Hope Anew, Part 5

Fiction By Jackie West // 6/13/2011

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                “Micaiah!” Danielle called.  “MICAIAH!”

                “Ouch!” Jason winced and covered his ears, immediately dropping his hoe.  “What do you need him for, Ellie?”

                Danielle folded her arms importantly.  “I have a telegram addressed to him.  You can’t read it, since it wasn’t sent to you.”

                Jason rolled his eyes as he pointed out towards the road.  “He’s mowing out there.”

                “Thanks!” Danielle ran off in the direction he had pointed out.

                Jason shook his head as he went back to work.  “Good grief!”

                Micaiah wiped sweat off his face and determinedly began pushing the mower again.  He had nearly completed his third round when Danielle appeared at the edge of the grassy patch, waving a piece of paper in her hand.  He switched off the mower and went over to her.  “Yes?”

                “Mom and Dad sent a telegram to you,” Danielle said, handing him the paper.

                Micaiah eagerly opened it and read it aloud.  When he finished, he handed it back to her.  “Tell everyone to quickly finish their work and then come to the house.  Mom and Dad should be back soon.”  He paused.  “With Mariah.”

                Danielle’s face brightened considerably.  “Oh, goody!” she exclaimed excitedly, dashing off on her errand.

 

                In an hour, everyone was sitting on the couches in the living room.

                “OK,” Micaiah began.  “Mom and Dad sent a telegram earlier this morning, saying that they would be back this evening.  They said to clean the house and cook plan tonight’s big meal-“he looked at Gabrielle when he said this-“and the chores in the barn need to be done by six.”

                Danielle raised her hand.  “Should I watch Leah?  She needs to be tended, and she’s been quite a bit of trouble today.”

                “She’ll be napping after lunch.” Micaiah glanced at Leah, his look almost daring her to argue or complain.

                Leah’s face almost turned sour, but she nodded obediently.

                “Jason, you and I need to finish mowing the lawn,” Micaiah continued.  “This afternoon, after lunch, we’ll work more out in the fields while Gabrielle and Danielle weed the garden and pick some of the vegetables.”

                “What’s for lunch?” Jason asked.

                Gabrielle looked at the ceiling.  “Well,” she said slowly and rather sheepishly, “I haven’t really thought about it, but we’ll probably have jam sandwiches and fruit salad.”

                “That works.”  Micaiah stood and clapped his hands.  “Alright, crew, right now Jason and I are going out.  Girls, get to work on lunch and call us as soon as it’s ready.”

                Everyone hurried off to their various tasks.

 

                Mariah shaded her eyes against the sun and squinted through the dust blown up by the wagon.  “Is that the farm?” she asked.

                Jon nodded.  “Yep.”

                Miriam waved her hand in the direction of some fields.  “Those are the wheat fields, and right ahead are the potato and carrot patches.  The other vegetables are in two big gardens near the house.”

                “They must take a lot of work to tend,” Mariah observed.  “Our farm was mostly dairy and meat.  We grew some grains and vegetables, but bought most of them at a farmers’ market.”

                “Hmm,” Miriam said.  “We’ve always tried to be mostly self-supportive, except for some things that have to be bought because we can’t make them.”

                “I guess your children have to work really hard,” Mariah said.

                “Most of them, fortunately, have developed a love for good, hard work,” Jon said, smiling.  “We aren’t slave drivers.”

                Mariah sat silently as they drove in the lane and pulled up in front of the house.

                Five children spilled out the door.  They lined up and stood quietly as Jon leapt out of the wagon and helped Mariah and Miriam down.

                “Children, this is your cousin, Mariah,” Jon introduced.  “And Mariah, this is Micaiah, Jason, Gabrielle, Danielle, and Leah.”

                “Hello, Mariah,” her cousins spoke simultaneously.

                Mariah waved shyly, but didn’t speak.

                “Try to make her feel welcome,” Jon told them.  “She’ll be staying with us for awhile to see what it is like to live here.  If she likes it, then she will become your new sister.”

                Leah glanced at her parents, then stepped out of the line and ran to envelope Mariah in a big hug.  “Hello,” she murmured.  “I’m glad you’re here.”

                Mariah returned the hug, and leaned down to whisper, “I think I’m glad to be here too.”

               

                It was evening.

                Mariah sat on the bed in the room she was now sharing with Leah and sighed wearily.  It had been such a long and tiring trip to reach her relatives’ farm, and she wished that right now she could just close her sore eyes and go to sleep.

                She was almost ready to do so when someone knocked on the door.

                “Come in,” Mariah called.

                Lean cracked open the door and slipped inside.  “Mom wanted me to tell you that dinner is ready.”

