~ Synopsis ~Michele and David have it all: successful careers, a loving marriage and the perfect daughter. Until the past raises its head, intent this time on wrecking damage to their daughter. When tragedy strikes, they find their faith in God and His plans tested. Can their family remain strong in the face of adversity or will they crumble in ruins? Will love fail them when they need it most or will it restore their faith in what the future holds?
~ Excerpt ~Even with the television turned up, Faith could hear her parents talking about her in the kitchen. Did they think she couldn’t hear them? They were acting like she’d just committed a crime or something. Well, technically, punching Raif in the face could be considered assault and battery, according to her father, but it wasn’t like she started it. Not that she planned on explaining the situation to anyone. The less everyone knew about this, the faster it would blow over. There was no way that she was going to tell them it was because of her mother. If she even hinted at that, Mama would be devastated. Faith pressed her earphones into her ears and tapped the button on her iPod, allowing the music to drown out the voices in the kitchen. She wished the sounds of the rock band could drown out her own misgivings as well. She wanted to scream with the frustration building inside her but knew it would be useless. She didn’t want to burden anyone else with her troubles. Her parents tried getting her to open up to them but she didn’t think they’d understand. They just kept telling her that learning to deal with unpleasant people was part of growing up, and she should pray for Raif. Why should she pray for the one boy who seemed out to destroy her reputation as well as her sanity? She hoped this would be the catalyst that would cause Raif and his friends to leave her alone again, to allow her to return to blending into the background. She was sick of everyone having such high expectations for her to be the perfect girl. Why couldn’t she just be a normal sixteen year old girl, worrying about boys and shopping or grades and getting into college? She slapped at the throw pillow on the couch, pounding it against the back cushion. Her grandfather was a pastor, her father was a police officer and her mother was a counselor. It was a lot of pressure to have her grandfather’s congregation watching, not to mention how bad it would make her dad look at work if she caused trouble. She was tired of living in a fishbowl, where it felt every move seemed under scrutiny. Faith wondered if she could ever measure up to the image people expected of her. Why should she be perfect? Her mother hadn’t been. By the time Mama was her age, she’d already been drinking, doing drugs, had stolen Papa Ramirez’s car and was locked in juvenile hall, serving time. Faith pressed the heel of her hands against her burning eyes, willing the tears of frustration to go away. What made any of them think she was anything special? She struggled in school, she couldn’t seem to get things that were easy for everyone else, and she didn’t like to be touched. She was weird, even her friends thought she was a different and she felt like they were just putting up with her. She hated feeling like the outcast and was tired of being on the outside looking in. Just once she wanted to be the girl she pretended to be, the one her parents seemed to believe she was - popular, smart, fun, happy. Unfortunately, it was all an act. Faith shoved the iPod into her pocket and made her way down the hall to her room, wondering what she was going to do now that she was suspended for the next couple days? She knew that her mother would stay home with her. “And won’t that be fun?” she taunted her reflection in the mirror. She frowned at the girl staring back at her. “You’re a freak, you know that right?” she whispered. Resentment flared bright and hot in her chest as she fought the urge to smash the mirror. Anything to keep the stranger in the mirror from looking back at her. She didn’t want to be Faith anymore. As hard as she tried, she couldn’t be the perfect daughter, quiet student or trustworthy friend that everyone wanted. She was lacking…she didn’t know what made her feel incomplete. This pressure was just too much. She pulled the headphones off and wound them around the iPod, tossing it onto her bed and looked around the room, antsy. Her room was clean and simply decorated. Since she’d never been a tom-boy or extremely girly, Faith found herself skirting the middle ground. As a result, she’d often kept her room filled with only the things that held her interests - a few swimming trophies, a softball and glove David had given her as a little girl, a stuffed bear Micah had brought home to her from a parishioner and a picture of her parents on her dresser with a necklace that belonged to her grandmother hung on the corner. Her room had been decorated with butter yellow walls because Faith claimed they made her feel happy when she woke but they didn’t seem to help now. She went to her closet and flipped on the overhead light. Picking through the clothing hanging all around her, she searched for something to fit her mood - something she could pull over her head to help her disappear, hiding within herself. She reached for a thin, black hoodie and slipped it on over her white t-shirt. She grabbed a hair band from her desk and wound her long dark waves into a tight knot at her neck and flipped the hood over her head. She looked at her reflection again, wondering how she could still