Authors: Karen Kingsbury
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Domestic fiction, #Fathers and Sons, #Christian, #Religious, #Christian Fiction, #Birthfathers, #Air Pilot's Spouses, #Air pilots, #Illegitimate Children, #Mothers - Death
The attorney reached for the sealed white envelope and held it up. “She wrote him a letter. The directions on the envelope say that it can’t be opened until Max is present.” He paused. “She wanted him to hear it first.”
For a crazy instant, Ramey wanted to tell the attorney to take the letter and leave. Kiahna couldn’t possibly have wanted Max, just days after her death, to travel from the island and spend time with a stranger! But she waited only a heartbeat before she stood.
Kiahna and Max were as close as any mother and son Ramey had ever seen. Whatever the letter held, it was exactly what Kiahna wanted to say. She sniffed and looked at Mr. Ogle. “I’ll get him.”
Max was remembering a special butterfly day between him and his mom.
– Oceans Apart –
Butterfly days happened once a month because butterflies helped you remember that life was good. At least that’s what Mommy always told him. She would pack him a peanut butter banana sandwich and a juice pack and they would set out.
You had to get in your car and drive a long time, more than just the time it took to go to the store for milk or hot dog relish or marshmallows. Usually they sang songs, and after five songs or six if they were quick ones, the street would end and become bumpy and slippery. That’s when his mom would reach her hand back through the seats and hold his fingers.
The bushes and trees were thick back there, and after another song the trees made a wall along the road so that it didn’t feel like a road at all. More like a secret path. Then, after he counted three coconut trees and two mailboxes, they would stop. Through the trees was a grass place and a bench.
“Okay, Max,” Mommy would tell him. “We’re here.” That’s when she’d grab hold of the lunch bag, and they’d climb out of the car, careful not to get scratched by the trees and bushes.
His mom would smile at him and they’d hold hands over to the bench. Max would move his feet very quiet because the butterflies didn’t like a lot of loud shuffling feet, that’s why.
Once they reached the bench, his mommy would turn to him and do a wink. Then she’d shush him real quiet, just in case he forgot about the butterflies.
They would sit down and his mommy would put her arm around him and hug him close. “Now we wait.” After about as long as two TV commercials, the butterflies would come. Two or three butterfly friends, and then whole entire butterfly families. Their wings were sunny yellow and pumpkin orange and chocolate brown and darkest black, and every time Max saw them come and bounce around in the close sky above them he thought the same thing.
– Karen Kingsbury –
Butterflies were God’s bestest artwork.
His teacher told him once that artwork was when little boys colored inside the lines. God definitely colored inside the lines with butterflies. Pretty soon the butterfly families would become a butterfly village all bouncing and lifting and falling over him and his mommy.
She would lean close to his ear and whisper, “Know what I love about butterflies, Max?”
“They prove that God gives second chances.”
“Why?” Max knew the answer, but he liked to hear her say the words.
“Because a butterfly spends most of its life as a caterpillar, scooting along on the ground, barely getting by. When a caterpillar sees a butterfly he thinks how wonderful it would be to fly.”
“And then one day he gets tired.”
“Very tired. He builds a little room, curls up inside, and takes a nap. Deep in his heart he wonders if maybe that’s all. Maybe life is over.”
“But one day . . .” Max always smiled here, because this was his favoritest part of the story.
“One day the caterpillar wakes up, and God has done an amazing thing. The caterpillar shakes off the little room and feels something on his back. This time when he goes a bit down the tree branch he doesn’t scoot like before.”
“He flies!” Max would look back at the butterflies.
“That’s right.” His mommy’s voice would get sort of scratchy at this part of the story. “And one day, Max, you and I aren’t going to scoot anymore, either. Because God loves us even more than He loves the butterflies.”
“So butterflies make us remember, don’t they, Max?” 77
– Oceans Apart –
“That life is good no matter what. Because just like the caterpillar, the best days are ahead of us, and then . . .”
