When Lorna was first approached about having a student teacher in her classroom, she was very resistant to the idea. Teaching algebra and geometry to a group of 15- and 16-year-olds who saw no reason to use pencil and paper for calculations when the school was equipped with computers was hard enough. She really was not sure that she wanted to add teaching someone else how to teach into that mix.
After talking it over with Wade, though, Lorna finally decided to agree. After all, everyone needs to start somewhere, right? Once upon a time, Lorna had been a student teacher herself. Maybe this would be a good experience. If nothing else, at least she would have the satisfaction of knowing she had been a good influence on someone else.
She had the late lunch, which meant that Lorna’s lunch break came immediately following her fourth period geometry class. That worked out especially well for her that year because fifth period was her free period. That gave Lorna time to run any errands she needed to run during a long lunch hour. Plus, with a student teacher, it meant it wouldn’t be horrible if she arrived late from her lunch.
That Monday afternoon, she was especially thankful to have a student teacher she could rely on. The class phone rang just as class was starting. Miss Keller, the student teacher, glanced at Lorna. She motioned for the younger woman to continue with the class and answered the phone.
“Mrs. Davis, your son is here in the office,” the voice of the school secretary said to her. “He is asking for permission to leave school early.”
“Is he sick?” Lorna asked, concerned.
“No,” the secretary said. “He said something about his sister feeling ill.”
“I will be right there.” Lorna quietly excused herself from the classroom and marched toward the main office. The sound of her heels clicking against the tile echoed through the hallways. Lorna was aware that the clicking was louder than necessary. Teachers closed their doors, glaring at Lorna as she passed. Not that she cared. She was on a mission to get to Todd.
At that moment, Lorna was not sure who she was most annoyed with—Todd for actually thinking it was OK to leave school or Claudia for calling him while he was in school.
“Just what do you think you are doing?” she asked her son when she saw him.
Todd was standing just outside the principal’s office, book bag and jacket flung over one shoulder. “I’m trying to sign myself out for the afternoon,” he said urgently.
“I don’t think so,” she said.
“I don’t have time to argue with you on this, Mom,” he said. Todd dropped his voice slightly. “Claudia is on her way to the hospital. I can’t let her be there alone.”
“Why did she call you?”
“Nice attitude,” Todd said. “Worry about why she called and not about what is wrong with her.”
“Watch your tone, young man,” Lorna hissed. “Whatever is wrong with her is not serious enough to warrant you leaving school.” She took hold of his arm and steered him toward an empty corner, hoping they could talk without everyone in the office overhearing every word. “It can’t be more important than your education. You need to get back to class.”
“She thinks she is in labor,” Todd told his mother. “I called her when I stepped out for lunch and she said she was on her way to labor and delivery. She sounded scared and said that it is too early for the baby to come.”
“And that is your problem how?” Lorna asked. “Should she not be telling the father about all of this?”
“You know he does not care,” Todd said. “Mom, she shouldn’t be alone up there right now.”
“How do you think you can help her? It is not like you know anything about having a baby.”
“Maybe I can’t help her, but someone needs to be with Claudia right now,” Todd told his mother. “It should be you.” Lorna crossed her arms and gave Todd that “yeah, right” look. He sighed. “I knew you wouldn’t be willing to help her. So did Claudia. She didn’t even answer when I asked if she had tried to call you or Dad. It is kind of sad that the best help she can get is from her baby brother.”
“You can’t help her right now,” Lorna told her son. She pointed over his shoulder in the direction of his next class. “You have to get to chemistry. If you want to stop at the hospital after school, fine, do it. But right now, you will go to your class.”
Todd shook his head. “No, I won’t,” he said. “I’m going to the hospital.”
“I won’t sign you out of school,” she told him.
“You don’t need to,” Todd said. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other and adjusted the strap of his book bag on his shoulder. “I’m 18 now and can sign myself out. The office staff just didn’t want you to be surprised that I was gone and called you down here. I told them you wouldn’t care—“
“Of course I care!” Lorna hissed.
“About my spotless school record, which has already gotten me into the college of my choice,” Todd said. “It is beyond sad that you and Dad are more concerned with that then with the health of your only daughter and your first grandchild.”
Todd brushed past his stunned mother. Lorna watched as he walked back into the main office, signed himself out of school, and then headed out the front door. Angry didn’t quite cover her feelings at that moment. Livid didn’t even seem quite strong enough. Never had any of her children been that disrespectful to her in words. She could hardly wait to get home and discuss this with Wade. Todd was going to face some serious consequences not only for his words and attitude, but for leaving school against his mother’s wishes.
Lorna headed back to her classroom, walking slower but still causing the clicking of her heels on the linoleum to echo through the halls. This time, she didn’t really notice the sound. She was too busy thinking about Todd. What would be an appropriate punishment for an 18-year-old high school senior? She could take away his car keys, but was not sure how fair that would be. After all, Todd had worked hard through the years, saving half of his money from way back when he had his first paper route at age 13 so that he could buy his own car. Wade had told him that he would lose driving privileges only if his grades suffered. And, as Todd had pointed out to his mother just moments ago, that had not happened. He had been accepted into Hampton Bible College with his heart set on a career in the ministry and was well on his way to graduating in the top five percent of his class.
