November 2nd, 2008
Dakotah heard a familiar car horn, and smiled. He was looking forward to a bit of normalcy after the high drama of the past month.
“Ely’s here, grandma!” Dakotah announced. “I’ll be back later! Tell Brother Higgins I said hi!”
“I will.” Elizabeth replied. “You need to come by our church once in a while. Brother Higgins has been asking about you.”
“Okay.” Dakotah said, in a noncommittal tone. New Hope felt far more like his church home than 3rd Baptist, even though he was baptized at 3rd.
Dakotah stepped outside; the weather had turned colder, with overcast conditions and a light breeze making it feel more so. “Can’t wait until it snows!” he thought to himself.
“Ohayou!” Dakotah greeted his friend, cheerfully.
“Good morning.” Ely said emotionlessly, repeating Dakotah’s greeting in English.
Dakotah frowned. “Something the matter?”
“No, not really.” Ely shrugged. “Why?”
“You don’t seem your cheerful self this morning.” Dakotah said, buckling his seatbelt.
“No, I’m okay.”
“Okay, if you say so.” Dakotah acquiesced, dropping the subject. “I think Grandma wants me to go to church with her, sometime.”
“I can turn around, and drop you off at your grandmother’s.” Ely said flatly.
The words stunned Dakotah. “No, thank you. New Hope is my church home now.” Dakotah wanted to ask what her problem was, but he thought better of it.
“Well, everybody will be glad to hear that.” Ely continued in her monotone voice.
“Aren’t you glad to hear that?” Dakotah cried, frustrated.
“Of course, silly.” Ely replied, her voice beginning to add color. “I’m sorry, I’m not myself today. Bear with me, okay?”
Dakotah exhaled. “Any particular reason why?”
Ely pulled into the church parking lot, and parked. She reached over, and brushed Dakotah’s cheek with her fingers.
“It’ll be okay.” she said, smiling sweetly, while carrying a sad look in her eyes.
Dakotah shook his head while exiting the car. “Women.” he muttered inaudibly.
They walked together to the church entrance, where Rev. Daniels and Mama were greeting parishioners and visitors.
“Oh, there’s my babies!” Mama shouted happily. “Come over here, and give Mama a hug!”
Beaming, Dakotah strode over to Mama, and they hugged tightly. “Good to see you, Mama. You doing okay today?”
“Doing fine, praise Jesus.” Mama said, smiling. “Brother Daniels told me about you getting kicked out! What’s wrong with those fools, anyway? You alright, sweetie?”
“Well, I can’t say I’m not hurting inside, but I’m good.” Dakotah replied. “I’m blessed that my grandmother took me in.”
“Well, honey, if you ever need a place to stay, you come over to my place, you hear?”
“Could I have Andre’s room?” Dakotah said, grinning.
“Absolutely.” Mama replied, tearing up. “He’d be smiling from Heaven if you did.”
Dakotah smiled. He noticed Ely had already gone inside. Noticing Rev. Daniels was alone at the moment, He approached him.
“Brother Alan, can I ask you something?” Dakotah said, still smiling.
“Sure, Brother Dakotah.” Rev. Daniels replied. “What’s on your mind?”
“I want to join your church. How do I do that?”
Rev. Daniels beamed. “That’s fantastic! You’ve made my day! Hey, Mama! Dakotah wants to join our church! Are you good with that?”
“Why, sure, Reverend!” Mama shouted happily. “That’s wonderful!”
“I guess you’re in.” Rev. Daniels said, shaking Dakotah’s hand. “Welcome to New Hope!”
Dakotah took his regular seat in the Sunday school classroom. He was surprised that Ely wasn’t there yet; he had wanted her to be there when he asked her father about joining the church. “I’ll just surprise her when she comes in, if someone else doesn’t tell her first.” he thought to himself.
