Chapter 4

“Mommy? Mommy?”

I awoke, my face deep in the pillow. Turning over, I opened my eyes to see the cool morning light filtering in through my bedroom blinds. I was alive? I looked over to my dresser. Of course I was alive. I didn’t even take the lids off the containers. What happened? Why did I collapse?

“Mommy, I’m hungry.”

“I’ll be right there, Caity-Cat,” I said in a breathless whisper.

Shaking off the puzzlement, I pulled myself out of bed to make breakfast for my daughter.

I couldn’t shake the despair and desperation that hung over me like a black cloud. Guilt and shame threatened to swallow me. My breathing came in shallow gulps. I had to sit down on the bed for fear I would fall. My body tingled. The room spun around me. My heart raced.

Janice. I need to phone my sister.

My fingers fumbled over the numbers.

“Hello?” she answered.

“I can’t do this,” I stammered. “Janice, I can’t breathe.” I stopped. “I feel like I can’t keep my head above water.”

Janice knew why I couldn’t breathe. My whole family knew.

“Oh, Heather, Sissy,” her voice sounded strained. “I know this is hard for you. Talk to me.”

Tears coursed down my cheeks and I gasped for air. With her encouragement, I let it all out. Between sobs, I shared with her all that had happened up to this point. When I had finished spilling my story, I laid my head down on the bed, exhausted.

“Heather, I don’t know what to say,” her voiced sounded filled with emotion. “Let’s pray.”

Too tired to respond, I just nodded and listened.

“Dear Lord, I pray Your calming Spirit descend on my sister. Jesus, fill her with a peace that transcends all understanding. Give her strength to carry on, knowing that she is not alone. Father God, take her hand and walk with her.”

I felt my heartbeat slowing and with a large sigh, my breathing began to return to normal.

Janice continued, “Lord, as the Great Shepherd, You promised to take care of each of Your sheep. I pray that You fill Heather with a peace and a calm to get through each day, knowing that You love her more even than she loves Caitlin. In Jesus’ name, I pray.”

Her prayer soothed me but I questioned her last words. God loves me more than I love my daughter? How could anyone’s love be more than mine for Caitlin?

“Sissy?” My sister’s voice interrupted my thoughts.

“Thanks, Janice. I needed that. I thought I was going crazy.”

“I’m here for you – anytime. Know that you and Caitlin are in our prayers.”

I inhaled deeply. “I don’t know what I would do without you.”

“You know you can pray too, right?”

“Yeah, sure, of course. But you guys have a direct line to God. You’re ministers.”

Janice laughed. She had a deep, throaty laugh. “We don’t have any more clout than you. God hears everyone’s prayers – not just those of us in ministry.”

“Yeah, I guess. It’s just that you guys go to church and you read the Bible and stuff.”

Again a laugh from Janice. “Sissy, for goodness sake, God loves you and He hears your prayers, whether from a pew or in your own living room.”

“Thanks Janice. You always make me feel better. I’d better go now. Love you.”

“Love you too, Sissy. I’ll talk with you soon.”

After hanging up, I looked up, “Hey there…um…Big Guy, Big Kahuna, uh…khem…God, do you hear me? Are you really there like Janice says?”

The words were still hanging in the air when the door buzzer rang. Caitlin continued to watch her Saturday morning cartoons in the living room. I tripped over Blue-Casey as he ran for cover to hide under the couch as I made my way over to the door.

I pressed the release and opened the door. My mom didn’t even get past the shoes before she threw her arms around me, causing me to tumble backwards over my army boots. “Go put on some tea,” she directed and went over to give kisses to Caitlin.

She joined me back in the kitchen and sat down at the table. “How are you, Dear?” she squeezed my hand with heartfelt emotion.

“I’m doing okay. I just got off the phone with Janice.” I explained to her what had been happening up to this point.

“Honey, I’m worried about you. Look at you. You have such beautiful black hair, why wear it up? And you’ve lost so much weight in this past week.”

Normally I would be thrilled to be losing weight. But it wasn’t like I was trying. I just couldn’t eat. My stomach remained tied in knots.

“Mom, I’m okay – really.”

She exhaled an anxious breath and shook her head. “Well, I just think that you need to get out more. You need to do something to take your mind off this business. Why don’t you come with me to play cards?”

“No, thanks.” I couldn’t imagine sitting around the table with a bunch of old ladies chatting about their latest adventures in sewing. I repeated, “No, thanks.”

“Well, why don’t you call up some girlfriends? Have a night out? I’ll baby-sit Caitlin.” Mom seemed desperate.

“Thanks Mom, really. But I’m just not into going out.”

She gnawed thoughtfully on her bottom lip. “What about this?” she pointed to something in the newspaper on the table.

It read: All Women Welcome. Women’s Coffee Break. Free Seminar. Guest Speaker on Gardening. Free daycare.

“See it’s at the church up the street. Why don’t you go there just to get out of the apartment?” The look of concern on my mother’s face made me shift in my chair.

I rubbed my temples in thought. “Fine, fine. When is it?”

“Wednesday at nine. They even provide snacks,” she said rather smugly, obviously feeling as if she won.