Warren Langley is about to punch out from his job as supervisor at Junction Bus Operations. He has been employed at Junction for sixteen years. A major goal for Warren is to own an event planning business where his family can be involved. His parents, Robert and Elaine, now divorced, are retired entrepreneurs who operated a catering business. Robert presently works part time as a consultant to the food industry. Warren’s wife, Belinda, is a recruiter in the government. For years, Warren has been striving to recruit her to share his dream of business ownership.
Belinda has a Master’s degree in economics though nothing in her attitude about personal finances is indicative that she has mastered anything profitable relative to currency. Warren had to cease to participate in any form of joint banking with his wife. Warren’s accounts are flush compared to Belinda’s. Her most earnest endeavor is to be at the malls.
Warren begins to daydream about their early days of marriage, twenty-one years ago. For awhile, they both worked odd jobs in retail. Eventually, they landed secure well paying jobs, Belinda in government and Warren in the private sector. They had two children, first Jackson, now nineteen and then Kim who is fourteen but believes that she’s twenty-one.
Warren remembers the days when he could be assured of regular and satisfying intimate connections, steady home cooked meals, a tidy house, and respect galore from his lovely wife. He’s not sure when Belinda changed. It didn’t occur all at once. There was a gradual shifting of her priorities. A lot can be attributed to her job. She’s very good in her position as chief recruiter. Frequent travel is necessary. Unfortunately, Belinda loves her occupation and shopping more than she loves her family. On numerous occasions, Warren has asked Belinda to quit her job to help him form an event planning business. She’s not at all interested.
It’s Friday, time to unwind with his honey after a hard week’s labor. Warren phones Belinda to invite her to dinner. He dials her cell phone (she often has it off because she doesn’t like to be disturbed when she’s at the mall, which is often.) Surprise, surprise, she answers.
“Hi babe, how about we meet at Fleming’s for dinner in about an hour?” Warren asks.
“O honey, I’m on my way to the mall.”
In exasperation, Warren states, “You stay at the mall, Belinda.”
“No, I don’t. I’m there a lot but I don’t stay there.”
“You know what I mean,” snaps Warren.
Belinda demurs, “I won’t be long. TGI Friday’s is near the mall. I’ll pick us up dinner on my way home.”
Angrily, Warren responds, “I’ll pass.” He hangs up the phone.
“Hello, Hello?” After the realization that Warren hung up on her, Belinda thinks, What is the deal with Warren these days? She turns off her cell phone and heads to the mall.
Warren calls Tony, his friend from childhood. “Man, I invited Belinda for dinner tonight. She declined because guess where she’s going?”
“To the mall,” responds Tony.
“You got it,” bemoans Warren.
Tony senses Warren’s pain and anger. “Look, man, I can’t be Belinda but I can be your dinner companion tonight. What do you say, buddy? Let’s do it.”
Warren laughs, “You’re right, you can’t be Belinda but she’s not going because she’s, they say in unison, at the mall.”
The friends agree to meet at Fleming’s.
Linda, Belinda’s friend and fellow mall cohort, is already at the mall when Belinda arrives. They shop, and shop, and shop. At least once a week, they are at one mall or another. If malls issued frequent shopper miles, their revenue would be off the chart. The partners aren’t done. Unfortunately, the mall is closing. They’re exhausted. It’s time to head home.
Belinda comes in the door laden with bags.
Jackson and Kim look at each other and roll their eyes at their mother’s love affair with the mall.
“Hi,” says Belinda.
“Hi mom,” the kids sullenly respond.
Kim tells her mother, “Dad called. He said that he was going to dinner with Mr. Tony and that you were at the mall and would bring home dinner from TGI Friday’s.”
Belinda’s eyes widen. “Oops, I forgot. I apologize.”
Sadly, Kim responds, “You forget us a lot, mom.”
Belinda looks but doesn’t respond to Kim’s statement. “Let’s order pizza,” she says.
Jackson eagerly says, “Why not cook? We rarely get home cooked meals anymore.”
“Yea, mom, why not cook,” encourages Kim. “I’ll help.”
Belinda shakes her head. “No, I’m not cooking. I don’t feel like it, kids.”
Jackson sarcastically replies, “You feel like going to that job that Dad asked you to quit. You feel like traveling often away from us, and most of all, you feel like being at the malls! But you don’t feel like cooking for your family?!”
“Watch your tone, young man,” Belinda warns.
Frustrated, Jackson stares at his mother. He mumbles, “I wish we had a real mother.”
Sharply, Belinda asks, “What did you say, Jackson?”
Jackson turns his back and walks down the stairs to the basement.
Belinda stomps after him, but before she gets to the first stair, her daughter causes her to reconsider.
Kim looks long and disapprovingly at her mother. She shakes her head, and says nothing as she goes to join her brother in the basement.
Belinda opens her mouth to speak, but after Kim's silent message, she reconsiders and decides not to further address her children about the issue.
Belinda laments and thinks, I don’t understand why Jackson and Kim don’t realize how fortunate they are. She dismisses the matter from her thoughts, prepares a microwave meal, and proceeds to the den to shop online.
