Read an Excerpt
Laurel Shadrach Series 2 Totally Free
By Stephanie Perry Moore, Kathy Ide
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2002 Stephanie Perry Moore
All rights reserved.
ringing the bell
Things were going great until that moment. My boyfriend, Foster McDowell, and I had found our way back to each other, even though it was only through a phone conversation during my Christmas visit to my grandparents' house.
"Is that the doorbell I hear?" my boyfriend asked.
"Yeah. Hold on, Foster, OK?"
"Of course. Since you're in the house by yourself I will definitely hold on to make sure things are OK."
"You're so sweet."
"Go get the door. I'll be here."
"Thank You, Lord," I said. As I hurried to answer the door, I looked around at my grandmother's home, beautifully decorated for the Christmas holiday. Every single thing was in order, just as it should be.
My life was in order at that point too. My sprained ankle was feeling better, Foster and I were back together, my first-semester grades were great, and I had good friendships with Brittany, Meagan, and Robyn. I also thoroughly enjoyed being a high school senior.
"OK, OK," I said to whoever kept ringing the doorbell. "I'm coming!"
When I opened the door, to my amazement, I saw my family. Mom and Dad were front and center. My youngest brother, Luke, who was in ninth grade, stood on one side of them. My oldest younger brother, Liam, who was two years older than Luke, stood on the other side, grinning from one rosy cheek to the other. Behind them stood my grandmother and grandfather. They were all dressed in red stocking caps and green woolen scarves and were singing "Away in a Manger," looking just like the carolers you see on Christmas cards. I listened to the harmonious sound for a moment, then remembered my boyfriend was still on the phone.
"Thanks, you guys," I said, laughing, "but you don't have to sing to me. I already know how good you sound. Go to another house." I started to close the door.
"Where's the eggnog?" my father's father yelled from the back of the group. "Y'all dragged me out here in the cold. The least I deserve is some eggnog with a little nip in it. I should be able to get some from my own house."
My grandmother hit him on the shoulder, then led the group down the street.
"How's your cold?" my mother asked, hesitating in the doorway. "You seem to be feeling better."
"Yep, I am." I couldn't keep from grinning.
"Where's your brother? Have you checked on him?"
Since Liam and Luke were with them, I knew she was talking about my middle brother, Lance. I didn't even know he was home. "I haven't seen him," I said, rubbing my arms to keep off the chill coming in the open door. "Maybe he went out for a second."
"He said he wasn't feeling well; that's why he didn't come with us. But we'll be done shortly. We're going to sing at a few more houses and then come back and make you two some chicken noodle soup."
"That sounds good," I said, then watched her join the others. "And you guys sound good too," I added before closing the door.
I fled back to the phone, only to hear a dial tone. I'd expected that, but it still broke my heart. When I tried Foster's number, the line was busy. Then it dawned on me that maybe he was trying to call me. So I hung up right away. As soon as I did, the phone rang again. It was Foster.
"I tried to hang on, but someone rang in on the line for my mom. I didn't hang up on purpose."
"I know," I said. "I'm really sorry. I didn't mean to take so long. It was my family at the door. They came caroling."
"So, how are they?" Foster asked.
"My grandfather asked for alcoholic eggnog. Isn't that weird?"
Suddenly I heard someone screeching somewhere in the house.
"What was that?" Foster asked.
"I don't know. My mom said Lance was here." The screeching grew louder. "I'll call you back," I told my boyfriend.
"No, I'll hang on until you find out what's going on."
Putting the phone down again, I went out into the hallway. "What happened?" I called. "What's wrong?" I hurried down the hardwood floor. When I turned the corner I saw a horrific sight. Lance was sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall, surrounded by shards of glass and a small pool of blood. My heart sank as I scrambled to him.
"Get back, Laurel," he shrieked, gripping his left arm. "There's broken glass everywhere."
Ignoring his request, I squatted next to him and peeled his fingers away from his arm.
"Ow!" he screamed.
Blood poured out of a jagged gash. Without really thinking, I raced for the bathroom and snatched a hand towel off the rack, then returned and wrapped it around Lance's arm. Within seconds, the blood soaked the towel, obliterating its peach-and-pink rose pattern. "This cut is really deep," I said. "We've got to get you to a hospital."
"No, Laurel," he said, staring at the floor.
"I've at least got to call Dad on his cell phone."
"No!" His body started shaking. He looked up at me. His eyes were filled with fear and his breath reeked of alcohol.
"What in the world!" I exclaimed. I stood, fighting conflicting emotions of concern and frustration. When my brother shrugged, frustration won out. I left him sitting there, howling in pain.
"You're not gonna believe this," I said when I got back to Foster on the phone.
"Is Lance OK?"
"I think he's drunk," I said. "No, I know he is."
"What was the screaming about?"
"He must have slipped in the hallway and cut himself on a wine glass he dropped."
"How deep is the cut?" Foster asked.
"I don't know. He's still screaming and I'm scared."
"You've got to get him to the hospital."
"That's what I said. But he won't let me." I started to panic. "Foster, I don't know what to do."
"Don't worry, Laurel," Foster said. "Everything will be OK."
