Chapter 5


Chapter 5
Saturday, August 4
Chuck sensed the daylight before he opened his eyes, and stretching his arm out, he felt the cool pillow on Bobbi’s side of the bed. She never came upstairs. He hurried down to the kitchen as quickly as he could.
Bobbi was in her usual morning place at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee. She wore yesterday’s clothes, and looked up at him with the bleary eyes of a long night.
“Did you sleep?”
She took a long sip. “Not really.” Tired fatalism replaced the combative edge in her voice.
“Bobbi, I’m sorry. I don’t want it to be like this.”
“Like what?”
“I don’t want this tension between us.”
“Then you’re ready to listen?”
“I’ve been listening.”
She shook her head and gulped from her cup. “Never mind.”
“Stop building this wall, please. I cannot go through this without you.”
“You’re doing just fine.”
“That’s not true.”
“You left before I woke up yesterday, never bothered to call me, and spent the day researching Tracy Ravenna.”
“I explained all that.”
“You’ve shut me out, Chuck.” She pushed back from the table, widening the distance between them. “From the moment that woman walked through the doors of the law firm, she had your undivided attention. And now here she is again and you’ve dropped everything else to focus on her.”
“Because I want to get it resolved quickly.”
“There will never be a resolution,” she muttered, then finished off her coffee, and set the cup down on the table hard, a preface to rendering her verdict. “You feel this passion about what to do, so I’m going to take for granted that it’s God leading.” Chuck smiled slightly. “I’m not convinced, but I can’t seem to get any other answer from Him.”
Chuck slid into a chair beside hers. “Honey, how could God tell me one thing and tell you another?”
“He couldn’t. One of us is wrong.”
“I’m not wrong. Not now, not on this.”
“Of course you aren’t,” Bobbi said.
“So you’re giving me a green light?”
“A very yellow light.”
“Fair enough,” Chuck said. No one could have changed Bobbi’s mind like this except for God Himself. “I’m going to file papers Monday acknowledging paternity and asking for DNA testing to prove it.”
“I know.”
“Then I’m going to ask for joint legal custody.”
“Which means what exactly?”
“Jack will still live with his mother, but we have to make any major decisions together.”
“Together. That’s what I’m afraid of.”
Sunday, August 5
“Any sign of Brad, yet?” Bobbi asked Shannon when she bounced into the kitchen.
“It shouldn’t take him an hour to get from church to the house.” Something was going on. Work, or school coming up. Or maybe he just didn’t want to spend the afternoon in the same house with her and Chuck. After Friday night, she couldn’t blame him for that one.
“He said he had to get gas.” Shannon pulled a raw carrot off a serving dish.
“It doesn’t take an hour to buy gasoline.”
“That’s what he said. Can we eat anyway? Grandma and Uncle Rita and Aunt Gavin just got here.”
“Uncle Rita and Aunt Gavin?” Bobbi questioned, as Shannon collapsed in giggles.
“I mean Aunt Rita and Uncle Gavin. They’re all here. I just saw 'em.”
“We’ll give Brad fifteen more minutes, and then we’ll start without him. Think you can last that long before you faint from hunger?”
“Maybe, if I have three more carrots.” Shannon inched the vegetables from the tray. Bobbi winked at her, so she took one extra carrot and skipped back out of the kitchen. Moments later, Bobbi heard Rita’s voice.
“Shannon, is Mommy in the kitchen?”
“Yep.” Shannon’s answer was muffled by at least one carrot in her mouth, probably two or three.
“The roast smells wonderful,” Rita said as she came through the doorway, carrying a casserole dish. “You sure hash brown casserole is okay?”
“It’s perfect,” Bobbi said.
“I don’t know how you do it.” Rita set the dish on the counter.
“Do what?” Bobbi asked. She sliced the roast beef, and carefully arranged it on a serving platter.
“Get everything ready so fast.”
“I did most of it last night. You’re actually getting a warmed over lunch.”
“It’s better than my options at home. Oh, Gavin’s bringing in the pie. That is, provided he makes it past Joel.”
“I better come up with a plan B then.” Bobbi rinsed the carving knife, and then dried it on the dishtowel draped across her shoulder. “I’ve been to the grocery store already since Joel got home. Honestly, I don’t believe Brad ever ate like that. Brad’s not here yet, is he?”
“No. Ann pulled in right behind us though.”
“Shannon said she was here.”
Rita glanced out in the hallway, and then stepped close to her sister. “So is there any more news?”
“Not really. Chuck’s going to file paternity papers Monday.”
“What about custody?”
“That’s the next thing.”
“Do you think that’s wise?”
“No, but I don’t have a good argument against it. I was up until about four a.m. Saturday morning going over it and over it, praying, studying, trying to find some kind of answer.”
“And that was it?”
