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Belonging

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      Shelly was in denial.

      “It really didn’t happen,” she said talking to herself. “It didn’t happen,” she whispered. It was hard to tell if it was the bright sun or something else that made tears come to her eyes. She put on her sunglasses just in case the sun was the culprit.

      It was a beautiful, early September day. The sun was shining. The sky was bright blue as it always was after a cleansing rain. There was a hint of color in the leaves on the maple trees. Normally Shelly would have enjoyed the scenic drive home, but not today. Today was different.

      The three-hour drive gave Shelly a lot of time to think. She had traveled this road so many times in the last six years she had not lived with her dad. She paid little attention to where she was going. It was as if she was on auto-pilot. However, there wasn’t much to think about. It was official. No matter how much she tried to deny it. She was now completely alone in the world. She had always preferred being by herself and was definitely a loner by anyone’s standards, but this time was different. It hadn’t been her choice.

      A few days previous she had received that dreaded phone call. Her father had suddenly and unexpectedly passed away from a heart attack. Shelly wiped away a tear remembering the conversation. It wasn’t actually a conversation as she had hardly said a word as her father’s pastor gave her the news. Her father never had any heart problems before – at least none they had known about. He was never one to go to the doctor for no reason. Maybe if he had gone they would have known his cholesterol was through the roof and clogging his arteries. If her dad had known, he could have done something about it and then he might still be here with her. But there was no going back. There was only now and she was alone.

      Shelly had no other family. Her mother had passed away shortly after delivering Shelly and she had been the last living member of her family. Over the years Shelly and her father had researched her mother’s family tree so she could learn about them and feel a little closer to them. Those had been some fun times with her dad and what she had learned was interesting, but that didn’t change the fact that they were all deceased. There was no more family.

      Besides her father and Professor Yates, God had been the One she had always been closest to. It didn’t matter that she couldn’t see Him; His presence was always felt. Even from the time Shelly was a young girl she could talk to God like she could no one else. Unlike with other people, conversation with God was never a problem. The words always flowed from her heart and soul. It didn’t matter what troubles she was facing, God was always a loving friend who could comfort her.

      Her thoughts wandered back to her father. Guilt plagued her for not being there when he needed her most. After high school, Shelly attended a small college in a smaller town three hours away and had ended up staying there. It had actually been all her father’s idea for her to stay. Although it had taken a few years for Shelly to understand her father’s thinking, she understood now. It certainly wasn’t because Allen didn’t want his daughter to live at home. It was because he knew he was Shelly’s security blanket. Shelly was shy, painfully shy. Many times Shelly had fought this after graduation, thinking he had just wanted to get rid of her. She hardly had any friends while she was growing up and that hadn’t changed throughout her college years.

      Shelly never seemed to mind not having friends, but Allen had minded, and it broke his heart to see her alone. She had to admit it wasn’t because the other girls Shelly’s age didn’t try. They tried over and over to include her in their conversations, but if Shelly spoke at all, it was with one one-syllable word at a time and never looking them in the eye. Shelly would never go to any events the other girls planned. No birthday parties, no movies, no get togethers, no nothing. Allen had thought by forcing her away from him, it would lead her to other people, other girls her own age and with whom she had things in common. But his plan didn’t work.

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