Hope Anew, Part 3

Fiction By Jackie West // 5/18/2011




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                One day, Breanna and Mariah were in the meadow at the back of the Freeman property, talking, laughing and having a grand time, when suddenly they heard their names called.

                “Mariah!  Breanna!  Come quickly!”

                The girls leapt to their feet and looked at each other.

                “Mom doesn’t sound very happy,” Breanna remarked as they dashed off.

                “Did you finish your chores?” Mariah inquired.

                “Of course!” Breanna sounded a little hurt.  “I always try to finish my work before I relax and play.”

                “I’m sorry-I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings,” Mariah apologized.

                “It’s alright,” Breanna replied.  “There was no harm in asking, really.”

                By now, they had reached Mrs. Freeman.

                “Yes, Mother?” Breanna asked.

                “Mariah, you got a letter-from Mrs. Johnson,” Mrs. Freeman said.          

                “Is the news bad?” Mariah asked, taking the letter that was held out to her.

                “I don’t know for sure, but I have some idea.” Mrs. Freeman took Breanna by the arm.  “Come; let’s leave her for a while to read it in privacy.”

                When they were out of sight, Mariah quickly opened the envelope and unfolded the enclosed letter.


Dear Mariah:


                It grieves me to be the bearer of bad news.  Today, a tornado struck Briersville and Conway and the surrounding area.  Your family was taken unawares and as they were trying to get to the cellar, the tornado blew over a tree, and the tree fell onto the house and killed them.


                Mariah could hardly believe what she was reading.  “My family-is dead?” 

                Without warning, enormous tears formed in her eyes and spilled onto her cheeks, but she wiped them away, took a deep breath, and continued reading.


Your sister Abigail was visiting and she was killed with all the others.


                “Abigail was killed?” Mariah gasped out.  “It can’t be.  Why did she have to die?  Why did any of them have to die?”

                “Mariah!  Are you alright?”

                Mariah looked up and saw Mrs. Freeman coming toward her.

                “They’re dead,” she said, her voice catching.  “My family’s dead!”

                “I read about the tornado in the newspaper-and the victims that had been found-but I thought that it must be some other family that was killed.  Your family isn’t the only one with nine children in that community, are they?”

                “But they are dead,” Mariah insisted.  “Mrs. Johnson-“she held up the letter- “said so.”  The tears came again, and she could not-she would not-stop them.  “What will I do?”

                “You could-stay with us,” Mrs. Freeman offered, taking Mariah and holding her close.  “Breanna would love it and it would give you a chance to recover from the shock.”

                “But I need my family,” Mariah insisted through her tears.  “It’s impossible to live without them!”

                “They’re gone now, and there’s nothing you can do,” Mrs. Freeman said.  “Please…stay here until some relatives come for you.”

                “They’ll think I’m dead because they didn’t know that I was gone when the tornado hit!” Mariah protested, pulling away from Mrs. Freeman.  “They won’t know that I’m still alive!”

                She ran for the house.



                “Jon, have you heard from your cousin, Daniah Shetler, recently?”

                The words were spoken softly, yet Jon Matthews heard it from across the room.  He looked up.  “No. Why do you ask?”

                His wife looked up from her needlework.  “You heard about the tornado?”

                Jon put down his book.  “What tornado?”

                “You know, the one that hit South Carolina near Conway and Briersville.”  Miriam pulled her needle through the fabric and stabbed it through again.

                “I didn’t hear about it.”  Jon stood up.  “That’s where the Shetlers live, isn’t it?”

                “Yes-that’s why I brought it up.”  Miriam gave most of her attention to her needlework again.  “They were killed in the storm.”

                “They were killed?” Jon asked incredulously.

                “Yes.  They were some of the few casualties in that area.  Apparently the storm caught them unawares, and a tree fell on their house as they were trying to get to the basement.”  Miriam gave up trying to sew and set aside her fabric and needle.

                “Is that-“Jon began, stopping abruptly as their oldest son, Micaiah, entered the room.

                “Dad, the lawn is mown, and-“he began, stopping when he saw their solemn faces.  “Is something wrong?”

                “Yes, Micaiah,” Jon replied seriously.  “Something is very wrong.”

                “What?” Micaiah asked anxiously.

                “A tornado struck near Conway and Briersville in South Carolina,” Miriam explained.