                Mariah stood.  “Thank you.  I’ll be there soon.”

                Leah left and Mariah went to the washbasin beside the door.  She washed her hands and face, retied her hair with a fresh ribbon, and straightened the clean dress she had put on right after settling in.

                She hurried to the dinner table.

                Micaiah quickly stood and pulled out a chair for her, and Mariah sat with a murmur of thanks.

                Jon blessed the food, and then served out potato soup, fresh baked bread with butter, and green salad.

                The Matthews’ children dug in eagerly, but Mariah was almost too tired to even pick up her spoon.  She managed to eat half a bowl of soup while listening to the other kids chatter to their parents about what had happened while they had been gone.

                “Isaac and the Royals came to help harvest the front wheat field,” Jason reported.

                “The grass is all mown, and we tried to get the farm chores done on time,” Micaiah added.  “Gabrielle and Danielle made really good meals, and Leah just ran around causing trouble, like she usually does.”

                Jon looked at Leah and sighed.  “We’ll have to talk tonight, Leah,” he said, scraping his soup bowl down with a spoon.  “You’re too naughty when Jason and Micaiah are left in charge, and it disappoints me greatly.”

                Leah ashamedly looked at her lap and nodded.

                “Danielle helped me weed the two front gardens and pick vegetables, and we all did the autumn cleaning together,” Gabrielle put in.

                Miriam nodded approvingly.  “Good. It sounds like most of you were good, hard workers while Dad and I were gone.  At the end of the week, we’ll make ice cream.”

                “Yaaaayyyyy!” the children cheered.

                Mariah brightened slightly at the thought of homemade ice cream.  Even at her family’s dairy farm, it had been a rare treat.

                But now the thought of her family and lost farm just made Mariah sad all over again.  She didn’t know how to describe how much she missed them.

                Miriam noticed how tired she was and said gently, “Mariah, if you want, you can go sleep.  You look almost too tired to stand.”

                Mariah nodded her thanks, excused herself from the table, and made her way slowly to her room.

 

 

                August 30, 1996

 

                It has been a long and tiring day.  We finally completed out trip from Greenston, Kansas, to the Matthews’ in Georgia, with a stop in Conway to see the remains of my family’s farm and to give my family a proper funeral.  I couldn’t stop crying because I had lost my wonderful brothers Peter, Thomas, Martin and Andrew, my kind and loving parents, Daniah and Thomas, and my sweet and gentle sisters Joyce, Adah, Sarah, and Abby. That sad day was the last time I ever saw and ever will see my family on this earth.

                I can’t help but feel angry at God.  Why would he do this to me?  What did I ever do to deserve losing my family?  They didn’t deserve to die.  They were the best family on the face of this earth, and now they are gone forever.  I can only visit their graves now, and even those are farther away than I care to travel now.

                I can’t find comfort in anything, not even in my Bible.  Of course, why would I find comfort in it?  The Author of it was the one who killed my family and left me an orphan.  Why does he say he will make everything okay when it isn’t?  I need my family back!  Of course, they won’t come, so now I’ll just be a miserable little lump of a relative in the Matthews’ family.

 

                The humid August night was a restless one for Mariah.  She couldn’t stop thinking about her family, and she couldn’t stop crying because of that.

                Why did they have to die?  The thought wormed into her brain and she simply could not shake it off.     

                A voice in her head urged her: You’re angry and upset.  You had no choice but to let the Matthews’ family take you in, and now you’re embarrassed because of their charity.  You don’t appreciate it, do you?  Show your inappreciation!  Keep being angry!  Take it out on them.  They are deepening your unhappiness.  Run away!  Live your dreams; do what you want to do.  Don’t let them stop you!

                Another voice, more quietly, said:  I understand your sadness and grief, Mariah.  The Matthews’ are grieving with you, and they want to help you and comfort you as you recover from the loss of your family. Let them take you into their fold and let you be their own child.  They will never replace your family, but they can give you the help that you need.

                Mariah ignored them both. 

                Eventually, she was able to drop into a fitful sleep.

                Her dreams were filled with images of huge, destructive tornadoes ripping apart houses and destroying farmland, killing people and animals and leaving sorrow and grief and loss in their wake. 

                Leah awoke in the middle of the night to see Mariah lying in bed, asleep, yet shaking and sobbing quietly through her terrible nightmares.

                The little six year old climbed out of bed, padded over to Mariah and sat on the edge of her bed.  She started stroking her hair and humming softly, like a mother comforting her hurt and crying child.  Mariah soon relaxed and quieted down, and Leah went back to bed.

 

 

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