“In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From His temple He heard my voice, and my cry to Him reached His ears.” ~Psalm 18:6
I stood on the porch no longer than a moment. I was giddy from my date with her, still lost in my daze of what happened. It all seemed to go so fast, I barely had time to think about how it could’ve gone better, or how blessed we were that it didn’t get any worse. I sighed happily, twisted the doorknob, and stepped in, shutting the door firmly behind me.
A wave of tension washed over me, quickly dismaying my spirits, but I held onto the hope I had been granted. I continued smiling as I looked up at my parents and Grandma staring at me with almost fearful expressions. My dad had both of his palms pressed against the counter top while Grandma stood by the sink and Mom was leaning against the wall.
“Did I interrupt something?” I asked quietly, trying to forget my worries about Pearl as well as the rest of their souls when my worries came running back.
By the look my dad gave me, I certainly did. Fear creeped up my spine and my fragile hope shattered. Something was wrong.
Mom didn’t even try to cover up the panic on her face. Asher was hiding behind her legs. Grandma plastered a smile on her face as she came over to me. I hugged her and was about to pull away when she whispered, “I am so sorry Tin. I love you. I didn’t mean for this to happen. I knew you were just trying to help Pearl. I tried to explain it to them, I really did.”
I backed away and gave her a strange look. If I didn’t feel an unease before, I surely did now. I stopped when my shoes hit the stairwell.
“Tin!” Asher shouted happily. He tried to come running to me, but Grandma scooped him up and he just stared at me with joy in his eyes. I grinned at him.
“Hi Squirt,” I said, trying to sound lighthearted.
“Fletcher,” my dad growled in a low voice.
Grandma backed away to Mom and held her hand tightly.
“D-Dad?” I stuttered quietly. My knees were weak and I tried not to look at Asher.
“What have you done?” he asked, sounding furious with me. “I forbid you from going to church.”
“I... I know,” I whispered, dread filling my heart. ”Lord, help me. Please," I prayed silently. I could feel my heart pounding hard against my chest. I also felt a voice whispering to me about how it would be okay. God would protect me.
“How could you go against my words! I told you that I didn’t want you becoming a Christian!” he shouted, spit flying from his mouth. “I am your father, you have to listen to me!”
I swallowed, at a loss for words.
“You have no idea what you’re doing! You’re just a child, becoming something horrid by your own mistakes!” he boomed, growing angrier by the minute.
“You can forbid me from going, but you can’t forbid my belief!” I said loudly, trying not to pass out.
He came closer to me and I trembled in fear of him. I glanced at Grandma who had tears glistening in her eyes. I gave her a weak smile. Then my father grabbed my by the arm and yanked me from my place on the wall to the middle of the kitchen where we faced each other.
“Tell me you don’t believe it! Give me some hope you obeyed me!” he demanded.
“I...” I looked to Asher, who was watching with wide eyes silently. “I can’t. I believe.”
With the words, a warmth spread across my chest, clashing with the fear.
“Look at me when I’m talking to you!”
I snapped my gaze to him and saw him looming over me. My hands shook terribly.
“I believe it! I believe Jesus rose from the dead to save me!” I cried out, feeling every desire to make them understand building in me. “He wants to save you too! Let Him! Please.”
“Lies! You don’t know what you’re saying!” he screamed in rage.
“Dad, please,” I repeated, hearing the tremor in my voice.
Then he brought back his hand and did something I didn’t think he’d ever do. He slapped me across the face. It was so unexpected, that my head snapped to the side, causing me to stumble. Stars flew across my vision as I felt the sting on my cheek.
“You will never speak of such things again! Do you hear me?! Never!”
Slowly, I came back to my senses and stood taller. Asher was crying loudly, I heard Grandma gasping, and Mom remained shocked in silence.
“You can’t do that!” I shouted, though it sounded more like a plea. “Please listen--”
Another slap sent me to the ground.
“Tin! Brother! Tin!” Asher cried. I laid on the floor, trying to catch my breath before I turned my head to see Grandma struggling to hold my little brother back from running to me.
“Squirt... It’s okay,” I said softly.
I slowly stood to my feet and backed away from my dad.
“I’m giving you one more chance Fletcher! Do you believe or not?!” he raged.
