"If you don't want to do this, we can turn around and head home, right now. We'll figure out something else."
The truck idled at the gate blocking the graded road. All he needed to do was power down the window and punch in the code. The gate would swing open. They would drive through, and the gate would close behind them. The last leg of the journey awaited her decision.
"I can't go back." In too many ways to count.
"I'm sorry, baby."
"I know." He'd used the endearment from the first day. During her teen years, she'd decided she'd grown out of it, until the accident. The night everything changed. Her parents' words of love and their prayers, for her, were the first things she remembered hearing. The unfaltering love of her family saw her through operations and physical therapy. "It's all right."
"No, it isn't. I would do anything..." She knew he usually withheld stating his own grief regarding her loss, not wanting her to feel the need to comfort him, but sometimes the weight was too heavy to bear alone.
"I know." She didn't want to be the one comforting others. She wanted to be comforted, but what could anyone say? Nothing.
"Would you like to pray?"
"Would you, please?"
Her dad's prayers always brought her comfort, though not because she believed anything would change. So many prayers had been offered and gone unanswered in any appreciable way. Her dad's prayers weren't elaborate or grandiose. He asked for things she didn't think about asking for but desperately needed, like asking God to help her remember she wasn't a burden. He also asked God to help her find a place where she would feel like she was a blessing.
The gate swung open, and they drove through. Jim focused on the road snaking through meadows and stands of evergreens, birch, and other deciduous trees. His jaw set and his hands firm on the steering wheel, Mindy didn't doubt for a moment he would do whatever she asked of him if it was within his power.
Words she never wanted to utter bubbled up her throat and out her mouth. "I know it isn't a pity job, but a part of me feels like it is. I shouldn't. It's ungrateful. I don't want to be in the way. I want to be useful. I don't want to be dependent..."
"I know this wasn't what you had in mind for a career."