She could tell by the murmuring and concerned faces around her that something pretty bad must’ve happened, but nobody would tell her what it was. All of the sudden momma grabbed the hand of her and sister and hurried to the car. Daddy jumped in the driver’s seat, shut the car door hard and sped out of the driveway. She sat in the back seat eyes as big as saucers and silent as a mouse. She could feel her throat constrict and she wanted to let out a cry, but silence prevailed. It was such a new place, but somehow daddy knew exactly where he was going and somehow she knew it wasn’t going to be a place she or number three wanted to be.
Her heart felt heavy, like someone had hung a weight around it.
The reckless drive to wherever daddy was taking them seemed to take a while. She was small and the backseat of their old blue sedan swallowed her up, there was no sense even trying to look over the front bench seat to see where they were going. She was able to steal a peek out of the car door window and when she did she could read the words clearly as they were illuminated and stood out proudly even in the light of day.
Number three must be hurt and again the feeling of unabashed fear grew inside her tender heart. She had never been to the emergency room, but she knew enough at eight to know you only go there when you’re in a bad way.
Why was number three in this place? Would she see her again and, if so, when? Questions that no child should ever have to ask about a sister, but here she was swallowed up in the back seat of the big blue sedan with crocodile tears spilling down her cheeks wondering why this happened on the perfect day of moving in.
Once daddy parked, she was quickly shuffled out of the car, in through the automatic glass doors and told to sit in the cold chairs while momma and daddy went to the desk and told the lady wearing white they were looking for number three. In her clouded vision the looks on everyone’s faces seemed grim and their voices sounded sorrowful. Wasn’t she just trying to steal away out of the back door to run and play in the big back yard? Wasn’t the sun just shining and didn’t life feel grand a few minutes ago? How could things change so quickly? Her throat constricted some more. All she wanted to do was run from this cold, sterile place but instead she remained quiet and waited in the cold chair by the vending machine.
She and number one didn’t move except to go to the bathroom. Change seemed to be dancing around her, taunting her like a bad dream. Nothing felt safe or stable so she gripped the side of the chair until her knuckles turned white and hung on.
This was especially hard since she had a fidgety nature as momma called it. But it seemed fitting to her to remain still and wait for whatever was next. It took what seemed like days for daddy to come through the double swinging doors where he had disappeared earlier, and her heart leapt to see him. He had no smile to offer and came straight to the cold chairs to take her and big sister home. As they walked out of the automatic doors, she noticed the sun had already covered the sky and had gone to bed for the night; the darkness defining the mood they felt. The drive back to the new house was quiet and uneventful, unlike the drive earlier.
And she remained silent the whole way home.
Once the big blue sedan arrived at their new home address, she, daddy and sister made their way inside to lay on the mattresses spread out on the floor to try and sleep. Momma wouldn’t leave number three for even a minute, and she knew that was the best decision.
Even at eight years old she understood that.
She laid her head on the pillow and pulled the blanket over her head. Some might’ve thought she was cold and needed the warmth of her own breath to fill the blanket tent. But, what she really wanted was to feel safe, like she did yesterday. She wanted to run through the sugar cane or lay in the meadow while the grass tickled her nose. She wanted back what was stolen, the thing that made her feel as light as a feather and as happy as can be…her fearless heart.
But, mostly, she wanted to see number three.
Tears came easily as she lay in her blanket tent and the next thing she knew the sun was tickling her cheeks, it was the next day.
Momma still wasn’t home and she wanted desperately to hear what happened to number three, she longed to sit in the floor and play tinker toys together like they had so many times before. She unwrapped herself from the wadded blanket, pulled her twisted nightgown down, wiped the sleepy from her eyes and wandered into the kitchen hoping someone would be there to satisfy her curiosity; what she found was a friendly stranger making breakfast.
Daddy had already gone back to the emergency room.
She sat in silence over her eggs and white bread toast hoping the friendly stranger would explain what happened the day before. Instead the nice lady turned on the TV and situated the channel on cartoons. The stranger asked her to sit down in front of the box and she complied; she allowed her mind to be captured by the animated characters. It didn’t seem like too long until daddy showed up and she met him at the door ready for a hug and he held her tight. He gathered her and number one in the great room and sat them next to each other on the old couch. He explained that little sister had taken her bike and gone for a ride, it seems she too wanted to explore this new place. Only her bike ride had become a terrible nightmare when she flew down a tall hill with a big bump at the bottom that sent her flying over the handlebars landing directly on her head.
Because the big yellow truck was still being unloaded, and there had been no chance to meet the neighbors, no one knew who number three was. Some nice lady who had seen her fall had called the doctor and number three was taken by ambulance to the emergency room all by herself. It seemed to her when daddy spoke those last words, “all by herself,” his voice went a little shaky, and it made her want to grab him and hold on tight. Daddy went on to tell them she couldn’t see right now and her head hurt real bad. He also said people were praying for her sight to come back, so we did the same. He explained she was staying in a room at the emergency room place and would be home as soon as her head felt better.
Even though she knew daddy was still talking, her eight year old ears didn’t want to hear any more.
All she wanted to do was jump off the old worn couch and run outside down the backyard hill and keep on running until this was all far behind her. What do you mean number three couldn’t see? And how bad was her head hurt anyway? She pictured herself running and running to a place where none of this fear and hurt could follow her, but it seemed that place was farther than she could go so, in her heart, she kept on running.
More of the story next week…
“He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
nor the arrow that flies in the day.”