An excerpt from The Peacegiver, published by Deseret Book.
The family room was a disaster. Anika and Lauren were watching cartoons. They had made a bed in the middle of the floor with the pillows from both couches. The reading chair, which had been turned upside down, was the center support for a large tent that utilized at least five blankets and covered the far half of the room. Puzzle pieces-Anika’s favorite pastime-were strewn all around the floor and into the kitchen.
“Hi, girls. Kind of messy, huh?”
They stayed glued to the TV and said nothing.
“Anika, good morning.”
She still didn’t turn from the TV.
“Did you sleep well?”
Still 100 percent program.
“Where are the boys?”
“Anika! The boys-where are they?”
“Downstairs,” she answered, her eyes glazed over.
Anika had yet to even look at him, but Lauren turned and flashed him her big, mischievous grin. “Hi, Daddy.”
Rick couldn’t help but smile. “Hi, sweetheart. Sleep well?”
“Uh huh.” She raised her eyebrows, turned her eyes sideways and up in their sockets (all without moving her head), and looked up toward the ceiling.
“Do you remember coming in to me last night?”
“Yep.” Her little tongue almost poked through her cheek.
Rick just laughed. No one could say so much while saying so little.
“I’m going to go find the boys, okay, honey?”
“Okay, Daddy,” she said brightly, before whirling her head back to the TV. “I’m going to watch my show.” Rick descended the basement stairs, chuckling to himself.
Alan and Eric were seated directly in front of the basement TV playing video games.
“Hi, Dad,” they said, almost in unison. Like Anika, they kept their eyes glued to the screen.
“I’ve got you now!” Alan blurted to Eric.
“Do you know where Mom is?” Rick interrupted.
“She’s over at the Murrays’.”
“What’s she doing over there?”
“Oh! I can’t believe that! That’s not fair!” Alan yelled, elbowing Eric, who was smiling in satisfaction.
“Alan, what’s she doing over there?” Rick repeated.
“They needed their children watched or something for awhile,” he answered as if on autopilot. “I think Mr. and Mrs. Murray had to go to the airport or something.
“Take that!” he added to Eric, punctuating his words with a jerk of his controls.
The Murrays were always needing something, Rick thought to himself. And Carol could never say “No,” so she did more than her share for them-more than she should do for them. And very often more than she seemed willing to do for him, he thought.
“So who’s winning?” Rick asked.
“I am!” each shouted in unison.
“I get the winner.”
An hour or so later Rick could hear Carol’s footsteps on the kitchen floor upstairs. “We’d better finish up here, guys. Mom’s home.”
As Rick climbed the stairs he felt a little apprehensive, although he wasn’t sure why. He had thought he wanted to see her, but he could already feel himself wanting to avoid her eyes. He had to force a smile a little when he entered the kitchen.
“Hi, Carol,” he said, unable to call her “honey” or “hun,” as were their common expressions for each other.
“So you were at the Murrays’?”
“Yes. They called last night and needed help.”
Rick just nodded.
“I couldn’t do anything about it, Rick. They needed help.”
“I didn’t say they didn’t.”
“No, but you were thinking it.”
“No, I wasn’t,” Rick lied. “But they always seem to call you, don’t they?”
“So? I think we should be more thoughtful of others than we are.”
They were only twenty seconds into their day together and Rick, despite all the epiphanies of the night before, could feel many of his standard feelings bubbling up inside of him. “So I don’t meet your standard of thoughtfulness either.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“On the contrary, you couldn’t have been more clear.”
Carol shook her head in disgust.
Meanwhile, Alan and Eric had hesitated on the top stair as they heard their parents. They now entered the room softly and walked over to join their sisters in the family room.
“What’s your problem, Rick?” she blurted, once the boys had seated themselves in the other room.
“Oh, you’re a piece of work, Carol. It’s always my problem, isn’t it? I’m never good enough, am I?”
“I didn’t say that. Quit saying that.”
“If you don’t like hearing it, how do you think I feel?”
“I have no idea how you feel,” she snapped. “You never tell me. If I didn’t bring things up, I swear we’d never talk.”
“If this is what you mean by talking, we’re probably better off not doing it, don’t you think?”
At that, Carol stormed up the stairs.
Rick stood in the kitchen, his hands quivering with rage, his heart again mired in despair.
Copyright Deseret Book Company. Used with permission.