Chapter 13

Had a week flown by already? Here it was Wednesday morning again, not unlike last week, with the sun shining. I waved to Caitlin when she got on the bus and then started my walk a block west from Main Street up the cracked sidewalk to the red brick church at the end of the road. I chuckled at the posting on the sign. It read:

Sign broken
Message inside

I wasn’t caught off guard this time when the door swung open on my approach. A new woman cheerfully greeted me at the door.

“Good morning,” I responded, hanging my coat on the rack. Once through the double doors, I moved straight towards the coffee. The sweets looked tempting.

“Hi, Heather!”

I turned to face the voice and immediately recognized my old friend, Sarah. “Hi. What are you doing here?”

“I come every week, except I missed it last week. I love it. My daughter, Tessa, plays downstairs while I get to enjoy time with adults.” Her eyes crinkled with a genuine smile. “Want to sit down?” she gestured to two empty seats. We chatted about the cooler weather and the speaker from last week. She had a melodic laugh that she offered freely. Sarah then placed her left elbow on the table and leaned her chin on her hand. “So, how are things?”

“It’s been a tough time.” I said, fighting the sting at the back of my eyes.

Sarah squeezed my hand as we stood to sing and whispered, “I’m here for you if you need.”

I nodded my thanks. One of the songs sounded the same as last week although I didn’t feel confident enough to share in the singing. Then Rebecca, the leader, opened in prayer and welcomed the speaker. The speaker was a petite feather of a woman. I listened with interest as she talked about nutrition, carbohydrates, protein, and fats. I even took notes. After her talk, Rebecca reminded the group that they would be starting a Bible study next week and invited the women to sign up for a specific study.

Oh, well. I would have liked to come again to listen to another speaker.

“Have you signed up for a study?” Sarah’s question stole me away from my thoughts.

“Oh, no. I’ve never done a Bible study before. I don’t know much about the Bible.”

Sarah smiled. “That’s why we have Bible studies. So we can learn. I came last year and loved it. You don’t even have to own a Bible – they supply them.”

She must have read my mind. “I’ll think about it.”

“Would you like to come over to my place for a cup of tea?” Sarah asked.

“I’d love to but I have a meeting with Caitlin’s teacher before I have to get to work.”

Sarah smiled. “Maybe next time.”

I rose to go. Rebecca saw me leaving so I gave a little wave to her. She came right over. Taking my arm in hers, she pulled me toward the table displaying the variety of studies to choose from.

“Have you picked a study yet?” She scanned the sign up sheets for my name.

“Well, no.” About to tell her that I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to do a study, she wrote my name on a sheet.

“Heather, Dearie, what’s your last name?”

“Williams, but...”

“And your phone number?”

I gave it to her but then protested that I hadn’t decided yet to come.

“Well, Dearie, these studies fill up fast, you know. I’d love for you to join us. Here.” She gave me the study book to read. I glanced at it, and the words popped out at me.

Forgiveness. Do you feel angry and bitter? Is there someone in your life who has hurt you? In this four-week study you will learn the healing power of forgiveness.

My mouth dropped open. How did she know?

“I’ll think about it,” I said. I liked these women; they all seemed so genuine. And I liked the singing. And I liked the prayers. But a Bible study? I might look stupid. I only remembered a bit from the gospels that I’d learned at school and although I went to church at Christmas and Easter with my parents, I’d never “studied” the Bible before.

Walking home, the sun warmed me. Maybe I’ll just check it out. It doesn’t cost anything. I’ll just go next week and if I don’t like it, I can quit then. Yeah, I’ll give it a try.


I arrived at the school just in time for my meeting with Caitlin’s teacher. Clumps of colorful wildflowers overflowed in the front gardens. A sharp blast of warm air met me as I opened the heavy front door.

I put my purse on the floor and sat in the only other “adult” chair in the classroom. The industrial carpet reeked of disinfectant. “Thanks for agreeing to meet with me on such short notice, Rose.”

Rose was as wide as a loveseat and she smelled of Tommy Girl. Her hair was a pretty shade of vanilla with russet highlights. Her smile revealed straight, tiny teeth. “Oh, no problem. The year has just started, and I’m not too crazy busy yet.”

“I wanted to talk with you about Caitlin. And changes from last year.” I looked at my shoes. “I’m not sure how to say this without seeming blunt.”

“Heather, if you have something to say please just say it.”

My heart beat in my ears so hard I could hear it. “Well, you know Caitlin. You taught her last year. You remember that Rod and I are separated?” I struggled for words. “Well, I found out that Caitlin’s been abused.”

“Oh.” The air seemed to be knocked out of Rose. “I’m so sorry to hear this.” She placed her hand on my shoulder. “How is Caitlin?”

“She’s doing okay. My family’s been very supportive and she’s going to see a play/art therapist.”

“And you? This must be so awful for you.”

I looked away, then took a deep breath before continuing. “I wanted to tell you in case Caitlin says anything in class. Also, I’m not sure whether she will be missing school because of it.”

“Hmm. It makes sense. I’d noticed a difference in Caitlin’s behavior from when she started school to the end of last year. She started out vibrant but then became more and more reserved over the year. She even started to suck her thumb.”

“Yeah, I know. We’re working on that.”

“They say that hindsight is 20/20, but now I see all the signs were there. How did I miss it? She became more aggressive with the boys in the class and lost interest in a lot of the stuff. How could I miss it?” She put her face in her hands.

“It’s not your fault. It’s nobody’s fault. I lived with her and I didn’t even know.”

“Did they catch the abuser?” Rose looked hopeful.

“Well, that’s the other thing.” I pressed one loose fist against the bridge of my nose. “It was Rod.”

Rose gasped. “Oh, my goodness.” She shook her head. “He seems like such a nice guy. I guess you just never know.” Her eyes glossed over and she looked away. “You just never know.”

When she turned back, her eyes brimmed with tears. Her gaze lingered on my face, but I could tell she wasn’t seeing me. She was tangled in memories. “For me, it started at age five. My own grandfather.” Her hands shook. “My mother did nothing. She knew but she did nothing.”

Heat crept into my face. “Oh, Rose, I’m so sorry. I had no idea.”

“No, of course not. How could you?” She stood and walked to the window. “It wasn’t until I moved away that I could even talk about it.” She turned to face me. “Can you believe that I finally confronted him on his death bed?” A small smile grew on her face. “It was only then that he admitted to what he did and asked my forgiveness.”

I whispered, “Did you forgive him?”

“Oh, yes. You know, forgiveness isn’t about helping the abuser. It really helped me.” She walked over to the shelf of books and started to rearrange them. “I finally was able to let it go and get on with my life. It’s been a long road but I’ve learned to cope.” Rose let out a long sigh. “But I still struggle with trusting others.”

“And your mother?”

She picked up an overstuffed pillow to hug to her belly. “We have a strained relationship at best. I find that I have to keep working at forgiving her. The pain is always there like a pebble in my shoe.” Rose took my hand in hers and her expression lifted. “If I had a supportive and caring mother like you, I’m sure I wouldn’t have missed out on all those years of my life. Caitlin is very lucky.”

I let out a nervous flutter of embarrassed laughter. “Thanks.” I didn’t feel like Caitlin was very lucky.

“If you like, I’ll ask the principal to put a note in Caitlin’s file. But we’d need a court order if you want us to not allow him to see her.”

“I’m working on that right now. I just wanted to tell you. Just in case. You know, keep your eyes and ears open.”

“Yes, of course.” Rose gave me a hug. “I’m so sorry, Heather. I’m here for you if you need to talk.”

I let out a shivering sigh of relief. “I appreciate it. Thanks.”