The day was easy, it must have been Sunday morning or at least it felt like it. Easy Like Sunday Morning. I was around ten at the time and a gregarious and likeable child. I bounded out of my Holly Hobby room in my fuzzy slippers and the tantalizing smell of smoked bacon led me to our small kitchen. I remember that the kitchen appliances were an earthy green color. I remember simply because I like green and this is not relevant to my story whatsoever.
My mother was at the stove turning the bacon while my Dad waited anxiously to steal a cooked piece and excitably told my mother about his wild dream. It seemed silly but what did I know. He turned to me and smiled and said “ooOh Child, things are going to get easier!” I giggled. I thought things were already pretty easy. Besides brushing my teeth and remembering to pick up my dirty socks I didn’t have it so hard. What he said though reminded me of a song my Mom would sing to me. One time I had a horrible ear infection and the pain had me in tears. After giving me my banana flavored penicillin before bed she softly sang that song. My mother was tone deaf and had as much rhythm as our pasty white local librarian singing Abba in the talent competition during spring fling. Being ten though and loving my mother the way I did I felt like every time she opened her mouth it was like angels flew out!
So when my Dad excitably said that to me I knew immediately that something good was about to happen and I was Bustin Out at the seams hoping to get in on the secret before my brothers got up. My youngest brother slept like the dead and the other was at the stage where he spent a lot of time alone in his room with his Bo Derek Poster. My Mother said he was discovering himself, or exploring himself or some shit. I am not sure but his voice was beginning to sound weird and he never seemed to have any clean socks!
“Didn’t I blow your mind this time?” my Dad asked, slapping my Mom lovingly on her ass. It was times like these that I wondered if my mother ever got annoyed by my Dad’s never-ending, gigantic, best one yet plans. She continued to flip bacon and she smiled back at me and winked.
So it was over crisp bacon and scrambled eggs that I learned of our new fate. No more just Stayin Alive my Dad said, it was about time that we started living out our dreams. We were on a Love Rollercoaster and we were Born to run. So here we were, the five of us sitting around that laminate dining table on harvest gold vinyl chairs Reelin In the years.
“Mercy, mercy me!” my Mom exclaimed as my brother squeaked out his approval in a high pitched girly voice.
No more Workin for the man and wondering how you were going to rob Peter to pay Paul when Paul was flat broke. The news was like a Bridge over troubled water.
We were joining the CIRCUS!!
That very day we packed up our favorite things into our Ford Galaxy including my younger brothers sooky blanket, my older brothers Bo Derek Poster and a laundry basket full of dirty socks and of course my way too short draw-string corduroy pants and my most prized possession my glowing personality that would keep us happy for the long ride to the circus, wherever that was.
My Dad had the windows rolled down and he happily sang John Denver tunes as we put miles between us and responsibilities. Occasionally I would take a little break from amusing my family with my cute and wondrous chatter to daydream about what I was going to be in the circus. A Black Magic woman sounded like fun or maybe a Lion Tamer, an Acrobat or a Juggler. I was so excited I near peed my pants.
As we drove Into the Mystic I thought is it “Just My Imagination” because I said it before “Won’t get fooled again” but here we were driving that Ford Galaxy up my grandparents lane as my father sang along with Olivia Newton John on 8 track cassette.
So much for my dreams of being the worlds greatest illusionist, working with some of the most talented but undervalued humans ever. So much for dancing under the harvest moon in my bare feet with all the circus freaks and geeks. Alas though I was happy to hang out with my cousins and hover over the vent in my grandmothers room and spy on the adult conversation in the dining room below and stifle giggles every time my Aunt exclaimed “Good God what did you eat?” as my uncles famous farts escaped him and vibrated off the wood chair. Good times, perhaps it’s own type of circus.
Makes me miss those crazy farting buggers, every one of them.
The Shack is not a book I would normally buy because it confronts the grief of a father (Mack) after the brutal murder of his young daughter. Having daughters it is a subject matter that I would normally back away from. I was with Haley at her School Book Fair and something drew me to it. I picked it up and put it down several times before deciding to take it home and spend an evening curled up reading.
