Two Simple Words, Part 3
Bright sunlight hit Autumn’s eyes, and she blinked twice, briefly, before opening them.
Quickly turning her back to the sunlight, she glanced at her digital clock, and her eyes widened.
“It’s past eight?!” she asked herself incredulously.
A knock sounded on her door and she jumped.
“Sweetie, you need to come down and get breakfast,” came her mother’s voice. “It’s one of your favorites: scrambled eggs and sautéed onions with buttered toast and peach tea as a beverage.”
“I’ll be out soon!” Autumn replied, leaping out of bed and turning quickly to make it. She dressed in clean clothes before dragging a brush through her hair and quickly putting it up into a ponytail.
She hurried out the door and down the stairs to the kitchen.
She stopped quickly when she saw who was seated at the kitchen table with her parents.
“Uncle Matthew and Aunt Rachael!” she exclaimed in delighted surprise.
Her aunt and uncle stood.
“Hello, Autumn,” Matthew said with a big smile on his face. “Surprised?”
“Am I ever!” Autumn ran to hug them before they all sat down again. “Where are the cousins?” she asked, referring to their six children.
“They’re all still asleep in the camper,” Rachael replied. “They were dead tired by the time they arrived around midnight last night. But as for the seventh…”
Matthew smiled. “Oh, right.”
“Seventh? You have another?” Autumn asked in surprise. “I never heard about it.”
“They decided to surprise you, sweetie,” Mr. Harrison said, “but we knew all along.”
“Where is the-seventh?” Autumn asked.
Rachael pulled out a car seat from under the table that Autumn had not noticed before. “Meet Keir Marek.”
Autumn peered into the car seat.
Bundled into a few blankets was the teeniest, most adorable baby that Autumn had ever seen.
“He’s so sweet,” she observed softly.
“He’s very quiet,” Rachael added. “He almost never cries and doesn’t object to being held by strangers.”
“That’s because he’s asleep two-thirds of the time,” Matthew objected.
“Shall we pray?” Mr. Harrison intervened, and, after Autumn had taken her seat, everyone bowed their heads as he blessed the food. Then they dug in.
“Did you cook this, Jared?” Matthew asked.
Mr. Harrison laughed as he went to pour himself a cup of coffee. “No, you’ll have to thank your sister for the meal. I’m not cooking right now.”
“I’m not cooking because you’re here.”
“Jared, that’s a lame excuse,” Matthew pointed out as he buttered two slices of toast.
“But it’s true,” he replied.
Rachael interrupted, “Please quiet down, Matthew and Jared, or you’ll wake the baby.”
“Sorry, sweetheart.” Matthew quieted down as he piled sautéed onions on his scrambled eggs and started eating.
“So, how’s life?” Rachael asked.
“We’re surviving,” Jared replied as he sat back down. “We’ve been unusually busy.” He winked slyly at Autumn.
“Why’s that?” Matthew asked. “Did you get a promotion at work or something like that?”
“Well…no…” Mr. Harrison said slowly.
“What’s going on, Stacey?” Matthew turned to his younger sister. “Did Jared lose his job and then you got a job to support the family, and send Autumn to school?”
She shook her head, smiling. “No.”
“Then what is it?”
“Autumn-tell them,” her father told her.
“Mom’s-expecting,” Autumn said with a smile.
“Stacey!” Matthew said in surprise, turning to her. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“It more or less slipped my mind,” she replied.
“Have you started coming up with a name?”
“Have we started coming up with any names? No.”
“Names-name with an‘s’ on the end?”
“That’s right.” Mr. Harrison nodded as he sandwiched two scrambled eggs with sautéed onions in them between two slices of bread.
“How many?” Matthew leaned back and folded his arms.
“Twins,” Mr. Harrison answered casually.
“Twins?” Rachael said incredulously. “How did you get twins?”
Mr. Harrison bit into his improvised egg sandwich and pointed one finger up toward heaven.
Matthew nodded. “I believe it.”
“How far along are you?” Rachael asked.
“Almost three months,” Mrs. Harrison replied. “And we found out their number only yesterday.”
“When are you going to find out their genders?” Matthew queried.
“We’ll find out what they are when we want to,” Mr. Harrison answered. “This means not for a few months yet.”
“Will you tell us when you do find out?” Rachael asked.
“No. You’ll find out what they are after they’re born.” Mr. Harrison stood up as two sleepy-eyed children came into the house through the back door. “Good morning, Anna and Philip.”
“When’s breakfast?” asked Anna, who was five.
“Breakfast,” echoed Philip, the three-year-old. “May I have breakfast please, Mommy?”
Rachael welcomed him into her lap and gestured for Anna to sit next to her. “Of course, Philip.”
Autumn rose to fetch some more plates as the door opened and the fourteen-year old, Brayden, entered.
