September 25, 2008
“Fifty dollars!” exclaimed Dakotah, looking at the currency in disbelief. ”Grandma, you shouldn’t! I didn’t do that much, and besides, I shouldn’t get paid!”
“Don’t be silly, Dak.” Elizabeth lightly scolded. “I would’ve had to pay a handyman twice that to put gutter guards up, which is better than the two hundred dollars I had to pay this spring to have the gutters cleaned out. You are a bargain!”
Dakotah smiled slightly. “Maybe, but it still feels weird taking money from you. You’re my grandmother, after all.”
“You’re not taking money, like some bum begging on the street for coins to get booze! You earned it!”
“Yeah, but what about all the times you’ve fed me and hauled me around, not to mention the lunch and collection plate money?” Dakotah said, sadly. “What I did today doesn’t come close to paying you back.”
“Why should you pay me back?” Elizabeth exclaimed, becoming frustrated that she wasn’t getting through to him. “We’re family! This is what families do! I do this because I love you! If our positions were reversed, would you not help me, and ask for nothing in return?”
A light suddenly shone in Dakotah’s mind. “Yeah, since you put it that way. I never thought of it that way before. I’m always worried about being a burden on you, on Mom, even to Ely.”
“I understand, Grandson, but times are tough around here right now, and jobs are scarce. Just keep doing what you’re doing and try to keep a good attitude. The tribulations of these days will pass, and life will get better.”
“I know, but I feel so useless.”
“Dak, you take care of your house, don’t you? When was the last time your mother lifted a finger to do anything aside from cooking the occasional meal?”
“I don’t know.” Dakotah said, shrugging his shoulders.
“And when was the last time I mowed the lawn? Who’s helped me move furniture when I did a thorough house cleaning?”
Dakotah gave a sheepish smile. “I understand. I’m not totally useless. It’s kind of hard when you hear about it almost every day.”
“You mean Frank?” Elizabeth’s eyes flashed with anger. “Next time he says something to you about you being useless, just give him a hard look, if you can stomach it. That is the epitome of useless!”
They both chuckled. “Another thing.” Elizabeth continued. “Understand that yes, in a way, you are a burden to me. However, as a family, we carry each other’s burdens.”
“All I do is help out around here a little bit.” Dakotah said, a little confused. “Not too much of a load, to me.”
“I don’t think you realize how precious and valuable you are to me.” Elizabeth said, gazing intently into Dakotah’s eyes. “Before you came back into my life, I, for the most part, was alone. I haven’t seen my only son in years. I do have a sister. I don’t think she’s ever met you, as she’s lived in New York for the past thirty-five years. I do talk to her on the phone occasionally, but she’s not part of my life. I have some friends from my teaching days, but I never spent much time with them socially. I have a church family, but I see none of them unless I’m in church. So, in a nutshell, you are a shining ray of light in my otherwise dreary world!” She began to wipe away a couple of tears.
Dakotah went to his grandmother, and hugged her tightly, something he never would thought of doing just a few months ago. “And you’re a light in mine, too, Grandma! I love you!” He began to tear up, as well.
After a moment, they parted. “At least I’m not the only light in your life.” she said. There’s a pretty little girl that’s shining pretty brightly too, am I right?”
Dakotah sighed internally, hoping his grandmother wouldn’t catch on. Everyone, even her father, didn’t know the truth about Ely’s relationship with Hannah. Dakotah took the official role of boyfriend a couple of months ago, but in reality, their relationship was strictly platonic.
“Ely’s wonderful, Grandma.” Dakotah said, smiling. “She’s funny, smart, a lot smarter than me, I think, and really, really kind, with a big heart. She’s been a blessing, for sure!” “Or a curse?” he thought. Although he had resigned himself to this strange pseudo-boyfriend role, there was still a sliver of hope that she’d leave Hannah for him, and it ate at him.
“I’m so happy for you, dear.” Elizabeth said, smiling. “Having her around has forced you to mature quite a bit. How are her studies coming along? Are the materials I picked up at the library helpful?”
“Yes, they have been quite helpful, at least to me! Japanese seemed extremely difficult at first, but when I stopped thinking about sentence structure and stuff as how we do it in English, and started thinking of them in Japanese, things became much easier. With her other classes, she hasn’t had nearly as much time as I have to study, so I think I’ve advanced past her. So far, I’m more of the guy who reads questions out of a book, and sees if she knows the answers.”
“Ah, but you are with her, and that’s what’s important!” Elizabeth said with a big smile.
Dakotah nodded. “Grandma, you are more correct than you could ever know.” he thought.
