This is a continuing/serial story. I share a chapter a week and at the end of the story, and after I edit and rewrite, I self-publish it. To catch up with the story click HERE. To read the rest of the books in this series click HERE. Let me know in the comments what you think.
Ben stared at the television with bleary eyes, slumped down in a comfy blue recliner he figured was Adam’s.
He was in the den downstairs, gladly away from the rest of the family. What else could he have done? It wasn’t like they were going to hang out and watch tv like a family, since they weren’t an actual family.
He yawned and looked at his phone on the coffee table, guilt tugging at him.
He dialed his parents’ number and his mother answered.
“I just wanted to let you know I won’t be home until tomorrow in case you stop by.”
“Won’t be home? Where are you now?” She added quickly, “I mean you don’t have to tell us. You’re a grown man.”
A small laugh cracked its way through the exhaustion. “It’s okay. I’m in Lancaster. Car troubles so I have to stay the night.”
His dad’s voice, “How did you get there?” He must have picked up the other house phone. “You still shouldn’t drive, right?
“Right. Judi drove me.”
“Oh.” His mother again.
“Oh.” His father.
A brief silence fell over the conversation.
His mom spoke first. “So, is she as beautiful in person as she is in her photos?”
Ben leaned forward in the chair. “You’ve seen photos?”
“Well, yes Leona sent us some over the years.”
“You never said anything.”
“We didn’t know if we should,” his dad said.
Ben cleared his throat. “I understand. And yes, she’s even more beautiful in person.” He rubbed a hand across his face. “Judi and I are heading back in the morning. There was some fog and Leona asked us to stay.”
He chatted with his parents a few minutes more and when he slid his finger over the end call button he fell back in the chair, closing his eyes against the burning pain of tears. He’d been able to be tough for four years. Why was this all kicking him in the gut now?
He was exhausted. That’s why. That and he hated to hear the pain in his parent’s voice, knowing how much they’d love to meet Amelia and get to know her. Plus, this was yet another opportunity for him to be reminded he wasn’t as good of a father as his had always been and still was.
It also hit him with a sickening twist in his gut that he hadn’t prayed this entire weekend. For the past two years he’d been going to church with his parents, reconnecting with the faith he’d abandoned in junior high. He’d prayed his way through the self-directed anger and shame, the self-loathing that held him down day after day. He’d asked God to help him not hurt Angie and Amelia ever again and yet here he was, in the middle of the lion’s den, so to speak, poised to do just that if he didn’t leave soon.
He obviously hadn’t been thinking when he came down here. Not clearly anyhow. He had been worried something was wrong with Angie, Amelia or her parents, but he could have learned more about that over the phone. Why had he felt like he had to see for himself that everything was okay?
Maybe because he was a control freak. He’d been able to let go of that control over the situation with Angie but only with prayer and he should have prayed before he agreed to this trip.
He stood and dragged a hand through his hair. He needed some fresh air. Walking gingerly upstairs, he was glad the house was dark and everyone else was asleep. He gently opened the patio door and stepped out onto the patio and then down the steps into the backyard. Finding a bench under a maple tree at the end of the fenced in area, he sat down, looking out over flat land, void of the tree covered hills he was used to in Spencer. Taking a deep breath, he looked up at the sky, at a vast array of stars, and then closed his eyes.
“God, you know I’m not good at this whole praying thing,” he whispered. “Yet, or still. I don’t even know what to pray for other than to help me get out of here tomorrow without hurting Angie or Amelia anymore than I already have over the years.”
He tipped his head forward, into his hands and let out a long breath, sitting there for several moments, mental berating himself again for agreeing to this trip in the first place.
Adam’s voice startled him, and he looked up to see the man standing in the dim light of the moon, looking at him with a concerned crease along his brow line.
“Yeah.” Ben rubbed his hands across his eyes. “Just needed some fresh air.”
Adam gestured toward the other side of the bench. “Can I sit?”
Ben slid over. “Yes, of course.”
Adam stretched his arms over his head and yawned. “I like it here but not as much as the place we had in Spencer. It’s too flat here. If my friend Lewis hadn’t offered me a place in his farm store to sell my furniture, I doubt I would have ever moved down here.” He lowered his arms and laid one on the arm of the bench, the other across the back of it. “I’ll be glad to get back to Spencer. Mom’s place is up on Hobbs Mountain – near the overlook that looks over the valley near the Tanner’s place.”
“Yes, I’ve been there before.”
Adam laughed. “Of course you have – what am I talking about? Mom practically adopted you as another grandchild when you and Angie were together.”
Ben simply nodded and looked out over the empty field again, his eyes focusing on a lone tree in the distance.
Adam broke the silence a few minutes later. “Boy, noses really bleed, don’t they?”
Ben laughed softly, leaning forward, and propping his elbow on his knees. “Yeah. I remember one I got when I was hit in the face with a baseball when I was about ten. They thought my nose was broken, but it wasn’t luckily.”
“Yeah, Amelia’s will be swollen a couple of days, but I’m glad it wasn’t broken. Kids are pretty resilient, I guess.”
Ben tilted his head to look at Adam. “Adam, what’s really going on here? Why did you want me here? I know about the move, but is something else going on? You could have easily called me and told me about the move.”
Adam rubbed a hand across his chin. “Yeah, that’s true, but I guess — I don’t know. I guess I felt like I should see you in person, talk to you about it all and see your reaction to Amelia myself, understand if you really didn’t want anything to do with her or if that’s just what Angie told us.”
Now they were getting somewhere. “They’re better off without me, Adam.”
