after that first date. How could someone not even be looking for a wife, and then find her so quickly? So easily and without effort, fall in love and decide to get married? As Terry moved to his bedroom down the hall, he thought it over. God had pulled some strings, and Izzy had appeared for John. Maybe God would pull some strings and give him a wife, as well. Maybe it would be that easy.

* * * *

Even in the hurry to get the triplets to preschool on time, Terry didn't forget. All through the kitchen morning cleanup, making his bed, brushing his teeth-- spending quiet time with the Lord-- he remembered. Not for a single moment did it slip his mind.

Before starting work on the little yellow house, he needed to visit Madison. Just a few minutes to check her, and he would be back.

While Izumi took the girls to preschool, and John shaved in the master bathroom with a Christian radio station blaring from the bathroom clock, Terry grabbed the jeep keys and headed for the front door. Now would be perfect.

He drove down the main road, turned into the complex, parked the jeep. All in a short amount of time. Just five minutes in the apartment, ten at most. Then back home to help John and Izzy get ready for AJ's return.

The moment Terry stepped into the apartment, however, he knew something was wrong. The sofa sat empty, not even a pillow or blanket to show she had slept there.

"Madison?" He opened the living room blinds, looked about. "Madison, where are you?"

He checked the kitchen, found yesterday's dinner still sitting in the microwave.

Everything looked as he had left it.

He rounded into the dining area, into the living room. The television set was on, playing reruns of some cop show. He clicked it off. The half bath downstairs was empty.

His heart slammed against his ribs as he mounted the stairs. No one was in the second bathroom, and no way on God's green earth would she set foot in the bedroom. That left the storage room.

A twist on the handle proved what he already knew. Locked.

"Madison, I know you're in there. Open up."

As hard as Terry tried, he heard nothing. He fumbled for his key ring, glad he had the foresight to add the storage room to his set of keys for just such an occasion. He didn't trust the pain that had sent her in here the first time, and knew it might happen again.

His heart in his throat, he pushed open the door. Even before he saw her, he knew where to look.

Behind the boxes, wedged between file cabinets and old suitcases, he found Madison. She had dragged her bedding here, and made a nest for herself among old business records and fishing gear. He didn't see her, only the blonde wisp of hair and a sight hand with thin fingers showing from the edge of the comforter. From the look of it, she had jammed herself in there, crowded into an area too small for her and so much bedding.

He tugged at the corner of the comforter. Her hand didn't move. He crouched, lifted the edge and peered under. Two unseeing eyes stared up, but not at him. He shoved the blanket from off her head.

"Madison, look at me." He cupped her face between his hands, turned her toward him. "Look at me. Madison, I want you to look at me."

The eyes blinked. A moment more, and she saw him.

"You gave me quite a scare, Madison. What are you doing in here?"

She blinked.

"Stand up, if you can. I don't like the way you've stuffed yourself in there. Madison, do you hear me?" Not willing to wait for her to stand on her own, Terry hauled her into his arms. She gave a whimper of pain, but said nothing. Hair plastered to her face, sweat dampened her shirt, and Terry realized she had been under stress of some kind. He carried her to the bathroom, set her on the edge of the bathtub.

"Madison, I'd be grateful if you said something." He raised her chin. He recognized frenzied pain in those gray eyes, along with a hint of relief. "Say something, anything, just let me know you're all right." He stepped back, wondering if she would slide into the bathtub without him to hold her up. She stayed. Twisting on the sink faucet, Terry grabbed a hand towel, plunged it into water, then wrung it with a quick squeeze. "I wish you'd say something." She made no movement as he knelt on the tile. Using the wet towel, he patted her face, brushed the hair from her eyes. "Please, Madison. Speak to me."

She bowed her head, leaned into him until he had her gathered onto his lap. Her face hid against his shirt. He hugged her.

"What's wrong? What happened to trigger this?" His insistence made her tremble. "Calm down, calm down." He eased a hand over her head, smoothed back her hair and spoke in a quiet hush. "It's all right. I'm not angry."

Her breath shuddered, her hands fisted at her sides.

"Madison. Are you having a flashback?"

No answer.

"Madison, you need to fight it. Can you hear me?" He moved her to the bathroom floor, snatched up the wet towel and patted her face. She fell back against the bathtub, slid onto her side and pulled herself into a tight fetal position. Her eyes remained wide open. Terry rubbed her shoulder as hard as he dared without leaving a bruise.

