Jesus Freaks: The Prodigal (Jesus Freaks #2)
Author:Andrea Randall

 

For a brief moment I’m thrown back into the living hell of the last year of my life. One that started with me fighting my dad because I didn’t want to come here, and ended with me fighting to be able to. His burnout began by affecting his work and family life. But now? Now it’s traveled so deep into his soul that his eyes are barely recognizable anymore. While a huge part of my heart wants to feel compassion for him, and knows I should, the moral trauma he’s put our family through—and is still putting us through—is too much for me to extend the hand I know he needs.

 

God’s gonna have to reach all the way down for this one.

 

“Perhaps we should continue this in the hallway.” Dad backs one foot out of the room, extending his hand.

 

I shake my head. “I have nothing to continue with you right now. I’m here supporting my friend. Shouldn’t you be supporting yours?” His ability to support me is clearly zero, so I gesture to Roland. “I know you didn’t come all this way to ask me about some girl.”

 

Some girl?

 

I crane my neck to look for Kennedy, who is hardly some girl. She’s staring openly at my dad and me, but turns around as soon as she sees I’ve spotted her. She leans in to whisper something to her mom and then walks over to her friends. Well my friends too, I guess, though I haven’t really laid any claim in that department yet. Friends just ask questions and make assumptions.

 

Kind of like you’re doing right now?

 

I squeeze my eyes shut. Opening them, I find Roland just a few feet from me, extending his hand to my dad with a genuine Roland-trademarked smile.

 

“Buck,” he says with a hint of question in his voice, “it’s good to see you, friend.”

 

Hm. I’ve never actually heard Roland call my dad Buck before. I knew that was his nickname in college, but hadn’t heard anyone other than high school friends of his refer to him in that way until Kennedy’s mom used that name a few days ago on the phone.

 

“Roland.” Dad gives Roland the firmest handshake I’ve seen him muster up in a while.

 

“Excuse me,” I mutter, feeling for my cell phone in my pocket. “I’ll be right back.”

 

I show myself into the hallway and duck into the first men’s bathroom I see before tapping my parents’ home number.

 

“Hello?” Mom answers in her best pastor’s wife voice. She may not live in that emotional country anymore, but she still carries the accent.

 

“Mama, what’s he doing here?” After spending the last couple of days talking a lot with Kennedy, I can actually hear how thick my accent is when my mom’s on the other end of the line. It’s always been thicker when I’m angry. “I’m sorry if I sounded rude,” I quickly correct my tone while silently cursing myself. She’s going through enough.

 

“Darlin’, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. He left in the middle of the night and I didn’t know until I woke up this mornin’. Was he at the service? I couldn’t see him on TV.”

 

“I don’t know. I didn’t see him till we were in the green room after. He’s talking with Pastor Roland now.” It sounds weird to put his title before his name, but my mom’s always been strict regarding formalities.

 

“Just bite your tongue, Son.” When she says son it calms my forced breathing. Regardless of how I feel about my dad calling me that, or talking with me at all, Mom’s got nothing to do with this.

 

“I will,” I concede.

 

“Promise?” Her voice is bright and hopeful, but it’s shaking a bit.

 

I sigh. “I promise I’ll try. I won’t make a scene, if that’s what you’re asking.”

 

“I know you won’t, darlin’. Call me tonight, okay?”

 

“Did he at least leave a note this time?” I ask of Dad’s moonlight departure from home.

 

The bottomless pause before she speaks brings back memories of the last time. Memories that were already edging their way to the forefront of my mind.

 

“Yes,” she whispers. “He did. No go on and get back to whatever you’re doing. Talk to you later.”

 

“I love you,” I force myself to say. I do love her, but saying it doesn’t always come easy.

 

“I love you.”

 

With a deep breath, I bow my head after ending the call.

 

“Please,” I whisper. “I know we haven’t really been on speaking terms lately, but, please just do whatever you’re going to do here. Grace, I guess? Something.”

 

Exiting the room, I shake my head. Nearly every prayer of mine in the last year has gone unanswered. Or the answer has been “no.” All except for one. And as I situate myself in the doorway with Roland and my dad once again, I watch that prayer in her blue dress and yellow sweater engaging in an intense conversation with Silas. Though, I don’t know that any conversation with Silas could be anything but intense. That boy needs a vacation

 

“Everything okay, Son?” Dad puts his arm around my shoulders and I have to force my body to stay in place, rather than recoil the way it wants to.