“What’s that supposed to mean, sir? Here you are right now telling me something I know nothing about and asking me to own up. I’m not owning up to anything until I talk to that girl—your daughter I guess, and find out what’s going on.”
Mr. Beckett backed off for a minute. Realizing his confrontational approach was making Paul mad and wouldn’t get the information he wanted, he figured he would try a different tack.
“OK, I guess I came off a little intense, Paul. Suppose I start over.” Beckett breathed out slowly. “Ramona’s mother and I raised her to be a Christian, to go to church. We were very careful to make sure her friends were church friends. She wasn’t allowed to go to movies or wear pants and makeup. But she started rebelling against our rules and several months ago she quit coming to church.”
“Her mother, Sarah, passed away a couple years before and she must have blamed God or something. She started hanging out with kids I didn’t know and she got to dancing and partying and . . . and I’m guessing that’s when she met you.”
Paul thought for a moment before he spoke.
“I’m sorry but that sounds kinda weird to me, Mr. Beckett. I mean, you told her what to wear and stuff? Sounds a bit strong. It’s no wonder she kicked at that. I would have, too.” He started to say something about being glad his parents weren’t like that but thought better of it. After all, they weren’t really model parents anyway.
“Well, Paul, I know you’ll be talking to her very soon. I’m sure she has a lot to say to you. And, you can be sure the law will be involved at some point soon.”
Ramona walked toward the hospital very slowly after her chat with Becky. So much was going through her mind. Maybe she was wrong about church. Well, no, maybe not so much about church but about her understanding and experience with church.
Could it be that in walking away from the church she also walked away from God, throwing both in the same wastebasket.
Becky’s story intrigued her. She tried to imagine what it might be like to have faith in God without being forced to experience Him only through the eyes of a church and its demands on her. What did God demand? What did He really want from her? If what He wanted was to look like everyone else, sing the same kind of music, marry whoever the Pastor okayed and not enjoy life, then that would never work for her.
IF, however, and this was a big IF. If God could love her for the way she was created, the way she seemed to be wired; if God was more concerned about people simply loving Him and loving other people and doing the right things for the right reasons, then . . . then she was in.
The afternoon was cool but sunny. Spring was coming. She thought again about the baby’s due date. October seemed so far away. In Maple Valley, that time of year would start bringing the rainy, cold, blustery winter days. Brrrrrr! Summer would be a really different life this year. No stylish swimsuits for her.
She thought as she approached the front doors that she should stop at the desk and get a referral for a pediatrician. Now that she had mostly decided to keep the baby it was time to get that piece in place.
She also told herself that she wanted to come see her dad. But she hoped Paul would be awake. Now this might be awkward with her dad in the next bed but she figured he would be on her side and in spite of the situation, he would protect her.
The two men had conversed little since Beckett’s threat about bringing the Law around. Paul’s depression was not improved with the conversation anyway. He considered the morphine drip again.
“Hello Dad, how are you feeling this afternoon?”
Ramona tried to be cheerful, thinking she needed to contrast her attitude with her dad with the one she intended to use with Paul.
“Hi, pumpkin. Your day going alright?
“Ok so far, I think.”
Paul groaned again. Now, he figured; now he would face the music and he didn’t know what kind of tune Ramona would play. He braced himself.
“Looks like you are awake, too, Paul. Guess what? You are a father.”
“Ramona, I . . . I am so sorry I . . . I’m really embarrassed. I had no idea that . . .”
His voice trailed off.
“Do you know what kind of trouble you are in, mister? Do you know? Did you realize how long you could go to jail if you got caught in your little con game?”
Her voice had become strong and she clenched her teeth so that it caused her to literally quiver with anger.
“Did you even think about it before you . . . before you raped me? Before you charmed me and drugged me and raped me? Did you even think with your brain instead of . . . instead of . . .
She stopped abruptly, remembering her dad was in the room.
“. . . instead of thinking about your victim? Huh? Speak up, I can’t hear you.”
“No; no I didn’t. Is that what you want me to say? I totally was thinking about myself; about what I wanted. I have always thought that; what I want in life. I never cared about anyone else but myself.”
Paul’s voice broke.
“Ramona, this, this baby is just way over the edge for me. I actually think I may know how you feel because I have had so much crap happen to me I think this must just be some kind of payback for the life I have lived. I have always been able to control my life and other people but now . . . now I think I’m in over my head. I don’t know what to do.
Paul looked at Ramona with a face that revealed he had met his match. “Can we just talk about stuff? Maybe; maybe you can help me, if you wanted to.”
That last comment disarmed her and partially diffused her anger. Why would he ask her for help? Did he mean it? What kind of help?
She turned so her back faced Paul.
“I . . . I have to think, Paul. I don’t know. I don’t know what to do with that. I need to think.”
Walking past her dad, who was also taken aback by Paul’s request, she went out into the hall. This was not how she imagined the conversation would go. She intended to exert emotional pressure on him and demand some answers, but this . . . this idea of helping him get straightened out; this she didn’t expect.
“Oh God,” she prayed, “I don’t want to be manipulated. Please help me wrap my brain around this. I don’t want to help this man. He hurt me so badly.”