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Authors: Wanda E. Brunstetter

Amish White Christmas Pie (7 page)

BOOK: Amish White Christmas Pie
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Will swallowed around the lump in his throat. “You’re my best friend, too.”

 
C
HAPTER 7
 

 

A
lump formed in Frank Henderson’s throat as he stared at the calendar on his bedroom wall. Today was his son’s twenty-second birthday, only Frank wouldn’t be celebrating the occasion with him. Frank didn’t know where his son was, how he was doing, or what kind of a man he’d become. He hadn’t seen Will in nearly sixteen years.

As a deep moan escaped Frank’s lips, he sank to the edge of his bed. A flood of memories cascaded over him, dragging him back in time…back to the night he decided to leave Will….

 

“Did you get Will tucked into bed?” Mark asked when Frank entered the Stoltzfuses’ kitchen. Mark and his wife, Regina, sat at the table drinking coffee and eating cookies
.

 

Frank nodded. “He’s out like a light. I think he fell asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.”

 

Regina motioned to the coffeepot sitting on the gas-operated stove. “Would you like some coffee?”

 

“That sounds good.”

 

She started to get up, but Frank shook his head. “Don’t trouble yourself; I can get it.” He filled a mug with coffee and took a seat at the table. “I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate your letting us stay with you during the holidays. It would have been a cold, lonely Christmas for Will if we’d spent it on the road.”

 

Regina smiled, her dark eyes revealing the depth of her caring spirit. “It’s been our pleasure having the two of you here.”

 

Mark nodded his blond head in agreement. “Since Regina and I aren’t able to have children of our own, having a child in the house on Christmas has been a lot of fun.”

 

Frank took a swig of coffee, hoping to push down the lump that had lodged in his throat. “There’s…uh…something I’d like to discuss with you.”

 

“What’s that?” Mark leaned forward
.

 

Frank paused and took another drink. “My wife, Patty, and her folks are dead, and I’ve had no contact with my own family since I was a teenager. So I have no one I can leave Will with while I’m on the road making deliveries in my truck.”

 

“Isn’t that why he travels with you?” asked Regina
.

 

“Yeah, that’s how it’s been since Patty died. But the thing is, Will turned six two months ago, and if I keep hauling him around in my truck, how’s he ever gonna attend school?”

 

“Have you considered doing something else for a living?” Mark questioned
.

 

Frank nodded. “That’s what I’m hoping to do. I need something that will bring in enough money for me to make my truck payment and provide for Will.”

 

“Have you thought of hiring someone to stay at home with Will while you’re on the road?” Regina asked
.

 

“I don’t have a home anymore. A few months ago, our landlord upped the rent, and I couldn’t pay what he was asking. So Will and I have been sleeping in the back of my truck ever since.” Frank slowly shook his head. “Even if I did have a home, until I met you, I didn’t know anyone I would trust enough to take care of my boy.”

 

Regina passed Frank the plate of cookies. “What are you saying?”

 

Frank shifted in his chair, searching for the right words. “I’m saying—well, I was wondering if you might keep Will—just until I’m able to find another job.”

 

Regina looked at Mark then back at Frank. “Have you spoken with Will about this?”

 

“No, but I thought if you agreed to the arrangement, I’d leave a note that you could read to Will so he’ll understand things a little better.”

 

Deep wrinkles formed across Mark’s forehead. “Why leave him a note? Why not tell him to his face?”

 

“If I told Will what I planned to do, he’d beg to go with me, and I don’t think I’d have the heart to say no.” Frank took another drink from his mug. “It would be better if I wrote Will a note and explained things to him.”

 

“When would you leave?”

 

“Early tomorrow morning, before Will wakes up.” Frank drew in a ragged breath. “This hasn’t been an easy decision for me, and I’ll understand if you say no.” He touched his chest. “I feel in my heart that you’d be good to my son, and I promise to send money as often as I can to help with his expenses.”

 

Regina tapped her fingernails along the edge of the table, and Mark pulled his fingers through the end of his full beard. Finally Mark turned to Regina and said, “Well, what do you think?”

 

She nodded her head slowly. “I think taking care of Will until his dad returns is something God would want us to do.”

 

Mark smiled. “I think so, too.”

 
 

“Frank, aren’t you coming down to breakfast? I called several times.”

 

Frank’s memories faded as his wife’s voice invaded his thoughts. He lifted his head and looked up at her. “I didn’t hear you.”

 

Megan sat beside him on the bed. “What’s wrong, Frank? You look so solemn. Are you upset about something?”

 

Frank pointed to the calendar across the room. “Today is Will’s birthday, and I don’t even know where he is. He’s twenty-two years old, and I’ve only spent six of those years with him.”

