Vivian pulled into the driveway but didn’t immediately get out of the SUV. Instead, she unbuckled and slowly turned to face Thatcher in the backseat. “Thatcher, honey, there are some things we need to talk about.” Thatcher sat quietly as Vivian cleared her throat. “You know, sometimes decent people make bad choices. Remember that time you thought it would be a good idea to walk Jasper even though it was dark out and you knew you weren’t supposed to go alone?” Thatcher nodded. He was only six when this happened; it had been a frightening experience none of them would ever forget. He had taken the family dog out on his own and gotten lost in the dark neighborhood streets. They finally found him hiding behind a bush nearly a mile from their home. He was terrified and they all wept with joy when he was discovered. “Well,” Vivian continued, “you thought taking Jasper for a walk would be a good idea, you never meant to get lost or scare anyone. Nobody doubted you were still our good boy even though you disobeyed. I’ve been so proud of you since then because you learned your lesson and didn’t go out wandering in the night by yourself again. Well, Daddy made a bad decision and even though he didn’t set out to hurt anybody, it did hurt us.” Vivian finished unsure if her analogy made any sense to her ten-year-old. Thatcher stared at her for a bit and then finally said, “he’s not a bad person though.” “That’s right, he’s not, but he has made several bad decisions and now he has to answer for them. Remember after you took Jasper for the walk, and once we knew you were safe, you had a consequence?” Thatcher shook his head. “Well, now Daddy has to face his consequences.” Vivian felt so completely inadequate to be explaining this to her son. She knew they would all need counseling to sort through the emotions washing over them like a tidal wave. Thatcher didn’t say much as he climbed out of the SUV, he went straight to his room and shut the door. Vivian’s heart broke and she wiped away tears; it seemed like she was continually crying since she’d heard the news about Thomas. Her phone chimed, breaking the somberness of the moment, and as soon as it did Vivian remembered her lunch date with Abigail. “Oh, my goodness.” She spoke to herself as she dug through her purse. Just like she thought, it was Abigail wondering about their plans. Vivian quickly typed an apology and promised lunch later in the week.
How had her life turned into such a drama?
She missed the simpler times of days gone by. Days on the farm when her biggest stress was to make sure the chickens were fed, when bonfires were what she lived for and moonbeams still felt magical. Her mind began to wander back to an Iowa summer a long time ago … “Thomas Lancaster.” He spoke with such confidence that Vivian was sure her heart might explode. It was youth night at church and the pastor had asked him to introduce himself. Was it crazy she still remembered what he was wearing? A blue polo, jeans and tennis shoes. She was in her favorite yellow sundress, hair tied up in a high pony tail and summer sandals. She’d worn this exact outfit in hopes to get his attention. Her plan had worked and their first “date” was a walk to the ice cream shop after church on a sultry summer night. They’d walked from the church building to the shop and sat out under the street lamps at a concrete table while the stars twinkled above them. She’d always said there was no prettier sky than an Iowa night sky. The stars seemed endless. And, on this night, she saw stars every time she looked at Thomas Lancaster. She was a goner from the start.
She didn’t realize how long she’d been laying on the couch reminiscing until the kids began to come in from school. She must’ve fallen asleep. “Hi, guys.” She spoke casually and then panic filled her expression. “What is it?” Trevor asked. “Timothy!” Vivian grabbed her purse and nearly left skid marks in the driveway on her way to pick up her thirteen-year-old from school. She prayed for him as she drove, he was having a really hard time with all of this. She desperately wished she could reach him, not just physically, but emotionally; she wanted to reach his heart. He was so closed up and had no real interest in “talking” about anything. Well, at least not anything that wasn’t in a book. Vivian pulled into the long drive of the school and she could see a teacher standing with a lone student. She knew instantly it was Timothy. She groaned. As if the child wasn’t feeling enough hurt and disappointment, she had to go and leave him standing by himself. “So sorry,” Vivian spoke before the window was completely down, she didn’t mention she’d gotten caught up in memories and fell asleep on the couch; the teacher could draw her own conclusions. Timothy walked to the vehicle and slowly climbed into the front seat next to her. “Hey, buddy.” Vivian spoke but Timothy didn’t respond. “I am so sorry, it won’t happen again.” She was already making a mental note to put an alarm in her phone. “It’s okay,” he finally said. And that was the extent of their conversation on the ride home.
Vivian walked into the house and put her purse on the counter. What to make for dinner was at the front of her mind when Tatum walked into the kitchen. “Hey, honey,” she spoke to her only daughter. “Hey.” Tatum sounded like Vivian felt. “How was school?” “Not as bad as I thought it would be. Either not too many people knew about it or, more likely, no one mentioned it. To our faces, at least.” It was a shame how kids learn in their youth to talk behind the backs of others. Vivian knew this wasn’t true of every child, but it did seem as kids grew older, they were less willing to confront a problem or rumor head on. So unlike elementary school where everything is spoken with no regard for another’s feelings. Vivian thought on this for a moment and couldn’t decide which approach she liked better.
“What’s for dinner?” Tatum’s voice brought her back to reality. It seemed like someone was always having to bring her back from her thoughts lately. “Ummm, how about taco salad?” “Sounds good,” Tatum got up and headed for the fridge to get started. What would I do without this one? Vivian thought. God had blessed her with the sweetest girl child imaginable. She felt undeserving. Tatum was nothing like her; she was tall and athletic, kind and hardworking, God had been good to give them a child like this. Vivian and Tatum worked in silence preparing dinner in their spacious kitchen. If one didn’t know better, they might just assume everything was fine. But, that would be a deeply flawed assumption.
Vivian’s cell phone rang and she knew exactly who it was; she recognized the personalized ring tone. It was her Mother. There were no hard feelings between the two, but, because of the circumstances, Vivian had avoided calling her. She wasn’t quite sure why, maybe she felt too ashamed? It wasn’t like she hadn’t been warned a long time ago. But, there was no avoiding it now. Vivian was sure she’d seen the paper. Everyone in town had and someone would surely have called her Mother. “Aren’t you going to get that? It’s Grandma Mae.” Tatum spoke over a frying pan of hamburger meat. “Yes, of course.” Vivian sprinted to the couch to grab her purse and rummaged for the phone. Why was she always searching for her phone? She promised herself to buy one of those purses that had side pockets where you could store one easily. “Hello.” Her voice sounded a bit foreign, even to her. “Hi, hon.” Just hearing her Mom’s voice sent a fresh batch of tears down her cheeks. “Hey, Mom, I’ve been meaning to call you…” Her voice trailed off as she headed for her bedroom. Tatum stirred the meat, added the taco seasoning and then sat at the bar while it simmered. The smell of taco meat filled the kitchen and made its way through the rest of the house. Tatum noticed the newspaper was folded neatly at one end of the bar so she grabbed it to see if the headlines really were about her father. “Local Lawyer Arrested.” The article also included a picture of her Father. Tatum felt sick to her stomach and walked to the trash can to throw it away. “How could you, Daddy?” she stuffed the newspaper deep into the garbage. “What were you thinking?” She spoke to the empty kitchen and sat back on the barstool. The house felt so empty right then, even though all of the Lancaster’s were home. Well, not all of them, one of them was sitting in jail waiting to see the judge.