Wes sat sullenly in a corner as Jay and Sam stared at him shaking their heads in frustration.
“I guess we’ll have to wait for the doctors report about Luella, doesn’t look good.” Sam was angry!”
Jay shook his head and turned to his friend. “I don’t know what to say Sam. Our whole family is in depression over this. We don’t feel we can go to church under these circumstances. It’s a stain on our whole family and we even feel uncomfortable moving around the community though they don’t know the circumstances yet. Eventually it will come out. We’ll be ostracised.”
“Not your fault Jay, your family concern for our Luella shows you don’t agree with what this young man did. We haven’t been going to church either. Teenagers from church have been coming around to find out why Luella won’t come to the choir with them. She was one of their lead singers and played the piano for church. They’re missing both families and can’t understand why we’ve suddenly stopped participating. Young Pastor Small has been around several times trying to get us to attend. He’s quite distressed losing two families with kids in leadership roles and can’t understand our attitude.
Jay bowed his head in sorrow. “We’re going to have to explain ourselves eventually so better get it over with Sam.”
“I’m not talking to him.” Wes sat up defiantly.
“Oh yes you will young man, I’m still thinking about how we should have turned you over to the police!”
Sam raised his hand to prevent Jay from hitting his son.
“Luella said no Jay, she wants nothing to do with him even though he’s potentially spoiled her life, but she doesn’t want to ruin his. Makes no sense to me as sometimes punishment can be a life turnaround. She’s been hurt enough so I want to respect her feelings. Let’s phone young Pastor Small and see what he advises.
Pastor Reg Small sat distressed as he listened to the sordid tale. It explained why the two families were not attending church and his heart went out to them, but he was particularly distressed about Luella. He tried to imagine her suffering but couldn’t come to terms with that as he’d led a sheltered life. He was only one year out of seminary and it had been wonderful how both the older and younger generation had warmed to him. He was particularly interested in providing activities the younger generation needed to keep them within the fold and this had parents nod of approval. They’d been happy when old Reverend Small, he liked that title, had been put into retirement. He’d been respected by oldies, but they could plainly see he was no longer able to energize young people and there’d been a drop off in young attendees before his son surfaced to win them all back again. Finally, the younger Pastor Small spoke.
“I’ve never had to deal with this kind of problem before, do you mind if I consult with my father? He’s had forty years in ministry so will have dealt with this kind of issue before.”
Jay looked at Sam who nodded assent. Pastor Reg Small punched numbers into his cell phone and spoke to his father briefly then turned to the men. “He said he could be over to visit in ten minutes.” Old Reverend William Small had retired in town so could make it within that time. Will, Sam. Jay and Wes sat silently waiting.
Ronny hovered around the corridor now and then looking in to stare threateningly at his brother. Ronny had worshiped Luella but had been too shy to show her his interest. The brothers had been constantly fighting since Wes returned home so their parents had separated them from the common room where the brothers had always slept together. It was like a typical ranch bunk house and the boys had loved it with its trappings of a ranch up on the wall as decoration. Jai had installed Wes in one of the guest bedrooms in the ranch house, so they could keep a watch over him. Now that Wes felt police would not be involved he’d resolved to put up with the interrogations and occasional slaps as he enjoyed working out on the ranch and felt secure there. Experimentation with his attempt to establish elsewhere had been a failure.
Old Reverend William Small was in his late seventies and had lately developed tremors in his hands. He sat where indicated and listened to the story occasionally fastening his steely gaze on Wes to read him. Finally, he spoke in his deep base voice and Wes squirmed in his seat. He felt the scrutiny of heaven was upon him but tried to look penitent. It had been his practiced innocent look at church all those years and he hoped it still worked.
“What do you have to say for yourself son?”
“I’ve been telling everyone how sorry I am Reverend, but no one wants to believe me!”
“Are you telling the truth son, remember all heaven is observing you now!” Reverend Small pointed a shaking finger at him.
“Oh yes sir, I’d never lie to you!”
Reverend Small fixed a steely look on him for a minute and then spoke.
“I believe this young man is telling the truth and is sorry now let’s see how we can bring this tragedy to a close. Do you love Luella son?
“Oh yes sir!”
