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Chapter Thirty Four

The family introductions hadn’t been as painful as Sarah has anticipated. The twins had been hardly able to contain their excitement on meeting her, Nate had been polite but indifferent, and Josh had growled and snarled. Of course Mr. Williams was as friendly as always, and his wife had even given Sarah a hug as she ushered her into the kitchen.

The warmth of Tyler’s family was accurately reflected in the décor of the home. Sarah looked into each room as they passed, noting each was tastefully done in welcoming colors. And scripture was in every room; sometimes written in calligraphy and framed, other times stenciled on a wall, or a wooden plaque. Sarah relaxed considerably after having been given the tour.

She and Tyler ended up back in the kitchen where ‘make-your-own’ pizza night was in full swing. The twins were concentrating on placing their ingredients just so, while Josh threw what he liked in a big pile on the middle of his dough.

After he washed, he jumped down to run outside and play. Tyler’s mom spread his toppings out, removing some, before placing it in the oven. She turned and offered them a choice of sodas, then set dough out for Sarah and Tyler. “Just put whatever you like on it.”

Seeing Sarah looked a bit lost she added “Just not too much sauce, or your crust will be mushy.” She smiled, then turned to check the oven and wipe the counter around the sink.

Tyler took the sauce spoon and showed Sarah how to spread it evenly. His was a thin layer, and Sarah did her best to copy him. She then added peppers, pepperoni and cheese. Tyler piled onion, ham and pineapple on his before declaring it perfect. They handed their trays over to his mother who put them directly in the oven.

Sarah followed Tyler onto the back deck. The twins had finished just before them and were now playing on a large wooden swing set, complete with a tarp-covered top that Tyler informed Sarah had been used as a clubhouse. Josh and Nate played T-ball to the side of the playground.

Tyler motioned for Sarah to take a seat on one of the plush chairs that lined the glass-top patio table. Sarah turned and gazed up at the house behind her. It was easily the largest house she’s ever seen, and definitely the nicest she’d ever been in.

She watched Tyler’s siblings play, then glanced at the sliding glass door as his parents came out. His mom was carrying a kitchen timer, and his dad two glasses filled with ice and soda.

“Do you want to eat inside or out here tonight Ty?” his father asked, smiling. “You’ve only got ten minutes to decide…so what’ll it be?” Tyler’s mom elbowed her husband.

“Oh stop.” She said teasingly. “You know how Tyler feels about flies on his food. We’ll eat inside. That ok with you Sarah?” She looked expectantly at the girl, giving her a pleasant smile.

“Sure.” Sarah replied. “I’m not much for flies on my pizza either.”

Tyler’s dad shrugged. “That’s only because you’ve never tried it!” he joked.

“Gross Dad!” Tyler laughed. “I sure am glad it’s Saturday. I love pizza night. And wait until after dinner,” he said turning to Sarah. “We always have family games. With you here it makes the teams even.” He looked at his Dad as a thought came to him. “We could even make it boys against girls this time!”

Tyler’s Dad seemed to consider that. “Sounds good to me, Son. If your mother can stand being separated from me that long. You know how clingy she is.” He smiled at his wife, who took his hand.

“I think I’ll live. At least long enough to help the girls whip you at all the games!” she laughed.

A sudden piercing scream interrupted their conversation, and both parents were on their feet at once, running toward the swing set. Jessica was holding both hands over the left side of her face. Nate was already there when his parents arrived, begging her to let him look.

She was crying freely and stubbornly refused to let anyone but her mom look, and that only after her daddy carried her into the house. After the drama made its way inside, Nate came to join Sarah and Tyler at the table.

“Poor thing,” he started. “I was showing Josh how to make better contact with the ball, and he hit a good one; right into Jessie’s face. I think he’s hiding in the clubhouse. He thinks he blinded her.” Mark looked over at Sarah and saw the concern on her face. Tyler cut in to explain.

“Josh is real sensitive about hurting people. He once left his gerbil outside in the little rolly ball they wander around in, and we had a terrible storm that night. When Josh remembered the next day about his gerbil, he searched everywhere, finally finding him drown in his little ball. It had gotten lodged at the bottom of the rain gutter. Now every time he hurts someone he assumes the worst.”

Sarah had put her hand on her heart in an empathetic manner, touched at the burden of guilt this boy carried around. “What a sad story!” she said. “Should we go get him? Maybe he needs someone to talk to him.” Her voice held a worried ring.

Just then the sliding door opened and Tyler’s dad came out. “Why don’t you all go ahead inside? I’ll go get Josh.” He headed toward the awning covered top of the swing set. Tyler and Nate stood and collected the glasses to bring inside. Sarah sat for a moment, marveling over the big man’s willingness to climb into the tiny space to comfort his son.

Sarah stood, and just before turning to go inside, saw Josh’s tear-stained face as he climbed into his father’s lap. She choked back a sob, and excused herself to the bathroom once inside. Silent tears coursed down her face as she recalled the tenderness in Mr. Williams’ touch as he gathered up his son.

She tried not to let her past make her bitter, but she wondered how different her life would have been had her dad stayed around. In this house, with this family who so obviously loved one another, she felt she had missed much.

To fight against the bitterness, she was learning to pray. She took a moment to pray for both her parents, wherever they may be; then felt ready to join the family in the kitchen.

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