"Your name is Madison Crawford. You're thirty-four years old. You have blond hair and grey eyes. You like yogurt. Come on, Maddie, look at me. You are in my apartment. I'm Terry Davis, and you are in my apartment. There is no one here but me and you. Do you hear me?" Terry raised her chin so he could see her eyes. They blinked at him, though her jaw remained clenched.

"You're safe. No one is hurting you. It's okay to let yourself relax. Come on, give yourself permission to breathe. Maddie. Do you hear me? Breathe."

The command forced more air into her lungs. She sucked in a large breath, then gulped in more until the color started returning to her face.

"Thank God." Terry sat her up against the bathtub and continued to towel her cheeks. "Does this happen very often?"

She made no reply.

"Madison, I know you can hear me. Now answer the question."

Her voice sounded in a mumble. "I don't know."

"Why didn't you eat your dinner? I had it warming in the microwave. Remember? I told you when it beeped, to go into the kitchen and get your dinner. Why didn't you?"

"I don't know."

"Stop saying that. You do know."

"No, I don't."

"What triggered this? Did you have a bad dream?"

"I-- I don't know. Please, Terry, I don't know."

He dabbed the towel behind her neck. "The TV was on. I didn't turn it on, so you must have. Why didn't you get your dinner? What were you watching that made you forget?"

Her eyes focused on his shoulder. "I don't remember. Honest, I don't."

"Has this happened before?"

"I don't think so. Don't leave me. Please, don't leave me."

"Easy, there. I'm only going over to wet the towel in the sink. Okay?"

She nodded.

"I'm going to ask you a question," Terry stood, moved to the sink, "and I'd appreciate an answer. How long have you been away from your abuser?"

"I don't know."

He came back to her, crouched, pressed the towel to her forehead. "Has it been weeks, months? Years?"

"Months. I think it's been months. Maybe even weeks-- I don't know."

The response gave Terry a grim idea of what she faced. The abuse had only just stopped for her-- making this part of the adjustment period where PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) could easily show itself. In fact, it probably just did. The trauma she endured was finding its teeth. Everyone handles traumatic situations differently, but for those who endured prolonged abuse, the damage is often more extensive, more profound. Terry knew this, understood it implicitly, for he had been there himself, in that dark soulful pit of misery someone had once dug for him. A return to normal was what Madison needed. But how could she be expected to return to a normal life, when she might very well have never had one in the first place?

She had to move on, there was no other choice. In the absence of fresh pain, there would only be memories; in the absence of creating new memories, there would only be the reliving of the past.

Terry took a deep breath. "Do you remember how old you were when it started?"

"No."

"Were you a child, or a grown woman?"

"I don't know."

"Think, Madison. When was the first time you were violated?"

"I don't know." The agitation in her face became more obvious. She jerked away from the towel. "Stop it. I don't want you touching me."

Terry eased back, regained his feet and tried not to look directly into her eyes. It only made her mistrust worse, as though he were challenging her through brute force and not gentle persuasion. He turned his eyes on the bathroom tile. "How old, Madison? How old were you?"

"Seven. Maybe eight or nine, I don't know."

"Was it someone you knew? A friend of the family?"

"Don't do this, Terry. Don't. Just back off."

He took the warning literally and backed away. "You need help. The flashbacks and night terrors might go away for awhile, and then again, they might not. With childhood abuse survivors, they often come back."

She gave a weak mocking laugh. "Are you trying to encourage me? It's not working."

The jaded woman sat before him now, not the timid child. The child who needed a hug was nowhere to be seen.

"I'd like to take you to a friend of mine. He's a psychiatrist."

"I won't go."

"He helped someone very close to me, and I think he might be able to help you." Terry crouched, hoping to coax her to look at him. "You need to face what happened. It'll help the hurt go away."

"What are you-- a psychiatrist or something?"

"No, I'm not even a something. I'm trying to help you by giving the very best advice I can. Think about it."

He wanted to tell her about his own experience but held back. She had enough pain to deal with, and she had already said she didn't want to know.

Terry hung the towel to dry. "I'm not leaving you alone. Wash up, change into clean clothes and meet me downstairs."

"Where are you taking me? Not to that psychiatrist."

"No, I'm taking you home for the day."

