The phone rings. A recently deceased relative tells you the end is near and hangs up.
| To begin a story with the words, "It was a dark and stormy night", is so cliché. It shows a lack of imagination, no motivation to put forth any effort for the reader, and it is the earmark of an amateur. However, night time is naturally dark and, if there's a storm wreaking havoc, I suppose it would have been a "dark and stormy night".
I think I can give you better, though.
The wake had ended several hours before, and all but a few of the condolence bearing visitors had made their way to the door. My cousins had, generously, volunteered to stay and help deal with all the left over food. William had gone up to take a shower, because he said all of the differing perfumes, and colognes, had left him feeling like he had taken a dunk in a garbage bin filled with scented trash bags. This left me at loose ends, wandering aimlessly around the house, picking up invisible pieces of dirt off the couch, straightening cushions, and nit-picking my way from one room to another. My father...my best friend...my pillar....my everything...was gone.
There came a point when I realized I was wandering around in circles. I had already been through the living room twice, and now, for a third time, I found myself in that same room. Listlessly viewing the space around me, I glanced at the photos hanging on my walls and standing on the mantle above the fireplace. They were of family, of course, and they captured so many happy memories. The thing was, though....almost every single picture, of any significance, showed my Daddy's smiling face.
Reaching out to take one off the mantle, having crossed the room without even realizing it, I took hold of one of my favorites. In it, my father was beaming with pride over my graduation ceremony from college. It was not my favorite because of my accomplishment, but rather, it was my favorite because it was the last picture taken of him before he had suffered from his first stroke. After that first stroke, he was never the same again.
A fresh wave of despair washed over me, with this thought, causing my knees to tremble and my vision to waver. Feeling the couch against the back of my knees, once again having no idea I had even moved, I sat down hard, still clutching the photo in my hands. The murmur of voices, clanking of dishes, and whooshing of the refrigerator door being opened, came from the kitchen. The sound of rushing water made its way from William's shower. The wind made my wind chimes, hanging from the awning above the patio deck, ring like crazy. All of this was going on, and I could hear it all, but I registered nothing but the roar of blood rushing as my heart pounded to the rhythm of my sobs. I saw nothing but the blurry face, of my father, through my tears. I felt nothing but the rending of the hole that was opening from my heart being wrenched apart.
"Sara?" a lilting voice called, but I didn't hear.
"Sara?" a little stronger, I suppose, but still my brain didn't make the connection that anyone was talking to me.
A light touch landed on my shoulder, and I looked up. "Sara"? my cousin, Emily repeated.
"We're going to get going," she informed me. "The storm's getting closer, and we want to make it back to town before it gets bad," she explained. "All the food is put away, and the dishes are soaking. We didn't want to run too much water while Will was trying to shower. But," she added, "we did wipe down all the counters, and put the garbage out so you didn't have to worry about it."
Nodding in understanding, I whispered, "Okay."
Looking back down at the picture in my hand, I moved to set it on the cushion beside me. My eyes tracked the movement, never once leaving my Daddy's loving face.
Standing, I followed my family to the door. As we reached the foyer, and before the door could be opened, William came bounding down the stairs. "I'll walk you ladies to your cars," he said. "The wind is wicked, and I wouldn't want you all to get blown away."
I knew that his light bantering was an attempt to cheer me up, but it wasn't going to work; not for a long time. Still, I gave him a weak turning up, of the corners of my mouth, in payment for his effort.
Bending slightly to plant a kiss on my cheek, my loving husband warned, "You ladies need to make sure to call us when you get home. We'll want you know that you're okay."
Nodding their ascent to this request as they called out, almost in unison, "We will," the last of the mourners were gone. The last, that is, except for me.
Turning from the door, I began to trudge my way up the stairs, heading for a hot bath in hopes that I could soak some of the weariness away. Crying takes a lot out of you, and you don't realize it until you've been on a binge of sorrow. My binge wasn't even over yet, and I was already wiped out.