A familiar honk of a car horn pierced the silence. Dakotah looked at his watch. “Oh, wow, she’s here, and I haven’t cleaned up yet!”
“That’s okay, Dak, you go get cleaned up, and I’ll stall her. We haven’t had a good chat in a while!”
“That’s what I’m afraid of.” Dakotah thought. Living this lie with Ely never made him feel good to begin with, and now his grandmother was going to have a chat with her. He hoped that their stories would correlate.
Hurriedly, he washed up, and dressed with clean clothes. It had been a warm day, and he had worked up quite the sweat installing the gutter guards.
Dakotah could hear an animated conversation in the other room, but he couldn’t tell if they were joking around, or arguing. His heart raced as he strode into the living room, hoping that everything was okay.
It was, as both Elizabeth and Ely were laughing. He took a deep breath, and exhaled. “Sorry to keep you waiting.” he said.
“It’s okay, Dak.” Ely replied, smiling. “My fellow Elizabeth and I hadn’t had the chance to talk in a while. It gives me a chance to see what trouble you’ve been getting into, and not telling me about!”
“A nice girl like you shouldn’t be getting involved with a scoundrel like this one.” Elizabeth chimed in. “I expect the police to come and pick him up any day now!”
“Aren’t good girls supposed to be attracted to bad guys?” Dakotah countered. “I’m sure if I was thrown in jail, my sweetie would bail me out!”
“Oh? You have a sweetie?” Ely said, smirking. “Who is he? Is it Frank?”
Everyone started laughing. “Oh, you are so mean!” Dakotah chuckled. “That’s okay, if he was the only one to bail me out, I’d rather take my chances in jail!”
Dakotah looked at his watch. “Ely, we’d better get going. It’s getting late, and we have to study for your test tomorrow.”
“You’re right, Dak.” nodded Ely. “Elizabeth, it’s really nice to see you again! Hopefully, someday soon, we’ll have a lot more time to catch up, and pick on your grandson! He’s so easy!”
Elizabeth hugged both Dakotah and Ely. “Ely, I’m looking forward to it. Make sure he behaves!”
“Not a problem.” Ely said, grinning. “I think he has the basics down!”
“Love you, Grandma.” Dakotah said. “See you tomorrow!”
“Love you too, Dak. Ely, take care.”
“You too, Elizabeth.”
Dakotah and Ely got into the car, and Ely pulled out into the street. “I think that went well.” Dakotah said with a sigh. “She likes you a lot, you know.”
“I know. I like her too. She’s a sweet lady. She loves you very much.”
“I know.” Dakotah frowned. “It kinda hurts to have to put on this charade in front of her, you know? Not to mention your dad, Mama, and everyone else at New Hope.”
“What are you saying, Dak?” Ely said, suddenly despondent. “You want to end this? Break up with me, so to speak? Or maybe even walk away for good?” She began to tear up.
“Hey, hey, no!” Dakotah shouted, putting his hand on her shoulder. “I could never walk away! You’re the only friend I have!”
“Aside from Hannah, you’re the only true friend I have.” Ely said, sniffling. “Knowing you has given me comfort and confidence in myself.”
“I am your biggest fan, after all.” Dakotah said, smiling.
“You know, I know Hannah loves me, but our relationship is totally different than yours and mine. Of course, she’s supportive, and I know she loves me, but our relationship is built on being affectionate with one another, and having fun. Mine and your relationship is based on two pathetic people trying to get through the trials and tribulations of life, and lifting each other up as necessary, don’t you think?”
“I don’t think you’re the least bit pathetic.” Dakotah countered. “Me, on the other hand-”
“Yes, we all know, Mr. Whiny Whiny Boo-Hoo.” Ely interrupted, mockingly. “I understand that you’ve had a hard life. When we first met, you were being run over by that Christian extremist. But understand, you have a whole lot of people in your life that care a whole lot for you. Your grandma, your aunt and uncle in Kentucky, my father, Mama. Even your mom does in her own way, I think.”
“I hope you do, too.” Dakotah replied, reflective.
“You know I do.” Ely replied, softening her attitude. “Dakotah, I don’t think you appreciate, or believe, your own value.”
Dakotah attempted to speak, but Ely held up her hand, cutting him off. “I think all of these years living with Frank has brainwashed you. You’re a lot smarter than you give yourself credit for. Erica and William from Sunday School are straight-A students who are in Central High’s Honor Society, and you smoke them in class every week! It’s not like they’re not trying, either. Dad and I have been discussing about asking you if you want to teach one of the elementary classes. We’re always shorthanded in those classes. I know it’s way out of your comfort zone, but I think you have what it takes. You are kind, patient, and not only do you know the Scriptures, but are able to explain them in a way everyone understands. I’ve learned a lot from listening to you in class, and I have a preacher for a father!”
