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Good Mother, Bad Mother A NOVELLA

Daniel Whyte III with Meriqua Whyte


Good Mother, Bad Mother, by Daniel Whyte III Copyright 2014. Torch Legacy Publications. All Rights Reserved. First Printing, 2014 No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner, except for brief quotations included in a review of the book. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.


Acknowledgments

I want to thank God for giving me the joy and privilege to serve Him, over these past thirty years. It has been an exciting ride that I cannot even begin to express in words. I also want to thank my wife, Meriqua Whyte, for assisting me in this field of writing fiction—a field that I have grown to find very effective in getting the Gospel and biblical truth to people who will not hear it any other way, except in a story. Thanks also goes to all of my children: Danni, Daniel IV, Danita, Danae, Daniqua, Danyel Ezekiel, and Danyelle Elizabeth, for assisting me in every aspect of my ministry and in all of my writing endeavours. Also, I say thank you to all of those who have bought, borrowed, shared, and given copies of my books as gifts to others. Your kind words and support mean the world. --Daniel Whyte III


1 Eleven-year-old

Suzanna

Millsap

awakened

suddenly. She peered around the semi-dark room. The only light emitted from the night light attached to the lamp on the bedside table between the two beds in the room. Her sister, Valerie, was sound asleep. All she was able to make of Valerie's form was her slim face protruding between the sheet, which was wrapped around her like a mummy. Her blanket was thrown across the foot of the bed. Suzanna jumped as she heard the slamming of her parents' bedroom door across the hall. Listening intently, she heard the door being yanked open. “Don't walk out on me when I'm talking to you, and you definitely don't slam the door in my face,” she heard her father, Tobias Millsap, say with a firm voice. He was talking to her mother, Bonnie. They were trying to speak in low tones, but weren't being successful at it. “I walked out and slammed the door because two in the morning is not a good time to be arguing about anything,” Bonnie said. “I am still tired and sleepy, even if you're not.”


Tobias continued, “I have told you time and time again not to purchase anything that expensive without my knowledge. I leave to go out of town on a business trip and I return to a bill for $300 from a women's clothing shop. What were you thinking?” “Tobias, you were gone. I did not want to disturb you with such a trivial thing,” Bonnie said. “If you read the fine print, which you never do, you'd see that I got the dresses for half price. Be glad the bill was not $600.” “The main issue here is not the bill. The main issue is that you went against my word. You are going to send us to the poor house. Just because God is blessing us with more than we need, that does not mean we can waste money,” Tobias said. “I do not want my daughters to grow up thinking that having a lot of money gives them reason to spend it all. You're setting a bad example with your uncontrollable spending habits.” “Look, I am a professional,” Bonnie said. “You know I am not expected to be wearing the same outfit within a two week span.” “No, I did not know that, but who cares what is expected!” her husband said raising his voice. “We have


set a budget for this family and I expect you to abide by it.” “Tell me something new. Lest you have forgotten, I make enough money to purchase whatever I want,” Bonnie said arrogantly. “I do not need your money.” “We budget together!” her husband said. Suzanna tip-toed across the room and climbed into her thirteen-year-old sister's bed. She shook her firmly whispering, “Valerie, Valerie, wake up.” “Aww, what is it?” a sleepy Valerie questioned. “Val, they're at it again,” Suzanna whispered. “Who's at it again?” Valerie groaned. “Mom and Dad. Listen.” Valerie was now wide awake. She made room for Suzie to slide in under the cover beside her. She pulled the sheet over both of them as they listened, huddled together.


2 Bonnie and Tobias Millsap had been married for sixteen years. Tobias was a self-made business man who worked in partnership with Agway Manufacturing. Agway Manufacturing developed lawn and garden care products. They had expanded their product line to include supplies for the care of pets and birds. Over the past ten years they had moved into the farming arena, seizing the attention of farmers as they sought new and more powerful fertilizer and insecticide products. Tobias caught the interest of the CEO of Agway Manufacturing after he introduced a line of pet care products based on his own experiments at home. By modifying the percentages of the ingredients, he was also able to come up with a more concentrated care product for farm animals, particularly horses and cows. Tobias named his product line, Valanna, after his two daughters—Valerie and Suzanna. His job sometimes required him to travel out of town as he sought new companies to carry his products.


“I want you to cancel that order,” Tobias said. “In fact, we're going to the computer right now and neither of us will get any more sleep until it is canceled.” “I'm not canceling it!” Bonnie shouted. “Oh, yes, you will!” Tobias said firmly. In the girls' bedroom, Suzanna let out a sigh. “Do you think they'll stop arguing once Mom cancels the order? I think she bought it while he was away,” she said. “I'm sure they will,” Valerie assured her. “Valerie?” “Yes.” “Why did Mom wait until Dad went away to buy those things?” “I don't know. She probably knew Dad would not approve of it so she tried to get it in before he returned from his trip.” “Well, he sure fooled her by coming back a day earlier than expected,” Suzanna sighed. “I think this is the second time she's done something sneaky like that. Why doesn't she just ask Dad? I mean, we ask him for lots of things and he gets them for us.”


“Well, Mom's strong-willed. I heard Dad telling her she's too bull-headed,” Valerie said. “He told her she can be independent as far as her job goes, but she needs to submit to his wishes as far as the household and family goes.” “Well, she sure isn't doing a good job of that.” “I know,” Valerie agreed. “Anyway, Dad said something about how he is accountable to God for this family, and that is why he encourages us to be obedient. I think it's in the last chapter of the book of Hebrews. We read it to us as part of family devotions a couple days ago.” “Oh, I remember him talking about it,” Suzie said. “How come I didn’t hear them arguing about that?” “That's because you were over at Brittany’s house for her slumber party.” Suzie wrinkled up her forehead trying to remember as best she could what her father had shared with them from the book of Hebrews about the matter. _________________________ “Suzie, I wanted you here when we discussed our passage for this morning's devotion,” her dad said after they settled down in the family room. “The text comes


from Hebrews 13:17, and it reads, 'Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.' “It has already been established from the Word of God that God has placed me as head of this home. As the head, it is up to me to set the rules and to help set the pace for everyone; this is not to undermine your mother as the second person in charge over you girls. Ephesians tells you girls to honor and obey both your father and mother. I know I am not going to tell you to do anything wrong. Are you going to tell them to do anything wrong, Bonnie?” Their mother sighed. “Of course not.” “Just checking,” Tobias chuckled. “You're just trying to make me look bad in front of the girls,” Bonnie said. I wish you'd hurry up and say what you think you need to say. I have things to do. “On a serious note,” Tobias continued, “as head I will have to give to God an account of what kind of daughters you were, and what kind of wife and mother you were, Bonnie. It says to 'submit yourselves.' What does it mean to 'submit,' Suzanna?”


“It means to obey and to do what you're told to do.” “Exactly. Do you think it means to force you to do what you should do?” “No,” Suzanna said. “It means I should do it willingly and on my own.” “And what do you call that?” “Choice.” “Can anyone tell us a verse that encourages us to do what we should do without being forced to do it?” “I know,” Valerie said. “If you love me keep my commandments.” “Exactly. So if you love God, you will obey Him when He says to submit yourselves,” Tobias said looking at his wife. Why are you constantly looking at me? Bonnie thought. “The Bible says for you to submit yourselves to God because He has said in His Word that I am watching out for your souls. This means I should lead you in the right way, in the Godly way, so that you can avoid as much trouble as you can while you are living here on this earth. When Jesus returns and we all stand before Him, I want to be able to joyfully and truthfully say, 'We were all obedient


to You and to the authorities You set over us, and thus we lived a life of peace.' “I do not want to give Him a sad report—a report filled with grief. I do not want to have to say, 'My wife was disobedient' or 'My girls were disobedient.' As I have shared with you before, God is going to judge our actions, our words, and our motives. Now I know you girls don't want to disappoint God or me,” Tobias said to his daughters. Turning to his wife, he said, “How about you?” “You don't have to worry about me,” she said in an unpleasant tone.


3 Bonnie

Millsap

prided

herself

in

being

a

professional. She was very independent-minded, and became obsessed with the thought of having to give up her career when she found out she was pregnant with her first child. She fought hard to obtain her law degree. When Bonnie found out she was pregnant with her second child at the beginning of her internship, she seriously thought about terminating the pregnancy without her husband's knowledge. “I don't know if I can go on,� she shared with her husband after staying up for a forty-eight hour stretch studying and trying to come up with the ethical solution to a puzzling case presented to her graduating class by their professor. After coming to a solution, each student was required to argue his or her case before a panel of professors from the law school. Even though Bonnie started experiencing ill health, which could possibly jeopardize the health of her unborn child, she ignored her doctor's orders to get more bed rest. She also ignored her husband's advice to take a leave of absence until after the birth of the baby.


“There is no way I am going to do that,” she said adamantly. “If I stop now, I won't pick my studies back up again. You already know how I am about not quitting on anything I have started.” “So you are willing to jeopardize our baby's life just to get what you want?” Tobias asked in disbelief. He had begun to wonder just who had he married as he noticed things in her that he had no idea were in her before. “Oh, the baby will be just fine. God will protect her. He knows what I am trying to do and He knows that if I get this degree, it will benefit the whole family, and especially this baby,” Bonnie said. “God also does not want us to do anything that will bring harm to the precious children He is entrusting into our care,” Tobias said. “And I want you to remember this conversation, because if any harm comes to this baby you are going to be in a world of trouble.” “I tell you, you worry too much,” Bonnie said turning her attention back to her books. A healthy Suzanna came into the world. Bonnie gave her husband a smug look as she handed him the baby on his first visit to the hospital after her birth.


“You're a miracle baby,” Tobias said kissing Suzanna on the forehead. Tobias wanted Bonnie to stay home with their daughters, at least for the first seven years of their life. “You can work part-time and I'm willing to invest in converting the den into an office where you can see your clients when you need to,” Tobias said. But Bonnie still applied for a position at Hutchins, Goldstein & Sons during her internship. She was hired a month after graduation and was paid a considerable amount for a new comer to the firm. “We need more female lawyers,” the elder Goldstein told her during the interview. “Bonnie, you're going to miss out on some very crucial years with the girls,” Tobias told his wife one evening after she came home rather late from the job. She was making arrangements with the baby sitter to put in some extra hours two day in the upcoming week as her husband would be away for two days on business. Bonnie had even hired an older lady to come in once a week to help with the housework. “And all that money you are paying to have someone watch the girls you could be putting it into your own pocket and use it on yourself, the girls, and the household.”


“It does not cost that much, plus having a babysitter frees me up to concentrate on my clients,” Bonnie said. “By the way, I'm working late again tomorrow.” “Bonnie, this is getting out of hand,” Tobias said. “You have two little girls to tend to. You need to spend as much time as you can with them—bonding with them, and having fun with them. You cannot afford to be working overtime. If you spend as much time as you can with them while they are young, then you won't be living in the land of regret as they get older and become more independent.” “No offense, Tobias, honey, but you're no expert on child rearing. It's not the quantity of time; it's the quality of the time you spend with them,” Bonnie replied. “I do spend quality time with them when I am home in the evenings.” Tobias and Bonnie engaged in such conversations as the years rolled around: Tobias encouraging her to spend time with her daughters, and Bonnie doing everything she could to avoid doing so. “I really am not sure what kind of childhood experiences you had, but you can't let that influence how you play your role as a wife and mother,” Tobias said. This issue caused more discord in the family than anything else.


_________________________ “By the way, Bonnie,” Tobias said to his wife one evening, “Valerie is seven years old and Suzanna is five. I think it's time you started taking them to the annual mother-daughter banquet at the church. Your excuse of them being too young is no longer valid. Plus, they will love it. Valerie asked me why you never take them.” Tobias spent as much time as he could with his two girls. Although word was getting around about his Valanna products and he often had to travel out of town, he curtailed the temptation to travel as much while they were young. He, instead, remained at his post at Superior Chemicals while building up his home business until his girls got older before leaving his post there. “I don't think you are making a wise decision,” Bonnie told him when he shared with her his decision to travel less while the girls were so young. “The girls will be fine. They'll need you more when they get older; when they begin to understand more about life. Right now, everything to them is fun and games. At his young age, they really do not understand what's going on; they're just happy to see us when they see us.”


“I can't believe I'm listening to you speak this nonsense,” Tobias said. “I am going to help the girls understand life from a young age. A lot of adults believe just because they are young they cannot understand the issues of life; but if you take the time to explain things to them they will understand what's going on. You just have to be patient with them.” Tobias noticed little changes in his wife as the months went by as far as her response to her role and responsibilities in the home. Her job became her obsession —even above her children. “These are truly the last days,” he remembered saying to her one day. “And what's that supposed to mean?” Bonnie asked. “Mothers not showing natural affection for their children,” he said over his shoulder as he walked away. “Maybe you should read your Bible more. The Bible talks about that happening in the last days. People not having natural affection for each other. I don't even want you to force any love you think you can muster on the girls lest they see you as hypocritical.”


4 The Millsaps regularly attended the Peace Valley Community Church of Xavier County. They helped out where help was needed. On this particular Sunday, Pastor Rickshaw spent some time praising the success of the Titus 2 Wives Ministry headed by his wife. “My wife has been sharing with me some of the great comments that some of the husbands have shared with her regarding the positive changes they are seeing in their wives. We praise the Lord for that. Amen?” “Amen,” the congregants repeated. Tobias gently nudged his wife. He had been encouraging her to take part in that particular ministry because he felt she had some shortcomings in fulfilling her duties as wife and mother. She had attended a few of the meetings, but gradually left off attending. “I don't have time for all this. They only gossip and get into each other's business,” she had said. “Are you sure that's it?” her husband asked. “Or is it because they are sharing things that you know you are supposed to be doing?”


“Look, Tobias, I am quite capable of reading and understanding Titus chapter two.” “My question is: Are you going to do as it says?” Bonnie had good intentions when she started out in the marriage and she faithfully read Titus chapter two each morning during her personal devotion time, but she gradually left off being faithful to that task. “The Titus 2 Wives sister ministry is going just as well,” Pastor Rickshaw said. “This ministry is for mothers of young children. It is called the First Peter Three Mothers Ministry. I'll let my wife speak more about that.” As Mrs. Rickshaw took her place before the mic, Tobias nudged his wife again. Bonnie rolled her eyes as he turned toward her and said, “There's another group you ought to attend regularly. Those experienced mothers who have already raised their children can help teach you how to raise our children in a more loving and godly way.” Valerie was then eight years old and Suzanna was six. “I know my children,” Bonnie said looking straight ahead. “The same Bible they read that tells them how to raise their children is the same Bible I read that tells me how to raise my children.” Then, she added smartly, “So, do I really need to attend?”