The Shack confronts grief and heartache in a very real and relatable way. It explores the power of forgiveness, faith, hope, grace and love. It asks questions, it helps you seek and find answers, it shows you beauty and truth and for me reinforced some things that I believed to be true.
The Shack wrestles with the timeless question “Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?”
I became absorbed in this book and I found that the answers that Mack was seeking were often to questions I had asked myself. It took me on a brilliant journey, both compelling and daring, shining a spotlight on things we all struggle with, our faith, our beliefs, our shortcomings…
From beginning to end it painted a vivid picture of human emotion. Sometimes wonderfully eloquent and others deceptive and ugly.
I was captivated, I cried, I was angry, I was justified, I was redeemed, I passed judgment in haste, and I was enlightened.
It is a book that will weave it’s way into your heart and fill up all the cold and empty spaces. I believe in one way or another it will have an impact on you. Powerfully clarifying and gracefully simple, if you read it, you will be changed.
I felt compelled to join the Missy Project to get the word out about this fascinating tale. If you have read let me know what you thought or give it a read and let me know.
The weeks leading up to Homecoming were as exhilarating as they frenzied. It was impossible to not get caught up in the enthusiasm and school spirit. The Cheer Squad had designed the most incredible Float that Lincoln had ever seen. It was a Hollywood Themed Float complete with a Red Carpet, cameras, plenty of lights and best of all the Football Team in tuxes and the Cheerleaders in their formal gowns.The excitement and general sense of camaraderie surrounding the Homecoming events was infectious. Even Brad and Johnny had worked together to make giant Academy Awards figurines for the float.
Lincoln demolished the winless Jackson Jags 34-3 to ensure that their homecoming game would be played on their own field against neighboring rivals Lisbon Leopards.
The excitement was so overwhelming that when Natalie recalled it in years to come it would be hard to focus on anything else but that euphoric on top of the world feeling that you get when you are having a great day and you are certain that it is only going to get better. It was a fantastic day to be a Football player, a Cheerleader and a resident of the small town of Lincoln.
Lincoln handled their business under the Friday night lights defeating Lisbon with a final score of 31-29, narrowly edging out the Lisbon Leopards with a 30 yard touchdown with 7 seconds on the clock in the 4th quarter, winning the game to a cheering hometown crowd.
Lincoln played their kind of offensive game with relative ease. Brad was not overly efficient on the ground, but Johnny had a bit of a “throw-back” game. He caught Lisbon a bit off-guard. He scrambled for his first rushing touchdown of the season on a read-option run. He ended up leading the team in rushing with 64 yards.
More importantly was the effective passing game. Although the wide receivers did not come together as they hoped, Johnny was able to make plays in the passing game, showing excellent touch.
The final score did not really reflect the Lincolns defensive effort. Brad had a great catch and run with both starting safeties out of the game. Lisbon added a couple of late touchdowns but this game was all Lincoln and the hometown crowd was wild. Lincoln made stops as needed, but claim they were never really threatened.
The reward of course was the final score and an exciting hometown win.
Long after the crowd filtered out and the moon began to take its place in the darkening sky, Natalie found Johnny before he left the field. He had already shaken a plenty of hands and rumour had it that there were some College scouts in the stands keeping a close eye on him during the game. He had played impeccably and the smile on his face spoke more than words ever could.
“Can I have an autograph?” Natalie asked jokingly as she approached. Johnny scooped her off her feet and held her in the air above his head. Apparently the excitement had not faded. He let her down slowly, her body sliding down the length of his before her feet touched the ground.
“Congrats,” she said, embracing him. “That was exciting!”
“That felt great!” he exclaimed, squeezing her ” Sorry I am a sweaty mess”
“Are you kidding” she joked playfully, “after that performance they are selling Johnny Miller sweat on Ebay!”
He laughed and flashed her his heart stopping smile “Don’t worry it will always be free for you!”
“I feel so special, she claimed, rubbing the back of her palm across her forehead and feigning a swoon.
“It’s been a great week. Wow.” he shook his head in disbelief.
“I am dying to tell you something that is going to be the icing on this sweet cake” she began.
