Last time we got some insight into why the military might actually work out for Katherine, just maybe. Because of her love for her country she’d been dreaming of doing something like this for a long time. To catch up on what you missed, click for parts one and two.
I found Mom in the kitchen getting out pots and pans. She must be having a good day.
“Hi, Elaina,” she gave me a kiss on the cheek. “I’m making dinner tonight. How was your day?
I handed her the letter. “Katherine wrote you.”
It took Mom a minute to register what I had given her. Then she let out a soft gasp. She moved to sit down in the kitchen chair, leaning on the island for support. She quickly unfolded the letter and began reading.
I watched her scan the page, eyes moving and her mouth partly open. I could tell her letter was shorter than mine.
“What does yours say?” I finally asked.
“Dear Mom,” she read aloud. “I’m sorry I did not tell you in person. I knew that saying goodbye would make me want to stay, and I needed all the courage I had. Training is really tough, but I love it. I’m proud to serve my country. I know I’m doing the right thing. I love you and hope you are doing well. Love, Katherine.”
Mom seemed afraid to take her eyes off the paper, afraid that this dream would shatter. She finally looked at me. “She really did it.”
I nodded. I had the same mixed feeling, good and bad. I was proud of her for making something of her life, but the fear of what could happen to her was overwhelming.
Mom finally cried. I wrapped my arms around her and laid my head on her shoulder, as I had done so many times before.
“Did she say anything about Dad in your letter?” Mom asked.
I took a deep breath. “No.” I let go of her and went to get my letter off the counter. “You can read it.”
Mom read the letter several times before handing it back to me. She said nothing more about Dad. “This is good, Elaina,” she told me. “We can be thankful.”
We let Dad read the letters when he got home from work. At first he wore the same hard expression he had whenever we talked about Katherine. Then, as he read the letters, I could slowly see his face soften.
“I’m surprised,” he said as he gave the letters back to Mom. “She did it. I hope things work out for her.”
The way he talked about Katherine was so detached, like she was a stranger. I was mad at Katherine for messing up her life, but I was perhaps even madder at Dad for giving up on her. At least now she was trying.
“Maybe you should write her,” I suggested.
Dad made a sound that was almost a laugh. “She would throw it away.”
I felt anger building up inside of me. Why was he so negative?
Dad shook his head, and this time he definitely laughed. “I can just picture it now. She’d rip up the letter, spit on it, and throw it away. Then she’d start telling her friends about how awful and cruel I am, and she would make herself so mad that she’d punch through a wall. They would kick her out for her anger outbursts, and she’d be back where she started. Same old Katherine.” He laughed again.
I was in disbelief. I looked at Mom to see if she was going to say something. She was sad, probably upset, but she stayed quiet. I wasn’t going to let Katherine go undefended.
“Maybe she’s right!” I spoke sternly. Dad’s grin faded as he looked at me. I recognized the expression. For a split second, I was scared. What if he hardened himself to me like he had done to Katherine?
“What?” His voice was ice cold and carried a sharp edge.
“Elaina,” Mom breathed.
I pictured Katherine a year from now, fighting in Afghanistan, risking her life to protect my country. I kept going. “Don’t you see that she’s trying to change?”
My voice was louder and sharper than I realized. “Yes, she was ruining her life. Yes, she deserved consequences. But she’s trying to move forward and do what’s right! She’s doing what she always wanted to do! Have you grown so cold that you can’t even thank your own daughter for endangering her life for our freedom?”
I didn’t expect the tears to come, but I didn’t let them stop me. “You’re so hard on her!” I struggled on. “You have a heart of stone if you can’t acknowledge her attempt for a better life. She probably craves your support and acceptance, but she’s too embarrassed to say so. What if she dies? Dad, what if she dies?”
Both of my parents were too stunned to speak. Instead of going to my room, I stormed off to Katherine’s. Seeing her things and her furniture brought a strange sense of comfort. It gave me a feeling that she was here. I laid my head on her pillow, and waited for the tears to stop.
It reminded me of the day she left, how I cried and hugged her goodbye.
“Don’t be like me,” I could hear her whisper in my ear.
She would want me to have a good relationship with Dad. I lay there for a minute with my eyes closed, dreading what I knew I had to do. Taking a deep breath, I got up and walked back into the living room.
Dad was on the couch reading a book. I thought he heard me come in, but he kept on reading.
When he set the book down and looked at me, it felt like fire dropped to the bottom of my nervous stomach. For the first time in my life, I felt like Katherine. That’s how he was looking at me.
“Dad, I came to apologize.” I stood where I was, not wanting to move any closer. “It wasn’t my place to speak to you like that. I was not respectful, and I shouldn’t have said what I did.” I was careful to only apologize for the way I talked, not what I said.
“I’m sorry,” I continued. “I was wrong, and I hope you will forgive me.”
Dad stared at the floor. “You’re right,” he said. He looked up at me. “You were wrong and out of place. I hope you understand that this should never happen again.”
“Yes sir,” I replied.
Slowly, his hard facial expression melted away. “And of course I forgive you. I accept your apology. But, Elaina, I didn’t expect this from you.
“Yes sir,” I repeated.
He gave an affirming nod and picked the book back up. I waited a minute to make sure he was through, then quietly went to my room.
I felt like everything should’ve been okay, but something didn’t feel right. When he told me he didn’t expect that from me, I felt like he meant he would have expected it from Katherine. It was like he was still insulting her, even after we resolved the argument.
Maybe I just needed time to think and get over it. I have never spoken to Dad like that. In fact, I couldn’t even remember the last time I had been in big trouble. Katherine was always the problem child.
“Don’t be like me,” haunted my thoughts.
But I wasn’t. I wasn’t like Katherine. That was a one-time event, and I didn’t plan on it happening again.
MORE ON RACHEL:
I’m a senior in high school, excited about what the future holds! Although I’m still not quite sure what that is, I’m trusting God to lead me. I love writing and performing. I’m involved in theater, where last year I played the Wicked Witch of the West! But don’t worry, that’s not the usual me. This year I’m going to be the editor of my school’s literary magazine. I love my church and am passionate about spreading the Gospel. My favorite verse is Matthew 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”