“I feel like God’s saying, ‘Bobbi, I told you to trust Me. Now, I’m not answering any more questions.’”
“How are you and Chuck?”
“We’ve had some… frank exchanges of ideas,” Bobbi said with her eyebrow arched.
“Chuck should trust your instincts.”
“I’m not sure I trust them.”
“Has he considered what’s going to happen when Daddy’s little girl has to share some of that attention? What kind of long term impact is this going to have on Shannon?”
“I haven’t even begun to worry about long term effects,” Bobbi said, pulling a pan of hot bread from the oven. “Thanks.”
“I’m sorry,” Rita said. “I have more free time than you do, so I worry more. How did the boys take the news?”
“They were surprised, but not shocked or outraged. They think I’m completely unhinged for having any kind of worries. Besides, after the affair, what’s an illegitimate child?”
“Well, I think it’s a pretty big deal,” Rita said, crossing her arms. “So does Gavin.”
“Chuck neglected to mention Gavin disagreed with him.” Was Chuck holding back anything else?
“I don’t think Gavin told him.”
“See, this is already causing problems,” Bobbi said, shaking her head. “Ann called yesterday afternoon and she’s inclined to pursue a custody arrangement with Jack, but she’s very concerned about Tracy.”
“Ann is the only person I know who can take both sides of an argument.”
“With Jim and Chuck in the house, I’m sure it was a survival technique.”
“Mom! When do we eat?” Brad called from the living room.
“As soon as you set the table!” Bobbi called back, and then she turned to Rita. “An hour. It’s taken him a solid hour to get here.”
“And you’re surprised?”
“I keep hoping, some day, he’ll be on time for something.”
Brad shuffled into the kitchen, and kissed Bobbi on the cheek, without ever looking her in the eye. “Sorry I’m late.” Then he turned to his Aunt Rita. “Thanks for bringing pie. If it’s a perfect world, it’s one Joel doesn’t like.”
“It’s peach,” Rita said. “You’re out of luck.”
“Story of my life.” He shook his head and began getting the flatware from the drawer.
“So where were you? What took so long?” Bobbi asked.
“Just driving around,” he mumbled. Whatever it was, he wasn’t telling her. At least not with everyone else around.
Chuck came in and stood in the doorway with his hands shoved deep into the front pockets of his jeans. When no one spoke, he glanced at Rita, then Bobbi and announced, “I’ll get the drinks.” Bobbi nodded at him, and he swung the cabinet door open. “You made tea, right?”
“I’ve made tea every Sunday afternoon I can remember.” Bobbi watched Rita turn and begin lifting the lids and stirring each of the pots on the stove. “Shannon gets milk.”
“I know.” He tightened his jaw, never taking his eyes off Bobbi.
“Dad, her house is for sale,” Brad said.
“What are you talking about?” Chuck set down the tea pitcher, and looked to Bobbi for help, but she had no idea what Brad meant.
“Tracy’s house. Over on Bishop.”
Chuck closed his eyes and hung his head for a moment. Then he took a long, deep breath, and slowly straightened back up. “Brad, listen to me very carefully. Stay out of this. We’re taking her to court—”
“You mean ‘you’ are taking her to court,” Bobbi said.
Chuck snapped his head around and glared at her, then turned back to Brad. “We’re taking her to court, and you’ll soon learn that the slightest thing can swing a case in the wrong direction.”
“I wasn’t going to do anything. I was just curious, you know.”
“Yeah, well thankfully she doesn’t live on Bishop anymore. That was a really stupid thing to do, Brad.”
“Ease up, Chuck. He didn’t hurt anything.”
He lowered his voice, and dropped his shoulders. “Let me handle this.”
“I didn’t know it would be this big of a deal,” Brad grumbled. He grabbed the knives and forks, and headed for the dining room.
As soon as he was gone, Bobbi slammed the dishtowel on the counter. “Why did you do that to him? Was it really worth embarrassing him?” She never noticed Rita slip out behind her.
“He’s meddling.”
“It was completely innocent and you overreacted. You had no business yelling at him that way.”
“Just like you and Joel.”
“Excuse me?”
“Friday night. You asked him what he thought, and then he incurred your wrath for answering you. You’ve never talked to anybody the way you talked to him! Well, nobody except me.”
She slammed a hand down on the counter. Tears brimmed in her eyes. “Listen to us. I hate this! I hate this, Chuck. She’s gonna tear us apart.”
He slipped an arm around her shoulder. “She can’t. I won’t let her.”
She relaxed against him, and he drew her close. That’s all she wanted from him, to defend her, to defend their marriage, but… Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
Tracy smiled watching Jack rub his hands together gleefully as the waiter set the pepperoni pizza in front of them. “Mom, make sure this young man gets a good tip,” he said, motioning toward the waiter, who couldn’t help but smile.
