Lisa’s boyfriend Mark was found guilty of assault and was sentenced to six months in jail. Becca, Mike and I all testified at the trial, as did the doctor who had treated Lisa after her admittance to hospital. As a witness, I was absent from the courtroom while Lisa told her story, but I could tell when I saw her sitting beside Wendy that it had not been an easy experience for her. I had never met Mark before, nor had I seen so much as a photograph of him. In my mind, I had pictured him as a younger version of Mickey Kingsley, so I was surprised when I found myself looking across the courtroom at a well dressed, neatly groomed young man of about Lisa’s age, with a good-looking face and curly blond hair. I remembered what Lisa had said about how good Mark had been to her most of the time, and I could well understand her attraction to him.
That evening after supper, Wendy and Lisa came up to our house for a drink. I brought out a rarely opened bottle of Scotch, and we sat together in the living room, sipping Glenlivet and talking quietly. Emma joined us, although she was not a fan of Scotch and preferred to drink hot chocolate. Lisa and Wendy sat on the couch with their feet up on the coffee table, and Emma and I sat in our armchairs on either side of the gas fireplace. We were all thinking about the trial, but we instinctively avoided talking about it, knowing that Lisa would find it far too painful. We talked about summer plans; Lisa was going to look for a job in the Oxford area, and Wendy and Colin were going to spend some time in Chelmsford and some time at a cottage in south Wales; they had been going there for several years, Wendy explained, and she enjoyed the proximity to both the beach at Tenby and also to some beautiful countryside for walking.
“What about you two?” Lisa asked quietly; “Have you got any plans?”
“It depends on how Grandpa’s doing”, Emma replied.
“I suppose so – sorry”.
“We might have company coming for part of the summer”, Emma continued. “My Uncle Joe and Auntie Ellie, and my cousins Jake and Jenna, might be coming at the end of June, and they’re hoping to persuade my grandparents to come with them”.
“Have they been to England before?” Lisa asked.
“Uncle Joe and his family have; they came here with us seven years ago”.
“I suppose you really can’t make any definite travel plans, can you?”
“No – but they understand about that”.
We lapsed into silence for a few minutes, sipping our drinks. Eventually Wendy looked at me and said, “You’ve got a holiday coming up soon, haven’t you?”
“Yes, in a couple of weeks”.
“Have you got plans?”
“Well, if nothing comes up with my Dad, I may be making a trip to London”.
I nodded; “Mickey wants to talk with me”.
Lisa’s head came up and she gave me a withering glance; “You’re going to meet Mickey?”
“Because he wants to talk”.
“About my attitude toward him and Colin”.
Wendy frowned; “What do you mean, Tom?” she asked.
“He called me a few days ago, after he found out that his petition had been denied. He was really angry, and I suppose I was the only one he could ring up without any legal consequences”.
“What did he want?”
“I wasn’t really sure at first; it seemed as if all he wanted to do was vent his spleen. But eventually he told me he had this idea that at some point in the future he and Colin could have some sort of relationship again, and he hoped I wouldn’t try to prevent that from happening”.
“How would you be able to do that?” Lisa asked.
“Well, he seems to have realized that your mum and I have some sort of relationship developing”.
“And you think that gives you the right to decisions on Colin’s behalf, do you?” she demanded.
“Not at all”, I replied, “but apparently Mickey does”.
“So what did you say to him?” Wendy asked.
“Well, at first I told him that he was asking me to do something I’d already done; I told him I’d initially seen no harm in the idea of Colin being able to go down and visit him in hospital if that was what he wanted to do. I told him I’d only changed my mind about it when I saw that Colin really didn’t want to visit him, and that Lisa was terrified of the idea of the court order being relaxed. When he heard that I’d changed my mind about that, he got very upset and hung up on me”.
“Well, that’s encouraging!” Lisa said sarcastically.
“That’s pretty well what I told him”, I replied. “He called me back a few minutes later, and I told him that if he couldn’t even keep his temper talking to me on the phone, it was unlikely that I was going to be able to advise anyone to give him the benefit of the doubt”.
“Now that’s more like it!”
“Well, he pushed me a bit more, and asked me if we could talk to each other about it face to face; he said he wanted to have a ‘man to man’ discussion about it. I told him I thought that phrase was a bit archaic, and that nowadays if women are part of the situation we tend to include them in the discussion. He seemed to really want to meet, and I told him I’d get back to him about it”.
“Have you?” Wendy asked.
“No, not yet. He’s called me a couple of times, but since I told him not to do that, I’ve ignored the calls. The messages he’s leaving on my answering machine are getting a little impatient”.
“So what are you going to do?” Lisa asked.
“I’m inclined to agree to meet him”.
“Why?” she demanded.
