Chapter 6

Chapter 6

May 30th, 2008

Dakotah Lennon’s insides felt like a giant hand had grabbed them all, and crushed them. The moments after the news had hit were particularly rough; both his mother and grandmother had tried to console him, but he was having nothing of it. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he dared Frank to say something; he was going to take a swing, even if it meant getting beat up, or kicked out of the house. Instead, Frank shook his head, and walked away, saying nothing.

At that point, Dakotah ran up the stairs, and shut the door, jumping face first into his bed, while crying in anguish the entire time. Sylvia had started to go up the stairs after him, but Elizabeth stopped her; “Let him sort this out on his own.” she said.

For the couple of hours, Dakotah didn’t do much more than wallow around on the bed, and sob. Feeling the call of nature, he quietly and quickly made it to the upstairs bathroom, so as to not let his mother know his location. After completing his business, he went to go wash his hands and face, looking up to see a pair of puffy, bloodshot eyes. He took a deep breath, and exited the bathroom, hoping to get back to his bedroom before anyone noticed.

However, this was not to be. His mother, alerted by the toilet flushing, came to the bottom of the stairs as he was exiting the bathroom. “Son, are you alright?” she asked.

“I’m okay.” Dakotah replied before he closed the bedroom door.

“If you need someone to talk to, I’m here.” Sylvia yelled.  Dakotah didn’t reply. He went to his desk, and sat down in the chair beside it. Looking out the window, he could see a few clouds. “Supposed to rain later.” he thought. “Perfect.” He muttered.

From his seat, he looked over toward his bed, and on the nightstand beside it, saw the Bible Elizabeth gave him for Christmas. He picked it up and sat down at his desk again, and opened it at random. It came to Hosea, chapter six. He read the verses, and found nothing of any help. “I’d better check the New Testament.” he said to himself, and flipped the pages again. This time, he came upon Luke, chapter 18. He read the parables, and about the rich man who wanted to go to heaven, and healing of the blind man. “Please help me understand.” he prayed.

However, after reading the verses over and over again, no inspiration came to Dakotah. Exhaling, and with tears in his eyes, he closed the Bible. He clasped his hands, closed his eyes, leaned over the desk, and bowed his head.

“Lord, I don’t understand. Why did You spare me? Why did You tell me not to go with them? Andre wouldn’t have wrecked if I went with them! He always drove real careful when I was with him!”

Looking up, with tears in his eyes, he continued. “Lord, I prayed earnestly for their safe return. I know I’m not the only one, either. I know it was Your will, but I don’t understand why You chose to disregard our prayers! It’s not fair!”

Dakotah took another deep breath, and then exhaled. “Lord, You should’ve taken me! Andre, Tulio, and the others had a future! They were going to be important! Me, I’m just nobody!” he sobbed. “The world would’ve been better off.”

Dakotah looked over at his clock. It read 12:10 PM. He then looked out the window, and noticed it had just started to rain. He took a deep breath. “Lord, are you crying, too? Why? You have Andre and the rest with you. Are you crying for their families? I just don’t understand.” Taking another deep breath, he put on a pair of jeans. “Maybe Grandma will have some answers.” he muttered to himself.

Finishing dressing, he made it down the stairs, and into the living room, where his mother was watching a talk show. “Mom, I need to take a walk, and get some air.”

“Are you stopping at your grandmother’s?” Sylvia replied, sadly.

“Maybe. Probably.” Dakotah said, with a bit of evasiveness.

“You know, I can help, too.” His mother said pointedly. “After all, I know you better than anyone, including your grandmother.”

“That’s true, I guess.” Dakotah said, frowning. “But I need to get some air, and clear my mind. I’m hurt, I’m confused, and I don’t know how to feel, or what to think.”

Dakotah walked to the door, and grabbed his windbreaker. “I love you mom. I know you’ll always be there for me. But you can’t help me right now. I don’t know if grandma can, either. I just know I have to get out of this house for a while. I probably won’t be back until after you go to work. I’ll probably be up when you get home, so maybe I’ll have things figured out, and maybe we can talk then, if you’re not too tired.” Dakotah opened the door. “Have a good night at work, mom.”

“Son, be careful.” Sylvia said, wiping a tear. “I love you.”

“I love you, too. I’ll be fine.” With that, Dakotah took a deep breath, and left.

*****

Dakotah walked at a brisk pace toward the city park; he knew, being a Friday, and with a light drizzle, the park would be mostly empty. He regretted somewhat wearing the windbreaker, as the temp was in the mid-70s, and as a result, he began to sweat profusely. Finding a park bench under a tree, he took off the windbreaker, and sat down.

Dakotah stared across the park blankly, seeing a solitary jogger, and a couple of housewives pushing strollers along the paths in the distance. Closer, and near the highway, Dakotah noticed several squirrels foraging in the grass. He watched their movements, which seemed mostly random to him, and how they interacted with each other. One of the smaller squirrels found a nut, and started to make off with it, when he was intercepted by a much larger squirrel. The larger squirrel took the nut, and made away with it, with the smaller squirrel in pursuit. The larger squirrel started to cross the road, presumably on its way to its home base, when suddenly, a car came rushing down the street. The squirrel zigged and zagged, and the car slowed down and veered to one side, but to no avail, as Dakotah could hear the telltale thump.

Dakotah closed his eyes, and shook his head. “This is a cold, unfeeling world.” He thought. He looked to see the remains of the squirrel, only to see it wasn’t dead, but it was badly hurt. Dragging itself by the front legs, and somehow still holding the nut in its mouth, the squirrel made it over the curb to the grassy area between the road and the walking path.

Dakotah walked over to the squirrel. Its breathing was labored, rapid and weak, and blood was coming out of his mouth. He didn’t know what to do for the squirrel; he knew that it didn’t have much longer to live.

“I’m sorry.” Dakotah said to the squirrel, tears rolling down his face. “I wish I could help you, but I can’t. Can’t do much of anything, really. Sorry.”

Dakotah wanted to pet the squirrel, but knowing that an injured animal can bite savagely, wisely chose not to. Feeling his shirt getting damp from the rain, he put his windbreaker on. Looking around, he noticed the smaller squirrel about ten feet away, looking intently at Dakotah.

“Oh, is this your friend?” Dakotah said to the smaller squirrel. “I’m sorry that I couldn’t save him.” Looking over at the first squirrel, he noticed that its eyes were closed, and likely dead. Taking a deep breath and exhaling, he turned away from the squirrels, and started walking away. After walking about fifteen feet, he turned around toward the two squirrels. The smaller squirrel zipped over to the dead squirrel, sniffed it, took the now dropped nut, and ran away.

Dakotah shook his head. “So much for compassion for your fellow squirrel.” He sighed. With that, he started walking to his grandmother’s.

*****

The cloud cover began to break up, the mists stopped, and Dakotah had shed his windbreaker by the time he reached Elizabeth’s house. Emotionally, he felt numb inside; physically, his head was pounding, and his body ached.

