Part 2 of the extra scenes
The cool November breeze washed over Vickie as she stepped out the front door. Clenching the phone in her hand, shethought about calling her parents.
Neither of her sisters had ever run away. A few times in high School she’d secretly dreamed of doing it, but never actually had the nerve to leave. Seth running away just laid one more failure at her door.
Her mother would blame her, and her father’s disappointment would tear her heart in two.
Relief surged. It had to be Jake, please let it be Jake. Coming to an abrupt stop, he stepped out of his patrol car. Broad shoulders silhouetted in the moon light.
Barefoot, she ran to him. “Jake, Seth snuck out and he took Rachel with him. He wants to go to Florida.” Without thought she hugged him.
“I know. John called. We have a group heading this way.” His fingers wrapped around the back of her arms. The warmth of his hands anchored her.
“Don’t worry. They aren’t even officially missing.” He patted her back, then stepped away from her.
“This is just great.” Staring into the cedar brake surrounding her little trailer, she focused on keeping her eyes dry. “My son has corrupted the Pastor’s daughter. What is everyone going to think?”
“They’ll think he’s a teenage kid with a lousy father and a mother doing the best she can.” An edge to his voice cut at the words, making them sharp and taut.
Behind Jake, more headlights came towards them. She couldn’t believe how fast people arrived. George and Adrian De La Cruz climbed out of their old work truck. The identical twins were local carpenters.
“Hey, Vickie.” Adrian gave her a quick hug, causing Jake to take a step farther back. “Don’t worry we’re going to find them.”
She pressed her lips together, afraid tears would start falling if she spoke. She managed a tight smile and nod instead.
She looked down at the phone gripped in her fingers. It was time to call her parents. Thinking of Ashley safely tucked in bed at her parents’ house gave her some relief.
Bringing the phone to her ear, she listened to the rings and watched Jake. People, from the church gathered around him as he unfolded a map on the hood of his car. George held a flashlight high so everyone could see where he pointed.
“Vickie? Vickie, what’s wrong?” Her dad’s sleepy voice interrupted her thoughts.
“Daddy, Seth ran away. He snuck out his window and went to Pastor John’s house. He took Rachel with him.”
“Oh, baby, do you want us there? What do you need me to do?”
“Jake’s already here along with some of the church volunteers. We’re going to start walking the property between the two ranches. I need you to keep Ashley and pray. He might come to your house.”
Vickie tensed as her mother’s voice came on the phone.
“We’ll call Ray and have him check the barns. Seth likes hiding up in the loft.” Rey Pepper had managed her father’s stables for the last ten years. Seth hung out with him any opportunity he got.
“Oh, that’s a good idea, thanks, Mom. Didn’t even think of the barns.” Vickie took a deep breath. Talking to her parents helped.
“You call Tommy. I know this’ll get him back here.” Hermother just had to go and ruin the good feeling.
Vickie rolled her eyes. “Really, mother? You want me to use this to get my ex-husband back in Texas?” That was classic Elizabeth. Before her mother could respond, her father spoke up.
“You can call him, sweetheart, but I wouldn’t count on him coming back. Let us know when you get any news.”
“I will, Daddy. Love you both.”
When she disconnected, a hand on her shoulder caused her to jump.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.” Jake dropped his arm and stepped back. “One group has started walking.”
Vickie looked over and noticed the spotlights going through the trees. More people stood around the cars, talking. A lump formed in her throat. They were all here to help, not because of the good things she had done or because she deserved it, but because they cared.
Jake touched her arm. “You might want to get some shoes on so you can walk with me.”
Looking down, Vickie was surprised to see her bare feet poking out from her pajama bottoms. With nothing to say, she nodded and rushed to the house. Jake yelled after her.
“Call Tommy, then we’ll start down the west fence line towards the pecan farm.”
While she jammed her feet into some rubber slip-ons, her thumb hit Tommy’s number and she held her breath.
“This better be important.” His sleep roughened words bit at her over the phone.
“Seth’s missing, he ran away.”
“And what do you expect me to do from Miami?”
Her throat burned, he didn’t get it. “I don’t know. He’s your son, I thought you….”
“No, you never think. You just want someone to fix the problem. Well, he’s your problem tonight.”
She rubbed her forehead. “Tommy, he wants you. I think he plans to run to Florida.” How could she make him understand his son was hurt and angry? He needed his parents to act like grown-ups.
“Listen, I can’t deal with this right now. I’m juggling several projects and if I drop one, the whole plan will collapse. I’ve got a meeting in the morning that I can’t miss. Call me after two if you’re still having problems with him.”
With that, he hung up on her. She swallowed and bit her lip. Jake was right. She couldn’t change Tommy. She didn’t have time to feel sorry for herself. She needed to focus on her son. Please God, just keep them safe.
“Vickie?” Jake stood in the doorframe, leaning in with his hands braced on each side. “Are you all right?”
“Yeah.” The one word was all she could manage. She wiped her face with the long sleeve of her old t-shirt. “Tommy’s…” Breathe, just breathe. “Busy.”
With a growl, Jake crossed the living room in a couple of long strides and without asking, pulled her into his arms. Her arms pressed between them, she let the phone drop, and clung to the front of his shirt. The strong, steady beat of his heart calmed her.
“You’re not alone, Vickie. We will find him and get him safely tucked into bed, okay?” He pulled back and looked her in the eye. “You ready to walk with me, or do you want to stay here?”
