Itís hard to say what Iím feeling. So many emotions...Of course Iím worried. My little Templeton is out there all alone and I keep wondering, what if heís hurt or hungry? Anger is an unexpected emotion, but I feel that too. Why didnít he tell someone where he was going? If we only knew where he was going we would know where to start looking for him.
He didnít leave any clues behind. I remembered the letters but he took them with him. I watched as John and BA searched his room. Iím sure one of them would have given us the answers we so desperately want. Why take them? But then I think, why leave them? He didnít plan on going missing. I know he didnít plan this! The officer investigating didnít actually use the words, but he hinted around that maybe Templeton wasnít missing, that maybe he didnít want to be found. After the threatening glares he got from the boys with his subtle remarks on that opinion he stopped making them and threw himself into the investigation. Heís a good officer, Iím sure he didnít mean it like it sounded, maybe heís seen that sort of thing before.
Now when we get around to guilt, thatís a cake that everyone wants to claim a piece of. I should have told John about Templetonís lady friend sooner. I know I promised that I wouldnít. I know too that it wouldnít have done any good to have broken that promise then. Templeton wasnít missing then. It would only have served to break Templetonís trust in me. Maybe I shouldnít have encouraged him to read that first letter. Maybe if I hadnít sat on the cliff with him that day and told him not to pass up the chance heíd been offered, he wouldnít ever have opened it. Maybe then he wouldnít have been so eager to rush into only God knows what.
John thinks he should have stopped this from happening somehow. I donít know how exactly he thinks he could have stopped it. He didnít even know about Cat. For all he knew, Templeton was just going on a date like all his other dates with whom ever happened to be the lady of the moment.
Itís been two years since theyíve stopped running from the Army, but John still thinks like the leader of the A-Team. He still thinks that he can and should be able to protect his men from whatever life throws at them. Maybe two years ago he could have. Two years ago, Templeton would have told him exactly what his plans were. They would have had check-in times established. John would have known right away that something was amis the first time Templeton failed to check-in. But that was two years ago and a lot has changed for them. Of course, theyíre still a Ďteamí, but now thereís no need to worry about Ďbeing caughtí. No need to track each otherís every move, no check-in times.
Maggieís been wonderful. I donít think John would have made it this far without her. She closed her practice temporarily so she could take care of John and the boys. I can see that sheís terribly worried not only about Templeton but about what will happen if heís not found. I look at her and I see something familiar in her eyes. I can see that like myself the boys touch that maternal side of her that they do in me. So she takes care of the house and the cooking and does whatever else needs to be done and jumps at the phone every time it rings hoping that itís Templeton on the other end.
Poor HM doesnít know what to do with himself. Heís worried sick about Templeton and he feels heís to blame. I tried to tell him otherwise but he would have none of that. I found him sitting in Templetonís secret spot last week...
I donít know why but I found myself walking down the path to the beach. Halfway down I took the trail that would lead to the little cliff hidden away from prying eyes. As I pushed my way past the last bush I found myself not alone. HM was sitting with his legs dangling over the edge. For a moment my mind slipped back and I saw Templeton sitting there...
He turned and I could see that he was started to see me there.
"Do you mind if I sit with you, HM?"
His brow furrowed, "This is Faceís spot."
I knew I was on delicate ground then. I could tell from the way he was looking at me that he was uncomfortable about my being there. It was almost like he was...guarding...the place. "I know. I found him here once."
HM was holding his baseball cap in his hands, tightly rolling the brim like a newspaper, his eyes were dark with anxiety as he considered this bit of news. "Did he let you stay?"
"Yes, he did."
"Ok, then." The anxiety of the decision gone. He scooted a little more to the side and gave me a trusting, almost childlike smile.
Much like that day with Templeton, HM and I sat there in silence for a while. I watched him twist the cap in his hands. It wasnít hard to figure out what he was thinking about. His best friend had been missing for a week, what else was there?
"Do you sit here with Templeton often?"
"No," He seemed confused by the question. "Face comes here to think."
"Is that why youíre here?"
I reached out and grasped one of his hands. "Itís ok, HM. Whatís troubling you?"
He squeezed my hand and gave me a quick glance before shifting his eyes back to the ocean, the words tumbling out. "Do you think that cop was right? Do you think that Face just left?"
"HM!" This was certainly not what I expected to be troubling the young man. I expected him to be upset that his best friend was missing not worried that he may have intentionally left. "Why would you think that? You know Templeton would never leave like that."
His face blushed with shame for even thinking it, "I know."
"Why did you think that?"
"He was mad."
This is something that I hadnít known. "Mad? At you?"
He nodded and when he turned to look at me, I could see that he was trying to hold back tears. Obviously he thought he had done a grave injustice to his friend and that was why he had left.
He shook his head, "I didnít mean to...I found it and...and I donít know why but I read it and..."
Suddenly understanding, "You read the letter? The one from Cat?"
He was vigorously nodding as he quickly confessed, "Face was getting ready and it was there and I knew that he had gotten it and that it had upset him and...and I just wanted to help...I...He wouldnít talk about it...I just wanted to help."