Reaching the door, he knocked. He heard shuffling of feet inside, followed by the usual peek out the window. Elizabeth quickly unlocked the door, stepped outside, and gave Dakotah a hug.

“You’re a mess.” she said. “Are you hungry? I’ll bet you haven’t eaten today.”

“N-no, I haven’t.” Dakotah replied. “I’m not really hungry. My head is pounding, and my body hurts. Can I have some aspirin?”

“After you eat something.” Elizabeth said firmly. “Taking aspirin on an empty stomach only makes things worse. Now, would you like a sandwich? I have some sliced ham.”

“OK, I guess. My belly feels like it’s full of knots. I hope it won’t make me sick.”

“You’ll live. If you do get sick, and throw up, at least you’ll feel better afterward.” Elizabeth said, putting her hand on his shoulder, and smiling warmly.

“I don’t know if I can feel better.” Dakotah sobbed, eyes tearing up again.

Elizabeth grasped Dakotah’s shoulder tighter, and looked him in the eye, her face only inches from his. “You will, in time. Look, it’s never easy when you lose someone you care about. Have you ever lost someone who was close to you before?”

Looking down, Dakotah shook his head. “Didn’t think you had.” she said. “When I lost my Harold, especially since my son and his family were also no longer part of my life, I felt alone, and empty.”

Wiping tears, Dakotah looked up. “What did you do?”

“I prayed to the Lord for strength, for wisdom, and for guidance.” Elizabeth replied.

Dakotah stood up. “Praying doesn’t work! I prayed last night to bring Andre back safe, and he’s dead!” he shouted.

Elizabeth, for a few seconds, was stunned; gathering herself, she pointed a finger at Dakotah. “Dakotah Lennon, you should be ashamed of yourself! Who do you think you are, anyway? Are you greater than God Himself?”

It was Dakotah’s turn to be stunned.” I-I-I don’t understand what you are saying!” he stammered.

“You didn’t say a prayer; you gave the Lord an order!” Elizabeth said with force. “Obviously, it wasn’t His will to bring Andre and the rest home alive, was it?” Softening her voice, she continued: “I know this has hit you hard. I wish I had answers as to why God let this happen, but I don’t. You may never know until you see them in Heaven someday. However, just because you pray for something doesn’t mean the Lord should drop everything and make it so. I thought I taught you better than that.”

Dakotah began crying again. “I wish I tried harder to stop Andre and Tulio and the rest.” he sobbed. “It was like something was telling me not to go with them.”

“And where did that voice come from?” Elizabeth asked.

“The Lord, I guess.” Dakotah said with a sigh.

“You guess? Have you no faith?”

“I don’t know.” said Dakotah in a low voice. “My faith didn’t bring them home alive.”

“Faith isn’t like that.” Elizabeth said, with empathy. “Faith is not expecting God doing what you want, it’s trusting Him and His will to do what is right.”

“But why Andre and Tulio? Those guys had a good future in front of them. Someone like me, I could under-“

“STOP IT! STOP THAT RIGHT NOW!” yelled Elizabeth, furious. “Don’t you EVER sell yourself as worthless! Is God’s wisdom so small, that he doesn’t know who to take, and who to leave?”

“No.” said Dakotah, feeling as low as the living room throw rug.

“Whatever reason He had to take those boys may be something we may never know.” Elizabeth said, toning down her voice. “Regardless, we have to have faith in Him that He is doing the right thing, and the best thing.”

Elizabeth put her finger under Dakotah’s chin, and raised his head, so that they made eye contact. ”God loves you, Dakotah. Not only that, He needs you here. Have faith; He knows what He’s doing.”

Dakotah took his handkerchief out of his pocket, and blew his nose. “I’ll try to have faith, even though all this makes no sense.”

Elizabeth smiled. “Since when did life ever make sense?” she said.

“I lost my best friend though.” Dakotah said, eyes tearing up again. “Andre was the only real friend I ever had.”

“I’m not so sure about that.” Elizabeth said. “What about Ely? She seemed really nice.”

“Grandma, I only talked to her twice. I’m not sure if she was nice to me because of Andre, or if she pitied me.”

“For goodness sakes, Dak! For once, I wish you’d stop selling yourself so short! You are such a nice young man!”

“Sounds like a true nerd to me.” Dakotah said without emotion.

“And your point is?” retorted his grandmother. “Lord knows, there are worse things than being a nerd! Maybe Ely is a nerd, too, you ever think of that?”

Dakotah blinked. “No, I never thought of it that way. I think she’s too cute to be a nerd, anyway.” As soon as he said that, Dakotah blushed.

“Aha! So you do like her!” Elizabeth shouted, pointing a finger at her grandson. “And what’s wrong with that? Think she’s too good for you?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Look at me grandma, I’m a geek!” Dakotah shouted, exasperated. “I’m a skeleton with skin on it! People ask me if I have any Froot Loops!”

Elizabeth chuckled. “Forgive me, Dak, but the Toucan Sam reference was funny! Your nose only looks big because you’re skinny. Your father was thin too, when he was your age, but by the time he was in his 20s, he had filled out nicely. I’m sure you’ll be the same! However, even now, you’re not a bad looking kid!”

“Love you grandma, but I know you’re biased.” Dakotah said, smiling.

“I’m not biased. You’re special to me because you’re my grandson, but I love you enough not to call you something you’re not.” she said pointedly. “Look, the world is mostly filled with average-looking people. The thing that makes a special someone special is what’s on the inside, not on the outside. Is Ely that special someone for you? I can’t tell 100%, but I do like her, at least on the surface. I think you two would make a good fit. She’s already made a step toward you. The next step is yours.”

“What do I do? She offered me her cell phone number, but I don’t have a phone.”

“What’s wrong with your home phone?”

“Nothing. I just don’t want Frank nosing in on my business.”

Elizabeth’s brow furrowed. “You need to stand up to Frank. You have every right to be there as that no good freeloader. Tell him to buzz off, if he wants to barge in on your conversation. Dak, you need to grow a backbone, and that’s a good place to start!”

“I could always call her from here.” Dakotah said.

“I don’t mind, but in a way, that’s running from potential conflict. You should center your social life from your home. I believe that you’ll respect yourself in the long run if you do.”

“I’ll try.” Dakotah said, not sure if he could follow through with his grandmother’s suggestion.

“What you need to do is to go to her church Sunday.” Elizabeth said encouragingly. “After all, she invited you.”

“But what about praying for guidance? Shouldn’t I do that first?” Dakotah said nervously.

“That’s fine, but unless you get some strong feeling that it’s a bad place, you should go anyway, just to see how other churches work. If their doctrine doesn’t match up with your beliefs, then at least you’ll know for sure.”

“What about Ely? If I don’t like the church, then I could ruin our friendship.”

