by GR Closey
The story of a father, whose daughter grows up to fast in the modern world.
|Going on my nightly walk, as my dog was peeing, I saw a work van parked behind the bushes my canine was leaking on. On investigation, I found Justin’s work vehicle. It was dark, so I tapped on his door, and tried to open it. It was locked. After about twenty seconds of vigorous banging, the van door opened. Justin, a young man of god, bearded, heavily tattooed,; reminded me of a cocky bantam rooster. He hopped down from the Nissan, and gingerly eyed me as if he really didn't want to face me. When I sternly reprimanded him for being on my property without telling me, he seemed to regain his composure.
‘Sorry Reverend Hardy, he snuffled. ‘Glenda told me part of your sleep out was ruined in our little storm.’
He was referring to a freak tornado that recently hit our suburb
in Christchurch almost toppling my sleep out, so its fair to say he under estimated the damage. He had recently fixed something in my basement, and before he left that job I saw him talking to Jackie. They seemed to be having an important discussion. I was surprised because I thought they only knew each other online. The way they talked and leaned into each other made my assertion appear untrue. On the other hand he knew all my parishioners intimately as did Glenda, so it
was touching that she had pointed out a problem that I hadn't had time to rectify.'
'It’s a bit late to fix now Justin!”
'Yes Rev, I just wanted to have a look.’
'Come back tomorrow!’
I gave up on my walk and went back inside.
On the way, I spied Jackie's old push chair. Jasmine's golden dress was still inside along with her beautiful soft shoes, and traditional hat. They had looked so gorgeous on her that I'd never summoned the strength to dispose of them; reminded me of her in her prime before she'd been taken from me so suddenly. Back inside by her door, I heard the old-time- gospel record was still playing. By golly Jackie had turned it up too loud. But I had to give her some slack after the terrible bomb shell that she'd dropped on me. I'd give her ten minutes. Then I'd tell her to turn it down. I thought I heard the faint sound of perhaps a power tool over the raucous music. Maybe it was the neighbor: he often did home-handy man work at night. The terrible news that Jackie had given me had broken my heart, so I turned to caffeine; walked to the kitchen and grabbed the handle of my jug, flicking the power switch. I then set out my coffee mug.
Despite what she'd done, I was hopeful that Jackie could be
reformed. Perhaps the Lord will forgive her sins. He forgives all sins after all. Even one of fornication. Suddenly, I heard the sound of a vehicle roaring. The driver accelerated. It must be Justin's work van. Why had he come back down my drive when all he had to was to drive straight out from the bushes? Good Lord that boy was acting strange. He sure had some explaining to do when I next saw him in Church.
Even though she'd just dropped something sinfull, in my lap,
Jackie hadn't always been astray from our Lord. At five years old, In my church she was as innocent and pure as baby Jesus. Jasmine had often pushed her into my church in her red push chair. There, in her yellow bonnet, with blond hair, she was greedily passed amongst parishioners, who cooed over her as if she belonged to he or she personally. In a way she did: we are all children of our Lord.
Things only turned bad for Jackie, at ten years old when her mother drank herself to death. She couldn't cope with Jasmine dying, not that I could either, and set out to destroy herself just as her mother had, but in a different way. Before her mother died, she had been content to dress in a conservative style that was consistent with the teachings of my church. By the age of fifteen, I realised I had let my parenting skills slip. Jackie had ditched the modest lady-like feminine attire that her mother had brought-her-up-to-wear for mini skirts, G-strings, and harlotry. She threw aside the teachings of the lord for lap tops and cellphones; she was always face booking, face timing, and instagraming usually with other godless young brats: sometimes other young women, or of much more concern, much older men.
I found out this information from my assigned mole Justin.
Back then, when I'd first met him, he was very eager to spy on Jackie's vagrant social activities, and help me keep her from the temptation of the devil. He regularly informed me of her wrong doings and I didn't act on this intel until one day when she was sixteen, he said that she was going to meet a man twice her age, and he feared that she would be groomed.
I immediately took her cell phone and computer away, and
grounded her indefinitely.
Over the next few years Jackie’s behavior improved so much that I loosened the reigns on her a little and allowed her to go out some evenings as long as she was chaperoned Tonight she’d been celebrating her 18th birthday, so it was all right that she’d arrived home much later than usual. So before I could gently reprimand her she said:
'Father I have to confess something. ’
'Jackie you haven’t lain with a lad?’
After intense interrogation from me, she admitted to fornicating instead of partaking in the outings that I thought she was at. She asked for my forgiveness, and I said yes I would as long as she went back to the teachings of her Lord!
‘Yes,’ she said, but she started crying and couldn’t stop! After half an hour of me begging her to tell me what was wrong, she said
meekly. ‘I am pregnant!'
'Go to your room and never come out.’
I left hurriedly. As I descended from the hall to the living room, I heard her talk to someone on her cell phone, in a hushed voice, probably the father. Then she turned up the stereo with the old-time gospel music. That’s when I’d taken my dog for a walk but then as now, I was still unable to process what Jackie had done!