“And then we’ll have wings just like the butterflies.” That’s when they’d wait a little bit with no words. And after that Mommy would pick up the lunch bag and give them each a sandwich. Some of the butterflies would go away because of the crinkly bag, but it didn’t matter because Max understood. Butterflies couldn’t stay in just one place.
That’s why they had wings.
Max stopped remembering and looked at Buddy. He was asleep, his furry legs stretched out both ways. Max looked up to the sky and wondered. Maybe this was what Mommy meant by one day they’d have wings. Maybe this was the part of her life where God was giving her a second chance, just like the butterfly.
If that was true, then maybe she could bounce and rise and fall over to Ramey’s back patio. Because the hurting feeling inside him was worse than before. But then . . . he didn’t want her to be a butterfly, not really. Because butterflies couldn’t laugh or hug or sit next to you and hold your hand. They couldn’t sing you a special song.
Behind him, a door made a noise and he did a fast breath.
Because all of a sudden he remembered about the talking inside.
And the special meeting with Mr. Ogle.
“Max.” It was Ramey. “We need you to come in for a minute.” He turned around and stood up at the same time. Ramey’s voice was tired, the way it had been that day when Mommy’s plane landed in the water. “Why?”
“Because Mr. Ogle has to read you something.” She held her hands out to him and he came to her, hugging her big legs close because sadness was so strong it wanted to make him fall on the floor. “What’s he going to read?” 78
– Karen Kingsbury –
“A letter from your mom.”
Max raised his eyes at Ramey. “From my mom? From heaven?” Water came across Ramey’s eyes. “No, Max. A special letter she wrote you earlier this year.”
“How come . . .” Max rubbed his eyes because he didn’t want to cry again. “How come she didn’t give it to me before?”
“Because she wrote this in case . . . in case . . .”
“In case her plane landed in the water one day?”
“Yes.” Ramey did a long breath. “In case of that.” Max couldn’t figure out the feeling in his tummy. It was sad because his mommy was gone, but happy, too. Because the letter was a piece of her she left behind. A piece just for him. And that made him feel special.
He took Ramey’s hand and led the way into the apartment. Mr.
Ogle told him to sit in the middle between him and Ramey. Then he said the same thing Ramey had said about his mommy leaving him a letter. Max nodded and tried to have patience. His mommy always said patience was good.
Finally Mr. Ogle opened a piece of paper and began reading.
“‘Dear Max, if you’re hearing this, then . . . I’ve already gone home to be with Jesus.’” Mr. Ogle stopped and bit his lip. “‘Before I go on, you need to know something: I’m safe in heaven now. No matter what else, I want you to know that; I’m okay. And, Max, you’re going to be okay, too.’”
Max sucked in his cheeks so he could stay strong on the inside.
But two tears spilled onto his face before he could stop them. He rubbed his cheeks hard and looked at Mr. Ogle so he’d keep reading.
“‘Deep in your heart I’m certain you wonder about your father.
If you’re old enough, then you know that even though you don’t have a daddy, Jesus is your Father. But, Max, I want you to know you have a human father somewhere out there. He is a man I loved 79
– Oceans Apart –
very much, but only for a short time. He couldn’t stay here on the island, Max, because he had to go home.’” Mr. Ogle looked at Ramey. That gave Max a chance to put his hand over his heart and feel how the beat there had gotten fast and jumpy. Very jumpy. His father was out there somewhere? Why hadn’t his mom told him that before? Mr. Ogle did a choking sound and looked back at the piece of paper.
“‘Home was so important to your father, Max, that when God gave you to me, I never told him. Never once. Because he had his home across the ocean, and we had our home here, on the island.
I don’t know if you’ll ever find your father, Max. But I wanted you to know he was somewhere out there, and that he doesn’t know about you.
