That night I lay awake on the lumpy mattress with the bar where the couch folds sticking into my back and my brother spread across most of the bed. The sheets were tangled around him, as they usually were. I had given up fighting him for covers at least a year ago. I listened to a clock tick somewhere behind my head and watched the shadows move across the ceiling as cars passed, shining light through the thin white curtains.
Mama’s apartment didn’t seem so bad when I was here. I wouldn’t even complain about going to church tomorrow if I could just go home.
I thought back to the last service I had attended with Mama. She sat staring at the pastor like he was a teacher in school about to give away all the answers for the test. He always said things like “God works for the good of those who love him.” I had tried to love him. I sat in those pews three times a week, praying Mama would stop yelling at me and Jack would stop throwing toys at me and Linda would stop hitting me and Daddy would just love me. But it never happened. Nothing good ever happened, no matter how hard I prayed.
It’d be better to believe there isn’t a God than to think he didn’t love me enough to answer even one prayer.
God, I pleaded silently, if you really are there send me a sign. Let Jack be nice just for a day. Or let Daddy give me a hug and tell me he loves me. Something so I know.
I held my breath and waited. Nothing happened. What did you expect dummy? Jack and Daddy are both sleeping anyway.
I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to think of a prayer God could answer in the middle of the night. Just then a loud screech followed by a crash came from below the window. I jumped from the bed to see what was going on.
The street was dark except for one headlight from an SUV that was turned toward the sidewalk instead of the road. It seemed the other light was buried in the side of a tiny car that was half its size. A bicycle lay bent and twisted across the double yellow line. An man, or maybe a teenager, was sprawled on his back, his face dark with either shadows or blood. I shivered even though the apartment was warm.
I looked at the ceiling. This isn’t the sign I was asking for, I thought as I dropped the curtain closed.
I turned back toward the bed. Jack was still snoring softly. Suddenly I heard a door open, then click shut. Daddy was making his way slowly down the hall, his soft shuffle easily distinguished from Linda’s heavier stomp. Her walk was angry even when she wasn’t – or maybe she really was mad all the time.
Daddy emerged from the blackness of the hallway like a ghost coming out of the mist. Maybe this is the sign! I was still in shock from the scene out the window, but maybe God had a plan after all! My heart raced with anticipation.
This is it!
“What are you doing up? Get back to bed!” Daddy sounded angry but he always did when he was woken up in the middle of the night.
“You heard me!”
I didn’t like the look in his eyes. How could he be so mad? If he’d just look out the window he’d see that those people needed help. I opened my mouth again, but as he approached I ducked my head and scurried to the bed like a mouse fleeing to the safety of a hole in the wall.
I guess I had my answer.