Riley shuddered; she rubbed the sleep out of her eyes. She was disconcerted; she tried to remember her nightmare that had given her chills on this bright, sunny day.
She glanced at the clock. It was 7:30. The house felt empty, but Dad should be home. She peeked into her parents’ bedroom. The bed wasn’t made; pajamas were tossed on the floor.
In the kitchen, there was no evidence of breakfast. Riley glanced out the window, Dad’s car was gone, but Mom’s was here. Her mind started racing to the what-ifs. Riley was a well-known worrywart.
She worried most about Grandma. When Riley was little, Grandma read her the same book over and over; she never skipped any pages. She baked the best goodies in the world, and was Riley’s partner whenever they played Euchre.
Once, Riley asked Mom why Grandma never said I love you. Mom explained it was because she was from the old-world. She had lived for 82 years without saying it. Mom encouraged Riley to keep trying, but so far, no I love you.
Riley couldn’t shake the vibe that something was wrong with Grandma. In the past, Riley had let her fears make a fool out of her. Once, she knocked on Grandma’s screen door and heard a high-pitched squeal. She sprinted to Aunt Rosie’s farmhouse; positive someone had broken in and was trying to impersonate Grandma. But Grandma wasn’t even home; the plumber was there fixing her sink. Then, there was the time she’d heard whispering, and Grandma wouldn’t unlock the door. She told her brother, Bill. He grabbed a gun and drove to Grandma’s. She'd been praying, and didn’t hear Riley’s knock because she hadn’t put her hearing aid in yet.
Eventually, Riley pushed her fears aside; she was chatting on the phone when Mom and Dad walked in. The handset clunked to the floor. Her heart pounded. Neither Mom nor Dad was smiling. Mom had been crying and Dad was pale. “I knew something was wrong! I should have followed my instincts.”
Mom hugged her teen daughter. “Last night around two, someone knocked on Grandma’s door. She ignored it. Then she saw a flashlight poking through the screen door. She could see someone inside the house. She got out of bed, ran outside, and screamed her lungs off. He tackled her in the yard.”
Riley started to cry. Her biggest fear was that something horrific happened to Grandma. Mom cradled Riley in her arms and gently rocked her. “She’s rattled, but not injured. He was on top of her, but she kept screaming. He pulled her nightgown off; she could feel him trying to penetrate her. Thank God, the dogs heard them and chased him away.”
“Poor Grandma, she must have been terrified. I knew something was wrong.”
“Well, Grandma is a feisty, old lady; she sat in her rocking chair for three hours. She didn’t want to wake us. Finally, she called and gave us the details. I realized it had happened about the same time that Bill got home. Dad went and asked him if he’d seen anything strange. He remembered seeing Dave’s car; he figured he was parking with his girlfriend. The trooper went to Dave’s house; he was getting ready to go to work on the farm. He confessed to everything. His excuse was he’d taken acid.”
Mom told the story as she and Riley drove to Grandma's. “I need to see Grandma.” Riley sobbed when she saw the hole in the screen where he'd broken in. “I used to flirt with Dave; now I’m repulsed by him.”
Riley shuddered when she saw the bags under Grandma’s eyes. “Why didn’t you call right away? You must’ve been terrified.”
She held up her rosary beads. “I prayed; I was never alone.”
Riley shook her head, “I hope he rots in jail. I hate him and I’ll never forgive him.”
Grandma cupped her face in her hands. “It’s not our job to judge. He’s coming back to the farm after he gets out of jail.”
Riley jumped up; disgust oozed out of every pore. “How can you let him work here again?”
Mom whispered, “If Grandma can forgive him, so can you.” Riley knew she’d never forgive him.
She hugged Grandma, “I love you.”
Grandma held Riley close; she kissed her forehead. “I love you, too.”
Riley was the only person who had ever heard those words from Grandma. Maybe, for Grandma, she’d try to forgive, too.
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