He looked down at her in her pretty cheer leader uniform, her bouncy ponytail moving excitably as she spoke. He imagined her saying she had broken up with Brad and several scenarios filled his teenage brain. He wanted to pick her up again, swing her in the air, then hold onto her forever. They would walk off the field hand in hand and she would proudly wear his jacket around her shoulders. He would bend to kiss her before they went to their prospective locker rooms and when he looked back she would still be smiling at him and he would still feel the heat of her lips on his.
“Did you hear a word I said? Natalie asked, playfully punching him in the arm.
“I’m sorry. You have great news.”
“Focus Johnny. The man with Blanche tonight is an old friend from high school, he is the head couch at Alabama State. He couldn’t take his eyes off you. Can you change and meet us at the diner?”
Johnny looked like he was going to faint, “Alabama Crimson Tide is the top ranked University football team in the U.S.”
Natalie roller her eyes “Uh huh. Now go get changed”
Johnny made his way to the shower through a sea of high fives but even as the steaming water fell over him it couldn’t wash away the feel of her against him. He was nerved up about meeting the coach from Alabama. His coach had told him to expect some calls in the next couple of days from college scouts, apparently it was becoming more common for them to scout the smaller areas for hungry talent and Coach Jones had offered to help prepare him. Tonight he would be thrown into an impromptu meeting with a Coach he would never have dreamt of meeting and he couldn’t think clearly because thoughts of Natalie crowded into every spare inch of his brain.
The very smell of her intoxicated him. If asked to describe it he could only think of happiness. She smelled of sunshine, the soaring mountains, ocean waves hitting the rocks, a crackling fire, cloudless skies and lullabies, and her eyes, as green as fresh mowed grass and always so wondrous. Being with her gave him the same comforting feeling one would get when waking up and realizing it was the weekend and being able to close your eyes and sink into the soft warmth of your bed but at the same time his heart beat faster than a child during playground skip rope. He was nervous and conflicted but more excited than he had been about anything in a long time.
She looked up when he walked into the diner. It was for a brief second before she looked down again, desperately trying to conceal what her eyes were saying.
” The windows to the soul, always a certain giveaway to what the heart is speaking to the mind”, Blanche would often say.
Tara recalled the night her parents brought Rebecca home from the hospital like it was yesterday. She was the most beautiful baby in the whole world. She had a shock of white hair and bright, smiling eyes. Tara was eight and the proudest big sister ever. She’d wished on stars for Rebecca. It wasn’t long after she came home from the hospital that things went back to normal, and normal wasn’t good. Her dad came home from a poker game drunk and vicious because he’d lost a lot of money. Mother did her best to calm him down but he was loud and mean. Tara tiptoed into Rebecca’s room and carefully lifted her wiggly little body out of the crib. She crept back to her room and set the baby on her bed. She was bundled in a pink blanket and looking up at her sister with innocent eyes. It was February and the house was cold. Her mother had never quite mastered building a strong fire and Tara knew better than to venture downstairs. Tara pulled the covers over them and cuddled into her baby sister’s warm body. She promised to always take care of her no matter what. She sang her lullabies to drown out her fathers booming voice below. As she rocked her back to sleep she whispered that she would always keep her safe. Huddled together in the darkness eight year old Tara had no idea how much that promise would haunt her.
She made her way up the stairs to the spare room where Becca was staying. She knocked timidly on the door and poked her head inside.
Rebecca motioned for her to come inside. Tara sat down on the bed and drew a deep breath. “Becca I know this is all very confusing and overwhelming for you. I just wanted to let you know that I will respect whatever decision you make.”
“Here,” Tara passed her a stack of letters and stood up, “These might help you understand. I never gave up on you Becca.”
Rebecca looked up at her big sister and attempted a smile, “Thanks.”
Tara shook her head and closed the door behind her.
