OCFW Christmas serial story
this chapter by Terri Weldon
Copyright © OKC Christian Fiction Writers
Tad refused to wreck the car with Ellie and the boys in it. The Clark family had suffered enough in the last six months. No way was he adding to it.
He offered up a silent prayer of thanks no other cars were close by. Forcing himself to stay calm, he steered the car in the direction he wanted the front tires to go while he applied steady pressure to the breaks. It. Wasn’t. Working. Clenching the steering wheel he turned left then right a few times. The car surrendered to his control again.
The turnoff to the mall welcomed him. Tad felt the muscles in his neck release as he eased into the parking lot. Even in near blizzard weather holiday shoppers packed the mall. A car backed out of a spot right by the entrance to one of the anchor stores and Tad pulled the Caddy in.
“Cool, Uncle Tad!” Ian said from the backseat. “Can you do it again?”
“Yeah, maybe a donut in the parking lot before we go home,” Eric added.
“Uh guys, I don’t think Uncle Tad wants to try it again.” Ellie’s husky laugh sounded like music to Tad’s ears. She’d always been a good sport. Doing her best to keep up with him and Robbie.
“I don’t think Uncle Tad can handle that much excitement in one day. I know I can’t,” Eleanor added.
“Come on boys, unbuckle and let’s get moving. Your Aunt Ellie has a ton of shopping to do.”
“Are you buying us lots of presents?” “Yeah, mom only lets us have three each.”
Eleanor loved how kids go into the Christmas spirit. Ian and Eric’s questions were still mostly innocent.
“Why three?” Tad asked.
“Because that’s how many presents the wise men brought baby Jesus. Mom said we shouldn’t expect more presents than Jesus,” Ian answered.
“Three gifts is an old Clark Christmas tradition. I’m surprised Robbie never mentioned it to you.” Eleanor grabbed a hand of each twin as they entered the mall.
“No, but is that why he bought your mom perfume every Christmas and called it frankincense?”
“Here you take the boys,” Eleanor said, transferring their small mittened paws into Tad’s much larger hands.
“That’s exactly why. One year for Christmas Robbie brought her perfume and called it Frankincense, Janice bought her a gold necklace to represent the gold, and I purchased bath oil and said it was myrrh. We may not have been spot on, but mom got a kick out of it.”
Tad tipped his head back and laughed. “That’s priceless!”
“Do you mind taking the boys to have their picture made with Santa? I need to do a little shopping away from their watchful eyes.” Eleanor tipped her head towards the sporting goods store.
Merriment shown from Tad’s warm blue eyes and Eleanor felt herself melting like a snowball. For just a moment she allowed herself to dream they were a family out finishing up their last minute Christmas shopping.
“Fancy meeting you two here.”
Eleanor turned to find herself face-to-face with her smiling sister. Happiness glowed from Janice’s green eyes and snow clung to her short red hair.
“It’s great to see you.” Eleanor grabbed her sister in a hug. “What are you doing out in this crazy weather?”
“Mom said you guys were headed to the mall and I didn’t want you to have to drag these two monkeys,” she tousled both boys’ hair, “around while you shopped. Steve and I were on our way to mom and dad’s anyway, so we thought we’d save you some trouble. We’ll see you over there when you get done. Boys, tell your Aunt Eleanor and Uncle Tad bye.”
Eleanor watched her sister and the twins until they were out of sight. She and Janice spoke on the phone everyday, but it just wasn’t the same as seeing her in person. Her sister was much more of a whirlwind in person.
“Well, it looks like it is just the two of us. Lead the way and I’ll carry the packages.” Tad’s smile was a little stiff. Was he sorry the distraction that was the twins was gone?
Eleanor quickly entered the sporting goods store and selected two Oklahoma Thunders jerseys and matching baseball hats, handing off the bag to Tad as exited the store.
“Man, that was fast. You were in and out of there in ten minutes.”
“Why do you sound so surprised?”
“The last woman I went shopping with spent hours making her selections.”
Eleanor ignored the pinch she felt at his casual mention—girlfriend? friend-friend? secretary?—and motioned to the Christian bookstore a few doors down. “Well come on, I’ll show you how real women shop. I’ll be able to get everything else I need in here.”
“So you buy religious gifts for everyone whether they want them or not?”
“Uh no, but you know my family, they’re all committed Christians. They love gifts from this store. Besides Christmas is the celebration of Jesus’ birth. Why wouldn’t I get them gifts that revolve around Him?”
Eleanor walked down the fiction shelf and picked up two books Janice had mentioned wanting to read. One was a debut novel by an Oklahoma author named Lacy Williams. Hmm, it looked great. She snagged a copy for herself. Then she hurried over and selected two copies of the Chronological Bible-In-A-Year for her parents. Her mom had mentioned they wanted to try that version. She selected the latest Joel Osteen book for her brother-in-law.
While Tad wasn’t looking she slipped a silver frame into her basket that had Best Friends at the top and ‘Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.” Phillipians 1:3 at the bottom. She had a snapshot of Tad and Robbie from Robbie’s last leave she planned on putting in it and giving to Tad.
“You know Ellie, my family never went to church. My dad worshipped money and money alone. I went with Robbie and bought into the whole package, but after his death I lost it. If God’s so wonderful and Jesus was born to save us, then tell me why He allowed a good man like Robbie to be cut down in the prime of his life in Afghanistan? Where was Jesus then?”
Tears burned against the back of Eleanor’s eyes threatening to spill out.
“You think I don’t wonder that? Being a Christian doesn’t mean we don’t question or get angry. When Robbie died, I asked God those very questions.”
“And what did He tell you?”
The anger in Tad’s voice startled her into silence for a moment.
“That Robbie died doing what he loved. That he gave his life for a soldier who didn’t know Jesus then, but does now. That Robbie’s self-sacrifice led that young man to Christ. That Robbie is in heaven now and no matter how much I miss him, this isn’t the end. I’ll see Robbie again.”
Eleanor put her hand on Tad’s arm. “Don’t shut God out. Robbie wouldn’t want you to.”
Tad shook her arm off. “I’m glad you found a way to make yourself feel better, but it doesn’t work for me. I’ll wait for you outside.”
She watched him rush out of the store. Eleanor yearned to chase after him, to comfort him. Tad wouldn’t welcome it. It broke her heart to think he’d turned away from God after Robbie’s death.
Her mood subdued, she went to the cash register and paid for her purchases. She walked out of the store and saw Tad. His back turned to her, his cell phone against his ear. The noise in the mall caused him to speak louder than normal. Eleanor couldn’t help overhearing his side of the conversation.
Leave it to Tad to be calling his secretary at home two days before Christmas.
“I’m at the mall with Robbie’s sister. I need a way out of here. Call me at eight tonight with an emergency. With Robbie gone there’s no reason for me to be here. We’ve got nothing left in common. The Clark’s aren’t my family.”
To be continued on Wednesday! Check back soon...