Buck cupped Thankful’s wet cheeks in his hands. “Poor you, you’re as messed up as the rest of us Crenshaws, but I love you for it. Don’t cry, it’s all right. I’m so glad now that I’m here for you.”
“Oh, Buck, it means so much to me that you don’t hate me. I’ve been such a fool and I’ve had no one to talk to! Pierce steals little things, silly things, and at first I was angry, but he pointed out what I had done to Father …”
“No, Father was glad you took the money. How else would you get by? And he hoped William might watch after you—that was a mistake.”
“Oh, I miss Father. I know he wasn’t so nice to you, but I love him,” Thankful cried. “And even Mama too!”
“I never gave Father a reason to like me,” Buck said.
“Buck, I used to think I was better than a whore, but I guess I’m not,” Thankful said, folding her handkerchief in her lap.
“I used to think I was better than a murderer until I almost became one,” Buck said.
Thankful and Buck burst out into hysterical laughter. William cursed them both. “Will the two of you shut up?!”
Ignoring him, Buck got serious.
“But if none of this bad stuff happened I wouldn’t have found God, so I’m glad for it. It makes no sense and it sounds crazy, but I’m very happy.”
Thankful smiled. “You are crazy, but it’s wonderful—you’re different now—I can see it already.”
“Oh, that’s just my gashes and pus filled sores,” Buck joked.
Thankful kissed his good cheek.
Mr. Kenyon walked in and took off his hat. “Miss Crenshaw, I heard that you had a rough time with the lieutenant. I’m sorry.”
Thankful took a deep breath and stood. “Mr. Kenyon, it seems that you’ve stolen my brother and sent another in his place. It’s an answer to prayers. Buck was always so unhappy and there he is foolishly beaming now! Thank you.”
“No, I won’t take the credit. The truth is, I was ministering to William, but your brother was a pest—thank God—or I wouldn’t have noticed. He kept whispering questions, like a fly buzzing in my ear. Meanwhile my pride was set on getting to William. But God has his own plans—that’s still a lesson I’m learning. So despite me, Buck found what he needed to find.”
William fumed in his bed with arms tightly folded as the three discussed alienating and annoying religious things. He wondered at how unchristian they were being by leaving him out.
“Thankful, maybe I’ll take air while the doctor’s not around to stop me. We can sit under the porch for a while.” Buck stood, putting his arm over Thankful’s shoulders. “Who knows how much trouble I’m in. I’ll enjoy my freedom while I can.”
Thankful led him out, marveling at Buck’s light mood.
Kenyon took a seat beside William and poured him another glass of water, which William refused. Kenyon waited.
“That Buck is such a fake. I can’t believe you stand for it,” William said.
“I don’t get that impression. Seems like Buck was saving all his words for now though.” Kenyon laughed. “I don’t think people have much listened to him over the years, but he’s quite an intelligent young man.”
“Yes, I know. I’ve heard all my life how smart they are—the Crenshaws. Now Buck’s charmed you and you’ll play the fool, I bet!”
“Well, I’ve played the fool many times. I’m not afraid of that. I’m happy for him. Buck’s told me an awful lot about himself—and you too.”
“People can’t be trusted, can they, William?”
“So your father disappointed you, then?”
“No! It’s more than that, but it’s none of your damned business. I knew you were a liar,” William mumbled, searching for another cigarette.
“You admitted to Buck and me just now that you were only trying to get me as some sort of trophy—one more caught in your net, right? Well, I told you from the start I didn’t want to be caught.”
“And I didn’t believe you,” Kenyon admitted. “But it’s not as if you don’t understand what missionaries do, William. You were the dishonest one from the start—trying to have it both ways. Drinking on the sly—but even in that, you’re no good at deception and I suppose I liked that about you. But don’t think for a second you were any more special or had any more potential than anyone else. You weren’t my very special case. I do my best for God—not you—although I hope I can be of service to you. In the end it was Buck who wanted and needed God. Maybe your time hasn’t come yet, or maybe you’ll never want it.”
“Then I’ll be eternally damned, right?”
Kenyon said nothing.
***Featured Image: Edward Okun The War and Us
“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”