“so much of what we learn about love
is taught by people who never really loved us. . .” ~ r.h. Sin
The next few days seemed to go by slowly to Casey, but in a blur all at the same time. The days were full, even though she was mostly a spectator. The kids made valiant efforts to include her as did the parents. The nights were longest. The nightmares plagued her, she wet her bed twice and three times her screams brought the whole family running, which made her feel terrible.
Rose took her aside on her last day. “Casey, honey, the social worker called and they found you a new home. I believe she said you stayed with them before? The Bellworths?”
“Miz Mariah and Mr. Abel?” hope flickered in her heart, then anger. The conflicting emotions confused her and she wasn’t sure what she felt.
“Yes dear, is that what you call them? Well, a social worker is going to come and get you and take you down to the town office.”
“I don’t know, maybe.”
Casey enjoyed the car ride. The booster seat she sat in was slightly uncomfortable, but watching the scenery was fun. She hadn’t really ever been on car rides before. Her parents almost never took her anywhere, and if they had, it wouldn’t be far. The majority of the fields once they got out into the country had been harvested, looking bare and prickly with the remains of corn or other plants, sticking up out of the ground.
Casey was nervous and she took a breath. She wasn’t sure how she was going to feel about the Bellworths. She swung back and forth from angry to excited to see them. When they reached the SS office in town, Casey felt like she had a whole swarm of butterflies occupied in making her stomach feel like it wouldn’t hold still.
Mikayla met them in the parking lot, arms wide open, and as usual, dressed in something Casey wished she could wear. Today, Mikayla sported a dark gray dress with pretty pink and blue birds all over it. They looked like robins. When she gave Casey a warm hug, the cardigan she wore felt soft against Casey’s face and arms. It made her feel safe. Casey trusted Mikayla.
“Oh, we’re so glad to have you back kiddo!” Mikayla pulled away and crouched so she could look into Casey’s eyes. “I’m so sorry you had to leave. You won’t have to go back this time sweetie. I’m so sorry.” Tears shone in Mikayla’s eyes and Casey gave her another hug. She heard Mikayla take a deep breath as she rubbed Casey’s back. “Okay, let’s go! You have some very excited people who want to see you. Levi can’t wait!”
Casey grinned, though the smile felt strange on her face. She couldn’t wait to give Levi the biggest hug she could muster.
Mikayla held her hand as she led her across the parking lot to her own car.
“I like your boots,” Casey said quietly, looking down at Mikayla’s cowboy boots that had a little heel on them that made a cool sound on the pavement.
Mikayla giggled. “Now that you live in the country, we’re going to have to get you a pair.”
After Casey buckled her seat belt and Mikayla slid into the driver’s seat, Casey reached forward and touched Mikayla’s arm.
“What is it honey?”
“Is Belle still there?” Casey wanted to hand feed her goat.
“Ah.” Mikayla had laughter in her voice. “I’m sure she’s still there.”
Casey wanted to reach next to her for Fluffles and remembered that he was still gone. “Do you have Fluffles?”
“Fluffles? Oh! You mean the bear Mr. Abel got you from the hospital?”
Mikayla turned on her blinker and tapped the brakes before turning. “Well, no, I don’t have him. I’m sorry Casey, I know you liked him a lot.”
Casey sank into her seat, leaning her elbow against the window and resting her head in her hand. The thought of Mr. Fluffles, the one thing she had ever loved like that, somewhere all alone, or worse, ripped into tiny pieces like her dad had threatened made her stomach flip over.
It was all the Bellworths fault. They had promised she could stay and then they let her go.
It was sooner than she thought possible that they pulled into the driveway of Miz Mariah and Mr. Abel’s farm. Casey’s heart beat fast. Any second now she would get to see Levi. She pulled her jacket close around her shoulders and glanced at the barn. A few goats stood in their pen and the late evening sun shone its red rays over the empty fields.
When the car stopped, Casey caught sight of Levi. She couldn’t get the seatbelt unbuckled fast enough, but, by time she did, Levi had already pulled the door open. She jumped at him, wrapping her arms around his middle and holding on as tight as she could. Levi patted her back and she buried her face into the front of his sweatshirt. He smelled kind of like the barn and kind of like cookies.
“Casey, I’m so glad you’re back. I prayed really hard and God answered!” Levi spoke softly so only she could hear. She looked up at him, slightly confused. He had always hated talking about God or listening to the Bible stories that Mr. Abel had read them every night.
Miz Mariah was there beside her. As soon as she let go of Levi, Miz Mariah enveloped her in a hug of her own. Casey stiffened straight as a board. She didn’t once relax until Miz Mariah loosened her grip and gave her a quizzical look. Casey dropped her head. She didn’t want to let them in. She didn’t want to need them like she had last time. That way, if she had to leave again, maybe it wouldn’t hurt so much.