“Well, you could take a lesson or two from them because you really could use some help. Just listen and learn.” Bonnie turned her head away from her husband pretending to give her full attention to Mrs. Rickshaw. Her mind wandered on and off about the case her and her colleagues were working on. “Ladies, mothers, I know First Peter three speaks to wives, but we chose to make the first six verses of this passage our theme verses for this ministry to mothers. Our reasoning is, if wives who are mothers do these verses, that is, be in subjection to their own husbands, engage in holy and chaste conversation, adorn their hearts more than they adorn their bodies, uplift and put God first in all they do, exercise a meek and quiet spirit, and do these things consistently before their children, then coupled with prayer and the Holy Spirit our daughters will learn by our example and will be better wives and mothers when they come of age.” Bonnie absentmindedly listened to what Mrs. Rickshaw was saying. Her stubborn prideful will would not allow her to humbly admit she needed encouragement


to fulfill the sometimes demanding role of a wife and mother. On the way home, Tobias said to her, “I told Mrs. Rickshaw to expect you on Thursday nights for the First Peter Three Mothers Ministry.” “I just know you didn't,” Bonnie retorted. For a split second she forgot the girls were in the back seat and started to let her husband have it, but she caught herself just in time so as not to do any further damage. Her husband continued speaking ignoring her outburst. “Girls, Mom will be going to a special meeting at the church on Thursday evenings; she will be taking you with her most evenings. You all are going to have fun.” Bonnie stared at her husband for a few seconds. He's gonna get it when we get home. I'm busy enough as it is; then having the audacity to tell Mrs. Rickshaw I'm going to be there implying that I need help being a mother. Valerie and Suzanna looked at each other after noticing their mother's response. As soon as the family made it home, Bonnie instructed both girls to put on some kick-around clothes, and to go directly to the kitchen and pour themselves some juice and wait until she got there. She hurried to the master


bedroom. Pushing the door shut she faced her husband who was sitting on the bed. He already had his jacket and shoes off. His tie was hanging loosely around his neck. “Tobias, what were you thinking? You know you don't sign me up for anything unless I am in agreement and know ahead of time. You know I do not like to have things sprung on me without prior notice.” “What's wrong with me signing you up for the First Peter Three Mothers Ministry?” Tobias calmly asked even though he already knew the answer. “What's wrong with it? Nothing, except Thursday evenings and all my other evenings are unpredictable. No telling what extra work I have to do on the job. I am sure you have noticed the paperwork I bring home just about every evening. I do not have time for anything extra.” “Yes, I have noticed and I want you to stop doing that,” her husband said. “When you come home in the evenings then migrate to your office in the back, after doing that for six days of the week, you hardly have any time left to spend with the children. All you have time for is a quick bath, a hurried meal, and a quick look-over on their homework. And the meal is only hotdogs, potato chips, and pork and beans out of the can. I told you about a


preacher who almost died because that is all his wife fed him.” Tobias laughed. “Well, I always stop by McDonald's or Hardee's to buy the children something to eat,” Bonnie interjected. “That's even worse,” Tobias said. “That's the problem – you think you're doing something but you're not. I'm only telling you these things because my mom thought she was doing good by working all kinds of weird shifts at her job instead of being home to take care of us herself. Even though my parents stayed married, I felt abandoned, and I'm sure my siblings did too. These children need three square meals a day, plus snacks,” Tobias said. “Also, by the way, when was the last time you read a book to Suzanna?: “Suzanna is eight years old. She is quite capable of reading by herself,” Bonnie said. “When was the last time you baked some cookies or a cake with Valerie, or went shopping with both of them?” Tobias asked. “Now how can you ask that question? I am buying them things all the time. I just bought them each a new dress last week.”


“I did not say 'buy them'; I said 'take them,” Tobias let his last words sink in. Bonnie glared at him. “By the way, Valerie has shared with me that she wishes you would spend more time with her. She told me she misses you sitting out on the patio with them in the evenings, and she also would like to see you out in the auditorium when she rehearses with her drama group just like Frederica's mother does. You have stopped going altogether.”


5 Bonnie was furious that her husband was choosing to believe her daughter's words after all the time I spent with them when they were younger. I'm the best mother for them. I mean God would not have given them to me if He did not think I would be the mother I ought to be. “I told you when they were just babies to curtail your hours on the job and to spend as much time as you can with them because the years will go by fast. Make good memories with them so thay can have something good to look back on for those times when you are unable to be with them,” Tobias said. “One of the biggest mistakes my mother made was that she did not take the time to make memories with us. Because she didn't take time to make those memories and spend time with us when we were young, we did not know her and we were not that interested in letting her get to know us. And, unfortunately, it appears that you are making the same devastating mistake." “I fought hard and struggled to get my law degree and I am not going to let it go to waste,” Bonnie said. “And there will be a fight if you try to stop me.”


The fury in Bonnie's eyes was enough of a warning to cause even her worst enemy to retreat, but Tobias held his ground. “You came complaining to me the other day that Valerie and Suzanna are spending too much time at Belinda and Colin's house, and how it seems they would rather be there than here; they are always talking about the great things Belinda does with her daughter. You said the key words yourself—all those things Belinda does with her daughter. Why don't you call up Belinda and find out what some of those great things she does with her daughter are and try to implement some of those things.” Bonnie was at a loss for words as she watched her husband walk out of the bedroom. A few minutes later, she heard him pull out of the driveway. He took some time in getting back so she and the girls wentahead and ate their Sunday dinner. When he returned, things had cooled down. He had a huge package of Oreo crème cookies and a gallon of milk. Later that evening, he called the girls into the kitchen. “Girls, come to the kitchen with me. Let's have an Oreo Dunkin' fun time.”


“Yeah!” they both shouted as they ran past their mother. “Tobias, I was just getting ready to give them a dessert and put them down to bed so they can get enough sleep for school tomorrow,” Bonnie protested. “I'm sure the good Lord won't hold it against me if I keep them up late an extra hour or two to spend some quality time with them. Will He?” “Yeah, well, dunking a few Oreos doesn’t take one to two hours,” Bonnie said. She stood inside the partition between the kitchen and the dining room and watched with envy as the girls eagerly followed their father's directions —even more eagerly than they followed her directions at times. They did so without talking back; but with her, there always seemed to be some kind of protest. “Valerie, get the tall glasses after you wash your hands. Suzanna, you tear that bag open.” “Want me to get some napkins, Dad?” “Oh, no, Suzie. That will take away from the dunking fun.” Bonnie's guilt increased as she watched how the girls interacted with their father with ease, laughing and giggling as he tickled them every now and them.


“All ready?” he asked as they sat around the table. “Yes, Dad,” the girls cheerfully replied. “Hold your cookie high above you head. At the count of three---dunk! One-two-three--” “Dunk!” they all shouted amidst laughter as milk spilled on the table. The happy scene before Bonnie's eyes was too much for her. She wiped her eye as she quickly turned to walk away, but not before she heard Suzie ask, “Hey, Dad, why won’t Mom join us?” “She can if she wants to,” Tobias replied. But Bonnie was already halfway down the hall heading to her office. She sat down at her desk trying to block out the laughter coming from the dining room. Guilt, remorse, what ifs, and I should have were emotions she fought to push to the back of her mind. Bonnie pushed herself up in her chair rubbing her eyes as she tried to figure out where she was. She realized she had fallen asleep as she sat and listened. “Oh, yes,” she said to herself as she remembered the Oreo Dunkin' contest. Pulling herself out of the chair, she made her way to the kitchen. They must have left the place a royal mess,


she thought, but have no fear, Mommy the maid is here to clean it all up. As she flicked the light switch on, she was surprised to see a clean table and a clean floor and to smell a pleasant Pine-Sol scent. “Hmm.” The sink was, spick and span clean. Bonnie was surprised, but wondered what would meet her eyes as she approached the bedrooms and bathroom. Sticking her head inside the girls' bedroom, she did not see the girls in their beds. She entered the master bedroom with much trepidation. I hope they aren't where I think they are, she thought. Yep. Just as I thought. Tobias was sitting at the computer desk. “Those girls sure had fun,” he said as his wife entered the room. “Why don't you drive them to school tomorrow? I want them to sleep in as late as they can in the morning.” “You know they love to ride the school bus with their friends.” “Not tomorrow. You're taking them to school in the morning.” “Why are they in our bed? You know how I feel about them sleeping with us, especially at this age,”


Bonnie said. “Did they even take a bath before jumping in our bed?” “And what if they didn't?” Tobias said without looking up. “And guess what? They had fun cleaning the kitchen and the bathtub. To answer your question—yes, they took a bath before jumping in our bed.” Tobias looked across at his sleeping daughters. “They look like angels, don't they?” Silence. “I do not know about you,” he said getting up from before the computer, “but I am ready for bed. The girls saved you a spot on your side of the bed. Just squeeze in next to them. You three can have the sheets. I'll get another one out the linen closet.” When Tobias returned with the sheet, Bonnie was already in the bed. “Slide over, Bonnie, honey. You seem to be hanging on for dear life,” he said with a chuckle. “Good night.” Bonnie rolled her eyes with a grunt.


6 Suzanna awakened the next morning with a stomachache. “Dad, I don't feel so well,” she told her father when he came to say good bye to them. “I'll have your mother to give you something for it,” Tobias said to his daughter. “Too much Oreo cookies will give you a stomachache; but it's a good stomachache,” he said giving her a hug. “I have an important meeting so I have to leave early. Let me pray with you three before I leave.” After praying with his wife and daughters, Tobias asked his wife to give Suzanna something to make her stomach feel better. “That's what you get for eating all those cookies,” Bonnie told Suzanna in a smug tone. “But we had fun, Mom. You should join us next time,” Suzanna grinned. Bonnie dropped the children before the main entrance to Xavier Academy. “Mom, are you going to come watch us rehearse for the drama production after school?” Valerie asked.


“I don't know. I'm going to be super busy today.” “You're always busy,” Valerie muttered as she opened the car door. “I wish you didn't have a job.” “What did you just say?” Bonnie called over her shoulder. “You had better be happy I do have a job. How about 'good bye,' young lady?” Both Valerie and Suzanna had been attending Xavier Academy since their kindergarten years. Both sang in the school choir, and Valerie was also a member of the drama club. The community looked forward to the two major Biblical plays put on by the school each year— Easter and Christmas. Other plays were performed throughout the year. Valerie had natural acting abilities and had received numerous awards for her acting. She had competed in numerous competitions for the arts along with her sister who was musically inclined. Valerie's dream was to attend the School of Performing Arts and pursue a degree in Drama to hopefully eventually win an Oscar. When asked by Mrs. Costano why she wanted to go into acting when she signed up for the drama club, her answer was: “I want to make people laugh and think about life. I also want to divert the minds of my audience who may be experiencing


some hurt or disappointment—to provide some kind of escapism to help them relax and get renewed in mind, body, and soul and get strengthened so they can face that hurt or disappointment, hopefully from a new perspective.” “A very mature answer coming from a twelve year old,” Mrs. Costano, the drama teacher said. The now fifteen-year-old Valerie walked up the few steps to enter the building ignoring her mother. “Bye, Mom,” Suzanna said quickly following her sister out of the car and into the school building. “You could have at least said goodbye to Mom. Dad's not going to like that," Suzanna told Valerie. "He tells us to always say 'goodbye' and 'I love you' to each other in case that's the last time we see each other.” “If you don't say anything to Dad, he won’t know,” Valerie said slowing down her pace so her sister could walk with her. “What if Mom tells Dad?” “Believe me, she won't say a word because she does not really care whether we say 'goodbye' and 'I love you' or not. Honestly, Suzie, I am tired of Mom working. She's


hardly made it to any of our practice sessions. Always promising but never turning up.” “Maybe she is busy. It's not easy being a lawyer.” “How would you know?” Valerie asked. “I got curious and wondered why Mom was always working so I typed in 'what does it take to become a lawyer?' I read a bunch of stuff. It takes a lot of work,” Suzanna said. “Well, she needs to learn how to divide her time properly,” Valerie said. “There's Frederica. I'll see you at lunch time. Bye. Love you. Hey, Frederica! Wait up!” Valerie said hurrying towards her best friend. Valerie, Suzanna, and Frederica Taylor arrived early in the rehearsal hall for practice. This was their second to last practice session before the actual performance. They were performing Shakespeare's play, Othello. Valerie played the main female character, Desdemona, Othello's wife. Frederica played the role of Emilia, wife of Iago and maid to Desdemona. Suzanna played the role of one of the attendants. She also played with the musicians in the orchestra.


The back section of the rehearsal hall was bustling with activity as the performers put on their costumes. This evening was dress rehearsal night. Everyone was excited. “Is your Mom going to come sit in again as we rehearse?” Valerie asked Frederica as they slipped into their gowns. “She sure is,” Frederica said. “Here, help me pull my zipper up,” she said turning around. “Is your Mom coming?” “Naw. She's too busy working,” Valerie said. “You don't sound too happy about that.” “I'm not. But I'm not going to let it stop me from doing my best,” Valerie said. “I'm sure she'll come on opening night,” Frederica said. “Let me straighten your wig, Desdemona. I'm so nervous. I hope I don't forget my lines.” “Yeah. Me, too.” “Everyone, take your place,” Mrs. Costano raised her voice above the noise. "Take your places, everyone. We'll begin in ten minutes. Frederica, your Mom's sitting out front. She says to let you know.” Valerie felt a little jealous as she watched Frederica stick her head through the curtains and wave to her mother.


“Hi, Mom,” she heard Frederica shout. Valerie was sure Mrs. Taylor shouted back something like, “Hi, Frederica. All the best.” I would give anything for my mother to be here, she thought. Valerie hurried to the locker where her backpack was and took out her phone. She called her mom. “Mom, are you going to make it to rehearsal? I wish you would. We'll be starting in about ten minutes. It's not too late to make it. We'll be here for at least two hours. Mrs. Costano is still looking for helpers for the final performance. Even Frederica's mom is here.” Valerie said this in one breath hoping to receive a 'yes' answer. “Val, I told you I can’t come right now. Stop whining,” Bonnie said with a frustrated sigh. “Oh,” Valerie said disappointment. “Have you heard from Dad?” “He’ll be home around ten,” Bonnie said. “Did you say Frederica's mom was there?” “Yes. She's been to all of our rehearsals,” Valerie said perking up, hoping her mother was changing her mind about not being able to make it. “I'll pick you up after rehearsal. It's important that I finish up the paperwork on this case. Sorry, Bye.”


Valerie pressed the 'off' button without responding. She did everything not to cry. She was about to slam her locker door shut when her phone rang. Recognizing the number she quickly answered it. “Hello, Dad! I'm so happy to hear from you. I miss you.” Tobias chuckled. “I've only been gone since eight thirty this morning. Any way, I was just calling to wish you well on your rehearsal. I wish I could be there.” “Thanks, Dad. I really needed that.” “You don't sound too happy. Is there a problem?” “Not really. I just spoke with Mom. I was hoping she would make the effort to come to this rehearsal, but she told me she won’t be able to make it,” Valerie said. “I know you’re disappointed, but don't let it stop you from doing your best. Life is full of disappointments,” her father said. "You don't have to let them stop you from doing what you want to do. Keep your mind on Jesus and you'll handle all of life's disappointments. I love you. Is Suzie close by?” “No, Dad. She's with the musicians, but I'll tell her you asked about her. I have to go. Mrs. Costano is giving the curtain call.”


