Christine Long is a full-time Christian school teacher with a quirky sense of humor. Passionate about writing, she enjoys sharing through fiction the lessons God has taught her. She loves reading and writing, reading about writing, writing about reading, and learning about writing. Pursuing the dream of publishing a novel, she is seeking an agent for her Christian suspense novel. She writes weekly for TheCypressTimes.com and GranolaBarDevotional.com as well as keeping up her blog. She also writes book reviews for various sites. She is a member of My Book Therapy, ACFW, and Faith Writers. You can visit her at http://writing2theheart.blogspot.com
The cool breeze flowed around her, soothing her frazzled nerves. Sheila fingered the pile of papers on her desk then flopped against the chair back. What a hectic first week of school!
Glancing at the clock, she scooped up the papers, plopped them into the drawer, and clicked it shut. They could wait until tomorrow. As she gathered her purse and satchel, she stopped. Why rush home? What was there? Empty rooms in an empty house void of love.
“Hey, Mrs. P!”
“Hello, Hank. How are you this afternoon?” His cheerful, easygoing manner dispelled the gloom in her heart.
“Doin’ good, Mrs. P.” Hank tipped the small trash can into the large cart, tapping it with minimal clattering. Sheila smiled as Hank’s worn Keds tapped in rhythm to the tune he hummed. She recognized Lloyd Price’s hit “Personality.” Hank’s slicked-back hair—all the rage at the moment—refused to stay in place as he dashed around the room.
“I finally found a car. Well, it’s almost a car. I’m tradin’ work at Mr. Simmons’s garage for parts, then I’ll fix ’er up myself. She’s a beaut! A ’54 Corvette. I’ll bring her by when she’s done.” Enthusiasm spilled through his words.
“Isn’t that the year Corvettes had some real troubles?” She worried the inside of her lip with the question. What if he’d been talked into buying a lemon?
Hank grinned as he moved between the desks, flicking the broom with practiced hands. His ability to keep in time to his internal music player and talk at the same time amused Sheila.
“Sure, that’s why I’m gettin’ her so cheap. She’s missing one of the removable windows, but Mr. Simmons says we can find one in the junkyard. To buy the pink slip from the bank, I gotta work weekends for him. But she’s worth it.”
Shelia plopped her belongings on the desk. With a spring that belied her age, she perched on the corner of her desk. Her former pupil chattered away while straightening chairs and desks. Half listening, her mind wandered back through the years as she watched him grow. From the first day he shuffled into her fourth grade classroom, Sheila felt drawn to him more than any other student in her twenty years of teaching. Perhaps the passing of his mother just weeks prior to his arrival had something to do with it.
“Did ya hear what I said, Mrs. P?” Hank’s question brought her focus back on him. Eyebrows raised, he stood with the broom in his hand, awaiting her response.
“I’m sorry, Hank. I was just thinking about your first few weeks in my classroom.” She chuckled. “You certainly challenged my teaching skills.”
A grin spread across his face, mischief still lurking in his eyes. “I couldn’t believe you caught me every time I tried to pull something. It was the first time that’d ever happened to me. I was good at hidin’ stuff, but not from you. It was like you had eyes in the back of your head.”
“You know all teachers and mothers have the ability.” Sheila crossed her ankles, swinging her feet just a little.
“Did you ever know I was adopted?”
Sheila felt like a car shifting without the clutch when Hank changed topics so fast. “I don’t think it ever came up, Hank. Did your aunt and uncle legally adopt you after your mother died?”
“Naw, no reason to do that. I just got a box in the mail. Some friend of my mom’s sent it to me last week. My mom gave it to her to keep for me, but she forgot all about it ’til she found it in her attic a few weeks ago.” He plopped onto a front-row desk, his eyebrows nearly meeting while he thought. “Sure wish she’d told me sooner so I could’ve ask some questions.”
Sheila shifted while giving the boy time to sort through his emotions. Quietly she posed a question. “Did anything of your mother’s give you information I could help you with?”
He sighed. “Only thing we could find out is how it happened. Some lady in the hospital had a baby she didn’t want—me—and Dad brought me home.”
Sheila watched the hurt shadow his clear blue eyes. She felt as if he opened his soul a crack to let her peek inside. What Hank couldn’t know was the deep pain Sheila harbored, pain that assailed her every day about the child who had died in infancy.
“Maybe your mother planned to tell you when you were old enough to decide what you wanted to do with the information.” Compassion moved her as she gently touched his shoulder. “Why don’t you bring me what you have and I’ll try to help you follow through with it?”
Hank brightened and resumed his duties. They parted and as Sheila walked home, long-buried memories bubbled inside. Upon reaching her little house, she knew she needed to deal with them yet again. Falling listlessly onto the faded horsehair sofa, she allowed it all to sweep over her. Her brief and tumultuous marriage to an abusive man. The difficult pregnancy, the sudden birth and home delivery. The news the child had died. Never holding or seeing the infant. Not even being allowed to have a decent funeral. Just a wooden box buried at the far end of her no-good husband’s land. A lone tear slipped over her cheek. She sat up and brushed it away. A year later, her husband had died from effects of the alcohol that controlled his life. No more children, no possibility of having a child of her own. Maybe helping Hank find out more about his past could help heal some of the hurt she harbored.
Monday after school dismissed, Hank stood outside her classroom door, waiting for her students to file past. Eagerly he thrust the worn cardboard box into her hands. Sheila smiled at his eagerness and began fingering the faded pictures and papers. Finally, she came across an envelope bearing the address of the official county courthouse. Hank leaned his elbows on the desk as she opened it.
“I don’t remember seeing that before.” He glanced to Sheila then stood. “Are you okay Mrs. P?”
Sheila’s hands shook as she forced her eyes to focus on the papers in her hands. They were adoption papers for one Henry William Percipocolis, born February 12, 1942, to Stanley and Mercy Sheila Percipocolis. She swallowed several times before attempting to speak.
“Hank, I know who your birth mother is.”
“You know her? Wow, how weird is that? Who is she?”
Love answered, “Me.”