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I'm a writer and library worker who wears many hats. I believe a good book and a good piece of chocolate are the keys to a happy life.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Prodigal Son- First Chapter

Chapter 1
15 Years Ago

Sarah wiped her eyes as tears began to blur her vision. It had been one of those days when her life just seemed all wrong. She wasn’t sure how much more whining three-year-old and colicky baby she could take.
The problems and tension started the night before, with a fight, actually. She couldn’t remember now how the argument started, but it hadn’t fizzled out until almost two o’clock in the morning, when Jordan silently took his pillow and headed for the couch. Sarah slammed the bedroom door in response and glared at it until retrieving Adam from his crib to be fed at three. She’d calmed down enough by then to lie down and snuggle close, falling asleep while he nursed.
Now, the day that started badly was just getting worse. The sound of breaking glass brought her running to the kitchen to find jam smeared all over the cabinets and counter from Michael’s adventure while she was occupied feeding Adam. The shattered jar and its contents added to the chaos in the middle of the carpeted kitchen floor, and in her mind. Sarah had no idea how she was supposed to get it cleaned up. If she didn’t, their landlord was not going to be happy. But really—who in their right mind would put industrial carpeting in a kitchen in the first place?
Adam promptly threw up all over her as she jostled him a bit too hard while yelling at Michael for making the sticky mess.
Everyone was crying when the phone rang, and Jordan informed her that he would be home late. His voice was cold and he hadn’t even bothered to ask how her day was going before adding to her difficulties. More than anything right now, she could use a listening ear while she vented about her frustrations, but he couldn’t even be counted on to come home and help her at the end of the day.
In desperation, Sarah looked around at the mess in the kitchen and the mess she’d made of her family. She didn’t know where to begin, and she didn’t think she had the energy. After a sleepless night and a lousy day, she’d had enough. Sarah threw a sweatshirt over the wet puke stain on her shirt, put jackets on the boys, and ran from the house. She just wanted to escape.
Now here she was, still crying. Adam also still cried from his place on her hip as she stood and watched Michael run from one end of the playground to the other. At least he was happier again.
Sarah missed Utah—she missed her friends, her sisters, and her mother, who always seemed to put moments like these in perspective. It had been extremely hard on her to move to Arizona eight months ago. She wanted to support Jordan as he began his new job, but leaving her family behind had been difficult. They supported her, eased her burdens, and helped her remember why her roles as a wife, and especially as a mother, were so important.
She loved her children—she did. But she couldn’t help wondering why they tested that love to the limits every day. Sarah wiped away another tear and mentally scolded herself for her attitude. Maybe they aren’t pushing limits, she thought. Maybe they were just normal and she wasn’t cut out to be a mother. She wished she could run away and leave the jam-covered kitchen and her children behind. Even for just a day.
Her gaze wandered while she was feeling sorry for herself. Now, Sarah looked back up to see Michael shrieking with glee as he rocketed down the slide. He landed with such force that his knees buckled out from under him. His head went back, smacking the edge of the metal slide with a loud ka-chunk. In the instant it took Sarah to register what she was seeing, blood began to pour from the back of Michael’s head. It formed a wet, gruesome mess as it spread and mixed with the sand where he lay crumpled at the base of the slide.
Screaming Michael’s name, Sarah hastily set a still-distraught Adam in his stroller and joined the throng of panicked mothers running toward her disoriented son. Someone had the presence of mind to call the paramedics as Sarah frantically pressed Adam’s spit rag to the back of Michael’s head.
The experience began to feel like a dreamy blur. It could have been just minutes, but the tension made it feel like hours. After the paramedics arrived and assured her Michael would be all right, she stood and looked at her surroundings again. Something filled her with unease.
Time warped again, creating an eternity of dread as she began to comprehend what was still wrong with her world.
Adam was no longer crying, and his stroller was gone.