“I love you. Go and make me proud,” Tobias said. “I will. I love you, too, Dad.” Valerie hurried to her spot and awaited her turn to go on stage.


7 As soon as Tobias hung up the phone, he called his wife. “Bonnie, why are you still at the office and not at the rehearsal with Val and Suzie?” “I have to finalize the paperwork on this case,” Bonnie said dryly. “Now you know when I am out of town, I do not particularly care for you to work late. What if something happens to the girls?” Tobias said. “Plus, I asked you to surprise them by turning up for their rehearsal. Do you know what that would mean to them?” “Tobias, you worry too much. Xavier Academy is a safe school in a safe place. Nothing's going to happen to them,” Bonnie said. “Did you know Valerie is very disappointed you won't come to her rehearsal tonight? You've only been to a few of them over the course of the year. Then from what they have shared with me, you act as though you are bored, constantly looking at your watch. Children notice these things. I have to almost force you to go to the actual performances. How can you keep doing this to them?”


“Doing what to them, Tobias?” “Not showing support for what they are doing. I can't recall you even helping them to study their lines for this play. I hear more complaining out of you about the noise whenever Suzie practices on her violin. I bet you didn't even know she is taking harp lessons, do you?” “No, I didn't,” Bonnie said with a pang of guilt. “And how would you expect me to know if no one told me?” “From what Suzie shared with me, she tried to tell you, but you cut her off and told her she would have to wait until later. Guess what? Later never came,” Tobias said. “You didn't know she told me all this, did you?” “No, but thanks for letting me know.” “She was hurt you would not even give her a few minutes of your time, but you spent over three hours on the phone laughing and talking with a friend.” Tobias was all worked up by now. “Bonnie, you're not getting it. You are distancing yourself from your daughters. They need for you to be there for them all the time. Show more interest in what they are interested in. You need to stop being so selfish.”


“Selfish? How dare you say that!” Bonnie yelled into the phone. If there was one thing she hated, it was being accused of something negative. She prided herself in being a perfectionist even to the hurt of others. “You do a lot of frivolous things with these girls—things that will not amount to anything in the grand scheme of things. Dunking Oreos in milk! What a waste of time! That will not help them when they branch out on their own. Now will it?” “You just don't get it,” Tobias said with a sigh. “It's the time we spend together, laughing and doing silly things; that's what's going to count in the long run. It is not so much what we do together but that we do things together. But it is good to do productive things together which glorify God and help other people. What's wasted time to you is cherished time to them. Like I've been telling you down through the years, make positive memories with them. Give them something positive to remember when they leave.” “Anything else, Tobias?” Bonnie sighed. “Nothing else, except that you might want to reconsider and go watch them rehearse. That would mean the world to them, especially Valerie. You owe them that.”


“Whatever,” Bonnie said. “Good bye, Tobias. I've wasted precious time talking with you. This could have waited until you got home. Anyway, don't worry, I'll pick up the girls on time.” Or since Belinda's there, I may just ask her to keep them until I get home, she thought as she hung up the phone. Rehearsals took longer that evening. Valerie had to shake out of her mind how her mother had disappointed her and Suzie once again. She threw herself into the role of Desdemona, Othello's wife. “Focus and concentrate,” Mrs. Costano said after the fourth blunder. “You cannot afford to forget your lines this late in the game. Prompters you have to pay attention. You cannot allow your mind to wander.” “Mrs. Costano, can we please take a break?” one of the students asked after an hour's work. “I think that is what we all need—a break,” Mrs. Costano said. “Everyone take fifteen minutes.” Frederica, Valerie, and Suzanna joined Frederica's mother, Belinda Taylor, in the auditorium, where she was waiting.


“Don't worry,” Belinda told them, “people often mess up as the big day gets closer. You'll all do well on opening day.” She gave them all a hug. “Let's take a walk out to the van. I have some cold bottles of fruit punch waiting to be consumed by three thirsty little bears.” The girls giggled as they hurried outside. As they were drinking their fruit punch and joking with each other, Belinda's phone rang. “Hello, Bonnie, how are you?” “I'm doing fine, Belinda. How have you been doing? It's been a while since we spoke,” Bonnie said. “I thought I'd see you here at the rehearsal, but Valerie told me you had to close out a case,” Belinda said. “That's true,” Bonnie replied. “In fact that is why I am calling you. I thought I would have completed all the paperwork by now, but it looks like I'll be stuck here a couple more hours. Do you think you could keep the girls for me and I'll pick them up from your place as soon as I can?” “Sure,” Belinda said. “I'd love to.” Valerie's face broke out in a big smile. She could guess from the conversation that her mother would not be picking them up. Belinda often gave them rides home from


school events. She often took Valerie and Suzanna with her and Frederica to social events in the community. Valerie loved to go over to Frederica's house because her mother was always doing fun stuff with them. The rest of the rehearsal went much smoother. The only mistake was that Othello forgot to stab himself before falling to the ground. “Well, at least you fell down,” Mrs. Costano said laughing. “You all did much better. We have one more rehearsal before opening day. Get as much rest as you can. Rehearse your lines in a relaxed manner. Don't stress yourselves out. You will all do great. Goodnight everyone. Let me know if any of you need a ride home, or if you need to make a phone call.”


8 Belinda and Colin Taylor were the parents of Frederica and Philip. Frederica was also fifteen years old, the same age as Valerie. Philip was ten. They had been attending Xavier Academy since kindergarten. The Taylors and the Millsaps had met at one of the parent-teacher meetings. The friendship of their children was what had brought them together. Belinda worked as a teacher at the St. Patrick School for the Blind. Colin was the vice-principal of the same school and was also a writer of children's books in Braille. The Taylors lived in the same housing complex— the Gardens—as the Millsaps. Even though they attended the Methodist Church of Xavier County, every now and then, they attend Peace Valley Community Church as guests of the Millsaps. “Does anyone have any homework?” Belinda asked as they pulled out of the school's parking lot, “because if you do, that will be our first order of business once we get home.” “Valerie and I did ours during our last study period,” Frederica said.


“I still have some English to do,” Suzanna pouted. “I hate English and my teacher does not make it easy for us.” “We'll all pitch in and help you get it done,” Belinda said. “Mom, can we camp out in my room until Mrs. Millsap comes for them? Can we use your computer and watch a movie on the floor in my bedroom?” Frederica asked. “Sure. I'll serve you dinner under the tent,” Belinda said. “Your dad took Philip over to St. Francis for little league. After that the team will probably be going out to celebrate, so tonight is girls' night for us.” After Suzanna finished her English assignment and the girls washed up, Belinda helped them set up the tent in Frederica's room. When all was set, Belinda put on her flowery apron and said, “I am here to serve you—within limits of course. Get comfy while I serve your supper.” While the girls were watching Kit Kittredge: An American Girl, Belinda served homemade hamburgers with tater tots covered with cheese and chili and hand tossed salad. “The salad must be eaten first,” she instructed.


Valerie felt envious of Frederica. I can't remember the last time Mom did something like this with us. She put up a fight when we asked Dad if we could sleep on the back porch last summer. She was happy to see Suzie laughing and having a good time. Before the evening had expired, both girls were calling Belinda, ‘Mom’. “Is there room for me?” Belinda asked after she removed all the empty plates from under the tent. The girls scooted over as she slid in between them. “Would like to spend the night?” Belinda asked after the movie was over and Bonnie had not showed up yet. “We'd love to,” Valerie and Suzanna said. “I'll give your Mom a call,” Belinda said crawling out from under the tent. “If I return with ice cream in three bowls and a single cherry on top, the answer is 'no.' If I return with ice cream in three bowls and three cherries on top the answer is 'yes.'" “Your mom's great,” Valerie said after Belinda closed the door. “I wish our mom was fun like her,” Suzanna said. “Your mom's always nice to me,” Frederica said.


“Being around her for a few minutes once a month is different from living with her,” Valerie said. “She hardly ever does anything, much less fun things, with us.” Valerie told Frederica about the Oreo dunk they had with their father. “She would not even join us.” “Really?” Frederica said. “My mom would have jumped right in.” “On top of that, our mom's always working. That is where she is now. I wouldn’t be surprised if she does not make it out to opening night of Othello,” Valerie continued. “You both are welcome to share my mom with me any time,” Frederica said. “In the meantime, I'll help you pray for your mom.” There was a knock on the door. “Come in.” “Hello, girls,” Frederica's father, Colin Taylor, said entering the room. “Hello, Dad,” Frederica said. “Hi, Mr. Taylor,” Valerie and Suzanna said. “Are you girls having a good time?” “Yes, Sir.”


Belinda walked into the room balancing three bowls with three cherries neatly placed on a mountain of vanilla ice cream. Frderica's brother, Philip, came in behind his mother with another bowl of ice cream in his hand. He was licking his spoon. The girls' eyes opened wide. “Yeah!” Suzanna said. “Three cherries mean we get to spend the night.” The girls high-fived each other as Belinda set their bowls down. “Okay, girls, finish up your ice cream, then you all take a shower and get ready for bed. Remember you have school tomorrow,” Belinda said. “We'll be in to pray with you,” Mr. Taylor said. “Say good night, Philip.” “Nighty night, Freddie, Val, and Suzie,” Philip smiled with ice cream around his mouth.


9 The girls said good night, even though they laughed and giggled into the early morning. Sleep soon overcame them one by one starting with Frederica. Valerie swallowed hard. She sniffed as she tried to hold back the tears that were waiting to burst through her eyelids. Why can't Suzanna and I have a caring mother like Mrs. Taylor? Tonight the three of us could have watched a movie, popped popcorn, baked a cake, wrote a silly song together, acted out a play, pretended we were in a courtroom and had her show us how to argue a case, but, no, she had to work late—again. I don't think she likes being around us. I wish I had another mother. “Val, are you asleep?” Suzanna whispered. Silence. “Are you crying?” she whispered again. “Aren't Mr. and Mrs. Taylor nice? What do you think Mom's doing now?” “Who cares,” Valerie whispered back. “Let's go to sleep so we won't wake Frederica.”


“Okay,” Suzanna said. All was silent. They heard the antique grandfather clock strike midnight with its twelve chimes. “Hey, Val, where do you suppose Dad is right now?” “Home.” “Well, it was nice of him to let us stay even though it is a school night. Good night, Val. I love you.” “I love you, too.” The following morning, Belinda had the girls' clothes smelling clean and neatly folded on top of the dresser. They awoke to the smell of cinnamon flavored oatmeal with butter, buttered toast, sausage patties, and orange juice. “I'll swing by your house first so you can change clothes if you want to. I washed those, but you may not feel comfortable wearing the same thing two days in a row, and also you can see your parents before you go off to school. I have to drop Frederica and Philip off at the school anyway, so you are welcome to ride with us,” Belinda said to Valerie and Suzanna while they were eating breakfast. “Thank you, Mrs. Taylor. I'd love to see Dad before we go off to school. He was out of town all day yesterday,”


Valerie said. “And thank you for washing our clothes for us. They smell so good I think I'll just keep mine on.” “Me, too,” Suzanna said.


10 Tobias picked up the phone to call his daughters on his way home from his meeting, but decided to just turn up and surprise them. The clock in his car read 8:50. I should be home within another hour and a half. I'll stop by the store and pick something up for them. I really hate that I had to be gone all day like this, but the traveling should slow down soon. Lord, I thank You that Valanna has taken off so well. Please continue to bless it, and make it possible that I won't have to do this much traveling and be away from my family. He stopped by the store where he picked up a wooden carving of a choir with a choir director standing in front of the choir and a pianist sitting behind a piano. There was a wind-up underneath that caused it to make hymnal music. This will look nice on Suzanna's shelf right next to her music collectibles. She will love this. He purchased the Christy Miller Series for Valerie. She loves to read. These should grab her interest, he thought. It was almost midnight when Tobias pulled up into their driveway. Except for the outside porch light, the only other light apart from the one in the living room was


coming from the master bedroom. The girls must be asleep already. They were allowed to stay up until midnight to await their father's return whenever he went out of town. They must have had a grueling rehearsal time. He pulled up into the double garage beside his wife's Escalade. As he walked by her car he noticed how warm it was. I know she did not just come home. Upon entering the house he shouted, “Bonnie, I'm home! Girls, I'm home!” He hurried past the den, his office, the back spare bedroom, and turned down the hall where their bedrooms were. “Bonnie, I'm home!” “I'm in the bedroom,” she replied. When he entered the bedroom Bonnie was pulling her robe up around her shoulders. “Hi, I just stepped out of the tub from a relaxing bubble bath. Did you have a good meeting?” “Yes. Parkins Lawns is very interested in Valanna as are the others who came to the meeting. I'll need to ready some more products to send to them on tomorrow. Since it's Friday, I'm thinking of just driving down there and taking the girls with me. I'm sure they'd love to ride


down there with me. By the way, where are they? I have a surprise for them.” Tobias pulled the gifts out of the bags and showed them to his wife. “Do you think they will like them?” “Of course, they will.” Tobias placed them back in their individual bags and walked toward the door. “I'm going to give it to them right away.” “You will have to wait until the morning. They are not in there,” Bonnie said. “I didn't notice anyone in the den,” her husband said as the girls sometimes slept in the den if they stayed up watching a movie. “Where are they?” he asked with a more serious expression on his face. “I also noticed that your car was still warm. Are you all just getting in?” “I am just coming in. The girls are at the Taylor's'.” “Why are they at the Taylors'? And why haven't you picked them up?” “I asked Belinda if she could keep them for me after rehearsal. It took me longer to clear out the paperwork on the case. I got in about fifteen minutes before you did.” “Bonnie, you said you were going to pick them up after rehearsal. Why didn't you call me and let me know,


and why haven't you picked them up yet?" Tobias said. You have your night clothes on so I assume you were planning on going to sleep." “Belinda wanted to know if they could spend the night. Since she already had them I gave her the okay,” Bonnie retorted. Tobias shook his head. “I was hoping you would take my advice and use this time to spend with your daughters, but you failed again. This would have meant so much to the girls.” “If it's any comfort to you all, I'll be going to the actual performance,” Bonnie said as sweetly as she could. “And I will be volunteering as a helper in their next performance. Belinda was telling me how much fun it was so I think I'll offer my services.” Tobias decided to let the matter rest, but not until after he called and spoke with Colin to thank him for letting the girls sleep over. Colin assured him that all was well and that his wife would swing by in the morning with them. Tobias placed the gifts on their pillows where they would be sure to see them.


“Why don't you travel with me and the girls down to Parkins Lawns to deliver the products?” he asked his wife as they climbed into bed. “You'll only be missing a half day of work,” he quickly added when she started to protest. “Come on. Do it for the girls.” “Well, all right,” Bonnie said reluctantly.


11 The Millsap family pulled out of Xavier County around one in the afternoon. It was a sunny and pleasant day for traveling and there was the promise of good weather for the weekend. The girls were already excited about the trip, and became even more so when they saw their mother in the passenger seat when their father picked them up from school after lunch. “Dad, thank you so much for the books,” Valerie said. “I'm almost through with the first one.” “You're quite welcome, Val,” her father said. “I thought you would love them.” “Thanks for the choir piece,” Suzanna said. “You are very welcome, Suzie,” her father said. “I am glad you like it.” After the girls settled down, their father said, “I figured we could all use this little outing and make up for some family time. I am thinking of going to church somewhere else on Sunday and not returning until Sunday night.” The girls were all smiles and Valerie noticed that even her mother seemed in full agreement with the plan.


