Home is where the heart is. But when the world fell apart, an alien race invaded, and my husband and children were in different locations, my heart dug deep into the homestead. If I couldn’t get to them, I’d hold fast, so they had a home to return to…
No Place I’d Rather Be
My world ended on a Thursday.
It should have been a normal day. Well, as normal as seeing my daughter, Dana, off to her new life in St. Louis could be. I stood on the driveway, my stomach churning with the impending loss, and watched the last preparations finalized.
The bright sky was alive with sparrows, robins, blue jays, and a couple of cardinals fluttering about in springtime joy. The field across the road had greened up with winter wheat while the plowed fields down the road waited in lumpy hillocks to be planted. Redbuds swelled on the treetops populating the edge of our property. With a lungful of sweet air, I tried to calm my jittery nerves. She’ll be okay.
Dana’s car, stuffed with two kitchen chairs, bedding, the last of her clothing, enough comfort food to get her through the first week, and a miraculous medal and prayerbook she didn’t know about tucked into the glove compartment, announced her readiness to fly from the proverbial nest.
My stomach flip-flopped as I inspected her tires, looking for the slightest excuse to make her stay another day.
Dana rounded to the driver’s side, chuckling. “Mom, please don’t dribble your despondency all over my clean car. I. Will. Be. Fine.”
Her dad, Liam—aka my beloved—grinned like the besotted fool he was. A perfect portrait of a proud papa. “Rosie, she got the job; now she gets to do what she wants.”
Dana folded her arms over her chest. “You taught me to go for the best I could—so my leaving is really all your fault.”
The kid got her sarcasm from me; I could hardly complain. Though I did scrunch my eyes and pantomime a child having a conniption fit.
Dana laughed. A loud bark that set our hounds into howls. She came around the front fender and wrapped me in a big hug. Dana was never small. Even as a baby, she came into the world larger than life, thrashing and screaming, her black hair wild, making her look bigger and badder than she really was.
I hugged her back with every ounce of my fifty-year-old strength.
When her car turned at the end of the lane, I stopped waving and wiped tears from my eyes. Dear Liam held my hand all the way up the front steps.
Once on the porch, I sucked in a breath-taking view of the garden, the green hills, and old-timber woods of the homestead and thanked God, once again, that I had landed in such a lovely spot.
A man wandering down the road caught my eye. Strange. No one usually strolls these back roads.
Commotion yanked my attention back to the house.
Juan, my broad-shouldered, eighteen-year-old sunshine child, brought into my life by two miracles—his birthmother’s big heart and my husband’s absolute trust—bounded out the front door.
I tried to slow his momentum. “Hey, don’t go too far. I’ve got a roast chicken and an apple cobbler planned for dinner tonight.”
An apologetic shrug. “I’m heading out—gonna go camping with a few friends.”
I flapped my arms helplessly. “In April?”
Logic never stopped Juan. “Hey, Ma, I’ve worked hard. The guys and I want to get away for a bit, think things over before our next big move.”
I scratched my head and glanced at Liam. “By move, you mean summer work, right?”
With a nudge to my husband, I shot one over the bow. “Liam, what do you think?”
Traitorously, Liam grinned. “Have a good time, son.”
Juan squinted in his playful way. “You want to come with us, dad?”
In mock horror, Liam slapped his hand against his chest. “And miss all those long-drawn-out meetings at corporate headquarters?”
Irritated as I was at Liam’s failure to see the point I was trying to make—Juan’s wandering feet and lack of responsibility—suddenly, the idea of camping didn’t seem so silly. “It’d be a lot more fun than the usual L. A. madness, honey. Maybe you could say you’re worn out and need a little R & R. Wouldn’t be a lie exactly.”
Liam chewed his lips as if he was actually considering the idea, but then his gaze strayed to the sky, and I knew that he’d follow the natural course of his destiny. Corporate headquarters called, so he must go. With a hint of despondency, he turned and went inside.
I stayed on the porch, watching Juan gallop to his car and jump in. It was only after Juan’s car had roared down the road that it dawned on me. He took no clothes, no bedding, no tent. Camping? My eye.
I sighed as I headed back to the house and faced the roasted chicken that I knew my anxious, hates-to-travel husband wouldn’t eat.
By the time we headed for the airport Friday morning, Liam was in emotional meltdown mode. The man despised corporations and loathed meetings, especially weekend get-better-acquainted gatherings. I slid into the car passenger seat and huffed as he pulled onto the main road, his brow scrunched into tight furrows. How this man managed to rise so high in the tech field was one of the mysteries of life.