However, it was Dakotah that was to be surprised. Ely entered the room with Vanessa Blan, and instead of taking their normal seats, with Ely sitting next to him, Vanessa sat beside Dakotah, with Ely seated next to Vanessa.
Dakotah squirmed uncomfortably in his seat. He looked over toward Ely, only to have both girls smiling at him. He smiled back, sheepishly.
“Something’s up.” he thought to himself.
Whatever positive feelings Dakotah had a minute ago dissipated like mist on a hot August morning. He realized why Ely had been acting odd this morning. “She’s setting me up with Vanessa!” he thought, panic creeping up inside.
There was absolutely nothing wrong with Vanessa’s personality; she was upbeat, cheerful, polite to everyone, and always eager to help those in need. She was also very good looking; tall, blonde, with pale blue eyes, perfect skin, and a nice figure. Vanessa also had a superlative work ethic, keeping a part time job at the hospital while studying nursing full time at the local college. She also contributed a lot of work for the church, too. In Dakotah’s mind, she only had one fatal flaw.
She was not Ely.
Sunday school passed with Dakotah’s mind swirling; he felt all at once betrayed, flattered, and railroaded into something he wanted no part of.
“I’m not ready for this.” he thought. He began to regret his decision to join New Hope, but he quickly quelled those thoughts. “I will not run from adversity, especially in my new church home! Lord, give me strength!” Dakotah prayed silently to himself.
The three of them made their way from Sunday school class to the main auditorium.
“I heard someone has joined our church today!” Ely exclaimed.
Dakotah, still in a daze, said not a word.
“Cat got your tongue?” Ely continued, smiling.
“Oh. Uh, s-sorry.” Dakotah stuttered. ”What did you say?”
“I heard that you are officially one of us now!”
Dakotah quickly gathered himself. “Oh, yes! I finally made the plunge! I had been praying about this for a while now.”
“I had hoped you would join our church for some time now, but it’s still a surprise that you actually did it!” Ely said. She started toward Dakotah as if to hug him, but she stopped herself short, and reached out with her hand.
Dakotah shook Ely’s hand, noting that it felt strange to do so. “I guess I’m not the only one with a surprise up their sleeve, huh?” he said, smiling awkwardly.
“I’m so happy you decided to join us, Dakotah!” Vanessa said, giving Dakotah a light hug. “I’m looking forward to us working together on church functions!”
“Me, too.” Dakotah said, giving Vanessa a weak smile.
“As a matter of fact, Wednesday nights we gather underprivileged children from the local neighborhoods, bring them in for a meal, and teach them about the Bible and Jesus!” Vanessa continued excitedly. “I would be delighted if you joined us!”
“Ah, I kinda already have plans for Wednesday nights.” Dakotah said, grimacing. Lately, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays were nights Dakotah went to Ely’s to help her study Japanese. “I’m sor-“
“Dakotah, helping the church reach kids is more important than helping me with my studies!” Ely interjected, her voice strained. “I’ll be fine without you. Help Vanessa, instead!”
“I’m sorry; I didn’t realize you already have commitments.” Vanessa said, apologetically.
“It’s not a commitment.” Ely said firmly. “He was just helping me with my Japanese. I think helping with the kids is the best thing for him.”
Dakotah looked at Ely, confused. “Are you sure?”
“Yes! New Hope needs you!” Ely said emphatically. “You’ve helped me a lot, but I’m getting to the point where I don’t need your help as much.” She looked intently into his eyes. “Go.”
Dakotah looked over to Vanessa, and gave a nervous laugh. “I guess I’m yours.” he said, biting his lip. Ely winced at that remark.
“That’s great!” Vanessa said enthusiastically. “I understand that you don’t have transportation. Want me to pick you up?”
“Sure.” Dakotah deadpanned, unsure of what he was getting into.
