A picture to remember the fading summer...
And another to admire the power of God in His creation
A few tense moments passed by while the women waited for Wyatt to return. Were the terrorists in the cave? Had they been waiting to ambush the Marines?“Ugh! The suspense is killing me! I’m gonna go see what’s going on.” Lily finally said. She walked toward the cave to prove her point.
“What do you think you’re doing?” A commanding voice demanded from the shadows. It was Wyatt Adams, of course.
Lily automatically stopped in her tracks, which was probably what the Sergeant Major was used to. She groaned at her easy compliance and waited for him to emerge. As soon as she saw him she asked, “What did you find? Is Johnson Williams in there? Are the terrorists? Come on man, give me an answer!”
The curl of his lip was what she got and it infuriated her. Who did this guy think he was, anyway? There had been a terrorist attack! Their whole town had been annihilated and she and her friend were in danger, for Pete’s sake! “Well, what’s in there?”
Wyatt calmly walked up to where she stood. “When I give an order, I expect you to comply. This isn’t a game Ms. Tomkins. All our lives are in danger, but more specifically, yours.” He held up a hand-written note that had her name in bold, black letters. It said, ‘make sure that nosy photographer is dead, or else! Her name is Lily Tompkins.’
A gasp escaped Nanny Masters as she walked up behind them and read the note. “That’s Johnson Williams’ hand-writing!”
“How do you know?” Lily asked.
“Johnson buys all his sign supplies at my store and he signs a credit card slip. Those ems are just like the ones he uses. See, it has an extra hump!” Nanny pointed toward the incriminating letter on the wrinkled white paper.
“I thought he liked me…” Lily’s voice trailed-off in disappointment.
“That’s how terrorists are. You think they’re your friends and neighbors while the whole time they’re planning a massacre behind your back!” Wyatt spat out in anger. “There’s an old man in there, but he’s dead. Do either of you want to go in and identify the body?”
“I’ll do it.” Nanny volunteered with a quick look at Lily. She didn’t want the younger woman to have to face the man who’d ordered her death, even if he was dead.
“Okay, let’s get this over with.” He ordered.
“What else is in there?” Lily asked as they moved toward the opening.
“Nothing, it’s empty.” He walked into the cave, expecting Nanny to follow him.
When they got to the farthest alcove Nanny gasped again. “That’s him, that’s Johnson Williams, all right.” An ebony hand came up to cover her quivering lips.
“Okay, that’s what we needed, you can go now ma’am.” His voice was gentle for the older woman’s benefit. He liked her and hated what she was going through.
“Thank you Sergeant Major.” She said with a little frost to her tone.
“Is there something wrong, Ms. Masters?” He was curious about the ice in her voice.
“Why are you rude to Lily? She’s a good woman Sergeant Major and you’d do well to remember that!” She gave him a long look, harrumphed, and then walked outside.
Wyatt threw his head back and gave a huge belly-laugh that echoed off the cave walls.
Percy came running into the cave but stopped short at the sight of his father laughing with such glee. “Dad, is there something wrong?”
“No son, I’m fine. I’m just letting off a little steam in a more constructive way than anger.”
“May I ask what’s so funny?” He sounded hesitant and Wyatt cringed at the uncertainty in his voice.
“I was laughing at Nanny Masters, boy. She speaks her mind and I like that.” There was admiration in his tone.
Percy relaxed his squared shoulders and returned the smile. “I like them both. Lily is pretty too, just like the flower.”
“She’s too old for you so just lay-off.” His father snapped at him. Percy was confused. How was he ever going to get to know his father at this rate? He’d enlisted in the Marines just to be near him but so far he hadn’t had much luck breaking through his steely personality.
“I’m sorry, dad. I didn’t mean anything by it…” Percy tried to explain but his father cut him off.
“Get back to your post, private.” Wyatt ordered. He hated the tone in his voice and the way he always seemed to cut his son down but he felt powerless to stop it.
“Yes sir, Sergeant Major, sir.” His son saluted smartly, snapped his heels, and turned to leave.
“Percy, I’m sorry.” Wyatt apologized.
“No need, sir.” The young man said as he resumed his position.
Nanny walked up to Wyatt and said, “The boy just needs some love. Is that too much to ask?”