Rebecca read every last one of the letters that Tara had written to her over the years. Some she read more than once. Some she read through tears. Each was neatly dated and captured a period of history. She was saddened when she thought of the life her sister had lived. She spent the last six years working and paying bills when she should have been enjoying her youth. She struggled and she fought for everything she accomplished and instead of being proud of herself she was guilt ridden over a promise she’d made to her fifteen years ago. She thought back on the last six years since Tara left. It was Tara who taught her to stay out of her father’s way and she thought she did a pretty good job. In fact she had so faded into the woodwork that her parents barely knew she existed. Since she was nine years old she had been doing odd jobs to make money to buy clothes and supplies that she needed for school. During the summer months she raked blueberries and kept a paper route, she also did yard work for her elderly neighbors and shoveled snow in the winters. One could only marvel at her resiliency. She took out of life exactly what she put into it and expected no more. The one bright spot in her otherwise dismal world was Natalie. When she was with Natalie she felt free as a bird. They would talk for hours about nothing in particular and laugh as school girls should. Natalie gave her refuge from her bleak existence and loved her like a sister. When she was hurt or scared it was Natalie who would talk away her fears the way her own sister once had. Natalie was so much more than her friend; she was an angel that lifted her up when the weight on her shoulders was too much too bear. She encouraged her to love and let herself be loved. One day when they were ten years old they were at Natalie’s house kicking around the soccer ball with her brother Danny. Her and Natalie collided mid field and fell to the ground in hysterics rubbing their heads. Natalie looked at her and said as serious as can be ‘You shine when you smile Rebecca. You light up the world”
She always wanted to make Natalie happy so from that day on she made a conscience effort to smile in her presence. This turned out to be an easy feat because she always felt so free when they were together. Natalie made her world bearable; she couldn’t imagine her life without her in it. The thought of leaving her brought hot tears to her eyes. She longed to talk with Natalie and ask her what she should do but deep down she knew what she would say. She would tell her to grab a hold of every opportunity that was given to her and get as far away from that little house in Lincoln as possible.
She remembered fondly the day she went to say goodbye to Natalie before she left for her grandparent’s house. Natalie hugged her tight and said, “Goodbye is something you say to someone you are planning on never seeing again. I’ll say see you later my friend.” She knew now exactly what she was going to do and she needed to speak with Natalie.
Chapter Six Light The Fuse
The rain started just as the credits were rolling. Big fat drops of rain accompanied by a horrendous windstorm. It was a blessing that Grams house was close by because even the short drive was a challenge. Nora met them at the door with towels.
“Thank God you’re back. My hair was standing on end. Natalie call your Aunt.”
Natalie dried off and went in the other room to call Blanche.
“How was your movie?” Nora asked.
“I liked it. Cinematography sure has come a long way though.” Johnny exclaimed.
“Sure has.” Nora agreed.
Natalie came back in the kitchen, “Blanche says the roads are terrible and the power is off in Lincoln. Is it OK if we stay here?”
“No,” Norah began, “I insist that you stay here.
Norah scooped up a nightie, slippers and a long robe off the counter and gave them to Natalie, “Get out of those wet clothes before you catch a chill.”
“Thanks,” Natalie gratefully took the clothes to the washroom to change.
“Johnny you guys feel free to make a snack. I got groceries while you were out this afternoon. I made some beds up on the couches in the front room.
“Thanks Mom,” Johnny hugged her.
“Please keep the TV down. Your Gram may be hard of hearing but I’m not.
Natalie came out of the bathroom with her hair pulled back wearing his mothers blue terry robe.
“I’m cooking some mini pizzas but I thought cheese and crackers would tide us over.” Johnny passed her the tray.
“Sounds good,” Natalie answered.
“Go find something good on TV and pick a couch. I’ll be right in.”
Natalie went into the front room and turned on the TV. She flipped and flipped until she finally decided on the game show network. She watched the last fifteen minutes of a family feud rerun and Johnny came in just in time for price is right. He sat on her couch while they shared the last of the cheese and crackers and ate mini pizzas. They made mock bids on everything from jukeboxes to pool tables. Natalie came within a thousand dollars during the showcase showdown and she and Johnny planned what they were going to do with the adventure package; a camper trailer, a pair of sea-doos and a Chevy Avalanche.
Natalie woke late into the evening and found that Johnny was sound asleep curled up to the arm of the couch. Natalie covered him up, turned off the TV and crawled into bed on the other couch. Curled up in the darkness she fought off sleep inhibiting teenage fantasies.