“Andre went there, and you were best friends, correct? If Ely is of good character, then you can go to different churches, and still be friends.”

Dakotah remained a little stressed. “Well, maybe not this Sunday. I don’t think I’m up for any more emotional tribulations at this time.”

“That’s fine, as long as you don’t come up with an excuse each week.” Elizabeth said, pointing her finger at Dakotah. “You need to escape your cocoon, and this is a good way to do it.”

Dakotah took a deep breath, and exhaled. “Okay, a week from Sunday, and I’ll go. I’ll need a lift over there, and back, though.”

Elizabeth smiled, and winked. ”Oh, I don’t mind taking you over there, but I’m sure you can find your own way home!”

“Grandma!” Dakotah said in protest.

*****

June 2nd, 2008

There was an overflow crowd at the funeral home. Andre was a very popular person in his neighborhood, and hundreds came to give their final respects. Dakotah was no exception.

Elizabeth was his transport to the funeral home; seeing the parking lot and the neighboring streets full of cars, she stopped in front of the entrance. “I’ll let you out here; when you’re done, ask the funeral director to use his phone, so you can call me to pick you up.”

“You’re not coming?” Dakotah said nervously.

“Andre’s your friend. I probably taught some of the people here, but I don’t have a need for closure. You do. Now go on. You’re holding up traffic!”

Taking a deep breath, Dakotah got out of the car, and waved at his grandmother as she pulled out into the street. Taking another deep breath, he began to look around. He knew not a soul. Some were teary-eyed, others were laughing. Almost all the people around him were African-American. Andre, Tulio, and the gang at the lunch table at school were the only people of color that he knew, and they were dead. He wished he knew Andre’s parents, or his uncle; at least he could’ve said his condolences to them.

There was a group of white people gathering across the street; they were very odd, as some of them appeared to be carrying signs of some sort. Maybe they were from Andre’s church?

Dakotah was very nervous about going inside. He’d never been to a funeral before; the prospect of seeing Andre in the casket made him nauseous. A large part of him hoped that it was a closed casket ceremony. Taking yet another deep breath, he steeled himself, and made his way inside, getting in line. He stopped to sign his name on the visitor’s ledger, as did almost everyone else before him. For reasons unknown even to him, Dakotah scanned the two pages of signatures on the ledger. Then he saw it.

In perfect penmanship, the name Ely Daniels.

“Ely’s here!” Dakotah said to himself.  But where? He scanned the interior of the funeral home. Although he figured she should be easy to spot, since she was probably the only red-haired white girl in the place, she was also small in stature, maybe 5’4”, and could easily be hidden in the masses.

Dakotah entered the main chapel area, and he could see the casket ahead. It was open, and he could see the outline of Andre inside. He immediately began to tear up, and tremble. “Lord, help me through this.” He said in silent prayer. With every step, more tears began to fall, and his legs became weaker.

As Dakotah neared the casket, he wept openly, enough that the people around him began to notice. Suddenly, an arm slid inside his left arm, and grasped his hand. He turned to see Ely, eyes moist, a sad countenance, a plain black dress. She squeezed his hand.

“C’mon, Andre’s waiting.” she said, as she led him to the casket. They stood before Andre, hand in hand. The first thought Dakotah had been that he didn’t look much like Andre. Oh, he knew it was Andre; although the embalming had just began to deteriorate a little bit, what Dakotah noticed was that Andre, while alive, showed so much life and energy, that this body in front of him was literally but an empty shell.

“You should’ve stayed home with me, and played video games.” Dakotah said almost inaudibly. Suddenly, without warning, he became angry. “Dude, what were you thinking?” he cried, loud enough for many around him to hear.  “You promised me you’d be careful! You were my best friend, and now you’re gone!” With that, Dakotah leaned against the casket, and began to bawl.

Ely tugged on Dakotah’s arm. “Dakotah, there’s someone here who wants to meet you.” Gathering his composure, he let Ely lead him away from the casket.

She led Dakotah to a humongous black lady; she wore an electric blue dress, with a matching wide-brimmed hat. Ely began the introduction: “Dakotah, this is-“

“Dakotah! The lady interrupted. “Come over here, and give Mama a hug!” Dakotah was trying to grasp what she said when she took two strides toward him, and engulfed him with her girth. Dakotah could barely get his breath, as she squeezed harder and harder.  All Dakotah could do was hug back.

“You poor baby, it’s almost too much to take, ain’t it? she asked, finally letting him go.

Desperately catching his breath, Dakotah took a step back. “Y-yeah. I still can’t believe it, Mrs.…..”

“I’m sorry, sugar, I’m Andre’s mother.” the lady said. My name is Ramona, but everybody calls me Mama.”

“I’m so sorry, Mama.” Dakotah said, tears welling up again. “I should’ve tried to stop them!”

Mama put a finger on Dakotah’s lips. “Sh-sh-sh, ain’t no point in beating yourself up over things that are done and done. Dre’s in a better place now.”

“I know.” Dakotah said. “But it doesn’t make it any easier. He was the best friend I ever had.”

“He was my baby.” Mama said, sadly, the weight of the situation suddenly hitting her. “But you know, Jesus is gon’ get me through this, and He’s gon’ get YOU through this.” she said, pointing a finger at Dakotah. “Dre’s up there in Heaven right now, looking down at us, saying “You all don’t worry about me. I’m good. I’ll be waiting.””

The Old Rugged Cross started playing over the speakers. “Ramona, are you ready to start?” A nattily dressed man asked.

“I guess there’s no time like the present.” Mama replied. She turned to Dakotah and Ely. “It was so nice meeting you, Dakotah. I hope we can meet again, and talk for a little bit.”

Dakotah hugged Mama tightly, which would normally be way out of his comfort zone, but today, he didn’t care. “Me, too. Are you going to be okay?”

“No, but I’ll make it. I always do.” Mama turned to Ely. “You take care of him.” She said, pointing at Dakotah. “He’s a fine young man.”

“You can count on me, Mama.” Ely said, squeezing Dakotah’s arm.

“You two better invite me to the wedding, too!” Mama said, laughing. Dakotah turned crimson immediately, and his heart skipped a couple of beats. “You two look so good together!”

“Guarantee it, Mama!” Ely said, grinning. Dakotah was speechless.

“Ahh….” Dakotah said, as they made their way to their seats.

“God love her, even on the worst day of her life, she found it in her to kid around.” Ely said with a slight smile. ”What’s the matter, all this talk about marriage fried your brain? Are you one of those noncommittal types?”

Dakotah was unable to speak.

Ely lightly elbowed him in the ribs. “Easy Dak, I’m just kidding around. Hmmm. You are one of those that believe everything he hears?”

“Maybe. I don’t know.” Dakotah said, his brain swimming.

“I’ll try to take it easy on you, for now, until you get used to me. “ Ely said.