look the same when bitter discontent flowed through her veins. She reached for an eyeliner pencil and outlined thick black smudges around her golden eyes. “There,” she said, tossing it back on the dresser. She jumped, wiping away the makeup under her eyes as her bedroom door opened and her father entered. He arched a brow in question and sat on her bed, not waiting for an invitation. “Trying a new look?” His lips twitched as if he was trying to hold back a smile. She turned and faced him, folding her arms over her chest and leaning a hip against the dresser. “No.” “Faith, I’d really like to hear your side of what happened today.” She pursed her lips and shrugged. “No, you don’t, Dad. You want me to say I’m sorry and I won’t do it again.” She threw her hands in the air, frustrated. “But, I can’t promise you that. If he keeps…Oh, never mind!” “Go on,” her father encouraged, patting the bed beside him. “He who? This boy you hit?” Faith sighed. It didn’t even matter. Her father wouldn’t be able to stop Raif from making comments. No one could. Especially since her mother would be the first to admit that the things he was saying were completely true. She had been a drug addict; she had served time for manslaughter. It didn’t make living with that stigma any easier. “It’s nothing, Dad.” She slumped onto the bed beside him. Her father slipped an arm around her shoulders and she allowed herself to lay her head against his chest, his heartbeat strong and solid. He smelled like leather and soap. It was a comforting scent that always reminded her of her childhood and the nights her father rocked her back to sleep when she woke from a nightmare. She adored him and hurt knowing she’d disappointed him. He ran a hand over her back, his fingers making small circles on her shoulder. “Baby Girl, I know things aren’t always easy for you. Sometimes your mother and I forget what it’s like but we love you more than anything in this world and we would do anything for you. You know that, right?” Faith wrapped her arms around his waist and buried her face against his chest. She knew her black eyeliner was probably leaving streaks on his polo shirt but she needed his strength more than she worried about the material. “I love you too, Daddy.” Hot tears scalded the corners of her eyes and she knew, with his arms around her, she wouldn’t be able to stanch the flow. She sniffed and tried to keep him from seeing her tears but he knew better. “Aw, baby.” Her father wound his arms around her slim shoulders. “You know you can tell us anything.” “I know,” she muttered, her voice muffled against his chest. “He’s just so mean, and I just couldn’t take any more and…” Faith’s voice hiccupped and she realized the dam of emotions was broken. She had to stop before she said too much but she couldn’t convince her tongue. “He said all those things in front of everyone and I just snapped and before I knew it, he was holding his eye and there was blood everywhere.” “Honey,” her father’s voice remained calm and steady, as if he was trying to soothe a wounded animal. “Shhh, it’s okay.” He cupped her chin between his thumb and forefinger and smiled. “You’re a lot like your Mama, you know that?” It was as if he had thrown cold water into her face without even realizing what he’d done. Faith felt herself shut down. She knew he saw the change in her instantly and searched her face trying to figure out what he’d said. She pressed away from his chest and rose from the bed, tucking her hands inside the sweatshirt, hugging her arms around her as if warding off a chill. She used the cotton material to wipe away the tears that coursed down her cheek. “I’m fine, Dad. It’s nothing.” “You don’t sound fine.” He rose from the bed and took a step toward her. She held up a hand, still gripping the material of the sweatshirt in her fist, and backed away, bumping into the dresser, knocking over the picture frame. “I’m fine, Dad.” Her father stopped for a moment, then nodded. She knew he didn’t believe her, nor did she think they wouldn’t revisit this conversation later but, for the moment, he allowed her some space. “Dinner will be here soon. Mom ordered your favorite, pepperoni pizza with extra cheese and olives.” Faith bit at the corner of her bottom lip, feeling guilty. She was getting angry when her father compared her to her mother but her mother was wonderful to her, in spite of the trouble she’d caused today. Yet the outrage at her father’s words continued to well up in her. She was not like her mother. Her mother had never lived in this fishbowl of expected perfection. What she wouldn’t give for even a bit of the freedom her mother had a teenager. Anything was better than this façade. Why couldn’t anyone else see that she was dying to break free from this mold they tried to fit her into? She just wanted to be Faith, but she wasn’t even sure yet who Faith was.
~ About the Author ~Tina Klinesmith (1973-present) found she had a love for stories at the ripe age of 2 when her mother found her trying to read a romance novel. Even in childhood, she spent time crafting stories, plays and songs for family and friends. Raised in the lush Central Valley of California, Tina continues to reside there with her wonderful husband, three children and a menagerie of beasts who believe they are also children. Tina loves the outdoors and spending time camping, fishing and just hanging out with family and friends. She is an accomplished horsewoman and trainer as well as a fitness instructor and online coach. She loves to hear from her readers!