The Gifts of Faith - Seeking Answers - (Ch. 8)
Dinner With Daddy
Daddy arrived in plenty of time to visit before dinner was served. He looked wonderful and allayed Faith’s initial fears that he may be ill. (Why else would Nathaniel have appeared from the mist of long ago?)
“Daddy, I’ve never seen you look so handsome. You must be doing something right!”
Hal Montgomery had aged well. Being one of the most sought-after wood craftsmen in the southeast had kept him in shape. At slightly over six feet, his physique was one any 20-year old would envy, even at the age of 60-something. There was not an ounce of fat on him; his biceps strained through his rolled-up flannel sleeves, supporting a six-pack that only came from hard, honest work. His silver hair was as thick and full as it ever was. It now hung shoulder-length which gave him the appearance of a left-over hippie. Faith loved the look. Her dad had always emanated free spirit coupled with a taking-care-of-business attitude, although he was a quiet man. Daddy was the epitome of creativity and responsibility rolled into one. It was from him that Faith learned how to live in both worlds.
Flowery Branch, Ga Really Exists. However, the Characters in This Story are Purely a Figment of my Writer's Imagination.
“Faith, honey, I done brought cha sumthin’.” Despite the fact that Faith was born and raised in Georgia, she always got a kick out of Daddy’s thick drawl; it just made him seem even more real and down to earth.
“Whadja bring me, Daddy?” She was funnin’ him, but not really. Daddy always seemed to bring the Georgia peach out of this tree.
“Ah was goin’ through the attic not too long ago and came acrost sumthin’ my great Grandpappy made. It was a sample of an old school desk. See back in them days, they weren’t no Innanet. If’n ya wanted ta sell sumthin, ya went from door to door. Well, it dint make no sense to haul aroun’ a full-size desk, so Grandpappy made a smaller version that was easy to carreh. Ah plum forgot I had it, but I thought it might be a might pleasin’ sight in your fla’r shop. Hang on, sugah while I go fetch it.”
Faith and Sarah shared giggles while Daddy went out to his truck.
When he returned with the antique treasure, it was Sarah who greeted him at the door.
“Hal, it’s been way too long since I’ve visited with you! My, you are a sight for sore eyes. If I was 40 years older, I swear I’d be giving the lady-folk of Flowery Branch a run for their money!”
Hal blushed, not considering himself much of a ladies man, but loving the attention nonetheless.
“Come ‘ere, you and gimme a hug!” Hal had a soft spot for Sarah. He was grateful that his only living daughter had found such a good friend. “Sumthin smells good in chere. What’s f’dinnah?”
“You’ll find out when it hits your plate, old man.” Sarah loved teasing Hal. It’s just how their relationship went.
“Dinner’s on me tonight. You go on out back with Faith and catch up. She made you a big ole pitcher of sweet tea. I’ll call you when dinner’s ready.”
Faith and Daddy sat out back for a while taking in the sounds of daylight acquiescing to nightfall. The birds’ songs were replaced with those of the night bugs and bats. Lily was in her glory.
Hal and Faith sat holding hands in silence for a while, embracing the moments that preceded this one. Conversation wasn’t necessary; they both knew they were travelling back in time to when they were a family of three.
Faith squeezed Daddy’s hand and put down her glass. She wasn’t sure how to bring the subject up, so she just blurted it out.
“Daddy, do you know of the Baxters from Oakwood?”
“Ah sho do; Haywood Baxter was one a mah best customahs back in the day. He ran a remodelin’ business; pretty successful one, too. He’d commission me ta make furnichah fuh the fancy projects he took on. Ole Haywood’s retahed now, but he kept me busy for many yeahs. Ah’d hafta say his braggin’ on my work is what keeps me in customahs today.”
“I can’t quite bring him to mind, Daddy. Did he have a family?”
“He had one little boy. Sad ta say, but his wife died birthin’ the young un. Nevah did quite get ovah that. He nevah remarried; just put his heart deep in his work. His boy’s ‘bout yore age, mebbe a little oldah. Poor kid, he was always kind of a lonah.”