“I do,” I whispered, feeling pain flash across my jaw. “I really do.”
At first, he looked shocked at my words. Next, he was in anger. He hit slapped me again, same spot, and I gasped as I crumpled to the ground. I groaned as I tried to blink away my sudden headache, hardly noticing my dad was gone. He came back though, still not giving up, still absolutely, insanely angry.
“Take your stuff and get out!” he yelled, throwing my duffel bag, already packed, to the floor.
I felt all the blood drain from my face, if there was any color left in it. Raw horror filled me and I was frozen, staring at the bag by my dad’s feet.
“He’s our son!” Mom shouted.
“He should’ve been smarter,” he growled.
“Don’t do this to him!” Grandma protested.
“No! I never meant for this to happen! Dad, I didn’t..,” Pearl’s voice sobbed as she stumbled down the stairs. They all started yelling and Dad was shouting at me, though I couldn’t comprehend what he was saying. All I knew was that he was beyond furious with me.
He dragged me up off the floor and pushed my bag into my arms. I knew they were all yelling things, trying to put their thoughts in.
“Get out!” he shouted at me, giving me a shove in the direction of the door. I saw a glimpse of pain in his eyes.
“Dad, please! Please don’t do this!” I cried, my vision being blurred by tears.
“I want nothing to do with you and your beliefs! Leave!” he screamed, dragging me by the arm to the exit.
“I didn’t mean for this to happen! I didn’t, I didn’t!” Pearl shouted, her voice hoarse. I caught a glimpse of her. Her face was covered in tears, her eyes telling me how sorry she was.
“Pearl! Asher!” I yelled, trying to fight his grip. “I love you.”
Asher still yelled my name and Pearl looked at me in the eyes, new tears pouring from her’s. She fell on her knees, sobbing into her hands. My heart shattered for her.
“Get out!” he yelled one last time, shoving me against the dark wood of the door.
We were face to face. His was close, I could practically feel his anger radiating from him. My breath caught in my chest for a moment. There was still time. I could make this better.
“Dad. Listen... Please don’t do this,” it came out in a pained whisper, and I felt myself giving into tears. “Please, please...,” I gasped as he forced the door open, his eyes only growing harder.
“Don’t do this to him, he’s your son!”
“Tin I’m sorry! I didn’t want this to happen! I’m sorry! I’m sorry... I’m sorry...”
Mom remained quiet. Dad silently gave me his rage.
“Get out of here. Take a car and leave. Your faith is nothing to me,” he growled, pushing me out the door. He threw a ring of keys onto the wood beside me.
I tripped backwards onto the porch, my bag falling beside me. I propped myself up on my elbows.
The word trembled of my breath, hanging in the air between us. I could still hear them shouting, all of their protests. But all I remember is his hard stare of disappointment. Of anger. Of bitterness.
He slammed the door shut.
  
The sound of the door closing rung in my ears as I tried to process what happened.
Locks clicked into place and I heard muffled cries from inside the house. Slowly, I crawled to the door, desperately wanting to get back inside. It was all surreal, I couldn’t fathom it. I didn’t think he would go this far.
I beat against the door with my fist in desperation. I couldn’t find words to say. Silent tears flooded my face.
More shouting commenced as I banged on the door harder and harder.
“Please!” I cried from the floor.
I leaned against the door for maybe moments, maybe minutes, maybe hours. The shouting and arguments went on and on and on. I heard sobs and people running up the stairs. It was all too much.
“I love you,” I whispered, letting my head rest on the door.
Numbness took over me so I could hardly move. I didn’t really know what to do, how to think about things. I stood and grabbed my bag, which felt too heavy for me to carry along with my heavy heart. I didn’t leave because he told me to. I didn’t leave out of fear. I left because I knew it would only get worse.
When I made it down the porch steps, I ran to Mom’s car and jumped in. I threw my stuff in the back, started the car, and left. There was nothing else I could do, nothing more I knew I could do to make it better.
My dad just threw me out of my own house. It was like I was dead to him. And Asher? Mom, Pearl, Grandma-- what would he do to them? He wouldn’t throw them out too, would he? He couldn’t. It wasn’t their fault.
It was mine.