Church service became a series of small embarrassments for Dakotah. First, Ely had Dakotah sit between her and Vanessa, who had moved from her usual place with her parents. Next, Rev. Daniels announced Dakotah’s joining the church, and had Dakotah stand up, resulting in the congregation giving him applause. Finally, he stood next to Rev. Daniels, and shook everyone’s hand as they exited the church. Rebecca Jennings gave Dakotah a big hug instead of a handshake, which garnered a hateful stare from Ely.
After everyone had paid their respects, Dakotah turned to Ely. “Well, I’m glad that’s over with.”
“Did you like your hug?” Ely accused.
“It was okay. Yours are much better.” Dakotah replied simply, noticing Ely’s attitude. “Are you ready to go?”
“Yes, but you’re not going with me. I’m going to see Hannah.” Ely said in all seriousness.
“Oh. O-Okay.” Dakotah said, stunned. “I guess your dad can take me home, when he’s done.”
“Nope. He has a church business meeting. It usually takes a couple of hours.” Ely walked over and put her arm around Vanessa, who was standing nearby. “Here is your ride home!”
Vanessa smiled weakly, and gave a small wave.
Dakotah shrugged his shoulders. “That’s fine with me, if that’s not too much bother, Vanessa. I live on Maple- no, wait, Poplar St. now. It’s about twelve miles from here. Is that too much trouble?”
“Not at all, Dakotah. It would be my pleasure. This way, I’ll know how to find you Wednesday.”
“Well, gotta go! See you two later!” Ely said, walking quickly to her car, and driving off in a rush.
Dakotah and Vanessa looked at each other, trying to figure out what they witnessed. “Okaaayyy……” Dakotah said, puzzled.
Shaking her head, Vanessa led Dakotah to her baby blue Cavalier. “Forgive me, but the car is messy, and I haven’t had a chance to clean it.”
Dakotah opened the passenger door, and sat down, buckling up. “It doesn’t look bad at all.” he said, looking about. Aside from an empty water bottle, the car seemed almost spotless to him.
Pulling out of the parking lot, Vanessa took a deep breath, and exhaled. “Dakotah, can we stop somewhere, and talk? I’m afraid I’m not very comfortable with holding a conversation while driving.”
“Sure. There’s a park near my house.” Dakotah said, wary of what she wanted to talk about.
The miles passed silently; Dakotah’s mind quickly wandered from thinking about Ely, to Vanessa, to working Wednesday nights at the church. None of the thoughts put him at ease.
He noticed Vanessa’s driving style was more conservative than Ely’s, too, as if she were taking a driving test. She smoothly pulled into the empty park parking lot, and deftly parked the car. Clouds had begun to break up, and sunlight streamed into the car, keeping them warm.
“Okay, here we are.” Dakotah said, forcing a slight smile. “What’s on your mind?”
“First, I want to apologize for earlier.” Vanessa said, meekly.
“Yes, for setting next to you in Sunday school, and at church.”
“I didn’t mind you sitting next to me.” Dakotah said, beginning to feel empathy for her. “I was just surprised, that’s all.”
“I also want to explain everything.” Vanessa continued. “Yesterday, while at work, I ran into Ely. She asked if we could talk later, and I agreed, curious as to what she had on her mind. Needless to say, I was shocked when I heard she was having a relationship with another girl, and not you!”
“Trust me, I was shocked, too.” Dakotah said, nodding his head.
“She told me what Brother Daniels had guessed. He’s very perceptive, you know?” Vanessa began to blush, embarrassed.
Dakotah’s face reddened also, as it began to dawn on him what she meant. He was also at a loss for words, and stared down toward the floorboard.
Vanessa was staring toward her feet as well. “Mom and Dad always taught me to take the time to see what was inside a person, and not to judge a person by what they looked like.” She realized what she said, and panicked. “Oh! I didn’t mean to say you’re ugly, or anything!” she said, flustered.
“Oh, that’s okay!” Dakotah said, laughing uncomfortably. “No one’s going to compare me to a Jonas Brother, and I’m good with that!”
