Randall: Grace its done, I’m done, I’m walking right now. She’s sleeping with some guy. I don’t know, can you come get me?
Me: Randall I have your girls here, its two o clock in the morning. I can’t just leave them.
Randall: There were guns, she’s crazy, I don’t know what I was thinking ever being with her.
Me: What are you going to do?
Randall: Walk to my friend’s house.
I looked over at my nieces. Their sweet snores filled the room. Both of them were squished in a sleeping hug. Before bed their eyes filled with tears. “We miss daddy.”
Randall moved his new girlfriend in a few days after his wife moved out. It was a sunny Sunday. I was in the process of dropping the girls off from church except no one was home. I called Randall, he said he would be back in about twenty minutes but didn’t say the reason for his lateness. It was ridiculously hot on that particular day and my old Toyota was not up to par on its A.C. capabilities. The girls and I got out of the car, I popped open the trunk, and we hopped in. They always found sitting in the trunk to be a treat, we watched cumulus clouds breeze past a soft blue sky.
Randall drove up in his silver truck with a trailer attached to the back. The trailer had a queen sized bed on top of it while the truck bed held tote bags in an assortment of colors in a variety of sizes. I was horrified as a young girl emerged from the passenger side. She had long shiny black hair, her eyes were brown with a lifelessness in them. She wore short shorts and a blue tank top. She smiled at Randall. He didn’t smile back. He looked at me and shook his head. He knew what I was thinking. My heart sank, I was sickened to my core.
The girls ran over to their dad. “Not now,” he brushed them off. The young girl with the black shiny hair looked back at me with eyes that suggested I was a threat. I shot back as much of a non-verbal, “I’m his sister dimwit” gaze as I could muster. I took my time up the front porch steps.
Randall: You can’t come in okay, if her mom asks, they will have their stupid clothes.
As the door closed, It felt like the whole world had crumbled and anything that was good in the world was not at present inside of that house.
“Come back to the present,” I told myself. Stacks of books with towers of notebooks made a frame around the floor of my room. I called it my library. My nephew lovingly referred to it as, “the mess.” A pile of high-heels rested beside a purple and gold Steve Madden suitcase. Denise (my younger niece), loved to put my shoes on to then strut around the house while she rolled the suitcase. Where are you going? I’d ask.
“I’m going to New York.” She’d respond.
I didn’t want to pick Randall up. Everything about the lives of the girls was a wreck. They lived at their grandma’s house with their mom and slept on a couch while Randall did drugs with the young shiny black haired girl. I looked over at the sleeping huggers surprised there hadn’t been an elbow to the face by now. Another hour went by. I couldn’t sleep, I dialed his number.
Me: Hey did you get a ride from your friend?
Randall: Still walking, Its been raining since I left.
Me: I’ll be there soon. Where are you?
Randall: Type in La Grange, after you get close give me a call.
I put on my sneakers, a jacket, and slowly opened my bestfriends’ bedroom door. “Miranda,” I whispered, “Can you hear me?”
“Mmmmhhhmmmmm,” she sighed sleepily.
“I’m going to get Randall, can he come back here if he wants? I can explain in the morning. I need to leave the girls here.”
Her eyes opened, she spoke more intensely, “Yeah if thats what you need. Be safe, the girls are fine.”
“Oh my God,” I mouthed as I stepped outside. It was raining hard, the temp felt near the thirties. Randall was walking in this. I got into my car. My clock said it was four ten in the morning, his first call was over two hours ago. Guilt sat in the back of my throat.
Sounds were muted often by the brick house I lived in. It’s structure was strong.
“I didn’t know it was raining like this, I didn’t know it was this cold.” I repeated over and over to myself.
I put the town, “La Grange,” into my GPS system. La Grange was forty minutes away. Hefty beads of rain followed by grueling wind wobbled my car side to side. My night vision was horrendous, It took me ten minutes to get to the highway that normally took two.
“Maybe this is good for him. Maybe this walk will give him time to think, I shouldn’t feel so bad,” I reasoned.
I drove slow. Time sped by as my car crept cautiously past shadows of trees, houses, and signs.
Me: Randall, I’m almost to La Grange how do I find you?
Randall: I’m close to a church, its the United Methodist Church.
We hung up. I pulled into the town of La Grange. It resembled so closely to the town I grew up in. The town was tiny, close to fields of cotton and tobacco. It, like Middlesex, probably hadn’t changed much in twenty years aside from a Dollar General and a few other stores. I smiled as I went on my church hunt. I spent a lot of time as a kid seated at the foot of the church steps next to my parent’s house, Middlesex Baptist Church. It was my beacon of light. Now, another church was my beacon to Randall. My heart dropped, my car faced the front of the church. Randall wasn’t there. I dialed again.
Me: Hey I’m at the wrong place? I’m in town though.
Randall: Put it in your phone again, I’m not in the city limits
I hung up and looked again. Nothing came up. I typed in La Grange United Methodist Church into google. Two churches showed on the map. The first one, I was parked in front of. I typed in the second address. The wind roared. Rain became a drizzle. I was only seven minutes away. I pulled onto a dark backroad. A deer ran along the side of my car. Minutes went by, a huge white cross was lit next to a church about a half mile away. Relieved I sped up and pulled in.
Me: Randall are you okay?
Randall: I’m soaked, She wouldn’t let me take most of my things.
Me: Do you want to come back with me? You could go to church with me in the morning. Your girls are there.
Randall looked up at the bright white cross in front of us. “I’ve embarrassed him enough tonight.”
He smelled sickly, as if he hadn’t showered in weeks. Wet clothes and the sweat from a nearly four hour walk didn’t help. The air tasted like manure. I barely breathed without gagging when he peeled off his clothes to change in the backseat. I looked out the window wishing I’d waited outside. He finished changing and sprung into the seat next to me.
Me: Randall are you sure you don’t want to come home with me. You don’t have to go with us to church. You can sleep in until we get back. The girls would be so happy. They miss you?
Randall: No, take me to Nate’s house.
I thought about not listening. I had control over the car. He wouldn’t walk all the way from my place to anyone else’s house. Everyone was too far away. I sighed as he reiterated his night.
Randall: She slept with some guy Grace. No more of this. I don’t know what I was thinking. Its like I try to do the right things, nobody sees. I do the wrong things everyone sees. If God loved me why wouldn’t he help me? Wouldn’t he make my life better? No, he doesn’t. All I get is called the deadbeat dad. I’m the bad guy. They all want a bad guy, I can show them a bad guy. I’m tired. I can’t do this anymore. I don’t even know what the purpose of living is.
We pulled into his friend Nate’s house. He left the car after a short thank you. I felt defeated.
Back at home, I watched the sleeping sisters. A calm filled the air. Safety, it felt like safety. “Their dad should be here not me.” I thought as I plopped into bed beside the girls.
Did I make the right choice? Was Randall even in his right mind to decide for himself?
Sweet snores filled my room while Randall was lost, utterly lost.
Painting by: Leonid Afremov; https://afremov.com/Deal-of-the-Day/?partner=7fb67d5e3a234334&msclkid=9d7ca45570961dfd2ef4fbca293b0f7e