"How do you know?"
"I'm going to be praying for you."
Immediately, my racing heart felt more relaxed. The situation hadn't changed, but just knowing that Foster would be praying gave me a sense of peace. "Thanks," I said.
After hanging up the phone, I returned to the hallway. Lord, I prayed as I ran, guide my feet and show me what to do.
I found my brother kneeling on the floor, trying to pick up some of the larger bits of glass. "I've got to clean up this mess," he said, his words slurred.
"That's not important now. First we've got to get you fixed up."
* * *
Fortunately I knew where my grandmother kept her car keys. As I started the engine of her brand-new Lincoln Town Car, I thanked the Lord that I had passed my driver's license test just before Christmas break. I still didn't have a car of my own, but at least I could drive other people's cars once in a while.
I drove quickly but carefully. I sure didn't want to get stopped by a police officer and delay getting Lance to the hospital by having to show my temporary license and my grandmother's registration and insurance information, which I hoped were in the glove compartment.
After a frantic drive to the emergency room, followed by a two-hour wait in the visitor's area, the doctor came out and told me that my brother was going to be fine. "Do you have his insurance information?" the doctor asked.
"Yeah, I do." I pulled out the family's medical card and he handed me a clipboard full of forms. I filled them out the best I could, then turned them in to the nurse behind the counter. When she asked me for the co-pay, I came up a little short. In spite of my brother's plea for silence, I had to call Grandmother's house.
My panicking mom answered the phone. "Where are you guys? We came home and found your grandmother's car gone. Then we saw blood all over the hallway carpet. Laurel, what's going on?"
I told her about Lance dropping a glass and cutting his arm. I didn't tell her about the alcohol I'd smelled on his breath.
"Your father will be right there," she said.
After hanging up, I went into my brother's room to make sure Lance was really OK.
"Hey," he said in a groggy tone.
"Hey yourself," I said, approaching his bed. "You scared me half to death."
"Me too. You know, I've been thinking about it, and I honestly don't know what happened."
"Lance, alcohol is what happened," I said, my voice stern. "Where did you get it and what were you doing with it?"
"I don't know. I just went behind Grandpa's bar and tried a little bit of everything I found there."
"Why would you do that?"
"It felt good. I was really relaxed." His eyes focused on mine. "Laurel, you can't tell Mom and Dad about this."
I felt my jaw clench. "I had to call them. The hospital needed a co-pay and I didn't have enough money to cover it. They're on their way here right now."
Lance's eyes widened. "Did you tell them what happened?"
"No," I said. "But I can't promise you I won't. They're gonna want to know."
"Just tell them I slipped. You know Grandma's floor is always slippery. Laurel, please," my brother begged me. "I've been there for you. Just be here for me this time."
I hesitated. He was right. Lance had been there for me. I immediately remembered one night during my junior year when he caught me at home alone with Branson, my old boyfriend, and I begged him not to tell our parents. He never did.
Being a teenager was tough for anybody. But being pastor's kids made our lives even more difficult in some ways. A lot was expected of us, by people in the church and especially those outside it.
"OK," I said tentatively. "I won't say anything."
Lance sighed and closed his eyes. He looked like he was about to fall asleep, so I crept quietly back to the waiting room. As soon as I got there, my dad rushed up to me. I didn't lie outright but I didn't tell everything I knew.
My father was relieved that Lance was OK, and he seemed to believe what I said about Lance's accident.
I led Dad back to Lance's room. As I stood there watching him hold my brother's hand, my mind flooded with questions. I wasn't sure if I had really helped Lance out by not revealing the complete situation to our parents. But I finally decided to leave it alone, at least for a while. It was Christmas and I wanted to relax a bit.
Still, I was certainly planning to talk to my brother about this. I prayed I hadn't done him more harm than good by keeping his secret.
* * *
"Laurel, get up!" My grandfather's forceful voice woke me before the sun had risen.
"What's the matter?" I asked groggily.
"I need to talk to you. Right now."
I rolled out of bed and put on my robe and slippers, then glanced at the clock. He had to be out of his mind. It wasn't even five A.M.
"Grandpa, I need to slap some cold water on my face," I said, heading for the bathroom sink.
"Hurry up, then. I'll be in the den. Don't you get back into that bed until we've had a discussion."
Lord, what is going on now? I prayed as I stumbled to the sink and ran the water. I thought my life was finally on track. When Branson wanted intimacy with me, I stayed true to You and didn't give it to him. But then Brittany did, even though she was my best friend and he was my boyfriend. How Brittany and I remained friends is anyone's guess. And then You sent Foster, a great Christian guy, to take Branson's place. I almost lost him by putting pressure on him to have sex, but by Your grace, we worked that out. Now Lance is a drunk and Grandpa is yelling at me, and I don't know why.
The cool water on my face helped me think more clearly. Grandpa must know about Lance, I realized.
As I entered the den, I saw my grandfather and Lance sitting in chairs, not looking at each other. Before I had a chance to speak, Grandpa walked behind the bar and pulled out three half-empty liquor bottles.
