30

Father's Choice

     She stood up straight and faced him bravely, her closeness threatening his resolve. Temper painted her cheeks and sparkled in her eyes dangerously.
     "Joel Etheridge," she said in a low, trembling voice. "When has it ever not been a good idea for us to work things out?"
     "Oh, is that why you're here?" Joel's own short fuse began to kindle.
    They each stood their ground, smoldering like two beautiful volcanoes. Suddenly, Meredith flowed past him.
     "Idiot!" she flung back at him, throwing open his door and heading straight for his sofa.
     Joel stood there in the driveway, waiting to calm down before he went in. "Dear Lord," he prayed. "Please help me. I don't think I have the strength to get through this. Meredith trips though life thinking she can just 'fix' things. This isn't a flat tire! She probably wants to fast-talk us back into what she calls normal. Never mind that normal for her is hell for me!" Joel cleared his throat and blinked back tears. "Please, Lord Jesus, if You ever loved me, help me!"
     He made his way slowly into the house, throwing the paper down on the table and taking a chair across the room from Meredith.
     No one knew where to begin. Meredith suddenly became aware of her swollen eyes, tousled hair and yesterday's clothes. She looked down and realized that she was barefoot as usual. Joel watched her covert analysis and smiled fleetingly.
     "You do look rough!" He confirmed her fears.
     She smiled back sadly. Without thinking, she got up and knelt down beside Joel's chair, raising her eyes to his.
     "I miss you," she said simply.
     Joel closed his eyes and wished her away. "Don't, Meredith," he whispered.
     "Don't miss you?"
    "Don't say it. Don't say anything." He opened watery eyes and looked at her imploringly.