“Jonas Brother? Ewwwww…..” Vanessa said, shaking her head. She took a deep breath. “Dakotah, when I look at you, I see a kind, smart, God-fearing guy, a person who would do whatever it took to help someone in need. Someone I could trust.”
Dakotah became embarrassed again, and remained silent.
“Can I ask you something?” Vanessa said, very nervously.
“Do you love Ely?”
Dakotah paused for a moment. He didn’t want to hurt Vanessa, but he felt she deserved the truth. “Yes.” he said, almost inaudibly. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry.” Vanessa said softly, trying to ease his pain, as well as her own. “I see fake people every day. Knowing I can trust you, and believe you, is comforting.”
Dakotah thought for a moment. “I don’t see how you can trust me. If our positions were switched, I certainly wouldn’t trust you.”
“Why?” Vanessa said, stunned. “Because I’m supposedly this good looking female? Do you think I’m that vain?”
“I’m sorry! I didn’t mean it that way!” Dakotah exclaimed, realizing that he hit a nerve. “It’s not like that. I mean, almost everyone I’ve ever trusted has hurt me. Heck, even my own mom has turned her back on me!” He began to sob. “You know, when I realized Ely was pairing us up, I felt betrayed.”
Grasping Dakotah’s words, Vanessa anger faded instantly. “Oh Dakotah, please forgive me! I’m so stupid, sometimes! I should’ve known this was too soon, but Ely convinced me you were ready to move on!”
Dakotah took a deep breath, and calmed himself. “It’s okay. It’s okay.” he said, looking up at Vanessa. “Everything has been kinda crazy in my life lately, and I’m just wiped out inside. None of this is your fault. I think she’s trying to convince herself, too.”
“You don’t think she’s committed to Hannah?”
“She told me herself their relationship is more on having fun and stuff, and ours is more like leaning on each other.”
“Sounds like two halves of a whole relationship, You have to have both, I think.” Vanessa laughed. “Of course, what do I know? I’ve never had a boyfriend. I’ve always been too busy with school or work or church to notice anyone truly special. Until now.”
Dakotah laughed nervously. “Well, I guess in reality, I’ve never had a girlfriend, though I thought I was close.”
Vanessa reached over, took Dakotah’s hands, and held them into her own. She stared deeply into Dakotah’s eyes; he instinctively wanted to look away, but didn’t.
“Part of me wants to say ‘You’re closer than you think.’” she said sweetly. “But saying that would be disrespecting your feelings. I want you to trust me as a friend before we even think about having a relationship. It wouldn’t be fair to me to invest my feelings in something you had no intention of reciprocating, either.”
Dakotah pulled his hands away from her grasp, and looked down, pondering what she said. “I-I’d like to be your friend. I’m not ready for a relationship, though.”
“Would you want to do things with me, like go see a movie, or something? As friends, I mean?”
Dakotah gave a weak smile. “Sure. I’d like that.”
Vanessa smiled warmly back.
Vanessa pulled the car to the curb in front of Elizabeth’s house. The thought had entered Dakotah’s mind to have her drive by his mother’s house, but he thought better of it, as he felt he wasn’t emotionally ready for that yet.
“Thanks for taking me home.” he said as he exited the car. “You drive a lot better than Ely!”
Vanessa laughed. “Thanks! Pick you up here at 5 Wednesday?”
“Are you sure you need me there? I’m not sure I would be any good with kids.”
“You’ll be fine, I promise! I’ll be there to help!”
“Okay, I’m trusting you here!” Dakotah said, laughing.
Vanessa took Dakotah seriously for a second, then realized he was just making a joke based on their earlier conversation. She smiled and shook her head as she pulled out into the street.
Dakotah had made it halfway up the walkway when Elizabeth stepped out onto the porch. “Uh-oh.” Dakotah thought. “Might as well tell her now. Everyone’s going to know about us soon.”
“There you are.” Elizabeth said, trying to grasp the situation. “Where’s Ely?”