Dakotah was unsure of what that meant. Before he could reply, a minister, carrying a large Bible with many bookmarks and pieces of paper sticking out of it, made his way to the pulpit.

“That’s our minister.” Ely whispered. I think you’ll like him.”

The minister, short, thin, with a round face, receding hairline, and thick glasses, kindly smiled to Ramona, cleared his throat, and began to speak.

“You know, in many ways, days like these are the hardest that I experience as a pastor. Funerals are never easy, but for the most part, a person who passes is not a surprise. Folks die of old age, cancer, heart attack, and so on, and subconsciously, we are prepared for that death, at least I am, so there is little shock when they do pass.”

“Folks, let me tell you, Andre’s accident brought me… to…my…knees! From the time Mama first started bringing him to church around ten years ago, his energy and joy of living affected us all! From being a leader of the youth, from working in the soup kitchen on Tuesdays, to singing in the choir, that young man was full of love! He loved his Mama, he loved his church, and most of all, he loved his Jesus!”

Mama began to tear up, as several in the seats shouted “Amen!” Dakotah was stunned. He didn’t know any of this about Andre, only that he went to church on Sundays. He turned to Ely, and whispered “Really?” she nodded, smiling.

“When I found out the Lord had taken Andre to His bosom,   I cried out “Why Lord? Why did you take this vibrant young man so early in life?” You know what he said? Not a thing. And I have a feeling he’s never going to tell us, either.”

Dakotah thought “Well, I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s stumped.”

The minister continued. “Then I realized I was thinking about this all wrong. I should be thanking the Lord for blessing us with Andre for the time he was here with us! Not only that, We should all be happy, for Andre is with the Lamb of God, singing, laughing, praising Him, not feeling any pain, and not having a care in the world!” A few more “Amen” and “That’s right!” were shouted out from the gathering.

The minister, gaining momentum, increased his volume. “Brothers and sisters, I know you all are hurting, as am I, but we should take this opportunity to remember Andre as he would want to be remembered; by singing, by laughing, and by praising God!” Many of the mourners were beginning to shout now.

Just as quickly, the minister held up his hand to quiet the crowd down, and he began to speak in a much quieter tone. He pointed in Andre’s direction. “Some day, every single one of us is going to return to dust here on Earth. As for me, when that day arrives, I know I’m going to be up in Heaven, having a good time with the Lord, Andre, and everyone else who made it there before me. Now, If any of you aren’t sure what’s going to happen to you when you die, you can pray to the Lord to come into your heart, and if you believe with all your heart that Jesus died for your sins, you will be saved, and you can join Andre and me in Heaven! Now, if you’re unsure on how to do that, then you can come and talk to me, or perhaps another pastor, and we’ll do our best to help you understand.”

The last few sentences the minister uttered were done so while he stared directly at Dakotah. A chill crept down Dakotah’s back; he knew the he was saved, but he felt he was being put into the spotlight, and he did not like that one bit.

With that, the minister said a prayer, thanking the Lord for blessing everyone for having Andre in their lives, asking for comfort and strength for those that are hurting, and to open the eyes of those who can’t see the Light. Having finished, he nodded to the funeral director, who dimmed down the lights a bit, and turned on a digital projector. Pictures of Andre throughout his life showed on a large screen to the side of the casket, while the song I Can Only Imagine played through the speakers. Dakotah began to tear up, and he could hear Ely sniffle next to him. Instinctively, they held each other’s’ hands. As the song finished, the last picture appeared. Dakotah gasped. It was the photo Ely had taken of him and Andre on their graduation night. Dakotah covered his face with both hands, and wept.

Ely placed her arm around him, and patted him on the back. “I’m sorry.” she whispered in his ear. “I didn’t know you would take it like this.”

“I-It’s OK.” Dakotah replied, gathering his composure once more. “It surprised me, that’s all. I’d really like a copy of that.”

“Hey, I promised, remember?” Ely said, squeezing his arm.

The lights brightened up, and the ushers began to direct the back rows for one last viewing of Andre. Dakotah and Ely were near the front; they had a few minutes before their turn. The minister was talking to Mama, and the rest of Andre’s immediate family. Ely raised her hand, and began to wave at the minister. Raising a finger, the minister finished talking to Mama, and started making his way to Ely and Dakotah. Dakotah became nervous; he wasn’t in the mood to talk about being saved to a minister. As he reached them, Ely turned to Dakotah, and said “Dakotah, I want you to meet the Rev. Alan Daniels, the pastor of New Hope Church, and my dad!”

Dakotah’s jaw dropped. “Hi.” was all that he could muster.

“Nice to meet you!” Rev. Daniels said, shaking Dakotah’s vigorously. “Andre had mentioned you many times, but he said that you might already have a church home?”

“Yes, I go to 3rd Baptist, with my grandmother.” Dakotah said quickly. “I was saved and baptized there two years ago.”

“Brother Higgins is a fine preacher.” Rev. Daniels said. We had a few classes in seminary together, back in the day. A good man.”

“I’ve been trying to talk him into joining us at New Hope.” Ely said, smiling.

“You’re more than welcome to come and worship with us.” Rev. Daniels said.

“Actually, I was thinking of coming by this Sunday.” Dakotah replied.

“Great! I’ll be looking forward to seeing you Sunday!” Rev. Daniels said.

“That’s awesome!” Ely said, excitedly. “Pick you up?”

“Ah, OK!” Dakotah said happily. “Do you know where I live?”

“Well, if I take you home tonight, then I’ll know!” Ely said, grinning.

Dakotah began to blush. ”Tonight? It’s only three o’clock in the afternoon.”

“Dad, I was thinking of taking Dakotah out to eat after this is over, and to talk.” Ely said. “Today’s not been an easy day for either of us.”

“Fine with me.” The Rev. said, checking Dakotah over.

“Ah, I’m afraid I can’t go. I don’t have any money on me.” Dakotah said, dejected.

“That’s OK, it’s on me!” Ely said. “It was my idea, after all.”

Rev. Daniels took out his wallet, and handed Dakotah a bill. “Here, Dakotah, this one’s on me.”

Dakotah looked at the bill in shock. “Twenty dollars? Sir, I couldn’t! I don’t know when I could pay you back!”

“Bring my daughter home safe, and show up for church Sunday, and we’ll call it even.” Rev. Daniels said with a wink.

“Deal! Thank you, thank you!” Dakotah exclaimed, shaking Rev. Daniels’ hand.

By then, the ushers had made it to Dakotah and Ely. Ely and her father hugged, said their goodbyes, then Dakotah and Ely walked to the casket.

Dakotah began to tear up again. “Wish you could come with us, big guy.” He said, sadly. I’m going to miss you.”

“Love you, ‘Dre.” Ely said, also tearful. “See you when I get there.”

They turned, and met Mama at the end of the front row. Both of them took turns hugging her. “I’ll see you Sunday.” Dakotah said, forcing a smile.

