By Del Starr, a pseudonym, all rights reserved.

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Dianne now struggled between her obligations as a mother and her loneliness. She felt somehow that the two were intertwined. She had never, except for the occasions of transporting school buses, left her children in the care of a babysitter. Now, stuck in the little country area, isolated from the rest of the world, she would not be able to provide her children with a father or herself with a helpmeet. She pondered the possibility that she might have to give up the children in order to provide safety for them but in her heart, she could not. She had come this far; she would not be deterred.

Her stepsister, Kathy, came to Portland and moved in with her own son, Devon, who was the same age as Cynthia. One of the first things she noted was Dianne’s depression. “Dianne,” she said, “You must do something to make YOUR life alive. You have reached a point where you are boring and you must be boring to yourself as well.”

Dianne knew that Kathy spoke the truth. She did need something to take her attention away from her troubles. She had been sewing and doing little craft projects but she needed to interact with other people in order to maintain her sanity as she lived in a world of “little people”.

Kathy suggested that she and Dianne go out for the evening. Dianne agreed. Janetta was old enough now to care for the children in her mother’s absence. Dianne put the children to bed at nine and she and Kathy prepared to go out.

Nine o’clock at night is not the time to go to the library or take a course or any of the normal things that people do. The only choices were a movie or a bar. A movie would not afford opportunity to interact with others and so Dianne and Kathy went to a bar.

Dianne was actually stunned. Here were people laughing and joking, interacting with each other and enjoying themselves. She ordered a drink. Since she was not a regular drinker, it was not long until she was inebriated. They stayed all night. After the bar closed the two women had breakfast in the attached restaurant and then returned home. Dianne had had the most fun she had had in years and she looked forward to going out again.

It wasn’t long. Kathy enjoyed the camaraderie of the bar and was familiar with it and so she suggested that they go again. Without a moment’s hesitation, Dianne began to get ready. The bath, the makeup, the hair styling. This time Kathy suggested that Dianne wear something a “little less Seventh-day Adventist.” Dianne wasn’t very comfortable with that thought. She had always dressed in the manner that she dressed while in academy, just as she believed Ellen White had told her to dress. Her necklines came up to the third vertebrae in the back and were not below the collarbone in the front, her skirts were always at least two inches below the knee, and she dressed in sensible shoes. But Kathy had been right about her need for interaction with others, so she was probably right about the way Dianne dressed, too.

It really didn’t make any difference. Dianne wasn’t working toward heaven any longer.

She looked through her meager closet. By rolling up the waistline of a skirt and unbuttoning a couple of buttons on the blouse, she found an outfit that would serve her well. Dousing themselves with their favorite scents, Kathy and Dianne returned to the bar once more, after the children were in bed. Dianne was more comfortable this time and she smiled and laughed with the rest of the patrons. Men would ask her to dance and though she was not familiar with dancing, she soon learned. Life began to take on some color and Dianne now was making friends.

“Going out” soon became a habit. It afforded Dianne with the time to talk with adults instead of screaming children and, with Kathy at her side, she didn’t need to be shy in any way. Kathy was a fun person and Dianne loved her.

At first they went out only a couple of times a week. Neither of them could afford to buy drinks very often. But Dianne soon learned how to smile in “just that way” that would cause a gentleman to buy her a drink. The first night that all of her drinks were paid for by others gave her enough money to be able to afford to go out an extra time that week. As the ladies became more proficient about being able to procure drinks from others, their activity increased and soon they were staying home once or twice a week, rather than going out once or twice a week. Dianne, though, was very careful that her children were cared for, and she never left the house until they were safely and snugly tucked in their beds for sleep.

Along with the increased drinking came a tolerance for alcohol and it became necessary to drink more to reach the “high” that once had taken only two drinks. Dianne began to worry a bit about her drinking but she was having so much fun that she push the worry to the back of her mind. Recognizing that they needed a “little stimulus” for their drinking and considering that drinks were costly, Dianne and Kathy went to a liquor store and purchased a pint of alcohol to mix with soda pop which they could then drink on their way to the bar.

Months and months of this activity built up a strong tolerance and soon the regular bottle of alcohol mixed with soda pop was not enough. Kathy and Dianne began to purchase a pint of 151 rum. It burned all the way to their stomachs but it afforded just the “little stimulus” that they needed before going out. Each of them drank half the bottle.