“I barely know him. I didn’t even know I had a son until six months ago when he enlisted just so he could meet me. I have no idea how to be a father.” He was surprised at his own willingness to confide in the heavy-set woman.
“I take it you were with his mother at a young age and she didn’t tell you?” Nanny used her common sense to come to the correct conclusion.
“That’s exactly what happened! How did you know?”
“You don’t get to be my age without learning a thing or two about the younger generation.”
“I guess that’s true. Does Lily realize how bad it really is in the rest of the country right now? I know this was a small town and it seems so terrible, especially since most of the citizens ended up dead, but all the large cities were attacked. There is mass destruction everywhere!”
“You’d be surprised at her intelligence, son. As soon as she came to Pembroke Acres I fell in love with her. My own daughter accidentally over-dosed ten years ago but God took pity on me and sent Lily in her place.”
“Do you really believe in that God stuff? How can you possibly believe in that drivel when things like this happen?” He raised his arms to encompass the whole area and the destruction that was evident even this far from town.
“Why don’t you?” Nanny asked sadly. “Why is it that people always use examples like this to try to prove God doesn’t exist? Do you really think He did this?”
“Well it sure wasn’t by mere human power…” Wyatt began but Nanny cut him off.
“Be careful what you say, sugar. Things have a way of coming back to bite us in the behind when we least expect it. It’s never wise to attribute evil to your Maker.”
Wyatt rubbed a hand across his lined face in exasperation. “I don’t know…”
“Of course you don’t, sugar. That’s why God sent you here.” She sounded so sure of what she was saying that he almost believed it, too.
Lily got tired of waiting on her friend to return so she walked up to where they stood by the entrance of the cave. “What’s going on?”
“Nothing sugar, I’m just getting to know the Sergeant Major.” The large black woman gave Lily an infectious grin and she couldn’t help but return it.
“Have I told you how much I love you today?” Lily asked.
“You haven’t but you’re excused due to unforeseen circumstances.” Nanny returned before the young woman had a chance to apologize. “No one is in their right mind today and if they are, then they aren’t.”
Wyatt laughed at the woman’s wisdom. “I think I love you already.”
Lily’s heart tripped around in her chest before she could absorb the fact that he wasn’t talking to her. When she looked up her face was flushed, and he was staring straight into her large gray eyes.
Wyatt’s heart began to gallop around like a caged stallion. She was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen, and he’d seen plenty. He’d been all over the world and back again and he couldn’t think of a single soul that could hold a candle to the young blonde woman who stood in front of him at that moment. He winked one ice-blue eye at her but turned to speak to Nanny. “Do you have anything left at all?”
“No, everything is gone. There are still some crafts in my basement but they’re ragged, dirty and worthless to me now.” Tears rushed to her huge black eyes and she impatiently shoved them away with a pudgy hand.
“What about you, Lily?”
“All my stuff is still intact. Hey, I totally forgot about Mushi!”
The agitation on her face was plain to see and Wyatt held up a hand to stop her from taking-off. “You can’t leave yet. They may be waiting on you. You have to be heavily guarded…”
“But my dog is still at the cabin. What about him?”
“I’m sorry, he’ll have to wait.” There was actually sympathy in his gorgeous blue eyes and it stopped any further protest.
“How long will it be before we can go back?” She asked instead.
Wyatt chose his words carefully. He’d seen the truce in her eyes and he didn’t want to breach their unspoken cease-fire before he had a chance to enjoy it. “You may not be going back at all.” He held up a hand to stop the tirade he knew was about to erupt from her perfectly curved lips. He was momentarily mesmerized by their redness and the way her tongue flicked out to lick them when she was upset. Nanny cleared her throat and smiled at him and he came out of his stupor long enough to say, “I’ll send a few of the men to retrieve the items you’ll need for the next few days. Where is the dog?”
“He’s in the spare bedroom. I don’t take him with me when I take pictures because he likes to bark and it scares away the wildlife.”
“Why don’t you go over and ask Percy for a pen and some paper and write out a small list of items you want them to get. How much food do you have there? I mean non-perishable items. We may not have electricity for several days, if ever.”
“What’s that supposed to mean? We’re going to rebuild Pembroke Acres just like it was!” She affirmed staunchly.
“Let’s not get ahead of the game, woman!” Wyatt said gruffly.