Dakotah’s face reddened, embarrassed. “Ah, I don’t see myself as a teacher. I can’t imagine myself in front of a bunch of kids trying to teach them something. I’m not a very good speaker. I stutter a lot when I’m nervous. You ought to know that by now.”
“Moses stuttered.” Ely said, trying to sell the idea.
“I’m not Moses, and I don’t have an Aaron to speak for me, either.” Dakotah said, irritated. “Look, it feels good that you and your father think so much of me, but I don’t feel any calling to do anything. I’m sorry, but I don’t think it’s my time, at least not now.”
Ely thought over Dakotah’s words for a moment. “I’m sorry, Dak, I shouldn’t have been trying to pressure you into doing something you’re not comfortable with. You know, we are so much alike, you scare me sometimes. I’m also shy, withdrawn, and bad at making friends. If it wasn’t for the fact that my dad was pastor, I would probably fade into the background.”
“Now who’s being a whiney hiney?” Dakotah said with a smirk.
Ely punched him in the arm. “Jerk.” she said, laughing.
“You know, I’m actually relieved that we don’t have a romantic relationship.” Dakotah said, grinning. “You’d be pounding on me every day!”
Ely hit his arm again, harder this time, eliciting a wail from Dakotah. “Double jerk! Just because we’re not boyfriend-girlfriend, doesn’t mean I can’t keep you in line! You need to know how to talk to a lady properly, so when the future Mrs. Lennon comes along, she won’t be pounding you!”
“Okay, okay!” Dakotah laughed, rubbing his arm. “Maybe it would be easier if I met a girl who wasn’t as abusive as you?”
“Not gonna happen.” Ely said, also laughing. “Don’t you know? Being abusive is in a female’s genetic code!”
“Oh, boy, that really gives me something to look forward to!” Dakotah said, wincing, as Ely pulled into the driveway.
Alan Daniels noticed Dakotah’s nearly empty plate. “Would you like another piece of chicken, or some mashed potatoes?”
“Doumo arigatou gozaimasu, Sensei.” Dakotah said, bowing his head slightly. “Another piece of chicken would be great!”
“Shouldn’t you have said gozaimashita, Dakotah?” Ely said, correcting him.
“Gozaimashita is past tense.” Dakotah said, confidently. “After the meal, I could say that, since it had already happened. Gozaimasu is correct here, since the meal is ongoing!”
“You’re wrong, Dak!” Ely retorted, staring at him.
“Am I? Go look it up, then, and see who is correct!” Dakotah said, unwavering.
“Loser does the dishes?” Ely goaded.
“Ely, he’s our guest.” Rev. Daniels interjected. “Guests do not do the dishes!”
“It’s a deal!” Dakotah smirked, looking Ely in the eye.
“Better pick out an apron!” Ely yelled, as she ran to her room.
“Dakotah, you don’t have to go through this.” Rev. Daniels said, grinning. “If you lose, I’ll do the dishes.”
“It’s okay.” Dakotah said, smiling. “She’s about to get her comeuppance!”
Suddenly, a loud shriek erupted from Ely’s bedroom. “Noooooooooo! I can’t be wrong! Dakotah, I hate you!”
Both Rev. Daniels and Dakotah began to laugh hysterically. “Sweetie, make sure you wear an apron, so Dakotah can see you in a domestic way!”
Ely went into the kitchen, and after a moment, stepped into the dining room wearing a bright blue floral print apron. “How’s this?” she said, posing while holding a small scrub pad. “Domestic enough for you?”
“June Cleaver would be proud.” Rev. Daniels said, smiling.
“Ely-chan, no koto ga daisuki da yo.” Dakotah said, enunciating the Japanese perfectly.
“Wow, that’s really good!” Rev. Daniels said, impressed. “What did you just say, besides the Ely part?”
“Did you just say what I think you said?” Ely said, stunned.
Dakotah chuckled. “Easy, Ely. I didn’t confess my love for you just now. The actual meaning is more like “I like you very much”. If I said Koishiteru, or Aishiteru, then you would have every reason to be embarrassed.”
“How do you know all this?” Ely said, confused. “You didn’t just pick this up by reading the answers out of my textbook!”
“Well, I have a little surprise for you, my domesticated friend.” Dakotah said, excitedly. “Grandma checked out some Japanese language materials from the library, with DVDs in them, so not only do I know what to say, but how to say them! Surprised?”