* * * *

It might not be the brightest thing to do, to take Madison with him because he feared leaving her by herself. Staying in the apartment, however, was not an option he wanted to consider. As far as Terry understood, the flashback he witnessed that morning had been the first real one with her eyes wide open. It scared him. First the nightmares, now reliving a past trauma in the full light of day. She was going down a path he knew all too well.

He turned the jeep onto the main road, flicked a glance at the passenger riding silently beside him. The navy blue T-shirt and dark coat contrasted against her peaches and cream. It made her gray eyes a stormy blue, or at least it seemed that way to Terry.

A thumbnail dug against the back of her wrist.

"John and Izzy's girl is coming home." Terry snatched at the closest thought, held on and pushed it in front of her. "It's been four years since they lived in their house, so we're going to get it ready. They have a little boy-- Ricky. He's four. Has these enormous brown eyes. Get's them from his father." Terry cast a quick glance. The thumbnail kept working into her skin. "Our Abby's an expert fly caster. She's even become somewhat famous by being on her bosses' show. Ever hear of Dennis Beckman? He's a two-time MRD champion and son of the very well-known Archibald Beckman, who is also renowned for his skill with a fly rod. Please don't do that. You're hurting yourself."

"It's my wrist."

Terry slowed, turned off the road. He came to a stop in front of the house.

"I'll give you two choices. You can watch television, or help us clean Abby and Jake's house. What's it going to be?"

"I'm not ever watching TV again."

"Why? Because something on the screen triggered a bad memory?"

"I'm not watching TV anymore."

"Fine. Then you'll help us clean house." Terry unsnapped his seat belt, got out of the jeep while Madison did the same.

A car backfired on the main road. She jumped, pushed her way past Terry and ran to the front door. She stood there, huddled against the door and not even trying the handle.

"You can go in. It's not locked."

She went inside with him following, then hugged herself as she stood in the middle of the living room.

"Are you cold?" He knew better than to ask, when she still wore his heavy coat, but the impulse to wrap a blanket around her was strong. "The kids are at preschool, so it's just us grownups this morning. Go ahead and sit down. I'll be back in a moment." Terry started down the hall, then realized Madison was right behind him.

The backfire had frightened her.

He held up a hand to stop her from following any further. "I'm going into my bedroom. Stay in the hall, okay?"

She nodded, hugged herself and looked about with cautious wide eyes. The child had come back.

Breathing out a sigh, Terry went into his room and left the door open. He pulled off his coat, hung it in the closet, then stooped to fish some gloves from a pile of shoes.

"Hey, Terry?" John came striding into the bedroom. "We'll need the ladder in the garage. Would you haul it to AJ's house? I've got to run to the hardware store for some roofing cement."

"Sure."

Terry leaned back, watched John leave the bedroom and politely move past Madison in the hall. Terry winced when she scrambled to get out of John's way.

Terry hurried on the gloves, and tugged on a baseball cap.

"Oh, hi, Madison. I didn't know you were going to be with us today." Izumi's surprised voice came from the living room. Terry hustled into the hall. "If you get hot in that coat, you can take it off. The house is on the warm side."

When he stepped into the room, Madison was in the process of retreating into the kitchen.

He decided to ignore that.

"Izzy, I'm going outside for the ladder."

"All right. Oh. I guess she's coming with you."

Her chin down, and still hugging herself in a tight embrace, Madison stood behind him like a child waiting for direction.

He decided to ignore that, too.

Sunlight glinted off the bay, though from the threatening clouds scudding against the horizon, Terry knew the sunshine was for a limited time only. The forecast called for rain, so the roof was priority number one.

As he opened the wide door, light flooded into the garage. He skimmed the large hooks on the walls, the piles of storage boxes stacked alongside tool cabinets and a table saw.

"Let's see... ah, there it is." He lifted the ladder, then shouldered it to negotiate around Madison and get it outside.

A friendly toot sounded as a car pulled to a stop in front of the house. The driver got out, gave Terry a wave.

"Hey, Dick! What brings you here? How's Sara?"

"Good, she's good. Jake called me this morning with the good news. I thought I'd drop by to see if I could help you guys get their house ready. Well, who do you have here? Another helper?"

"Dick, I'd like you to meet Madison Crawford. She's using my apartment for awhile. Madison, this is Richard Doyle, a good friend of ours. So Jake called you?" Terry grinned. "It'll be good to have them back, won't it? Those short visits with Jake each time he flies in for those advisory board meetings just aren't enough. We barely get to say 'hi,' when he has to run to catch the flight back to California. We appreciate the way you've been paying for his traveling expenses."

