Mae Cooper was standing over a sink full of dishes when her cell phone rang. Not many people called these days, she was much more likely to get a text. She missed the days of human interaction but tried her best to keep up with the ever-changing technology so she could communicate with those she loved. She turned off the water, wiped her hands on her apron and made her way to the kitchen table where she’d laid her phone. Caller ID said it was Mabel, a friend from Palm Beach where Vivian and her family lived. She’d met Mabel years ago, back when the Lancaster’s made the move to Florida; she was one of the first neighbors at the door of their new home with a plate of cookies. Mae and Vivian had a halfhearted discussion about whether or not Mabel was really that kind or if she was the ring leader of the neighborhood gossip chain. Time proved Mabel to be a dear soul; she watched out for Mae’s kids and called her on occasion to catch her up on the neighborhood news. Mae was puzzled because she’d just talked to her a few day earlier and it wasn’t like Mabel to call frequently. As a matter of fact, Mae couldn’t think of a single time Mabel had called twice in a month. But, caller ID wasn’t lying, so she answered jokingly, “Well, what has you calling so soon?” Mabel cleared her throat and it sounded like she was crying. Mae instinctively put her hand to her throat, “Mabel, what is it? What’s the matter? Are you crying?” Mabel cleared her throat again and spoke softly, “have you talked to Vivian?” Alarm bells immediately went off in Mae’s mind, Vivian? What could possibly? Her heart began to race and she plopped down in the kitchen chair. “No, I haven’t.” “Well, maybe I should let her tell you…” “Absolutely not, Mabel, I’ll worry until I can get a hold of her and she isn’t always easy to reach,” Mae spoke with the conviction of a mother. Mabel remained quiet for a moment but finally began to tell of the accusation against Thomas. “It’s in the paper, Mae, and I’m sure it will be on the local news tonight. I can’t imagine what the family must be feeling right now, Vivian and the kids…” Mabel’s voice trailed off with the last sentence. It took Mae a few moments, but, finally, she spoke, “thanks for letting me know, Mabel, I think I’ll try and call her right now.” She pressed the red illuminated circle on the phone screen and ended the call without waiting for her to say goodbye. Mae sat with her elbow on the table, chin propped up in her hand, staring out the kitchen window. Funny, just a few minutes earlier she’d thought today was one of the most beautiful of the late spring. Now, she could see storm clouds brewing in the distance, how had she missed those earlier? Her mind circled around to her Heavenly Father. “Lord, I have no idea what’s going on here, but I know you have Vivian and the kids under your protection. Please comfort her heart as she faces this difficult time.”
Mae decided against calling Vivian right away, but made her way to the barn instead. Sonny, her lifelong partner and best friend, was mucking the stalls. He hummed while he worked and the sound of it brought comfort to her soul. She hated to carry the news to him, she knew it would be so upsetting. But, he needed to know and Mae didn’t want to take any action until they’d talked it over and prayed about it.
“Sonny!” Mae spoke loudly enough to be heard. The barn door groaned on its rusty hinges as she pushed it open; the floor was dirty with straw and all manner of dirt and dried sweat. The stench could knock a person not used to farm life flat on the ground. Sonny stopped the pitchfork midair, Mae rarely came out to the barn while he was mucking because the smell was even more unbearable than usual. “Over here!” He raised his voice. He heard footsteps and then Mae appeared looking as white as a sheet. Sonny tossed the pitchfork aside and headed for her, “Mae, are you alright? You look pale as a ghost.” “Mabel called from Palm Beach with some news. Can you come in the house?” “I’ll be right in just let me finish with Happy’s stall.” Happy had come to the Cooper farm when Vivian was sixteen, the year she’d met Thomas and she named the horse exactly how she felt in her heart. Plus, she’d said the horse looked like it was smiling, so Happy made perfect sense. These days Happy was old and full of arthritis, but she was still the most agreeable horse Sonny had ever owned. He made sure to take good care of her.
Mae made her way back to the house and put on a pot of coffee. By the time Sonny made it inside, the coffee was ready and a hot mug was waiting for him at the kitchen table. “Sit down, hon, there’s much to tell you.” Mae told Sonny everything and watched as his eyes grew cloudy and dark. “We tried to warn her!” He spoke roughly. “I know, dear, but that doesn’t change the current situation.” “There wouldn’t be a situation if she’d listened! That boy was so prideful, I tried to tell her that was going to be his demise.” Mae sat quietly for a few minutes as Sonny stirred his coffee. She’d been married to this man for over forty years and she understood he needed time to digest difficult news. “Well, have you talked to her?” he finally spoke. “Not yet, I wanted to talk to you first.” “Thank you for that,” His voice was considerably less tense. “We need to pray,” he took Mae by the hand and led her into the living room. They knelt in front of the dated floral sofa; Mae threw a pillow on the floor before kneeling, her knees needed the help these days. “Heavenly Father…” Sonny prayed and Mae could feel the presence of God right there in their small living room. Mae said the occasional “amen” as he prayed and the scripture where two or three are gathered together in my Name, I will be in the midst of them came to mind. How many times had they knelt in that exact spot and asked God for big things. During years of little rain, they’d prayed for God’s provision and He’d always come through for them. In times of crisis, they’d knelt together and God had always answered their prayers. They weren’t strangers to difficultly, but somehow this situation felt different; this felt bigger and their prayer was more desperate. “Help Vivian and the kids, please, Lord,” Sonny continued and Mae nodded her head. When he’d finished, the two stayed on their knees in silence for a bit. Mae cried softly and Sonny embraced her; she always felt safe in his arms. “Well, I guess I better call her,” Mae finally spoke then stood up slowly allowing her stiff knees a chance to recover. She placed the pillow back on the couch and headed to the kitchen where she’d left her phone.
“Hello.” Mae barely recognized Vivian’s voice on the other end of the line. “Hey hon.” Mae spoke slowly, “I got a call from Mabel today.” “Hey, Mom, I’ve been meaning to call you.” Vivian paused and took a deep breath. “It all happened so fast and I’m still not sure I’ve wrapped my head around it.” Mae sat in silence as Vivian explained that Thomas had been arrested and taken to jail. They were initially denied bond, so Thomas was in jail until the next legal step happened, whatever that was. Vivian was so ignorant about these things, she’d never even gotten a speeding ticket. It all felt overwhelming and scary. “Our accounts are frozen, Mom.” Mae’s heart skipped a beat at this news. “What are you going to do?” Vivian didn’t answer immediately, “I’m not sure.” The lawyer warned this might happen so she’d taken a good amount of cash out earlier in the day. Mae rubbed the bridge of her nose as Vivian continued. “We have enough food for the week and I have cash for emergencies. I don’t have a mortgage payment or car payment. I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do.” Vivian could no longer hold back the tears, “the kids have no idea about the bank account,” she said in a muffled voice.
For the first time since she could remember, Mae Cooper was stunned to silence.