The further I got, the more afraid I was. I needed to be there, but I couldn’t. It didn’t seem real.
And honestly, I didn’t think it was.
My head was still catching up. My face stung from where he slapped me three times. I didn’t think he’d ever do that to me-- he did the unthinkable that night.
And none of it seemed real.
  
I woke up the next morning on Grandma’s couch.
My conscious must’ve taken me there. I didn’t remember parking, getting out, or even figuring out how to get in. I just walked in with my bag and collapsed on the couch. I didn’t even bother getting a blanket or pillow.
I stayed up for hours leading my thoughts to nowhere. All I could see when I closed my eyes was my father’s rage and disappointment. I was numb, hardly felt alive. It was unnoticeable when I fell asleep. The only reason I woke up was from the light shining through the curtains.
Sitting up, I put my head in my hands. What have I done? Did I put my whole family in danger because of faith? Why did he do it? How could he?
“God?” I spoke aloud. I looked up the the ceiling. “I don’t understand. I’m scared, and I don’t know what to do. I just know that I can’t lose You. I believe You love me and You’re here for me. Help to me understand.” Tears leaked down my face. “Please don’t leave me.”
I was numb and scared. It was Friday, I should’ve been in school that day, but I wasn’t. I couldn’t find the heart to just face another day. And the whole situation with Pearl... She told my father? She told him about me getting baptized? I understood her doubt, but I couldn’t grasp why she told.
And yet, I never felt anger toward her. Never. She was innocent. It wasn’t her fault, she probably felt pressured to since she knew our parents didn’t really support faith. Jesus died for her too. She just didn’t know it.
I lost the concept of time while I stayed in Grandma’s empty house. I ate when I was hungry, drank when I was thirsty, prayed until my heart hurt. Slept to escape. My whirlwind of emotions came slowly. Shock drained me, leaving me feeling disconnected from the world as a whole. I barely was living.
Frustrations against my father didn’t last very long. I didn’t know what to feel about him. His disappointment and anger for me terrified me to the core.
Above all of that, there was sorrow. Sorrow that overwhelmed me, consumed me. Asher’s little heart being broken before my eyes. I didn’t communicate the Gospel well enough to Pearl-- I should’ve. My mother helplessly watching and Grandma pleading my innocence. Dad not knowing what he was doing.
Sorrow for all of them.
While I prayed, I felt like God was constantly telling me He was there. He was in control and He was not disappointed in me. I can’t describe it efficiently enough how relieved I felt when I felt Him. It was a peaceful state.
Then I went through the process again. Numbness, shock, disconnection, frustration, sorrow, comfort. Again and again.
Finally, I felt God telling me that He had me. He was holding me and it was going to be okay. He would lead me.
After the weekend passed and most of Monday, I left Grandma’s. It hurt carrying all the weight by myself, though I was immensely comforted in the presence of God. I was still numb. Shocked. Disconnected. Frustrated. Sorrowful. Comforted.
I went to the only place I knew where to run to.
  
I hesitated before getting out of the car at the Olson’s driveway.
For one, I didn’t know how to explain it. Any of it. It was right after my date with Alivia. Herself, Sawyer, Pearl, Grandma, Mom-- they all texted and called me. I never answered, never picked up. Whenever I saw their contacts, my heart would swell and burst in a trembling matter of fear. I feared for their safety. Dad probably didn’t want them to contact me. No one came looking for me, but I didn’t know if I wanted them to.
As for Alivia and Sawyer... I felt like I failed. I wanted to communicate God’s love with my family and it didn’t work. I was kicked out, shunned. I didn’t want the Olsons to be ashamed of me for being a terrible communicator. I couldn’t lose our friendship.
I also knew I couldn’t hide for much longer.
Taking in a deep breath, I checked my reflection in the mirror on the car. I hadn’t looked at myself in the mirror all weekend. In fact, I had avoided it. I showered and everything, but no mirrors. I didn’t want to see what Dad did to me. I didn’t want it to feel real.
The bruise covered nearly all of my cheek. My jawline was the worst. He hit me pretty hard all three times, leaving various degrees of color on my face. I lightly ran my fingers over it and winced. Tears rose in my throat. It was becoming too real. He actually hit me, he actually kicked me out, he actually hated my faith--
I got out of the car and walked up to the house quickly, keeping my head down. I knocked and waited. I needed to see Alivia.