Autumn sighed. Oh, no, she thought, almost mournfully. It’s Brayden, just one terror of the Logan family.
Brayden, who looked refreshed and nowhere near as sleepy as Anna and Philip, promptly seated himself at the table next to Autumn. She groaned quietly as he started heaping food on his plate.
“Hello, Brayden,” Mrs. Harrison said as she poured him a mug of tea. “Did you sleep well?”
He nodded his thanks as he quickly created an egg sandwich. “Yes, I did, thank you. I was the first one asleep.”
“I see, as you’re bouncier than these two,” his father said, gesturing to Anna and Philip, who were slowly starting to eat.
“I’m bouncier than them, too,” insisted a seven year old boy as he came through the door.
“Jonah,” Rachael scolded gently, “be polite.”
Jonah sat quietly next to his mother and she helped him get his breakfast.
No sooner had he begun eating when the door creaked open again, and seventeen-year old Cody strolled in.
Autumn gulped as he flopped into the chair on the other side of her and piled his plate with food.
“Hello, everybody,” he said cheerfully, and a chorus of ‘hellos’ greeted his words.
Autumn noted how quiet the kitchen got after he arrived.
“What’s with the gloom?” Cody asked, noting the silence.
“You’re here,” Brayden muttered under his breath.
“What?” Cody turned to him.
“Nothing.” Brayden focused on his egg sandwich.
Cody raised his eyebrow as he took a big bite of his sandwich. “You said something. You didn’t sound happy.”
“O’ course not,” Brayden said in a low voice to Autumn, who giggled.
“What’s that?” Cody asked, turning to Brayden.
“Nothing,” Brayden said out loud in an innocent voice.
The rest of the meal was eaten in awkward silence.
Rachael and Mrs. Harrison cleaned up the kitchen, and then the adults and the older children settled themselves on couches and chairs in the living room while the younger children contented themselves with toys on the floor.
“Did you have that ultrasound yesterday to find out if they are alright?” Matthew asked.
“Yes,” Mrs. Harrison replied.
“And are they healthy?” Rachael asked.
“No,” Mr. Harrison answered. “They have some kind of heart defect that the doctors haven’t determined yet.” They sat in silence for a few minutes before Matthew turned to Autumn. “How are you doing in school?”
“I’m doing well, and I’m keeping up, even with the extra housecleaning and cooking that I often have to do,” Autumn said. “Eighth grade is a lot harder than seventh, though!”
“I’ll bet that your cooking has improved greatly this fall,” Matthew commented, winking at her.
“Yes, it has,” Mrs. Harrison agreed, smiling teasingly at her husband. “She’s almost better than Jared now.”
“Hey!” Mr. Harrison exclaimed in protest. “She may be good at it, but she’s not better than me!”
“I’m joking, honey,” Mrs. Harrison said sweetly.
“Then we should have a contest,” Autumn suggested, “and Uncle Matthew can be the judge, since he’s a food expert.”
“That sounds like fun! Let’s do it,” said Rachael.
“I like that idea,” said Brayden. “I’ll be a taste-tester.”
“Me too,” Cody added.
“It does sound like fun,” Mrs. Harrison agreed. “And even if you don’t want to, Jared, you’re still outvoted. We’ll do it this afternoon, and we can have for dinner what’s left over after those two have finished their ravaging,” she said as she gestured to Cody and Brayden. “Sound alright?”
“Yes!” chorused everyone except Mr. Harrison.
“Hon,” Mrs. Harrison said, turning to him, “you’re outvoted-you have to do it.”
“I don’t want to,” he stated.
“You don’t want to prove that you’re better than your own child-a girl at that?” Matthew challenged.
“Well-alright,” Mr. Harrison reluctantly agreed.
“Hurrah!” Autumn cheered, and Cody and Brayden were quick to join in her cheer.
Mr. Harrison rolled his eyes and sat back in his chair.
There were a few more minutes of awkward silence before Rachael asked Autumn,” Are you excited about having siblings?”
Autumn looked at her lap and twisted her shirt with her hands as she nodded. “Yes. I’m just-well-disappointed that they're sick.”
Rachael patted her shoulder. “It’s alright. That’s just the way that God made them to be. They’re special and unique, just like every other human being. Maybe this is a way that God is wanting you to grow in your faith in him.”
“I’m finding it hard to believe right now,” Autumn admitted. “I’m angry at him for making my siblings this way. It just doesn’t seem very fair.”
“I understand,” her aunt sympathized. “My younger brother was born with cancer and he died right before he turned five. I was heartbroken and so angry at God that I fell away from him and went to do my own thing to try and cover up my grief.”
“And,” Brayden spoke up, “there was the time that you lost the baby that you conceived a year after I was born.”
“Yes,” Rachael admitted. “I had a very hard time dealing with that. I’m sensitive to many things, and when people who are very close to me die, it takes me a very long time to get over their death.”
