Hellfire’s Judgment Excerpt

Chapter 1

“Come on, mom!  Please let me go.  I promise I’ll be careful,” Sherry said as she stood by the kitchen counter with her hands clasped together, and a pleading look on her face.

Carolyn knew that Sherry was old enough to ride her bike alone to the supermarket, but she just could not seem to bring herself to agree with the idea.  “I know you want to go, but I’m not sure…”

Sherry cut her off, “Come on, you let Jason do it at my age.  I promise that I will go straight there, and then straight back.  Besides, this way you won’t have to wake up Amy from her nap.  I promise to come straight back with everything you need before you know it.”  Sherry held her breath, watching her mother reach into the dishwasher, and then put the last of the dishes away in the cabinet.

Carolyn looked at Sherry.  You have grown up so quickly; she thought to herself.  “Fine, go get my purse.”

“Cool!” Sherry cheered as she leaped into the air, and then ran out of the kitchen to get her mother’s purse.

Carolyn smiled as she watched Sherry run from the room, wondering where the years had gone.  “It seems like only yesterday you were taking your first steps, and now you want to go to the store on your own.  My little girl is growing into a young woman,” she said to herself with a touch of sadness in her voice.

A few moments later, Sherry came bounding back into the kitchen with her mother’s purse clutched tightly to her chest.  “Here’s your purse, mom,” she grinned excitedly.

Carolyn took it, reached inside, and pulled out her billfold.  “Here is ten dollars.  I need you to get a box of butter, a can of tomato sauce, and get some candy for you and your sister.  Don’t worry about getting any for your brother because he’s staying late at Danny’s again.  I guess they’re still trying to get that old truck running.”  Carolyn chuckled, as the vision of the two boys with their heads stuck under the hood of that old, pickup truck appeared in her mind.

Jason and Danny had been best friends since kindergarten.  They had spent every summer riding their bikes all over the town, and played Little League together.  Therefore, when Danny’s grandfather had given him his old, beat up Chevy pickup truck, the best friends made it their mission to get it running again.

Sherry took the money and put it in her pocket.  She then hugged her mother tightly and said, “Thanks, Mom, I promise that I won’t be long.”

“You better not because I can’t start the meat loaf until you get back with the tomato sauce.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll be back in a little bit besides, I love your meat loaf,” Sherry smiled.  “I love you, Mom.”  She turned and walked toward the back door.

“I want you to be careful, and don’t forget to watch for cars.  People are coming home from work, so look both ways before you cross the street.  I also want you to remember to follow the rules and not ride your bike in the street, and…”

“Mom, I know the rules.  I’m not a baby anymore,” she stood defiantly, with her hand on her hip and rolled her eyes impatiently.

“I know you aren’t.  It’s just hard to admit how quickly you have grown,” Carolyn said with tears forming in the corner of her eyes.  “Now get out of here and be careful.”  Carolyn laughed as she watched Sherry skip out the back door, giggling all the way.

Carolyn could not help but smile, as she got the onion and bell pepper to slice up for the meat loaf out of the refrigerator.  “You silly, little thing, please be careful,” she said to herself.

***

Sherry was the oldest daughter of Ray and Carolyn Jefferies, and at thirteen-years-old, she was growing into a beauty just like her mother.  Married for eighteen years, Ray and Carolyn were high school sweethearts, and when Carolyn became pregnant with Jason the night of their senior prom; they quickly married and began their life as a family.  Ray’s father owned the local feed store, so to support his new family; Ray worked for him in the yard by keeping track of inventory and loading the customers.  Then seven years later his father, Clay Jefferies had a massive heart attack, and Ray took over running the business to spare his father the daily stress of managing the store.

***

Clay Jefferies was a man who had always believed that one should work hard, be honest when dealing with others, and that family was the most important thing in your life.  It was in 1970 while Clay was serving in the Army at Fort Hood in Texas that he met the woman he would marry.  Marie Falters had worked at the inbound shipping office when she caught the eye of a young soldier who had just transferred from Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

It was the third time that Clay had seen Marie when he finally had the courage to ask her out on a date.  Marie was accustomed to the soldiers flirting with her with the limited number of single women working on the base.  She was always friendly to the soldiers while working, but she had no desire to date any of them.  However, there was something different about this new one, so she had agreed to go.  Clay had taken Marie to see the new John Wayne movie, Chisum, and he was thrilled to learn that Marie was also a John Wayne fan as there was no greater actor than The Duke.  As they sat in the theater, watching the movie and sharing a tub of buttered popcorn, they both knew it was the beginning of a long and happy life together.

Clay’s unit was due to go to Vietnam in a few weeks, so they had decided to get married before he left.  It was a simple ceremony with only family and a few close friends, but as far as Clay and Marie were concerned, it was a perfect day.  They drove to Galveston for their honeymoon but were only able to spend the weekend, as Clay was due back on base early Monday morning.  They were happy those weeks before he left for Vietnam, and when the day arrived for him to leave they found themselves filled with tears of both joy and sadness.  Marie had recently learned that she was pregnant, which thrilled them both, but they also knew he would not be home for the birth.

“I want you to promise me that you will take good care of my son until I return,” Clay said while holding Marie tightly in his arms.

“What makes you think it’s a boy?” Marie teased as she laid her head on his chest and breathed in the scent of his cologne.

“Because I am his father, and we have already had ourselves a little talk last night,” Clay said in a serious tone.

Marie lifted her head and looked at him, not quite sure what to think of this statement.  “What do you mean that you’ve already had a little talk?”

Clay looked deeply into her eyes, and softly said with affection in his eyes.  “Last night while you were sleeping I placed my hand on your stomach and told our sweet child how daddy was sorry that he had to leave for a while.  I said I was going to a far off land to fight in a war.  I said if I wasn’t able to return home, to always know that I was proud to be the daddy of such a precious gift from God.  I then had the strangest feeling come over me, that everything would be okay and when I closed my eyes; I saw the face of a little boy with big, blue eyes just like yours.  His smile shone like the sun, and at that moment, I felt complete joy.”

Marie stood speechless, never taking her eyes away from his.  Clay reached down and gently placed his hand on her stomach.  “Take care of your mommy, and I’ll be home as soon as I can.”

Marie could no longer hold back the tears, “Oh Clay, please be careful, and come home safely to us.”

They shared one final kiss then Clay turned and walked away to join his unit.

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