“Aren't you glad Mom could come with us?" she whispered to her sister. “Yes,” Suzanna whispered back. “What are you two whispering about.,” Tobias asked. “I just thought of something, Dad,” Valerie said. “Sunday is Friends and Family Day at church. I invited Dierdre and her family. She assured me this morning they would be coming.” “Who's Dierdre?” Bonnie asked. “She's in my class and she's also in the drama club. She played the role of Beauty in Beauty and the Beast,” Valerie said. “Oh, yes,” Bonnie said. “I thought she played that role well.” That was one of the few times their mother had attended one of their performances. “Valerie's going to be Desdemona in the Othello play we're putting on in two weeks,” Suzanna said. “She's the best for that role.” “Who's Des-demon-what?” their mother asked. Valerie and Suzanna were not surprised at their mother's question. “Shakespeare, Mom,” Valerie said matter-of-factly.


“Oh.” “Desdemona’s in Othella. It’s our next drama presentation,” Suzanna added and then continued, “We've been rehearsing for about three months now.” Suzanna elbowed her sister who had turned her head and was looking out the window. “Frederica's mom comes to all her rehearsals and even filled in as Desdemona's father once when the real actor for the part was out with a toothache.” The girls spent most of their drive down to Parkins Lawns telling their mother about the play. Tobias prayed silently as he listened. He hoped God was answering his prayers and fulfilling the hope of his children's hearts that Bonnie would get her priorities right and begin giving the girls the motherly attention they craved. “I guess we'll have to make it back by tomorrow evening then,” Tobias said after the girls finished telling their mother about Othello. “I am glad you reminded me. I've been telling Mr. Antoine about Friends and Family Day. He told me he may stop by, so I need to be there for sure. Remind me to give him a call on tomorrow once we get back.”


The family had a pleasant trip to Clanton City just across the state line. They visited with Mr. Parkins at his lawn shop, which occupied a whole block. “I am very pleased with Valanna products,” he told Tobias. “I have already received positive feedback from a few customers who I gave the sample products to. Why don't we take care of the signing of the contract now since you are here. That would save you a trip next week.” While his wife and children walked around Parkins Lawn, Tobias and Tyler Parkins took care of business. “Another contract signed, sealed, and delivered,” Tobias said as the family left Parkins Lawn. “This is a celebratory night. Where would you girls like to eat?” “I know—Spaghetti Factory,” Suzanna said. “And then to the Cheesecake Factory,” Valerie added. “Consider it done,” Tobias said. Turning to his wife he said, “I know what you want. I'll give you $200 to take the girls and yourself shopping.” “Only $200?” Bonnie said. She didn't sound excited. “What's wrong with $200? That's a lot of money when it is not expected,” her husband said.


Valerie and Suzanna looked at each other. They were happy their mother was with them, but they were also hoping and praying the she would not mess things up by her negative comments and her negative attitude and spirit. Never content. Why can't she just go with the flow? $200.00 is a lot of money for just three of us, Valerie thought. “That's all you'll be getting,” her husband said. “Make it work. Or, I can take the girls shopping myself and use it all on them.” Valerie and Suzanna sighed with relief as their mother remained silent. “Dad,” said Valerie, “if Valanna ever reaches overseas, I'd love to travel with you overseas and especially to England. I'd want to visit the queen at Buckingham Palace.” “We can still plan a trip to England without Valanna being over there. ACU Industries will be mass producing my products under a different brand name starting in June.” Tobias tapped his wife's arm. “Seems like just yesterday I formulated the product.”


Bonnie nodded. She seemed to have suddenly lost interest in the trip. Valerie and Suzanna were on their iPads even though their ears were open to their parents' conversation. “It's amazing how God answered my prayers about Valanna. I put together all kinds of concoctions, not really knowing what I was doing. One formula ate up the grass. That was dumb of me to spray it all over the grass like I did without testing it first,” Tobias said chuckling. Bonnie tried not to smile as she nodded. “The grass is still discolored. Whatever concoction that was, it burned deep into the ground. You could have burned a hole to the other side of the earth.” The girls laughed. “Dad, I remember the day we had to get out of the house fast because one of your experiments sent fumes all over the room and ate up Mom's tablecloth leaving a horrible stain on the table. Mom didn’t think it was funny.” Tobias

joined the

girls in laughter as

he

remembered the occasion. Bonnie did not crack a smile. “Go ahead and laugh. At least we escaped with our lives," Tobias chuckled.


“You could have burned the whole neighborhood down. You still have not replaced my tablecloth nor the table. I told you to go down into the basement or outside with that mess,” Bonnie said. “That tablecloth was hand stitched by my Korean friend. Now she's back in Korea and I'll never be able to replace it.” “Don't worry. We'll be making enough money to take many trips to Korea. Maybe we'll run into her,” Tobias said as they climbed out of the car at the Spaghetti Factory. “Bonnie, loosen up and try to enjoy yourself.”


12 The family enjoyed a great meal of spaghetti, meatballs, and cheese, and lemon flavored sweet tea. “I am stuffed,” Suzanna said holding her stomach as she scooted out her seat. Her mother looked at her wanting to say something, but changed her mind. Suzanna took her mother's hand in hers and smiled up at her. Bonnie nodded her head with a faint smile. Next, the family went to the mall. Tobias sat down on one of the benches and said, “You go on ahead. You ladies were made for things like shopping.” He handed his wife $200 cash. She took it without much enthusiasm. The girls had an enjoyable time trying on different outfits. Bonnie, trying to maintain her cool, muttered several times, “Hurry up and decide. We don't have all night.” “Dad says to take our time,” Valerie reminded her. “Yes, but we don't have to be here all night,” Bonnie replied. “I am ready to go to the hotel.” They finally got to the register to pay for their items. Suzanna chose a pink dress with musical notes and


instruments spread out over its lower half. Valerie chose a three piece gypsy-style costume. “Why don't you get something more modern?” Bonnie suggested. “Mom, you know I like off the wall things. With the tights, hat, and these boots, it will only cost $55.00. Is that a deal or what?” “Well, at least you know how to shop,” her mother said. “Weird outfit, but a good buy.” “Can we come back and get one for Frederica, Dad? She'd love one,” Valerie asked. “Sure,” Tobias said as they showed him their outfits. “Those are beautiful dresses. Bonnie, why don't you and Suzanna go and get us each a shake.” “So, how did it go?” Tobias asked Valerie after Bonnie and Suzanna left to get the shakes. “Okay, I guess.” “What do you mean, 'I guess'?” “No harm meant, Dad, but Mom needs to lighten up and not be so uptight about something as simple as shopping. She almost even took the fun out of shopping.”


“We just have to continue to pray for her. But make sure you maintain a good attitude and always respect your mother.” “Yes, Dad," Valerie said. "How come all my friends and the kids at the church believe she is the greatest mom, but not me or Suzie?” Tobias hugged his daughter. “That's normally how it is sometimes. Maybe we have become so familiar with each other—we know each others' faults and failures that we begin to get irritated and tired of each other.” “I'm not really tired of her, Dad. It's just that sometimes she's so cold and she's becoming more so. It's almost like she does not want to be around us,” Valerie said. “I can assure you, that's not it. She loves you and your sister; she just does not know how to express that love. And this does not mean you need to hate her or disrespect her. Even if she does not show love toward you, you cannot and must not do the same toward her if you want to please the Lord. I have noticed you are not responding to her with the same enthusiasm as you used to.”


Valerie sighed. “Sometimes I just don’t know which way to go with her, but I'll try harder.” “Here they come. Now put on that winning smile.” “Thanks, Mom,” Valerie said as her mom handed her a pineapple shake—her favorite. I'll carry your bag for you. Dad, you should see the beautiful dress Mom bought to wear on Sunday.” “And you cannot see it before Sunday, so don't try to sneak and look at it while I'm in the shower,” Bonnie said with a smile. Valerie smiled up at her dad. “We'll help keep it from Dad, won't we, Suzie?” “Yep. But I’m so stuffed, I guess the cheesecake will have to wait until tomorrow.” Once at the hotel, Bonnie helped the girls get ready for bed on the sleeper sofa. She was caught off guard as one of the girls hit her over the head with a pillow. She was hit a second time before she could retaliate. Suzie giggled. “Attack with friendly force,” she yelled. Bonnie grabbed a pillow from off the other bed and yelled, “Revenge!” as she engaged in a friendly pillow fight with her daughters for about ten minutes. “You're good at


fighting,” Suzie said to her mother. Tobias laughed as he watched them. The three sat on the bed to catch their breath. “Hey, let's all attack Dad,” Suzie whispered. “Are you with us, Mom?” Bonnie nodded. “Come on. Let's get ready to pray so you girls can get some sleep. It's been a long day.” All three walked quietly to where Tobias was sitting and started hitting him with their pillows. After a few minutes, he yelled, “Enough! Enough! I give up.” Everyone laughed as they toppled on the bed. After prayer and after the girls were sound asleep, Tobias pulled his wife closer to him. “These girls will never forget this night, and neither will you no matter how you try to deny it,” he said giving her a kiss. “I must admit I enjoyed hitting you over the head.” “So that was you pelting my head,” her husband said. “Pay back will begin right now.” He gave her another kiss. “I'll take your paybacks any day.”


13 Despite going to bed late, Tobias and Bonnie were up early before the girls even stirred. “Let them sleep. They have a long day ahead of them,” Tobias said. “You might want to relax a bit longer yourself.” Bonnie reluctantly complied; but what else was there to do in a hotel? At her husband's insistence, she had left all her office work at home. “I don't want you doing any work at all. Just try to focus on the girls.” For someone whose mind was constantly flooded with a myriad of things to do, this was hard for Bonnie to obey. For the whole trip she was consumed with the thought: What can I do in a hotel room to keep me busy? She was not a television person, and her laptop which had become so much a part of her life, was sitting on her desk at home. “Don't bring that,” her husband had insisted when she picked it up. She had purchased a couple of mystery novels from the bookstore in the mall. Opening up one of her novels, she started to read.


“Put that up,” Tobias said softly reaching over to close the book. “Just talk to me. What's on your mind?” Bonnie looked across at her husband. “Now you know it's very hard for me to sit still.” “That's part of your problem. You do not know how to relax and take it easy.” “That's not it; I just like to keep my mind busy. How much longer before I am allowed to get up?” “Relax and enjoy this moment,” her husband said. “I've noticed over the years it seems like you have withdrawn into yourself. It seems like you don't want to spend much time with the girls, or even me.” “That's not true. I spend the time we need to spend together. I don't believe in wasted time,” Bonnie said. “Wasted time? You call the time you spend with your girls wasted time?” Tobias said. “That is not what I am saying,” Bonnie said. “I'm about 'let's get it done! Let's get it done!' If it takes us ten minutes to eat, then let's take ten minutes—no more, no less; we have other things to do.” “Is that how you grew up? Always “let's get it done, let's get it done” to the point of not enjoying life?” her


husband said. “I believe your childhood years are so short you need to enjoy them stress free.” “Well, I see it differently. Children, today, waste too much time being idle.” “Not our children. They are always busy. You know I don't believe in sitting around doing nothing especially as children,” Tobias said. “Anyway, I was referring to your interactions with the girls. They don't know how to take you. You're coming across as cold and unloving and uncaring to them.” Silence. “Well, I am not. They are reading into whatever they think they see,” she said. “Were your parents strict with you while you were growing up? I mean, when the girls were babies, you hugged them some and I heard you tell them you love them a few times, but I noticed as they grew older you've kind of distanced yourself from them seemingly unaware that your behavior is strange.” Bonnie puckered her lips as though thinking. “In our household growing up, children were to be seen and not heard; children were to listen and not ask questions; children were to obey all commands and leave the thinking


to the adults; children did not have an opinion. It was not welcome to show any affection whatsoever. My own mother even told me once, 'You do not think in this home; I think for you.'” “Hmm,” Tobias said. “I certainly did not know that.” “Well, now you know.” Bonnie flipped her book open and read a few lines. “And you know what? I determined then, I was going to think for myself and I was going to pursue a career that allowed me to think. What better career than law? In law, I can ask all the questions I've always wanted to ask as a child, plus more. I can think for myself. And you know what else? I can execute my thoughts and I dare anyone to stop me from doing so.” Tobias sensed a determination in his wife's voice as she spoke. She silently read a few more lines from her book. He really did not know how to respond as he'd never heard of children growing up in such a household. He grew up in a family where he and his siblings were encouraged to express their thoughts. “I wish you had shared this with me before,” he said. “Your parents did not come off as that strict the few times I was in their presence.”


“Yeah. You've never had to live with them for eighteen years. I left home as soon as I graduated from high school. I spent one year planning how I was going to leave. I stayed with a classmate—Stephany—until just before I graduated from college. We were quite a pair. She was a gem. I wonder what has become of her? I need to look her up. Anyway, I would spend Easter and Christmas with her family. I popped up on Thanksgiving at my home just to show them I was still alive. Even that was a mess.” “It seems to me you've allowed bitterness to overcome you,” her husband said. “Who

knows?”

Bonnie

said

shrugging

her

shoulders. “At this point it does not really matter. My parents and I don't have to see each other—especially my mother.” An uncomfortable silence hovered in the room. “What are you thinking now?” Tobias asked sliding closer to her. “How glad I am that I don't have to be around them, and I have no desire to be around them.” Tobias hugged his wife. “Now, Bonnie, you know as a Christian you should not harbor bitterness especially toward your parents no matter what you think about them.


You should pray for them, love them, and honor them no matter what you think about them or what you think they have done wrong to you unless it is some kind of sexual abuse. Even that is forgiveable but I don't see how you can continue a relationship with them and honor them if they did so. Were you sexually abused by your parents." "No," said Bonnie. "And I do honor them alright— but from a distance." “So you're going to keep on taking out your bitterness towards your parents on your daughters?” “What are you talking about?” Bonnie asked. “Who is taking out any bitterness on their daughters?” “That's what is happening,” Tobias said quietly. “You have allowed your messed up childhood, your messed up relationship with your parents, to color your relationship with your own children. You are so uptight about your past you can't even freely relate to your children.” Receiving no response, Tobias continued. “You're so wrapped up with how your parents mistreated you, you're blind to how you're hurting your own children emotionally. Not only that, but you're allowing your past hurt to stunt your emotional and spiritual growth. You


don't want Valerie and Suzanna to grow up having the same feelings toward you as you have toward your parents, do you? But that is exactly what is happening." Still receiving no response, Tobias continued. “You need to get things right with your parents, if for no other reason, for your own peace of mind and well-being, and for the well-being of your daughters.” Bonnie seemed to think about it for awhile. She tossed her book to the side and then flipped the covers off her. As she swung her legs over the edge of the bed, Suzanna stumbled into her parents' section of the room still sleepy and rubbing her eyes. “Morning, Dad. Morning, Mom.” “Good morning, Suzanna,” Tobias and Bonnie said at once.