“I can’t stay here.” Shaking her head, she followed Jake out of her trailer and into the moonlight. “He has to be close, right?” As they walked, Vickie could hear people calling out to Seth and Rachel. She continued to pray. She wrapped her arms tight and rubbed her hands up and down, trying to ward off the chill. The trees loomed over them. The land and hills were vast. All the dangers of the Hill Country marched across Vickie’s imagination.
“It’s cold. Here, you forgot a coat.” Jake quickly took off his jacket and draped it over her shoulders before moving forward again. He stopped every few minutes to call out to the kids.
His phone whistled. “Torres.” His gaze cut back to her.
Her heart leaped up to her throat. It had to do with Seth. She watched him nod.
“Thanks, we’re on our way.”
“They found them? Where is he?”
He grabbed her hand. “Lorrie Ann found them at the swimming hole behind the old Childress’ place.”
Relief flooded her whole system. Newfound energy and adrenalin propelled her to Jake’s SUV. Jogging through the trees, she got to the patrol car first. Without waiting, she opened the door with the state emblem and sat down. She watched him as she strapped on her seatbelt. Why was Jake moving so slow?
Ugh, he was on the phone. She pounded her fist against her thigh. “Come on, let’s go!”
He stood with his door ajar. “I need to let Adrian know we found them.” He yelled back, still on the phone. As he slipped into the Ford Explore, the radio dispatcher called out a string of words and numbers.
Vickie froze. “What was that? Did they just call for air life to the swimming hole? Jake, what’s going on?” She stared at his profile.
Jake gripped the steering wheel. “We won’t know until we get there.”
“But air life’s not good, is it?” She wrapped her arms around her middle. Even as a chill caused her to tremble, cold sweat coated her skin. “Is it for Rachel or Seth?”
His eyes stayed on the road ahead. “We won’t know until we get there.” He repeated slowly, like she hadn’t heard him the first time. “Victoria, I have a verse I use frequently to help me. The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble.”
The pit of her stomach bottomed out. “Jake, I don’t want God to be good in times of trouble. I want my son and Rachel to be free of trouble.”
Jake didn’t look at her. “I know. All we can do right now is pray.” His gaze stayed fixed on the road ahead. His hands held the SUV steady as they cut across the back roads through the pecan farm to get to the old Childress house.
She knew he drove to get her to her son as soon as possible, but time had become twisted. A detached feeling blanketed her in numbness. Maybe if she spoke her prayer aloud God would hear it faster.
She intertwined her fingers and bowed her head. “Dear God, please wrap Seth and Rachel tightly in your arms and keep them safe. Allow me another chance to be a good, faithful mother.” The vehicle came to a stop, and Vickie’s head went up. Flashes of red and white blinded her for a moment.
Jake was already out of the car and opening her door. Holding his hand, her heart froze at the sight of her eleven-year-old son on a stretcher. She stood, fingers gripping the top of the frame. For a moment, all feeling rushed out of her knees. She needed to get to her son.
“Seth! No!” The scream echoed in her own head. Something held her back as she tried to reach her son. She pounded her fist against the steel band around her middle, stopping her from getting to her baby.
“Shh.” Jake’s calm voice whispered against her ear. “You’re not doing him any favors acting hysterical.”
Somewhere in her mind, she knew he was right, but he didn’t understand. The lanky boy on the gurney was her little boy. Breathing was hard. She leaned into Jake’s chest and let her hands fall.
Someone else talked to her. Turning her head, she blinked and tried to focus on the words Brenda said. The EMT’s mouth moved, but Vickie couldn’t get her brain to work.
Breathing, she heard the word breathing. She blinked a few more times to clear her thoughts. Vickie concentrated on Brenda’s words, words that started to penetrate the fog in her brain.
“…we don’t know how long he was in the water, but the CPR has given him a chance. We’re driving him to the landing pad. The helicopter will be taking him to Children’s Methodist in San Antonio. You can ride in the ambulance if you stay calm, but you won’t be allowed to fly with him. Can someone meet you in town?”
“I’ll call her parents.” Jake’s strong voice lifted her.
She could stay composed. She had to for Seth. She nodded. “Thank you, Brenda.”
Jake’s arms dropped, and he moved his warmth away from her. Standing alone now, she shivered.
“I’ll call your Dad to meet you,” Jake said, “and let him know what’s going on. Call me if you need anything. Okay?”
She mourned the loss of his support, but her son needed her. Jogging, she followed Brenda. Climbing up one high step,she entered the small space next to Seth. Vickie clung to the cold hand of her little man.
The high energy and easy smile she loved had vanished under his colorless skin and still form. Trying to stay out of the way, she fell to her knees. “Seth, stay with me, baby, please stay with me. We’re getting you help.” She pressed her forehead to the back of his hand. “Please, please, God, I beg you to return Seth to me whole and healthy.”
Brenda patted her arm. “Lorrie Ann arrived soon after he went in the water and performed CPR. She gave him a fighting chance.”
Vickie thought about all the hurtful words she had carelessly thrown around, things she had done out of jealousy. She had blamed her mother, Tommy, Lorrie Ann, even God, but she had made the choices. She had brought her family to this point.
God, I turn everything over to you, my life, my children and my anger. May I follow your will. Please show me your desire.
She opened her eyes and looked at her baby, lying so still. Wrapping her fingers around his limp hand, she continued to pray.
The final scene will be posted Wednesday July 9th
Lone Star Holiday is available online – Lone Star Hero will be in stores July 16 and available online Aug 1st