Circles of Fate
by Pamela S. Thibodeaux
* EXCERPT *
Todd Jameson paced the tiny room. One moment he cursed his luck and in the next, wished he’d died in the confrontation. He hadn’t even been shot at! He’d given up…just like the failure his father always accused him of being. Even the truth of why he gave up didn’t ease the sting of guilt.
He plopped into a chair, buried his face in hands that shook. The hair on the back of his neck prickled. Instinct—well-honed by years of life with his father—put him on alert. From somewhere, someone watched. Hidden eyes bore into him.
And it was more than the stupid security cameras in every corner.
He kicked at the chair across from him, muttered a curse and resumed his trek back and forth across the scuffed hardwood. Sunlight filtered in through the dirty window but offered little warmth. Dust danced in the air, stifling his breath. Fear gripped his chest. What was going on and why in the world did it take so long? His court-appointed attorney had said he would try and plea bargain, but for what? One thing was certain, dear old dad would not have to worry anymore. He’d never worry again.
As if he ever had.
The bitter thought twisted Todd’s gut. He glanced in the mirror, saw and detested the panic in his eyes. More of the same crawled up his spine. If the wait and the wondering didn’t drive him mad, fear and guilt would. He spun on his heel and fought the urge to smash a chair into the glass.
What would happen now?
He stopped mid-pace and turned when the door opened, ushering in a quiet air of authority, along with a man he’d never seen before. The stranger strode to the table and, without a word, gestured for him to sit. Todd hesitated. “No, thanks. I’ll stand.”
The man took a deep breath and nodded. He strolled across the room toward Todd and extended a hand. “I’m Darrell Champagne.”
Again Todd hesitated, confused by the show of courtesy. Understanding and compassion radiated from the gentleman, encouraging a response. He reached out to shake the proffered hand. “Todd Jameson.”
“Nice to meet you, Todd. I’ve been sent in to talk with you. Your attorney has bargained your case, contingent upon the choice you make, of course, and I’m here to offer you a deal. But first, I’d like to ask a question.”
Todd’s guard slipped into place against any more interrogation. Every fiber of his being screamed for him to bolt. Run as fast as you can! He stiffened, ground his teeth, and held his ground.
“Why did you attempt to rob that liquor store?”
Todd averted his gaze and swallowed the humiliation clogging his throat. “You have the report.”
“I want to hear it from you.”
Todd walked to the other side of the room, questions ricocheting in his head. Will he believe me? Would it matter? He took a deep breath, squared his shoulders, and looked Darrell straight in the eye.
“To pay for my father’s burial.”
“Why do you think you failed?”
He lifted his chin, unable to prevent the anger that colored his tone. “Because I gave up without a fight. I was outnumbered and I’m not ready to die.” Todd allowed his defiant gaze to meet the other man’s calm one. “You might call that chicken. I know my father would. The whole idea was stupid and never would have worked anyway. The gun wasn’t even loaded.”
Darrell moved to where Todd stood and put a hand on his shoulder.
“I don’t call that chicken, Todd. I call it smart. Thank you for your honesty. Now let’s talk about your options.”
They strode toward the table and sat while Darrell outlined the contingency terms the court offered. Despair, hope, and fear collided in Todd’s chest. “You call that a choice? Going off to some godforsaken country to fight in a stupid war I know nothing about—and believe in even less?”
“It’s more of a choice than you have now. It’s a chance at a future.”
“It’s a chance at death.” Todd’s jaw clenched. “I just passed up one of those. I’m not interested in another.”
Darrell took a deep breath, closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose as though considering his next move. When he addressed Todd again, his gaze was solemn and honest, his voice soft.
“Believe me, Todd. We don’t make a habit of sending babies to war. Some of them do go, but it’s their choice, though only God knows why they make that decision. In your case, however, consider this: If you go…and should you die, your death would be far more honorable than the one you face now if you are convicted and go to prison.”
Fear hammered in Todd’s chest, belied the sneer on his face. “You mean death before dishonor and all that crap?”
Darrell’s eyes flashed at the statement but he never lost his cool. “No, I mean honor, and life. I can promise you will not go to war anytime soon. I’m not saying never, but at least not until you’re eighteen or older. The year or more will give you a chance at a life with some honor and respect.” He put his hand on Todd’s shoulder once more. “Has anyone ever talked to you about God?”
Todd jerked away. His chair scraped the floor and almost toppled over when he got up, fists clenched, jaw rigid. His breath heaved out in short bursts. He glared down at Darrell. “There’s no such thing as God. No one, God or otherwise, would take a three-year-old’s mother and leave him alone with an abusive, alcoholic father.”
“You’re right, Todd.” Darrell’s quiet tone never changed. “But you see, God didn’t make those choices. People did. And He’s kept you alive until you got into a position to listen, really listen, when someone tried to tell you about Him and how much He loves you. I know others have tried, haven’t they?”
Not waiting for a reply, Darrell continued to deliver his message, a message of hope and faith.
Given little choice, Todd listened to what the Army Chaplain had to say. Whether he believed him or not, he took the bait, he took the chance.
A chance at life.
He joined the Army.
Award-winning author Pamela S. Thibodeaux is the co-founder and a lifetime member of Bayou Writers Group in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Multi-published in romantic fiction as well as creative non-fiction, her writing has been tagged as “Inspirational with an Edge!” and reviewed as “steamier and grittier than the typical Christian novel without decreasing the message.” Find out more by visiting Pam’s Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/1jUVcdU.