14 Friends and Family Day created a new excitement in the Millsap household. The family pulled into the Peace Valley Community Church's parking lot and joined the mass of people eagerly making their way into the church. Tobias looked around for Mr. Antoine. “I hope he makes it. I met him while I was passing out some flyers along with my business card. He told me he may bring his family.” “I sure hope Dierdre and her family will be able to make it,” Valerie said. “Dad, may I please sit with Frederica? Mrs. Taylor said for sure they were going to be here.” “Sure, but be sure to meet us by the back pew as soon as church lets out. You can go too, Suzanna,” their Dad said. “There's Mr. Antoine. I guess that's his family with him.” Tobias made his way over to Mr. Antoine. He and Mr. Antoine introduced their families to each other. He had a little girl, Selma, his daughter of fourteen years who walked with the aid of crutches. “She broke her legs


jumping on a trampoline. She did a couple flips but missed her footing and fell and broke both her legs.” “She has a beautiful smile,” Tobias said. “Can she please sit with us?” Valerie asked Mr. and Mrs. Antoine. “May I, Dad? Please?” Selma pleaded. “Tell you what? Why don't we all sit together,” Tobias said. “There's Frederica,” Valerie said pointing to the Taylor family as they entered the auditorium. “Go see if they want to sit with us,” Tobias said to his daughter. “Hurry, the pews are filling up fast.” Valerie returned with the Taylor family in a matter of seconds. The adults squeezed into one row, while the children sat in front of them. The praise and worship team started the services with songs of praise to God. It was a high time in the Lord up in there that Sunday. Valerie kept glancing around for Dierdre. She prayed and hoped that she was able to make it. The Praise and Worship team led the congregation in a series of praise songs followed by prayer, the announcements, Scripture reading, welcoming of visitors, a special song, then the preaching of God's Holy Word.


Pastor Rickshaw preached the message: “And He Brought Him to Jesus.” “Let me take this opportunity to welcome you to our Friends and Family Day. Thank you all for coming. A special thank you to those who went out of their way to invite a family or a friend to our services today. Our text for this Sunday is taken from the Gospel of John chapter one and verses forty through forty-two. It reads: 'One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus.' “Our title for this message is: 'And He Brought Him to Jesus.' Andrew went out with one single purpose—to find his brother and bring him to Jesus. Andrew had a lifechanging encounter with Jesus, and this impacted his life so much so he could not keep it to himself; he had to go tell someone. He chose to go tell his brother about his encounter with Jesus, the Messiah. “Andrew said, 'Come my brother; I have found the Messiah. I have found the promised Messiah. I have found the Redeemer. I have found the One who can change your


life even as He changed mine. Come and let me introduce you to Him.' And Andrew would not let up until his brother came with him. “Simon Peter probably stalled and hesitated and said to his brother, 'You're kidding me. Don't pull my leg, brother. Why are you joking with me?' And as you witness to your family members and friends, as you attempt to share Jesus with them, they, too, are going to resist you at first because they know the old you. They knew what you were like before you got born again; they knew what you were like before you got saved; they knew what you were like before you met the Messiah—Jesus. “They are watching you to see if this Jesus has made a change in your life for the better. They are watching you to see if you are the same beer-drinking, barhopping, disco-dancing, every other word cursing person they know you to be. They are watching to see if you are still doing those things you now claim not to do any more. Because if you prance around saying, 'I am a Christian. I have found the Messiah,' then there ought to be a difference in your life; there ought to be a difference in the way you act, in the way you think, in the way you speak. Don't be fooled into thinking the lost person does not know


how a Christian should act. You ask someone who is not a Christian how a Christian should act, they will accurately tell you how a Christian should act from A to Z because they know a Christian should act the opposite of how they act. Can somebody say, Amen? “So Andrew went and searched for his brother, Simon Peter, and brought Simon Peter to Jesus so that Jesus could change his life also. And I trust that you invited your family and or friends here today so that they, too, can get to meet the Messiah—Jesus, and have Him to make a difference in their lives even as He has, hopefully, in your life. Even if you are not living up to the Christian standard yourself, you still have a responsibility to share the Gospel. And you want sinners to look to Jesus Christ for salvation, not to your life anyway. “Those of you who are visiting with us for the first time, or those who are old timers, you were invited to this our Friends and Family Day not just to be entertained or so we can boast about how many people came; you were invited here, today, so that we can introduce you to Jesus, the Messiah. This Jesus changed our lives and we know He can change your lives also. My question to you is: Do you know Jesus? Have you met the Messiah? Have you trusted


Him as your Savior yet? Do you have a home in Heaven? If your answer is 'no,' my other question to you is: What are you waiting on? What is hindering you from coming to Jesus? You say, 'I don't know how to.' Here's how: “First, you have to accept the fact that you are a sinner. The Bible says we are all sinners and that none of us is righteous. None of us is bent on doing good. Romans 3:10 says, 'As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.' “Our sin is what is going to bring about our demise. Romans 6:23 says 'the wages of sin is death.' But Jesus Christ came to die for our sins. “John 3:16, Jesus' very words to us, says, 'For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.' All you have to do is believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead. Romans 10:9-13 says, "'That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.' Only believe.”


“If you want to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, please pray this prayer and mean it from your heart. "Heavenly Father, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I now believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life today. Amen. “If you just asked Jesus to save you, make your way to the front. We have a package to give you and someone will talk with you for a few minutes. We welcome you into the family of God.” It was a rejoicing time for the Millsaps as Selma, along with Mr. and Mrs. Antoine, made their way to the front escorted by Valerie and her mother. Valerie's friend, Dierdre, and her mother and brother, were already at the front when they got there. They hugged and hugged some more as tears of joy flowed down their cheeks. “Could you have someone to come talk with my husband about Jesus?” Dierdre’s mother asked as they walked with others who had gotten saved to a room in the back to receive their packages.


Valerie scanned the eating area where a delicious meal was being served. She enjoyed her time of fellowship with Frederica, Selma, Dierdre, and, of course, her sister, Suzanna. She was glad to see her mother laughing with the other ladies. Her mother had a way of throwing her head back as if letting her infectious laughter roll on out from within her. “That's what drew me to your mother,� she remembered her father telling them once when he was saying funny things to make them all laugh. I wish you would laugh more at home, Valerie thought.


15 Valerie and Suzanna talked more than once about their trip to Parkins Lawns; it was one they would never forget. They now looked forward to the opening night of Othello, which was ten days away. “Do you think Mom's going to come?” Suzanna asked. “She's missed a whole lot of our plays.” “Beats me,” Valerie said with an I-really-don't-care attitude. “I asked her to help me with my lines, but, as usual, she's too busy taking care of other people.” _________________________ “Mom, can you please help me with my lines?” Valerie asked her mother. “Do we have to do it right now? I'm reviewing this case. I have to go to court tomorrow,” Bonnie said. “Please. I won't keep you long. I pretty much know the bulk of it. I'm just stumbling over a few lines.” “Okay. Where's the script?” Valerie handed her mother the script.


“This is pretty thick. You're not expecting me to go over all of this with you, do you?” her mother said fanning the pages with a sigh. “Okay, let's get it over with.” Get it over with? Valerie thought as she took her place in the center of her mother's office. Every now and then her mother looked at something on her laptop from which she was working. She would tap a few keys. Valerie would stop every time her mother did that. “Go on!” Bonnie said impatiently. “I'm listening.” You could have fooled me, Valerie thought. Even though her mother had the script before her, Valerie noticed she would every now and then look off into the distance as if in a daze. What help are you if you're not even listening? Valerie thought. Because her mind was consumed with the lack of attention from her mother, Valerie made a few mistakes. “You really ought to study some more,” Bonnie said to her daughter after her third mistake. “This is more than a few lines you're stumbling over. You're mispronouncing words, you're mumbling, you seem unsure of yourself. How did you get the lead role? I thought your drama teacher was helping you all memorize your lines. She's not doing her job. Are you nervous?”


Valerie bit her bottom lip to keep the tears that stung her eyes from falling as she shook her head, no. Bonnie eyed her for a few seconds after tapping more keys on the her laptop. “Here. Take this. When is your performance anyway?” “Within twenty days,” Valerie choked out. “Well, young lady, you have a lot of studying to do. I'd begin right away if I were you. You're fifteen years old, Valerie. I sure hope you don't expect me to spoon-feed a fifteen year old. I am surprised you're stumbling over a few simple words.” Bonnie said handed the script back to Valerie. Valerie almost snatched the script from her mother's hand. “Maybe if you showed more interest I would not be stumbling,” she mumbled as she swung around and hurried out the door. “Always at the stupid job.” “What was that? Bonnie said. “Why would what I say interest you?” Valerie said as she continued down the hall way to her room. Suzanna was practicing on the violin. Valerie slammed the door shut and threw the script on her bed.


“What's the problem with you now?” Suzanna asked. “It's Mom as usual. I just asked her to help me rehearse and all she could do was find fault. She has her mind on some stupid case she's working on. I wish she had never gone into law.” _________________________ “Can you believe she just told me what she just told me? I really do not need her help. I just thought she may like to help...and...and.” Valerie started to cry. Suzanna went over to sit beside her sister. “At least Dad will be there for sure. He'll help you with your lines. In the meantime, let me help you. Why don't we just pray for Mom as Dad has instructed us to do?” “You go ahead. I can't pray for her right now. “Dear God,” Suzanna prayed, “thank You for giving me the ability to play music and Valerie the ability to act. Help us to remember our lines as we draw closer to the performance date. And, God, would you please help Mom come to the performance. Help her not to be so short with us. Help her to become a better Mom. Amen.”


“I'm going to see if Frederica can come over, or if we can go over there. Her mother won't mind helping us,” Valerie said scooting off the bed. Bonnie gave her daughters permission to go over to Frederica's house. “Did you see how relieved she seemed to let us go?” Valerie said as they walked the two streets over to the Taylor's house. “She makes it seem like we're being a burden to her.” The girls had fun at Frederica's as Belinda filled in the gap, playing multiple roles. “I've been to so many of the rehearsals, I can just about say the lines from memory,” Belinda said. Even Mr. Taylor and Philip joined in. “This calls for popcorn smothered in butter and cheese,” Belinda said after about two hours of practice. “I can't wait to go see the big night. It's going to be wonderful,” she told her husband as they both went into the kitchen to take care of the popping of the popcorn. “I can't wait to see it myself,” her husband said placing his arms around his wife's waist and kissing her on her head. Belinda turned around and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek.


Frederica who was about to enter the kitchen to get them all some water, stopped when she saw her parents smooching. She smiled. “Hey!” she whispered to Valerie, Suzanna, and her brother. “Come over here,” she said signaling with one hand while placing her pointer finger of her other hand on her lips for them to be quiet. They covered their mouths with their hands to smother their giggles as they saw Mr. and Mrs. Taylor in an embrace exchanging kisses. “They do this all the time,” Frederica whispered, "when they think we are not looking.” Philip giggled out loud. “I think I hear four cute little mice whispering and giggling,” Mr. Taylor said. “How about you? Do you hear anything?” “Mmm. I think I hear four hungry little mice squeaking for cheese and butter ed popcorn,” Mrs. Taylor said equally as loud. “I wonder how long they have been living in our house and what they call themselves?” Mr. Taylor said. “Mmm. I think they call themselves Frederica, Valerie, Suzanna, and Philip,” Mrs. Taylor answered.


Unable to contain herself, she burst out laughing as the children walked into the kitchen. “Popcorn's coming!” she said. “Since you are all in here, you all can help.” Although Valerie and Suzanna were laughing, both their thoughts were on their Mom and Dad. It's been a long time since I've seen Mom and Dad hug and kiss each other like that, they thought.


16 On the day of the performance, Mr. Millsap had to take a quick trip to another city across the state line. It was a three hour trip one way. “Oh,” groaned the sisters after he woke them up at four in the morning to say good bye. “Does this mean you are going to miss our performance?” Valerie asked. “Not for the world,” her father said. “I may be late, but I'll be there. I wouldn't miss it for anything, Mrs. Desdemona.” “Please try to make it, Dad,” Suzanna pleaded. Tobias kissed his daughters and hurried out of the bedroom to say goodbye to his wife. “Bonnie, make sure you make it on time for the performance. The girls are looking forward to it and will be disappointed if we don't make it. They have practiced and studied hard.” “Okay,” Bonnie said not really listening. “Are you going to make it?” “Definitely,” Tobias said. “I may be running late, but I'll be there. You don't have to get up,” he said bending


down to give her a kiss. “I'll lock the door and get me something to eat once I get on up the road.” ________________________________ Suzanna and Valerie were a little anxious throughout the day—not because of any nervousness, but anxious as to whether or not their parents would make it to the play. “Mom should,” Valerie told her sister as they gathered back stage with the other performers to put on their costumes. It was two hours before the scheduled time of seven o'clock. Bonnie called Valerie at six to let her know she would be there. “Don't try to search me out in the crowd lest you lose your concentration,” her mother told her. “Thanks, Mom,” Valerie said although doubting her mother's words. Valerie and Suzanna kept peeking through the back stage curtain as it got closer to show time. They saw Mr. and Mrs. Taylor and Philip take a seat in the second row. “We've learned to come to these performances early if we


want to get good seats,” Mrs. Taylor had told them some time back. “Do you think she'll make it?” Suzanna asked again as they took a last peek. “Who

knows,”