 

She leaned closer, her soft brown hair brushing his cheek. “I know that must hurt.”

 

“You know what hurts the most? That I wasn’t able to explain to Will why I never returned. In the note I left for Regina to read to him, I said I’d come back after I found another job.” Frank moaned. “He must have grown up believing I abandoned him. He probably hates my guts.”

 

“Frank, I’m sure he doesn’t hate you.”

 

“How do you know that? Think about it, Megan: if your dad left you with people you barely knew when you were only six years old and you never heard from him again, what would you think?”

 

“I’m sure I would have been very upset and probably felt as if I’d been abandoned, but I don’t think I would have hated my father.”

 

“That’s easy for you to say. You weren’t abused as a child.”

 

Megan’s mouth dropped open. “You…you abused Will?”

 

“No, I was abused by my dad.”

 

“You were?”

 

He nodded.

 

“You never mentioned that before.”

 

Frank ground his teeth together as he struggled with an image from the past. “Every time that man came home drunk, he smacked me around. I hated him for the abuse, and I hated my mother for not trying to stop him.”

 

“Maybe she did. Maybe he wouldn’t listen to her.”

 

“She just stood there and let it happen.” Frank grimaced. “He smacked her around plenty, too, and she never did a thing about it.”

 

“Maybe she was too afraid. Maybe—”

 

“She was afraid, all right, but her fears weren’t for me.”

 

Megan took Frank’s hand and gave his fingers a gentle squeeze. “I understand your anger and pain, but hating your parents is wrong. You need to forgive them instead of—”

 

“You don’t know what it was like for me growing up with that man as my father!”

 

“No, I don’t, but my father favored my sister. For a long time, I resented Beth for being his favorite, and I felt angry at both of them. When I accepted Jesus as my Savior, I was able to release my pain and find forgiveness in my heart toward my father and my sister.”

 

“I’m not sure I believe any of that feel-good religious stuff.”

 

Megan reached for the Bible sitting on the nightstand by her side of the bed. “Let me read something to you, Frank.” She opened the Bible and flipped through several pages. “John 8:32 says, ‘And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ ”

 

Frank shook his head. “I don’t get it.”

 

“When you accept Christ as your Savior and ask Him to forgive your sins, you’ll understand His truths and be able to forgive others. Wouldn’t you like to do that, Frank? Wouldn’t you like to—”

 

Frank jumped to his feet. “I need to eat breakfast so I can get to work. That’s what I need to do.”

 

Megan opened her mouth as if to say something more, but he held up his hand. “I don’t want to talk about this anymore. I’ve got a trucking business to run, and it won’t get done with me sitting here moaning about my past or listening to you quote Bible verses. The past is in the past. What’s done is done. There’s nothing I can do about it!”

 

 

“I’m glad you invited us to join you and Karen tonight,” Mama Regina said, leaning over the buggy seat and tapping Will on the shoulder.

He glanced back at her and smiled. “I should have thought to invite you and Papa Mark in the first place. I don’t know what I was thinking, leaving the two of you out of my birthday supper.”

 

Papa Mark chuckled. “You were thinking like a man in love. You wanted to spend your birthday alone with your future wife.”

 

“Karen and I will have plenty of time to be alone after we’re married.” Will pulled back on the reins a bit to keep his horse from trotting too fast, although he was anxious to get to the Yoders’ place to pick up Karen.

 

They rode the rest of the way in silence, and Will spent the time counting his blessings and enjoying the sights and sounds of the pleasant fall evening. Soon winter would be upon them, and then there would be sleigh rides in the snow, ice skating on the neighbor’s pond, and sledding on the hill behind his folks’ place. Will looked forward to becoming a father someday and taking his children outside to play in the snow, the way Papa Mark had done many times when Will was a boy. He remembered the time when Papa Mark decided to try out the sled he’d bought for Will’s birthday. He’d said he wanted to give it a trial run and had ended up nearly hitting a tree. Instead, he’d landed in the frozen waters of the creek behind their house.

 

Will smiled as he pictured Papa Mark sitting in front of the fireplace with one of Mama Regina’s quilts wrapped around his shoulders and his teeth chattering so bad Will could hear them click. That was the last time Papa Mark had ridden Will’s sled.

 

I thank God for Papa Mark and Mama Regina
, Will thought.
Without their love and care, who knows where I’d be right now? They’re my real parents in every sense of the word—not that man who called himself my dad then walked away and never came back. If Pop really loved me, then he would have at least written some letters letting me know where he was
.

 

Will clamped his teeth together so hard that his jaw began to ache.
I’ve got to quit thinking about the past and keep my thoughts on the future. That’s all that counts—the future Karen and I will have together once we’re married
.

 

BOOK: Amish White Christmas Pie
6.32Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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