Punished (Part 1)
by Angela Bierbaum
It was a warm, humid, midafternoon day. Charlie Mennison stood in the cemetery over her older sister's grave, wondering how anything so tragic could have happened. Well, she knew how, but she couldn't figure out why.
Was God punishing her? She hadn't been doing anything wrong lately... or so she thought. "Have I done something to make him mad?" She compared herself to the other girls that she knew. None of them were Christians. Out of their group of friends, Charlie had always been the "good Christian girl". They accepted her, of course, and they loved her too. But, she was just so different from them.
Charlie rethought the past few days and asked God to forgive her for anything she had done. Oh, how she prayed. Very hard.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to lie to mom like that. She deserved to know that I wasn't really sick that night," she screamed inside her mind. She could hear her words of the last thought from within her head reverberating and echoing as she continued to scan for any other sinful memories.
She thought of a few others, but none were big enough to match the guilt that she had for losing her one and only sister. She had another brother, but he was not talking to her. Dave was eighteen, seventeen at the time of the accident. He was only not talking to her because he didn't believe.... he didn't believe that she wasn't the one that caused it. No, not at all.
In fact, she could still hear Bailey's voice that fateful day her sister's life came to an end....
We pray for this meal and for all of the people around us. Our guests, the Landsons, Max, Ben and Lisa. Thank you that they are here with us and we are blessed to be in their presence. We pray for this food, that you would nourish it to our bodies. In Jesus' name... Amen."
There was an echoing of "Amens" from around the table. Max opened his eyes slowly and looked directly at Charlie. She caught his gaze just in time and blushed the moment she did. She couldn't help but admire how his long, shaggy, dark brown hair hung over his eyes. His deep blue eyes. She wondered why he would be looking at her when his sister was sitting right next to him. He was Bailey's age, but for some reason, he always seemed to be staring at her. But, she smiled naively at him. He smiled back, and then shifted his eyes when his mother asked him to pass the potatoes. He would never want to be with a young-looking girl like herself. What, with her endless freckles, shoulder length blonde hair held back in a pink headband, and her brown eyes, she looked like a girl of about twelve or thirteen! What could she do to her appearance to add two years?
"Well," Mrs. Lanson began. "How was everyone's day?"
There was no answer, for just about everyone had taken a bite at that very moment. Mr. Mennison was the first to swallow. He seemed eager to answer the question.
"I got a promotion at work!" he almost shouted. Charlie's father was like that often. He loved to talk about his job. He was an accountant, but he loved it for some reason. Sometimes he would get on the braggy side about it, but all three of his kids knew that they would never become what he was. So, they let him brag.
"Oh, that's wonderful David!" Mrs. Lanson replied happily. Mr. Mennison smiled and shrugged his shoulders.
Bailey looked up suddenly. Because she was directly across from Charlie, Charlie looked up too. "Hey, Charlie. You and Max wanna go to the lake after dinner?" she questioned her big idea. Charlie looked at Max.
"Well, I want to. You wanna go, Max?"
Max thought a moment. Then nodded his head in approval. Both girls smiled and looked at each other before continuing to eat.
Charlie looked back up at her sister admiringly. Bailey was her hero. She loved her like nothing else. Only a year separated the two sisters, and another year separated Bailey and Dave, the eldest brother. All three children were very close.
But, Bailey had certain quirks in her personality that made Charlie want to be more and more like her. Both girls were the same height: short. But, Bailey looked like she could pass for 17 or 18! Even though she was only 16. With her long brunette hair, beautiful big brown eyes and her very sweet spirit, she could attract any man she wanted. Charlie wanted to be just like her in every way.
After dinner, all three teenagers headed for the dock by the lake that was a few miles away. Bailey ran to the lake once it was in sight, but Max and Charlie stayed behind to watch her. She looked back at them one last time before jumping in from off the side of the dock.
Max and Charlie laughed and looked at each other. "She's so wild," Charlie commented looking at the spot where her sister had just emerged into the water.
Max laughed at this and replied, "I agree. Very wild." He couldn't help but smile, then looked over at Charlie. He stopped in his tracks, but she didn't notice and kept walking. It took her a moment before she didn't hear him beside her.
Her gaze moved back to him, and she stopped. "Come on. What's wrong?" She looked at him worriedly.
"Nothing's wrong," he took a step forward, then another, until he met her again. She thought everything was back to normal, so she turned forward to begin walking again. But, he caught her by the hand. Charlie's heart skipped a beat, and she looked down at their hands in amazement.
Max pulled her closer. And closer, and closer. His other hand reached around her waist, and now, Charlie could barely breath. Realizing that she was in shock, Max took his hand from her torso.
"No, don't stop," Charlie thought.
But, instead of continuing on like she had planned, he grabbed both of her wrists and helped her arms up to around his neck. Then, his fell back into place around her waist. And, he kissed her. Very slowly, nothing too much. When they released, Charlie couldn't help but laugh.
"OOOOOOH!!!" came Bailey's voice from out in the water of the lake. "Wow! One minute I'm under water, and when I come up, this is what I see!" she shouted. But, she was smiling too. She was happy for them.
"Come on," Charlie encouraged. She took hold of Max's left hand and pulled him along. They jumped in together.
The three played and splashed together for about fifteen minutes before...
"Oh no, Charlie," Bailey stated, holding up her wrist. Charlie looked at it, confused. Then, she knew.
"You lost Grandma's bracelet! Well, where did it go?" she questioned.
"I..." Bailey began. "I think it fell to the bottom... of the lake."
Charlie's heart sunk. "How deep is it? I'll swim down and get it for you."
"No, I'll get it. It was my fault. I should have been more careful. It's somewhere over by the post of the dock. The lake is only like 7 feet deep, right?" Bailey looked into the water. It was too dirty to tell how far down it went. She quickly swam over to the wooden post that help up a corner of the dock and emerged into the water once again.
Moments passed. Long, drawn out moments.
"Do you think she'll find it?" Max asked, swimming closer to Charlie.
"I hope so. That was a family heir loom. She had better find it."
More moments passed. "It's taking her too long..." she thought. Maybe the lake was deeper than they had imagined it. Okay, now, it was too long.
"Bailey?" she asked no one but the water. Another moment. "Bailey!"
To Be Continued.....