Based off a true story my grandma once told me.
"Hush up! We hafta leave Missouri 'cause of the Great Depression."
"What's so great about it?" Sissy sniffed, "We never have enough food and Daddy's always out lookin' fer work—"
Gladys crossed her arms across her flat chest and heaved an exasperated sigh.
"Don'cha know nuthin'? It's not great as in good. It's great as in big!" She flung her arms out wide, nearly smacking the younger girl in the face.
Sissy frowned, "Yeah, well you won't be such a smarty-pants after we move. There ain't no school where we're goin'."
"I reckon I'll miss my books," Gladys conceded, "But I ain't gonna miss the girls in school, none. Always callin' me a country bumpkin and makin' fun of my hair. I cain't help that it turned out red."
"Well, I still don' see why we hafta move all the way to Arkansas," Sissy flopped to the kitchen floor and rubbed her bare feet as if they already ached. "I don' think I can walk that far."
"Yer gonna hafta," Gladys bossed. "Though Daddy'll more'n likely carry ya most of the way, bein' yer such a big baby."
"Girls! You stop that nonsense right now, ya hear?" Mama aimed her blue eyes at Gladys. "Gladys, grab yer bag and get yerself in the wagon along with yer sister. Yer daddy's 'bout ready to head out."
"Yes'm," Gladys snatched Sissy's dirty arm with one hand and their shared satchel with the other. Tears welled in Sissy's eyes as Gladys drug her to the waiting wagon. There weren't any horses or donkeys for the pulling, so Daddy and the big boys would be the pack mules for the trip. Gladys hefted Sissy up and wrapped a worn quilt around the two of them. Sissy shivered.
"I don' wanna go! I don' wanna!" she cried.
"What're ya so skeered of, Sissy? There ain't nuthin' to frighten us out there," Gladys brushed back Sissy's tangled, blond hair. "Don'cha know there are angels watchin' over us?"
"Really?" Sissy hiccupped, "Like the ones in Daddy's Bible?"
"Yup. They're all 'round us but we cain't see'em."
"Aw, yer pullin' my leg, Gladys!"
Gladys frowned and shook her head, "I would never lie about sucha important thing as angels, Sissy. Ya think I want the Lord God 'Mighty strikin' me down dead with lightnin' for blasphemin'?"
The wagon gave a lurch and the girls exchanged glances as three little boys piled into the wagon. They pushed and shoved each other for the best spots. Gladys glared and pulled Sissy closer. When the brood was settled, Daddy and two of the older boys picked up the rope attached to the front of the wagon and stepped forward. Their muscles strained as they pulled the family across the bumpy ground. Mama walked alongside her mate, hollering out the occasional reprimand when the kids got to bickering, while Gladys's eldest brother walked behind, making sure nobody fell out of the wagon. It was late when they reached a place to rest.
"Looky over yonder," Daddy pointed. "Betcha that ole shack is as empty as Jesus' tomb."
"Frank! Watch yer tongue!" Mama chided. Daddy just grinned and ordered everyone out of the wagon. Gladys and Sissy giggled as they jumped to the ground and raced for the cabin's crooked door. They elbowed a couple of brothers out of the way and burst into the dark room.
"This place is skeery," Sissy whispered, ducking past a string of cobwebs. Their feet made a trail over the dusty floor and the one window in the place was covered with grime, effectively blocking out the light from the full moon.
"What'd I tell ya about being skeered?" Gladys demanded, planting her hands on her hips and scowling at her little sister. Sissy scuffed a bare toe against the wood floor and shrugged.
"That we ain't gotta be afraid 'cause God has angels watchin' over us?"
"Exactly! Now I know Mama'll want us to get a snug little bed ready fer the night, so let's go get all our blankets and make a comfy nest on the floor fer everyone."
Mama and Daddy came in as the girls were fluffing the bedding.
"Let's all grab a bite to eat and then we'll bunk down fer the night," Daddy said. His voice sounded weary and slow. "Sun'll be up afore we know it."
Gladys relished the bread and cheese Mama pulled out for the family to share. Her stomach was far from full as she swallowed her last bite but she knew better than to complain. She also knew better than to say anything later, when Pete kicked her in his sleep and Robbie flung an arm out into her face. Mama and Daddy didn't cotton to whinin'. She sighed, willing herself to drift off.
"Pssst! Gladys, you awake?"
"I cain't sleep. The light's too bright."
"Me neither. Wait. What light, Sissy?"
"That one," Sissy's hand stabbed into the shadows. Gladys was surprised that she could see her sister's index finger pointing towards the window. It had been as dark as a black cat in a well a moment before.
Gladys squinted at the window and gasped. A figure was floating through the glass. Its body glowed with a gentle light and it held a sword stretched out before it. Elegant, massive wings rose from the creature's back. With wide eyes, Gladys watched the being fly slowly over her family. It didn't look to the right or left, it just fluttered its wings and passed on by. In another instant it morphed through the cabin's wall and disappeared.
Gladys gulped past a large lump in her throat, yanked back the blanket that Robbie had hogged, and pulled it up to her nose. Squeezing her eyes shut, she counted to ten and then opened them again.
"Sissy!" she hissed, "Did you see —"
"Yes! It was an angel, jest like ya said! Oh, Gladys! They really are watchin' over us!"
Gladys felt her heart rate return to normal. She reached for Sissy's hand and gave it a gentle pat.
"I told ya so, Sissy. I done told ya so!"
Written for "A Fistful of Merit Badges" — Angel Badge