That night, after Nate and Bernie were snoring loudly, the Wild children crept towards the door of the house. Mark winced as each step cause the floorboard to creak and groan. He was relieved when they stepped out into the warm night air.
Emily took a deep breath. They were finally going home. They still had a long trip ahead of them, but it would be worth it. They’d be back in their comfortable, warm home, sipping hot chocolate and watching TV. No dirt. No chickens. No annoying cousins or loud uncles. Just her beautiful, quiet room.
“Emily, has it occurred to you that we won’t be able to get inside of our house – if we make it that far….”
“The Hunter’s have a key. Jessica will be more than happy to let us in, I’m sure.”
The trio, clutching bags of their stuff, some food and two flashlights, headed quietly down the lane. Emily hoped that the barking of the dog wouldn’t wake Bernie. She breathed easier when they turned onto the gravel road that would lead them to freedom.
Just then, thunder rumbled above them. Kris shrieked and dropped her bag of stuff. She clung to Emily’s hand with all her might.
“Let go, Kris. It’s fine.”
“We’re going to get soaked!” Kris wailed. “We’ll be struck by thunder and die!”
“You can’t get struck by thunder.” Mark said, matter-of-factly. “But you can get hit by lightning.”
Kris screamed. “I DON’T WANNA DIE!”
Emily sighed. “Thanks a lot, Mark.”
They trudged along – Kris screaming and crying whenever thunder roared or a shadow moved along the side of the road. It began raining. It wasn’t a soft, gentle sprinkling. It was a full out rainstorm. Within minutes, all three of the kids were drenched to the bone.
“Ah, c’mon. It’ll let up in a few minutes.”
It didn’t however. As they continued to walk, the rain just got worse and worse. The rain, that was now accompanied by sleet, blew in their faces and blinded them.
“I can’t keep walking.”
Kris dropped to the ground and hugged Mark’s flashlight to her chest.
“You have to, Kris. We have to get out of here. We’ve only been walking for thirty minutes.”
“Nope, I’m done. You guys go on ahead of me. Save yourselves.”
Mark shook his head and squared his shoulders. “We won’t leave you behind, Kris. We don’t leave anyone behind. It’s all of us or none of us. Here, climb up on my back. I’ll carry you.”
Three minutes later….
“Kris! You are way heavier than you look! Get down!”
After another fifteen minutes of walking in the rain, everyone was miserable and running on very short tempers.
“Let’s go back, Emily.” Mark said, as water dripped off the end of his nose. “Living with Uncle and Cuz for a couple more weeks can’t be worse than dying of pneumonia.”
“We can’t go back.” Emily said, through chattering teeth.
“Yes, we can. And we are.”
“No, you don’t understand, Mark. We can’t go back.”
Kris’s eyes widened. “You mean…..we’re lost?!”
Emily nodded miserably.
“OH GREAT!” Kris kicked at the gravel. “Not only are we stuck in a terrible rain storm with killer lightning, but we can’t even get back to the farm!”
Lightning lit up the sky and rain fell harder.
“I’m very angry, Emily.” Kris tried to look intimidating, but in her soaked state, she just looked pitiful.
“I’m sorry, guys.” Emily sighed. “If I knew it was going to rain, I would have waited an extra day.”
Mark just glared.
“I’m not going any farther.” Kris sat down on the muddied ground. “I’m cold and tired and I’m not going to keep walking when we don’t even know where we’re going.”
The kids huddled under a bush, hoping for some shelter from the rain. The water gathered on the leaves, bending the branches down and dumping all of the rainwater onto the heads of the shivering kids. Mark howled and Kris sobbed. Emily buried her head in her knees and tried not to think about how frozen she was.
The trio spent a miserable night, shivering under the tiny bush. Kris finally cried herself to sleep, but Emily and Mark spent the time glaring angrily at each other. When the sun finally began to rise, they stood up and looked around them.
“Nope. No clue where we are.”
“I should have paid better attention to the scenery as we were driving by….it all just kinda looks the same.”
“Hey, what’s for breakfast, Emily?”
Emily dug in her bag and found a squished granola bar and handed it to her sister. “Here, you can have this.”
“It’s hopeless.” Mark said in his typical matter-of-fact tone. “We’re stuck out here without a phone or anyway to contact anybody.”
“We’re all gonna die.” Kris moaned. “Mark, do you have any paper? I want to write a letter to whoever finds our bodies.”