“And I’ll make sure he does.” Ely chimed in.

“Bless your hearts.” Mama said, tearfully. “I’ll see you two Sunday.”

Dakotah and Ely started to walk to the door. Did you want to go to the gravesite?” Ely asked.

“No, I think I just want to get away from all this.” Dakotah said.” I need to find someplace quiet, relax, and think.”

“And talk?” Ely asked.

“Yeah. And talk.” Dakotah laughed. “We have a lot to talk about.”

“Yes, we do.” Ely said, smiling.

As they neared the door, they heard shouting outside. Someone up ahead said. “Why are those crazy bastards here?”

As they neared the door, the shouting became louder. Over the din, they heard a voice over a bullhorn. “God has once again has taken a homosexual to hell. Repent, or die two deaths!”

Dakotah and Ely looked at each other. “What are they talking about?” Dakotah asked, confused. “They aren’t talking about Andre, are they?”

They exited the building to chaos. The people that he saw across the street when he arrived had unfurled their signs. The signs said “God hates fags”, “God’s justice is served”, “God hates America” and “No fags in Heaven”. In between the protesters and several hundred angry mourners were more than a dozen police cars, with about 20 officers in full riot gear. Dakotah and Ely were in shock.

A blur raced past Dakotah and Ely, muscling his way through the crowd, and to the police line. Hands in the air as not to be hit by a billy club, he was seen animatedly pleading with an officer. Ely recognized the man, and gasped.

“Daddy!” she yelled, horrified.

Two officers hoisted Rev. Daniels onto the hood of a squad car, while another officer reached in the trunk, took a bullhorn out, and handed it to him.

Rev. Daniels began to shout through the bullhorn. “Brothers and sisters, as much as these so-called protesters disgust me by spreading their lies at a time of mourning, they have a legal right to do so. All we can do is render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and pray for these misguided souls. Let’s all move on, okay? Those getting in line for the procession need to go to their vehicles now. I don’t want anyone doing something stupid, and getting hurt, arrested or both. We need to show these people whose God’s children really are.”

“Fag enabler’s just as bad as a fag!” the voice from the other bullhorn shouted. Mourners began to shout back at the protesters, some saying insults at the protesters, others voicing threats. A few went back in the funeral home, trying to keep Mama from seeing all this.

The plan failed. Mama left the building, mourners parting a path for her. She made it to the police line, and asked for the bullhorn from Rev. Daniels. Reluctantly, he gave it to her.

Mama took a deep breath, and shouted through the bullhorn with her loudest voice. ”Now you all look here! There ain’t one amongst you got a bigger right to put a whoopin’ on these crazy people more than I do! But I ain’t gonna disgrace the memory of my baby by gettin’ thrown in jail for putting a knot on someone’s head! And ain’t none of you either! So let’s get on out of here, and go place my baby in the ground…..”at that point, Mama began to break down, but she gathered herself up quickly, and continued. ”and let him rest in peace!” She then turned to the protesters. “God open your eyes, so you can see the evil you all are doing!”

Rev. Daniels came down from the police car hood, and escorted Mama to the hearse, as mourners began to go to their cars. Ely led the way to her car. Unfortunately, they had to pass near the protesters to get to it.

“You’re going to hell, Dakotah! Just like Andre!” a familiar voice shouted. Dakotah spun around to see Tim pointing at him, face full of anger. Dakotah paused for a moment, and as Ely grabbed his hand, he moved on, quickly.

“I can’t think of anything that would try a person’s faith more than that.” Dakotah said, with a touch of anger.

“You’d like to clobber him, wouldn’t you?” Ely asked.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t, at least a little bit.” Dakotah said thoughtfully. “But if I did, I’d regret it.”

“Me, too.” Ely said, smiling, as they made it to the car.

They buckled up, and Ely pulled out onto the street.

“I just remembered! I have to call grandma! She’s supposed to pick me up!” Dakotah exclaimed, remembering.

“Here’s my cell phone.” Ely replied. “You reminded me, I need to make a call, too. Call your grandma, then press and hold three for the speed dial.”

“Got it.” Dakotah said. Never having used a cell phone before, Dakotah couldn’t figure out how to use it.

“Just hit the green button to turn it on, and enter the number. When you’re done, hit the red button to hang up.” Ely said.

“Okay.” Dakotah dialed the number, and after a few rings, Elizabeth’s voice was heard. “Grandma? Yes, it’s me. I’m with Ely. We’re going out to eat somewhere. No, it’s not like that. It went pretty good, except for the anti-gay crazies outside protesting. For real!  It was nuts! I thought there was going to be a riot, but Andre’s mom, and Ely’s dad, calmed everyone down. She’s probably going to take me home after we eat. Yes, we will.”

“Dakotah’s voice suddenly became louder, and more agitated. “Yes, Grandma! Grandma! Love you. Bye.” Dakotah exhaled.

“What was that about?” Ely asked. “Your face is red! What did she say?”

“You really don’t want to know. She really tried her best to embarrass me.” Dakotah took another breath. “She succeeded.”

“Now you really have my curiosity up.” Ely said, smiling. “You have to tell me what she said!”

“If you insist.” Dakotah said, his face getting redder by the second. “She said no kissing on the first date.”

Ely laughed. “Would you be disappointed if we didn’t?”

Dakotah’s brain locked up, and he was having trouble breathing. ”I-I-I don’t know. I-I thought we were just going out to eat. I didn’t think this was a date.”

“You really don’t know anything about relationships, do you?” Ely said, sympathetically.

“If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have any friends at all.” Dakotah said, sadly.

“What about your church? Don’t you have friends there?” Ely said.

“No one my age. They’re either old people, or people with little kids.” Dakotah said, frowning.

“Well, at our church, they have twenty in the young adults Sunday school class.” Ely said. “They’re all nice, so you’d have lots of friends there!”

“You think so?”

“Sure! You’re a good guy, so you’d fit right in. Hey, Dak, could you dial the number? Just hold down the 3 for the speed dial.”

Dakotah did so, and handed the phone to Ely. “Hannah, I’m sorry, The funeral was kind of rough, and Dakotah and I-. Dakotah. Andre’s friend from school. Yeah. Anyway, we’re going to get something to eat, and chill. Call you later. Bye.”

“Who’s Hannah? Did you have other plans? You didn’t have to cancel them on my account.”

“She’s a good friend. I was going to her place to watch movies, but I need to go somewhere, and talk about Andre with someone who knew him well, swap stories, and maybe cry a little.”

“Understood. I need to do that too. Thank you for taking me.”

“My pleasure, Dak. I think we’ll be really good friends!”

Dakotah certainly hoped so. Looking around, he noticed that they had passed all the chain restaurants in town. “Where are we going, by the way?”

“Detroit.” Ely said simply.

“Detroit!” Dakotah shouted. “That’s over an hour away! Why are we going there? Don’t you think it’s dangerous there?”