"Don't mention it, please." Dick ran a hand over his balding head, adjusted his sunglasses. "After talking Jake into joining the board, it's the least I could do. I don't remember Jake ever mentioning your friend before."

"That's probably because we haven't told them about Madison yet. I'm in no hurry. They'll meet her soon enough when they get here. Madison, say 'hi' to Dick."

"Hi."

Dick gave her a polite nod. "I don't recall any Crawfords in the area. Does your family live nearby?"

Panicked silence overtook Madison. She looked to Terry for help.

"She's new to the area."

"I see. Well, I hope you enjoy Three Mile Bay. What do you do for a living?"

Another silent panicked look had Terry groaning inwardly. "She doesn't have a job yet, but we're going to solve that as soon as she regains her strength. And before you ask-- no, she's not from the hotline."

"You get that a lot, huh?" Dick chuckled. "You've got a big heart, Terry. I admire you for it, though I sometimes think you'd be better off like the rest of us. Sympathetic and bewildered."

"You're one to talk," Terry grinned. "If memory serves me right, I've seen your big heart in action a time or two. No bewilderment then. Testifying before that commission took guts." Terry nodded to Madison. "Dick's the former warden of the Watertown State Penitentiary, and a staunch advocate against prisoner abuse. Don't let his affable manner fool you. This is one tough man."

Dick laughed. "I wish I was, Terry. I wish I was. Let me give you a hand with that ladder."

The men carried the ladder the short distance to the little yellow house. Both homes had an enviable view of the bay, as did the other houses along the shore. On one side of the Johannes property was public land, on the other, the private property of neighbors. Most lived here on a seasonal basis, though some stayed all year round.

A year-round elderly neighbor waved to Terry, and Terry waved back. Terry placed the ladder against the yellow house.

Dick looked about the barren plant bed, and shook his head. "If it wasn't so late in the year, I'd buy some greenery to go right here. I remember flowers. Yellow, weren't they?"

"Yellow and white tulips," Terry nodded. "But it's not too late to plant tulip bulbs. In fact, this is the right time for it. Plant 'em now, watch 'em bloom in the Spring."

"Then Sara and I volunteer to buy the bulbs and get them planted. We'd like to do that for Jake and Abby."

Terry smiled. "I'll make sure they know who to thank when flowers start coming up next Spring."

"By any chance"-- Dick pulled off his sunglasses, and Terry saw worry in his eyes-- "did Jake say why he and Abby are moving back? Don't get me wrong, I'm delighted they're coming. But Jake said very little about why, and I'm worried something's wrong. Is their marriage all right? Ever since Jake asked if he could stay at my house because he and Abby were having problems of some sort, I've always been sensitive to the fact that Jake's past would add stress to any marriage. Let alone a young couple like them. I realize that happened a few years ago, but I can't help worrying. I hope you don't think I'm prying. He's like a son to me, and I just want to be sure everything's all right."

"I understand, Dick. You don't have to make any apologies. As far as I know, Abby and Jake are doing very well together. From what Abby told me, they're coming back because Jake has been having difficulty maintaining a low profile. After that article ran in the paper, people know he stood up to the system by testifying at the commission and admitting that he'd been raped in prison. That took courage, and in some peoples' eyes that makes him a hero."

"That's what'd I'd call him. A hero." Dick rubbed his forehead. "So he's having trouble with the notoriety. It's not good, but it's better than marriage trouble. I see him when he flies in for the meetings and I try to keep an eye on things, make sure he's doing all right. Sometimes, though, I have a feeling he doesn't want to burden me and keeps things to himself. Glad to hear the marriage is doing well." He gave a satisfied nod. "Very glad."

"Jake may be coming back," Terry said as John's car pulled up, "but he isn't coming home with his tail tucked between his legs. Jake accomplished what he set out to do-- he obtained a college education, and then exceeded our expectations by graduating with honors. We're very proud of him."

"So am I." Dick grinned like a proud father. "Sara and I were thinking-- that is, if you and the Johanneses don't object-- to throwing a welcome home party at our place when they get back. Of course, you may have other plans and I certainly wouldn't want to step on anyone's toes."