I fought my irritation and forced myself to forgive my husband for missing yet another opportunity to guide our son into responsible manhood, picking my beautiful dinner to pieces, knocking my Easter Lilly off the shelf, and nearly shutting the car door on my hand in his haste to get going so as to get the whole thing over with.
He pretty much strangled the steering wheel in his grip. “If they try to drag me to one of their fancy get-togethers, I’ll tell them that I have a fever—”
I watched the countryside fly by and wished I was returning, not leaving. “Say you’re sick, and you’ll have the entire place hyperventilating. Just tell them you have work to do. They’ll respect that.”
“They’ll laugh and try to set me up with drinks and dates.”
I glared out of the corner of my eye.
He kept his eyes on the road.
“You ever consider starting your own multi-million-dollar business and working from home?”
Such a bark, I could almost hear the dogs howl though they were miles away back on the homestead. “I know where Dana gets it.”
“That laugh. It sounds like a bark.”
For the first time since the kids left, Liam smiled. “It’s not a bark. It’s a hoot.”
“You’re a hoot.” I smiled back; my forgiveness was complete.
By the time I kissed him at the visitor parking lot, he had calmed enough to navigate his way to the departing gate. His long-legged stride maneuvered through the bustling crowd like a heat-seeking missile. His devotion to duty was admirable, even when it annoyed the heck out of me.
The next morning, I rose early, poured myself a cup of hot coffee, and traipsed onto my bedroom porch. I looked around, savoring the glorious view.
No strange man on the road, but odd dreams had interrupted my sleep. Three shadowed figures had loomed before me, gesturing to a dark road ahead.
Shoving the eerie image aside, I breathed deep. I had a whole weekend to myself, and I planned to enjoy every peaceful minute of it.
There was no place else I’d rather be.
Even the Birds Stopped Singing
After dressing in jean shorts and a tunic top, I enjoyed a second cup of coffee and a robust breakfast of eggs and toast. Fortified, I ran downstairs and tossed in a load of laundry. Then I scurried back upstairs and wondered why I was in such a hurry. With a reminder to take it easy, I grabbed another cup of coffee and meandered to the roll-top desk in my studio. Like a lady of leisure, I scrolled through my emails and social media.
When the internet flickered off and on around ten o’clock, I didn’t think anything of it. We live in farm country, so wild critters sometimes made bad life decisions and interfered with the lines, or storms miles away interrupted service. I glanced outside. No storm. A perfect sunny May first. I shivered for the critter that may have suffered an untimely death.
When my phone chimed from the kitchen counter an hour later, I had just kneaded the last bit of dough for my weekly bread-making and lined up the greased bread pans. My fingers, covered in sticky goo, weren’t suited for a technological device at the moment. So, I used my elbow and managed to make the connection.
My sister, Sarah, huffed her words. Must’ve been jogging, I figured.
“Hey, Kiddo, did your power go off this morning?”
I slapped on the tap water and rinsed my fingers, talking over my shoulder. “Just for a sec.” I scowled at the trickle dribbling over my hands. The water pressure was down. Deep inward sigh. Water pressure meant a lot to me. How was I going to take my bedtime shower?
“But it’s back on, right?”
The proverbial light bulb clicked on. Power outage and loss of water pressure. Oh, yeah. Made sense. I peered at the ceiling. The light wasn’t on. I glanced to the counter. Nor was the coffee maker. But, silly me, they shouldn’t be. It was bright and sunny, and I’d cleaned the coffee maker after my second cup. I glanced at the stove. The clock showed the time but only dimly.
“Hmm…it came back on but—” I ran and flipped the light switch with my wet hand.
My sister broke through. “Hey, I’ve got another call. It’s Bill. Poor guy had to work over the weekend. Better go.”
I listened to the click as she hung up, but my eyes stayed fixed to the ceiling. Brown light. Not the bright glare I was used to.
A sound in the distance caught my ear. Horns? Who on earth would be blowing their horn out here? We lived on a dead-end lane, and we never had much traffic, even during planting season.
“Oh, God!” It was an accident. I was sure of it.
But just as suddenly, it stopped. All noise stopped. Even the birds stopped singing. Complete silence.
As if I had been tossed into a pitch-black room, disorientation confused my senses. The whole world appeared to hold its breath, right after a collective gasp.
And then, all hell broke loose.
A. K. Frailey is the author of 15 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.
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What if the power went out and never came back on? With an unusual challenge and bizarre twists, Homestead is a truly unique story that inspires thoughtfulness about how we live our lives. ~Theresa Linden
“The collection creates an evocative set of life scenarios that explore good intentions, real-world situations, and acts of quiet love, desperation, and redemption.” ~Diane Donovan, Editor, California Bookwatch