Valerie

said

shrugging

her

shoulders. “I can't worry about that now and neither can you. It’s time to perform.” As the characters—Roderigo, a friend of Othello; Iago, a friend who tricked Othello into believing that his wife was being unfaithful; and Brabantio, Desdemona's father—took their place on the stage, the narrator, dressed in 16th century attire, gave the audience a short overview of the story to be acted out: Shakespeare based this play, Othello, on a story from a tale he heard “Of the Unfaithfulness of Husbands and Wives,” by a 16th century Italian writer, Giraldi Cinthio. Othello, the Moor of Venice, a black man who marries Desdemona, a white young lady, without her father's knowledge. Desdemona carries herself with grace and dignity. She is without guile, and remains faithful to her husband to the end. Othello's friend, Iago, deceives Othello into believing his wife is cheating on him with a


good friend of his—Cassio. Othello allows anger to overcome his better judgment and his love for his wife, “lest her body and beauty unprovide my mind again,” he stated. He refuses to let her defend herself, and acting rashly, he kills his innocent wife by smothering her. By the time he realizes his grave mistake, it is too late. “For naught I did in hate, but all in honor”, Othello says. Othello fails to learn from his rash action actually seeing himself as the victim. We invite you to learn what you can from the tragedy that befalls Othello and Desdemona. We also invite you to ask yourself the same question Othello asks himself just before he kills himself. That question is: “Who can control his fate?” “Welcome to Othello, the Moor of Venice as presented to you by the Xavier Academy Drama Club,” the narrator announced proudly. An excited round of applause followed as the musicians played the opening number to cue the actors in the first scene. Suzanna played her violin with passion. Her love for music surpassed her love for anything else except


for her family and Jesus who she was growing to love more and more. Valerie, the main character, played excellently the part of Desdemona, that virtuous wife. Even though she had many lines to learn, she delivered each line with ease. At the beginning of Act I Scene III while Valerie was awaiting her cue to enter on stage, she took a quick look and scanned the auditorium from the side door leading to the stage where she was waiting, hoping to see her parents. It was then that she saw her dad slip through the side entrance into the auditorium with a folding chair in his hand. Once he saw it was full, he had grabbed a chair from the vestibule area on his way into the auditorium. He walked directly to the front. Valerie smiled as she saw him quickly unfold his chair and set it at the end of the front row in the walkway. It took everything in her not to shout, “Hey, Dad, so glad you could make it!� For a split second she wondered if her mother had made it. By the end of the play, a few of the ladies were dabbing their eyes, hands to their chest; they were touched. The attendees clapped and whistled loudly as the actors and actresses were presented by name. They bowed and curtsied in response to the applause. There was a standing


ovation for Desdemona who was the last one called to the stage. As she was getting ready to curtsy, she noticed a lone figure hurrying towards the front. The lights in the auditorium were dim so she could not quite make out who the person was. As the figure got closer to the front she noticed it was her mother. Late as usual. You might as well have not even bothered to make it. She forced her mind not to think about her mother right then. As she smiled and waved, she watched the figure take her place beside her dad, joining the others in clapping. Tobias threw a bouquet on to the stage at his daughter's feet as she curtsied for the third time. “Bravo! Bravo! Excellent work! I love you, Desdemona!” he yelled. Valerie waved and waved before taking her place beside Frederica. They hugged each other. Philip jumped up and down yelling, “You did great, Frederica!” The clapping gradually died down and everyone was once again seated. Tobias gave up his seat to his wife and knelt on the floor. Mrs. Costano gave the final words. “We hope that everyone here tonight enjoyed the performance.” The


audience exploded in cheers again. “And we want to give a special thanks to our great students who--” The crowd erupted in cheers again. “Ahem!” Mrs. Costano cleared her throat and spoke louder, “who practiced and memorized their lines faithfully to make this our most excellent performance yet.” She paused to take a deep breath. “Now, let's give them another round of applause!” The crowd clapped so loud the applause could be heard outside the building. Not one to prolong a speech, Mrs. Costano said, “There's refreshment for everyone in the hallway. Thank you and have a great night!” With that she bowed once and left the stage with the actors. The actors went backstage and slipped out of their costumes. “There's refreshments in the hallway out front!” Mrs. Costano told them loudly above the noise. Valerie, Frederica, and Suzanna made their way to the front row with much difficulty as other parents and attendees to the play stopped them. “Ya'll were all great!” said a lady with a southern accent.


“You played the role for Desdemona with such passion.

It was,

oh, so

touching!”

another man

complimented Valerie. “Didn't you play the role of Desdemona's maid?” one lady asked Frederica. “You were great.” Mothers they did not even know hugged them. Some fathers shook their hands. “You must be proud of her,” they said to Tobias and Bonnie. Mrs. Taylor gave her and Suzanna a long hug—just as long as she gave her own daughter. “You all were superb! I can't even find the exact words to describe the wonderful job you all did.” “Any hugs left for me?” Tobias asked his daughters playfully. Valerie and Suzanna hugged him with such force they almost knocked him over. “I can't believe you still have all that energy left after the performance you just put on. You were just wonderful! I'm so glad I was able to make it.” “Thank you for coming, Dad,” they both said. Bonnie had a sheepish look on her face as she waited her turn to congratulate her daughters.


“Thanks for coming, Mom,” her daughters said giving her a quick hug. “Congratulations,” Bonnie said to them. While they were conversing with the Taylors, the Antoines, and other parents, a man tapped Tobias on the shoulder. He swung around. “Yes, Sir. How may I help you?” he asked the man. “My name is Andrei Regalto. I own and operate Regalto Productions located in the heart of downtown Xavier County. I don't know if you've heard of us before, but we are a recognized acting company. We actually train those who are interested in furthering their acting careers. I visit high schools, colleges, and even churches, that have drama clubs and recruit promising prospects from their group. Mrs. Costano is a good friend of mine. Anyway, I'd like to talk with you about your daughter, Valerie, who played Desdemona.” Tobias could not believe what he was hearing. “Sure. I'd love to talk with you. Do you have a business card so I can give you a call and set up an appointment?” Both men exchanged business cards. After Mr. Regalto left, Tobias gave Valerie another hug. “I'm so


proud of you,” he said as he briefly told everyone the exchange he had with Mr. Regalto. “I've heard of them, Dad. Mrs. Taylor has taken us to see a couple of the plays they put on for free on some Saturdays.” “Yes,” Belinda said. “Every now and then they'll advertise a free performance in the community events section of the newspaper. That's where I and my children often spend our weekends—attending local events. Many times they are free.” Bonnie listened with envy. Belinda, the great mother, she thought. “God's got a great future for you,” Tobias said to Valerie as they walked out into the hallway for refreshments.


17 As they sipped on soda and talked, an ill feeling suddenly came upon Bonnie. It was so strong she could not enjoy the fellowship. She had missed the entire performance even though she had promised her daughters she would be there on time. Jealousy and guilt crept in as other mothers were still congratulating her daughter. “You must be proud of her,” a few of them said to Bonnie. “Extremely,”

Bonnie

answered

with

feigned

enthusiasm. The jealousy and guilt were so strong, it took a lot of effort to muster up a smile. The thought of Belinda taking her daughters places she should have been taking them only made the feelings stronger. She vaguely recalled Valerie and Suzanna sharing with her, or trying to share with her, the things Belinda did with them. Her responses were always curt showing her lack of interest in what they were saying by her 'hurry up' attitude. “They have to learn to say what they have to say in as few words as possible,” she told her husband after Suzanna complained to him that she wouldn’t let her finish her sentences, “They take too long to get to the point.” As she stood there in the hallway,


anxious to leave, it suddenly dawned on her that her daughters no longer shared with her, or even attempted to share with her, what they did those times they spent at Belinda's house. She tossed that thought to the back of her mind. After saying goodnight to their friends, the Millsaps walked out into the parking lot. “Let's walk your mother to her car,” Tobias said. “You girls deserve a reward.” “Dad, your coming is reward enough,” Suzanna said. “I'm just glad I was able to make it on time.” Valerie glanced at her mother who had been quiet since they walked out the building. “Okay, who's going to ride with your mother? We don’t want her to be lonely,” he joked. “I'll drive behind.” Bonnie unlocked the driver’s side to her car and slipped in behind the steering wheel pretending not to notice that the girls did not answer. “That's fine. You can both ride with your father,” she said trying to sound cheerful, but hoping no one noticed the crack in her voice. Tobias thought of them all riding home together and picking up her car on tomorrow, but decided against it. I


know she's feeling guilty if she has any conscience at all, so I'll let her conscience ride home with her. “My car's parked right at the entrance. You can meet us there,” he said to his wife. “Come on, girls. Let's see who can walk the fastest. The first one to the car gets a large banana split. The second one to the car gets a large banana split. The third one to the car gets a large banana split.” “Oh, Dad!” the girls said laughing as they hurried off. They rode in silence for the first few minutes before Tobias spoke. “Now, girls, I know you're upset at your mother for not coming on time--” “For not coming at all, Dad,” Valerie blurted out. “Thank you, Valerie. As I was saying, I still want you to have a good attitude toward her. She's going through some things now. Just be patient with her a bit longer.” Yeah, how much longer? Valerie thought. The girls did not answer. “Did you both hear me?” “Yes, Sir,” they mumbled.


“Do you promise me you'll do that?” “Dad,” Valerie said, “she called me at six and told me she was going to be there on time. She did not even think to call again to let me know she would run late. She had a whole hour. And what did she have to do for almost three hours at the office? As far as I am concerned, she lied. I do not think she had any intentions on coming.” “Yeah, Dad,” Suzanna piped in. “She sets her own schedule so she could have come if she really wanted to.” Tobias let the girls voice what was on their hearts and minds. They had voiced dissatisfaction to him a few times and he knew they were trying to understand their mother as best they could. “No mother should miss their kids’ school plays,” Suzanna said, “especially when all the other mothers could make it.” “And on top of that she spends more hours in her home office after coming in from working all day. That's not fair to us!” Valerie said angrily. “Yes, Dad. I'm very mad. I do not even want to speak to her tonight.” “Now, slow down, girls. Don't allow yourself to get bitter because once that root of bitterness gets planted inside of you, it is hard to uproot and get rid of,” their


father shared with them. “The Bible says to put away all bitterness, and malice, and anger, and wrath, and hatred, and to not let the sun go down on your wrath. In other words, do not harbor anger.” The girls fell silent. “You girls do not hate your mother, do you?” “No, Dad! We love her; you know we do. It's just that she ignores us and acts like we do not even exist; like what we have to say is not important,” Valerie said. “She did not even apologize for missing the performance,” Suzanna said. “We saw her hurrying to the front. I guess she was trying to psych us out.” “I'm sure she will apologize.” Tobias said wistfully. “I wish--” “No, don't wish...unless it is something good. Is it something good?” Tobias said. “Well...not really,” Valerie admitted. “I was only going to say I wish Mrs. Taylor was our mother.” Tobias smiled. “So you have chosen a new mother already, huh? Girls, God gave you the mother He wants you to have. Your mother can be like Mrs. Taylor—even better than Mrs. Taylor. Just pray for her. She has some personal issues I've encouraged her to take care of. She had


a rough childhood that she just shared with me not too long ago, so give her time.” “She shouldn’t take whatever it is out on us,” Valerie said. “That's true. But whatever the case, you don't allow yourself to hate her. You show her the utmost respect remembering what the Bible says in Ephesians six for children to obey and to honor both their parents. God will reward you for doing so. I know it's rough, but don't let me hear or see you disrespecting her. You be big girls and when you get in the house, you both thank her for coming —at least she showed up.” “But, Dad, she missed everything!” Suzanna whined. “Well, she did turn up—even if she was late. I wasn’t there from the beginning either. Okay? Now do this for me,” Tobias said. “Okay, Dad,” both girls sighed. After stopping at Dairy Queen for the banana splits, Tobias pulled into the double garage next to his wife's car. She unlocked the door leading into the house and stepped inside.


“I have something for you girls,” she said trying to sound cheerful as they walked by her. Both girls stopped inside the den and waited as their mother pulled a couple journals with colorful covers out of a small gift bag. She handed one with a rainbow design to Valerie. “I couldn't find one with Shakespeare.” The other she handed to Suzanna. It had a flower garden cover. “I couldn't find one with a musical instrument on it.” Both girls managed a smile as they took their gifts. “Just a small something to congratulate you on the beautiful job you both did tonight. You were great,” Bonnie said awkwardly. She stood with her fingers pressed together. Remembering the promise they made to their father, both girls reached up and hugged their mother. “Thanks, Mom, and thanks for coming.” “Okay, it’s late, so off to bed you two,” Tobias said. “Tomorrow is Saturday, so you can sleep in as long as you want. Good night.”


18 “Come on,” Tobias said to his wife. “Let's head on up to bed. I’m tired. This has been a wonderful day.” They got ready for bed in silence. Tobias went to check in on the girls. Both had their diaries in their hands with a pen sticking out. Already at work, he thought with a smile. “Go ahead,” Bonnie said to him when he returned to the room. “What did the girls say to you?” She was sitting up in the bed. “I was not going to say anything, but since you asked,” her husband said climbing in the bed. “Now you know those girls did not deserve what you did to them tonight. Where in the world were you? Valerie told me you called her a whole hour early and assured her that you would be there on time. I even called and reminded you to make sure you go on time. What excuse do you have now?” “Tobias, I had all intentions on going--” “Intentions? You've been having a lot of intentions when it comes to these girls. Intentions are no good unless executed,” Tobias interrupted.


“As I was saying, I had all intentions on going, but I got caught up in my work. I called one of my colleagues to get their opinion on this new case and we got to talking. The time went by faster than I had anticipated.” “So you stopped by the store to pick them up a gift as a peace offering,” her husband said. “That's not true!” Bonnie said sliding down under the sheet. “You ought to know. Apart from God, only you know where your heart is regarding that," Tobias said, pulling the cover over him. “I'm sure your conscience, if you have one, is beating up on you enough. It's your relationship with your children, and like I told you, you can't allow your past to overshadow your present or your future relationships. Good night.” Bonnie sighed. “You might want to plan something with the girls tomorrow to really make up for what you did tonight,” Tobias said. “Sorry. I have an appointment with the elder Goldstein and one of his sons. It's going to probably take up most of the day,” Bonnie said softly.


“To be fair, why don't you turn up just as late as you turned up for your children's performance,” her husband said. “And don't even answer because I am really holding back from lashing out at you this late hour.” He rolled over and was snoring within seconds. Bonnie laid awake for a while longer. She was torn between regret and guilt, but argued those thoughts away by telling herself: I'm smart. I have a prestigious career with excellent pay; no one will think for me anymore; no one will tell me 'no' anymore; I am my own woman. I can't let these children or my husband keep me back from doing what I want to do or tell me how to act. I had enough of that while growing up. I couldn't do anything unless Mama approved, unless Papa approved—which they never did. It's time for ME now. Bonnie fell asleep, but awakened a few hours later (although it seemed like minutes to her). She crawled out of bed, showered, then went to her home office. She pulled a stack of papers out of her bottom drawer. Reaching to the very back, she pulled out a tattered-looking envelope and took out the sheet of paper with some handwritten words scribbled on it:


Bonnie, I hope all is well. I would love to see you and my grandchildren. You left home rather abruptly, and you surprised us when you announced your marriage. After all your father and I did for you, I would think you would have treated us better. That's no way to show appreciation. You told me at the wedding you were angry with us. For what? I do not know. Anyway, don't let your anger cause you to remain a stranger. It's been six years since we last saw you. We're still family whether you like it or not. Your father and I are getting up in age. It would be nice to see you again before it’s too late. Mom The anger and resentment Bonnie felt the first time she read the letter from her mother seeped within her again —even after twelve years. I'll never go back to that place. I left the state to avoid having any contact with them. A card once or twice a year should suffice to let them know I am still alive. That's all the contact we need to have. I refuse to let them have any input in my life. If Tobias had not insisted on them taking a trip to visit her parents they would have gotten married without


them knowing. In fact, he probably would have thought her parents were dead because she never spoke of them. “They seem like decent folks to me,� he had told her. Although they were living three states apart, Tobias insisted on his daughters sending them cards along with pictures every now and then. Bonnie never objected to this; but she was ready to pounce if they used her children to get to her. After putting everything back into the drawer, she looked across the desk at her Bible. It had been gathering dust lately. I know I should read it, but I don't feel up to it. I don't even know where to begin. Later. Maybe. I'll just listen to the Christian teachers over the radio on the way to the office. Gathering a few papers, she checked inside her attache case to make sure she had everything, she then went to the kitchen for her regular cup of coffee. To smother the guilt she was still feeling, she pulled out the box of Fruit Loops, three bowls, a loaf of bread, and a box of pop tarts. She hastily scribbled a note: There's some frozen dinners in the freezer as well as leftover lasagna if I don't make it back by lunch time. Call me if you need instructions.