“I can explain.” Dakotah said, walking with his grandmother into the house. “It’s a long story…….”
“Good afternoon, Louise!” Elizabeth announced with a forced cheerfulness over the phone. ”How are you all doing? It’s been a while since we last chatted!”
Louise Jones became instantly ill at ease. Dakotah’s grandmother rarely called, only to verify that she had received her letters, never as a social call. Her intonation was off, too. “We’re all fine, Elizabeth. Is something the matter? You seem troubled.”
“You could say that, though I think, all in all, it is for the best. “ Elizabeth replied, exhaling. “Frank and Sylvia kicked Dakotah out of the house Friday night. He’s living here now.”
“What?!?” Louise shouted, incredulously. “Why? It couldn’t have been anything Dakotah had done! Is he okay?”
“Dakotah’s fine, though he almost got in a tussle with Frank. Fortunately, Ely and I intervened, and he wasn’t hurt.”
“Ely is Dak’s girlfriend, isn’t she? How did you two stop El Blobbo?”
“I shot him between the eyes with bear spray.” Elizabeth chuckled slightly.
“He’s lucky I wasn’t there. I have a concealed carry permit.” Louise said humorlessly.
“By the way, Ely is just a friend, not his girlfriend.”
“Really? I thought they were head over heels with each other!” Louise exclaimed, surprised.
Elizabeth sighed. “I thought so too, until he told me earlier today. She’s apparently been seeing someone else the entire time.”
“What? Dak had better watch out, or that guy’s going to cream him! What is she doing, anyway, trying to play him for whatever reason?”
“Actually, Ely’s significant other is female.”
“I said, Ely has a relationship with another girl!” Elizabeth said, keeping her voice low so Dakotah couldn’t hear her.
“You’re kidding me, right? Isn’t she the daughter of a preacher? I wonder if he knows about it? Talk about being shocked!”
“It seems that he not only knows about it, he condones it as well.” Elizabeth said, gravely.
This ain’t no Baptist church, is it?” Louise said, bewildered. “I know my church would run her off, and her preacher daddy, too!”
“Our church doesn’t believe in salvation for homosexuals either, unless they repent, and go straight.” Elizabeth said, agreeing. “To make matters worse, he’s leaving 3rd Baptist to join her church!”
“That’s not good. No tellin’ what else they’re teaching over there. These are different times we’re living in, isn’t it?”
“Yes.” Elizabeth said, shaking her head. “I don’t think Ely’s set out to use Dakotah, so to speak. I think the poor boy was trying to grasp anything to give his life meaning, and she became the center of his universe. I’ve had conversations with Ely several times in the past few months, and she’s never given me any inclination that she’s anything other than a kind, hardworking, intelligent, moral girl.”
“Except that she’s in a relationship with another girl, and my nephew thinks that being a third wheel is just fine.”
“We have to start praying for them. They are just young, naïve, and still trying to figure out what they want out of life. Don’t you remember those years?” Elizabeth asked.
“No. As far back as I can remember, I’ve always was too busy trying to survive. Never had time to think about the so-called possibilities of life.” The thought irritated her.
The thought of her sister turning her back on her own son infuriated her. “And exactly where was Sylvia during all this? I have half a mind to come up there, and beat the crap out of her!”
“Now Louise, even if you are serious, you don’t strike me as a person who resorts to violence.” Elizabeth spoke firmly, trying to calm Louise down. “Deep down, I believe she wanted Dakotah to stay, but Frank was having none of it. He had all Dakotah’s stuff out on the lawn by the time I arrived. Sylvia was on the porch, crying, but not saying anything. Whenever I tried to converse with her, Frank kept interrupting, and cursing me. It wasn’t very long before the kids arrived, and then it went rapidly downhill from there. Sylvia simply went into the house, and never came out again.”
“She never did have any backbone.” Louise muttered. “If Frank tried that on me, I’d have thrown him out instead.”
