“Dad! It’s my 20th birthday! I should get to stay out late!” Justin plead with his dad. Abel, having just pulled into the old homestead from another long day at the office, stepped into the entryway, hoping for a kiss from his wife, Kathy. Instead his visiting son screamed about staying out late. He scratched his head, set down his briefcase, and asked Justin to sit down. His outburst would not be tolerated in his home. Justin’s mom, Rebecca, called Abel a month ago asking if Justin could come stay for awhile. Things were not going well with her and her husband and Justin needed a break from the fighting. He had driven his old Chevy truck from Elk City to Kansas City, Missouri, escaping the bitterness that surrounded his mom’s home. Justin didn’t know his dad that well, but anywhere was better than there.
Years ago the sadness of working in that diner had got the best of Abel so he had packed up the old Mustang and headed for, he didn’t know where, but some place different. The talk with Rebecca’s dad that night in Elk City had not gone well, ending in tears and a depression that nearly shattered his soul. He drove back to the diner and a bunch of memories that just never seemed to leave his mind. Rebecca had been his hope, his love, and he had nothing more than a worthless engagement ring, a job suited for a sixteen year old, and those damn memories. He didn’t last another week at the diner and told Chuckie goodbye. The pain of walking into that place, everyday, and never seeing her beautiful face again was too much. He needed to start over, run, get away from the pain.
Abel sold the ring at a nearby pawn shop, more like gave it away, and stuffed the few hundred dollars in his pocket and got the hell out of that town. Another city full of brokenness and heartache, seemingly Abel’s plight in life. “God is alive and watching over me, my ass!” Abel’s new mantra. If there was a God in Heaven, He sure didn’t like Abel much. Of course, with a name like his, one would think he would be a favorite. Over the years, Abel had decided he didn’t have much use for a God who took more than He gave. At least that’s how it seemed to Abel. He sure didn’t give the only thing Abel ever wanted in life – love.
Not knowing where he was going, he had pulled out the map and ended up in Kansas City. At the time, he didn’t really know what brought him here. He had secured a fantastic job selling life insurance and bought his first home. His life had started to have some semblance of peace and happiness. He had met Kathy at lunch one day, just a year after he arrived. She didn’t have that same glow as Casey or the appeal of Rebecca, but she was kind and smiled at him. That’s all he ever wanted, really. Someone who cared and loved him and would give him a smile. Kathy took care of him and Abel felt wanted. A few years into the marriage, they found out Kathy couldn’t have children, just like his own mother. While this had been very disappointing, they discussed adopting a baby. That conversation had not continued, as Kathy worked as a staff accountant at the local KCTV5 news station and seemed to spend more time there than at home. Adoption had been put on the want-list, but time passed, and life got in the way.
Now here they were, Abel sitting with his son, Justin, discussing the evening plans. Apparently Kathy had told Justin his curfew was midnight and they expected him to follow the rules. “It’s my birthday, dad. For goodness sakes! Why can’t I stay out until 2 am tonight?” “Son, you don’t even know anyone here, yet. What could you possibly need to be doing out at 2 am?” The conversation went back and forth, with Abel finally throwing up his hands and agreeing to the late curfew. This would not sit well with Kathy, but not much had been sitting well with Kathy lately. Abel decided to let his son, who he felt guilty enough already for not being a significant part of his life, have his way. Justin had convinced his dad that the neighbor boy, Seth, had invited him to a party at his community college. They had met while Justin was walking Kathy’s dog, Candy. Abel didn’t have much parenting experience, so it really had not taken a lot from Justin to sway his dad.
Later that night, as they got ready for bed, Kathy told Abel about the conversation she had with Justin earlier in the day. She explained to him that they were responsible for him. They must keep him safe. Abel, bit his lip, not wanting to tell her about his own conversation with Justin, kept silent. As Kathy droned on and on about why they needed strict rules for his son, Abel’s thoughts turned to a past that he would never forget – Casey. He wondered whatever happened to that girl from grade school. Was she a movie star? An attorney? A mom? The phone rang, snapping his mind back to the present. He could see Kathy’s lips moving, but he was not completely understanding her side of the discussion. What had happened? Who was involved? Where are you God?