“Andre, Tulio, and the rest were going to Detroit, and they didn’t make it. We’re doing this trip in their honor.”

“Oh, I see.” Dakotah said, still uneasy. ”Do you know where we’re going?”

“I figured we’ll drive around until we see someplace that looks good, and stop.” Ely said. “Don’t worry; I have this GPS to help us get back home.”

Dakotah bowed his head. “Lord, please bring us home safe, and I really hope you’ll grant us this request.” he thought in silent prayer.

Ely looked over at Dakotah. “Are you praying?”

“Doesn’t hurt.”

“I like you, Dak.” Ely said, smiling broadly. “You can be funny, without even trying.”

“I like you too, Ely. You’re a fun person, even though you like to make me uncomfortable sometimes.”

“I’m your friend. I’m not trying to hurt you, just having a little fun. I want us to laugh together, you know?”

“I like that.” Dakotah said, smiling.

“Now, onward!” Ely shouted, pointing forward. “Detroit awaits!”

“Onward!” Dakotah shouted.

*****

As Ely and Dakotah drove into Detroit, they could see the skyscrapers in the distance. Although the city had been in decline for decades, it still presented an impressive sight.

“This is cool! I’ve never been here before!” Dakotah said, awed.

“You’re kidding. You’ve never been to Detroit?” Ely said in shock.

“No. We never went anywhere.” Dakotah said, sadly.

Traffic picked up considerably as they continued into town. “Rush hour, I guess,” Ely said. “Fortunately, most folks are going home to the suburbs from work.”

“Let’s see where this takes us.” Ely said, as they exited the main thoroughfare onto an off-ramp. Dakotah was unsure of Ely’s choice, as there were many derelict buildings in this section of the city. However, he chose not to say anything, as not to give away his nervousness. Ely sensed it anyway. “You’re awfully quiet all of a sudden.”

“Do you know where we are?”

“Detroit.” Ely said with an impish grin. “Dak, you need to trust me. I have a GPS, right here.”

“Yeah, but do you know where we’re going?”

“To Heaven.”

“Not today, I hope!” Dakotah exclaimed.

Ely laughed. She turned down another street, and up ahead, in amongst the many shades of dark brick buildings, was a diner, shiny and resplendent in chrome and polished stainless steel.

“You knew where we were going all along!” Dakotah shouted.

“I told you to trust me.” Ely said, simply. She deftly parallel parked her mid-90s Corolla into a small spot on the side of the street. “Dad and I used to come here when I was learning how to drive. He said if I could drive here, I could drive anywhere.”

“Nice.” Said Dakotah, impressed. He rushed to the diner door, and opened it for Ely.

“Thank you!” Ely said, smiling. “Where did you learn such good manners?”

“Grandma.” Dakotah replied. “She taught me all the old school gentlemanly tricks.” They both laughed.

They sat down at a booth, and took their menus. The chrome and stainless wasn’t cheap; although the food on the menu was plain American, the prices were quite high. Dakotah had just enough money for a burger, fries, and a chocolate shake. Ely ordered a fried chicken salad, and a cherry flavored water. Dakotah hoped she had brought enough money with her.

As they waited for their food, Dakotah gazed into Ely’s eyes. They sparkled with a brilliant blue he’d never seen on anyone.

“Ely, something has bothered me these past few days, and I need to ask you a question.”

“Sounds serious. Go ahead, do your worst.” Ely said, staring back at Dakotah.

“How come neither you nor Andre mentioned that you knew each other until graduation night? We saw each other in the hallway several times after you saved my binder, yet you never introduced yourself as Andre’s friend. Andre never mentioned you once in all the years that I knew him, either. I don’t get it.”

Ely straightened. “As for me, I didn’t know of your relationship with Andre until the night before graduation, when he pointed out your picture in the yearbook. I can’t speak for Andre, but he did ask you to come to our church a couple of times, right?”

“Yes.”

“Did you ever see Andre and me together?”

“No.”

“I never saw you two together, either. Besides, you know what kind of personality Andre had. Was there ever a person that didn’t like Andre?”

“Tim, that I’m pretty sure of.”

“Why didn’t you tell Andre about me when I saved your binder after the altercation with him?

“Because I didn’t want Andre to pound him into the ground, and get suspended.”

“Andre may have said something to Tim, but he wouldn’t lay a finger on him, I’ll guarantee that.” Ely said. “You don’t know him as well as you think.”

“Andre was the best friend that I had!” Dakotah protested.

“You’re right. But you were only a small slice of his world.”

Those words hurt Dakotah, but he knew she was right. He nodded in affirmation.” You know, I never understood why Tim had it out for Andre. It wasn’t like he was gay, or anything.”

Ely gasped. Frowning, she looked down, and thought for a few seconds. She reached across the table and grasped Dakotah’s hands, holding them firmly. He began to squirm, suddenly feeling very uncomfortable.

“Dakotah, I don’t know how to tell you this without breaking your heart, but yes, Andre was gay.”

Dakotah jerked his hands away from Ely. “NO!” he shouted, in shock. “I don’t believe you! I can’t believe you! We talked about girls and stuff! We were coming here to Detroit on graduation night to dance with girls! No way he’s gay!”

Ely held both hands up, trying to calm Dakotah down. ”Listen to me, and think. Why did a person with a magnetic personality as Andre not ever have a girlfriend?”

“He always told me he was too busy, that he had to get his life in order before settling down.”

“Okay. I think I get it, now. Dakotah, do you consider yourself a conservative Christian?”

“Well, yeah, I guess so.”

“What does your church say about gay people?”

“That they are an abomination.” Dakotah’s voice began to trail off.

“If Andre was gay, would he go to Heaven?”

Dakotah began to tear up. ”I was always taught that they wouldn’t.”

“Then explain to me how you are different than Tim, and the rest of those people with the signs.”

“I’m not out there screaming at people while their loved ones are in the funeral home!”

“But your heart feels the same way.”

“I don’t hate gay people! Jesus tells us to love everybody! I loved Andre! He was like my brother! I’d trade places with him right now if I could!”

“Andre loved you too, like a brother. I think the reason he didn’t come out of the closet with you , and didn’t say too much about his church, is because of your beliefs on gays. ‘Dre didn’t want to risk his friendship with you.”

“What does your father think about gay people?” Dakotah asked.

“Dad always taught me that we are all God’s people, and everyone should be loved the same.” Ely said. “It is not our place to judge people, either. That is Jesus’ job only. We believe that as long as you are not causing harm to another person or oneself, knowingly or not, then you haven’t committed a sin.”

“My head hurts.” Dakotah said, rubbing his temples. “It sure takes a long time for them to cook food here, doesn’t it?”

“That’s why diners are cool.” Ely said. “It gives people time to talk! Dad and I had several hours of good conversations here. Ah! Here’s the food!”

