Punished (Part 3)
by Angela Bierbaum
Charlie screamed again, "Is anyone there?!" She could hear the grass flattening underneath the stranger's feet and searched frantically for a face. Any face to tell her who was nearby. Something moved behind her, she could hear them breathing. They weren't moving fast, but taking their time in getting to her. If that's what they wanted... to get to her. She decided to be silent and let them continue toward her. Worse comes to worse, she would just run.
Charlie turned to see Tom Richards jumping out of a bush to her right.
"Tom!" she screamed out of shock. "Why would you do that?!"
He laughed. Between breaths, he managed to get in, "Your face. Priceless." His smile was so bright and he roared with laughter.
But, Charlie didn't look too pleased. She placed a hand on her forehead, as if trying to soothe a headache or something. Tom quit laughing when he saw this and walked toward her. She held up a hand to shoo him away, but he continuned to approach.
"I'm sorry," he admitted, grabbing hold of the hand. "I'm sorry. I didn't know you would be that scared... It's only me." He pulled her closer and into his masculin arms. Charlie began to breathe easier now. She had overreacted, of course, but she WAS very scared for some reason. Was it her lonliness? She felt empty.
"I know it's ony you." She breathed deeply.
Tom shushed her and held her close. "What's up with you today?"
"I..." Charlie stumbled on her words. She mixed and matched them in her head, but she couldn't figure out how to say it. "I guess I just don't.... I feel really different right now. For some reason, I feel like God is punishing me." She fixed her arms around his torso.
"What?" he asked. "I don't understand."
"I don't either." Charlie thought a moment of how to make this statement clearer. But, she couldn't. "I felt like He was punishing me for something I had or will do by killing Bailey."
Tom extended his arms to look into her somewhat wet eyes. She looked into his and thought, "They are so blue. Piercing blue." His light blonde hair almost covered them completely, but they were still clearly visible.
"It's not your fault," he said. "It's no one's fault. It was just an accident."
Charlie nodded her head and replied, "Yes, it is my fault. I should have been the one going down instead of her. I would have been able to hold my breath longer, and then she wouldn't have had to run out before she could go back up, and--" She couldn't even finish her sentence before breaking down into tears. Warm tears that trickled down her cheeks.
Tom pulled her in once again. His left hand fell over the top of her head and held it. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. "God is not punishing you. He would never punish you like this. Don't you see?"
Charlie tried to quit crying to hear the rest of his words. "See what? I see nothing but punishment right now. Punishment for every one of my sins..."
"No, Charlie, no. He does not punish you for every one of your sins!" Tom almost shouted. He looked down to Bailey's grave stone and asked God to help him with his words. "It was his plan. He had a plan for your life and Bailey's life and your brother's life. It was all part of his plan."
"What could he possibly use this for in mine or Dave's life?" she asked. This was a very good question, and Tom wasn't exactly sure how to answer it.
"Dave, your brother. He wants to become a pastor, right?"
"Maybe God wants him to use this story of how Dave grew in his relationship with God because of this tragedy?" Tom continued. "It was his plan."
Charlie couldn't think of anything to say except, "So, it wasn't my fault?"
Tom shook his head and smiled. He still held her close.
Charlie began to think of other reasons why God would have done this. "If He hadn't let her die, then I wouldn't have met you..." she thought. She looked up into Tom's eyes once again. "Thanks, Tom."
"You're welcome, Charlie." He knew exactly what she was thinking. This was the first time in a while that he had seen this woman smile. He was happy for her. He was glad that she finally accepted God's plan for her.
Charlie let go of Tom and asked, "Do you want to come over for dinner? My parents wouldn't mind." She smiled brightly at him, even though there were still tears upon her cheeks.
He whipped them off and gave her a small peck on the lips. "Yes, let's go." Tom Richards and Charlie Mennison walked off, hand in hand, ready for the plan that God had for them together. Ready for their life together. And, they both knew. They had known exactly how Bailey Mennison had died, and now, they both know why.