“I don’t know. You tell me. They’re happy, right? Amelia seems bright and well cared for. Angie has a doctor boyfriend. They certainly don’t need someone like me.”
“Amelia should know her dad,” Adam said. “Don’t you agree?”
“Not if her dad is a screw up like me.”
Adam shook his head slowly. “People change, Ben and I believe you have. Am I wrong?”
“I’m doing a lot better than I was, yes, but —” Ben let out a slow breath. “Listen, you meant well, Adam, but do you really think that I’m the father she needs? The man who walked away from her and her mom four years ago? The man who has stayed away and didn’t make an effort to contact them?”
“Did you ever want to?”
“Ever want to what?”
“Of course I did, but I knew — I know that I’m not what they need. I can’t do anything for Angie and Amelia but make their lives more complicated. They’re happy without me, right?” He didn’t wait for Adam to answer. “So, then what good will it do for me to come back into their lives?”,,,
Adam leaned forward until he could look Ben in the eye. “Are you drinking anymore?”
“No, sir, but that’s not the point. The point is I’m still not father material. I’m still selfish and there is still the potential for me to mess up again. I can’t take that risk and even more than that, Angie doesn’t want to take that risk. She’s happy with William. Amelia is happy with William. Let them have William.”
Adam let out a frustrated grunt. “I’m not saying you have to have a romantic relationship with Angie again. I’m just suggesting a relationship with Amelia at least. I won’t force you into anything, Ben. This isn’t the 50s. I’m not going to come after you with a gun, but I hope you’ll at least consider it. Especially now that we’re going to be living so close to you.”
Ben kept his gaze locked on Adam’. “What else is going on, Adam? Is it just your mom’s health pushing this move back? Level with me.”
Adam leaned back again, rubbed a hand across the top of his short, graying hair. “You always have been perceptive. I guess that’s why you became a lawyer.” He folded his arms across his chest. “Yes, my mom’s the main reason for the move. She’s got dementia and she’s also failing physically. At the same time,” he lifted a shoulder quickly. “I’ve got a bad ticker.”
“How bad is it?”
“Doctors haven’t said it will kill me any time soon but …” Adam shook his head, looking out into the darkness again. “What if it does? I’ll need someone to take care of my girls when I’m gone and I’d rather have them back in Spencer where the boys are, my brothers and, well, you.”
Ben laughed softly. “You included me in that last? Really? After all I’ve done to your daughter and granddaughter? They’ve got William, right? He’s a doctor, he can take care of you and them.”
Adam smiled. “He’s a pediatrician, Ben, not a cardiologist. But not only that — Angie doesn’t really love William. He’s a nice guy, don’t get me wrong, but he’s safe. It’s the only reason she’s seeing him. It certainly isn’t passion.”
Ben kept his gaze on Adam. “Safe is good after what she had before.” He rubbed a hand across his jawline. “Why didn’t you give up on me, Adam? I definitely would have if I was in your shoes.”
Adam tipped his head back and sighed. “Because I knew someday you’d realize you were headed in the wrong direction. I knew that at some point you’d hit rock bottom and start climbing out again. I knew that someday you’d realize what you were missing out on and want to be part of Amelia’s life.”
Ben scoffed. “My rock bottom should have been when Angie left me. When I wasn’t at the hospital when Amelia was born. It took me another year and a half to get to rock bottom. It was pathetic. I’m not real quick on the uptake sometimes.” A dark barked somewhere in the distance. “Adam, seriously — what if it happens again? What if I fail them again?” He snorted a sardonic laugh. “Again? None of this really matters because Angie hates me anyhow and doesn’t want me around.”
Adam shifted his weight to face Ben even more. “Like I said, I’m not saying you have to marry her. I just want you around for them. I don’t know much about what it takes to stay sober but I know you’re a determined man. When you want something, you get it. You wanted that law degree and you got it and —
“Yeah, I got it. At the expense of my personal life. My family. My dignity.”
“Yes, but you regret that now, right?”
“I do. Yes.”
“Ben, do you still love my daughter?”
Ben held up his hand. This conversation had gone into the awkward long ago but it was now downright uncomfortable. “Adam —”
“Because she still loves you. She tries to act like she doesn’t, but she does.”
“Are we talking about the same woman? Did you see the way she looked at me today? If looks could kill — well, you know where I’d be.”
Adam rejected Ben’s attempt to bring reality to the conversation. “How long have you been sober?”
Ben rubbed a hand across his forehead. “A little more than a year and a half. Six months away from two. That’s not long in recovering alcoholic terms but I don’t crave it like I did. I don’t have an urge to go back to who I was. I’m told that’s progress.”
“You won’t go back to where you were.”
Ben was becoming irritated now. He ran a hand through his hair. “You sound so sure. I’m not even sure.” He shook his head, his jaw tightening. “How can you be?”
Adam’s smile gleamed with confidence. “Because you’re an Oliver. It’s in your blood not only to get what you want but to do what’s right.”
5 thoughts on “Fiction Friday: Mercy’s Shore Chapter 18”
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I don’t know how you do it, Lisa, but with every one of your books, I’ve caught myself praying for the characters! I always stop before it gets too involved, and remind myself it’s just fiction, but still! Thank you for sharing stories that remind us all of real life, and real people that DO need our prayers.
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Yes. Real people do need our prayers and a lot of fiction reminds me of that!
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And Bettie – thank you for faithfully reading and commenting. I have no idea why I write these and I’m struggling with this one a bit. It may get an overhaul in the end but your comments do encourage me to just keep having fun and to “not over think it” – a new motto for myself.
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I’m as well. Praying for you and your husband and family.
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