Read The Atonement Online

Authors: Lawrence Cherry

Tags: #christian, #christian fiction, #atonement, #commencement, #africanamerican fiction, #lawrence cherry, #black christian fiction, #africanamerican christian ficiton, #reilgious fiction, #school of hard knocks

The Atonement

BOOK: The Atonement
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The Atonement

Smashwords Edition

Copyright 2015 Lawrence Cherry

 

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Published by SJS DIRECT Bronx NY, 10456

 

 

One

 

 

The sky grew dim as twilight approached, and
Allen quickened his pace as he neared the entrance of St. Luke’s
Hospital. He knew he was running late and he hoped that he had
enough time to make visiting hours and then jet over to his
contracts class at Columbia, which was going to start at 7:00 p.m.
Allen checked his watch. It was 6:30. “Kinda cutting it close,” he
thought to himself. “Next time, I’ll pick something up from Manna’s
instead of waiting for mom to fix something.”

Allen hustled through the doors and quickly
signed in at the desk where the clerk handed him a visitor’s pass.
Then he started to one of the elevator banks in the lobby.
Fortunately, the doors of one of the banks opened just as he
approached and he got on with several other people that had been
waiting. Someone had already pressed the button for the seventh
floor, which was where he was headed to see his best friend.

During the ride, the aroma of the soup he was
carrying seemed to fill the elevator. Allen checked his bag to make
sure the container wasn’t leaking. As he did so, his stomach seemed
to tighten and he didn’t know why. Jim had gotten past the worst
part of his recovery, and they had managed to reconcile their
friendship. Yet Allen could not help but feel a little uneasy when
he was in Jim’s presence. As much as Allen cared for Jim, he felt
as if there were an invisible wall between them. “It’s going to
take time,” he told himself. Just then the doors opened on the
seventh floor and he walked out and down the hall. “It’s going to
take time, but soon everything will be back to normal.”

As Allen got closer to the room, he could
hear that all too familiar high-pitched, clipped voice, mixing with
what sounded like Jim’s laughter. Hearing Jim laugh made him feel a
bit more relaxed, but Allen was hoping they could be alone. Maybe
then Jim would feel like he could talk to him. Then again, Allen
was afraid of what Jim might reveal.

“I see you got some company,” said Allen
after he poked his head into Jim’s hospital room. Jim was sitting
up and in good spirits, while Tamiko was sitting in a chair next to
his bed. The television was on, but it had been muted.

“That’s the trend lately,” said Jim.

Jim had been in the hospital for nearly two
weeks. For the first couple of days he laid in a coma in the
Intensive Care Unit before finally regaining consciousness. It
would be several more days after that before he left the ICU
altogether. Since then, he began a slow and sometimes uneven
recovery. There were times when Allen came to visit and Jim would
look great, but the next day he’d look like death. Lately, Jim
seemed to be making consistent progress. With each passing day
Allen could see that Jim looked better and stronger.

“Do you mind if I join the party?” asked
Allen.

“Not at all, pull up a seat,” said Jim.

“Hey, Allen” said Tamiko.

“Hey, yourself,” he said giving her a peck on
the cheek and sitting beside her. “Gossiping much?”

“I don’t gossip. Gossip is negative. I’ve
only been telling Jim about all the good things that have been
happening while he was away.”

“Mmmm-hmm, sure. Is that right, Jim?”

“Well, I didn’t hear nearly as much drama as
I’d hoped to, so I guess she’s right.”

“See.”

“Anyway, I didn’t think you’d still be here.
I thought you were going to the movies tonight,” said Allen.

“I am. In fact, now that you’re here, I think
this is the perfect time for me to make my exit. Take care, Jim.
I’ll see you tomorrow – oh, and I’ll bring the pictures I
promised,” she said before she planted a kiss on his forehead.

“Can’t wait,” said Jim.


Later, Al.”

“See you, Miko,” said Allen as she walked
out.

“How you doin’ today, man?”

“I’m still livin’. Can’t get no better than
that.”

“You look a lot better than you did
yesterday. You still having any pain?” Allen added out of concern.
He knew that Jim had been struggling with the after effects of the
surgery for the gunshot wounds.

“Not anymore. Whatever they puttin’ in that
IV drip is killin’ it.”

“Don’t let them give you too much of that
junk. You don’t want to end up addicted to it,” said Allen
instantly regretting his choice of words. “I mean too much of that
stuff could end up making you worse off.”

“I hear you. What you got there?” asked Jim
as he noticed the bag Allen had brought with him.

“Mamma’s homemade chicken noodle soup. It’s
still hot. You think you can handle it?”

“You know I can handle that.”

Allen moved the portable tray over to Jim’s
bed and set the soup out for him. He didn’t know how his friend
would manage with his right arm in a sling and his left leg in
traction. Jim took the spoon clumsily in his left hand and managed
several sloppy spoonfuls.

“You look like you could use some help.”

“Nah, I got it.”

After a few moments, Jim was able to orient
himself to the task at hand; however, Allen could see how hard Jim
had to work to do it. Jim had finished most of the soup before he
gave himself a rest. Allen was glad to see that his friend’s
appetite was coming back.

“That was even better than I remember. I’m
tellin’ you Allen, your mom doesn’t miss a thing. Good to know some
things haven’t changed.”

“Sometimes change can be a good thing.”

“Yeah. I guess. But it’s hard when you gotta
start over from scratch,” said Jim as he stirred his spoon in the
remnants of the soup at the bottom of the bowl.

“Hard, but not impossible. Especially if you
got some help, hint-hint.”

