| Jason parked his car outside the run-down building. He really didn't like this part of town, and he remembered pleading with Lynne not to bring Autumn to this area, to leave her at home with a baby-sitter. There were many times when he would cancel meetings to stay home with Autumn, only to find them gone. I don't have time to dwell on these things, he thought, as he walked toward the bar. This used to be Lynne's favorite watering hole. Jason thought about praying, like Autumn had done.
"Listen here God. If all that stuff Autumn says it true, then You'll help us. She says You'll actually hear me, so please let me find Lynne here unharmed. Oh God...you know that Autumn doesn't need to deal with this anymore!" He stopped and reached outthe for the door handle. Jason took a deep breath and opened the door. Sure enough, he heard Lynne's voice right away.
"Jason!" she said, clearly surprised.
"Oh, so you're back," said her best friend, Becky.
"I haven't done this since you left...I mean...well, maybe occasionally, but I just got so stressed. You understand, Jason!" Her words tumbled out of her mouth, and she didn't stop for a breath.
"I understand that you haven't changed, like I thought you had, that's what your daughter is praying for. She is dying, yet she's still praying for you!" All of the bitterness, anger and resentment he had held back for so long finally burst forth.
"You don't deserve her!" he finished.
"Well, you're not a perfect father!" All of Lynne's previous revelations were gone, she was no longer apologetic, and words of hatred and accusations rose from deep within her. "You left us, when Autumn needed you most! You're a self-centered..."
"It's not worth it, Lynne. You don't want to get into any more trouble." Becky tried to restrain her.
"No, I won't let you get away with this, Jason! You left us, and we have struggled..I don't know how I'm going to pay Autumn's medical bills, and it's not like you're helping!"
"Autumn struggled because you spent the money that was meant for her on your evil habits."
"I...I have tried to stop. I truly have, but when you came back...I just couldn't handle anymore..." Lynne rearranged her face into a most effective pout...at least it would have been effective, had Jason not known what was behind that mask.
"Your mask may have fooled everyone else: the doctors, Jamison, the nurses, but you're not going to fool me, and Autumn knows the truth."
"Jamison...what a sweet boy. He has willingly allowed me to use the money from his part-time job to help pay for Autumn's medical..."
"Oh, and what have you really been using it for?" Lynne couldn't hide her guilt.
"I really didn't mean for things to turn out this way, Jason. Please don't tell Autumn what's going on here tonight. I don't want her to worry--"
"Well, you should have thought of that before you got plastered."
"and whatever you do, please don't tell the doctors and nurses, Jason! Oh, and don't tell Jamison! They all know I'm a good mother, and if they know that I slip occasionally, they won't...Hey, where are you going?" Jason could feel his anger rising, and he didn't want to do something he'd regret.
"And don't let Autumn tell either!" Lynne screamed after him. He slammed the door behind him in great disgust, jogged across the parking lot, and jumped into his car. Where should he go? What should he do? He wanted to go back to the hospital, but he wasn't in a proper state of mind to do that. He wanted to go back to his hotel to sort things out...and to get some sleep, but he didn't want Autumn to worry. Okay God, Autumn says You'll hear me, so here I go again. I didn't mean to get so angry, I just can't stand the way she treats Autumn. She is only sixteen, and she's dying...God, I don't know what to do. Just then, Jason heard his phone ring.
"Hey, maybe God does answer prayer," he muttered as he looked at the caller ID.
"Dad?" Autumn's frantic voice greted him before he got a chance to speak.
"Where is Mom? Is she...?"
"Yeah, she is."
"Oh no! this has been too stressful for her! I should have known this would happen, and it's all my fault!"
"No, it's not, Autumn. She just doesn't know any other way to deal with it...I'll be there as soon as possible." He made an instantaneous decision, his emotions could be expressed later. Autumn needed him, and he wouldn't let her down again.
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