Faith took a moment to collect her thoughts. She wanted to know more about Nathaniel, but wasn’t sure how to pry further without raising questions from Daddy. The last thing she wanted right now was to explain why she was so curious about the Baxters – Nathaniel in particular.
“Dinner’s ready you two.” Sarah emerged from the house, linked her arm in Hal’s and motioned for them to come back inside.
Dinner was a success. Hal was tickled pink over the chicken and dumplings and cornbread. The three of them chit-chatted all through the meal, catching up on each others’ lives. It wasn’t until the clock struck nine that they realized how late it had gotten.
“Shoot, will ya look at the tahm. I best be gittin’ on home now.” Hal eased himself up from the table but didn’t get very far before Sarah stopped him.
“Hold on there, honcho. Let me get together a goody bag for you. We’ve got plenty of chicken and dumplings and ambrosia left over. I made an extra batch of cornbread for you to take with you.”
The two women busied themselves with gathering up the leftovers while Hal cleared the table.
Lily followed underfoot as the girls walked Daddy out to his truck.
With a twinkle in his eye, Hal said, “Sho was a fahn dinnah, gals. Thank ya for havin’ me. Ah dint realize how much Ah miss ya both.”
The girls and Lily waited until they could no longer see the truck’s tail lights before heading in to clean up the kitchen.
Mulling it Over
Faith finished loading the dishwasher, added soap and hit the Start button, while Sarah poured them both a cup of tea. Giving the kitchen one last look to make sure they hadn’t missed anything, they headed to the living room.
“I sure did enjoy spending time with your dad tonight, Faith. He’s always been a second father to me, even more so once my parents moved to Florida. He certainly looks healthy and is in good spirits. I don’t think you need to worry about him being ill.”
“I don’t either, Sarah. I was relieved to see how good he looks. He was even more talkative tonight than he normally is. I need to make it a point to spend more time with him. He’s all alone in that big house; I’m sure he gets lonely.”
As Faith turned on the TV and checked the channel guide, she said, “I asked Daddy about Nathaniel. Well, not about him specifically, but I did get some information about the family.”
“That’s precisely why I offered to make dinner. I wanted to give the two of you some time to talk privately. What did you find out?”
Faith set the remote on “The Big Bang Theory” before responding.
“Not a lot, but I think what I learned has some significance. Daddy’s known Nathaniel’s dad, Haywood, for quite a while. Haywood Baxter owned a remodeling business back when I was little. He commissioned Daddy to build furniture for his larger projects. Anyway, Daddy told me that Nathaniel’s mother died in child birth. There’s no doubt in my mind that that has something to do with Nathaniel’s gift. I just need to figure out the connection. Then maybe I’ll be able to understand why he showed up at the shop last month.”
Sarah paused the TV so they could talk without distraction. She pulled a notebook and pen out of the end table and turned to face Faith.
“Okay, let’s write down what we know first, then maybe we can make sense of this puzzle.” Sarah drew a T on the page, labeling the left side with: ‘What we know’ and the right side with: ‘Why? What does it mean?’
When all was said and done, this is what they came up with:
1. Left: Nathaniel came to the shop. His soul was full of ick and gore.
Right: Why now? What is his intent?
2. Left: Faith mistook him for an evil soul.
3. Left: He had Lily of the Valley delivered to Faith.
Right: How did he know the significance?
4. Left: Faith is transported to the day of her mother's death. She sees a little boy stroking her.
Right: Why didn't Faith see this on the day she found her mother dead?
5. Left: Faith thinks he's hurting her mother.
Right: no entry
6. Left: Hope appears to Sarah.
Right: We now know why.
7. Left: Hope reveals Nathaniel's purpose for being in Faith's mother's room on the day she died.
Right: Is Nathaniel's gift now compromised by the cancer he absorbed?
8. Left: Hope comes to rest in Sarah's soul.
Right: What part does Sarah play?
9. Left: Faith learns Nathaniel's mother died giving birth to him.
Right: Did her soul leave him with a mission?
10. Left: no entry
Right: Where do we fit in?
It was apparent there were more questions than answers. Faith and Sarah definitely had their work cut out for them.
Shauna L Bowling
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