THE PRODIGAL – A Short Story – Pt. 4

Gabriel looked into the congealed liquid that had once been coffee with a little creamer, not seeing the disgusting film that had formed on the top while he sat trapped in his thoughts.

He was barely conscious of the rest of his family whispering in the corner of the room.  What filled his mind, as if in slow motion, was the scene that had played out only hours previously.

He looked at the hands that held the styrofoam cup, expecting to see the blood that had covered them.

At least Nick hadn’t gotten away.  They had decided to shoot it out with the police and had both been killed a mile down the road.

But the damage was done …

He fought down the rising sense of panic, the need that was overpowering his control.

He didn’t understand it, couldn’t grasp the source of so much yearning.

He stood abruptly, unmindful of the coffee that sloshed over the rim to run down his fingers and onto the floor.

He needed to go.

When he finally became aware of his surroundings again, he was shocked to see a stained glass window glimmering in the late afternoon sun.  He looked around at the rows of pews and the small altar.

He grimaced and sank into the front pew.

“I take it that it is You that is pulling at me?”  The question was directed at the cross that hung behind the pulpit.  “Hounding me?  Making me feel things I have fought against all my life?”

He waited, as if expecting an answer; then shook his head.

“I’ve made such a mess of things.  I’ve wasted my life, and now my dad is fighting for his because of what I have done.”

Anguish began to wash over him in waves, pulling sobs from deep inside.

“He’s going to die because of me.  Why did he step in front of that bullet?  Why didn’t he let me take my own punishment for the things I have done?”

“Because he loves you.”  The sound of that dear, sweet voice brought his head up.  “Because you are his son, and he is willing to die for each one of his children.”

She looked up and gestured toward the cross.

“The same as He was willing to die for your sins because He loves you.”

The clarity that opened in Gabriel’s heart and mind was not something to be ignored.  Suddenly he could see what he had purposely blocked out all of his life.

And with the seeing, a small crack began to form in the wall he had built up over the years.  As realization and a simple understanding began to chip away at that wall, a sense of divine love and forgiveness melted the shards of anger from his heart.

He reached out and took the hand that had held his so gently when he was small, wrapping his fingers around her smaller ones.

Closing his eyes, he relinquished control and prayed for the first time in years.  When he opened them, he turned to look at the only woman he had ever truly loved, and smiled.

He watched the tears fill her eyes as she read the peace that now filled his.  When she raised a hand to cradled the stubble-covered cheek, he closed his eyes and sighed deeply.

“I’m so sorry, Mom.  For all that I have put you and Dad through.  For all the pain I’ve caused every one.  Can you ever forgive me?”

“Oh, honey, of course I forgive you.  And so does your dad.”

The way she said it brought Gabe’s eyes open.

“Is he going to be alright?”

Those blue eyes smiled through the tears and she nodded.

“They’ve stopped the bleeding and repaired the damage the bullet did.  He should make a complete recovery.”  She glanced at the cross.  “Praise God, it hit him where it did.  The surgeon said that another inch to the left, and it would have killed him.”

Gabriel closed his eyes.

Praise God, indeed.


© Drusilla Mott and, 2012, 2021

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