Ely was stunned. “Why did you do this?”
Dakotah smiled. “Because I want to be able to help you achieve your dream, and I can’t really do it if I’m reading answers out of a book.”
“What about your dream, Dak?” Ely said, pensive. “You should be studying meteorology instead!”
“She does have a point, Dakotah.” Rev. Daniels chimed in. “I think your intentions are admirable, but you can’t sacrifice your dream for someone else’s, particularly if you have the mental skill set to achieve yours.”
“I understand all that. I heard the same argument from Grandma.” Dakotah said, firmly. “However, there’s not a lot I can learn about meteorology more than I already know, without going to school. I can’t afford school, at least not now. So, in the meantime, I’ve decided to not wallow in my own misfortune, and instead, help someone I truly care about. Besides, learning Japanese is extremely challenging, and a lot of fun! It took me a couple of hours to learn how to recite “Ely-chan, no koto ga daisuki da yo” without messing it up!”
Ely began to tear up. “Dakotah, you’re incredible!” she exclaimed, hugging him tightly. “I’ll make sure your work won’t be in vain!”
“You’ll be fine. I have faith in you.” Dakotah said, reciprocating in the hug.
“Tell you what, let me do the dishes, while you two go study.” Rev. Daniels said, smiling, “No fooling around in there, promise?”
Dakotah’s face turned red. “You don’t need help?”
“Oh, no. I’m just loading the dishwasher! “
“Wait, what?” Dakotah said, confused. “You mean Ely was just going to load the dishwasher? I was prepared to hand wash them! Were you going to let me do that if I lost?”
“Well, I was at least going to have you put the apron on!” Ely said, giggling. “You would have been cute!”
Dakotah yawned, and looked at his watch. “It’s ten o’clock already! Time flies, eh?”
“I’m not sure if I would call this fun, but having you here makes it nice.” Ely said, smiling. “I’m starting to get tired, too.”
“I think we made good progress today, don’t you think?”
“Yeah, but I think you made a lot more progress than I have.” Ely said, grumbling to herself. “I believe you are my equal in Japanese language knowledge, if not a little better. I’m kind of jealous of your extra study time.”
“You know, I used to hate school.” Dakotah said, thinking. “But most of my angst- look at me, I’m using angst in a sentence!”
Ely laughed. “Anyway, most of my angst was due to the fact that I felt that I was a target.” Dakotah continued. “I never could concentrate on the task at hand. Now that I can concentrate, learning stuff is a lot easier!”
“I knew you were capable of being a really good student.” Ely said, encouragingly. “College should be no problem for you!”
“If I ever get there.” Dakotah said, frowning. “Kinda hard saving money for college when you don’t have a job.”
“Things will pick up soon, and you’ll be on your way, don’t worry.”
“I hope so.” Dakotah was unsure if that day would ever come.
Ely’s countenance brightened. “Hey, I have just the thing to cheer you up! How would you like to come to the under 21 Halloween bash at UM? I can ask Hannah to get you a ticket!”
“Seriously?” Dakotah was at once excited and dismayed. Any time spent with Ely was a plus, but he did not like crowds one bit. And how would Hannah like him being there? She hadn’t gone out of her way to interact with him in any way, although he hadn’t, either.
“We’re going as Haruhi Suzumiya characters!” Ely said excitedly. “Hanna is going as Haruhi, and I’m going as Yuki Nagato!”
Dakotah had watched a few episodes of the show during earlier visits to Ely, so he knew most of the characters of the show. There was also a poster of the anime on the wall, which he studied. “You could be Ms. Asahina. She has red hair, too!”
“You’re kind to compare me to Mikuru, but no.” Ely said, slightly embarrassed. “I don’t quite have the body she does, as you can plainly see.”
“If you wore the bunny suit, with proper padding, you could pull it off!” Dakotah said, smirking.
“Sometimes, Dakotah, you can be quite the ass!” Ely asserted quietly, but forcefully. “You should know that most girls are sensitive to the way they look!”
Dakotah’s face lost all color, and his eyes began to moisten. “I’m so sorry, Ely. I was only trying to be funny. Hurting you is the last thing I could ever do.”
“Most of the time, however, you are quite the sweetheart.” Ely said, beginning to smile, while wiping away a tear of Dakotah’s.
“Well, you were going to have me model an apron.” Dakotah said with a slight chuckle.
Ely began to laugh a little too. “Maybe you should wear the bunny suit!”