Miz Mariah sighed and stood. “It’s good to have you home Casey. We missed you so much. Dinner is almost ready, come on in. Will you join us Mikayla?”
While Miz Mariah and Mikayla discussed dinner, Casey turned to follow Levi inside. Mr. Abel was waiting to tell her hello. His knee creaked as he knelt so that he was more on her level. His eyes were sad and hopeful all at the same time. He offered her a hand to shake. He seemed to understand that she didn’t want a hug or to be too close to him or Miz Mariah.
She placed her hand in his giant rough one and dropped her eyes. She didn’t want to look in his anymore, but a second thought drew her eyes back up to his face. There was something familiar in his features, especially about the eyes. She had had the same feeling before, but it was stronger this time.
She thought about it while he led her inside the house. There was a delightful smell in the air that made her stomach pinch and growl. It smelled just like her favorite meal of Miz Mariah’s. Chicken pot pie with homemade biscuits instead of crust. Her mouth watered and she swallowed.
Mikayla did stay to dinner and her lively conversation kept them all entertained and allowed Casey to not feel so uncomfortable. But when dinner was over, and Mikayla’s taillights disappeared down the drive, it felt too quiet. Levi held her hand and she curled up next to him on the couch, her head pillowed on his arm.
When the dishes were done, Mr. Abel pulled out the pretty red book with the stories Casey had loved. He adjusted the lamp and settled into his chair. He smiled at her and patted his knee. “Would you like to sit in my lap Casey?”
She shook her head, perhaps a little too hard. He looked disappointed, but tried to hide it as he opened the book. Miz Mariah sat on the other side of the couch from Casey and Levi. Casey pulled away, not wanting to get too close.
Mr. Abel’s voice cracked on several occasions and he had to pause and clear his throat. After the scripture reading and during the prayer, Casey was surprised when Levi joined in and thanked God for bringing her back to them. She was also surprised that they prayed for his dad. While getting ready for bed, she though hard about everything she knew about God.
The Bellworths said that He was a kind and loving Father. She shook her head; those things didn’t really seem to go together in her mind. Dad’s weren’t like that. They had also said that he had let His son come down to earth so that He could save the people from going to hell. She knew that somehow, Him dying had made it so you could go to heaven if you believed in God.
Casey figured God existed. But it didn’t really matter to her. He never had cared about her, so, why should she care about Him? Once she had her pajamas on and had even combed her hair, she opened her small bedroom door and tiptoed down the hall to Levi’s room. There were four rooms and a bathroom upstairs all together. Casey and Levi each got a room and there was an empty bedroom and a work/storage room besides those. She could tell the light was on because it shone under Levi’s door. She knocked quietly. She had some questions for him.
He was sitting at a small desk in front of the window and he had his hood pulled over his head and was playing with the drawstrings of his sweatshirt. His back was towards her and his long legs looked cramped under the desk. She closed the door behind her and jumped on top of his bed, curling up and placing her chin in her hands so she could watch him.
He looked up from his thick book and grinned. “I’m so glad you’re back. I felt like I’d lost a little sister when you left.”
Casey nodded, a sad feeling in her heart. She didn’t want to ever remember that moment. It had felt like leaving the only place she had ever felt safe.
Chuckling, Levi leaned over and tipped her nose with a finger. “You wrinkle your nose when you don’t like something, you know that?”
She tried not to smile, but a small grin worked its way to her face and she ducked her head.
“I saw that! You smiled!” He teased.
She giggled and pointed at his book with a questioning look
He groaned dramatically and dropped his head on his arms. “Alas, schoolwork will prove to be my undoing!”
She hardly had any idea what he was saying but she laughed anyway.
“You’ll have to go to school soon too you know.” Levi glanced her way again.
Dread filled her and a chill settled in her stomach, making her shiver.
“Whoa kid. You look as white as a sheet. It’s just school. No big deal, right?” His voice was gentle and worried.
She shook her head hard. She didn’t want to go back to school. She didn’t want to go anywhere ever again. Someone from SS might take her like last time.
“Maybe you’ll make new friends. Wouldn’t you like that?” he encouraged her, rocking back on the rear legs of his chair.
“No. You’re my friend.”
“Yeah,” he looked deep in thought.
“Why do you like God now?” Casey was curious.
He seemed surprised by the question and let the front feet of his chair hit the floor. “What do you mean?”
She shrugged. “You just never really liked God before and now, you prayed and everything.” She caught sight of the picture frame she had seen in Levi’s pack. “Who’s that?” she pointed.
Levi sighed and picked up the picture, looking at it for a minute before turning it towards her so she could see. “That’s my mom, and my little sister Ella.”
Casey was again struck almost breathless by the near look-a-like of herself that she saw in the picture.