“My mother had twin girls six years after my brother died,” Rachael said, “and that helped my grief some. My mother encouraged me to talk to God about my problems, and when I did so, the sin that I had thrown myself into was suddenly very repulsive.”
They sat quietly and watched the younger children at their play. They were startled when the last child to arrive, quiet 10 year old Sierra, came through the door.
“Is everybody up already?” she asked in surprise. “Is that why the camper was so quiet?”
Rachael beckoned her over, and she squeezed in between her parents. “Yes, we’ve all been up for some time.” She gestured to Autumn. “Do you remember your cousin, Autumn?”
Sierra shook her head shyly as she snuggled up against her mother.
Rachael smiled at Autumn. “She’ll get to know you, seeing as we’ll be here for a couple of weeks.”
Autumn blinked. “You’re really staying for that long?”
Matthew nodded and smiled. “Yes.”
Mrs. Harrison heaved herself up from the seat that she had been sinking back in. “As I seem to recall, Matthew and Rachael, you have never seen our house. Would you like to now?”
“Sure,” Matthew replied, and Rachael nodded.
“Would you like to see it?” she asked Cody, Brayden, and Sierra, who all shook their heads.
Autumn’s parents, aunt and uncle left to tour the house, leaving all the kids behind.
They sat awkwardly for awhile before Brayden spoke.
“So…uh…Autumn…what kind of things d’you like to do?”
“Well-I write, and I’ll be in a soccer league soon…but pro football isn’t starting for awhile yet-I like to watch it,” Autumn quickly added.
Brayden and Cody looked at each other and grinned.
“Yeah,” Cody said, “we’re disappointed about that, too.”
“Do either of you write?” Autumn inquired, warming up slightly to talking with her cousins, whom she had not spoken with in person for more than a year.
“Cody’s in an English class at our local community college in Indiana,” Brayden replied, sitting forward in his seat. “And he recently started writing a novel.”
“What’s it about?” Autumn turned to Brayden.
“Well-“Cody started hesitantly-“my main character is this guy named Jayden…he lives on my imaginary world of Iximende. A super big bad guy who’s virtually undefeatable takes over Iximende and most of Jayden’s relatives and friends are killed by his army and close associates. Jayden joins a group of people who are determined to find out the weakness of the bad guy and defeat him through it.”
“Oh, that sounds good.” Autumn sat forward eagerly. “What’s the name of the bad guy?”
“Malvir Atrector,” Cody answered, looking very embarrassed. “And if you heard what it meant, you’d think it was even cheesier.”
“What does it mean?” Autumn wondered curiously.
Cody grinned sheepishly. “Bad man-Dark master.”
Autumn sat back, almost lost for words. “Bad man-Dark master?” she asked, as she cracked up and fell over on the couch.
“I knew I shouldn’t have told her,” Cody muttered.
Brayden just sat back in his seat, smiling.
Autumn was quick to recover, and when she sat up straightened herself, she saw that Cody was still grinning sheepishly.
“It’s true,” he said, shrugging. “But I just call him Atrector in my story.”
“I have one bad guy whose name is Alex,” Autumn said. “My bad guy names generally aren’t that evil except for some, who seem extremely evil right from the start-take a couple named Valdemar and Soren.”
“I normally use regular names too.” Cody nodded. “Names like Connor, Darren, Abby, Bekah, and Amy.”
“I often use real names, but many of them are pretty unusual,” Autumn explained. She paused before continuing. “Did you bring your story with you?”
“I brought my laptop, and it has my story on it,” Cody said, rising from his seat. “I’ll go get it.”
In Autumn’s opinion, her relatives’ visit passed by far too fast. She and her father had more than one cooking contest, and Matthew judged every one fairly; Autumn won a great deal of the time, and Cody and Brayden, who she thought would be extremely annoying and bothersome as they had always been in the past, were now fun to hang out with, and Autumn was disappointed when they and their family had to leave.
November arrived, and everyone in the town of Climax, North Carolina was surprised when a few inches of soft, light snow fell a few days into the new month.
Autumn was even busier as her mom grew larger and had to spend much time in bed.
It was November 5.
Autumn was bustling around the kitchen, preparing a lunch of tortillas and salad, when her mother called:
“Autumn, please bring me the phone.”
“Yes, Mom!” Autumn called, quickly snatching up the kitchen phone from its cradle, hurrying upstairs, and giving it to her mother.
She was shocked and surprised when her father walked through the door half an hour later as she set the table and dished out the food.
“Dad! Is everything alright?” she asked.
He held a finger to his lips as he ran up the stairs. “Stay down here and finish getting lunch ready.”
Autumn obeyed, puzzled by her father’s actions.