Dakotah laughed, too. He began to scan the room. It looked like it had been plucked out of a girl’s bedroom in Tokyo. Several anime posters adorned the walls, the bed was covered in assorted Japanese plushes, and Japanese knick-knacks dotted the shelves, desk, and nightstand. One exception was an 8×10 picture of Dakotah and Andre, taken at their graduation. Dakotah picked it up, and stared at it.
“You still miss him, too?” Ely said.
“Yeah, not a day goes by that I don’t think of him.” Dakotah said wistfully. “He’d be in college right now. He always said he wanted to be a preacher, just like your dad.”
“He would’ve made a good one. He had the gift.”
“He would’ve been a great one.” Dakotah said, setting the photo back in place. He picked up the photo next to it. It was a 5×7 of a young couple, with a small girl in between. “Do you remember your mom much?”
“No, not really.” Ely said sadly. “She died when I was only four. Drunk driver killed her when she was only 27. Dad still cries when we go see her grave.”
“He never had a girlfriend after that?”
“No. He loved mom so much. He always said that she was his soul mate, that she couldn’t be replaced by anyone.”
“You know, although my dad is still alive, I haven’t seen him for a long time. In a way, alcohol took him away, too.”
“That’s sad. I think that’s just as bad as what happened to mom, maybe worse.”
“Knowing what alcohol can do, I’ll never touch a drop.”
“Promise?” Ely said.
“I will if you will.”
Ely held her hand out, pinkie finger extended. “Pinkie swear?”
Dakotah locked his pinkie with hers, and they shook hands. “Teetotalers for life!”
“For life!” Ely repeated.
Just then, Rev. Daniels peeked his head into the room. “Does this mean you two are engaged?” he said, smiling.
For once, Dakotah’s face didn’t turn crimson. “Ah, not this time. We were just making an non-alcohol oath.”
“Oh? That’s great! I’m very proud of both of you! I don’t preach against the drinking of alcohol, just the getting intoxicated part of it.”
“Can’t get drunk if you don’t start in the first place.” Dakotah said.
“You’re absolutely right! Having said that though, it’s been my experience that such oaths are easy to say, but difficult to see through. A person cannot see the road ahead of them; when situations arise that puts a person at a crossroads, they often make just as rash decision as they did when they made the oath.”
“That’s when a person’s faith kicks in, to pray for the right decision, and stand steadfast on that decision.” Dakotah said confidently.
“Dak, if half the ministers I know did that, there would be a lot more people in good, strong churches!” Rev. Daniels exclaimed, impressed.
“I just know people that talk a lot, and never back it up.” Dakotah said simply. “ I don’t want to be like those people.”
“Well put, Dak.” Rev. Daniels said. “It’s getting late, and someone has to get up early to go to school. “
“Can he stay the night?” Ely pleaded.
Dakotah was stunned. “Ah, I probably need to go home, as I’m sure that I’d be too much of a bother.”
“Dakotah’s right, Ely. You’d have to get up early to take him home before school, and I have shut-in and hospital visitation tomorrow. Mrs. Eads likes me to be at her home for coffee at seven o’clock, so me offering transportation is a no-go.”
Ely rose from her bed. “Let’s go, Dak.”
Rev. Daniels held his hand up, stopping Ely in her tracks. “Sweetie, you sit this one out. I’ll take Dak home.”
“But Dad, I-“
“No buts. By the time you returned here, it would be past 11:00. You need your rest, so you can be at the top of your game tomorrow. Capisce? Do you mind me taking you home, Dak?”
“Fine with me. Talk to you tomorrow, Ely?”
“You bet. I’ll be grilling you to see what embarrassing stuff Dad told you about me!”
“I wouldn’t do that to you, would I, sweetie?” Rev. Daniels said innocently.
“Then how did Mama know about that birthmark on my behind?”
“Ah, Ely….” Dakotah murmured.
Ely realized what she had said, and let out a shriek. “Get out! Get out!” she cried, pushing Dakotah in the back, and toward the door.
The evening had cooled off nicely when Rev. Daniels had pulled off into the street. “Nice night, isn’t it?”
“Pretty nice.” Dakotah replied. “It’ll be Fall, soon.”
“Dakotah, I have a confession. I could’ve easily let you stay the night, and let Ely take you home in the morning, but I wanted to talk to you. Alone.”
“Oh.” Dakotah mumbled, dread suddenly gripping him.
Rev. Daniels took a deep breath. “Dakotah, how do you feel about my daughter? Do you love her, are you just friends, or what?”
“I care about her a great deal.” Dakotah said, noncommittal.
“Are you in love with her?”