“Because I think I should be willing to try to help him if he’s genuinely asking for help, and because I’m not in any danger from him”.
“You mean, you hope you aren’t”.
“If he really is hoping to rebuild his relationship with Colin, I can’t see him jeopardizing that by getting violent with me – can you?”
Wendy nodded sadly; “I’m afraid I can”, she said softly. “Violence isn’t a rational response for him; it comes from out of nowhere and takes over without warning. Please be careful – be very, very careful, all right?”
“I’ll be careful”. I frowned; “Would you rather I said no to him?”
“I think you should stay right away from him”, Lisa interjected; “I can’t believe you’re even considering this”.
“And what do you think”, I asked Wendy.
She shook her head slowly. “I really don’t know what to think. Obviously there’s a strong imperative toward reconciliation and loving your enemies in your beliefs, but you told me last week that wisdom is a Christian virtue, too. Is this a wise thing to do, Tom?”
“Well, if I’m going to continue to be part of your life in any way, obviously I’m going to have to figure out how to relate to Mickey. All things being equal, I’d rather that relationship was a peaceful one. It may not be possible for it to be peaceful, but I won’t know if I don’t try, will I?”
Lisa shook her head angrily. “Relationships with Mickey can’t be peaceful; don’t you understand that? Doesn’t our experience count for anything with you?”
“Of course it counts for something”, I replied, doing my best to keep my voice even. “Please don’t think that I was bending over backwards to do what he wanted me to do; I told him exactly how I felt, and that’s not going to change”.
“Then what’s the point of going to see him?”
“Because I think an open and friendly communication line between Mickey and me would be a good thing”.
“You want to be Mickey’s friend?”
Wendy put her hand on Lisa’s arm. “Be fair, love; he said ‘friendly’, not ‘friend’. There’s a difference”.
“Oh yes – I’m sure Mickey will be able to tell the difference!”, she exclaimed.
I put my glass down on the end table beside my chair. “Look, Lisa”, I said slowly, “there’s nothing I’m going to do or say with Mickey that’s going to put either you, your mum, or Colin in any kind of danger. As you’ve quite correctly pointed out, I’m not in any sort of position to be able to tell Colin what to do or what not to do – or you, for that matter. And if you’re afraid of any sort of disloyalty on my part, put your mind at rest; I’ve already refused several times to talk about you and your mum with him behind your back”.
“So what’s the point of going to see him at all? I can’t understand why you think it’s worthwhile”.
Emma had been listening quietly to the conversation, cupping her mug of hot chocolate in her hands and taking occasional sips from it. Now she leaned forward in her chair and spoke in her usual quiet voice. “It’s because Jesus told us to love our enemies and pray for those who hate us”, she said.
Lisa shook her head angrily at me; “It’s really reassuring to me that you’re planning to love the bastard who broke my Mum’s jaw and gave me a concussion! I feel really safe with you, knowing you’re about to get so cozy with him”. She got to her feet; “Mum, I want to go home; it’s getting too insane around here for me”. She turned on her heel and went out to the porch, grabbing her coat from the coat hook and turning her back on us as she put it on.
Wendy pursed her lips and looked at me. “It looks like we’re going home”, she said, getting to her feet. “I’ll ring you later, all right?”
Lisa was already storming out of the front door, slamming it shut behind her. I followed Wendy to the porch and helped her on with her coat; she turned to me, reached up and kissed me. “Thanks, Tom”, she said quietly.
“Listen, I’m really sorry…”
“No; I know you mean well, but for Lisa it’s a whole different way of approaching life. You need to give her some time to think about it”.
“I’d better go; I’ll ring you later”.
“Right”. I hugged her briefly, then watched as she opened the front door, walked down the little driveway and climbed into her car.
Emma joined me in the doorway and we stood there together as Wendy started the car, pulled away from the curb, and drove off down the street. “Looks like I said the wrong thing”, she said; “Sorry, Dad”.
“No, Em, you said the right thing”. I put my arm around her and hugged her gently. “Enough Scotch for me tonight; I’m ready for some hot chocolate now”.
“I’ll make it; you sit down and put your feet up”.
We sat in our armchairs across from each other, our feet sharing a footstool together, our mugs in our hands. Emma had her hair tied back in a pony tail; the dark circles were under her eyes again, and I realized that she had been putting in a lot of time with Sarah again lately, as well as going to a couple of movies with Lisa and working full time at her job. “You look pretty beat”, I observed.
“I am a little tired”. She sipped at her hot chocolate and gave a little frown. “Dad, can I ask about you and Wendy, or should I mind my own business?”
“Don’t be silly, love – it is your business!”