She finished preparing the meal and went quietly to the bottom of the stairs. Straining her ears, Autumn could barely hear her father talking on the phone. With whom, she knew not.
Autumn went to the kitchen table and sat and thought things over. Mom probably called Dad, and that’s why she wanted the phone. But why would she call Dad? She wouldn’t unless-
She sat up straight. “No!”
Ten minutes later, a knock sounded on the door.
Autumn ran to answer it.
The midwife! she thought as she let in the lady at the door and directed her to her parents’ room. Oh no!
Minutes passed, and dinner got colder. Autumn knew that she should probably put it on the stove again to heat it up, but she didn’t know when her parents were coming down-if they came down at all-and she wanted to know what was happening as soon as she could without having to tend food.
Her father came to the top of the stairs just a few minutes later. “Autumn,” he called down quietly. “You need to come upstairs.”
Autumn took the stairs two at a time and was in her parents’ room in a flash.
“What’s wrong?” she was quick to ask.
Her mother was lying in bed, crying, as her father held her in his arms.
Autumn’s heart melted and sank. “The babies-?” she said as she sank to the floor. “No! It can’t be-“
“Autumn,” her father said softly and gently, “your mother lost them.”
Autumn’s eyes dissolved into tears, and the midwife was quickly at her side in comfort.
“Mr. and Mrs. Harrison-I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” was all she was able to say as her held out her arms to Autumn, who shook her head and buried her face in her hands.
Mr. Harrison beckoned her close and held both Mrs. Harrison and Autumn in his arms.
Four days passed.
Mrs. Harrison stayed in her room, too weak and grieved to attend the burial of the babies.
Mr. Harrison ordered a simple headstone that marked the tiny grave of the siblings that Autumn would never meet on earth. It read:
Here lie Joshua Matthias Harrison
Lily Grace Harrison.
November 5, 2014
Rest peacefully in Jesus, precious little ones.
Autumn could not stop crying. Only her best friend Melody had been able to break through the emotional barrier that Autumn had erected around herself since Joshua and Lily had died, and offer her comfort.
Melody could empathize with her friend. Just a few years before, her mother had borne a little girl who was supposed to have died during the pregnancy; the doctors called her fortunate to have four months on earth before passing away.
Autumn sobbed out to her friend her fears that her mother and father would be buried in grief for the rest of their lives. She was absolutely crushed that she had lost two siblings and scared that she would never have earthly siblings as she had hoped.
She was very disappointed for her parents, who loved children and had always wanted a large family, yet were devastated when they found out that they were infertile. When Autumn, the first child they had ever conceived, was born, their joy and happiness was unexplainable.
And now they had lost two children.
Autumn dragged the vacuum cleaner back towards her as she slowly cleaned up the living room floor. It was almost Thanksgiving, almost three weeks after the deaths of the two babies, and yet she could not stop thinking about it. Her mother was making an extremely slow recovery, and her father had decided that they would only have a few friends over for the holiday to take it easy on her.
Autumn sighed as she switched off the vacuum and stared out the window at the back of the living room to the far end of the backyard, where she could just barely see the gravestone. She visited it and cried at least two or three times a day, and Melody was almost always there to comfort her.
Autumn turned as her father entered the room. “How’s Mom?”
“Resting,” he replied softly.
Autumn ran to him and threw her arms around him in a big hug, which he returned.
She looked up at him. “May we please Melody and her family over for Thanksgiving?”
“Of course,” he replied, “if they don’t have any guests coming.”
“I talked to her this morning, and she says that their holiday is clear. Could I go ask her family if they can come?”
With her father’s assent, Autumn threw on a light jacket and ran out the front door and over to Melody’s house.
Melody opened the door before she was even up the porch steps. “Autumn! Is everything alright?”
“Well, remember saying that you wouldn’t have any guests for Thanksgiving and you wouldn’t be going anywhere either?” Autumn asked.
Melody could only nod before Autumn rushed on.
“Well, Dad said he only wanted a few guests to come this year, and when I asked him if your family could come over, he said yes!”
“Yippee!” Melody squealed. “Come in and let’s ask my parents.”
Autumn followed her into the house, and Melody’s parents were quick to agree to the invitation and thanked Autumn graciously for thinking of them.
“Is there anything we need to bring?” asked Melody’s mother.
Autumn blinked. She hadn’t thought to ask her father-since he was in charge of the meal-and she didn’t know what to say.
“I’ll ask,” she replied, but since it’s going to be such a small gathering, I don’t think you’ll need to.”
Thanksgiving was always such a joyous time of year for Autumn, and although she thought much about Lily and Joshua, her grief lessened some for a little while.
It wasn’t long afterward that she lapsed back into having more saddening thoughts, however, and her anger toward God flared up yet again. She spent a great deal of time in her room, after doing all her work, thinking and crying and pouring out her thoughts of grief and anger into the pages of her very worn journal.