Her vision began to blur all over again, darker than ever, and she heard herself scream his name. It was silly, really. He was only four months old. How is he supposed to answer me? Yet, what else could she do? He had to be somewhere—he couldn’t just be gone. A baby couldn’t just go off on his own, so Sarah needed him to answer.
She began to go through all the possible scenarios.
Maybe his stroller rolled.
Maybe one of the paramedics or other mothers bumped it when they were running to help with Michael.
Maybe someone noticed Adam crying and was trying to comfort him.
“Adam!” she yelled again. Sarah’s thoughts changed to more terrifying possibilities that caused her voice to choke as she forced the word through one more time. “Adam!”
He can’t be gone! I’ll never forgive myself if something happens to him.
Sarah continued to look around, her eyes becoming wild with panic, the questions still jumbling up in her mind. Where can he be?
If someone did bump the stroller, where would it roll? If it did roll, why can’t I see it off in the distance? This is Arizona, for heaven’s sake—there aren’t that many trees and bushes to hide behind!
She began to run with weak legs and heavy feet. She stumbled over the slightest change in terrain, feeling sluggish and clumsy. Her thoughts became more urgent. Not fast enough. She wasn’t moving fast enough to reach him, wherever he was. Where is he?
Sarah circled the play area, calling Adam’s name, stopping other mothers she thought she recognized from the slide incident.
“Did you see my baby? Did you see a stroller? I left it right there!”
She tried to think, to give some details, to find some sort of answer. The other mothers gathered around, asking what they could do to help. She couldn’t think straight. She couldn’t remember what Adam was wearing. Had she even changed him out of his sleeper that morning? She wasn’t sure.
She pressed through the crowd of women and continued circling the park, asking everyone she met. “A baby, blond hair, gray eyes, he was crying . . . .”
Some of the women remembered the stroller; some hadn’t even noticed it. No one knew where it went. Other people were looking now, asking questions, calling his name, but Sarah hardly noticed. Adam was hers, her responsibility, and she’d lost him. She had to find him.
Desperate now, she looked in every cubbyhole and tiny crevasse—behind the slide, by the swings, in the tire obstacle course, the trench worn around the merry-go-round, the picnic tables, and the park benches. Sarah circled the playground several times, then her gaze fell on the walking trail. It was the only area of the park with trees. There were pockets of shade along the path. Maybe someone took him there. With a burst of energy that seemed to come directly from her breaking heart, she made a beeline for the trail. No longer thinking clearly at all, her brain chanted ‘find him’ in rhythm with every footfall.
Find him.
Find him.
Find him.
The mantra continued as she raced down the path. Reality didn’t hit again until she realized she was back where she had started.
Her lungs were on fire. She was hoarse from yelling. She was exhausted from the shame she felt asking strangers, over and over again, to help her find her most precious possession. Her muscles trembled. Her tears blurred her vision. Her body betrayed her. She should be able to see him, call him, run to him, reach him, gather him in her arms, and wake up from this nightmare.
Why is this happening to me? Am I such a terrible mother that my child would be taken from me like this? Is God punishing me?
Dear Heavenly Father, I didn’t mean it! I’m so sorry I wished I didn’t have them. Please, please bring Adam back to me!
Suddenly, a thought broke through her panic. Two children. She had two children. For the second time that day, she’d abandoned one in order to help the other. Twice in one day, she’d managed to turn her back on what mattered to her most. An irresistible urge to gather Michael up in her arms overtook Sarah’s already taxed emotions. She needed to get back to him—she had to keep him with her. She had to find Adam, but she shouldn’t have left Michael alone with the paramedics to do it. Additional panic welled up inside her as she rushed back to the playground. What if she’d already been gone too long? What if Michael wasn’t there anymore, either? What if she’d lost them both in one fateful afternoon of wishing?
Relief washed over her as she rounded the corner of the walking trail and saw a confused Michael still sitting with one of the paramedics. She gathered him in her arms and sobbed uncontrollably as the first police officer approached her.


Want to read more? The Prodigal Son is available on Amazon.com and as an e-book.


Judaloo said...

Just bought it on Amazon! I am soooo happy for you!! Doing the happy dance!

kbrebes said...

Wow! Very emotional...and frightening!