This is the third story in this series, please read On Stable Ground (story 1) and Sowing Faith, Reaping Love (story 2).
Luke 16: 19-26 Jesus said, "There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and who lived each day in luxury. At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man's table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores. Finally, the poor man died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and his soul went to the place of the dead. There, in torment, he saw Abraham in the far distance with Lazarus at his side. The rich man shouted, 'Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in anguish in these flames.' But Abraham said to him, 'Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish. And besides, there is a great chasm separating us. No one can cross over to you from here, and no one can cross over to us from there.'"
Tanner could not understand it. He should be morning his mother's death. They had just reconciled. Sure, they still had issues and she needed to work on her anger issues. He had forgiven her for years of neglect and abuse at the hands of his father, while she stood by watching. He forgave her, but he couldn't forget. But, why couldn't he morn?
He had never had a real and loving family before. Not until coming to live on the Croft's farm. They welcomed him and he loved them, especially Julie. She was the air to his breath. She was amazing. She was mourning for his mother, and she only met her once. Or was she mourning only for Tanner's loss? He didn't want her pity. But he could not live without her love. And he had that. Maybe that was what made him accept his mother's death.
The kicker was the drunk driver that killed her. Her funeral was only weeks ago, and today they were going to face him at the trial. Everyone knew he was going to plead "Not Guilty" but the police assured them that there was enough evidence to convict. Not only was the first responders testifying about the way they found empty beer cans all over the cab and bed of the truck. His blood alcohol level, when tested, was at the dangerous level of .27 and he could have died himself of alcohol poisoning. They also had the way he was acting on dashboard cameras.
But, true to his word, Tom Mitchell was trying to do anything and everything to get Heath off. Daddy's money paid for a lot of trouble in the past, but even Mr. Mitchell's pockets were not this deep. Election was coming up and the judge was up for election and everyone was watching. But, he had brought in some high powered attorneys and they were going to try and show the country bumpkins how to get a client off. Rumor has it that Mr. Mitchell put up the farm as collateral at the bank for a loan to pay for these attorneys.
Tanner had bought a suit for the trial. No matter his past issues with his mom, he loved her and wanted justice for her death. He felt terrible when he realized he thought she was the one drinking. Even after she had promised him she was now sober. Even seeing it with his own eyes. As soon as he heard of the wreck, he assumed the worst. Then to find out it was Heath driving. He always disliked Heath for the way he treated Tonya and for that matter Julie. His innuendos and inside jokes. But now Heath had done the worst thing imaginable, taken a life. Tanner was working to control his rage and anger against the boy, but most days it was pure hatred that Tanner felt. Bail had been set pretty high, but of course Mr. Mitchell coughed up that sum pretty quickly. So Heath was out walking around while his mother lay buried in a plot that the Croft's paid for.
Charlie took care of all the funeral costs, but Tanner knew one day he would do whatever he could to pay him back. Not just for paying, but for everything. But, how do you repay a second chance at life? Tanner knew he would be working for a long time trying to pay them back. They never asked for anything, but he was going to make sure he did something special for them. They had no idea how much they meant to Tanner. They were his family.
He laughed to himself thinking that the only thing keeping him from moving into the house itself was to keep him away from Julie at night. But, he loved his room in the barn. It was private and gave him solitude. Tanner knew Charlie loved him like a son, but Julie was his baby girl and there was no way Charlie would open up the opportunity for them to "bump" into each other in the bathroom or something.