"These bottles were brand new and unopened before we went out Christmas caroling. What's the explanation for this? There can be only one. My son is spending more time pastoring that church full of hypocrites than spending time with his own family. He doesn't even know his children are drinking. Who is responsible for this?"
Lance started crying like a baby. "Grandpa, I'm sorry. I just wanted to try some. Please don't tell my dad."
Grandpa's face softened as he looked at Lance's bandaged arm. "Well, I can see you learned a lesson."
"Yes, Grandpa. I definitely did."
My grandfather turned to me. "But Laurel, I'm very surprised at you."
"She didn't have anything to do with it," my brother said.
"Don't cover up for her," Grandpa said without taking his eyes off me. "The first step in recovery for alcoholics is admitting that you are one." He got so close to my face I almost fell off the chair. "I can smell liquor on her breath now!"
"What are you talking about?" I cried. My grandfather had no right to accuse me of such a thing. Alcohol was his problem, not mine. His addiction had almost destroyed his marriage.
When I was younger, my grandparents got into a huge fight, and my grandmother started pouring liquor down the sink. Then my grandpa started smashing her china. They sent me out of the room, but I watched through a crack in the door. My grandfather nearly choked my grandmother. It was the worst fight I had ever seen.
I felt my cheeks turn hot and my hands tighten into fists. "You're the alcoholic, not me," I blurted out. "You have been for years! You monitor those bottles so closely you know if anyone has even touched them. No wonder your marriage is shot. Alcohol is ruining your life!"
As my words echoed in the room, I saw a look of dejection cloud my grandfather's face. Clearly I had crossed the line.
Without a word, Grandpa stormed out of the room. I stared at Lance, wondering whether our grandfather would tell on us and what our fate would be if he did.
"Now look what you did," my brother had the nerve to say. "Why did you have to do that? I told him you didn't have anything to do with it."
"Obviously he didn't believe you."
"I was handling things just fine before you opened your big mouth."
My hands clenched into fists. "If I would've let you handle things last night you would have bled to death on the floor. Show a little gratitude, huh? I'm covering your back. I didn't even have any alcohol, and now I could be in serious trouble too."
"For what?" he asked, peering at me.
"For lying, Lance. I didn't tell Dad the whole truth. I intentionally tried to deceive him."
Lance rolled his eyes. "You are so dramatic."
"Look, if you don't realize how serious this alcohol thing is, maybe I should tell our parents."
"I know how serious it is," he said, instantly changing his tone.
There was no point in going back to bed. I tried to find my grandfather to apologize to him, but then I heard his car drive out of the garage and down the street. Though what I had said was the truth, I hadn't meant to hurt his feelings. Regardless of whether or not it was true, I shouldn't have spoken so disrespectfully to him.
I took a long bath, trying to think of the best way to apologize to my grandpa. As I was getting dressed, I heard my grandmother stirring in the kitchen. When I walked through the living room, my brother Liam stopped me.
"Hey," he said. I turned and saw him sitting on the couch with a Bible in his lap. "Want to join me in prayer?"
"No thanks," I said. Though I needed prayer, I didn't want to pray with him. Liam was totally different from Lance. He was a good boy, just like my father. He loved the Lord with all his heart and didn't care who knew it. He spent every minute of his day trying to serve the Lord.
Liam also had good instincts. He knew I was holding something back. "So I suppose you don't want to study the Word with me, either."
"No," I said, my words clipped. "Is that a crime?"
Liam stood. "Why are you so on edge, Laurel? What's going on? What really happened last night while we were out caroling?"
I shrugged. "You know perfectly well what happened. Lance slipped and fell on his juice glass. Why do you have to act like there's more?"
"Why do you have to be so defensive?" he asked, moving closer.
"I'm not defensive," I argued, taking a step back. "Let's just drop it, OK?"
Liam grabbed my arm. "There's something else going on." I pulled away and headed toward the kitchen. "I don't know why you're always covering for him," Liam called after me.
Breakfast was uncomfortable. Lance couldn't even hold his fork without shaking. He might as well have worn a sign around his neck saying, "I drank alcohol last night."
Out of the blue Dad asked, "Has anyone seen my father?"
I started to say yes, but before I could get the word out of my mouth Lance knocked over his orange juice. It spilled all over my mother's beautiful hand-crocheted tablecloth.
"Oh, my goodness!" she cried, rushing around to clean up the mess. "Oh, my goodness!"
Just then I heard the garage door slam and heard my grandfather's footsteps in the hall. I started to panic. "Can I be excused, Mom? I don't feel good."
"Sure," she said, distracted by her cleanup attempts.
"I don't feel too good, either," Lance added.
Mom paused in her sopping to look up at us. "Maybe you two should go lie down for a little while."
"Yes ma'am," I said quickly, getting up from the table.
"OK, Mom," Lance replied at the same time. We both fled out of the kitchen and into the corridor. "You might as well give it away," Lance whispered.
"We need to talk to Grandpa before he goes back in there," I said.
Excerpted from Laurel Shadrach Series 2 Totally Free by Stephanie Perry Moore, Kathy Ide. Copyright © 2002 Stephanie Perry Moore. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.