With that she poured her coffee in her insulated cup and went to her car. It was just turning light outside when she was pulling out of the driveway. She did not notice that one of her daughters was standing by their bedroom window watching her as she backed out the driveway. It was around eleven when both girls knocked on their parents' bedroom door. “Come in,” Tobias said. He was sitting at the desk reading the Bible on his computer. “Good morning, girls. Did you have a restful night?” “Is Mom in?” Valerie asked. “We decided we wanted to help her make breakfast.” “I smell coffee so she's probably in her office. Come on and let me pray with you and read one of the Psalms before we get going and forget to do it.” “Thank you, Dad,” Valerie and Suzanna said after he finished and they went to get dressed. “Don't forget what I shared with you on last night,” their dad said to them. While his daughters were getting dressed, Tobias decided to go see what his wife was up to. He appreciated


the maturity and change of heart their daughters were showing this morning. “Lord, please continue to heal their hearts,” he prayed as he knocked on his wife's office door. Getting no answer, he pushed the door open. “Bonnie,” he called looking around the room. He looked out on the back patio into the yard thinking she may have stepped outside, but he did not see her. “Bonnie?” he called out stopping in the kitchen. It was then he remembered her saying something about going in today for a meeting. He checked the garage. Her car was gone.


19 Tobias picked up the phone and called his wife. “Where are you?” “Where am I? Tobias, I told you last night I had a scheduled appointment with Goldstein and his son,” Bonnie answered. “We're working together on this case. It's going to require us going out of town. A friend of his is caught up in an embezzlement scheme and--” “And you chose that instead of time with your daughters?" Tobias interrupted. "After last night's big failure you should have been waiting on them hand and foot with a fun day planned with them. They both came to our room asking for you because they wanted to help you fix breakfast this morning. Can you imagine how disappointed they are going to be knowing that you skipped out on them once again?” Silence. Valerie and Suzanna had walked quietly into the kitchen. They could tell by their father's tone that he was upset. “Bonnie, when are you going to stop disappointing your daughters?”


“Tobias, I told you I had an appointment today--” “When? After twelve this morning?” “I should be home some time after one.” “The note you left on the table by the dry cereal and pop tarts does not indicate that.” Tobias was trying to keep his cool for the sake of his girls. “I'm sure these girls would have appreciated something hot. Here they are eager to help and you're no where around.” I knew it, Valerie thought. “What time did you leave anyway?...What? You left as soon as it got light and you did not even let me know you were leaving as you usually do.” Valerie poured some Fruit Loops into the three bowls. She showed Suzanna the scribbled note. They both opened up their diaries and started to write. The colorful cereal sat in the bowls. It had lost its appeal. “You

could

have

canceled

that

scheduled

appointment, as you've canceled so many appointments with your children," Tobias said. "What's more important —your job or your children?” Valerie and Suzanna exchanged glances. They wrote furiously in their diaries.


“Don't even begin to tell that lie because your actions give you away every time. Like I told you, Bonnie, you're digging a deeper hole and you're going to have a hard time climbing out of that hole...Say what?...Here I am talking to you about something important and all you can think about is returning to your meeting? Forget it.” Tobias hung up the phone. That was all he could do to keep from blowing his top. He took a few deep breaths before talking. “Don't worry about it, girls. Put the cereal up. We’re going to IHOP for breakfast.” The girls did as their father instructed. They were out the door and on their way to IHOP within minutes. “Dad, can we call Mrs. Taylor and see if there is anything happening around here that we could go to,” Valerie asked. “I sure would like to see if Regalto Productions is putting on anything today.” “Sure thing. I'd love to see what they are about myself before I sign you up with them. You're going to be big one day,” Tobias said. “You, too, Suzie.” _________________________


Bonnie, who had walked out of the meeting room when her husband called, looked at her phone. What are you so uptight about? I'll be back early enough to spend time with the girls, she thought. Bonnie could not even imagine spending all day with them. Her mind went back to the Christian radio program that was airing as she made her way to the job that morning. A guest speaker, Aisha Riddell, was sharing some things with the ladies on family life. She said: There was a time when us older women would teach things and pass things on to the younger women within the four walls of their homes. My mother and grandmother showed me how to make the bread, how to hem a dress and sew a button on, how to make a perfect cup of coffee, how to wax the floor, how to keep the house, and how to do life in general. We didn’t have all the appliances that are present today. This was back before we all left our houses and started working. I have nothing against a woman working outside the house. I've had to get a few jobs here and there to help my family out a few times. But even with all our modern conveniences to make our duties as wives and mothers easier and quicker, we're fooling


ourselves into believing it's not costing us something. It's costing us a good relationship with our husbands; it's costing us a good relationship with our children; it's … It was at this point that Bonnie turned the radio off. The words, “It's costing us,” echoed in her mind. As she pulled herself together to return to her meeting, the elder Goldstein came out of the conference room. “Is everything well?” “Yes,” Bonnie said with a smile. “I thought I heard frustration in your voice,” he said. “All is well. Just a little family issue, but I am ready to continue.” “It's just after one. We can continue over lunch if you'd care to join us. My son is going to pick my wife and his wife up to join us for lunch. You can meet us at the restaurant or you can ride with me, if you want to.” “Sure,” Bonnie said. “I'd love to.” “Do you need to let your husband know?” “Oh, no. He already knows I probably won't make it for lunch.”


“Is he okay with you possibly taking a trip out of state with us?” “Yes, he's fine with it.”


20 Bonnie returned home to an empty house later that evening. She felt the emptiness. She thought of calling her husband, but changed her mind. Opening the door to her daughters' room, she stood just inside the entrance and glanced around the room. To her left stood a tall shelf with trophies, framed certificates, and awards they had received over the years as they used the gifts and talents God had blessed them with. The choir plaque her husband gave to Suzanna stood in the middle of her collections. The Christy Miller Series of books was on the bottom of the bedside table that stood between the two beds. The wall on Suzanna's side of her bed was covered with pictures of musical instruments and musical notes. In the corner on the floor almost reaching the ceiling stood a huge stuffed treble clef note that she had won at a musical fair they took the girls to years back. The wall on Valerie's side of her bed was covered with pictures of famous actors, singers, and playwrights. There was a life-sized poster of Shakespeare -- her favorite playwright. There were scenes from various plays randomly spread out on the wall.


Bonnie had a grim look on her face as she remembered how she was against them taping, nailing, pasting, gluing, or tacking anything on the walls. Now as she looked back the fiasco she caused was so unnecessary. _____________________________ “You're going to cause the paint to peel off and cause the walls to look dingy and ugly,” Bonnie said to her girls. “Do you know what it's going to cost to repaint the walls.” “But, Mom, can't we fix our room up the way we want to?” Valerie protested. “You must learn to take care of what you have,” Bonnie said firmly. “Things need to be functional.” Suzanna ran to get her Dad after her mother took down the two pictures of a violin and of Beethoven sitting at his piano that she had taped on the wall. “Dad, Mom won't let me put a picture of a violin on my side of the wall!” Tobias came to see what the problem was. “Bonnie, let the children enjoy their childhood. What's a little peeling of the paint?" he said. "Let them put their dreams


before them so they can see them everyday. Didn't you have dreams that you wanted no one to snatch away while you were young?” “But the walls, Tobias! They can keep their dreams in their heads and not on walls.” “Don't try to kill their dreams,” her husband continued. “The walls can be easily replaced, but it's hard to replace broken dreams. Isn't that right, girls?” “That's right, Dad.” “Now, go put your shoes and jackets on and let's make a quick trip to the store,” Tobias said. When Tobias returned with the girls, they had white and clear thumb tacks much to Bonnie's dismay. She stood by the door with arms folded across her chest as all three defied her wish. Anger seeped into her. I can't believe he's leading them to defy me. “Give me the honor of putting up your first picture, Suzanna. Show me exactly where you want it placed,” her Dad said. “Right here, Dad,” the then ten year old Suzanna indicated with her finger while handing her dad the picture of the violin.


“There you go my little violinist,” Tobias said. “And where do you want your picture, Valerie?” Valerie, then twelve, handed her father the large poster of Shakespeare sitting at a desk with a fountain pen in hand ready to write. She pointed to the middle section of her side of the wall and held the picture while her dad pushed the tacks in. “There you go,” Tobias said stepping back to view his work. “I did a great job, didn't I, Bonnie?” His wife rolled her eyes. Valerie and Suzanna giggled. Bonnie turned to leave. She heard her husband ask the girls, “Would you like your mother to help you put--?” “No!” they almost shouted cutting him off. “We can do it. We're old enough.” Tobias walked past the kitchen into the den. He could sense his wife staring at him. “Make good memories, Bonnie. Make good memories while you can.” ___________________________ Bonnie looked at both walls. Every picture was neatly placed. She had to admit—no damage was done and


both girls were pursuing their dreams with passion: Valerie in drama and Suzanna in music. Well, I guess I'd better get something cooking. No telling when they'll be back, she thought resisting the urge to call. Bonnie spent the next hour baking chicken in cream of chicken sauce, macaroni and cheese with Swiss cheese, and a vegetable medley mix. She even made a cheese cake. About an hour after the meal was ready, the rest of the family still had not returned. Bonnie called her husband but got his voicemail. I wonder where they are? she thought glancing at the clock. It was after seven o’clock. Bonnie decided to relax by taking a bubble bath. She had fallen off to sleep because the next thing she knew her husband was gently shaking her. “We're home. How long have you been in the tub?” “Where have you all been?” Bonnie asked stepping out of the tub and immediately grabbing a towel. “I tried calling you.” “I took the girls out. We had a time!” Tobias said. “After breakfast at IHOP, we went to see a play put on by Regalto Productions—you know—the man who expressed interest in Valerie after seeing her perform the role of


Desdemona. That is definitely where she'll get her next training. I picked up a brochure and they have a contract with three drama schools to provide training.” He pulled his shirt off. “We then stopped by the library, went walking in the park and fed the ducks, drove around town; then we took in a matinee. A whole day well spent, I’d say.” “Hmm,” Bonnie said. “No need to rub it in. Where are the girls?” “They are probably in bed by now.” Bonnie brushed past her husband thinking of the meal she had prepared over three hours ago. “I'm sure they would like something to eat.” Entering their room, Bonnie said, “Hi, girls, you two must be hungry. Come on. Let me fix you both a plate.” “Sorry, Mom, but I am not hungry,” Suzanna said her eyes still on the book she was reading. “Me neither,” Valerie said casting a quick glance in her mother's direction. Bonnie looked from one face to the other. “You're not hungry? You've been gone all day. I prepared a good meal for you.”


“That's because they have already eaten,” Tobias said coming in behind her. “Oh, you must have been in for some time then. I'm glad I left everything on warm,” Bonnie said thinking they partook of her meal. “No, Bonnie. We ate out—three times today,” her husband said. “Good night, girls. Go ahead on to sleep. We have church tomorrow.”


21 Bonnie backed out of the room almost stumbling over her husband's feet. She hurried to the kitchen and yanked the oven door open. When Tobias entered the kitchen, Bonnie was shoving things around in the refrigerator to make room for the food. “I have a great mind to either burn this up or dump it,” she muttered angrily. “Why would you do that?” Tobias asked. She grabbed the pot of macaroni and cheese and pushed it towards the back on the first rack. “Be careful. You may break something,” her husband said. She grabbed the milk and stuffed it in the freezer to make room for the vegetables. “You may want to leave the milk in the refrigerator in case the girls want cereal or oatmeal in the morning...unless you plan on being here to take it out of the freezer early enough in the morning.” Bonnie glared at her husband. I wish you would just shut up! she thought.


She started to put the baked chicken in another container but changed her mind, and dumped the pieces back into the original pan, slapped a sheet of aluminum foil on top, and balanced it on top of the pot with the macaroni and cheese. She pushed the oven door shut with her foot. “All is not lost. We can eat that tomorrow,” her husband said as he got himself a glass of water. He was waiting for her to explode. Being married for seventeen years, he knew to expect an explosive speech from her after some moments of silence, and especially after she felt she had been defeated and rejected. “Tobias, enough! All is not lost? All is not lost! I came in here after a mentally exhausting meeting and took it upon myself to prepare a full meal that you all would like. I don't hear from you for hours, you don't answer you phone; then when you finally turn up all you can say is 'a day well spent' and 'we ate out'. No 'sorry,' no nothing! How can you all be so inconsiderate?” Tobias took a sip of his water then looked at his wife before answering. “Bonnie, you brought this on yourself,” he replied calmly. “Think back to yesterday and all day today. And think back over the past few years. I told you to go to the play on time. I also told you to cancel


your appointment and spend the day with your daughters; but no, a meeting with your colleagues was more important. When was the last time you had a meeting with the girls? When was the last time you took them out to eat —just the three of you?” “I've done it when I've had the time,” Bonnie yelled. “My job--” “That's all we've heard around here these past ten years or more. Stop using that as a cop-out not to do your job here in the house. Just because your parents did not acknowledge you when you were growing up, don't take it out on your children by not acknowledging them.” “How dare you even fix your mouth to say that?” Bonnie said walking toward the bedroom. “I go to work so these girls can have a comfortable life without want for anything.” “The girls don’t want the material things you can provide for them. They want you,” Tobias shouted after her. “I make enough money to take care of the family. My new business has taken off. I've asked you time and again to quit your job and to work from home in private practice, but you've refused to do so.”


Bonnie swung around to face him. He could see the stubbornness in her eyes as she spat out her response. “So you want me to just throw away what I have studied for and worked so hard to get? You want me to just throw away making a name for myself?” “No, Bonnie. I'm not asking you to do that at all. You can make a stronger name for yourself by staying home with your children and investing time into them,” Tobias said. “That is just it! You're always trying to tell me what to do—always trying to control me. I had enough of that from my parents. I can think for myself and do for myself!” Bonnie retorted. “That's not true. The problem is I give you too much room to do what you want to do. I should have put my foot down more firmly than I have been doing. And don't you dare say I tried to control how you interact with the girls. I've always encouraged you to spend quality time with them,” her husband said. “You should have been the one to take them to the play today at Regalto. You should have been the one to take them to the park to feed the ducks; you should have been the one to take them to the late


matinee, and to laugh and talk with them. I have never stood in the way of you doing anything with the girls.” “Oh, so now you want to shove your responsibilities on me,” Bonnie said. “No, Bonnie. You could have made this day a mother-daughter thing,” her husband said. “Or better still, you could have come with us and made it a family fun day. And especially, now that the girls are older, they don’t just want me; they want their mother in their life.” Bonnie, at a loss for words, only looked at her husband. Just as I desired for my parents, my mother especially, to get into my life...Well, I made it without them so my girls can make it too...I think. Bonnie left her husband in the hallway and rushed to the den where she curled up on the sofa. “Bonnie!” “Just leave me alone.”