“Well, I wasn’t sure. I mean, we’ve talked a lot since Mom died, but you’ve never been dating anyone before, and I just wanted to know where I stood, that was all”.
“Ask whatever you like; if it’s too private, I’ll let you know, but don’t be worried about offending me, okay?”
“Thanks”. She hesitated, and then asked, “So, the last time I asked you if you were in love with Wendy, you said you didn’t know, but you thought it might come to that”.
“Yes. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that it has”.
“And is she in love with you?”
“I’m glad”, she said softly.
“Truly, I really am. I like Wendy a lot, and I know she makes you happy. It’s been really great to see how much you enjoy your times together with her, Dad; I haven’t seen you like this for a long time. Yes, I’m glad”.
“Thanks”, I said; “That means a lot to me”.
She smiled at me again, sat back in her chair and put her feet back up on the footstool. “Of course, it gives you a whole new set of problems to deal with, doesn’t it?”
“Well, for a start, there’s this whole set of issues around Mickey – what he did to Wendy and Lisa, and how he continues to influence their lives, and how they respond to him, and how you’re supposed to relate to him”.
“That’s a big one”, I agreed.
“Then there’s Lisa; she’s come into your life as a big surprise, when you and I had such a comfortable relationship. The two of you can’t quite figure out how to relate to each other, can you? Are you supposed to be friends, or are you supposed to be father and daughter? And how can you be either friends or father and daughter when you’re still finding out about each other? Your approach to Mickey has taken her completely by surprise, hasn’t it?”
“I think so”.
“I, on the other hand, know you so well that your charitable attitudes are boringly predictable to me…”
“Smart ass!” I retorted, swiping at her ankle with my hand.
“Thank you, kind sir!” she said with a grin.
“Are you done listing my problems?”
“No, there’s more. There’s the little problem that, even though you’re doing your best to understand another person’s point of view, you just can’t escape the fact that Anglicans and Mennonites aren’t quite the same”.
I nodded; “You’re right about that one”, I agreed.
“And it’s not just that they like incense and we like sharing our joys and concerns, is it? It’s some pretty basic things like loving your enemies”.
“Wendy believes she’s supposed to love her enemies. If she didn’t, she wouldn’t have lost a moment’s sleep about denying Mickey’s petition”.
“But Lisa certainly doesn’t believe that, does she?”
“Well, she’s hardly a practicing Anglican”.
“Right – point taken. I may have to strike this problem from my list”.
“It is a difference, though – you’re right. Are you through yet?”
“No, there’s one more”.
“And that would be?”
“You? Why are you a problem to me?”
“Because you’re always worried that I’m going to resent your relationship with Wendy”.
I stared at her for a moment, then nodded slowly and took a sip of my hot chocolate. “You’re right”, I said; “I am always worried about that. Shouldn’t I be?”
“Dad, my problem isn’t that you love Wendy, all right? If the two of you want to be together – if you want to get married some day – that’s not a problem for me, all right?”
“So what is the problem?”
When she replied, her voice was so quiet that I could barely hear her. “The problem is that I still really miss Mom”, she said.
I leaned forward in my seat and put my hand on hers. “I know”, I replied; “Despite what’s happening with Wendy and me, I still miss her too”.
“Do you? How does that work?”
“I really don’t know. I thought that finding love again with someone else might mean that I missed her less, but somehow they seem to be in separate emotional compartments in my life. Wendy and I were talking about love the other week, and I told her that being in love with her felt different from being in love with Kelly, because she’s different. Maybe that’s something to do with it”.
“Are you two thinking of getting married?”
“You’re way ahead of us there. There’s a lot of stuff we need to work through yet”.
“Did you mind me asking?”
She gave a sudden frown. “Dad, what’s Wendy going to think about you and me?”
“How do you mean?”
“Well, we’re a pretty unusual father-daughter pair, aren’t we? You’re my Dad, but in some ways you’re more like my best friend”.
I smiled; “Thanks for that”, I said.
“Well, it’s true. Is that going to be a problem for Wendy?”
“We actually talked about that”.
“Yeah. I can’t exactly remember how it came up – I think she said something like, ‘Emma’s been really welcoming to me, but I know she must have mixed feelings about you coming to love someone else’. So I told her that you and I had been talking about this, and I needed to keep you in the loop about what was going on with her and me. I told her that you and I had become very close since your Mom died, and that we’d grown accustomed to having some pretty honest conversations with each other. I asked her if that was a problem for her, and she told me that she actually envied me”.
“She wants an interfering and opinionated daughter too, does she?”
We both laughed; I sat back in my chair and said, “Things aren’t always easy between Lisa and Wendy”.
“Yeah; I can see that”. She gave me a wry grin and said, “Or between Lisa and you right now!”