                Micaiah’s breath caught.  “The Shetlers-?”

                “Yes, they’re all dead, at least according to the newspapers.”

                “Wouldn’t the newspapers be as honest as they could?” Micaiah asked.

                “They’re not always completely honest,” Jon said.  “We really should check and make sure.  The only way to be more positive than we are now is to go and check the ruins of their house and talk with the neighbors.”

                “It’s expensive to go there,” Miriam observed, “but we should if we want to know for sure.  There might be survivors, and they will need help from family, not only from friends and workers.”

                “Yes,” Jon agreed.  “Should we take anyone with us?”

                “Can Micaiah run the farm with Jason?” Miriam asked thoughtfully.

                “We could always ask Isaac, Ruth’s husband, to come down a few times daily and check on things,” Jon suggested.

                “Can you manage?” Jon asked Micaiah.

                “I think so,” Micaiah said, trying to be cheerful.  “We’ve managed the farm when you’ve been gone for a day or two at a time.”

                “That’s settled, then,” Jon said, standing up.  “Pack us some food, clothes and other necessities, Miriam, and I’ll buy some train tickets over the phone.  We’ll leave as soon as possible.”  He turned to Micaiah.  “Telegram us if there’s any trouble that Martha and Isaac can’t deal with, alright?”

                “Yes, Dad,” came the obedient answer.


                Within the hour, the Matthews parents were ready to leave.  They gave a few final instructions to the children, Micaiah, Jason, Gabrielle, Leah, and Danielle, and left.

                At the station, they wasted no time in purchasing tickets, having their luggage loaded on the train, and getting on it.  They were soon on their way.


                Mrs. Johnson was standing among the wreckage of the Shetler home when she heard a voice.  Turning around, she saw a couple driving a buggy down the lane.

                “Is this the site of the former Shetler home?” the man asked.

                “Yes,” Mrs. Johnson replied.  “Did you know them?”

                “Daniah Shetler is my cousin,” the man answered.  “I heard about what happened and I came as quickly as possible.”

                The buggy soon stopped, and the two climbed out.

                “We read the newspaper, which said that the whole family is dead,” the lady said softly.  “Is that true?”

                “No,” Mrs. Johnson replied.  “Their second daughter is alive.”

                “How is that?” asked the man.

                “She is away, visiting a distant friend.  I don’t even know if she knows that her family is dead.  I wrote her a letter, but who knows if she has received it yet?”

                They stood among the wreckage in silence for a while before the man spoke.

                “I’m sorry, but in my anxiety I forgot to introduce myself and my wife.  I am Jon Matthews, and this is Miriam,” said the man.

                “That’s alright,” Mrs. Johnson said graciously.  “I forgot to introduce myself, too.”

                They lapsed into silence again.  Then Miriam said,

                “Where is their daughter-Mariah, right?”

                “Yes, that’s right.” Mrs. Johnson nodded.  “She is in Greenston, Kansas, right now.  Like I said, she was visiting a friend who lives quite far away and whom she had not seen in quite some time.  I’m not sure if she knows what has happened yet. I wrote her a letter, but I don’t know if she has received it yet.”

                “Do you think we should go and see her?” Miriam asked Jon.

                “Will she know us?  We haven’t seen her since she was a toddler and she might not remember us.”

                “I will go with you, if what you are saying is true,” Mrs. Johnson offered.  “I chaperoned her trip to Greenston, and she knows me very well.”

                “If you have the time, we wouldn’t mind it if you went with us.  But if you don’t-“Jon began.

                “I will talk to my husband right now, if you will allow me too,” Mrs. Johnson said.  “I live right across the road, and you can come with me and talk to him, too.”

                “Thank you very much,” Jon answered.  “We can drive you over in our buggy, if you would like.”

                Mrs. Johnson accepted the invitation, and they got into the buggy and moved off.


                Over a tasty dinner of fried chicken and fresh, cooked peas and creamed potatoes, the Johnsons and Jon and Miriam talked.

                Mr. and Mrs. Johnson talked politely to the Matthews, and open honesty the couple used when the Johnsons talked to them about the Shetler family and their extended relatives brought them to the conclusions that the Matthews’ could be trusted.

                 They decided that it would be best for Mrs. Johnson to go with the Matthews’ and tell Mariah who they were.




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