“Hello? Oh Tin Tin, come in sweetie,” Mrs. Olson said quickly as soon as she opened the door.
I stepped in and she shut it behind me softly. I stood there staring at the floor for a moment until I felt her in front of me. I glanced up, seeing worry on her face. She pulled me into a hug. I could only imagine Sawyer and Alivia told them about me not being at school.
“Could I see Alivia?” I said hoarsely when we pulled away.
“Yes, yes of course. She’s in her room.”
“Is it okay if I see her in her room?”
“Of course,” she said gently, looking at me with concern. I managed a weak smile, feeling tears burn in my eyes.
“Thank you,” I breathed.
She gave me a look of great sympathy before stepping away and allowing me to go see her daughter. I walked up the staircase slowly, trying not to cry. I didn’t let much more than a few tears out when I was alone, but the weight on my heart felt heavier. I gasped for a normal breath than trying not to cry as I reached the top of the stairs.
I pushed open the door all the way and she turned. Alivia, her long hair, blue eyes. She sat at her desk, drawing something. Except, when she recognized it was me, she jumped up and came over quickly.
“Fletcher,” she breathed. I looked up at her, feeling a tear escape. Then another. “Fletcher...”
She gently wrapped her arms around me, resting her head on my chest. I broke into tears, my uneven breathing seeming foreign to me. I let out a shaky breath, then another, embracing her. I began sobbing, tears soaking my cheeks. I buried my face in her hair and just sobbed.
I shook uncontrollably. It hit me hard, shattering me to the core, and I cried with everything I had. My father. My own father just kicked me out of his house. He didn’t want me there, he didn’t want me anymore. I was absolutely nothing to him. I was nothing. Nothing.
He despises me. I couldn’t tell him how much God loves him. He wanted no connections to me. It was like I wasn’t even his son. The rejection pounded on my heart over and over. I felt like I was dying. The man hadn’t done a thing for me, but I still found myself caring.
“Shh... Shh... It’s okay, I’m here for you,” Alivia whispered, stroking the back of my head. “God loves you Fletcher.”
And Pearl. Oh my little sister. I wanted her to know so bad. She needed to. I wanted her to feel as loved as I was. Asher was so young. He couldn’t live without me. I needed the little guy, my buddy. I needed my family, I wanted them to believe. I wanted to love them all.
“I-I-I’m such a... a failure!” I cried.
“No, no you’re not,” she soothed, holding me tighter.
“I a-am! I couldn’t... couldn’t even... I wanted t-to,” I tried. But I was too pained to get the words out.
“It’s going to be alright,” she said, her voice sounding sad.
“M-my own... D-dad, Livvy,” I managed. “H-he... He can’t stand me!”
“Come here, come here,” she murmured, leading me to the carpeted floor beside her bed. I collapsed there beside her, leaning on her shoulders. She still held me, rubbed circles on my back, let me bawl my eyes out.
I finally sat up and looked at her, not bothering to wipe my tears away. Her eyes told me; her heart was breaking for me. Only they widened when she saw my cheek fully.
Lightly, she reached out and ran her fingers over it. I winced, jerking away. Only, I leaned back into her touch. She gently inspected my bruise, then gathered me into another embrace.
She pulled away and handed me a tissue. After I blew my nose and calmed down a bit, she was sitting in front of me, holding my hands. We stared at each other in silence. I saw pain on her face as she took in what had happened, her expression like she had been hit herself. Eventually, I started talking. She didn’t say anything, just listened as I poured my heart out to her.
She nodded, showing she understood. I looked into her eyes the whole time, watched as the tears escaped her’s. At one point, she reached for a soft blanket on the bed and wrapped it around my shoulders. Then she went back to listening.
When I finished, I started to cry again. I couldn’t get over how it made me feel, how shocked and afraid I was. Quickly, she hugged me again, pressing her lips to the top of my head softly, then holding me more.
“I am proud of you,” she whispered. “I am proud you stood up for your beliefs.”
“I-I’m afraid,” I admitted.
After me choking on some sobs, she began talking again.