She walked quietly back into her room, not wanting to interrupt the class. Miss Keller was doing a good job, keeping the kids as focused as hungry teens could be on the concept she was teaching that day. No one seemed to notice that Mrs. Davis had reentered the room, and that was fine with Lorna. She really was not in the mood to talk at all. She slipped into the seat behind her desk and buried her face in her hands.
I won’t cry, Lorna told herself. She was horrified at the realization that she felt the need to cry. Tears were a sign of weakness, and though she may have been a lot of things, Lorna knew she was not weak. Crying because of her children was not going to help anything. Crying in front of her students was unthinkable. She was not prepared to lose the respect she had spent the first half of the school year building up.
Repeatedly telling herself to not cry did not make the feeling of tears go away. Lorna rubbed her temples, thinking of the last time she had cried about anything. It had been about two years, she decided. She had not shed a tear since the death of her mother. Even then, she recalled being annoyed with herself. Mother had fought a long hard battle against breast cancer. When the end came, it was more of a relief than anything. She was a Christian woman, and Lorna had no doubts that she would see her mother again in Heaven one day. She had no business indulging in sad tears when she knew Mother was walking beside Jesus, rejoicing and pain free.
Looking back, Lorna could find a lot of other things to be sad about, things that seemed to be tied in with her mother’s passing. The loss of her daughter—now that was something worthy of tears.
An overwhelming, physically painful sadness came over Lorna every time she thought about it. Which is why she very rarely thought about it. It was not as if Claudia were dead or even in hiding. Lorna had a very good idea where she was, and Claudia knew exactly where her mother was. Either of them could have contacted the other at any time.
Lorna remembered clearly the birth of her daughter. She had been overjoyed, even though Wade had been more than a little nervous. “What do I know about taking care of a baby girl?” he had asked.
Lorna had only smiled. Neither of them had known much about caring for a baby at all, whether it was a baby boy or a baby girl. Claudia had come into their lives a little ahead of schedule, at least ahead of the schedule Lorna and Wade had made for themselves. They had planned to be married for at least five years, with Wade firmly established in a paid pastoral position before they started a family. God must have had other plans, though, because little Claudia was born less than six months before their fifth anniversary. Not that it mattered to Lorna. She had wanted for so long to have a little girl to love and adore.
In her eyes, Claudia was perfect.
She would have been happy to leave their family that way—just Lorna, Wade, and little Claudia. But Wade had wanted a son nearly as badly as Lorna had wanted a daughter. Three years later, he got that son in Matthew. Now both Wade and Lorna felt their family was complete, but God again had other plans. Their surprise baby, Todd, was born on Claudia’s 8th birthday.
Sharing a birthday had made a special bond develop between Claudia and Todd. She was more than just his sister, she was his protector. Claudia babied him more than even Lorna did. It was a wonder that Todd was able to do anything on his own, as Claudia was always there to do everything for him.
If there was anyone that Claudia loved more than her brother, it would have been her grandmother. She had always been close to Lorna’s mother. Lorna had never hidden from her children the fact that she was adopted. Claudia seemed to be fascinated by that. She loved to listen to Grandma Jean’s stories about her desire to be a mother, the frustration she felt over not being able to conceive a child, and the elation of finding that three-day-old baby girl abandoned at the hospital.
“Sometimes I questioned what God was doing in my life,” Lorna had heard her mother tell her daughter more than once. “Why did he allow people who didn’t know how to take care of a baby, who didn’t know how to love a baby, become parents and keep saying no to your grandpa and me? But when I found your Mama with that little ‘Please take good care of my baby’ note pinned to her blanket…. Well, that is how I knew God knew what he was doing. He had the perfect baby all picked out for me to love, and he even had the perfect way for me to meet her.”
Lorna didn’t know why Claudia asked to hear that story so often. Wade thought it was a mistake to let it be repeated so much. “Things might have worked out well for you,” he had told Lorna once, “but that is not how it works for every baby born to an unwed mother. I don’t want our daughter to get this notion into her head that sex before marriage is OK because it could result in a baby that some other woman could love and raise. It is not right for these kids to expect someone else to clean up their mistakes.”
Though Lorna resented the way her husband had inferred that her existence was a mistake, she had to admit that he had a valid point. Teenagers in that day and age seemed to lack the sense of responsibility that those of her generation had been brought up with. Not their children, of course. Lorna and Wade had raised their kids in the church. No matter what their peers might do, she knew she wouldn’t have to worry about her daughter and sons living drug-fueled, promiscuous lives.
Lorna never had any concerns over the salvation and faith of her children until her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer the first time. Claudia was just 20 then. She admitted to her mother that she was scared one winter evening as they sat sipping hot chocolate after wrapping Christmas gifts.