As soon as Jack stopped talking long enough to chew, Tracy pushed her plate back and leaned across the table. “Jack, have you ever thought about what it would be like to have a sister?”
“Are you gonna have a baby?” he asked, his eyes wide.
“No! Absolutely not. No. Not a baby.” She took a drink from her Diet Coke. “But what about a sister?”
“I’d rather have a brother.” Jack folded his pizza and took a bite from the fold.
“What if it wasn’t a baby sister, but more like someone your age?”
“Someone I could play with?” He unfolded the pizza and looked at her through the hole he’d made.
“That’d be great! When do we get her?” He refolded the pizza and took another bite.
Tracy took a piece of pizza. “Just hang in there. This is double super top secret, okay?”
“Sure thing, Agent M,” Jack replied, dropping his voice, and then he held the pizza up to his face. “Look, Agent M! Pizza glasses!”
“Put the pizza down, and who’s Agent M?”
“You! M for Mom. I’m Agent J.”
“I should have guessed.” Playing along with him, she leaned over. “I got some highly classified documents, and we’re going to have to send you undercover for your own protection, Agent J.” Jack’s face lit up with a broad smile. “This is on a need-to-know basis, so that’s all I can tell you right now.”
“Roger, Agent M,” Jack said, covering his mouth with his hand. “You can contact me on the communicator when you have more information. Until then I’ll use my secret identity of Jack.”
Before Bobbi could shepherd her family out the side door after the Sunday evening service, she heard Glen Dillard calling her. “Hey, do y’all have time to go for pie and coffee?”
“It’s never a question of time,” Chuck said.
“Is this just social?” Bobbi asked.
“Not exactly,” Glen confessed.
At least Glen didn’t ambush her. Bobbi motioned to Joel, who carried Shannon high on his shoulders.
“I know, I know,” he said. “Take Shannon home, so the big people can talk.”
“I’ll bring you a piece of pie.”
“You think I’ll do just about anything for dessert, don’t you?” Joel pretended to be insulted, and Bobbi nodded. “Well, you’re right.”
“You need to move Shannon’s booster seat to your car,” Bobbi said as Joel ducked to get through the door without bumping his sister’s head.
“Can I have popcorn?” Shannon asked.
“Just one bag,” Bobbi said. “Joel, I mean it. One bag.”
“All right, all right.” As he walked away, Bobbi heard him ask Shannon, “Is she this mean all the time, or only when I’m home?”
Only when your dad’s mistress shows back up.
“I’ll find Laurie, and meet y’all at Dave’s,” Glen said.
“Excellent. See you there,” Chuck said, ushering Bobbi out the door.
“So did you set this up? To have Glen talk some sense into me?”
“No, I would never… Is that what you think?”
“Forget I said anything. I don’t want to hear your martyr speech right now.”
He pulled his keys out and unlocked her door. “You know, ever since Thursday morning, it’s like the last seven years never happened. You’re just as defensive and suspicious as you were after the affair. Bobbi, I haven’t done anything wrong except disagree with you.”
“You are not going to make me the bad guy in this because I won’t welcome your illegitimate son with open arms.” She got in and slammed the car door closed.
When Chuck got in, he turned toward her before putting the key in the ignition. “You’re not the bad guy. You’re the only good person in this whole mess.” She rolled her eyes and stared out across the parking lot. “Fine.” He started the car, and backed out of the parking place. “For the record, I didn’t put Glen up to this. He knows we’re at odds though, and he might be able to help.”
 Translation: maybe you’ll listen to him. She kept her eyes forward, watching the cars pass as they drove. Chuck would never let her drag him to dinner with Gavin and Rita just so they could pick at him through the entire meal. But here she was again, being escorted into a full frontal assault on her convictions. Deliver me, O Lord.
Dave’s had decent food, but their desserts made it the favorite hangout for the Sunday evening church crowd in this part of town. Tonight it was busy, but not packed, so the four of them found a table in a corner. That was the closest thing they were going to get to true privacy. They made small talk until the waitress brought their pie and coffee, and then the pastor spoke up.
“Bobbi, have you and Chuck been able to talk about this little boy, and what you’re going to do?”
“We’ve talked. Chuck’s decided to file for paternity and custody. He feels very sure about what to do next, but it makes me queasy, to tell you the truth, and I don’t have a good argument against it.”
“Fair enough. So what’s your bad argument?”
Bobbi glanced at Chuck, then laid her fork down and took a deep breath. “All right, Sarah, Hagar and Ishmael. Things got contentious, and Sarah had them thrown out. God told Abraham to go along with Sarah’s wishes. Isaac didn’t have to grow up with this illegitimate half-brother. Why should Shannon have to?”
Glen broke into a broad grin. “That wasn’t anything funny,” Laurie said.
