Family Non-Fiction posted June 12, 2023 Chapters:  ...15 16 -17- 18... 

This work has reached the exceptional level
Tom reconnects with Mary and sparks fly

A chapter in the book Angels Unaware

One Hot Summer Night in Texas

by forestport12

From a fractured family growing up Tommy is on a quest to find his calling and life, not expecting that love would be a mountain he needed to move.

It was mid-August when I made myself at home on campus at Arlington Baptist College. Before I got too relaxed, my first warning was, "Watch out for the copperhead snakes. They like to stretch out on the walkways near dark."

Later, I found out one of the girls from their dorm thought she'd kicked a stick until it bit back. Having moved back to Texas was getting real. If you glanced at the boiling sun, you would swear it seemed out to get you.

I made fast friends with my brothers from other mothers. A few guys had their girlfriends in school with them. It triggered my thoughts toward Mary in San Antonio. Would she be serious about college; or was she only serious about me?

When I called Mary, my head caved into my heart. I asked her on the phone if she wanted to go to school with me. It seemed she dropped the phone in shock. Truth was, I had her ready to pack at hello.

"There's not much time left to register. I can drive down in a couple of days."

After hanging up, my heart and head had a tug of war. Was I ready for that kind of commitment? When I hung up, I told her I loved her, but we had a popular saying back then. "Loves not just something you say. Love is something you do."

Before leaving to fetch Mary, I learned that her father scrambled to get her ready. She'd undergone a CT scan because she was prone to seizures. She was also borderline diabetic. But he was all in when it came to sparing no expense to be a bridge for his eldest daughter.

The problem wasn't Mary. It was me. I was afraid of commitment, afraid to love someone to the end. I took to the highway in my sixty-six Cadillac convertible, imagining this reunion with a family who took me in when I was in the service, who rallied around me when I was in the mental hospital, who never stopped believing in me.

Mary had graduated from high school, and she'd even managed to get her hair license. The family was ready to send her away with me looking after her. As I turned a corner and kicked up dust and gravel, they all clamored and jousted for position on the front porch to see me. I was welcomed as if I had just returned from war.

Despite the mother's breakdowns, and a father who couldn't keep up with all the bills, they had something the other family in Colorado didn't have. They were rich in love.

They brought me into the fold and fed me a huge supper. Mary's baby sister couldn't stop pinching my arm just to laugh at my pain. The family circled me, but my eyes were on Mary. The last time I saw her, she was a teenager. She turned into a young woman, her skin darkened by the summer, but her blonde hair bleached by the sun. She was my yellow rose of Texas.

Eventually the little kids wore themselves out until carried off to bed. The parents retired to their bedroom. I was to sleep on the couch with a fan blowing in my face, because there was no air conditioning. It must have been cooler outside beneath the stars.

Mary and I sat together and talked, but when the lights all went out we didn't care about words. We kissed and held each other as if we might fall off the face of the earth. I could see a glow of sweat on her forehead and on her thighs. She wore a summer dress that ran past her knees when she sat next to me. Before I could protest, we were on each other in a lather of sweat.

It seemed we were alone, and her room was on the other side of the double wide from her folks. Her body pressed against mine until we shook with pent up desire. Somehow, we both knew then we were near the point of no return. To be honest I wasn't afraid of what God would think. I could be forgiven. But I knew her father would have shot first and prayed later.

The next day, I had a long and serious discussion with Mary on the front porch. I told her she needed to wait. I told her that she wasn't ready for college. I would leave that day in my car and head back to the dorm without her. I can only imagine the pain I caused. I should have been tarred and feathered.

I was running from love, true love.

I slipped inside the dorm that evening and went to sleep, as if I needed to guard my freedom, a freedom from love. There would be other dates, other girls, but none of them were Mary. There was always something about Mary.

Then I got the letter I dreaded from her. I could see the tear stains on it. "What happened? I would have gone to school. I wouldn't have been a burden. I had my hair license. I could have worked and paid my way." At last, she said, "My heart is shattered. It's like you've broken my heart and into pieces and stepped on it."

The guys in the dorm smiled and joked about it. If only I had called her that night. If only I had told her I was wrong and admitted her love scared me. Instead, I buried the letter in a drawer and buried myself in my studies. I made my life about the ministry without Mary in it.

If only I had known that in a few short months, she would move out of her parents house and marry someone else. If hadn't smashed all of her hope to bits, things would have been different. A few months later when I called, her parent's told me the news. She'd run off and married someone else.

It turned out her father had gotten wind of an engagement. He went to the hair shop where Mary worked and yanked her outside in public, threatening her. He begged her to wait for me. He told her to give it some time.

Mary cried in the street, as her father dragged her to his truck. "He doesn't love me! Don't you get it. He's never coming back. It's over!!" She broke away from her father and fell back on the pavement.

Mary's father left when they threatened to call the police.

By the time I had reached out again to see how she was, she was already gone, married. Gone for good. The one girl who tried so hard to love me.

But this was not to be the be continued.

Years ago when Mary's father was going to the hospital and didn't have much time left to live, he swore to his daughter Mary, that I was in the ambulance with him. Mary tried to tell him I couldn't be there, but he could not be convinced otherwise. Every time I think of this it brings tears to my eyes that I couldn't be there.
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