Terry gave him a pat on the shoulder. "You're a good friend, Dick. You haven't stepped on any toes. I'll talk it over with John and Izzy, but I'm sure they'll agree that Jake would appreciate a party at your place. He thinks a lot of you. Always have, and always will."

His eyes misting, Dick gave a grateful nod and put the sunglasses back on.

John came over and greeted Dick, then the men talked and debated about roof shingles, roofing nails, and whether or not it would rain that day. Through it all, Madison kept quiet, and remained as close to Terry as she could without getting too much in the way. Terry watched her step aside so others could pass, then retake her position behind or beside him, whichever was more convenient at the time. Terry couldn't decide whether her fright last night and this morning had anything to do with this current display of needy behavior, but he did sense that when among others, she felt safer with him, than without him. In this wide world of strangers and pain, Terry was her one earthly refuge.

She didn't need to say that, for him to feel it. The responsibility of it burdened him, but at the same time, he thanked God for the opportunity to really help someone, to hopefully make a lasting difference in someone's life. His other attempts hadn't gone very well, but Terry pinned his hopes on Madison. This one would be different. This one would be his first success story, something he could show Jesus and say, "See? You didn't put so much effort into me for nothing. This is all for You."

While John and Dick climbed about on the roof, patching shingles with roofing cement, Terry moved inside where Izumi was already hard at work.

"Need any help cleaning the fridge?" he asked, seeing her on her hands and knees and busily scrubbing its white interior.

A head with a red bandanna popped up to look at him. "Is the electricity on yet?" she asked.

Terry grinned. "I'll do that right now. Madison, why don't you grab that broom and start working on this floor?"

She looked at him, the broom, then back to him.

"It's a broom. You know how it works." Terry turned, left by the front door whistling a jingle from a TV commercial. One of those dumb tunes that some Madison Avenue ad exec probably stayed awake several days straight to dream up, in the hopes of inducing him to run out and buy hot dogs. Whatever. Terry didn't feel disposed to waste energy on the manipulations of advertising. AJ was coming home, his family was happy and healthy, and Madison was sweeping the floor. Maybe she wasn't quite happy or very healthy, but a start's a start and he grasped at all the optimism he could.

He rounded the house, came to where the utilities connected to the building. He had to have faith that no matter what, God would be there. Tribulation works patience into people, and patience gives experience. With experience comes hope, and when God's love is shed into every corner of a trusting heart, that hope will not be ashamed.

Terry looked skyward.

Sunlight poured from between the clouds overhead, painting Three Mile Bay in glorious bright God rays. It felt as though Heaven itself was smiling down on them. Sure, there were problems. It was life, so there would always be problems, but today, Terry felt more buoyed by hope than usual.

The water and electricity turned on, Terry rapped at the window until Izumi's face appeared. "It's on," he shouted. She nodded, her face oddly grave as she waved him back into the house.

In that moment, Terry tensed. One thought raced through his mind as he jogged past the men on the ladder, through the enclosed porch, past the swing, through the front door and into the living room-- Madison.

"What's wrong?" he asked.

Izumi met him, pointed to a corner of the room. There sat Madison, her knees raised and hugged close to her chest.

"Is she all right, Terry?" Worry sounded in Izumi's voice. "She swept the kitchen like you asked, then put down the broom and went to go sit in the corner."

"Is that all?" Terry smiled when Izumi looked at him with baffled surprise. Izumi could hardly know he was relieved Madison hadn't screamed, or done something more obvious to indicate she was reliving a past trauma. He nodded to Izumi. "She's had a difficult time, but she's going to be okay."

He left a concerned Izumi, crossed the room to where Madison sat crouched in the corner. A prayer thumped in his chest, a quick plea to Heaven that he hadn't been wrong about her not having a flashback. Her forehead rested against her knees, so he couldn't see her face.

"Hey, how about cleaning some windows?" When Madison didn't respond, he knelt, touched her shoulder. "Come on. It's not healthy to sit and stew by yourself. We could use your help washing those windows."

She shrugged his hand off.

"Do you want me to leave you alone?"

Her head nodded "yes."

"Okay. I'll leave you alone, but only for a few minutes." He started to straighten, stopped when her hand reached for his. He clasped her fingers, held them and forced himself to breathe.

"We're finished on the roof--" John strode inside, his voice cutting out the moment he saw Madison. Half a second later, Dick appeared at John's side. Dick pulled off the sunglasses and stared, though Terry was only vaguely aware of their presence.

