I passed through the door and wiped my eyes, hurrying on toward the car. Dusk had fallen while I was inside, and I mentally berated myself for leaving the boys alone for so long. How long has it been? Fifteen minutes?
Titus voice met my ears before I spotted him.
“‘I love you all the way down the lane as far as the river,’ cried Little Nutbrown Hare. ‘I love you across the river and over the hills,’ said Big Nutbrown Hare.”
I peeked into the back window of the car and saw Titus, picture book open in his lap, reading aloud to his younger brother. The sighting warmed my heart.
Titus looked up when my shadow fell across him, his eyes serious and concerned. I opened the door to be bombarded with questions.
“Are you okay, Momma? What happened?” Titus slid out of the car and hugged me. “Why are you crying?”
“I'm fine, sweetie.” I bent and kissed his sunny blond towhead. “Everything is okay.” Christopher crawled toward me, and I leaned into the car and scooped him up and onto my hip. He rested his head against my shoulder, reminding me how close it was to bedtime.
“There's someone inside who wants to see you.” I closed the car door and grabbed Titus’ hand, starting back towards the house.
Titus tugged on my hand and looked up at me, light eyes blinking. “Who is it?”
I didn't answer at first, debating over whether or not to try to explain it to him. Will he even know Chris? Christopher squirmed next to me, his breath warm on my neck. I kissed my sweet little boy’s head, wondering how long it would take him to accept Chris as his father.
“Momma?” Titus jerked on my hand again as we reached the front door. “Did you hear me?”
“I'm sorry, buddy.” I smiled down at him. “Yes, I heard you, and I need to explain something to you.”
He eyed me warily. “What's wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong, I just…” I reached out and touched his cheek. “Do you remember when Daddy left before Christopher was born? And then he…he didn't come back?”
He nodded slowly, eyes deep with sorrow. “I miss him.”
He does remember… Tears stung my eyes and I wrapped my arm around his shoulder, guiding him in the door. “C’mon, buddy.”
We stepped into the living room a moment later. At our approach, Chris turned from the window where he must've been watching my interaction with the boys.
He cleared his throat and slowly walked toward us, hands at his sides. He glanced at me and then back and forth between the boys. Seeing Christopher nearly asleep on my shoulder, he knelt in front of Titus.
“Hey Titus.” Chris smiled, looking into his son’s face. “You probably don't even remember me.”
Still holding my fingers, Titus slowly nodded. “I-I do…” he said, chin quivering. “You’re my daddy.”
At those words, tears filled my eyes. Thank You, God, for bringing my family back together. Titus released my hand and found his way into Chris’ waiting arms. The little boy didn't say a word, his arms around his father’s neck.
Chris looked up at me then, his eyes brimming with tears. Nestling Christopher closer, I smiled and nodded. Yes, this was how things were supposed to be.
Within a few moments, Titus hiccuping sobs subsided. Lifting him to his side, Chris stood and moved toward the couch. I followed, skirting around the pile of glass shards he had indeed swept out of the way.
Chris sat on the couch with Titus in his lap, and I sank to the cushion next to him. Leaning my head against his shoulder, I squeezed my eyes shut, staying as close to him as possible.
Christopher lifted his head from my shoulder at the jostling. “Why Ty crying?” he mumbled.
“Titus is okay, sweetie.” I kissed the top of his head, and looked over at my eldest, stilling crying and holding to his father.
Christopher sat on my lap, eyeing Chris as if he were a complete stranger. The toddler seemed entirely uneffected by the strange man Titus and I were clinging too. I began to worry how I would explain Chris’ appearance to the toddler. Whenever he'd asked after his father in the past – not often – I'd told him that Daddy went to be with Jesus. But now? It wasn't like I could take those words back.
Christopher soon decided that Chris was harmless and settled back against my shoulder, nodding off. Between going to the grocery store and Chris’ appearance, it was long past the boys’ bedtime by then.
“Do you think I should try to explain this to Christopher? I mean, how do I tell him…about you?”
Smiling sadly, Chris reached over and slid his finger into Christopher’s grasp. “Maybe we don't need to try to explain things right now. Let's just give it some time. Let him get used to having me around before we try to delve into all the details. He's not used to having a daddy.”
“That sounds like a great idea,” I smiled. “And I think he’ll catch on quickly.”
I looked over at Titus, snuggled against Chris’ other shoulder, and found him looking back at me. He grinned, an expression so boyish and carefree especially in comparison to his usual solemn eyes.
Laughing, I replied. “We can fix that. C’mon you two.”
I set Christopher down and made my way to the kitchen. Chris and Titus went outside and brought in the groceries while I whipped up grilled cheeses for the four of us. The boys clambered up into their seats, Chris taking the fourth chair at the table. I'd never really paid much attention to it until that night, but that extra seat had always been there. Just waiting to be occupied.
I brought food to the table and sat the plates in front of them, stopping to kiss Chris’ cheek. He grinned and kissed me back.
We sat at the kitchen table and ate grilled cheese sandwiches and milk. All of us, our little family. My heart filled to overflowing.
As it turned out, Titus was the one to explain things to his brother. In his grown-up-before-his-time way, with brotherly love, in a kid-language Christopher could grasp.