“‘Also, Ramey is going to help you find a special friend of mine, a man who lives on the mainland. If Jesus takes me to heaven, and if Ramey can find my special friend, I want you to spend a few weeks with him. This might be hard, Max, but it means a lot to me. It’s what I want you to do. Really and truly.
“‘I know you love the island where we live, and our special places where we go for talks. But this trip will be good for you; I believe that with all my heart. My friend has a nice wife and two little girls about your age. If it happens, then God wanted it to happen, Max. If it doesn’t, then God didn’t plan for you to meet my friend.
“‘It’s funny, Max, as I write this I feel sure that you’ll never hear it. Because I want to be here with you forever and always. But if not, if something happens, and Jesus brings me home to live with Him, then the things I’m telling you in this letter are very important.
“‘Be a good boy, Max. Whatever you do, remember to be strong and brave, and to love Jesus. When you’re sad, remember our song, because it will always be the truest thing I could tell you. And remember that even if you never find your father on earth, your 80
– Karen Kingsbury –
Father in heaven is watching over you. And if God lets me, I’ll be watching you, too. Cheering you on when you’re up to bat in baseball, pulling for you when you have a spelling test, and believing in you always. Believing that you’ll do your best to grow into a young man who will make me proud of you. Even from as far away as heaven.’”
That part stuck in Max’s heart like peanut butter. His shoulders began to shake and more tears came. It wasn’t right to hear his mommy’s words with Mr. Ogle’s voice, that’s why. And because if she were only here one more day he could hug her and tell her yes.
Yes, he would always do his bestest work for her even when he was a grown-up man.
Ramey patted his knee. “You okay?”
He wanted to say no, but then he wouldn’t hear the rest of the letter. So he quick moved his head up and down and used his shirt-sleeve to wipe the wet on his cheeks. He looked at Mr. Ogle. “Finish, please.”
“Okay.” That’s when he noticed Mr. Ogle had wet eyes, too. The man took a slow breath and looked at the paper once more. “‘And here’s the best part, Max. Remember our special butterfly days? I’m finally getting my second chance, sport. And one day not so far from now we’ll be together again, and we won’t scoot around like caterpillars on the ground. We’ll fly. Well, that’s all. I love you, Max, the most. Forever and ever, Mommy.’” 81
Connor was coming home.
That thought kept Michele moving through the day, and now that she was almost finished with her last client, she could hardly wait to see him. At just past four o’clock she grabbed her tallest can of Shaper hairspray and applied it in short bursts around the woman’s hair. Five minutes later the client was on her way.
Michele was just catching her breath when she heard the door behind her creak open. Before she could turn around she felt his hands on her waist, his breath against her skin. “Hi.” A warmth radiated out from her heart, the way it always did when he came home. She turned in his arms so that they were facing each other and slid her hands up around his neck. “Hi, yourself.”
“I have an idea.” He grinned and searched her eyes, but before he could say anything more, she brought her lips to his and kissed him. The kind of slow kiss they hadn’t ever stopped sharing.
When they pulled apart to catch their breath, she brushed her nose against his. “You always have an idea.”
“Yes”—he gave her another brief kiss—“but that’s why you married me.”
She leaned back and lowered her chin, flirting with him the way she’d done since the first time he took her flying the summer after his college graduation. “Is that what you think?”
“Well . . .” His eyes told her how much he’d missed her. “That and a few other reasons.”
They came together again and she rested her head on his shoulder. “Maybe we should hear about your
later.” Once more she drew back and this time she could feel the way her eyes danced.
– Karen Kingsbury –
“You have four phone messages, a broken window in Susan’s room, and the girls will be starving in an hour.” She poked a finger into first one of his sides, then the other. He’d been ticklish as long as she’d known him, and her playing always seemed to strip him of the strain of his job.
kind of idea.” He chuckled as he squirmed in her arms and caught her hands with his own. “Let’s have a picnic. Over at Langley Park by the beach.”