“Now that Dakotah’s living with me, I have a proposition. How about we use part of the money to buy insurance on my car, so he can drive now?” Hopefully, he can go where jobs are, and then save money for his own transportation, and also school.”
Louise thought for a few seconds. “That’s not a bad idea, Elizabeth, but I’d like to talk to him first. Have you told him about the money yet?”
“No, I haven’t, as you wished. Let me fetch him.” As if on cue, the vacuum cleaner roared to life in the hallway. Laying down the receiver, she strode toward the din.
“Dakotah!” Elizabeth shouted, exasperated. Dakotah immediately shut the vacuum off. “Didn’t I tell you cleaning the house is my job?”
“I’m sorry, grandma.” Dakotah apologized. “I was just trying to help.”
“First of all, I don’t clean house on the Sabbath. Secondly, even though I know you’re just trying to help, but I’ve been cleaning this house for almost fifty years, and I’m not going to let anyone else do it for me. You can keep your room tidy if you want, but the rest of the house is mine. Understand? “
“Yes’ ma’am.” Dakotah said, looking down. “I felt the need to be busy, that’s all.”
“I understand.” she said, smiling. “I came to tell you your Aunt Louise is on the phone, and wants to speak with you.”
“Aunt Lou? Really?” Dakotah exclaimed, his face brightening. “I guess you told her, huh?”
“Yes. Now go! She’s waiting!”
Dakotah rushed to the phone and picked up the receiver. “Hello? Aunt Lou? Are you still there?”
“Hi, sweetie.” Louise said, full of empathy. “How are you? I heard you’ve had a rough time of it. Are you okay?”
Dakotah paused for a moment. “I’m okay, I guess. I’ve been better.”
“Well, I can’t believe they did that to you! If your uncle wasn’t delivering pipe in North Dakota right now, he’d be on his way up there to clean house!”
“That’s okay, I don’t want Unk to risk getting into trouble. Ely said it was their loss, anyway.”
“Ellie, huh? Is she that girl you’re crazy about? I heard she’s seeing someone else.”
“Yeah, unfortunately.” Dakotah said, dejectedly. “She’s trying to fix me up with one of her friends from church, though.”
“You don’t sound too enthusiastic. Is she ugly?”
“Oh, no, she’s quite pretty. I think Unk would approve.” Dakotah said, with little emotion.
“Your uncle is a truck driver, Dak. They don’t cull much.”
“Well, he did pretty good with you, Lou!” Dakotah cried out.
Louise had to laugh. “Well, even a pig can find a flower in the pen every once in a while!”
Dakotah laughed as well. “Vanessa’s really nice, but I’m not sure if I’m ready for someone else. All I feel inside is pain right now.”
“This Ellie really threw you for a loop, didn’t she?”
“Ely. That’s her name?”
“They named her after a town in Nevada?”
“I think it was Minnesota, actually.”
“You love her, don’t you?”
Dakotah took a deep breath. Telling people his feelings wasn’t becoming any easier. “Yeah. It’s hard to explain. I feel so at ease with her, like I’ve known her all my life. When we’re together, it just feels so good, you know?”
“I know just how you feel.” Louise replied. “I had to explain something similar to your grandmother Parker when I decided I was moving to Kentucky with Ralph!”
“How did that turn out?”
“She didn’t understand why I was quitting college to be a housewife to a trucker. I’m not sure she ever has, any more than I understand why you would fall for some girl who’s involved in another relationship. I know she still loves me, even as I love you, and that’s all that matters.”
“I love you too, Lou.” Dakotah said, tearfully. “I’m glad that you were able to visit last Christmas.”
“Me, too, Dak.” Louise said, smiling. “Your uncle thinks that you’re a great kid.”
“I’m not exactly a kid. I’m nineteen!”
“You are to us, you little fart!” Louise said, laughing. “You know, anytime you want to come down here to live, we have a spare bedroom in our new doublewide!”