The slender hand kept trembling, kept gripping his. He stroked the fingers and did his best to remind her that she wasn't alone. She had a friend.

She whispered his name. "Terry."

"I'm right here. Try to relax, Maddie. I'm right here."

"Don't leave."

"I won't." He bowed his head, began to pray in a low voice so she could hear. "Dear Heavenly Father, we need some help today. Sometimes our hearts become overwhelmed, and that's when we cry to You. From the end of the earth, we will cry unto You when our hearts are overwhelmed. Lead us to the high rock, so the waters will not overtake us. We trust in Your mercy. Give us a way to escape that we may be able to bear this. And comfort Madison. Please, God, give her comfort. In Jesus' name, amen."

Her head came up as the prayer ended, and Terry saw the dust smudges on her cheek. He pulled out a handkerchief, wiped them away and gave her a smile.

"Were you remembering?" he asked.

She shook her head "no." "I feel so sad."

"Sad about what?"

Her eyes looked about the room, took in Izumi, John, Dick, then himself. "Abby and Jake are so blessed to have all this. They have a home, family and friends who worry about them. I didn't know."

He squeezed her hand, coaxed her to continue.

"I didn't know I was missing out on so much."

The words punched Terry in the chest. He couldn't speak. All he could do was hold her hand, offer his encouragement and stay with her while she rode out the sadness. He couldn't tell her that the past few days she had spent in Three Mile Bay were nothing, compared to the blessings that went on all year round. The everyday joy of watching children grow up, the laughter and tears invested in those small little lives. And the love, oh what love surrounded them as they grew.

As he knelt there, holding Madison's hand, he thought of his own childhood. Since there was a very real danger of reliving the past attached to those memories, he rarely let himself think back. The fears of a boy returned to him, the pain smeared with deep shame. The stain on his memory that would never go away. It clutched him, and he forced his thoughts to focus on Madison.

How could he tell her that he knew exactly what she felt? That even now, he sometimes felt as though the normal ones were passing him by and only he was left alone to watch the parade. Belonging to someone else's family had to be enough for him. Until God gave him more, he must wait and hope and pray.

Would there ever be more than the hoping? What if this was all there ever would be?

A stroke on the back of his hand woke Terry from the pain. He looked up to see stormy gray eyes, pink lips tipped into a concerned smile.

"I made you sad. I didn't mean to." She meant those words. Terry could feel the realness of them in her voice, in the hand tightly clasping his. And suddenly he was the one being comforted. "If you still want me to, I'll wash the windows."

He smiled, felt the sadness lift from him bit by bit until a soft pleasing quiet settled into his soul.

He helped her up, led her to the cabinet beneath the kitchen sink where the cleaning supplies were stored. Fearing the job of cleaning every window in the house would be too much for her, Terry assigned her the inside glass, and he took the outside. The job could be finished before lunch, if they worked together.

* * * *

The moment Terry left with Madison to find the window cleaner, John turned to Izumi with a hurried whisper. "He's getting too close to her. Make a list of possibles, then start inviting them to dinner until Terry finds the right one."

"Something's definitely going on between those two," Dick added helpfully.

"That's why we need to find someone soon." John gave a firm nod. "Before Terry gets hurt."

Izumi sighed. Men were sometimes a little dense. Just make a list. Simple. A list of possibles. As if they were going to kick tires and check mileage at some car lot. Invite them one by one to dinner. Oh, John. Izumi found no words to voice her bemused horror.

To keep herself from speaking her mind before she had an idea of what to do, she returned to the kitchen to repaper the cupboards. The task of finding Terry a helpmate would not be simple. There were not an unlimited number of single women at church to pick from. Still, there were enough to start giving it some careful thought. To be good enough for their Terry, she had to be someone special. Someone who didn't have Madison's nightmarish past, someone to comfort Terry in those quiet moments when he walked alone. Someone gentle, caring, appreciative of their sweet, big-hearted Terry's special qualities.

It pleased Izumi to wonder if one of the women she knew at church was destined to become Terry's wife. The more she thought about it, the more hopeful she became.

If Heaven intended someone from their congregation for Terry, Izumi would find her.


"As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I [God] comfort you..."
~ Isaiah 66:13 ~

"Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God."
~ 2 Corinthians 1:4 ~

end of chapter