“I really don’t know what I should be doing about that, Em. This whole ‘loving your enemies’ thing – I’ve always thought it meant going the extra mile, building bridges, leaving the door open and all that. But then, I’ve never been in Wendy and Lisa’s shoes”.
“Did Mickey really break Wendy’s jaw?”
“That’s scary”, she whispered.
“Yeah, I know”.
“So, what are you going to do?”
“I really don’t know. On the one hand, I feel like I should talk to Mickey and keep the communication lines open. On the other hand, Lisa seems to feel really strongly that I’m being disloyal and putting her and Colin and Wendy at risk by doing that”. I gave a heavy sigh and said, “I think I’m going to talk to Joe about this. I haven’t called him in a while”.
“Yeah, I haven’t talked to Jake and Jenna for a while either”. She got to her feet, kissed me on the top of my head, and said, “Well, I need to go to bed. Are you going to be okay?”
“Oh yeah; I’ll stay awake for a while. Wendy’s going to call me back”.
“Okay; good night, Dad”.
“Good night, Em”.
It was after eleven o’clock when Wendy called me; Emma was asleep, and I was sitting up in my bed reading by the dim light of the bedside lamp. I picked up the cordless phone and said, “Tom and Emma’s”.
“Hi Tom; it’s me. Sorry to ring so late; were you asleep?”
“No; sitting in bed reading and waiting for your call. How are things?”
“Well, I took Lisa back to Christ Church and then sat with her for an hour, trying to talk her down”.
“She was still pretty angry?”
“Angry, afraid, resentful. She said she thought you were her friend, and now she feels like you’ve betrayed her trust”.
“I’m really sorry, Wendy”.
“Tom, I’m not criticizing you, all right? You are you, and you’ve got a way of looking at the world”. She paused for a moment, and then continued, “God knows, that’s one of the things I love about you – your way of looking at the world. But now it’s coming close to home, and I’m not exactly sure how to deal with it. I can’t deny that I’m afraid for you; I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of one of Mickey’s outbursts of violence. But I can’t honestly say that I know what you’re thinking of doing is wrong. After all, you’re only putting into practice the things we all say we believe every Sunday”.
“So you think I should go?”
“Please don’t ask me that, all right? No, for goodness’ sake, I don’t want you to go! Every instinct in me is crying out for you to stay away from him! But are my instincts right? When I look at things in the cool light of day, and I try to assess what you’re thinking of doing in the light of what we read in the Gospels, can I say that you’re wrong? Of course not – and I love you for it! I really admire you for being so conscientious about putting your faith into practice. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy and comfortable for me to watch you do it”.
“You’re a pretty amazing person yourself, Wendy”.
“No, I’m not; I’m in love with you, that’s all, and I’ve got to accept that part of what I’m in love with is how you put your faith into practice”.
“Still, I’m really sorry this has caused a rift between Lisa and me”.
“So am I, but we’ll find a way through that somehow. You’ve never pretended to be anything other than who you are, Tom, and she knows that. She’s just seeing it worked out in action now, and it’s taken her by surprise. All you can do is give her time and space to get used to the idea”.
“Is that going to be enough?”
“I don’t know. She’s been badly hurt, and this is obviously pushing some very painful buttons with her. But I think in a few days she’ll calm down a bit, and then it might be possible for the two of you to have a talk”.
“Do you think so?”
“I do”. She paused, and then in a quiet voice asked, “Are you all right?”
“Yes, I’m fine”.
“What did you do for the rest of the evening?”
“I had a really good talk with Emma”.
“Yes; we talked about you and me”.
“What did you tell her?”
“That we’re in love with each other”.
“And what did she say?” she asked.
“She said she really likes you, and she hasn’t seen me like this in a long time, and she knows you make me happy, and she’s glad”.
There was silence on the other end of the line. After a moment I asked, “Are you still there?”
“Oh yes”, she replied in a voice full of emotion; “Just having a bit of trouble seeing through blurry eyes, that’s all”.
“Yeah, I know what you mean. She really does like you a lot, Wendy. Not that she’s not hurting a little”.
“The usual thing; she still misses her mom”.
“I’d never presume to take Kelly’s place in her life, you know”.
She paused for a moment, and then said, “You and I need to have a good talk about Kelly, don’t we?”
“Yes”, I replied slowly; “I think we do”.
“That’s all right, Tom”.
“Yes – I’m not afraid of that conversation; I just want you to know that”.
I shook my head again; “You can deny it all you like, but you really are a remarkable woman”.
“No, I’m just a very lucky woman”. She paused for a moment, and then said, “Well, my love, it’s late, and I need to try to sleep”.
“Good night, Tom”.
“Good night, Wendy”.
“Please stay safe, all right?”
“I’ll do my best”.