By Kyler Horn
“Remember, Booboo? Mom gets home today! All you have to do is make it through youth group.” I wipe my tears away as we pull up to the Community Church. “Youth group will be over before you know it.” I had already had three full blown, screaming, kicking, asthma attack inducing meltdowns that day, but who can blame a six year old who hasn’t talked to, let alone seen, their mom for a week? He must have seen that his pep talk didn’t have much of an affect on me. “You know what? Maybe if Mom gets home early enough, she’ll come get you before youth group is over.” He winks at me and shakes his beard in my face, making me giggle uncontrollably.
Dad walks me into the lobby and kneels in front of me. “You’ll be fine, no more crying.” He reassures me one last time as he gives me a high-five, leaving me with the other saints in training. Preacher Smith and his family are outside the nave doors greeting everyone. Preacher is crouching down, looking in the aquarium with all of the boys while Jane, his wife, is talking to us girls. Her smile is enormous and the feeling of belonging and love radiates from her. Jack, the preacher’s son, comes over to round all of us up into the pews to start singing our hymns.
The energy in the room is ecstatic. Everyone in the church is singing, even the high schoolers get into the songs. With all the love and commotion going on, I almost forget about my mom, but my mother’s favorite psalm comes on and I start to cry. Jack walks over to my pew and squats in front of me. “Are you okay, Kyler? Let’s move to the back so we can talk.” I grab his hand and we walk to the last pew. “Is everything alright?” He asks again, trying to look me in the eyes, but I hide my face. When I don’t respond, he sits next to me and buries me in his arms. He leans in close and whispers “I really need you to stop crying.” I can tell by the way he’s moving that he’s looking at something. “Kyler, I really need you to stop crying.”
I unbury myself from his arms and try to find what Jack seems to be terrified of. All I see is Preacher Smith talking to his wife. He looks angry, an emotion I’ve never seen on his face. He’s throwing his hands around in rapid, distinct movements, while Jane just stares at Jack and me. As the hymns come to an end, I hear Preacher Smith sternly whisper “Take care of her, however you need to." He quickly heads to the podium, his white shirt now creased, and partially untucked, from all of the thrashing. He shoots one last look at Jane before he starts opening prayer.
Jane begins to approach us, and Jack tries to dry my face as he pulls me closer. “Hello Kyler, can you follow me?” Jane asks as she extends her hand, but I just stare at her.
“Mom, I got this.” Jack whispers, pushing her hand away.
“You obviously don’t.” Jane sneers as she grabs my hand and pulls me out of his arms. In a panic, Jack chases us. His face is distorted in fear and anger, but I can’t figure out why. The Smith family is the most caring, loving family around. They devoted their lives outside to teaching everyone the word of god through simple things such as piano. They even took jobs at the local market so they could “spread his love like Smucker’s jam… which by the way is buy 1 get 1 free.” So, why is Jack acting as if he just saw the holy ghost himself?
Jane throws the kitchen door open, scoops me up, and drops me onto the counter. The frigid, pear colored vinyl under my legs makes me shiver. “Mom,” Jack pleads. “Just let me try to talk to her for a few more minutes.”
“Get out.” Jane doesn’t even turn around when she demands this. She’s pulling all the kitchen drawers open and slamming them shut. Jack pleads a few more times but stops after he realizes that there is no hope. He grabs my hand, gives it a squeeze, and then slips out of the kitchen. With all the chaos and confusion, my silent tears turn back into whimpers, making Jane lose all that is left of her sanity. Jane slams her hands onto the counter. “Quit crying!” She shrieks, pounding her hands on the counter again. My cry elevates from a whimper to a sob.
“I want my mommy.” I barely manage to whisper.
“Your mom isn’t here. Now stop…” Jane bashes one fist onto the counter to my right “...CRYING!” the other fist comes down to the left of me. I don’t know if it’s from fear or despair, but all I can do is repeat over again.
“I want my mommy. I want my mommy. I want my mommy.” If Jane tried to utter a word, I’d just repeat louder and louder until she reached her breaking point. She went to reach for my mouth and I panicked. With my fear in full control, I kicked her as hard as possible in the stomach.
“No! You do not treat your neighbor like that!” Jane winds her arm back, but before she swings the world freezes. I can see the anger in her brown eyes. Disgustingly brown, they remind me of bitter, black coffee. Muffled through the kitchen walls I can hear Preacher Smith going over 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 “Love is patient and kind... it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing…” The muscles in Jane’s face are taught, yet her frown seems almost a grin. She knew what she was about to do. She must have done it a hundred times with the way she played it off like a bible lesson. Her hand slices through the air and strikes me on the right side of my face.
“Matthew 22 Verse 39. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Jane recites as she runs her hand under cold water. She then walks to the fridge and digs around. After a few minutes, Jane emerges from the fridge with a bag of frozen peas and carrots. “Holds these on your face for a few minutes.” She coos as she gently lays it on the bright red mark she left on my face. “Take some time to collect yourself. I’ll be outside the door waiting for you so I can walk you back to the sermon. “ With that being said, Jane opens the kitchen door, draws a deep breath, puts on her smile, and walks out.
I’m unable to tell if I am shivering from the icy, vinyl plastic under me; my anger at God for letting that happen to me; or pure fear knowing I’d have to see her twice a week for the next seven years. I feel betrayed. My religion had come crashing down at the hands of those who taught me all I know. Has it all been a cover up? As 1 Thessalonians 4:11 states “make it your goal to live quietly.” If I were to tell anyone, my life would no longer be quiet. With the way Townville is, my name would be plastered all over the town. Would God be angry if I told anyone? I’d be throwing one of his children right into the loud, fiery pits of hell. How would my parents even react to this? I don’t want to be punished by them and I don’t want the Smiths to get in trouble... let alone get me in trouble with God… if there even is one.
I sit on the counter like a patient awaiting surgery. I am anxious of leaving the safety of the room I’m in, but I know staying in here will only cause more harm. I slip off of the counter and head towards the door. Once I leave this room, I will never be able to tell anyone about what has just happened. I reach for the doorknob, the chilled metal stings, but I don’t pull away. The moment I open this door, everything will be put between God and I. I close my eyes as tight as possible as I wrench the door open.
Light comes pouring in around a silhouette in the doorway. “Surprise, Boobear! Are you ready to go?” My mom swoops me up into a hug. “Oh, how I’m ready to hear about all the things I’ve missed!” she gushes as she sets me back down. I take a deep breathe, look back into the kitchen, and force a smile.
“You didn’t miss anything, Mommy.”