“No, but this is a God thing. That’s exactly what I studied yesterday. Gives me chills when God does that.” He pulled out a worn New Testament from his back pocket.
“Chuck didn’t help with that revelation any, did he?” Bobbi asked, and immediately she felt Chuck’s hand on her knee.
“No, I was working on a sermon for next month sometime, why?”
Bobbi felt two quick pats, and she could see Chuck’s eyes twinkle. “Nothing. Go ahead, and lecture me.”
“Oh, I’d never lecture you. I agree with you that on the surface, this looks exactly like what you’re facing. But Chuck’s not Abraham, this other woman was not your slave, and you didn’t put him up to sleeping with her.”
Bobbi crossed her legs and sipped her coffee, hoping her face didn’t look as flushed as it suddenly felt. The words just rolled off Glen’s tongue. He didn’t have a clue that Chuck’s affair caused a knot in her stomach even after all these years.
“Anyway, I got to looking at this from a New Testament perspective, and in Galatians, Paul talks a lot about Isaac and Ishmael and the law and grace.” He flipped the pages of his Bible. “Here, read right here.” He slid his Bible across the table with his finger marking the spot in chapter four. Bobbi read the verses with Chuck looking over her shoulder.
“Okay, two covenants, two mountains,” she said. “So what does all this mean?”
Glen leaned forward, his eyes lit up and a broad smile crossed his face. “They were an object lesson, Hagar and Ishmael. God let Abraham send them away because it was a picture of what He was ultimately going to do for all of us. Why was Ishmael even born?”
“Sarah and Abraham didn’t believe God was really going to give them a natural, biological son.”
“Exactly. Isaac is the son of faith, of promise. It’s through Isaac that Abraham saw that anything he received was solely by the grace of God. Ishmael is the son of unbelief, the son of ‘I can do this my way’. Casting Ishmael out is a picture of us throwing out the notion that we can approach God on our own merit. I don’t think it has anything to do with illegitimate children.”
Bobbi turned Glen’s words over in her mind. It made sense, but it didn’t help. “So what’s the answer?”
“The story of Hosea,” Glen said. Bobbi dropped her shoulders and shook her head, a wry smile on her face. “What? Am I missing something?”
“I already had to be Hosea, thanks,” Bobbi said. “When Chuck… After his affair, I had to take him back, just like Hosea took Gomer back. I spent a lot of time in that book.”
 “That’s just it,” Glen said, sliding his chair closer to the table. “You are such a tremendous example of forgiveness and reconciliation, God’s giving you the chance to go one step more, to adoption. It’s just what God does for us. He forgives us, and then He reconciles us so He can adopt us.”
He leaned back away from the table, took a deep breath and lowered his voice. “I’m sorry. Laurie tells me all the time I get too wound up. The thing is, Bobbi, God is giving you a chance to take this boy in and love him.”
“It’s not just him!” Bobbi pushed her pie plate out of the way in frustration. Why did she have to keep spelling out the obvious? “He has a mother. I can’t just take him in without letting her into my life and my husband’s life. Do you grasp how frightening that is to me? That he would have regular contact with her again?”
“Honey…” Chuck reached for her hand.
Bobbi pulled her hand away, and leaned back in her chair. “None of you get it.”
“You’re right, I don’t,” Glen admitted softly. “It’s part of the picture, though, of how it is with us. Satan is constantly trying to interfere with our relationship with God.” Then he smiled. “Not that this other woman is Satan.”
“You may want to reserve that judgment,” Bobbi said, taking a bite of her pie.
“Bobbi, I really believe God is giving you this opportunity because He knows you’ll make good on it. Because you are uniquely suited to change this boy’s future.”
“You.” Glen nodded.
Glen was harder to argue with than Chuck. Just love Jack, let God do something miraculous in the boy’s life. God had to understand what that required, what He was asking of her. God had to because no one else did.
The four of them sat quietly for a few moments, sipping coffee, and finishing off their desserts. At last, Laurie Dillard stacked her plate on Glen’s. She looked Bobbi in the eyes, and said gently, “I would give anything for an opportunity like this.”
The words stung. She knew that wasn’t Laurie’s intent. They had no children, and naturally Laurie saw the potential with Jack. What Bobbi heard, however, was a shaming rebuke, regardless of how kindly it was packaged and delivered.
The defensive reflex in her wanted to shoot back, “Is it worth being cheated on, Laurie? Would you be willing to pay that price? The pain? The humiliation? The nightmares?” Instead, she answered the way she was supposed to.
“Give me some time,” Bobbi said. “This has all happened very fast.” She looked at Chuck and took his hand. “Chuck’s going to file the papers, and by the time the courts handle everything, maybe I’ll have peace about it.”
“I have no doubts about that,” Glen said. “We’ll keep praying God gives you that ‘light bulb moment’ when it all makes sense.”
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