At that point I had the good sense to scoot us both away from the edge of the cliff as I pulled him into a hug, his words trailing off into muffled sobs. "Oh, HM. Itís ok. Itís not your fault. He didnít leave because he was angry."
He cried into my shoulder and wrapped his arms around me as I rocked him back and forth. When his sobs died he slid his arms from around me and laid his head in my lap. I sat there with one hand on his head and the other rubbing in small comforting circles on his back.
The sun was starting to set when he started to stir.
"HM, are you ok now?"
"I miss him."
"I know you do. So do I."
"He likes sunsets."
We sat there watching the sun shimmer across the water as it melted into the ocean...
The two weeks of waiting has everyone on edge, even BA. Maybe especially BA, oh, heís normally quick tempered but lately there havenít really been pauses between the spells. Heís angry at the police for not finding Templeton, heís angry at Templeton for going missing, at John for not having a plan, but mostly at himself for not knowing what to do. He spends most of his time working on his van, although I canít imagine what there was left to fix on the thing.
The frustration is becoming too much for him I think. I didnít realize how much this whole situation was affecting him until yesterday. I had just peeked into the garage to tell him that Maggie and I would have lunch ready in another ten minutes and let him know to go wash up. He was under the hood fixing something when I heard him start yelling. It was such a shock, I had never heard BA curse in the time Iíd known him. He pushed off the bumper and was beating a wrench against the engine as he alternately cursed the police, Templeton, and himself. He threw the wrench at the wall and then turned to deliver a kick to the side of the van.
As much as I wanted to run to him and gently hold him like I had HM the week before, I knew that he wouldnít accept that. BA was a physical man. He was unused to waiting and relying on others. I think a punching bag would have been a better choice but lacking that, beating up the van would do to expel all the frustrated energy that had been building up. Besides after he was done, at least there would be something that NEEDED fixing on the van and that would occupy him later.
Even little Jenny claimed a piece of the cake. Jimmy dropped off the kids for the weekend. I was more than happy to take them. I felt they would bring a little cheer to blue moods everyone seemed to embrace since Templeton disappeared. I was right.
Matthew couldnít quite understand why his ĎUncle Murdockí was so gloomy but he quickly decided that that just wouldnít do. He eagerly dragged HM out to play with Billy Junior at every opportunity. At first it didnít seem to be working but then he got caught up in the act of teaching Junior how to fetch.
Amanda is far too young to understand anything about whatís happened, but in her own way she lifted a little of the gloom in that house too. She had taken to Maggie right away upon their first meeting and while she might not have remembered who exactly Maggie was she didnít hesitate to get reacquainted. She happily giggled and squealed her way into Johnís heart too. If you didnít know otherwise, you would think they were the proud parents.
Jenny, however, seemed more melancholy by the minute. Normally she is a very happy child. Always laughing and running. I noticed right away that she seemed upset but it wasnít until tonight that I discovered the reason...
I finally had all the little ones bathed and dressed for bed and I had just finished tucking in Matthew and Amanda. I sat on the edge of Jennyís bed as I pulled the covers up to her chin. She pulled her arms out and was playing with her nails as I brushed back her hair.
"Did Face go away because of me?"
My eyebrows raised, this sounded like a familiar conversation, "No Sweetie. Why would you think that?"
"I donít know."
I watched her fidget with her hands for a moment. "Do you have an argument, Sweetie?"
"What did you argue about?"
She looked at me and I could tell that she was trying to decide if she should tell me or not. It was most likely a combination of not wanting to share her conversation with Templeton and fear that she was going to get into trouble for arguing with a grownup. Finally her worry won out, "He said that we would go to the beach, he promised, and then he went and made a date with a girl! He said that he would take me tomorrow. I know I shouldnít have argued because heís older than me and a grownup but I told him that if he went I wasnít gonna be his friend anymore."
The tears on her cheeks broke my heart, I wondered if Templeton really knew how much he was loved. Everyone held so much heartache over his disappearance but at that moment it all came down to one little girl who through a careless word thought she lost her first true love.
"Oh, Sweetie, Templeton knows that you still love him. Thatís not why he went away. Iím sure that where ever he is heís thinking of you and heís hoping that he can come back soon and tell you that himself."
"Really." I leaned over gave her a kiss on the forehead before tucking her restless hand back under the covers. "Now go to sleep and dream sweet dreams." I quietly turn off the bedside lamp and softly close the door.
Two weeks. That's not so long. It's two Monday Night Football games, two Sunday's spent in church, a blockbuster movie in the theatre, and just enough time to teach a puppy to fetch.
On the other hand, it's an eternity. It's sitting by the phone waiting for a call, leaving the TV on the news hoping you don't see anyone you recognize, two Sunday's spent in church praying, and just enough time to claim a little guilt. But at last it looks like that cakeís all been eaten and the plateís been cleaned.
I step out into my back yard and I look up at the stars, "Templeton, be safe and come home soon."