“Thanks for the offer, but I’ll just stay here with Grandma. She needs me.”
“Didn’t sound like it to me earlier. If you hadn’t shut off that vacuum, I think she would’ve pinched your head off!”
“Well, I’m trying to figure my place here, but she’s pretty much all alone. There’s plenty here I can do a lot easier than her, like mowing the grass.”
“I think what you need to do is find a paying job. They’ve just started up an automotive plastics plant near here, and I was hired there about a month ago. Pay’s pretty decent, and they’re still hiring! Being a high school graduate, they’d hire you on the spot, I’m sure!”
“Sounds interesting, but I’ll pass. I know that there’s not a whole lot going on up here, but maybe Grandma can take me further away from home to look for work.”
“Why don’t you take yourself?”
“Because I don’t have a driver’s license. You have to have insurance in order to get a license. Frank wouldn’t pay for insurance, and Grandma doesn’t have enough money to buy any, so I’m stuck.”
“I don’t think so!” Louise said, almost giddily. “You see, your grandmother and I have been holding a little secret from you. Ralph and I have been sending a little money to Elizabeth every month to help out on your transportation.”
“What?” Dakotah exclaimed, trying to grasp what Louise was saying.
“Well, the first thought was to buy you a car with the money, but that would take a while, so why not instead put you in your grandmother’s car, and pay the extra on insurance? She wholeheartedly agreed, of course!”
Dakotah thought for a moment. “Lou, do you know how much it costs to insure someone my age? That’s a lot of money!”
“I’m sure we have enough to cover it. She presently has 1500 dollars. Think that’s enough?”
Dakotah couldn’t grasp what his aunt had said, unable to believe what he heard. “How much?” he said, weakly.
“1500 dollars.” Louise said, laughing a little.
“Oh, Aunt Louise, that’s too much money!” Dakotah shouted, becoming panicked. “I really don’t deserve it!”
“You take that money, or I’m going to come up there and smack some sense into your head!” Louise shouted back, becoming impatient. “You absolutely deserve every penny! You’re a good kid, and are long, long overdue for a break! Take the damned money, and make something out of your life, you hear?”
Dakotah was stunned into silence. Suddenly, he began to weep. “Oh, Lou, thank you, thank you, thank you! I’ll make you proud of me, I promise!”
“I know you will, Dak. We wouldn’t have done it otherwise. Now, could you hand the phone over to your grandmother? I need to discuss some things with her.”
“Ah, yeah, sure. I love you, Aunt Lou. Thank you.”
“I love you too, sweetie. I’ll be checking in from time to time to make sure you’re not blowing the money on girls!”
Dakotah laughed. “Not a problem.” He looked at Elizabeth, and pointed to the phone. “Here, Grandma, Lou wants to talk to you.” Goodbye, Aunt Lou, thanks for everything!”
Dakotah handed the phone to his grandmother, shaking his head in disbelief.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen him that happy before.” Elizabeth said, emotionally. “Thank you.”
“After all that’s happened, he needed a really good day.” Louise said, wiping tears from her eyes.
November 3rd, 2008
Ely popped into her father’s home office, finding him occupied on church paperwork.
“I think you work more on that stuff than you do on your sermons!” Ely said, pointedly. “I think you need a secretary!”
“We can’t afford a secretary.” Rev. Daniels said, firmly. Besides, I get a better feel for what’s going on in the church. The Lord writes the sermons.”
Rev. Daniels pushed himself away from his desk, and turned to face Ely. “Going to get Dakotah soon?” he asked.
“Yeah.” Ely said, dejectedly. “I hope he isn’t angry with me. I pretty much dumped him with Vanessa yesterday.”
“Your intentions were good, but your execution was a bit heavy-handed.” Her father said. “He did have that deer-in-the-headlights look about him.”
His words did not console her. “Dak has to hate me now, dad! He probably feels I abandoned him, especially after what happened a couple of nights ago! I’m such a terrible person!”