“Yeah, I want to write one, too.” Mark grabbed his journal and began scribbling. “To whoever finds us: please contact my parents and let them know that we died nobly. One by one, we all left this world for a better place. I, being the strongest and most resilient, died last. I want all of my worldly items to be donated to charity. Maybe something that has to do with helping up and coming geniuses like me.”
Emily rolled her eyes. “Stop it, guys, we aren’t going to die.”
“By the time this adventure is over, we might wish that we had.” Kris looked heroically into the horizon and squeezed a tear into her eye.
“Let’s just go, guys. The sooner we start walkin’, the sooner we’ll be there.” Emily shouldered her bag and took a step forward.
“But I’m cold!”
“And hungry.” Mark added.
“And I really need to use the bathroom!” Kris bounced up and down.
Three hours later, they were still trudging down muddied paths and long gravel roads. Everyone was in a bad mood. Being cold, hungry, dirty and covered in mud did that to a person, Mark reasoned. Especially since it was all Emily’s fault.
“Any of this look familiar yet?”
“What about now?”
“What about –”
“Stop it, Kris. Just walk in silence for five minutes!”
“Do you have any idea how long that is?!”
“Unfortunately, I do.”
Mid-morning, the sun had nearly dried their clothes and warmed them slightly. Everyone was tired and worn out. Kris was just about to start whining again, when they heard a loud noise, rumbling towards them.
Mark gasped. “Guys! It’s a truck! I’m sure the owner will give us a ride back to Uncle’s!”
“Back?!” Emily shrieked. “Uh, no. I did not just spend all of this time being miserable to go right back to the place that I was trying to escape from!”
The truck came closer. Kris hid behind Emily’s back.
“We don’t really have any other choice, Em.”
The truck screeched to a halt near them. Dust clouded the air. The kids coughed and blinked hard. When the dust cleared, they’re mouths dropped open in shock. Standing in front of them, was Bernie. His face looked ten times more annoyed than normal. His strong arms were crossed over his chest. Mark caught a glimpse of Nate through the window.
“What’d you kids think you’re doing?!” Bernie finally growled.
No one answered. They just stared at their feet.
“I said, what’d you kids think you’re doing?!” Bernie repeated, louder than before. His imposing figure hovered over Mark.
“Uh, Uncle – Sir….uh….it was all Emily’s fault.”
Emily gasped and sent death glares towards her brother.
“Sorry, Uncle, I just….I want to go home.”
“So you thought you’d leave in the middle of the night without any explanation and left me and your cousin to find you? That was real smart, kid.”
Kris’s lip quivered. “Can you take us back to the farm, Uncle? I’m tired.”
Bernie gestured to the truck. Mark and Kris jumped in eagerly, followed by a sulky Emily. The ride back to the farm was silent and heavy with tension. For once, Mark wished that Nate would make a joke or laugh or do anything to take away the awkwardness.
The three kids went about their chores sullenly. Emily was the worst. As she tossed meat into the oven, she mumbled and complained to the empty kitchen.
“Exactly where did Mom and Dad think that they were sending us?! They get to go on a great trip overseas and they leave us here?! Aunt’s gone and I’m stuck with awful relatives who laugh at all the things that are most important to me! So I try to run away, and what do I get for an attempt like that? Just dragged back to this awful farm – and now my siblings are mad at me!”
She dumped a bottle of BBQ sauce over some green beans.
“Life is just so unfair! Next time my parents go anywhere, I’m either going with them or staying with Jessica! And that’s final!”
Mark stepped into the kitchen. His hair was all sweaty and his face was red from the heat.
“Who’re you talking to, Em?”
Mark observed his sister. She was storming around like a human hurricane. Pots, pans, gross leftovers and trash fell in her wake.
“You know, Em, when I was annoyed with Nate and Uncle, someone once told me that we should work to honor God in every situation – no matter how unfair or gross or weird it may seem. And that we should shine the light of Jesus to those who aren’t believers.”
“Well that person was wrong.” Another pan hit the dirt.
“No, I don’t think she was.”
“It didn’t work, Mark. Nate didn’t really change. And Uncle hasn’t, either. They’re the same, unchanging people.”
“Change isn’t always apparent to the naked eye, sis.”
“Like Dad always says, some people have had a lot of pain and hurts or sometimes they’re just stubborn…if you show them love and show them who you really are, a Child of Christ, they may not change on the outside, but maybe something is happening on the inside.”
“Nope. Don’t believe it.”
Mark sighed. “I think you’re wrong. For the first time ever, Nate and I actually had a good talk.”
“He’s just tricking you.”
“No. We talked about a lot of things, and I can actually see a real human underneath that tough, mean façade.”
