Monday, June 16, 2014

Keeping Her Son

This blog is based on a devotional I wrote in 2001 in honor of adoptive fathers. When I sat down to re-write it, a strange thing happened. It turned into a short story.

Keeping Her Son

by Elaine Manders

Ben Lucas turned the shower on full. Just enough time to shower and shave before his date. He got his sweaty tee over his head when the doorbell rang.

Muttering, he tugged the shirt down and jerked the shower lever off, then rushed down the hall. Whoever it was had better be quick.

Kelly stood on the stoop, her small son, Jamie, beside her.

Ben pulled her across the threshold and into his arms. He breathed in the familiar fragrance of her trendy, department store cologne. He’d just finished mowing the grass. What must he smell like? Apparently she didn’t care. They kissed long and deeply.


They pulled apart, laughing. “Better get used to it, Buddy, your mom and I are getting married next Saturday.”

Hands on her shoulders, Ben held her at arm’s length and gazed into her beautiful, soft brown eyes. By this time next week she’d be his wife. But what was she doing here now? “I was just getting ready to come pick you up.”

She flipped long, sun-kissed brown hair from her shoulder and gave him one of her please-go-along-with-me smiles. “We have to break the date. Some things I have to do…about the house. It’ll be late before I get through. Would you keep Jamie tonight? He…gets underfoot.”

She averted her glance, but he’d caught a look of something that didn’t belong in her eyes. Uncertainty? Fear? When her gaze returned to his, the look was gone.

“Sure, he can stay.” Ben ruffled the eight-year-old’s tawny hair. “We’ll bach it tonight. There’s a game on the TV. Go see if you can find it, Buddy, and I’ll hustle us up some grub.”

Before Jamie darted off, Kelly grabbed him, hugging him tight enough to make the boy squirm.

She released Jamie and lifted her glance to Ben. That look was back in her doe-colored eyes and a film of tears. He took her hand and pulled her closer. “Is something wrong?”

Kelly laughed and pressed her other hand on top of his. She leaned in and nuzzled the side of his neck with a kiss, making him forget everything. Her arms found their way around his middle, and his mouth found hers.

She broke his hold. “Only God knows how much I love you.”

“Me too…I mean, I love you too.” He ought to think of something better than that, but she had a way of muddling his thoughts.

“I have to go. There’s a lot to do.”

“Can I help?”

“All I ask is that you keep my son.” She took the two steps to the door.

He came up behind and reached around her to open the door. “We’ll pick you up for church in the morning.”

“I’ll be ready.” She brushed his lips once more and ran down the steps.


“Better eat up.” Ben nudged the Del Monte fruit cup closer to Jamie’s plate.

The boy nibbled on a wiener. “We have hotdogs sometimes with buns and slaw.”

Ben grinned. “Sorry, I didn’t have buns, and slaw is beyond me.” He had fried some potatoes, the only other thing left in the pantry. Maybe he should have ordered pizza.

Jamie’s small fingers worked to get the plastic lid off the fruit cup. “Mom said everything was fixed so you could ‘dopt me after you get married.”

Ben took the fruit cup. They ought to make the lids easier for a child to open. He took his time to pry the top off, stalling for time to choose his words carefully.

Jamie was an abused child. Kelly had married his father straight out of high school because she had to. Jamie was three months old when Craig Moon started shaking and striking the baby. When Kelly intervened, he turned his rage on her. When Jamie was six, Kelly mustered the nerve to leave Craig. They were divorced, but she couldn’t get rid of him.

Incredibly, though he’d been arrested twice for child abuse, he was given visitation rights.

When Ben started dating Kelly, he knew if the relationship grew, it would include Jamie. The boy drank up his attention like a parched flower. With a great deal of patience, he’d drawn Jamie out of his shell. He’d taken the boy camping, fishing, taught him to play ball. Did all the guy things Kelly couldn’t.

Ben finished ripping the plastic lid off. “Your dad signed the papers giving up his parental rights, so the adoption should be finalized soon.”

“And I won’t have to go with him anymore?”

There was so much fear remaining in Jamie’s voice, Ben scraped the chair back and moved around the table. He lifted the boy in his arms. “That’s right. I’ll be your dad from now on.”

