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

I nod. “You’re right. I was supposed to spend some time this semester with Maggie sort of getting my act together to fit in around here. And, we haven’t done that.”

 

“It’s not about fitting in, necessarily. It’s about being heard. Like,” she takes a deep breath, “those girls at Planned Parenthood. You knew how to talk to them without even thinking.”

 

“It was terrifying,” I admit.

 

Eden shrugs. “Whatever. You pulled it off. Now you need to be able to do that with people around here, too. You have stuff to offer, Kennedy. I’ve heard you in prayer sometimes. You don’t say much, but what you do shows your clear heart for God. You’re a lot like your dad, you …”

 

She keeps talking but I can’t hear her words. I stand and lift my hand. “Not really in the mood for familial comparisons right now, Eden.”

 

“Sorry.” She looks down and I instantly feel bad. For a second.

 

“It’s fine. I’ll be back in the dorm tonight, okay? I’ve got to go talk to my mom.”

 

 

 

Like your dad …

 

 

 

Shaking the cobweb of offense from my head, I offer a weak wave to my friends. Before returning to my mom, I note that Matt and the man I’m calling his dad are still talking in the doorway with Roland. When I’d looked over before, Matt was gone, but he’s back and staring at the floor. I don’t have time to wonder where he went, but I do anyway. Really I just want to go stand next to him. He’s been my only port in this storm.

 

Mom meets me halfway. “Can we talk?” she whispers in a clipped tone.

 

“I was just coming to get you.” I know she must be reeling from my statement about being Roland’s daughter, a title I did not clear with her. But one that’s mine for the choosing, anyway. So, I gently grab her hand and lead her to a room just off the green room. It’s unlabeled but has two chairs in it, so we sit.

 

I’m sorry.

 

It’s my first instinct to say that to her. To reassure her that I’m sorry for blindsiding her, if that’s how she felt. Or that I’m sorry for it seeming like I ditched Dan, though that’s not what I did. But, I don’t say it. Instead, I situate myself in the uncomfortable silence of a Wendy Sawyer emotional standoff, and wait for her to pull the trigger.

 

A few seconds later, the sound. A heavy exhale as Mom’s tired, wet eyes meet mine. “Oh Kennedy,” she whispers. “What now?”

 

Finally, my tears come. Hard and fast like a broken levy after a raging storm. “I don’t know.” My head falls to her shoulder and we hold each other crying silently, like we always do.

 

We don’t bawl in front of each other. That’s far too vulnerable. Screaming matches? Sure. Silent treatment? We’ve mastered it. But loud tears? No, tears are as reverential as prayer around the Sawyer house. Private and quiet.

 

“I’m sorry,” I finally do say when I pull my head from her shoulder. “It’s just … Roland and I have been getting close this semester, and—“

 

“Which you haven’t told me anything about,” she cuts me off, sniffing.

 

I wipe under my eyes. “I know. I’m sorry. I really am. I just … needed—”

 

“To do this on your own.”

 

“Right,” I snicker, “kind of like finishing a sentence.”

 

She chuckles halfheartedly.

 

“But,” I continue, “Roland showed me that picture you sent him when I turned five, and the note, and I just thought—”

 

“What?” Mom’s tears cease as she pulls her head back.

 

I huff. “Seriously, though. Let me finish.”

 

She shakes her head. “Kennedy, I’ve never sent Roland a single piece of mail in my life. What picture are you talking about?”

 

My mind races in a “life flashing before your eyes” sort of way. Polaroid-like images of my conversation that day with Roland whip through my head, along with the images I created for myself. One of him on the floor swimming in Bourbon and self-pity, and another where he’s clutching the picture of me in the sundress. Literally hanging on to it for dear life.

 

“Kennedy,” Mom snaps. “What damn picture?”

 

“Shh,” I instinctively reply to her borderline curse. I’m sure enough time has gone by that she’s forgotten about it, or she was fantastically intoxicated when she slapped the stamp on the envelope and addressed it to the future pastor.

 

“Stop it,” I hiss. “You know the one, you don’t have to pretend you don’t. The one from my fifth birthday. The sundress with the flowers. The yellow one.”

 

Mom brings her hand to her mouth and I think I’ve finally gotten through. Briefly her eyes close, and I assume she’s done so to remember the moment she sealed the envelope and tucked it in the box at the post office, unable to retrieve it once the heavy metal door slammed shut.

 

“Kennedy,” she whispers when her eyes open, “I’ve never sent Roland mail. Ever. Was it just a picture?”

 

I shrug. “I guess. With a little note.”

 

“That said …”

 

“I just thought you’d like to know. That’s what the note said.” I stand, moving toward the door, needing an answer.