The two were always home in time to get the children off to school but many days they had to crawl into bed to sleep after the older children were gone. The little ones would awaken and play in their room until Dianne and Kathy got up.

Dancing, drinking, and men! These were the things uppermost on Dianne and Kathy’s minds and it’s what their conversation consisted of all during the day. The children didn’t mind, since food was always on the table and their clothes were ready to wear. They had their own lives and the adults had theirs.

Dianne’s moral values had slipped also and men began to be a priority. She was, after all, looking for a husband and father for her children. The only way that she was going to find one was to satisfy their needs, or so she thought. Dianne began to hop from bed to bed.

She finally met the man of her dreams. Joe! He was tender to her and seemed to be caring. He didn’t even ask her to go to bed with him that first night and Dianne was certain that this relationship had potential. Though she continued going out, she reserved her heart and body for Joe.

Joe shared his story with Dianne. He worked for the Freightliner Corporation and had for nearly twenty years. He had been married for twenty-three years, but he and his wife had come to a parting of the ways. He had a twelve-year-old daughter at home with his wife and an older daughter who was married and on her own, while he shared an apartment with a male friend. Joe had been having a relationship with a woman, but when she met someone with more money, she had dumped Joe flat and moved to the other end of the continent. Joe had suffered terribly over this and at first he could talk about nothing but the other woman to Dianne. Dianne knew, though, that she had hit “pay dirt.” Joe had a good track record, so it seemed, in relationships, he had a steady job, and he showed that he could love deeply. Dianne knew that if she could focus that love on herself that she would never be unhappy or lonely again. So she listened to Joe’s stories and encouraged him as he tried to regain his footing.

There is a premise that says that men who have just broken off a relationship will take up with another woman but that when it comes to marriage, they will move on as that woman knows too much about them. Dianne was determined that this would not happen to her.

She bought Joe records; Joe brought her flowers. They were so attuned to each other. They could seemingly read each other’s minds. Life began to have some real meaning again for Dianne.

It was early in the morning. The older kids had left for school and the younger ones played in their room while Dianne and Kathy caught a little bit more sleep. Dianne was roused by a little hand lightly tapping on her shoulder and a little voice. It was Cynthia. “Mommy, Monmy,” she whispered, “the house is on fire!”

Dianne bolted upright, instantly awake. “Where, honey?”

“In our bedroom!”

Dianne rushed into the next bedroom and there were Randy and Devon sitting on the bed while fire dripped around them onto the covers. The fire was in the ceiling. Horrified, Dianne grabbed up the two babies and screamed at Cynthia to “go wake up Aunt Kathy!” She made feeble attempts to put the fire out but she could not access it well in the ceiling and so, pulling the children with her into her own bedroom, she called 911 for a fire engine.

When Kathy appeared, Dianne hollered for her to take the babies outside. Dianne grabbed what bedding and clothing she could, threw some out the window, grabbed some more, and raced down the stairs and out the door to where Kathy and the children waited. She had just purchased a new car and it was parked in the driveway under the windows of the bedroom that was now burning.

Dianne realized that she was still in her nightgown. She riffled through the things she had brought out and found her housecoat. She then herded everyone into the car and drove it into the garden area so that it would be well away from the burning house and also so that the fire engines would have better access to the fire.

The family huddled in the car while the firefighters battled the blaze. Neighbors came out on the street to watch the commotion. It didn’t take long for the fire to be controlled, perhaps an hour or so, and Dianne and Kathy were allowed to enter the house.

Now there was a large gaping hole in the ceiling and roof of the bedroom. Water had destroyed many more things and Dianne feared for the welfare of her children. She had been unable to fix the problems in the house already, and now this. There was one blessing. They had been without insurance, but just six months ago she had purchased a policy. BUT…

The origin of the fire needed to be determined or the insurance company would not pay. Cynthia, Randy and Devon were each taken individually into the fire chief’s car and interrogated as to how the fire started. All three told the same story. Devon had found some candles. He took his mother’s lighter from her bedside and lighted the candles, holding them up to the roof to determine what would happen.

They now knew.