“But I’m letting God have my fears,” Claudia had assured Lorna. “That is what Grandma Jean said to do. She says she does not think God is finished with her yet, but that she will trust him no matter what.”
After surgery and six months of radiation and chemotherapy, Grandma Jean was declared “cancer free”. The recurrence a year later really hit Claudia hard.
“I thought this was over,” she moaned to her mother. “I thought God had taken away all of the cancer and illness in her.”
When Lorna reminded her of the conversation they had shared that winter night, Claudia only shook her head. “I trusted him once, Mama,” she said. “I don’t know if I have the strength to trust him on this again.”
Claudia and Lorna had been there when the older woman they both loved breathed her last breath. They were the only two in the hospital with her, one standing on each side of the bed holding her hands. Not that she knew they were there. The cancer had spread throughout her body, leaving every inch in pain. She had gone into the hospital that last time with pneumonia, a common complication of end stage cancer. The heart monitor stopped while Lorna was praying over her mother.
At first, Lorna didn’t understand Claudia’s behavior. They had all been prepared for the death, and it was a relief to know that Grandma Jean was not in any more pain. But Claudia took it harder than anyone else, harder than Lorna had even expected. The night of the funeral, she went out with some friends. Claudia’s family didn’t see her again for nearly three days. And when she did come home, her eyes were bloodshot and she reeked of alcohol.
Wade was furious. Lorna’s heart ached for her little girl, but she didn’t know what she could do to help. Her husband insisted that Claudia sober up or leave the house. Lorna pled with her daughter to get help, but dared not go against her husband’s wishes. She watched from the front window silently, helplessly as Wade tossed Claudia’s belongings out of the house.
Over the next few months, Lorna had many secret visits with her daughter. She had to keep them all secret, as Wade had forbidden any contact with Claudia so long as she was ignoring her drinking problem. He had gone so far as to prohibit his daughter from coming to his church. Lorna knew her daughter didn’t have a drinking problem. She had gotten drunk once or twice to drown the pain of losing her grandmother. Though she didn’t understand it, Lorna accepted that as Claudia’s way of dealing with the grief. And it was not like there was much they could do about it. Claudia was 24-years-old. She had a job and was able to pay her own bills without having to rely on her parents for financial support. That was far more than many of her friends could say. The death of her mother had been enough of a blow to Lorna. She didn’t want to lose her daughter from her life, too.
Those secret visits ended after Claudia made her big announcement. She had come to her parents’ home one evening, begging to talk. After assuring her father that she was not drinking and was not looking for money, Claudia was allowed into the house. Matthew and Todd were out and so did not hear as their sister calmly explained her situation.
“I’m five months pregnant,” she said simply. “The father knows, and wants me to abort. He left when I refused, and I have not seen him in almost three months.”
No one said anything for a moment. Lorna watched as Wade’s anger colored his face and ears bright red. She rested her hand gently on his knee, but Wade pulled away.
“How could you?” he said to his daughter through clenched teeth. “How could you be so irresponsible? We raised you better than this!”
“I know,” Claudia said. “I know this is not what you wanted for my life, but I’m not going to apologize for it. God’s plans were not the same as ours.”
“Do not,” Lorna said coldly, “even attempt to talk to us about God’s plans. This was not His plan. He planned for marriage to come before physical pleasures. You are the one who perverted that plan.”
“I may have made a bad choice,” Claudia said. Lorna cringed as she watched her daughter rub the small bump in her midsection. “But this child is anything but a perversion.”
“A bad choice?” Lorna had shouted. “This was more than just a bad choice, Claudia. This is the worst mistake you could possibly make.”
“My baby,” Claudia said as calmly as she could, “is only as much of a mistake as you are.”
“How dare you!” Lorna’s anger got the better of her and she did something she had never done before. She slapped Claudia across the face.
Claudia, stunned, put a hand to her cheek. Tears filled her eyes. She opened her mouth to speak, but no words came out. Instead she picked up her jacket and her purse and ran from the house.
It was the last time she had been in the same room with her parents, let alone in their home.
Lorna felt a hand on her shoulder and jumped. She looked up to see her student teacher, Miss Keller, standing beside her.
“I didn’t mean to startle you, Mrs. Davis,” the younger woman said. “But the bell just rang for lunch.”
“Oh, right,” Lorna said in a daze. “I guess I didn’t hear it.”
“Are you OK?” Miss Keller asked. “Can I get you a glass of water or anything?”
“I’m fine,” Lorna snapped. “I just lost track of time.” Miss Keller jumped at the tone, her face almost an exact replica of Claudia’s after Lorna had slapped her. She sighed. “Sorry,” she said a little more gently. “It is just been a long day. Really, I will be OK.”
“If you are sure,” Miss Keller said slowly. Lorna nodded, and the young woman picked up her things. “I’m meeting a friend for lunch. I guess I’ll just see you in an hour or so.”
Lorna watched the girl walk out of the room. As soon as she was gone, Lorna was at the door, locking it. Then she leaned against it, slid to the floor, and let her tears fall.