- Abandoned -
Table of Contents
a religious thriller written by
Ronald E. Boutelle
Table of Contents
a religious thriller written by
Ronald E. Boutelle
Chapter 34: One Day Away
“After that cold rain this campfire sure feels good.” Everyone nodded at Sutton. He then said a few more words. “Our Khmer friends told me that we should reach the temple by tomorrow afternoon. They think around noon. I don’t know about the rest of you but I think tomorrow is going to be a day we’ll never forget.”
Soon everyone was laughing, each with their own reasons to agree. Of course, Maria was Nick’s daughter. Her feelings were special. The last time she saw Nick alive she had been daddy’s little girl. He told her bedtime stories:The Little Scarlet Fish and, The Three Bears. How can you possibly describe what she felt? How does one’s deepest feelings—ever—a daughter’s love for her father—exposed to such a great loss and sorrow—age over time? What does such a young girl go through? Such painful feelings at first, but over the years hammered down to almost no recollection at all. How could she even fathom what meeting her father was going to be like?
Sutton’s relationship with Nickolas was also unique. He first met Nick in 1963. That was such a long time ago—time that was mostly filled with guilt. Sure, there had been some good times but loosing Nick and the others had destroyed any fond memories that would have otherwise stayed alive. Sutton’s remorse even drove him into joining JPAC:The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command—that led him back to Vietnam several times in search for America’s lost heroes—and later—most recently—deep into Laos looking for that bomber. For so many years he had wanted answers but sadly, countless examples prove that life seldom divulges her innermost secrets. Except now, for some odd reason, she was about to—perhaps being forced by a higher authority. As far as how Sutton was feeling about all of this—well—needless to say the moment was weighing heavily upon him.
Blake was also aware of the importance of the hour. His perspective had originated, developed, transformed, and grown beyond belief. Instead of the luxury of time to think about it, like a series of accidental, high-voltage shocks, he had been thrust into a drama that really, he had nothing to do with at all. At first the series of events seemed plausible enough. A phone call from Sutton. For Blake, what started out as a rather straight forward mission to look for a missing bomber had quickly turned into something entirely different.
Actually, it began with an undeclared war inside Laos and Cambodia and then, years later, with a pile of rocks and a buried letter. Blake often thought about these things. That’s when the drama began to unfold: learning that Eleni was no longer alive; falling in love with Maria, the daughter of the very man he was now trying to find—a man that only four months ago, Blake and Maria didn’t even know was alive. And now, on a trail—in one of the most isolated jungles in all of Southeast Asia—there he was—looking across a campfire at Maria—so beautiful—and falling in love with her. Needless to say, Blake was experiencing great emotions.
Finally there was Judy—sipping green tea around a campfire with people whom she barely knew. While the others had been given some time to comprehend what was happening, Judy had been given none. Suddenly out of nowhere these new faces had appeared, needing so much and so quickly. And to make things even more intriguing, a man whom she now couldn’t stop thinking about was sitting next to her.
Yes, for Judy this was going to be a week to remember—a sudden trek deep into an area that few dared to explore—to somehow meet an American soldier who had somehow survived the Vietnam War—abandoned by his country and now about to meet his grown daughter. So Judy’s perspective was most unusual. In fact, you would think that Judy’s mind would be reeling at the sudden turn of events, but really, the opposite was true. And Sutton could sense that quality about her—her ability to stay equipoise through what obviously—for most people, would have been stressful, to say the least. No wonder she was able to handle running an orphanage. All and all Judy had a very charming effect on everyone.
So there they sat, these four friends—newly made friends—watching the yellow and orange colored flames flicker between the logs.
Soon it began to get dark. A few more sticks were thrown onto the fire. Maria had her knees drawn up so that, as she sat, she could place her chin on top of them—her arms wrapped around, grasping her hands for support. Looking at everyone, she lifted her head. Smiling as she sat up straight, she began to speak.