Though this was devastating news for Kathy, it was good news for Dianne, for if it had been her own children who started the fire, the insurance would not have paid. But since it was Devon, they would pay for the loss and go after Kathy for repayment.

One of the neighbors took the family in until the other children came home from school. Dianne met them, still in her housecoat, and informed each one of the day’s events before they were allowed to view their home. The Red Cross came by and provided hotel lodging and chits for food and clothing. Dianne, Kathy, and the children moved into a nearby hotel.

Dianne was in a state of shock and couldn’t figure out what to do next. She called Joe to tell him what had happened and he asked what Dianne wanted him to do. Dianne, of course, had no idea, except that she needed comfort. “I just wanted to let you know,” she said weakly. Joe left it at that. This should have been a red flag for Dianne but she was unable to see past her need for love and assurance, not to mention financial help for her children.

After a week in the hotel, with the Red Cross helping, Dianne was able to find a house to rent. It was a bit small for twelve people, but they would make do until such time as the insurance was settled and Dianne determined what she would do from that point.

Janetta had become acquainted with the son of a professor from Andrews University who was in Portland on a sabbatical, working on his doctorate degree. Janetta was too much like her mother. She felt that at age sixteen she was ready to marry and raise a family. Dianne did not agree.

Strangely enough, though there was no relation, Janetta’s friend had the same last name as did Joe and Dianne and Janetta found it amusing. Janetta’s friend, Luke, was attending Walla Walla College, his tuition greatly reduced because his father was a minister. His parents had provided him with a phone in his room and Janetta would call him. When Dianne received her phone bill she had a long talk with Janetta and told her that she was not to call Luke again. Janetta had always been a good daughter and complied with her mother’s wishes. This did not prevent her, however, from talking with Luke on the phone. Dianne would hear her talking for hours, long after the other children were asleep. Dianne did not know how they were paying for it but at least it would not be on her phone bill.

A phone call came from Luke’s parents. When the phone had been installed in Luke’s room, it had been set up to prevent long distance calls. They knew of Luke and Janetta’s interest in each other and were making certain that Luke was sensible about phoning Janetta. What they had failed to recognize though, was that though Luke could not make long distance calls, he could receive collect calls. The bill had mounted to $3000 before his parents had learned of it. Dianne was embarrassed but she did not have monies to be able to help pay the bill. The phone was removed from Luke’s room, and Janetta no longer spent the hours on the phone.

Luke came home for a break and he and Janetta spent a lot of time together. Dianne didn’t really care for Luke but she had to admit that he had a tremendous sense of humor, something that had been missing from the family’s lives for quite some time.

When Luke returned to college, Dianne awakened one morning to find a note on the kitchen table. It read, “Dear Mom, I’m running away from home but I want you to know where I’m going. I’m going to Walla Walla with Luke. You can reach me there. Love, Janetta.”

Dianne was flabbergasted! Her daughter had run away from home? Even more astounding, though, was that she had told her mother where she was running. Dianne was confused, but since Janetta had been honest and forthright with her, she decided that Janetta could be in a far less safe environment than Walla Walla. So she determined that she would leave her alone to learn some of life’s experiences. She neither called Janetta nor did Janetta call her for the time that she was in Walla Walla.

Later Dianne was to learn that Luke and Janetta had passed themselves off as married. Janetta had claimed to be eighteen and obtained work in the college factory. The college officials had believed that they were, indeed, married, and had provided married student housing. Of course, this changed Luke’s status as a minister’s son, and his tuition increased.

Dianne felt sorry for his parents as they tried to unravel the tangled web that Janetta and Luke had woven. The college, too, suffered embarrassment.

Janetta returned home. Soon, she learned that her own child was on the way. It was determined that for the sake of the child, Luke and Janetta should marry after all and Luke’s father performed a very simple ceremony.

Meanwhile, Dianne had received the insurance check from the fire, and it was a large amount. Her welfare payments were discontinued because she held the check in her hands. That, too, took some unraveling and meanwhile, Dianne could not pay her rent. She received an eviction notice. She had been working with a local home builder who had a new home which she could purchase with a down payment consisting of her insurance check and the property on which the burned house stood. God’s hand was over her, though Dianne did not acknowledge Him or His help as the papers were signed and as she and her family moved out of the rental house under threat of eviction, directly into her own new home.