I grabbed the jug and poured another cup of coffee. Hearing
the old-time gospel music again over my thoughts reminded me that Jackie's ten minutes was up. I'd tell her to turn down the music. When I arrived in her room, I couldn’t see her. I turned down the music and stared at her floor. A hole had been cut in it. Through it she’d climbed down through the basement, and escaped.
Outside the house, I surveyed her escape: Jackie’s pushchair including Jasmine’s gold dress, shoes, and hat was gone. In front of that, the basement door was slightly open. Someone had crawled under the house and used the power tool, I’d thought I’d imagined hearing to free Jackie. I remembered hearing the old time gospel music turned up to disguise the sound. Justin was parked behind my bushes earlier. He just happened to leave around the time of the power tool. Too many coincidences! Justin helped her escape! Why?
I went to the police and asked them to look for Jackie for me.
When they found out that she was 18 they said they were sorry but there was nothing they could do. Some people don't want to be found. 'An't that the truth,' I muttered.
For the next two years my pianist Glenda badgered me about Jackie leaving, so suddenly. One time she glared at me, and I knew what that look was all about. I tried not to confront her because Glenda was scary when angry. So I tried not reacting, so giving her nothing to hurt me with. On this occasion, I tried to avoid eye contact, which just made her more furious.
'Why weren't you nicer to your girl? If you were she might have stayed. You were too tough on her! Young people aren't bending to the Lord's will like they used to.'
I did find myself much more understanding to the wayward youth that entered my church asking for the Lord’s mercy. Glenda observed that I was trying to make up for Jackie’s departure by being so nice to the troubled they, who were now staying with our church and becoming up-standing parishioners. Glenda congratulated me on increasing our membership. She talked about Jackie incessantly to all parishioners, particularly the new members.
'Jackie had beautiful blond hair and would be travelling with a bantam-rooster boy with tats all over his body, ‘she said to a young girl, one of the best singers in the choir. I was conducting when I heard her idle chatter over the singing. I frowned on casual talk while learning such important hymns.
'Oh yes' said the gypsy girl, whose name was Tanya: she had
rings through her ears and nose, and clearly liked the attention Glenda afforded her because she grinned so wide that all her blackened teeth could be seen.
'I saw someone like that at the local fair,’ said the gypsy,’ and mentioned to her our church. She said she didn't dig coming 'specially when I told her what church. She scared. She said her man was keen to come to church. I never saw him though, but there was a man walking away from her going to the food cart. He was pushing a baby.’
'That will be Jackie and Justin,’ said Glenda,’ I know they are together. I glared at Glenda.’ Would you mind playing more of the hymn and gossiping a bit less, please?’ Glenda looked at me incredulously like I were a naughty child, which made me slam down my baton on the lectern, in disgust.
Glenda gave me a perplexed grin.’Your reverend will have to
work through some issues if he wants his daughter back,’ she said. Pride is a sin, sir.’ We ended our choir practice early and everyone went home.
Yes, I admit I wasn't sure if I could ever forgive Jackie. That's if she ever did come back to me. There was no guarantee that Justin was the father although I was certain he'd helped her escape.
Before Jackie had left, Glenda had seen little glances between
them during my sermons that to her constituted a romantic relationship. If they were together and had had my grandchild I wasn't sure I could forgive him either. But being a grandfather was something I yearned with every part of my being. There was just too much to overcome to get to that point!
A few months later, during the middle of my sermon, I heard
the titter tatter of parishioners having private conversations whilst my sermon was ongoing. This usually meant I am boring them because I know if I was right at the top of my game they would not be able to take their eyes off me. So I continued, but as I did I noticed that about one third of my parish had turned their eyes to the back of the hall. I had a quick look up from the lectern. I noticed a diminutive figure enter. Nevertheless I counted Glenda in for the first hymn. Glenda played the first bar. Then still playing, she looked to back of the church. Suddenly, she got up from her piano stoll, and walked briskly to the back of the church like she were attending an emergency. I took a proper look at my congregation, who, in their entirety, surrounded the person who had stopped my hymn, and thus my service. It was Jackie! My heart leapt with joy because in Jackie I was seeing Jasmine from 20 years previously, so closely did she resemble her mother. She wore her yellow dress, shoes and hat that she'd taken from her red push chair the night she'd left. Every inch of her was the traditional smart woman of good character that I'd always hoped she'd become. To my eyes she was now a child of God, a woman of the Lord.
I really wanted to run to the back of my church and embrace
her. I wanted to tell her proud of her I was, but I couldn't. Too much hurt had been left unspoken for too long. I wanted to be a new age touchy- feely dad, even one that cried in front of his children but I wasn't. I was from the generation of men who remained stoic, never cried when struck, and certainly never apologized when not wrong. And I wasn't wrong. I certainly wanted to be wrong, or wished I was from this younger generation of parents that absolved their children from all hurt blame and responsibility for their actions.
