Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Life (06/15/06)
By Debora Dyess
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Jack knew that, but he’d never experienced it like the week his brother’s wife was killed.
Days passed slowly, eaten away by arrangements, the funeral and well-meaning intruders, until a week passed. As Jack lay in bed, holding his wife tightly, his mother called.
"Cody's gone," she'd whispered.
For a heartbeat Jack heard 'Pam's gone'—a neighbor’s phone call, dropping the bombshell that would change their lives forever. Jack clenched his jaws, waiting, breathing only when his mother began to speak.
"He put the kids to bed and asked me to watch them. He took his bicycle.”
Jack took a slow breath to calm down. “Mom, it’s been a week. Maybe he just needs some time alone.”
“He’s been gone over three hours. I keep thinking, ‘I’ll give him fifteen minutes’ and then I give him more, but he’s still not here. It’s two o’clock. Jack…I'm really worried."
"I'll get him, Mom,"
He rode to the park, where he found Cody leaning against the tennis court fence, looking at the stars. He was in a tee shirt and shorts, although a cold front had moved through in the last hour, dropping the temperature 20 degrees and dumping an inch of rain. Cody's clothes, shoes and hair were soaking. Jack knew he had to be cold, but doubted he felt it.
"Hey, kid." Jack leaned against the fence beside his brother. "It’s, like, thirty degrees out here. Want my sweatshirt?"
Cody ignored the question. "Look at the stars," he ordered softly. "They're perfect tonight—sharp, clear. Pam would love this.""
Jack glanced up and then looked at Cody. Park lights backlit his face, making his eyes look dark and hollow. "Time to go home, Code—Mom's worried."
Cody didn't appear to hear him. "Pam loved to watch the stars. We'd stand out in the yard for hours, just looking up. The neighbors thought we were nuts." He smiled sadly. "She always looked for Orion, pointed it out to the kids. I never asked her why, Jack. I meant to, but I just never did. Most people look for the Dippers, but Pam looked for Orion, and I don't know why. Now it’s too late." He exhaled slowly, his breath making a cloud in front of his mouth. "Boy, she loved to watch the stars."
Jack watched Cody's face in the dim light.
"I don't think Pam can see them anymore, Jack."
Jack swallowed. He'd felt himself build a wall between him and God for the last seven days, his anger growing as his faith dwindled. He wondered if Cody had felt that same distance and bewilderment and anger. His own fading faith made him speechless.
"You have to have darkness to have stars. They're always there, but you just can't see them in the daylight. You have to have darkness."
“If there's really no darkness in Heaven, Pam can't see stars anymore."
Jack looked at Cody’s bike, thrown carelessly into a puddle by the courts. The anger at God grew.
"Do you think she'll miss them, Jack? She loved them. You think she'll miss them? Miss Orion?" Cody drew in a ragged, choked breath. "Do you think she'll miss us, Jack?"
Jack wrapped his arms around Cody and pulled him into his shoulder. Cody sobbed, grieving like he hadn't been able to for the days since he lost his wife. Jack held him tight, letting him mourn, feeling his faith crash.
They rode to Cody’s house slowly, letting the silence of the night envelope them. As they rode into the yard their mother padded out onto the concrete, her house shoes soft against the drive. She pulled Cody into her arms, mouthing the words ‘thank you’ over his shoulder at Jack and then said, “Look up, baby.”
Cody shook his head, smiled tiredly at her. “I think I’ll just go to bed, Mom. Thanks for coming over.”
“I told you to look up. Orion’s out.”
Cody nodded, clenched his teeth and glanced skyward. “Orion’s always out.”
Jack started “Mom—“
His mother smiled. “Pam’s warrior.”
‘What?” The brothers asked the question together.
Rachel looked at Cody and realized he had no clue. “She said every time she looked at Orion she was reminded that her life wasn’t her own…that she had a warrior/king she’d given herself to, that even death couldn’t hurt her.”
Jack smiled upwards, daring to let himself hope again. “Thank you, sis,” he whispered.
They stood together, looking up, studying Pam’s last testimony.
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