“Well, this has certainly been an exciting week for us.” Her three companions all nodded in agreement. “I have been thinking about my father’s letter and what it all means. I’m not exactly sure what to expect tomorrow. Especially after that Khmer said that my father had married him and his wife. My father was a soldier, not a priest. I’m just more confused than ever.” As she spoke, no one said a word. It was obvious that the feeling inside her were about to over flow. The tears in her eyes said so. She needed to speak but her feelings were making it difficult.
“My mother was a deeply religious person. Even more so after my father was lost. She prayed every day. I prayed with her. Is this how God has answered our prayers? And as far as all of us, we have not even known each other that long. Judy, I just met last week. And the two of you, only a few months ago. Even so, my feelings for Blake are obvious. Yes, I love you. All I know is that I believe in God. I believe that Providence has placed us here, together—so all of you are the most special people in my life.”
One of the logs on the fire popped, kicking out a small shower of sparks. “I must admit that Cambodia and Angkor Wat—with all the statues of Buddha and Vishnu; this goes completely against everything that I was brought up with. Not that other religions are wrong—just that I’m not comfortable with them. But these are the people and the culture that have given my father protection and I feel a deep gratitude inside me.
“Tomorrow our journey ends. But another begins. I have been praying every night. I need strength. Especially now. It appears that my father is alive and well. What a miracle! From what we know he has taken what God has given him and prospered. But I would be lying if I said that everything is fine. There are just so many questions. As you know, my great grandparents and my grandparents are all from Greece. My mother and father, as well as myself, are Greek Orthodox. We celebrate the birth and death of our Savior, Lord Jesus Christ.” Again tears could be seen in Maria’s eyes. “I’m sorry for burdening you with all of this. It’s just that there are so many feelings swirling inside me. Feelings that I am not used to. How can my father, a Greek Orthodox, be marrying people out here in the middle of a jungle? Cambodians are Buddhist. Is my father now a Buddhist? And finally, in my father’s letter he talks about Krishna and Vishnu. Can you understand what I’m feeling? Will he even remember me?”
Heads turned to Blake. Any of them could have reached out to comfort her but Blake was the one that had to step forward. His love for Maria was obvious. Blake began to speak, not even aware of Sutton or Judy, but as if Maria had been only speaking to him.
“Maria, I think you are expressing some of the same thoughts that we all have had. Your questions are only natural. We are not sages. We pray to God, yes, asking Him for favorable winds, but at certain times, life is like being cast out upon an ocean with many storms to overcome. We are all in a storm right now and a strong wind has swept us far from our homes. Just a couple of months ago none of us would have ever imagined that we would be here. This jungle, alone, is frightening enough. Plus the way everything has happened so unexpectedly. I don’t know about everyone else but as I climb this mountain—with time to piece this all together in my mind, I, too, am feeling what you are. Maria, we all are.”
Again everyone nodded. Blake kept speaking. “Please, keep on praying. Pray for us. I think we have all felt closer to God. As far as tomorrow, how can any of us know what lies up ahead? If there are any lessons that I have learned over these past few years—with the sudden death of my fiance and now all this—it is that life can change on a dime. One minute things can be safe and familiar and the next—well—we only have to look around to know what I mean.
“Never before has God seemed so real as He does right now. Even if everything around me can change so suddenly, at least I have His love to rely on. God is the one person who will never forsake us. As I have been walking I have been saying the Lord’s Prayer over and over—and the more I say it, the more peace I feel. Blake closed his eyes: Our Father who art in Heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil--amen.
Maria reached out her hand and took Blake’s in hers. “Yes, that is a wonderful prayer. It is one of my favorites. It tells me where God lives and that His Name is holy.”
Later that night, as everyone slept, Maria prayed. She then fell asleep. She had a wonderful dream. In it she saw her mother, Eleni. They were drinking from little tea cups with pink flowers painted on them. Her father was there with them.
Just before daybreak a soft rain began to fall as clouds turned everything into fog. When Maria woke—peaking out of her tent—an almost heavenly sight greeted her. Remembering her dream, she could still feel her parent’s presence; their warmth. Lying back down on her sleeping bag all she could think about was her father. But there was still a few more hours of climbing. Up ahead the mountain loomed, mostly covered in a shroud of deep mist.
Elephant Mountain Engulfed in Mist
photo by: Angela Sevin