Dakotah instantly became very nervous. “Ahhh…..”
“Listen, Dak. As a minister, I’ve trained myself to discern the truth. Every once in a while I’m fooled, but on the whole, I can figure out where a person’s heart is on a matter. It’s a useful skill; with it, I can help people see the truth in their particular situation. I promise I’m not going to kick you out of the car.“ he said, chuckling. “Dakotah, are you in love with Ely?”
“Y-yes.” Dakotah stammered.
“I thought so. I can see it when you talk to her, when your eyes follow her, the way that she has you eating out of her hand.” Rev. Daniels thought for a moment while Dakotah sat in silence. “You know, you remind me a lot of myself when I was dating Ely’s mother. Jane was a pistol, a lot like Ely is now! Keeping up with her was a full time job! But you know, she absolutely brought sunshine into my life! Do you feel that way about Ely, Dak?”
Dakotah felt courage growing inside of him, and he spoke. “She has an internal glow that makes me glow inside, too. All I want is to be near her all the time.”
Rev. Daniels took a deep breath. “Now, for a harder question. How do you think she feels about you?”
Dakotah knew the answer, but he didn’t want to tell him about Ely’s relationship with Hannah. “I know she cares for me a lot.”
“But she’s not in love with you, is she?”
“Do you know her friend Hannah? What do you think of her?
Dakotah did not like where this was going. “Does he suspect something between them?” he thought. “I’ve never met her. She seems okay, I guess. She would have to be, to stay Ely’s friend.”
“Have you ever heard of Facebook?”
Dakotah became a little confused. “A little bit. Isn’t it some kind of online social thing?”
“Then, you don’t do Facebook?”
“I don’t have a computer.” Dakotah said, matter-of-factly.
“Ah! Well then, long story short, I have a friend who’s a professor at UM. He does do Facebook, and has Hannah as one of his “friends”. A couple of days ago, she posted on her site a photograph.”
“A photograph?” Dakotah became uneasy.
“Yes. It was a photo of Ely and Hannah. Kissing.”
Dakotah gasped, partly because the truth was now out, and partly because there was actual physical evidence of the nature of Ely’s and Hannah’s relationship. Dakotah never wanted to dwell on that reality, and it hurt. A lot.
“Did you know of their relationship, Dakotah?”
Dakotah did not want to betray Ely’s trust in him, but he couldn’t lie to her father, either. “Yes, for a couple of months, now. She told me not to tell a soul.”
“I see.” Rev. Daniels thought for a moment. “She really put you in a tough spot, didn’t she? Almost everyone at church, and I guess everyone in your family, has you two pegged as a couple, although neither of you actually admitted to it. It’s almost like living a lie, isn’t it?”
“Yeah.” Dakotah said, dejected.
“So, why do you subject yourself to such heartache? I know you’re in love with her, but you’re running the risk of being broken, and bitter. I can honestly say you are not in a healthy relationship. Don’t you agree?”
“I know, I know.” Dakotah began to tear up. “Please understand, Alan. I haven’t had the easiest life. My father abandoned me and Mom when I was little. Mom married a good-for-nothing who openly hates my guts, while Mom just stands by and never says a word against him. I was always terrorized at school; the guidance counselor even said I was worthless! However, when life was at its grayest, your daughter gave me a ray of light. When I lost my best friend, and life was at its blackest, your daughter shone. She has told me many times that I have been the same for her. I believe with all my heart that the Lord brought us together. Through her, I now know you, Mama, and the rest of the good people at New Hope. She, along with my grandma, has given me confidence that fighting the good fight will not be in vain. If I never, ever, so much as kiss her, it will still be enough. I love her. Aishiteru. “ Wiping tears from his eyes, Dakotah said, “Heh. I guess I’ve been lying to myself all this time.”
“Confessing feels good, doesn’t it?” Rev. Daniels said, pulling onto Dakotah’s street. So, what are you going to do now? Are you going to tell her what you just told me?”
“No.” Dakotah said, sadly. “I’m afraid I would force her to choose between myself and Hannah, and I would lose. I can’t risk that. I’ll just have to keep doing what I’m doing, and see what happens. Are you going to say anything to her?”
“Yes, I am. Don’t worry, I’m going to make sure she understands completely that you are not at fault. You know, the fact that she is in a homosexual relationship is not really my concern. I would be a hypocrite if I condemned her, wouldn’t I? The two things that concern me is that first, she didn’t trust in me enough to confide in me about her and Hannah’s relationship, and second, that she put you in an incredibly awkward situation. I know she’s still a kid, but I thought I taught her better than that!”
