Substitute Family Chapter 3

Chapter Three

Emily left Garret’s house and drove across the city to the suburb where her aunt and uncle lived. They had a basement apartment with a separate entrance that she was using this week. Although she had told Peg not to bother, her aunt had cleaned up the apartment last night after she got home from the hospital and put fresh linens on the bed. Emily went downstairs first and changed her clothes. It had been early morning when Cody’s wet diaper had leaked onto her blouse, but the odor had followed her all day. She was quick to change into a fresh T-shirt and shorts.

            She went upstairs into the main part of the house. The basement stairs opened into the kitchen. Her aunt stood next to the island.

“Hello,” Emily called out.

Peg turned away from the onions she was dicing and smiled at Emily. “Oh, hi, Emily. How did your day go with the twins? Aren’t they precious?”

            There was only one right answer, Emily realized. “Everything went well. Your schedule helped out a lot. And they are cuties. I really enjoyed spending time with them.”

            “Did Chloe ever stop crying?” Peg asked.

            “Not really. She cried whenever I put her down.” It had been a long, frustrating day.

            “She’s real clingy. I’ve gotten her to the point where she goes off by herself and plays. Then it seems she regresses to wanting to be held all the time. I think that’s all Garret does with her.”

            And there it was. It had only taken two minutes for the negative comments about Garret’s parenting abilities, or Peg’s way of thinking, his inabilities, to be criticized.

            “You’re home a little earlier than I thought you would be,” Peg said.

            “He came home at five-thirty.”

            Peg’s lips twisted. “Don’t get used to it. He works a lot of overtime. I think he does it so he doesn’t have to take care of the kids. His mom comes over every Saturday so he can go to the office and work.”

            Garret had told Emily that he was working on a big project that required overtime. Emily was about to defend Garret, but then she realized she did not want to make Peg angry. Instead, she walked over to the kitchen island. “What are you making for supper?”

            “I have a taco salad in the refrigerator for us. I’m making chicken noodle soup for Dan. You can have some of that too, when it’s done, if you would like.”

            “I love your taco salad. Do you mind if I grab a soda?”

            “Of course not. This is your second home, you know.”

            Emily did know. She had spent a lot of time here when she and Julie, and Julie’s younger sister, were growing up. Her mom had worked full-time, so during summer vacations Emily stayed with her cousins for weeks at a time.

            “How’s Melanie doing?” Emily asked about Julie’s sister.

            “She’s very uncomfortable and anxious for this baby to come.”

            “She’s due in a couple of weeks, isn’t she?”

            “Yes, and we’ll all be glad when this new one is born. It will give us some joy to replace our loss.”

           Emily was aware that Peg still felt the loss of Julie like it was yesterday. That’s what Emily’s mom, Peg’s sister, said, anyway. Peg was still angry at the drunk driver, and had felt like his five-year prison term was not long enough.

***

Emily continued to watch the twins all week. Every day felt like the same day, over and over again. She got through it, but by Friday she was tired when she arrived at Garret’s house.

She’d miss spending time with the twins, but it was a relief that her temporary babysitting job was done.

That relief was short-lived.

Peg took Dan to a doctor’s appointment in the forenoon. She called Emily after the appointment.

            “I have some bad news,” Peg said.

            “Go ahead and tell me.”

            “The doctor doesn’t want Dan putting any weight on his leg yet. I don’t think he is going to be able to get himself around at all.”

            “Do you want me to stay and babysit next week so you can take care of him?”

            “Would you mind?”

            Would Emily mind another week of long days wiping sticky faces, cleaning up milk spills, and changing dirty diapers? Maybe. Would she mind another week of cuddling with two sweet little toddlers who had their mother’s blue eyes?

            “I don’t mind at all.”

            When Emily told Garret that evening that she would be babysitting for another week, he was surprised.

            “So Peg is actually taking another week off?”

            “I don’t think she feels like she had a choice.”

            He grinned.

            “What’s so funny?” Emily asked.

            “I’ve been needing a break from Peg’s nagging and complaining.”

            “I can nag and complain if you are missing it.” Emily thought he might smile, but his expression was one of defeat.

            “It’s gotten to the point where I almost can’t stand to spend time with her.”

“Oh, you’re serious.” She reached out and touched his arm. When he glanced down at it, she pulled it back.

             “It’s pretty tense between us,” Garret said. “I’ve got this major project going on right now, and I just needed a break from the stress so I could concentrate.”

            “I guess that was an answer to prayer.”

            “Dan’s falling and breaking his leg was an answer to prayer?” Garret asked with sarcasm in his tone.

            “It sounds funny when you put it like that. But God works in all things—”


            “For the good of them that love the Lord and are called according to His purpose,” Garret finished the sentence. “I know the verse, Emily. I understand the concept. I’m just not sure I believe it anymore.”

            Garret’s dark words haunted Emily as she drove back to her aunt’s house. Garret’s faith had always been strong. He’d made a decision to follow Jesus during his sophomore year of high school. From that time forward, he’d put his faith first in his life, attending a Christian college, where he’d met Julie. They’d been faithful in church attendance, but she knew he hadn’t gone since Julie passed away.

            She would start praying for him to return to church, Emily decided.

            When she got back to Peg’s house, she found her aunt and uncle sitting in the living room, talking.

            “Hi, Emily. I decided to order pizza tonight.”

            Peg never ordered pizza.

            “What’s the occasion?” Emily asked.

            “I’ve had a vacation this week, from watching the grandkids. I decided I might as well take the night off from cooking.”

            “I think she works harder taking care of me than she does the grandkids,” Dan said. “She won’t sit down and relax. I made her order the pizza.”

            Peg looked flustered.

            Emily smiled. She was glad to be able to give Peg some relief. “Well, you’ll have another week of vacation.”

            “Are you sure you don’t mind?” Peg asked again, as she had over the phone. 

            Emily’s answer was the same. “I’m sure I don’t mind. They are a joy to spend time with.”

            Peg’s mouth turned down. “Maybe that’s my problem. Maybe I’ve lost the joy of taking care of them.”

            “Maybe you just needed a break,” Emily said.

            “I’m the one who got the break,” Dan said, lifting his foot slightly off the pillow.

            His joke got a laugh out of Peg and Emily both.

            The pizza was delivered and they ate it in the living room, which was usually unheard of in Peg’s house.

Peg ate one piece of pizza, then set her plate aside. “I miss Chloe and Cody. I wonder if Garret would let me bring them over here tomorrow.”

            “His mom is supposed to come tomorrow, but maybe she wouldn’t have to if we brought the twins over here for a couple of hours,” Emily said, including herself in the “we.” Maybe Peg wouldn’t feel so overwhelmed if she knew she could count on Emily to help.

            “I thought you would be driving home tonight. You have church on Sunday.”

            “I thought if it’s all right with you I would attend church with you this Sunday. I haven’t been there for a while, and I enjoy it when I go.”

            In truth, she enjoyed the larger city church more than she did the small country church of the same denomination that she’d attended all of her life. It didn’t hurt to see some new faces, meet some new people. She had to mentally kick herself to stop daydreaming about finding a husband. She was twenty-nine now. As she grew older, she found it harder to find single guys of a marriageable age who were faith-filled Christians.

End of Chapter 3.

Come back next week, March 27, and read Chapter 4 of Substitute Family.

Published by Carol Underhill

Author of Christian romance. Mom to 3 adult children and a spoiled Lab. Household includes several rescued cats. Loves flavored coffees and quiet mornings. Likes finding new authors on Kindle and binge reading all their books.

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