Don't forget to make the Mine a stop in your day...
As always, some pictures to enjoy...
~ Chapter Fifteen ~
Justin raised his head and faced Mary Jo. “You know, I don’t even remember why I was thinking it would be a good idea to call my mom. I’ll just wait. But what I can’t wait on is a plan to look for Chance.”
Mary Jo nodded. “Agree. The longer he’s with that monster the worse off he’ll be.”
Shaking his head, he pulled a piece of paper from his back pocket. “I’ve been working on this every chance I get. It’s a map of every church in a ten mile radius of where I found Arianna on the jogging trail.”
Mary Jo took it and looked it over. “There must be twenty churchs on this map, Justin.”
He took the map Mary Jo refolded and held out to him. “I know, and I intend to search every house around each one of them. The window she described can’t be that popular. Maybe I’ll get lucky and there will only be one.”
Mary rolled her eyes. “Good luck with that one son.”
“I’m going to need it. First thing in the morning, I’m out of here.”
Justin tossed and turned all night in anticipation of the next day’s events. He admitted he was scared. He found himself praying, Dear Lord, if it be your will, please let me find and rescue that baby. He pulled the covers up around his shoulders despite the heat of the night. It was going to be a long one and he could use all the comfort he could get.
He flopped over for the hundredth time, trying not to be negative, but how was he going to find a baby if the police couldn’t? Who did he think he was, anyway? Why had he assured Arianna he would look for Chance?
The questions kept coming, but he had no answers. He hopped from bed, deciding to check on Arianna. He tiptoed through the house and stopped to stare down at her. She looked so peaceful, yet thin and still pale. Mary Jo reclined in a chair a few feet away from the couch.
Seeing the older woman that way assured him he’d made the right decision in bringing her with him. It had been God’s decision, really. In any case, he was glad he listened.
Feelings of tenderness almost overwhelmed him. He was not only responsible for a wife, now, but a child and a nurse too. God must really trust him. He raised his head heavenward and prayed silently, Dear Lord, please let me do right by these women and that baby. Please don’t allow me to let them down. Arianna has been through so much, and Mary Jo is so loyal and loving. And that baby. In his short life, things can’t have been as good as they should be, especially now his mommy’s gone. Poor thing needs her love.
Justin rubbed at his eyes, surprised they came back wet. He wasn’t a crier, never had been. His mom brought him up teaching him to suck-it-up and go on, and he had. He backed up and fell onto the loveseat behind him in his mom’s cozy cabin living room.
He’d taken every good thing in his life for granted. Meeting Arianna had changed his life forever. In every way. She made him a better person, for sure. He’d lived high off the hog while a lonely little girl grew up with a monster enduring unspeakable acts he didn’t even want to allow his mind to explore.
The tears kept coming and he continued to sit, wiping at them with an impatient hand while mulling over his life situation.
He was sure the feelings he had for his new wife were of the forever kind. He’d never experienced such worry and tenderness before, not even for his mom. A moment of guilt assailed him, but he shrugged it away. That’s the way it was supposed to be. A man had to love his wife above his mother, but under God. He smiled. Things were looking up, at least in his mind.
He sat up, wiped his eyes and pulled the piece of paper from his back pocket. He traced a line with his finger. I found her here. His finger moved along the line to the closest church. It didn’t have the bells Arianna talked about hearing, but he wasn’t ruling any of them out until he searched each one. He knew there was only one church in the area that had bells, so why wasn’t he searching there first? Shaking his head to the silent question, he pondered the reason.
In a moment of firm decision he whispered, “I have to look there first.” He folded the paper, stood up and walked to his room to grab a few things for the trip.
He wrote a note for Arianna and propped it on the coffee table in front of where she slept. Hopefully she would see it before Mary Jo. The thought of the nurse seeing his professed I love you before his wife didn’t make him happy, but there wasn’t much he could do about it.
He sat in his mother’s old pick-up and looked up at the hulking three story house across the street. He’d ended up here after searching the neighborhood around the church with bells. The reason for wanting to avoid it was finally clear to him: It was his church. The thought Arianna had been suffering for so long so close to where he’d worshiped God his whole life unsettled him. How could it be?
He didn’t know, but there was no time for reflections as his eyes caught sight of a middle-aged man carrying a couple plastic sacks of groceries up to the front door.
Justin watched as the man sat the sacks on the deteriorating concrete steps and pulled a set of keys from his front pocket. He grabbed a padlock and wrestled with it until it snapped open. Who put a padlock on the front door of their home? The answer was immediate. A monster, that’s who.