Rev. Daniels pulled up to the curb. “Remember, Dakotah. You are a fine, upstanding young man. There will always be people who want to tear you down, but don’t believe them, even if what they say seems to make sense.”
Dakotah shook his hand. “Sir, thank you for everything. You’ve been a great help. Maybe I can come over again soon?”
“Why, sure! You’re the closest thing to family we’ve had in a long time!”
Dakotah felt a lump in his throat, as the car pulled away. “It would be awesome if he were to become may father-in-law!” he thought.
Dakotah walked up to the drive, noticing that his mother had already arrived from work. “I hope I don’t catch any flak for being late.” he thought.
He entered the house, seeing both his mother and Frank waiting on him. Whatever positive vibes he had after talking to Rev. Daniels quickly vanished, replaced by dread. Whenever both of them were together, and he was the center of attention, it was never good, he thought.
“Dakotah, we need to talk.” Sylvia said, frowning.
“Sorry I came in so late.” Dakotah said. “At least you hadn’t made it to bed yet.”
“Who was the dude?” Frank said, growling. “New boyfriend?”
“Ha ha ha, you’re not funny.” Dakotah said without emotion. “That’s Ely’s dad, the Reverend Daniels.”
“Oh, that was nice of him.” Sylvia said, trying to change the mood. “I guess he likes you, then?”
“He’s really nice.” Dakotah said, still wondering why they waiting on him.
Sylvia tone hardened. “Look, son, I’ve just received notice that I’m going to be laid off at the end of next week. As of right now, I have no idea when, or if, I’ll be called back. Things are looking pretty bleak at the plant right now. Rumor has it they may shut the plant down, but of course, that’s just a rumor.”
Dakotah was stunned. He knew the economy was bad, since he couldn’t find a job, but his mother had been an employee there for fifteen years, and he always thought she had enough seniority to not get laid off.
“What’s going to happen now?” Dakotah said, concerned.
“Looks like I’m going to be drawing unemployment for a while.” Sylvia said matter-of-factly. “In the meantime, things are going to be really tight, so we all have to pitch in, and conserve as much as possible.”
“It would be good if someone got a job.” Frank said, scowling toward Dakotah. ”It’s bad enough trying to make ends meet without having dead weight living in the house.”
“It’s not like I haven’t been trying to find a job!” Dakotah shouted, exasperated.
“Easy, son. I know you’d help, if you could.” Sylvia said sympathetically, shooting a hateful stare toward Frank. “We’ll just have to make it through this together, as a family. Right, Frank?”
Frank rolled his eyes. “Yeah, whatever.”
Sylvia gave Dakotah a hug. Somehow, it felt odd to him, unlike the hugs from Ely, his grandmother, even Mama. “It’ll be alright, son. We always make it through, somehow.”
“I’ll do whatever I can, mom.” Dakotah replied, heading upstairs. “Goodnight.”
“Goodnight, son.” Sylvia replied. “Love you.”
“Love you, too, mom.”
Dakotah changed, and prepared for bed. He was about to get the Bible for his nightly reading when he heard the phone ring downstairs.
Uneasiness hit the pit of his stomach. “Ely.” He thought.
Running down the stairs, Dakotah arrived at the phone, just as it stopped ringing. He picked up the handset in order to check the caller ID, but before he had a chance to look, he heard Frank becoming loud in his den. Nervously, he quickly turned on the handset.
“And another thing, if you honk your horn on Sunday morning, while I’m trying to sleep, I’m going to call the cops! Just because you’re some preacher’s daughter doesn’t mean you can get away with crap!” Frank bellowed.
“Okay, Frank, I got it!” Dakotah yelled into the handset, irritated.
“Boy, you need to tell that girl not to be calling here all hours of the night!” Frank boomed.
“I’m sorry it’s so late, but I wouldn’t have called if it wasn’t extremely important.” Ely said, firmly.
“What’s the matter, you miss your period, or something?” Frank said, snarkily. “Bet it’s not Dakotah’s! “
“That’s enough, Frank!” Dakotah screamed as he burst into Frank’s den. “That’s uncalled for! You apolo-“
Frank wheeled around, grabbed Dakotah by the shirt, and slammed him into the wall, knocking down an 8×10 photo of Frank and his two sons. “Who the hell do you think you are? This is my frikken house, and I can talk to anybody anyway I frikken like!” He threw Dakotah down on to the floor, causing Dakotah to writhe in pain. ”You don’t like the way things are in this house, you can get the hell out!”