I walked through our bedroom, shedding clothes as I went, and made my way into the bathroom. Turning on the water, to start filling my garden tub, I decided to add some aromatherapy bath suds. They were supposed to be good for relaxing the muscles and easing stress.
Before climbing into the bath, I walked to the window on the other side of the bed, and looked out. Although it was difficult to see much of the storm, there were flashes of lightning that revealed roiling clouds and violent winds swirling through the trees. Thunder boomed, making me jump, and sending a shiver down my spine. I thanked God that the weather had held off for the majority of the day, and turned to go get in the hot, sudsy, water that was calling my name.
At some point either the hot water, or the bath suds, managed to do their job, because I dozed off in the bath. I was awakened by William's hand on my shoulder. "Honey," he said gently, "come to bed."
My wonderful husband held my towel open for me, wrapping me in its warmth the moment I was clear of the tub. "Hmmm," I sighed. "You put it in the dryer to heat it up, didn't you?"
"Just for a minute, or two," he admitted. "There's a hot totty, waiting for you, on your nightstand too."
Bending my head back enough to look up, into his eyes, I told him, "I love you, so much."
"I know, Sweetheart," he smiled. "I love you too." Then, placing his hands on my shoulders, he turned me towards the bedroom. "Let's get you in a comfy nightgown, and tucked into bed."
Once in bed, we turned on the TV. We weren't, necessarily, in the mood to watch anything, but it was good background noise, and gave me something to pay attention to besides my sorrow. I reached out to put my, then empty, mug that had held hot totty on the nightstand, and stretched to put out the light. Just then, my phone went off.
"They must have made it home," William ventured.
"Probably," I agreed. Yet, when I looked at the caller I.D., I began to shake and cry.
"What is it?" my husband wanted to know.
Ignoring his question, I touched the screen to answer the call. When I put the phone to my ear, my father's voice came across. "He is coming again, at last, to bring you home," he said. "Be prepared."
The line disconnected, and I dropped the phone. Gasping in shock, my hand flew to my face. I shook my head, in negation, and said, "That can't be. It just can't"
Sitting up now, his full attention on me, William asked, "What can't be?"
"It was Daddy," I told him. "My Daddy called me to warn me."
"Sweetheart," William insisted, "that can't be."
"Look!" I cried. "Look at my phone!"
A bolt of lightning lit up the room, thunder boomed in sync, and the wind howled. The storm was on top of us, playing into the intensity of the moment. I pointed at my phone, and repeated, "Look!"
Fearing that I was losing my mind, and doubting that the call had even happened, I peered over my husband's shoulder as he turned my phone over and lit up the screen. Expecting to see that it had simply been one of my family reporting their safe return home, and that my emotions had twisted my perception, I held my breath in anticipation. Yet, when the screen was illuminated, it did not show a picture of any of my cousins. When it was lit up, it was my father's beautiful blue eyes, we saw, looking back at us.
"What did he say?" my husband asked.
"What?" I asked. The shock of seeing proof of the incident blocking my mental cohesiveness.
William repeated, "What did he say?"
"He said," I breathed, "to be prepared....that He is coming, again, to take me home."
William took both my hands in his and pulled me up into a sitting position. He looked me square in the eyes, and started praying aloud. "Father," he began, "we thank You for your love and mercy. Your devotion to us has been ever unwavering, and we are unworthy. We thank You, Dear Lord, for this chance to call to you, in response to this warning, and reinforce our faith in You before being called home. Thank you, Jesus, for your sacrifice and love. Your teachings have guided us, throughout our lives, and we trust that, now, they will help guide us to Your Eternal Glory. Again, thank You, Lord. Amen."
Once I had realized that my loving William had accepted what I told him without hesitation, question, or doubt, I joined him in this prayer. So agreed, we finished our final devotion, lay down, and waited for the storm to carry us away. Sleep had never been so sweet.