Nanny laughed while Lily gasped in surprise. Who did he think he was to speak to her that way? “Well I never…”
“Maybe you should.” Wyatt returned before he could stop it. He immediately felt guilty for speaking to her that way. “I’m sorry. That was uncalled for. I guess the tension of the day is getting to me.”
“Your apology is accepted.”
There was a soft quality to her velvety voice that he hadn’t heard before and it caused his heart to skip a beat. “We need to get back to camp. It’s a few miles away. If you’ll just make that list I’ll send out a crew to get what you need.” He turned abruptly and left them standing there, mouths hanging open.
“Wow. What just happened?” Lily asked her friend.
“He likes you sugar.”
“He does not.”
“Yes he does.” Nanny pushed out her bottom lip firmly, letting the younger woman know she wasn’t going to be swayed to change her mind.
“Do you really think so?”
“I really do.”
They trailed after the Sergeant Major. Both women were soon lost in their own thoughts so they jumped when Percy spoke beside them. “Here’s your paper and pen, Lily.” His actions were shy and she smiled at him reassuringly.
“Thank you Percy. Is there anything you might need from my house?”
He thought for a second before saying, “I can’t think of anything unless…”
“Would you happen to have any chocolate? I’m craving it so badly!”
The trio laughed at the ridiculousness of the request. “I actually do have some chocolate. I crave it all the time.”
“I do too. My mom used to gripe at me all the time because I’d rather eat chocolate cake than peas.” Sadness over-shadowed the blueness of his eyes for a moment before he hid it away.
“What’s wrong?” Lily felt immediate sympathy for this young boy who desperately wanted to be a man; especially in his father’s eyes.
“Nothing’s wrong, why?”
“We both saw that sadness Percy. You might as well spit it out.” Lily said.
“My mom died nine months ago. I didn’t find out that the Sergeant Major was my dad until the reading of the will.”
“I’m sorry for your loss.” Lily was quick to reply.
“I am too, sugar. It’s never easy losing those we love. If there’s anything we can do to ease your pain just let us know.” Nanny said.
Percy stared at them in shock for a moment. He couldn’t believe people he didn’t even know were expressing sympathy for his loss when his own family hadn’t thought to do so. They were all too angry over the money… “You guys are great people.”
“We try sugar.”
“We think you are, too.” Lily added.
Lily had been making a list through the whole exchange and she handed it to the young private with a smile. “Thank you for being so kind, Percy.”
“No, thank you. This is a really hard time right now but you two have made it at least bearable and I’ll be forever grateful.” He turned around and went back the way they’d come.
“He’s a nice boy.”
“He certainly is. It’s too bad his father doesn’t think so.”
“I think he does, sugar. He’s just freaked-out about having a child. I think he’ll come around. He seems to genuinely care about the boy; he just doesn’t know how to express what he’s feeling.”
“You may be right. Nanny, what are we gonna do now? What if the terrorists come for me? Or what if they just come back and dump more bombs on our cities? I want to hear the news so bad…even more than I want a bath!”
“I do too sugar. This is one of those times that it pays to be patient. We can’t do anything about what’s going on, anyway. I know it doesn’t make you feel better, but it’s the truth. You should spend a few minutes in prayer to thank the good Lord that He saved you today.”
“I don’t believe in all that mumbo-jumbo. You know that.”
“You should sugar, especially after this morning. You need to give a few minutes reflection on exactly what took place. Our whole town is gone and we’re the only ones left. Do you really think that’s just an accident, or maybe even luck?”
Lily rubbed her aching eyes. She’d cried so many tears today that the stinging pain was beginning to feel like part of her. “I honestly don’t know what to think anymore.”
“It wasn’t luck that saved you, sugar. It was God, plain and simple.” The older woman said firmly.
“Maybe you’re right, maybe you’re wrong.”
“Oh I’m right Lily and I think you know that. You need to quit dragging your heels and glorify the God who made you.”
“I think you’re right.” Lily acquiesced.
“Then let us pray.” Nanny stopped in the middle of the path and bowed her head, not in the least ashamed to do so. “Dear Father, thank you for our safety. Please…”
Her words were lost on Lily because she’d begun to pray her own prayer. ‘Dear Father, please forgive me, a sinner…’ She prayed silently.
Please leave me a comment so I know what you think. We'll find out more tomorrow about what's going on in some of the major cities...