“That’s enough, Frank!” Sylvia appeared, seething, and assisted Dakotah to his feet. “For the record, your name is not on this mortgage!”
“No, but it’s on the marriage license.” Frank growled. “If I go, you’ll have to sell the house. I promise you that.”
Sylvia picked up both handsets, handing one to Dakotah. “Let me tell you one thing, Frank Howe. I’m a survivor. I’ll make it, somehow. You, on the other hand, will have to fend for your worthless, lazy, self, and I don’t think you want to go there, do you?”
“Talk all you want, old woman.” Frank sneered. “That’s all you have done your entire life, and you’ve never backed up those words once!”
Sylvia and Dakotah exited the den, Sylvia slamming the door as hard as she could. “I’m sorry, son. I wish I’d never married that bum.”
“It’s okay, mom, I’m alright. Frank doesn’t scare me like he used to.” They hugged tightly, the first time in months, Dakotah thought. He then realized that Ely was still on the line, and was yelling his name.
“Oh my gosh! I’m sorry, Ely!” Dakotah said frantically.
“Dakotah, are you alright?” Ely cried, sobbing. ”I thought he was going to kill you!”
“I wasn’t really afraid.” Dakotah said, trying to calm himself down, as well as Ely. “This isn’t my first tussle with him.”
“Why did you start something with him?” Ely sniffled, confused. “You know he’s just looking for an excuse to do something!”
“He started it, by insulting you, Ely.” Dakotah said, bristling. “I wasn’t going to let him get away with that!”
“Dak, that’s not like you. You’re more of the “turn the other cheek” kind of guy.”
“I know.” Dakotah said, quietly. “If Frank had insulted me, like he has thousands of times in my life, it wouldn’t have bothered me in the least. But when he said those things to you, something snapped inside.”
“In other words, you were defending my honor?” Ely said sweetly.
“I guess I was.” Dakotah replied, suddenly embarrassed.
“That’s good. I’m glad to have someone like you on my side, even if I don’t deserve it.”
“Why would you say something like that?” Dakotah said, confused.
“Because I put you in an impossible situation.” Ely replied, forlorn. “Dad had a talk with me after he got home. He told me of the photo on Facebook, and of his conversation with you.”
“I’m sorry, please don’t be mad!” Dakotah pleaded. “I didn’t know what else I could say. I couldn’t lie to him!”
“No, I’m the one should be sorry, Dak. I’m the one who put you in this impossible situation. None of this is your fault! I guess I was scared I would be scorned by everyone.” Ely’s voice cracked. “I hope you can forgive me.”
“Of course I forgive you, Ely.” Dakotah said, sympathetically. “You’re my best friend! How could I not forgive you?”
“Thank you. Your friendship means a lot to me.”
“What did your father say to you, anyway?” Dakotah said, wondering if Rev. Daniels told her how he felt about her.
“As soon as he mentioned Facebook, I knew he knew.” Ely said. I had to tell him everything then. He wasn’t mad, just disappointed, and a bit sad that I didn’t confide in him, and that I put you through all of it. We’re good now, I think.”
“That’s it?” Dakotah asked, still probing.
“Well, there was a lot of crying and “I love yous”. said Ely. “Why?”
“I was wondering if your father told you what he thought of me.” Dakotah said, becoming a bit nervous.
“Oh, he had nothing for praise for you! He even said you’d make some lucky girl a good husband, while winking at me!”
“Gee, I wonder where you get your teasing streak from?” said Dakotah, laughing.
“I don’t think he was teasing me. I’m not sure if he believes Hannah and I are serious.”
“He hasn’t seen you two together: he’s only seen us together, and how comfortable we are with each other. If he saw you two together for a period of time, then he’d know for sure. Heck, I haven’t even seen you two together!”
“Well, in your case, we can fix that!”
“Oh, as in the Halloween party?” Dakotah asked, uneasily.
“Yeah!” Ely said excitedly. “I figured it out! You’re going to be Koizumi Itsuki!”
“Yay, me.” Dakotah said in a monotone. “Don’t I need a school uniform, or something?
“I’ll figure something out. I have over a month!” There was a pause of a few seconds. “Wow, it’s really late! I need to get some sleep! Talk to you tomorrow?”
“I’ll call you. No need in having you disturb Frank.” Dakotah said matter-of-factly. Even though his mother made a stand earlier, he didn’t believe she would hold her position if the going got tough. “Love you.”
“Love you, too.” Ely replied. “Daisuki, Koishiteru, or Aishiteru?”
“You’re hopeless!” Ely laughed.
Dakotah hoped that he could always hear Ely laugh like that.