“Aah,” Louis starts fussing with the shirt.
“Shh.” Lara jerks the shirt off and Louis sits in the bed, wobbling for just a moment. “Here, put on your clothes. Hurry.” Her whisper seems to echo across the bare, dusty floor and against the cracked plaster of the walls.
“Where we goin’?” Louis’ voice is barely audible. At least he is moving now, although in slow motion, pulling off the too small pajama bottoms and pulling up his little jockeys. The rain makes a constant drumming on the walls, God telling her to hurry.
“Shh. I’ll tell you in a minute. Be quiet.” Lara looks to the hallway, but it is quiet. Frank can’t hear Louis or her from where their bedroom is, not over the commotion of the storm, but she doesn’t want to take any chances. He won’t understand. Why should he? He never has. But she has to do this. It is almost Easter, and the voice of God has told her it is time for her to emerge with her news, and she knows it. And if she knows it, it must be so. She is the only one who would know it, isn’t she? Isn’t she His mother? Hasn’t she been the one to see the vision? Isn’t she the one who has received the messages from on high?
“Shh. Get up, Honey. Get your clothes on,” Lara whispers. Another clap of thunder rattles through the house. Louis shudders and blinks but doesn’t move beyond a shiver. “Come on, now, Louis. Get up.” She pulls the covers off him to let the cold air from the drafty house get him moving.
“What?” Louis reaches for the cover and burrows deeper into the bed, shivering.
“Come on, Louis, get up. We gotta go. Dale is already out in the car waiting. He’s probably scared to death.”
“What?” He turns over and looks at her. Just mentioning his big brother’s name is enough to get his attention.
“Shh.” She starts pulling his pajama shirt off over his head, the force of yanking on the shirt making him sit up now. They are hand-me-downs, and too small at that, so they stick just as the neck of the pajamas is around his ears and eyes.
He has a smudge of dirt on his face, despite her having told him to wash before bed. She can get that later, though. A brilliant flash lights the room again, and she sees him sitting in the middle of the bed, looking up at her and then whipping his head towards the window where the flash came and now a deep-throated thunderbolt is rattling the panes. He looks so much like his father that it is startling, with his small, angular face and his blond hair, cut short now to imitate his father’s. He doesn’t seem to carry any of Lara’s family, with their dark hair and eyes and almost olive skin. No, he is Frank’s. Dale is hers, even if he is blond also. He murmurs something so quiet Lara cannot make it out.
And why shouldn’t he be afraid? It is the storm itself that tells her the time is right, isn’t it? It is God’s own instruction that
echoes now through the house, vibrating Lara’s bones, it seems, telling her the time has come. She sees God’s message in every
flash of lightning, every report of thunder. Yes, he should be afraid, awestruck, and he should show it with every fiber within
him. At least his face doesn’t accuse her the way Dale’s had when she had gotten him up. There was something almost angry in the
expression Louis’ older brother Dale had given her, before settling into a typical seven-year-old scowl. But Louis isn’t frowning at her;
he just looks up, scared maybe at first, but settling now into that quiet, sad gaze he seems to wear all the time after he sees her, his
mother, shushing him.
Lara knows God’s voice. It echoes now in the thunder that jolts
the night. Who can deny the authority in His command? Lara
knows His voice, and she knows what He demands of her, His
blessed vessel. It is time. She feels her way into the darkness
through the doorway, her path now lit by the shadowless light of a
quick flash of lightning. A deep boom that makes the old house
shudder, and Lara jump, follows the light. The room is black again
now, except for the meager glow from a lamp at the far end of the
hallway. Torrents of rain pelt against the window and across the
outside of the house. She crosses to the bed, reaches down, and
puts her hand over Louis’ mouth and he awakes with a start. In
the near dark, she can’t tell if his eyes hold a question or fear. It’s
just the storm that scares him. Another blue-white double flash
brightens the room, followed again by a deafening report. Louis
jumps and twists his head towards the window. He must have
been asleep. How a five year old can be sleeping in the face of
God’s wrath is beyond her. When he looks back, she recognizes the
fear on his face.