Rev. Daniels put his hands on Ely’s shoulders, and looked into her eyes. “Sweetheart, all of this is new to you both. Mistakes like this are made all the time, even by folks much older than you. Just tell him how you feel, and explain your actions. He’ll understand, and forgive you.”
“You think he will?” she asked, unsure.
“Absolutely.” he said, smiling. “The one thing you’re forgetting is the most obvious thing of all. He loves you very, very, much.”
Out of the blue, a car’s horn began to blare. Both Rev. Daniels and Ely both rushed to the window to see what the commotion was about.
“That’s Elizabeth’s car!” Ely exclaimed, confused. “I hope everything’s okay!”
Ely rushed out of the house to find Dakotah, alone, grinning broadly.
Ely’s jaw dropped, and for a moment was unable to speak. “W-where’s your grandmother?” she stammered, confused.
“She’s home, watching TV.” Dakotah said, barely containing himself. He took out his wallet, removed his driver’s license, and handed it to Ely. “What do you think? Does it look like me?”
Ely was speechless. “How?”
“My aunt and uncle sent Grandma money for the insurance.” Dakotah said, still grinning. “Awesome, isn’t it?”
Rev. Daniels joined the two outside. “Congratulations, Dakotah! What’s the next step?”
“Tomorrow, I’m going to Oxford Township and look for work, I guess. My aunt offered to keep me in gas and insurance as long as it takes, but I want to find something soon, so I can pay her back.”
“Sounds like a good plan.” Rev. Daniels replied, smiling.
“However, tonight, if it’s okay, I’d like to take you both out to dinner.” Dakotah said, weakly. “Grandma said it was okay if I use a little extra fund money this time.”
“Dak, I’m sorry, but we couldn’t-“ Ely started to say.
“Absolutely!” Rev. Daniels said enthusiastically, interrupting Ely. “Just don’t get us killed, okay?”
“I got a perfect score on my driving test.” Dakotah replied, laughing. “I’m a very careful driver!”
“Ely barely squeaked by on hers.” Rev. Daniels said, winking at Ely. Ely said nothing, but gave her father a dirty look. “Give us a few minutes to get ready, okay, Dakotah?” he continued. “Come on in, and make yourself at home.”
“Okay, I’ll just wait in the living room.” Dakotah said.
Out of view from Dakotah, Ely followed her father into his bedroom. “I think that answers your question on whether he’s upset.” he said, quietly.
“I don’t like the idea of him taking us out to eat.” Ely said.
“Why? We’ve fed him plenty of times. I’ve even financed a couple of your jaunts. Look, from my days as a young struggling pastor, when someone offers you free food, you take it!” he said, smiling.
Ely frowned. “I never dreamed he’d get his license anytime soon. The whole concept of him driving around town is weird.”
Rev. Daniels thought for a moment. “Could it be you like the idea of him being dependent on people, immobile?”
“That doesn’t make any sense. I want what’s best for him!”
“Are you sure?” He was about to say something, but caught himself. “Just make sure you absolutely know where your heart is when it comes to Dakotah. You’re weaving an ever more tangled web, and a couple of people could get hurt if it all goes wrong.”
“I know. The current path is the best for all concerned.”
“Just don’t try to force things, okay? Relationships are organic in nature, and can’t be built like a house. Now go change. He’s probably wondering what’s taking us so long.”
A few minutes later, they met Dakotah in the living room. “Have you picked out a place yet?” Rev. Daniels asked.
“Do you like strombolis?” Dakotah asked. They both nodded. “Great! There’s a sandwich shop over on 17th St. that mom and Frank used to get strombolis from! They always smelled so good!”
“I didn’t know you ate strombolis.” Ely said.
“Oh, I never ate them. They just got those for themselves.” Dakotah said matter-of-factly. Ely and her father looked at each other, and shook their heads. “Oh look, the sun’s coming out!” Dakotah said, as they made their way out the door.