“Dear Lord,” she started. “I know You love us. And You love our Fletcher. You love his family. Please comfort us, help us, lead us. Thank You for saving us and giving him the courage to say what I believe he was suppose to. Help us to trust You.”
She continued to pray. This time, it was time for me to listen.
  
“You must be exhausted,” Alivia said, laying a hand on my shoulder as we prepared to go downstairs.
After spending time with her comforting me, I needed to tell Sawyer. He’d know what to do, and would help me work through it just as she had. My head spun with possibilities of my father’s thoughts and memories of him yelling at me to leave. It sent a pang to my heart all over again.
All I did was nod in response to Alivia’s remark. I tried to smile at her, but it felt out of place, completely strange to me. She grinned a bit in response, squeezing my shoulder. Taking my hand, she lead me down to the kitchen where her father sat reading while his wife was making dinner.
They both stopped what they were doing when I walked in the room. I stood there awkwardly, trying not to make it such a big deal that I was there. Seemed like I just showed up at their house whenever I wanted. I never felt like I was intruding, but I felt that way standing in their kitchen. I felt so unsure about myself, shaken up by my father’s words.
I catch Mrs. Olson’s eye and she smiled sadly, here eyes telling me the story of how concerned she was. Mr. Olson patted the place beside him at the table with a small grin on his face. I sat silently and Alivia left the room, probably to get her brother.
“Is everything alright?” he asked kindly, completely serious. He gently looked me in the eye, trying to communicate something.
I swallowed and looked down at the wood. I wrung my hands together underneath the table top, taking a slow deep breath.
“My dad... He kicked me out,” I said, not glancing at either one of them.
Silence followed. Mrs. Olson even stopped her stirring on the stove. All the tension from before came down and she rushed over, putting a loving arm around my shoulders and kneeling beside my chair. Mr. Olson scooted closer, laying a hand on my knee.
“How could he do such a thing?” Mrs. Olson asked, sounding utterly bewildered.
“I don’t know,” I whispered, tears clouding my vision once again. “I don’t understand.”
I heard my two friends come into the kitchen, Sawyer leading with Alivia trailing behind him at his heels. I turned to look at them and felt my expression turn into a deep pain again. I struggled to hold myself together. Sawyer stared at me, looking distressed and upset. I stood up and he embraced me.
He patted me on the back, rocking me a little before letting go. Wordlessly, they all gathered around the table, Mrs. Olson still on her knees beside me. I began to explain, trying to make it as simple and short as possible. I looked at Sawyer the whole time, feeling comfort that my best friend was there.
“I went home from my date with Alivia and it happened. He got into an argument with me, trying to get me to say that I wouldn’t believe, but I couldn’t do it. My mom and Grandma tried to stop him, but he threw me out. He actually hit me, and he’s never done that before.”
At this point, my gaze dropped to my lap. I felt my voice growing quieter.
“In front of my siblings too. I tried to tell them about God, but I guess I didn’t do I very good job or else I wouldn’t be here. He was so disappointed in me. I wouldn’t be surprised if you guys are too, since I couldn’t just tell them God loves them,” I confessed, breaking down in tears.
A chair scraped back from the table, and I felt two hands on my shoulders.
“Listen to me Tin,” Sawyer said, sounding emotional. “I couldn’t be disappointed in you. God isn’t either. He’s still guiding you and loving you. You’re His child. You were brave trying to tell them about Him, I’m impressed, not disappointed.”
I gulped and looked over to see he had crouched beside me as well. He grinned half-heartedly.
“I’m glad you’re okay. I was worried about you.”
I nodded, biting my lip.
“You can stay with us until we get things sorted out,” Mrs. Olson offered.
“Thank you,” I whispered.
I turned to Mr. Olson who had a deep look of solemn on his face. It shook me up to see him actually about to cry.
“You don’t need to worry about what will happen next,” he said slowly. “While it is hard right now, God never lets sorrow, guilt, or fear get the last word.”
I nodded, feeling myself believe it.
A restlessness inside me calmed for the rest of the evening, and I knew that was exactly what I needed to hear. I could feel God moving inside me, bringing peace to me for a brief moment. I was troubled by what happened, but in the back of my head I heard it.
"I’ve got you," He said, ”You are my child, and I love you. Don’t forget your hope."