After cleaning up the kitchen, I crept down the hall in search of Chris. I found him at the door to the boys’ room, watching them sleep.
I stepped up beside him and leaned my head against his shoulder. He threaded his arm around my waist, nudging me closer.
As we watched, out of their sight in the near-darkness, Christopher climbed out of his bed and crossed the strip of carpet to his brother’s bed.
“Ty?” He whispered, tapping Titus on the arm.
Titus lifted his head. “Yeah?”
Christopher squirmed his way up onto his brother’s bed and didn't stop until he was under the quilt. “Ty?”
The toddler leaned back agaisnt the pillow, one arm behind his head as if contemplating the greatest questions of mankind. “Who's that man Momma kissed?”
Chris’ arm around my shoulders tightened.
Titus’ head appeared from underneath the covers. “That's our daddy, Christopher. Didn't you know that?”
Christopher continued staring up at the ceiling. “No, it's not.”
“Yeah, it is. Why don't you believe me?”
“Momma said Daddy went to be with Jesus in Heaven. And she said people don't come back from there. So that can't be him.”
Titus raised on his elbows, chin in his hands, and eyed his brother. “Well…maybe she was wrong.”
“Momma’s never wrong.”
Titus was quiet for a long moment before he spoke again. “I don't get it either. But it is him, I know it. Don't you want to think that too?”
Christopher gave the matter special consideration. I pressed closer the Chris, praying that the boy would answer affirmatively for his sake – for our family’s sake.
“Yeah…” Christopher finally admitted. “I like him.”
“Good,” Titus nodded as if concluding the conversation. “You wanna sleep with me tonight?”
Instead of replying, Christopher scooted down into the bed, grabbing the blanket and yanking it over his head.
“I guess that's a yes,” Titus mumbled, and he too dropped his head to the pillow.
Within a few moments, the sound of twin deep breaths drifted from the bed in corner. Satisfied they were fast asleep for the night, Chris led me down the hall and into the living room.
We sat on the couch, and he took my hands in his. “I'd say it's time you heard the whole story.”
I nodded once, knowing these details will be difficult to hear. But I needed to hear, needed to know what he's been through.
We talked for hours, not going to bed until well after two o’clock. And at eight thirty the next morning we were pounced on by two pajama-clad boys. But when hearing their laughter and seeing their smiles as they hugged their father, how could I complain?
He had come home.
A sunny and happy Saturday surrounded us the next morning as I put the car in park in front of my in-law’s house. I turned to face Chris who sat in the backseat next to Christopher’s carseat.
“Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Positive.” He began unbuckling Christopher’s restraints, and I turned to hop out of the car.
I walked to the other side and opened the back door. Christopher slid out of the carseat and hit the ground running.
The boys scampered across the yard and up onto their grandparents’ porch with me not far behind them.
I cast a furtive glance over my shoulder to note that Chris had gotten out of the car and now stood around the side of the garage – awaiting his signal.
Chris’ mother had came to the door and was about to usher the boys into the house when I reached them.
“We have a surprise for you, Maria.”
“Oh?” My mother-in-law eyed me suspiciously, before glancing back down at the boys. “Do you two know what your momma is talking about?”
“Yes, Nana!!” Titus nodded excitedly. “Daddy is home!”
“Daddy?” Maria repeated, eyes wide as she looked to me for an answer. “What is he talking about, Julie?”
I smiled. “Titus means exactly what he said.” I stepped to the side, as Chris stepped up on the porch behind me.
“Chris…” She murmured, her gaze becoming distant. Her legs weakened as she began to sink against the door casing.
Chris rushed forward and grabbed her before she could hit the floor. Maria didn't fully faint though, more like a swoon I guess you could say. Chris helped her to the bench seat a few yards away.
“Mom? Can you hear me?”
Titus and Christopher shrank back, their innocent eyes darting back and forth between Chris and their grandmother and me.
Maria didn't answer Chris’ insistent questioning, but she reached forward and pressed her hands to his face. “Oh, son…”
I pulled the boys to my sides and held them close, watching. Maria hugged Chris, her shoulders convulsing with quiet sobs. Soon Tom, Chris’ father, appeared from around the side of the house and dropped to his knees before his wife and son, joining the happy reunion.
I admired the beautiful scene, my heart full. I was honoring the memory of thinking we'd lost Chris, not willing to take him for granted now. I was thankful, so very grateful to God for bringing him back to us and giving our family a second chance. And I was happy.
What more could I say? There was heartache, there were tears. But in the end, it was all worth it. The thrill of joy and cheer outweighed the sting of grief and mourning.
All was right in my world.
Before I forget, here's the pin that inspired the story in the first place. ^_^ Obviously, I did some creative tweaking to the original, but still... *nods* Lovely one-sentence-story. :D
Hope you enjoyed! If all goes well, there will be another 'Pinterest story' appearing on this blog next month. :D
Do you have an image or writing prompt you would like to see made into a story for this series or an Imagine This challenge? Feel free to send it my way! The link to my Pinterest account can be found under the About Firefly tab, or you can message me through the Blogger contact form at the bottom of this page to obtain my email! :)