Jamie’s arms tightened around Ben’s neck and he felt tears on his cheek—his and Jamie’s.


They overslept. Ben shouldn’t have let Jamie stay up playing computer games. Cereal would have to do for breakfast. The doorbell caught him before he reached the kitchen.

Kelly must have decided to join them here. Eagerness quickened his steps to the door.

A policeman stood on the stoop. That was enough to give anyone a jolt, and Ben held his breath, not able to speak.

The officer took off his hat. “Are you Ben Lucas?”

Ben nodded.

“Kelly Moon’s neighbor said you’re engaged to Mrs. Moon.”

Ben finally found his voice. “That’s right. Won’t you come in?”

“No.” The officer looked down at his hat. “I hate this job.” He raised his gaze. “I regret to tell you your fiancĂ© was killed last night.”

Ben swallowed. The words hung in the air, not penetrating to his brain. “An accident?”

“No accident. Her ex murdered her.”

“But you have him?”

“He’s dead. It was a murder/suicide. I’m sorry, Mr. Lucas. We can’t locate any other relatives.”

“I…I’ll take care of…everything.”

Ben closed the door and stumbled to the bedroom. Why did you let this happen, God?

But God didn’t do this—an evil man did.

His gaze swept the room that was to be theirs and landed on a black metal wastebasket. When he’d asked Kelly how she wanted to change the bedroom before she moved in, she said the wastebasket had to go. He focused all his rage on that basket.

After kicking it across the room, he stomped it again and again until it was a flattened mess of metal and paper. In less time than it had taken him to destroy the wastebasket, evil had snuffed out a beautiful and loving woman, taken his future, his heart—

The door slammed open jerking him around. Jamie stared at him with frightened doe-like eyes—her eyes.

Ben’s knees buckled and he fell to the floor. A power greater than himself stretched his arms out to the little boy.

Jamie slammed into him, and they clung to each other.


The next week passed in a fog. Ben might as well have been a robot, doing all the things that had to be done mechanically. Monday morning he stood at the window, staring at a vibrant summer day and seeing nothing. He should have been on his honeymoon.

Grief came by degrees. Denial. Anger. Acceptance. The numbness in the pit of his soul must be acceptance, but he’d be working on it a long time.

His cell phone rang. He slipped it out of his pocket and swiped it. His lawyer and friend, David Sims, sounded on the other end. “How’re you holding out, Ben?”

“All right.”

“I finished my investigation. Kelly had no living relatives. Craig nothing but distant cousins.” Silence hung between them for several seconds. “If you’ve changed your mind, I can take the boy to Children Services…or—”

“No. Dave, can I call you later after I sort this out?”

“Sure, Ben. I’m here for you, man.”


Ben felt a tug on his pants leg. He wasn’t surprised to find Jamie beseeching him with those large, brown, soulful eyes. The child hadn’t been more than a few steps away from him during the whole ordeal. He’d crawled into Ben’s bed at night.

“What’s going to happen to me? Wh…where am I going?” Jamie’s lips trembled on the words.

Ben picked him up and took him to the sofa. He set Jamie on his lap. “You’re not going anywhere. That was my lawyer on the phone. The adoption may take a little longer because I’ll have to file as a single father, but we’ll work out the details.”

The muscles in Jamie’s throat quivered as he gulped. “So you’re keeping me?”

She had known. All I ask is that you keep my son. She had known there’d be a confrontation and had brought Jamie to him to keep him safe, possibly to save Ben too.

“Sure I’m keeping you. I’m your dad.”

Ben had already worked out the anger—at Craig, at God, at himself for not protecting her. Nothing was left but hope that good would always triumph evil.

Somehow God had given him peace—and a son. 

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  1. What a heart wrenching story. Thank you for sharing it.

    mauback55 at gmail dot com

    1. Thanks for stopping by Melanie. I often think of the stories behind the headlines especially the tragedies.

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you, Patricia. I felt compelled to tell this story though I don't know why. It might contain a message someone needed.

  3. Well done, cp. Very well done. Thank you for such a blessing.

    1. Hi Piper,

      You know how much I value your opinion.

  4. What a precious story, Elaine! Makes me teary, but ends with hope. That is beautiful!

  5. Thank you for sharing this poignant story, Elaine!