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I DON'T THINK I CAN be a Christian anymore.
The words sliced Chris Mc Intyre's heart. The Bible in her hands shook.
I'm sorry, Lord. Rinny said to take it slow. But I can't get away from it. I mean, it says it again, right here. If I don't forgive others,
You won't forgive me. Jesus, You said it so many times. In so many different ways. In Your prayers. In Your teachings. You said, 'If you don't forgive . . .'
With Erin's help, Chris had forgiven Rich. With prayer and the passage of time, she had even forgiven Del. But Del was a moron.
Sometimes it was easier to forgive morons.
She had even forgiven herself.
It was so much harder to forgive the one she had dared to love,
the one whose love for her had caused so much pain.
He did love me once. Didn't he? When I was really young?
The memory of that day returned to haunt her. The day she had climbed on her father's lap and leaned against his chest, then rested her head against his shoulder. His strong arms encircled her and tenderly pulled her against him. He spoke soft words in her ear.
Words she would always treasure. His voice, she would never forget.
'You're a good girl, Chrissy. You're a good girl.'
But, Lord! What did I do? Did I suddenly turn bad? Did I cause him that much grief that he grew to hate me?
Only hate would drive a father to beat his child so viciously.
Chris jumped off her bed and tossed her Bible on the nightstand.
Quickly headed for the kitchen. Ran her fingers through her hair as she walked, as she let out a long, deep breath.
Later, Lord. Later.
She grabbed the gallon of milk out of the refrigerator and poured herself a glassful, then quickly lifted the glass for a long drink. She closed her eyes as the milk left a cool, soothing trail from her throat to her stomach. She waited another second, hoping it would soothe the burn there.
If the milk didn't work, she knew something that would. It had been months since she'd taken her last drink of Jack Daniel's whiskey.
Since that night at Dandy's Pub. The night that jerk pushed
Erin down. The night Chris, for the first time in her life, cried out to Jesus for help.
Her eyes closed as she remembered that night. The night Erin would not let her leave. The night the Lord Jesus Christ heard her cry.
Please hear me again, now. I don't want to hurt You. Help me know what to do.
Well, that was a dumb prayer. She knew exactly what He wanted her to do. The question was, would she do it?
Lord Jesus, I know You're asking me to forgive my dad. If I refuse to forgive him, how can I expect You to help me forget? I know it's true.
I need to forgive him.
She took another long drink of milk. Swallowed. Slowly opened her eyes and blinked.
But there is no way.
Her throat tightened. Started to ache.
I'm sorry, Lord, but there is no way I can ever forgive my dad. If
You know anything about me, You know I can't.
Tears burned her eyes.
And if You know me, You know that isn't true. It's not that I can't forgive him, it's that I won't. Ever.
She grabbed her keys and left the apartment, slamming the door behind her, leaving her jacket hanging on its peg, her halfempty glass and the gallon of milk on the counter.
FROM INSIDE THE KIMBERLEY STREET Medical Clinic, Erin
Mathis heard the door of the apartment above her slam. Chris and
Cappy's apartment. One of them stomped down the outside stairs.
Angry stomps. She hoped it was Cappy.
Past the front windows of the clinic, Chris Mc Intyre, Erin's dearest friend, made her way down the long porch. Erin held her breath, hoping Chris would stop at the clinic's door and peek inside to say a quick hello.
The door didn't open.
More angry stomps.
Erin peered out the big front window and waited. Chris, head lowered against the spring rain, walked down the sidewalk, down
Kimberley Street, probably toward the new gymnasium. On her way to work.
With a deep sigh, Erin relaxed in her chair, then rubbed the back of her neck. She had never felt so bloated, so positively monstrous.
Her weight gain, her bulging belly, her increasing impatience, being pregnant so long, so ready to be over and done with it
'Are you all right?' Hot breath tickled her ear.
She smiled at her husband's words, then squirmed as his lips nibbled her earlobe.
'Hold still. You taste good.'
His hands gently massaged her shoulders as his lips found the side of her neck. Erin squelched her immediate desire to hum with pure delight. Instead, she asked him, 'Aren't you supposed to be at the hospital?'
'Yes.' More nibbling. 'Just wanted a taste before I left.'
'You're getting more than a taste.' She turned to face him.
Gazed into his light brown eyes. Watched the light dance in them.
'You are so beautiful.'
She grunted. 'Please. I look like I swallowed a beach ball.'
Her husband grinned. 'Three more weeks, love.'
'Two weeks, four days, and hopefully not a minute more.'
'Don't laugh! You did this to me.'
'I'll make it up to you first chance I get.'
He knelt in front of her and gently placed his hands on her protruding abdomen, then leaned in to kiss it. 'Hello there, little babe. Daddy can't wait to see you. You be good for Mommy today.
Try to stay off her bladder, okay? And don't kick too hard.' He looked up with laughter in his eyes.
Erin could only smile.
Standing, Scott returned her smile, then moved in to kiss her lips. He pushed back her hair and cupped her cheeks in his hands.
'You're gonna be late.' Barely a whisper.
Another kiss, this one deeper, lingering. When he kissed her like this, what choice did she have? She could only fall headlong into the joy of his love, the joy of sharing life with her true soul mate, of being Mrs. Scott Mathis. She savored her overwhelming gratitude to the One who had saved them and brought them together.
Scott slowly pulled away. 'Okay, you're right. Gotta go. But
I'll be home around three.' He traced the backs of his fingers down her cheek. Touched the tip of her nose. Then turned, wrapped his jacket around him, and headed for the front door.
Still basking in the moment, Erin's lips and cheek tingled.
'We'll be waiting.' She rubbed her belly with one hand and returned his wave with the other as he pulled the clinic's door closed behind him. His Mustang roared to life. Then carried him away.
'We'll be waiting, love,' Erin whispered into the silence, still rubbing her belly. But then, just for a second, a wave of sadness swept over her. She sighed deeply, shook her head, and returned to her insurance paperwork.
She couldn't concentrate. Slowly looked up. Fat drops of rain splashed off the porch railing. Slapped against the leaves of the azalea bush in the front yard.
Father? I'm worried about Chris. Is she going to be all right?
Constant. Relentless. Splashes of rain.
She wants so much to learn about You. To follow Your Son. She's really struggling right now. And I don't know how to help her.