Warren comes home and finds Belinda shopping on the Internet. He fumes. “Belinda, something has got to give. This addictive shopping cannot continue. I have plans and family goals to advance us. That can’t happen with your irresponsible financial conduct, and the failures in your roles as wife and mother. For years, we’ve tolerated your decline. What happened to you, Belinda?”
Belinda whirls around. She trembles in anger, and shouts, “Who are you calling a failure? How dare you insult and disrespect me like that. What do you mean what happened to me?”
“I love you, Belinda. That doesn’t mean that I’ll not call a spade a spade. We have a severe intimate disconnection, you travel too often away from us, you rarely cook, and you cease to keep a tidy house. Add to that that you have an addiction to shopping at malls, and beyond, as evidenced by you sitting here now on the Internet shopping online after shopping earlier this evening at the mall! You have a Master’s degree in economics, Belinda. I can’t tell! Your finances are in shambles yet you continue to be a poor steward of so much that is essential to an orderly life. Those define failures to me. In sum, Belinda, you’re consumed by selfishness. You can nickname it what you want; I call it what it is.”
Belinda doesn’t want to own the truth spoken by her husband. She gives him a defiant look and strides out of the room.
Warren doesn’t attempt to stop her. He’s tired. He’s not sure what to do about the dismal condition of his family.
Jackson, a college athlete, has a baseball game today. He had asked Kim, and his parents to attend.
Belinda informed that she would be out of town for business.
Warren, Kim, and Warren’s father, Robert, attend the game to cheer Jackson on.
The game is exciting with memorable highlights.
Jackson is impressive; his talent for the game is obvious.
About an hour after the game begins, Warren comments to his family, “Clouds are forming; it looks like a storm’s approaching.”
They all agree.
Lightning strikes accompanied by booming thunderous sounds.
People begin to scatter for cover.
The players seek refuge.
A loud thunder clap erupts with lightning that strikes a target.
The target is Jackson; he's motionless on the ground.
His family rushes to the field.
The ambulance comes and delivers him to Harmony Hospital.
Warren phones Belinda.
Her phone is off. She’s on business travel, and is, where else? At the mall. After hours of shopping, a twinge of guilt hits her. She decides to phone to ask how Jackson is doing at the game. She observes that she has a voice mail message. In horror, Belinda listens as her husband informs that Jackson was struck by lightning and is now in the ICU.
Belinda cries out, “O God, please don’t let my baby die!” I’ll do whatever You tell me just don’t let my baby die!” She breaks down in gut wrenching sobs.
Passersby stare at her but only one, Emily, stops to help.
Belinda tells her about Jackson in the ICU.
Emily offers to pray for Jackson.
They walk together to Belinda’s rental car where Emily prays a fervent prayer. Then, Emily, in encouragement, squeezes Belinda’s hand, and departs.
Belinda rushes to pack to catch the next flight home.
The flight seems endless.
At Harmony Hospital, the family anxiously waits for word on Jackson.
Dr. Mitchell comes out and informs that it’s touch and go. He says, “Jackson is young. That’s in his favor. You can go in now to see him two at a time.”
Warren and Robert go in the room first.
Jackson is unconscious and they don’t know if he knows that they’re there.
Next Kim goes to his bedside.
Jackson remains unresponsive.
Hours go by.
Other family members join those already there. They rotate going in to Jackson.
Jackson doesn’t stir at all.
Near midnight, a despondent Belinda runs in and locates her family.
They tell her that, since his arrival, Jackson hasn’t responded to anyone’s presence.
Belinda, with her husband, enters Jackson’s room.
Together they pray at his bedside.
“Dear Lord, Belinda begins, “Please save our son. Forgive me for my failures and for how I have neglected my family. Please God, don’t let our baby die!”
Warren cries, “Lord, please let him live!”
Jackson stirs. Slowly, he opens his eyes. He first sees his mother; Jackson smiles. “Hi mom, I thought you were out of town.”
She cries out in relief. “I came back for you. It’s now abundantly clear to me that my family is more important than a job, trips, or being at the malls. This is my wake up call. I’m done with the misplaced priorities.” She looks over at her husband who is overcome with emotion. “Will you both forgive me?” she pleads. “I promise to prove that I mean what I’ve said.”
Jackson reaches for his mother’s hand. He assures her, “Of course, mom. We love you.”
Warren says nothing. He grabs his wife and embraces her in a passionate hug.
Jackson fully recovered.
Belinda conquered her shopping addiction, got her finances in order, quit her job, and became a better wife than she was in the earlier days of matrimony with Warren.
Jackson and Kim are thrilled that they again have a quality and attentive mother.
Warren reached his goal of business ownership. He and Belinda opened their event planning business called, Heightened Awareness. It’s consistently in the black, thanks in large part, to Belinda’s Master’s degree in economics and how she’s wisely learned to apply it.
One event fulfilled by Heightened Awareness has particular significance. That is the reception held for Warren’s remarried parents! Another bonus is that they work part time in the family business. How’s that for Heightened Awareness, family style?!
Written by Sandra January 31, 2010
This story is included in my e-book titled, Zest and Gusto in Christian Short Stories. It is available for $2.99 on Smashwords.com. You don't need e-readers to read e-books; they can be read online, as well. A free sample is available to read on the subject site. Here is the link https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/lioneagle.
Note: Please click this link www.torchblazers.blogspot.com
to view the entire content on this blog.