“And that’s me, obviously, but, you look a lot like my sister which is why, I think, we kind of hit it off. Casey, about your other question. My little sister died, and then my mom died of Cancer. I thought God hated me, so I hated Him back. Because I thought it was His fault that my family died and that my dad was a drunk. But, I’ve come to realize that it wasn’t his fault. God still loves us. It’s just, my mom always said that people sinned. Do you remember that story about Adam and Eve in the bible that Mr. Abel read?”
Casey nodded, anxious for him to keep talking.
“Well, because they sinned, and all people sin, no one can be perfect. And, if we didn’t believe in Jesus and try to be like Him, we would have to go to hell as a punishment.”
Casey’s mind wrapped around what he was saying bit by bit. “Like detention at school?”
He nodded. “Yeah! But, Casey, God loves us and he sent His Son to save us. But He can’t make people love and obey Him. They have to have a choice. So, bad things happen and God is in control. And you know. If my mom hadn’t died of Cancer, she might have died anyway because we would all still be living with my dad. And if Dad hadn’t been caught and put in jail, he would still be drinking and stuff. So, there are some good things that happened, and He cares about us. He wants to be friends with us. He loves you Casey.”
She shook her head. She didn’t have much concept of what that meant.
“He does. Not like your mom and dad. Kind of like Miz Mariah and Mr. Abel loves us. You know, if we do something wrong, they still love us anyway and they’ll never do anything bad to us.”
“But they sent me away.” Casey nearly whispered.
“They didn’t send you away kid,” his voice was passionate and he leaned towards her earnestly. “Don’t you know? The state made you have to go back to your parents. They didn’t want you to go. Miz Mariah nearly cried her eyes out after you left with Miss Mikayla. It tore all of us up inside to see you go.”
“Miz Mariah cried?” she was surprised,
“Yeah kid. Don’t you know they like you an awful lot? They could have pretty much any kid without a home that they wanted. They would just have to choose them. But, as soon as they found out about your parents going to jail and all, they were doing everything they could to get your back.”
“Really?” Casey looked up at Levi, almost afraid that he was only joking. But his face was as serious as she had ever seen it.
“Yeah, really. They love you an awful lot.”
She looked down at her hands that she was twisting together. It didn’t make sense. “But they let me go.”
“Don’t you see Casey? They didn’t have any choice!”
Casey slid from the bed, suddenly very weary. “Goodnight Levi,” Her voice was soft as she closed the door behind her.
She woke with a nightmare that night, crying for Fluffles. Miz Mariah tried to comfort her, but Casey still felt uncomfortable in her presence. She was afraid to let her get too close, in case she had to leave again. She didn’t want it to hurt so bad.
The next morning -which was Saturday- after breakfast, Mr. Abel left for town and Casey helped Levi with the chores. Feeding the goats was her favorite. She got to pet Belle and feed her the special biscuit she had saved from breakfast. She liked watching Levi feed the pigs. His nervousness in their pen made her giggle. And the way they gobbled up their food, shoving at each other with their snouts was so funny.
“Hey Casey, see that fence over there?” Levi pointed to the field on the opposite side of the barn from the house. “That’s Mr. Abel’s neighbor’s property and he’s got some cows on it. But there is a big bull and he’s real mean. Don’t ever go over there, or he might chase you, okay? Mr. Abel wanted me to tell you and I almost forgot.”
Casey nodded solemnly. She didn’t want to be chased by some ugly old bull. Just then, Belle grabbed the pile of grass that Casey held in her hand and distracted her.
Levi watched Casey with the goats. He was excited to show her the kittens, but he had to finish cleaning out a part of the barn first. He left her at the gate and went inside to get the broom and get to work. He covered his mouth and nose with his shirt so that the dust wouldn’t get all in his lungs or make him sneeze.
His talk last night with Casey had been interesting, but he felt like he had failed her. He hadn’t even told her the least bit about how, now that he was trying to trust God, he felt so much better than he had before. There was a calm in his heart instead of a mixed up jumble of pain, anger, and confusion. He hadn’t told her about how he had prayed that God would bring her back, and He had. He didn’t tell her that she needed to trust God with her life and let Him into her heart. He hadn’t wanted to push her.
He could tell she still had distrust towards the Bellworths even after all he had said to her last night. She seemed to keep them at arm’s length as if she was afraid of getting her hurt again. He paused in his sweeping, that was what it was. She was probably scared stiff she would have to leave again. Poor little kid!
Levi heard a vehicle pull up and a shout. He rushed to the barn door. Mr. Abel was racing across the yard towards the other side of the barn, calling Casey. He looked beyond Mr. Abel and gasped, his limbs frozen in terror. Casey was in the bull’s pasture and the ugly creature was headed right for her.
Please do not copy this story in any way, shape, or form without permission. Thank you! Copyright 2016 by Victoria Lynn
….To be continued in a week….
If you missed the previous Chapters, you can read them here.
What did you think? I would love to hear your thoughts, comments and critiques in the comments below!
By God’s Grace,