There was a rush from the corridor as Ronny sped into the room and began to beat up on his brother. “You’ve been a liar for years, don’t try your tricks on the Reverend. I know what you’re like and what you’ve done with other girls in town. You don’t love Luella and you don’t deserve her.”
Young Pastor Small was aghast and his father rose unsteadily to his feet. “What is this you’re saying young man, I’m not at all impressed with your actions!”
Ronny was now restrained by his father but spoke up angrily. “He’s got a bad reputation around town sir and I don’t want him spoiling Luella any further. some of the kids at church have heard the rumours so you can check with them.”
Reverend Small sat and fixed his steely glance on Ronny. “You talk about rumours young man? You know what the Good Book says about rumours don’t you, there needs to be witnesses to an accusation like that. Do you have such witnesses?”
He returned his steely gaze to Wes. “Are these rumours true young man?
“No sir, some of the kids in town where I go for guitar lessons are upset with me and are spreading false rumours.”
Reverend Small motioned for Ronny to be removed with his shaking hand still looking intently at Wes to read his honesty.
“Were you and Luella in love boy?”
“Yes sir, but she didn’t want anyone in her family to know!”
Reverend Small turned to Sam and Jai. “These two young people have broken a commandment and need to be married to make things right. Now that’s settled, I’ll leave it to my son to work with you, I’m feeling rather unwell these days and feel I need to get home now. This has been a shock to me.”
Jay and Sam nodded their thanks as the old man left stopping to remonstrate with Ronny for his unusual behaviour. Ronny continued his defence and the old man shook his head and took leave.
Wes felt he now had the upper hand. “Sir, I’m truly sorry for what happened and wonder if you’d be kind enough to let me marry Luella?”
Jai looked at Sam and Sam sat in thought thinking through the conversation with Reverend Small. He was very attached to the Good Book and shuddered as he recalled the comment about breaking a commandment. This was serious!
“Have to talk with Luella,” he said softly and got up sadly to leave.
In the corridor he was met by an agitated Ronny. “Sir don’t let him marry Luella, he won’t treat her right. Let me marry her instead. I promise I’ll make her happy for the rest of her life and cherish the child even though it from my evil brother.”
Sam patted him on the head. “You’re a good boy Ronny. I suppose a child should have the attention of his or her own true father though as the Reverend said. I’ll tell Luella what you said, she’ll find that very comforting in this horrible situation your brother has got her into.”
That evening after reading the Good Book Sam sat down with his daughter. There was no confirmation yet that Luella was with child, but indications were that that was probable. He sighed and took her hand in his.
“Luella honey, you know how precious you are to us and we’re devastated by what’s happened to you, but we must deal with reality and find the best solution for you. Do you like Wes?”
“I did once, but I don’t now! He’s an animal.”
“You’re probably carrying his child. The Reverend thinks a child had a right to be bought up by his real mother and real father and says you two need to be married.”
Luella burst into tears. “I don’t want his child. It would always remind me of that terrible night when he took away something precious from me.”
Sam was horrified. “You’d dispose of this child you most likely are carrying now?”
Now it was Luella’s turn to feel horrified as she thought through the implications of what she’d just said. It wasn’t the child’s fault, and that child was very much a part of her.
Then Sam remembered what Ronny had said and related it to his daughter. She smiled wistfully.
“I was hoping Ronny would ask me some day, I really like him, but he never seemed to show an interest in me. How I wish he’d said that to me under different circumstances I’d have been so happy!”
The smile evaporated as she struggled with what to tell her father. She thought of the child who was not responsible for what had happened, she thought of the counsel of the Reverend who’d stated quite plainly that child needed a real mother and a real father, then she shuddered and cried.
“I don’t love him in fact I despise him. He’ll have to win my respect over time before I could even think of loving him. I know inside I’m with child and you’re right a child needs a father. I can’t accept Ronny’s offer as I refuse to mess his life up too. He may see Wes in the child and not love it as it should be loved. That would make the tragedy even worse. Would you communicate this to Wes with his Dad present and if he’s sorry for what he did, tells you that truthfully and is realistic about having to gain my respect before we can have a normal relationship then I’ll marry him.”
To be continued.
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