Emily rolled her eyes.
The official log of Marcus James Wild: Day Twenty One of life on the farm
I’ve come to realize that my uncle and cousin are real human beings with hearts, feelings and who are loved by God. So I’m trying to be friendly, despite everything. I’ve had a couple good talks with both of them. Just hoping that God will do some work in their hearts.
Strange, strange, strange. That’s how my cousin is acting. He actually said that my cooking was good and offered to wash the dishes for me. I’m confused…
Mark keeps trying to talk to me and get me to be kind. He’s a very persistent person, I can say that for sure.
If I’m honest, I really do want to think the best about Nate and believe that maybe he is changing, but I really don’t want to be a fool again. I’m being pulled in two directions.
AUNTY SHOULD BE BACK IN A FEW DAYS!!!! I CAN’T WAIT! I’ll help her in the kitchen, we’ll have all sorts of great foods….life will be grand once more!
The phone rang loudly. Emily grabbed it and sullenly answered.
“Hello? Yeah. Aunty? You’re coming back?! Really?! Great! Okay. Yeah. I’ll tell them. Tomorrow morning? Gate E, okay. Bye, Aunt.”
Emily ran to find Kris, who was washing eggs.
“Kris! Kris! Aunt’s coming back tomorrow!”
Kris did a little dance (dropping one of the eggs in the process) and screamed with joy. The noise brought Mark running.
“Mark!!!” Kris yelled. “AUNTY’S COMING HOME!”
Early the next morning, Bernie left to pick up Miriam. The kids cleaned up the house and Emily (attempted to) bake a pan of cinnamon rolls as a treat. The table was set and the house relatively clean by the time Bernie and Miriam walked through the door.
“Aunty!” Kris cried and flung herself into her surprised aunt’s arms.
“Oh dear, Kris. What’s this all about?!”
“I missed you, Aunt! I missed your food, I missed your stories and yeah, I just missed you!”
A thin smile grew on Miriam’s worn face.
“And if you’d been here, you could’ve convinced Emily not to run away and we wouldn’t have gotten all wet and cold!”
“Kris!” Emily hissed.
Miriam laughed. “You can tell me all about it while we eat. Uh, what is this here?”
“Cinnamon rolls?” Emily said it as more of a question than a statement.
Nothing out of the ordinary happened in the last few days of the trio’s stay. With Miriam back, life fell into a quiet routine where everyone ate well, laughed some and worked hard. Emily remained fiercely angry with Nate and refused to talk to him at all. Mark tried to help, but his attempts were only oil on her fire.
At last, the long awaited day arrived.
“It’s time to go home! We’re really going home!” Emily shrieked in excitement. “This is great! This is so great!!”
She glanced at Mark and Kris, who were hugging their baggage with quiet, almost sad faces.
“Whoa, guys, what’s wrong?”
Mark shrugged. “I’ll just miss Aunt , Nate and….and even Uncle Bernie.”
“Yeah, me too. Aunt’s really a nice person. I’m kinda sad to be going home…”
Emily shook her head. “You guys are insane.”
After a hearty breakfast, the kids loaded their stuff into the back of Bernie’s truck. Everyone stood in front of the house, and said goodbyes.
“See you later, Uncle, Aunt and Nate!” Emily waved and bounded towards the truck.
Kris embraced Miriam. “Send me some cookies, Aunty.”
Miriam laughed. “Okay, honey. You and Emily make me some scones and mail ‘em!”
Mark shook hands with Miriam and Bernie and nodded to Nate.
“Come visit me sometime, Cousin!”
Nate grinned. “Maybe I will.”
Just before Miriam started to drive away, Nate poked his head through Emily’s open window.
Emily ignored him. He sighed.
“Look, I know you’re mad at me about the whole prank I pulled. Mark and I talked for a while and, well, maybe Christianity isn’t only for losers.”
Emily blinked. “What?”
“I’m just saying….well, I had a good time while y’all were here.”
Nate disappeared, and Emily sat, shocked, and confused. As the truck began to moved forward, she pulled out her journal and scribbled a quick entry.
“Dear Diary, I’ve been wrong. Again. I also just realized what a godly kid Mark is and how much he really tries to honor God in everything. When I thought it was worthless to try, he persevered and I think that something good is going to come of it. And who knows? Maybe I’ll invite Uncle, Aunt and even Nate to my birthday party this year.”
Emily Wild closed her little notebook and smiled. She relaxed into the seat while a breeze blew her hair in all directions. No, she hadn’t imagined it. This air really did smell fresh.