I went back to my lectern and examined the sermon I was to
give the following week. It was still a little rough. I felt something wet running down my cheeks. I hadn't cried since maybe childhood. I turned away from the lectern in case someone saw. I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder. It reminded me of my mother comforting me. Turning , it was Glenda.
'It’s OK you know.’
'I want to,' I stammered.’
'Let me take you to her.’
' I don't know if I can'
' It's your chance to put things right!’
'What if I can't!’
'You will come now!'
She took my hand and lead me to the back of the hall.
I couldn't look at Jackie neither could she at me. It was
awkward. There were things I wanted to say but couldn’t. I even wanted to cry but couldn't. I even wanted to say how beautiful she looked, but couldn't. I wanted to say she looked a spitting image of Jasmine. Jasmine who drunk herself to death.
Maybe that and even now Jackie running away was all my fault ? My daughter couldn't look me in the eye either. Perhaps she wanted to blame me for everything but was too kind to say so.
Glenda between us looked as if she were trying to pull us together, she sighed. She looked behind us to the doorway as if searching for inspiration. In came Justin, a slightly, older version. No facial hair now. Tats were covered by a very expensive suit. He walked confidently as if nothing had changed between us.
'Rev, a long time no see!'
'You've spruced up your image young man! Still got your Nissan?
'Traded up long ago. Got a Merc now. I'm in the office most of time. Built up my little- building company. Well, not so little now, got a building-supply store. Plus about twenty employees, who work on any job, none too big or small! He took a deep sigh as if summoning all his courage; took a step closer to me and spoke in
a confidential tone. 'You know I made her come here.'
'Yes. Ever since we left. I've been trying. I wanted to bring her back
to you, sir. I wanted to bring us both back to the Lord!'
'Amen to that. I patted his shoulder. What about----'
'You and Jackie?' ' Yes, I had no choice. I had no choice I had to take her away.’
I thought about him spying on Jackie for me then doing the
very deed he was supposed to be stopping. He got her pregnant then not being able to face up to his crime, he took my daughter and ran, only to turn up a few years later, wanting to make amends.
' I am sorry it came to that, I muttered. I looked over at Jackie. She stared frostily. Then looked away.What about----'
'Our baby. She's here a spitting image of you.....sir. And her grandmother, god rest. I gave him a stern look. He clasped his hands together as if rebuked. ‘Jasmine where are you,’ he said, looking at Jackie.
'What,’ I said perplexed.
'We named our baby Jasmine after her grandma!He looked around my parish which in entirety were gathered around the back of the church. She's around here somewhere, one of the old ladies was looking after her.'
'She’s with Gertrude,’ said Jackie.'
I heard some people mingling at the church’s front door. Although I couldn’t see them, I heard cries of:’ isn’t she gorgeous.’ ‘What a good looker.’ That made me sure they had ‘my granddaughter.’
'Can you grab her Jackie!’ said Justin
An old lady, whom I assumed was Gertrude, brought her to Jackie, in a red push chair that was now like a new one.Justin must of done it up.
Jackie received Jasmine. She wheeled her toward me. She
stopped at my front, with the pushchair’s cover shielding my granddaughter's face from me. Jackie didn't look at me still. As if she were discussing something cold and clinical like a patients lab results, she said coolly. ‘
'After the way you treated me, you don’t deserve her.”
I saw red and walked away from Jackie. Perhaps my relationship with her was now unsalvageable. Despite that I was a professional priest and my service must continue. I had to rally my parish and continue with my service. ‘Ladies and gentlemen it’s time for us to resume things!’ There were loud murmurings amongst my parish.
'Lucas a word,' retorted Glenda.
She only called me by my christian name when I was in deep trouble, so I heeled at her side.
Have you lost all your senses,’ she said.’ Justin told me the lengths he went to get Jackie to come here. If you continue with the sermon now, I am certain they will walk out and you will never see your daughter or your grandchild ever again. The moment will be lost. Take them all for a walk and try and fix things, no you won't do it today. But over time I believe you will!'
She hugged me, a motherly kind. I did cry. I felt people's eyes on me, not that I saw them because I'd be looking into Glenda's for the guidance and support she'd given me. I felt the room too. They weren't judging or laughing. I only felt support and understanding. They didn't need to say a thing. Glenda let go. Jackie's youthful unblemished arms wrapped around me.
'I forgive you dad!' I still said nothing. Eventually, the moment was over and I broke the embrace, gently.
Glenda announced that proceedings would continue with her
'We have to allow Reverend Hardy and his family to reunite.’ I gently took my granddaughter from my daughters arms and gazed at her tiny face.
I announced to my congregation: 'I want to show my granddaughter how well her granddaddy drives a Merc!' There was widespread laughter and the rest got back to the service with Glenda firmly in charge.
I drove my family down to the nearest eatery. As I drove everyone was laughing and smiling as if the rest of our lives would be this blissful.