*****

Dakotah had lost most of his appetite by the time his meal had arrived; however, after a couple of bites, he realized the burger, fries, and milkshake were all exceedingly good, far better than the fast food fare he was used to, and he ate heartily, until there was not a crumb left.

“Were you hungry?” Ely asked, smiling.

“Not until I started eating. The food here’s amazing!” Dakotah said enthusiastically. “Thank you for bringing me here!”

“My pleasure.” Ely said, looking at her watch. “It’s seven already. I guess we’d better be making our way home. I have to be at work in the morning.”

“You have a job?” Dakotah said, impressed.

“Yeah, starting tomorrow.” Ely said, biting her lower lip. “Dad helped me get a part time job at the hospital, cleaning rooms. I’m kinda nervous, though. I’m usually withdrawn around people I don’t know.”

“You didn’t know me when we met in the hallway. If that was the case, why did you help me?” Dakotah said, puzzled.

“I guess God told me to.” Ely said. “I just got the feeling that you needed help, and I was the only one who could. So, I did.”

“And you’re still helping me.” Dakotah said, wincing. ”Am I that pathetic?”

“Yes! Yes, you are!” Ely said, laughing. “But, you’re a good person, with a kind heart. I think you’re very special, and worth every bit of trouble. You may not realize it, but I needed you there at the funeral today, too.”

“But I didn’t do anything.” Dakotah protested.

“I had to help you through your pain, and that helped me through my pain.” Ely said. ‘Dre was the first friend that I ever lost, too.”

“I guess being pathetic is good for something.” Dakotah said, shaking his head.

“Dak, I feel like I’m totally pathetic too, sometimes, but I know deep down I’m not. Neither are you.”

“You don’t know me very well.”

“And you don’t me, either.” Ely said, wrapping an arm around Dakotah’s side and giving him a light hug while looking into his eyes. “I could totally screw up tomorrow, and get fired. How pathetic would that be?”

“You won’t screw up tomorrow.” Dakotah said, reassuringly.

“How do you know? You don’t know me.” Ely said with a slight frown.

“I have faith in you.” Dakotah said.

Ely poked Dakotah in the chest. ”And I have faith in you, too.”

Dakotah had to laugh, as he knew she had made her point. He opened the door to the car for Ely.

“Careful, you’re going to spoil me.” she said.

“I’ll try.” Dakotah laughed, as he shut the door.

*****

The rush hour traffic had largely abated by the time they had left the diner; they were making good time going home. It was a nice evening; temps were in the 70s, with just a couple of clouds. The sun sank lower in the sky, casting long shadows across the road, and nearby fields.

“Dak, now that you’re officially a high school graduate, what are you going to do?” Ely asked.

“Well, I have no way of affording school right now, so I’m going to find a job, and save up.” Dakotah said, twisting his mouth.

“Jobs are tough to find. I was lucky to get what I have.”

“I know. Especially since I have to rely on Grandma to take me around.”

I may be able to help with that, if you need a ride sometimes.”

“That’d be great! I would pitch in some gas money, too.”

“Well, that’s settled.” Ely said. “You know, you could get a student loan, and go on to school. You wouldn’t have to start paying it back until after you graduate.”

“True, but I don’t like the idea of being in debt. Mom always seems to be behind on her payments, and Grandma told me stories of when they had to sell stuff to make ends meet. If it takes an extra year to save up enough to get started, then that’s okay with me.”

“That makes sense.” Ely said, nodding her head. ”What are you going to study? Do you know what you want to do?”

“I think I want to study meteorology.” Dakotah said. “I like learning about how weather works, and maybe I can use that to help people.”

“Oh, that’s so cool!” Ely said excitedly. “You’d make a cute TV weatherman!”

Dakotah blushed. “Well, I don’t know about that. I’d probably work for the National Weather Service, or something.”

“Well, I think you’d make a fine weatherman.” Ely said, smiling.

“Any idea what you want to do?” Dakotah asked.

“I want to learn Japanese, go to Japan, and live over there for a while!” Ely exclaimed. “That would be so cool!”

Dakotah gave her a puzzled look. “How would you live over there? Would you be a missionary?”

“Oh, no, nothing like that.” Ely replied. “I would like to tutor Japanese people English, or maybe even teach school kids.”

“What’s so special about Japan? They make some pretty cool anime, and electronics….but-“

“Japan his little crime, everyone is polite, and everything is really neat and orderly! Bullet trains, Mt. Fuji, shopping in Tokyo, I could go on for hours! The country is just awesome!”

“Michigan doesn’t have anything for you, does it?” Dakotah said, slightly dejected.

“Does Michigan have anything for you?” Ely replied, pointedly.

“Mom’s here, and so is Grandma.” I’m not sure if I could leave them. They need me.”

“How? You’re mom has a job, and your grandma looks rather spunky. If there was a career opportunity across the country somewhere, you wouldn’t take it?”

“I’m not sure.”

“I think they would understand if you left. They’re not that selfish, are they?”

“No.”

“Then I don’t see a problem. Do you like it here?”

“Not really. I like it when it snows. It’s so peaceful then.”

“I have a hunch that although they would miss you a lot, they would accept your decision to leave, if you found something somewhere else. Who knows? Maybe the new place will have lots of snow, too!”

“Maybe.” Dakotah said, with a sigh.

*****

The sun had almost set by the time they arrived at Dakotah’s house. Ely pulled up to the curb, and Dakotah stepped out.

“8:30 Sunday morning, okay?” Ely said.

“I’ll be ready! Will you be able to find this place again?”

“Oh, ye of little faith.” Ely said, mocking Dakotah slightly. I’m saving it on the GPS, even as I speak. Now, what’s your phone number?”

This made Dakotah uneasy, as he wouldn’t put it past Frank to listen in on their conversations on the other cordless phone. He took a deep breath. “656-8675. I can’t guarantee that Frank won’t be trying to listen in on our conversation.”

Ely thought for a few seconds. “Well, if you think he’s spying, just call me Elizabeth; when I say Elizabeth, hold the phone away from your ear. Got it?”

“Got it.” Dakotah said, grinning. ”Ely, this may sound weird, but for being one of the worst days of my life, it wasn’t too bad. Thank you for everything.”

“I had fun this evening, too.” Ely said, smiling sweetly. “Maybe we can do this again sometime?”

“That’d be cool!” Dakotah replied excitedly.

“Great! See you Sunday!”

“See you Sunday!” Dakotah waved as he shut the door to the Corolla. Ely pulled away, leaving Dakotah to watch her as she turned a couple of blocks up the street.

“Wow.” Dakotah thought as he walked to the house.

Dakotah unlocked the door and stepped inside. Standing nearby, scowling, was Frank.

“Where’ve you been?” Frank grumbled. “Your mother has called three times, and that old bag, twice, wondering if you were home yet.”