“I know. But I can’t expect everyone to stop
living their lives so they can help me.”

“C’mon, man. You’re an important part of all
our lives. We missed you.”

“I missed you guys, too. Didn’t realize how
lucky I was to have such good friends.”

There was an uncomfortable silence between
them for a moment before Jim spoke again.

“I’m sorry, Al.”

“Jim, you don’t have to go there again.”

“No, I do. I really messed up.”

Allen himself felt guilty about what happened
to Jim. When he learned that Jim was found near death in an
abandoned warehouse, Allen thought he would have a heart attack.
Then when Detective Ballard questioned him about what he knew of
Jim’s whereabouts and dealings, Allen had to admit that he hadn’t
seen or spoken to Jim in nearly two years. The realization of the
span of time stunned him. “How could I let nearly two years go by
without talking to my best friend – the man I grew up with and was
raised with?” Allen thought to himself at the time. Although he had
been praying daily for Jim, Allen couldn’t help but wonder if there
were something else that he could have done to prevent their
relationship from becoming estranged, and hence, what happened to
Jim. But then he realized he had done all that he could do.
Thankfully, his prayers had been answered, and now, they had the
chance to start over.

“We’ve all made mistakes. I know I’ve made
quite a few.”

“Have you ever felt that you’ve gone, too
far?”

“The only time you’ve gone too far is when
you can’t feel sorry and you’ve expressed that already.”

“I don’t know, man.”

“Look, Jim, whatever happened is done and
over with. I’m not holding anything against you and neither is
anyone else. Let’s just put the past behind us and move
forward.”

Allen looked at the muted TV screen that was
playing before them as silence took over again. He didn’t like the
awkwardness that had started to develop between them. Allen knew
what was causing it. It was the questions that loomed around them
and all the things that had been left unspoken.

At times Allen couldn’t help but wonder how
Jim ended up here. Pastor Bynum suggested that no one question Jim
or bring up the circumstances surrounding Jim’s hospitalization
until he was stronger. Even then, everyone agreed that it would be
best if they let Jim bring up the subject first, which would
indicate that he was finally ready to discuss his ordeal. Allen
thought this was a prudent thing to do because he didn’t want to
stress Jim out and cause him to have a set back with regard to his
physical health. They also agreed that it wouldn’t be worth it to
risk alienating Jim during such a vulnerable period in his life. In
the meantime, there were a lot of questions that went unanswered.
What was Jim doing at that warehouse? How did he end up in such a
situation? Detective Ballard said there was another man in the
warehouse that had been shot dead. Had Jim killed him? If so, why?
Was it self-defense? The doctors discovered drugs in Jim’s system:
opiates, and barbiturates. Did Jim get caught up in a drug buy gone
wrong? These were the questions that sauntered around Allen’s mind.
Back at home, everyone was speculating about what could’ve
happened, but only Jim held the answers and he still hadn’t said
anything – to most of them at least.

Not long after Jim had regained
consciousness, the police came to the hospital to question him.
Allen didn’t know what was said because only Detective Ballard,
another officer, Vernon, and the lawyer he had gotten for Jim, were
present. Vernon hadn’t told anyone what had transpired, with the
exception of Lena, and neither of them had told Allen anything. The
only thing Jim ever said to Allen was that he was sorry. Allen
could remember the first time Jim spoke. He just kept saying, ‘I’m
sorry’ over and over again. It made Allen think that maybe he
didn’t want to know everything, and that perhaps everyone would be
better off if Jim never said anything about what happened. The
investigation seemed to be over and it wasn’t like Jim had been
implicated in anything. It would be best to let the past stay where
it was. Allen only hoped that, whatever happened, the experience
left Jim with a wiser perspective of things than he’d had
before.


I see you got the Word
Network on,” said Allen, trying to get some conversation going
between them again.


Yeah. I been thinkin’ if
anybody need the Word, it’s me.”


You really mean
that?”


Yeah. I do.”


If anybody can help you, He
can.”


I know. He already
has.”

Jim smiled at Allen, who smiled right
back.


Does this mean we’ll see
you back at church in the near future?” asked Allen.


I guess you could say
that.”


Good. I’ll dust off your
old spot in the pew.”


You sure there’s still
room? I mean with Tim, the handyman, and the hundred other people
you and Miko done dragged up in there by now.”


There aren’t that many new
faces – and he’s not the handyman. His name is Davis.”


Yes, of course. How could I
forget? Especially with the way Miko goes on about him. But since
they’re an item now, that’s probably to be expected.”


Wait a minute, hold up –
Miko told you she was dating Davis?”


She didn’t come out and say
it, but with the way she was talking, I just assumed she was. Isn’t
she going out with him tonight? She’s dressed up like
it.”


Here we go,” said Allen
rubbing his palm across his face. “It’s not a date. She’s not
seeing him.”


So what is she doing with
him?”


Making a fool of
herself.”


Don’t tell me she’s chasing
him.”


It’s so embarrassing, I’m
not sure if I even want to talk about it. It’s like she’s lost her
mind.”


This is certainly a first.
He must be putting down some kind of vibe to have Miko wound up
like that. You sure he’s not an undercover player in
disguise.”


Trust me – Davis is
definitely not a player from what I can see, and I don’t think he’s
done anything to lead her on. In fact, I think he’s been very
patient through everything she’s been putting him through, but
lately I can tell that Miko is starting to get on his nerves. As a
matter of fact, her obsession with Davis is starting to get on my
nerves. If I’m alone with the brother for five minutes, in the next
five she’ll be all up in my face asking me if he said anything
about her.”

BOOK: The Atonement
6.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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