22 Suzanna nudged Valerie with her elbow. Valerie put her arm around her sister's shoulders. Tobias and Bonnie were unaware they had stopped in the hallway before the girls' bedroom door. Suzanna was the first to awaken to hear them arguing. She slipped out of her bed and crawled under the covers and laid next to her sister. “Valerie,” she said shaking her sister. “Valerie, wake up. Mom and Dad are at it again.” “How do you know?” Valerie asked sleepily. “Listen. I think Dad is talking to her about missing the play yesterday and for being gone all day today.” The girls listened until they heard their mother yell, “Just leave me alone." “You'd better go back to your bed in case they check on us,” Valerie said. Suzanna sprang over into her bed and pulled the covers over her just in time as their dad stuck his head through the bedroom door. “Valerie, Suzanna, are you awake?” he asked quietly. Receiving no answer, he closed the door softly and retired to his room for the night. His only prayer was, “Lord, please do what needs to be done.”


Sunday morning brought with it a somberness into the Millsap home. Everyone was up and ready for church except Bonnie who claimed she was not feeling well. She had spent a restless night in the den catching a nap here and there. The girls fixed themselves cereal with buttered toast and fruit juice. Tobias had toast with coffee. He helped the girls take the food Bonnie had prepared out of the refrigerator. “Leave it all on the counter. We'll be having that for dinner after church. You wait right here until I return.” Once in the den, he said to his wife in a tone that warned her not to resist, “Bonnie, there is nothing wrong with you. Your spirit probably is disturbed and bothering you. Go upstairs and shower and get dressed. We are going to church as a family.” They left within fifteen minutes. The girls noticed their mother's eyes were red. Once at the church, Valerie and Suzanna asked to sit with Frederica. “Not today,” their father said. “Let's sit together.” Pastor Rickshaw delivered a timely message on the love of God and how God wants us to show that love to others beginning in our homes. “A lot of people are ministering to others outside of their homes while their


family members are falling by the wayside. You have parents who are encouraging and helping people outside their homes, but who have no relationship with their children or their spouses. You have children wanting to spend time away from home rather than striving to develop a relationship with their parents and with their siblings. Your testimony begins at home. With Mother's Day only two weeks away, I challenge you mothers to re-examine your relationship with your children. Is it tight and right? Or is it broken and out of whack? Is it one that God is pleased with? Mothers, do you love your children as Titus two commands you to? 'That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.' Children, are you showing honor and being obedient to your parents, in this case, to your mothers? Over the next two weeks, examine your relationships with each other and, with God's help, make the necessary changes so that you all can have a truly blessed Mother's Day.� Pastor Rickshaw asked his wife to share the church's plans for Mother's Day. “We will split everyone


up for the worship services,” Mrs. Rickshaw announced. “The mothers will go to the second auditorium where we will have a special service for them. Two guest speakers will encourage and challenge our mothers. If you fathers don't mind, we would like for you to keep the children two years old and up; we will provide care for those children under two years old. Of course, we'll come back together for a special Mother's Day meal and time of family fellowship. I think my husband said the men would prepare the meal, so, ladies, come expecting to be filled spiritually as well as physically.” Mrs. Rickshaw continued, “I was listening to a Christian radio station earlier this week, and one of the speakers on her broadcast closed out her program with these words in light of Mother's Day coming up: Be the Mom you want them to remember.” The Millsaps drove home in silence, each in their own thoughts. Once at home, Bonnie warmed up the meal and shared it out to her husband and daughters. “Thanks,” Valerie and Suzanna said when she brought their plates. Bonnie quickly looked away blinking


back tears. Be the Mom you want them to remember came to her mind throughout the evening.


23 Suzanna and Valerie and others of the music and drama club practiced hard that week. They were scheduled to take part in the music and drama competition to be held at the Washington Auditorium about two hours drive. Everyone was excited. Suzanna was to perform in a production of Swan Lake written by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikavsky on her violin. Valerie was to quote a part of John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Frederica, gifted with an operatic voice, sang a portion from Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini. The girls were excited. The Monday before Mother's Day weekend was the day of the competition. “Dad, are you going to come listen to us?” they asked as he dropped them off at the school where they would ride on the school bus with the other performers from Xavier Academy to the Washington Auditorium. After he dropped them off, he called his wife. “Bonnie, I'm driving to the Washington Auditorium to surprise the girls. I want you to ride with me down there.” “Tobias, you know I can't just up and leave like that. I have to plan things.”


“Sure you can leave just like that if you want to. Just go and let Goldstein know your two girls are taking part in a music and drama competition and you would like to surprise them by stopping by. If Goldstein is a good boss, he won’t mind you taking time out for your family. I'll wait while you go and ask,” Tobias said. Bonnie remembered how disappointed they were when she missed the Othello performance. Make memories with your children. Be the Mom you want them to remember. I have nothing against a woman having a job outside the home, but we are fooling ourselves if we believe it is not costing us anything. “Okay,” she said. “Yes, I'll be ready to go by eleven,” Bonnie said on returning to the phone. “Perfect. We'll get there in time to hear them both perform. They will be performing after lunch around two.” Tobias and Bonnie arrived thirty minutes before their daughters performed. Both performances received loud applause. Suzanna received a first place trophy for best violinist. Valerie received third place for her dramatic reading of Paradise Lost. Frederica received a second place award for singing. Bonnie was not surprised to see Frederica's mother there cheering her daughter on.


“I try to make it to all ofher performances. It means a lot to her when I do,” Belinda told her as they were talking after the show was over. “Your girls will remember this day because you sacrificed your time to be with them.” Valerie and Suzanna were happy to see their parents. “Dad, can we please ride the bus back?” “Sure,” their dad said. “Your mother and I need some time alone to talk anyway. We'll just follow behind the bus.” The bus left the parking lot of the Washington Auditorium and headed towards Xavier County. The drive back to Xavier Academy would take two hours. Tobias and Bonnie were talking—not arguing—as they followed the school bus. Belinda had to hurry home to pick Philip up from little league practice. “We'll keep Frederica with us once we get to the school,” Bonnie assured her. Tobias took his eyes off the road in front of him as an eighteen wheeler truck swerved past their car in the side lane. Bonnie pointed to the school bus and begin to scream. “Oh, my goodness! Tobias, stop!” Tobias slammed on his brakes as the truck barrelled into the school bus. The sudden impact pushed it against the guardrail, forcing it to come to a full stop.


“Call 9-1-1! Call 9-1-1!” Tobias shouted at Bonnie as he jumped out of his car and sprinted toward the bus. The driver of the eighteen wheeler was slumped across the steering wheel. Tobias, along with other motorists, rushed to the emergency doors in the back and pulled them open. Four children had already climbed out through the windows. Frederica was one of those lucky to come out first. They were badly shaken up but, apart from some scratches, would be okay. Tobias pulled Suzanna out the back door next. Her leg was broken, her dress was bloody. Bonnie called 9-1-1 as she ran towards them. “My daughters!” she cried. “My daughters are in the bus!” A concerned motorist rushed to comfort her. The ambulance and police cars careened to a stop and immediately took charge. Fire trucks followed them. Bonnie ran towards Suzanna as Tobias laid her on the ground. “My baby! My baby,” Bonnie kept saying as she cradled and rocked her daughter. “Mom,” Suzanna said weakly. “My leg hurts so much. My head hurts too. Valerie..." “Don't worry, baby. The ambulance is here to take you to the hospital.”


“You ride with her,” Tobias instructed his wife. “I'll ride with Valerie as soon as they pull her out. I just called Belinda and Colin. They'll meet us at the hospital. One ambulance just left with Frederica and four other children. They are going to give them a complete checkup to make sure they do not have any internal damage.” The fire department and the police, along with the EMTs, worked feverishly to rescue the other occupants of the bus. “Sir, you have to stand back so we can do our job,” a police officer told Tobias. “My other daughter is still in the bus. You gotta get her out!” “We're doing our best, sir. Just stand back,” the police officer ordered. After about fifteen minutes the firemen located Valerie's body. She was unconscious. The EMTs immediately placed an oxygen mask over her nose and mouth. “She may need IV. She has to go straight to the operating room,” one of them said. Tobias followed close behind the ambulance as best he could. He called his wife on the way. “The doctors are


still operating on Suzanna’s leg,” Bonnie said, “As you can imagine, she was in a lot of pain.” “Valerie is not doing well. She's unconscious,” Tobias said. “What floor are you on?” Silence. “Bonnie? Bonnie?” “Yes...Yes...I'm here. I just had to sit down.” “We have to be strong for the girls. Pray, Bonnie. Hang in there. I should be there any minute now. It may take Belinda and Colin a bit longer to get here.” Tobias prayed with his wife before hanging up.


24 Valerie was taken directly into the operating room. Tobias joined his wife on the third floor, where Suzanna was recuperating. Belinda and Colin arrived at the hospital a little while later. While Tobias went with Colin to check on Frederica, Belinda sat with Bonnie who could not stop crying. “I saw the truck slam into the bus,” she told Belinda. “Our girls could have died. I almost lost my daughters.” Belinda hugged her. “Thank God they are alright now,” she said softly. “That’s why it is so important to live them and appreciate the time we have with them because we never know when they can leave us or wghtake care of them while we have them. We never know when we might lose them.” Bonnie nodded in agreement. Suzanna was released to go home the next evening. Valerie would have to stay in for at least a week. Belinda offered to keep Suzanna while her parents alternated spending time with Valerie at the hospital. Frederica


received some scratches and would be able to rest at home. Both friends were happy for the arrangements. Bonnie had time to think and to reflect as she watched her daughter lie unconscious the first two days. Be the Mom you want them to remember. Make positive memories with your girls. You cannot allow your childhood to negatively affect your relationship with your children. “Oh, God, what have I done?” Bonnie prayed silently as she stroked her daughter's arm. “I have driven a wedge between me and my daughters. I have built up a wall around myself so they can't come in. I've been brushing them aside. I've put my job above them. I have allowed my past relationship with my parents to negatively affect my relationship with my children.” Tears fell so rapidly she gave up trying to wipe them away. “Oh, God, please forgive me for not being the mother I should have been. Please bring Valerie back to good health so I can start being that mother I ought to be.” Bonnie thought about the many times she had set them before the television because she did not want to be bothered with them. She thought about the many times she


hurried them with their school assignments because she wanted to take care of her agenda. She thought of the many times she allowed frustration and impatience to set in; the many times she answered them curtly; the many evenings she worked overtime—not because she needed to, but because that would mean less time with her girls. They are good children, she remembered her husband telling her. Is there any hope for me? Bonnie thought, “Lord, how could I have been so selfish? How could I have been so blind? I can't continue like this. Please help me to change and make things right.” Tobias noticed a different spirit in Bonnie over the course of the week as Valerie recovered. He knew God had been working in her heart. He decided not to ask any questions, but would just let God do His work. Bonnie spent Saturday night at the hospital on into Sunday—Mother's Day. Valerie was sitting up in bed and would be going home the early part of the following week. Tobias attended church on Sunday. He returned to the hospital with Suzanna and a large bouquet of flowers and chocolate.


“Happy Mother's Day!” Suzanna said as they entered the room. She gave her mother a hug. “I love you.” Bonnie took the bouquet and set it beside Valerie. “Before I accept it I have something to say,” she said. “Valerie and Suzanna, I apologize for not being the loving, caring mother I should have been to you both. I apologize for not expressing that love to you as I should have. I apologize for neglecting you. I apologize for not being there for you. I apologize for disrespecting your father in don't front of you. I apologize for putting my job and career ahead of you. I am very sorry. It took this accident, my almost losing you girls, to open up my eyes, and to shock me into the reality of our relationship. I ask you both to please forgive me." Valerie and Suzanna smiled as they looked at each other, then back at their mother. They sensed her apology was sincere. “Of course, we forgive you. We love you, Mom, and Happy Mother's Day,” Valerie said giving her a hug amidst tears. “Tobias, would you please forgive me? You tried to warn me, but I was so caught up in myself I refused to listen. Thank you for being patient with me these many years.”


“Of course, I forgive you, Bonnie. I’m glad you decided to change,” Tobias said. “With God's help we'll make it.” “By the way,” Bonnie continued, “I've decided to ask the elder Goldstein for a leave for the next three years so I can focus on my relationship with you. Then, after three years if our relationship is strong, and once you girls are in college, I will consider continuing my work on a part-time basis. I want you to know that I am making this change because you come first from now on." “Great,” Valerie said. “I have a lot of things I’ve been wanting to talk with you about.” Bonnie decided to send her parents a letter and to follow it up with a phone call. She and her daughters spent the rest of the evening planning things to do for the upcoming week. This was the best and most blessed Mother's Day Bonnie had had in fifteen years. THE END


Do You Know Jesus Christ as Your Savior? A note from the publisher: Our main goal in publishing inspirational fiction is two-fold: (1) To help those who know Jesus Christ as their Savior live more faithful Christian lives, and (2) To show those who do not know Jesus Christ as their Savior how they can get to know Him in the course of life circumstances that many people face. That being said, if you do not know Jesus Christ as your Savior, here is how you can get to know Him today: First, accept the fact that you are a sinner, and that you have broken God's law. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 7: 20: “For there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good, and sinneth not.” Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Second, accept the fact that there is a penalty for sin. The Bible states in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death…” Third, accept the fact that you are on the road to hell. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 10:28: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” The Bible also says in Revelation 21:8: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall


have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” Fourth, accept the fact that you cannot do anything to save yourself! The Bible states in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace are ye saved through faith: and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Fifth, accept the fact that God loves you more than you love yourself, and that He wants to save you from hell. “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (Jesus Christ, John 3:16). Sixth, with these facts in mind, please repent of your sins, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and pray and ask Him to come into your heart and save you this very moment. The Bible states in the book of Romans 10:9, 13: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Seventh, if you are willing to trust Christ as your Saviour, please pray with me the following prayer: Heavenly Father, I realize that I am a sinner. For Jesus Christ's sake, please forgive me of my sins. I now believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose again. Lord


Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life. Amen. If you just trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and you prayed that prayer and meant it from your heart, I declare to you that based upon the Word of God, you are now saved from Hell and you are on your way to Heaven. Welcome to the family of God and congratulations on doing the most important thing in life and that is receiving Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. For more information to help you grow in your new found faith in Christ, go to www.GospelLightSociety.com and read "What To Do After You Enter Through the Door." Jesus Christ said in John 10:9, "I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture."


More Fiction by Daniel Whyte III …And

Family Drama Just Won't Stop

…And Family Drama Just Won't Stop II No Time for Evil Shaking the Gates of Hell Charmaine The Unspoken Prayer Request (The Prayer Trilogy #1) I Need Someone to Pray With Me (The Prayer Trilogy #2) The Thanksgiving Letters I'm Dreaming of a Black Christmas The Prophet, the President, and the Pastor The Cover-Up


The Correction The Common Prayer Resurrection Sunday

CHILDREN'S FICTION A Miraculous Thanksgiving The Little Wise Girl Bug-a-Booh Learns to Give Booh's Christmas to Remember


Connect with Daniel Whyte III Visit Daniel Whyte III online at www.DanielWhyte3.com. Facebook Twitter LinkedIn YouTube RSS/Blog

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