Chapter Three

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The car accident hadbeen devastating to family and friends. Eric, who had been sitting inthe back seat, had been unharmed. His father, mother, and the drunkdriver who hit them head-on, had all died at the scene. Eric had beenwhisked away to the hospital as a precaution. He was scared, inshock, and alone, but didn't shed a tear.

Eric's grandparentson his father's side were the first to arrive at the hospital. He wasglad to see them. They knew Eric didn't understand what was going on.His Nana tried to comfort him as much as she could. She and hisgrandfather couldn't understand why he had not asked about hisparents.

Later, just beforethey were signing him out, Marcie's parents arrived. They had alwaysobjected to her marriage to a Christian and had never spent much timewith their grandson. It was clear to all who Eric wanted to be with.The Kinyards were glad to take him home. There he would wait for theBentons to arrive.

Julia's birthdayparty was put on hold. She couldn't understand at first, but Marciesat down and explained to her that Eric's mother and daddy had diedand gone to heaven. Julia asked why Eric hadn't gone with them."Well," Marcie told her, "God wanted Eric to stay here. He willbe coming to live with us and be your big brother."

"But I alreadyhave big brothers. Can Eric be my friend?"

Marci smiled andpushed Julia's bangs from her eyes. "Of course he can."

Eric had gone homewith his Nana and Papa. He loved them. He had slept in the room whichhad once belonged to his daddy before. It had been Eric's room sincehe was a baby. Eric's grandparents hadn't changed it much. He evenslept in his daddy's old bed. He didn't sleep well though and keptwondering all night what heaven was like and if his mama and daddywere happy. Did they miss him?

He hoped he couldstay with his Nana and Papa.

The next afternoon,Eric was sitting in the kitchen floor at his grandparents' home. Allhis favorite toy cars were scattered around him. He held one in hishand and had been staring at it for a few minutes. "Nana?" Helooked over at his grandmother who was sitting at the table with acup of tea.

The elderly womangazed at him. Her once blue eyes had turned to a soft gray, but theystill held a sparkle of love for Eric. "What baby?" She motionedfor him to come to her.

He stood and walkedover, welcoming her arm around his shoulders. "Here. You can havethis." He placed the small car on the table. "It's like Daddy'scar, but it's red and not blue."

She picked up theBuick Rivera replica and smiled. "Why don't you want it?"

"I don't need itany more." He walked back over and sat down on the floor.

She almost criedseeing him sitting there. He hadn't shed a tear. "Why don't youneed it anymore, Eric?"

"Well, I used tolike to play with it. I don't play with cars much any more. I thoughtyou might like it."

Mr. Kinyard enteredthe kitchen and walked up behind his wife. He placed his hands on hershoulders. "The plans have all been made. I got together with theHoings and we got plots for the two of them next to each other. Crazykids. Guess they just never thought they would be buried someday."

There were voicescoming from the front of the house.

"Oh," he said,"We have some visitors. I told them to wait in there. They broughtfood and are all ready to help out as much as they can."

"The Benton'sshould be here soon," Nana said and looked down at Eric. "I hatethe thought of him going away to live with them."

Papa patted hershoulder. "It's best, I guess." He kissed the top of her head."You're not well enough to handle a nine year old."

"I could manage."She looked up at him and gave a sad smile. "But, I guess you'reright. He will be taken good care of and raised in a Christian home."

"Come on, we havepeople to greet and mourn with us." He held out his hand.

She placed her handin his and gazed at the two hands that held onto one another. "Howmany times have I held your hand?"

"Not near enough."He brought her hand to his lips and kissed it. "Come on, Eric."He pulled his wife to her feet and escorted her to the living room.Eric followed.

The little red carsat on the table forgotten.

The Benton's arrivedthat evening. The house was quiet as Mr. Kinyard invited them in."We've had company all day," he said. "Glad for your sake it isquiet now. You must be hungry and tired."

Joshua Benton gave anod and without thinking gave a yawn. "Oh, excuse me."

Mr. Kinyard smiled."We have plenty to eat. Trust me. I bet Betty hasn't lifted afinger all day."

"How is sheholding up?" Marcie asked.

"She's doingbetter than I expected."

Marcie placed herhand on his shoulder. "And you?"

He gave her a sadsmile. "You know, I don't think I've really had time to grieve.Little Eric has been my main concern." He closed his eyes for amoment and bowed his head. "Yep." He shook his head and openedhis eyes to gaze at Marcie again, "That little boy seems to becarrying the weight of the world on his shoulders and hasn'tflinched."

Julia stood behindher daddy wondering what everyone was talking about. She knew Eric'sparents had been killed. She wasn't sure how to react. She had neverexperienced death before. She wanted to see Eric.

"Eric is up inTony's old room. Last I checked he was looking through some of Tony'shigh school annuals."

Julia looked up ather parents excitedly. Daniel and Jacob also had anxious looks ontheir faces.

"Boys, go on upand visit with Eric. I'm sure he will be glad to see you."

Julia tugged on herdaddy's coat sleeve.

He looked down andgave her a smile. "You too."

Her brothers werealready halfway up the stairs. She ran after them and paused to stareat the chair lift attached to the wall. She wondered if she would beallowed to sit in it. The thought quickly left her and she bounded upthe stairs after her brothers.

"My goodness,"Mrs. Kinyard remarked as she entered the room. "What is all theruckus in here." She smiled at the Bentons. "Marcie, Joshua, it'sso good to see you." A tear ran down her cheek. "So good."

Marcie walked overand embraced her. "You are looking well." She kissed the olderwoman's cheek.

Mrs. Kinyard tookMarcie's hand in hers and patted it. "Thank you, dear. Consideringeverything, I am doing quite well. Never..." she paused and took adeep breath and let it out slowly to stave off the tears, "neverthought I'd out live my son, though." She collapsed in tears inMarcie's arms.

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