“I called Grandma to let her know I was going out to eat. Don’t know why they’d be worried.” Dakotah took a deep breath, and exhaled. He knew Frank didn’t care if he ever came back; more than likely, Frank was upset because his mother and grandmother were bugging him with phone calls.

“Well, call the old woman. I’ll text your mother, and tell her you’re home.”

“Okay.” Dakotah replied, and started to get the phone in the living room.

“Hold it.” Frank said, stopping Dakotah in his tracks. “You got a girlfriend now, or was it some guy in drag?”

“It was a girl. She’s just a friend.”

“Friend, huh? Well, I’m gonna tell you this once. I ain’t gonna do no babysitting, you hear?”

“No problem.” Dakotah said simply, and made his way up the stairs, phone in hand.

“Frank babysit?” Dakotah thought to himself, shaking his head. “Does he really think I’m that stupid?”

Entering his room, he dialed his grandmother’s phone.

“It’s me, Grandma.” he said.

“You’re just getting home? I was beginning to wonder if you two got a room or not!” Elizabeth said, her voice agitated.

“Grandma!” Dakotah shouted in protest. “We just went out to eat, that’s all.”

“Where in the heck did you go? Detroit?”

“Actually, yes.”

There was a brief silence over the phone. “Not exactly the safest or smartest decision, I must say. Anything could’ve happened!”

“Ely had been there several times before, with her dad, She had the place on her GPS, and she had her cell phone, just in case anything weird happened. Besides, we had faith that the Lord would take care of us. Didn’t you?” Dakotah realized what he said. “I’m sorry, Grandma. I didn’t mean to sound like that.”

Elizabeth gave out a chuckle. “Don’t apologize, Dak. You are absolutely right. You’re growing up right before my eyes. I’m very proud of you.”

“Thank you, Grandma.” Dakotah said, smiling.

“Now tell me this.” Elizabeth said. “Is she a keeper?”

“Yeah.” Dakotah replied, feeling warm inside. ”She’s wonderful.”

*****

The conversation lasted a little while longer, with Dakotah talking about the protestors, the diner, and most of all, Ely. He then took a shower, and when he made it back into his room, his mother was there, waiting on him.

“I hear you had an eventful day.” she said, eyes sad.

“Yes, I did.” Dakotah yawned, realizing that he was quite exhausted.

She began to tear up. “Oh, honey, I’m sorry.” She cried out.

Dakotah became confused. “For what? Why are you crying?”

“First, I’m happy that you’re home, safe.” she said, tears flowing. “But I have a burden on my heart!”

“Burden?” Dakotah was thoroughly confused now.

“I tried to talk you into leaving with those boys! If you had listened to me, you’d be dead, too!” she sobbed.

Dakotah shook his head. “God told me not to go. I listened to Him, and I’m still alive. There’s no point in crying; it’s all done and over with now. Time to move on.”

Sylvia regained her composure. “Do you forgive me, then?”

Dakotah hugged his mother tightly. “There’s nothing to forgive. I love you, mom.”

“I love you, too.” Sylvia said, wiping a tear.

Dakotah yawned again. “Well, mom, I think I’m going to bed. I’m exhausted.”

“Before I go, I have to ask.” Sylvia said at the door. “Are you two an item now?”

“We’re not boyfriend-girlfriend, if that’s what you mean, but she is really, really nice. I like her, and I think she likes me, too.”

“Well, if there was a silver lining out of all this, I hope this is it. Your happiness means a lot to me. Good night, son, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Dakotah wondered about her sincerity when she made that last statement about her being concerned with his happiness, but he was too tired to care. As he lay stretched out on the bed, he thought of Ely, Andre, and the events of the day. Closing his eyes, he clasped both hands over his heart.

“Thank you Lord, for this day.” he said. “Say hi to Andre for me.”

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9 responses to “Chapter 6

  • Sandi

    Our little Dakota is growing up before our eyes!
    I really enjoyed this chapter – adolescent doubts, faith doubts and friendship doubts.
    I had tears in my eyes in places, but laughed out loud in others! Frank thinking he might have to babysit was priceless!

  • wileybr549

    I’m glad you liked it, Sandi! I know several people like Frank; their view of the world revolves around whether or not anything’s going to inconvenience them!

    It’s funny how you peg Dakotah as someone much younger than his 19 years, but on many levels, he is “way behind schedule”! Reminds me of someone else…. :’ )

    • Sandi

      With teaching teenage boys I knew many 18 year olds who thought and acted like 30 year olds, but on the other hand, knew many who thought and acted like 10 year olds!!
      Age is a state of mind, not a number….you see, I am only 21 in my mind,, but my body, and the mirror, tell me different! Lol

  • BriarCraft

    I won’t comment about the religious aspects of your story, as I’m not comfortable with that, but I will say that with every chapter, your writing is getting better. In this chapter, I particularly noticed and enjoyed the longer descriptive passages about sights, actions, and thoughts. Those serve like glue, making the dialog and the story all fit together. You are also starting to give Dakotah some character development, which is welcome. Though there is no way of knowing it here, I recall from your comments in WU that the story has started taking on a life of it’s own. That tells me you are really getting into it. You are becoming Raca Baka and it is becoming you. It will be interesting to see where the story takes you — and us — next.

    • wileybr549

      Thanks for the encouragement, Briar! A little background on Dakotah that hasn’t been expressly explained. For the early part of his life,he was pretty much left to his own devices, until Elizabeth came into his lfe.People, for the most part, want to be loved, and Elizabeth gave him that. She is also an old school Baptist, and as an Evangelical, made it her life’s work to teach him her religion,and to get him saved. Of course, he drank the kool-aid, so to speak, since he trusted his grandmother totally as one who truly loved him. Now, Ely comes along, and challenges what he’s been taught. You can guess that this won’t be the last time, not to give too much away. To me, this story isn’t a story about finding faith in God, or having one’s faith in God tested, but rather, finding faith in oneself.

      Oh, and you can say I’m getting into the story, all right; I was here at work the past three nights, but I couldn’t access a computer, so I took some computer paper, and made some notes. I now have the plots of the next six chapters outlined, which should finish Part 1!

      • BriarCraft

        I figured that this was a story about overcoming bullying, but I was concerned about the strong part religion has in the story. I have known too many people who believe that their faith gives them a pass from having to take personal responsibility for their lives and actions, as if everything were already pre-ordained.

        What you said above is encouraging. Dakotah is almost totally lacking in self-esteem, but when you talk about finding faith in oneself, that translates into gaining self-esteem and the confidence necessary to go out into the world with a chance to succeed. I have personal experience of being pushed too far for too long, to the point where Dakotah seems to be at the moment. That only ends one of two ways — either you break or you discover inner strength you didn’t know you had. Looks like maybe Dakotah is going to find some of the latter.

  • Maria

    I have quite a few chapters to catch up on but I will, soon. Your answer to Sandi is correct, I too know people who react to life on the concept that “their view of the world revolves around whether or not anything’s going to inconvenience them!”

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