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There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven.
The front door was open.
Alexander MacMillan shook his head, peeved that Holly would be so careless. They'd made an agreement: When Holly was home alone with Andrew, the front door would remain locked. You did not live in a five-thousand-square-foot home without taking some precautions, especially with the amount of travel Mac's job required. Marketing everything from corporations to movie stars was out-of-town work. Their agreement was a way for him to feel at ease leaving his family behind.
He walked in. "Holly? Why is the front door-?"
A vase from the foyer table lay on the floor, broken.
Mac noted the silence for the first time. "Holly? Andrew?"
His eyes were drawn to the foyer table. A family photo was face down, the table itself was a few inches cockeyed from the wall.
He looked to the left. The living room was pristine. An elegant room for entertaining CEOs and Hollywood bigshots. Nothing was wrong there.
It's fine. They're out in the pool taking a dip until I get home. Maybe Holly went out the patio door, but then Andrew wanted to drag his wagon back there so he went out the front, leaving the door open. It was the wind that knocked the vase over.
He remembered her words just an hour before: "Hurry home. Hot dogs, lime Jell-O, and grape Kool-Aid await."
Andrew's favorite meal. For his fourth birthday.
A sound came from the kitchen. Mac held his breath. It was the pop and sizzle of boiling water hopping over the top of a pan onto a hot burner. Holly wouldn't leave water boiling.
His insides quivered. Something made him not want to look in the kitchen.
He took a deep breath, then headed toward the sound. Maybe if he acted normal, everything would be-
He saw them.
Things would never be normal again.
He redeemed my soul from going down to the pit, and I will live to enjoy the light.
Mac's eyes shot open. The silence of the darkened living room covered him like a shroud. He wiped the sweat from his forehead.
It was a familiar mantra. It had no object, no verb, no adjective to soften or enhance.
He sat up on the couch and rubbed his face, forcing reality into his pores. It had been nine months since he'd come home to a house full of death and pain. Still, grief and guilt were all-consuming. Debilitating. He found himself daydreaming a lot these days. It was an escape, a way to snatch moments of time where he could try to change what had happened, make it all go away.
Over the last weeks, the daydreams had grown stronger. Clearer. Frantically real. Colors, shapes, sounds-he tapped into all of them, desperately trying to change what was into what could have been.
Mac forced himself to his feet and stumbled through the shadows.
Help me, God. I don't want to hurt anymore. Show me how to move on.
He tripped over a pile of books and fell to his knees. But I can't move on. Can't move. Can't.
Oh, to lay there forever and never get up. Never see the light. Expire in the darkness of death, strangled in the smell of dust and fibers.
Mac saw Andrew standing in the foyer. He forced the tears away. "What is it, buddy?"
"Are you thinking about Mommy again?"
Mac cleared his throat. "Yes."
Andrew padded across the carpet, the feet of his pajamas making a scruff-scruff sound. He wrapped his arms around his father's neck and Mac pulled his son's head close. He stroked the tousled hair, careful to avoid the scars. The physical ones, at least.
"I wish we could go back, Daddy."
"Go back where?"
"To before Mommy went to heaven."
Mac was shocked that his little boy's wish mirrored his own. Yet why should he be? Mac had come upon the aftermath of the violence. His son had lived it.
This little four-year-old had seen the stranger appear at the door, demanding money, ranting about some slight he'd endured during one of Mac's publicity campaigns. Andrew had looked to his mother to explain. Her fear had sparked his own. He'd seen his mother fight. Heard her scream. He'd tried to save her, only to be flung across the room to hit his head on the edge of the counter. He'd lain unconscious in a pool of blood. He'd had surgery. He'd finally opened his eyes to discover his mother was gone. Forever.
Mac had merely found them. The guilt was overwhelming: Guilt for not being home, guilt for believing that such evil would never dare touch his world, guilt for living on without her.
Mac began to rock back and forth. He synchronized his breathing to that of his boy, needing the give and take as much as Andrew did.
If only . . .
The call came the next day while Mac was making tacos for dinner. It was Bob Craven, his cousin.
"You working much, Macky? I haven't seen your handsome mug on TV for ages. You'd better watch it-you don't want to lose your Image-Maker title now, do you?"
"Whatever nothing. You're important. You're a hot property. You can't throw all that away. Surely you've been getting calls from your VIP friends, begging for your services?"
Mac glanced at the kitchen desk, piled high with requests and offers-most unopened. "Not really."
"Well then, let my voice be the sound of opportunity knocking."
"What are you talking about?" . . .
Published 2002 by Promise Press (Barbour Publishing).