Johnny awoke to the sizzle and smell of bacon frying. His heart leapt when he looked over at Natalie peacefully sleeping. He covered her up and closed the French door that led to the kitchen. Her mother and grandmother were on the veranda surveying the damage from the previous night’s storm.
“Did you sleep well?” his mother asked.
“Yeah, what time is it?” Johnny asked, rubbing sleep from his eyes.
“It’s almost ten,” Gram answered, “I can’t believe I slept through the whole storm.”
“Apparently I slept through the bulk of it too,” Johnny noted, looking around at the tree branches and mangled flowers.
“I hope you worked up an appetite because I’m cooking up a truckstop breakfast.” His mother exclaimed.
Gram spoke with delight, “Your Aunt Patsy thinks that bran is going to save my life. Thank goodness your mother is not such a stickler for rules.”
“Everything is fine in moderation Mom.”
Johnny woke Natalie and the four of them ate a breakfast of bacon, eggs, hashbrowns and toast at the round oak gathering table his grandpa built many years ago. The women cleaned up the dishes while he cleared the yard of branches and flowers damaged by the wind and rain.
Natalie had changed and was ready to go when he came back in the house. They said their goodbyes. Johnny was anxious for the drive home so he could spend some time alone with Natalie. He drove to Meredith where he took the 104 to the 93 highway. It was a scenic drive through the mountains. The sun appeared in the afternoon but a cool breeze was still present.
“Your Gram is sweet Johnny.” Natalie remarked.
“She a fascinating lady. They finally took her license away last year. She’s hard of hearing so she can longer hear people honking at her.” Johnny joked.
Natalie laughed. “Speaking of license; I can’t believe your mother doesn’t have hers.”
“I know,” Johnny answered. “I think it was something she always planned to do but the time got away from her.”
“You should teach her to drive,” Natalie exclaimed.
“Trust me, I’ve offered,” Johnny replied, “she keeps putting me off. How about you? I can teach you to drive.”
“I’ve got lots of time to worry about that but I will keep you in mind.”
Johnny was not one to discourage easily. He exited the highway and turned down a secluded dirt road, pulled over and got out. “It’s all yours. Push over.”
“Oh I can’t,” she argued, “Really I’m too nervous. Her hands shook when she touched the steering wheel.
Johnny got back in the truck and spread his legs wide. He lifted the steering wheel as high as it would go. “Come over here,” he said, taking her hand in his, “I’ll help you until you feel comfortable.
Natalie sat between Johnny’s legs and placed her hands on the steering wheel. Johnny placed his hands over hers. “Respect is good,” he began, “but fear will not serve you well. I’m going to help you steer, you put your right foot on the right pedal and give this old girl some gas.”
They drove the pickup down the endless dirt rd. Within minutes Natalie’s nervousness disappeared and was replaced by something she couldn’t explain. Her skin felt tingly, her pulse was quick, her heartbeat rapid. She was conscious of his muscular thighs against hers, his hot breath on her neck as he instructed her patiently. Her grip on the wheel lessened as her palms began to sweat.
“I need a break.” She said breathlessly.
Johnny took her hand in his, pulled over and put the truck in park. Awkwardly Natalie tried to disengage herself but fell back into Johnny’s lap. Their eyes met for a moment and though she tried to look away she couldn’t. He touched her arm ever so lightly, without looking away. Even the cool breeze through the open window couldn’t cool her down. Johnny pulled her close and their lips met, softly at first and then more urgent. Her lips were sweet and welcoming. He backed away; he didn’t want to push her but just as quickly she pulled him back to her open mouth. He kissed her with a passion he never felt before. She fell back on the bench seat and pulled her down with him. His lips found hers again and very quickly they were breathless and hot.
He pulled away with great difficulty, “Natalie we better go.”
Their lips met again just briefly. “I know,” she replied.
They sat side by side on the drive home, holding hands, sneaking kisses. The remainder of the trip was silent but charged. Something had definitely changed between them
Thanks for following Unbreakable, as I mentioned in the previous post I will only be uploading a couple of more chapters and the rest will be password protected. If you are invested let me know and I will happily give you access.