© Copyright 2006 by Kendra Cornell
Ellen Delaney stepped onto the mustard-yellow linoleum. Cigarette smoke hung thickly in the air, choking and nauseating her. Looking around the room, she located the only vacant seat- a scraped and aged folding chair placed in front of a large plastic divider. The seat across was empty- waiting for Tom. She sat quickly, swallowing a sense of discomfort. Several battle- weary individuals turned to look at her, scanning her classic attire with something akin to disdain. But after everything that had happened, Ellen felt confident that she could handle this.
After only a few minutes, Tom was brought in wearing a bright orange jumpsuit. His once-smooth face needed a shave badly, and dark circles bagged under his eyes. Slumping in the chair opposite her, he looked up, defeat etched into every crag of his face. He lifted the phone awkwardly, leaning his elbows onto the scarred countertop.
Ramrod straight, Ellen lifted her receiver as well. The two stared at each other for a few moments, neither knowing exactly what to say. Finally, clearing her throat, Ellen murmured, “Hello Tom. How are you?”
“How do you think I am? I’m stuck in this hellhole until further notice. Ellen, you have to get me out of here.”
Sadness and pain flowed like the tide in her eyes. She blinked back tears, wanting to find the right words.
“Tom, I can’t. They won’t let you out yet. I…”
“Then what are you doing here? Being a stand-up gal and telling me in person that you’re leaving me? Well, thanks but no thanks. You can shove it, Ellen.”
His sarcasm stung, but still she held her ground. Granite marked her words.
“Thomas Matthew Delaney… You listen to me and listen well. I have stood by you for forty years of my life. I bore your children and supported every goal you ever had. Now you have acted in such a way as to destroy everything we ever had.” Eyes closed, Ellen took a deep breath. Her anger would only complicate an already awful situation, and she struggled to control both her tone and her words.
“Tom,” she said looking right into the defeat evident all over his face, “I am not leaving you, although I have every reason to do so. I have been praying about this non-stop for days now. And I know with every certainty that the Lord is calling me to stand by you through this.”
A muscle rippled along his jaw line. Ignoring his hardened gaze, she continued. “However, given the situation, I think we need to get a few things cleared up. First, I need to know now whether or not you had anything to do with the death of the late Mrs. James.”
Tom looked up at her, shaking his head. “No, Ellen. I already told this to the DA. That was all Jack’s idea. And I didn’t even know until after it happened. The man is nuts.”
Her eyebrows rose, but Ellen couldn’t argue with that assertion. “Alright, then I need to know what you intend to do about us.”
“What about us? How can you even ask me that in light of everything? I’m stuck in this godforsaken place, facing a dozen counts, and I could end up in prison Ellen. Do you get that? I could be going to prison!” he yelled, but a movement from one of the guards caused him to lower his voice immediately. Furiously, he continued, “How can you think our life even matters after all this?”
“Tom, Christ is all that matters after all of this. You have preached that for years- that a Christian should never be caught under the circumstance, but in Him. And at the moment, I feel very sorry and very sad for the situation you created. But I know, that throughout all of this, we are both in His hand. Despite everything, we are both being watched over.”
“How can you say that? How can you believe that? How can you believe in a God that would put us here?” His questions were no longer laced with anger and sarcasm, but a deep, abiding sadness and desolation.
“I think, Tom, that you will have a lot of time in the coming days and weeks to figure out what it was that you yourself did to cause this situation. And my prayer will be that you will find yourself in the hand of God throughout it all.”
Dismissing her retort, he asked her, “So then… What exactly are your terms here. I assume that you didn’t come here empty-handed?”
“Well, I’m not sure I like that phraseology, but yes. There are certain things that I would like to discuss.”
“I want you to end all business ties with Mrs. James. From now on, we are both going to recommit to this marriage, and there’s no way I can do that knowing that she will forever be a part of our lives.”
He just looked at her impassively from behind that Plexiglas shield,
giving nothing away. “And…” he prompted her.
“I want to make it clear that from this day forward, both of our children will be an integral part of our life. I will no longer allow you to manipulate our family that way. And…” she said, knowing this would anger him, “You will begin Christian counseling immediately. In jail… outside… Wherever you end up. Both individual and with me.”
“And if I refuse?”
“Tom, I am praying for you… For us… There are times when I want you to pay for everything you’ve done, and then later, I just want this all to become a bad memory. Right now, all I’m sensing is a hard heart. I will pray for your heart to soften and most importantly, for you to turn back to your first love. To Christ.”
Uninterested, Tom dismissed her. “Look Ellen, I’ve got to go. My time’s up. Just work on getting me out of here, will you?”
For several moments, Ellen watched the subdued figure walk away. She felt defeated herself, that her words had had no impact. Once, his faith had been so strong and now… Now he no longer resembled anything she recognized. Could she be wrong in her belief that the Lord wanted her to walk by her husband through all this? Could she be wrong about everything?
She slowly walked back to the visitor’s entrance when the words Paul had written for her days ago came to mind.
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your
Walls are ever before me.
And suddenly, in the midst of the worst that life had thus far doled out, Ellen began to sense a glimmer of understanding dawning in her mind. Though everything she had ever known had fallen apart, that her own husband had betrayed her, that Tom was nothing more than a shell of his former self, that she was likely on the brink of losing her earthly security, she, Ellen, was written on the hand of God. And choosing to rest in that fact, Ellen experienced a peace that she had never before known.
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