Simple but beautiful
Chapter Six ~
Janna woke up, at first disoriented. “Where am I?” She moved to sit up, but something was holding her down. She tried to pull her hand up to push the tangled mass of her hair from her eyes, but it was trapped, as well. Her eyes popped open. She blinked. It was dark. Pitch black. And then her memory slammed back to her brain and she screamed. “Tilly! Jessie?” Tears of fear and frustration trailed down her aching cheeks.
As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she took in her surroundings, all the while pulling at her trapped arm. “Erg, let go.” Put it didn’t budge. She could see something large and white was trapping her up against a huge support beam. Where are they?
She finally recognized the object holding her hostage. It was the family-sized deep freezer from Tilly’s dining room. She wiggled, pushing at the cold metal against her arm. She knew it was broke, the extreme pain radiating all the way up to her shoulder and down her spine. “Dear God, please let them be okay and let me get out so I can help them.”
“Tilly, are you okay?” Renewed strength surged through her at the sound of her friend’s voice and she pushed the deep freezer with her left arm, and it moved. “Praise the Lord.” She smiled, tried to stand up, and fell back to the dirt floor.
“I’m alive, but I can’t find Jessie and I’m trapped!”
Janna could hear the hysteria in her friend’s tone. “Hold on, I’m almost free…”
“Do you see him, Janna?” The hope in her voice brought a fresh deluge of tears down her cheeks and goose bumps to her arms.
“No, not yet.” Janna took a deep breath, gave the support beam a huge heave, and as it moved, she jumped up and out of the way. The beam thudded to the floor and what was left of the house began raining down on her again. She crouched to the floor and covered her head with her arms. “Dear Lord, please help me.”
The avalanche of debris stopped. Janna waited a full minute before gingerly moving toward where she’d heard Tilly’s voice. “Is there a flashlight down here? I brought my emergency bag, but it’s still in the car.”
“There was, but I don’t know where it’s at now.”
Tilly was in shock and she needed to get help. “What color is it?” She began scanning the rubble pretty sure she wasn’t finding anything in this mess.
“It’s clear. It’s one of those you shake.”
“Oh, I know what kind it is, then.” She tripped and fell to one knee, a sharp pain telling her she’d just cut it. She was trying to support her dangling arm, without much luck. It hit something as she went down and she yelled in pain.
“Janna, are you hurt?”
She stood up slowly. She didn’t want to lie, but didn’t want to worry her friend, either. “I’ll be okay.” She spotted something round under the tossed garbage can and squealed like a child, “I found it!” She bent down and picked it up, shaking it vigorously. Her finger pushed the switch up and a dim beam of light shone in the darkness.
“Shake it some more,” Tilly ordered. “You have to find my baby!”
“I have to get you out first.”
“No! You find my baby!” Tilly burst into loud sobs.
“Okay, okay.” Janna moved the light through every nook and cranny of the rubble, but didn’t see Jessie.
“Do you see him yet?” The voice was hesitant-sounding.
Janna sighed. Dear Lord, please help me find that baby. “No, but I haven’t started digging yet. Let me come get you out first.” She rounded the corner of the basement where Tilly was and stopped in horror. “Oh Tilly…”
Broken arm and cut knee forgotten, Janna sank to her knees.
“There’s no point worrying about it, girl. It’s too late for me. Find my son.”
Janna tried to keep her eyes trained on Tilly’s face so she wouldn’t have to see the grotesque way she was twisted around one of the support beams for the steps. “I’m so sorry.” Janna sobbed as she scooted over to her injured friend. “You must be in so much pain…”
“Honestly, it doesn’t hurt at all. Maybe I’m in shock, I don’t know.”
“We can get you out of this…”
“Janna, don’t. You know that isn’t true. Pray with me.”
Tilly’s face was pale as a ghost and her eyes were beginning to flutter.
“Stay with me, girl.” Janna reached over with her good arm and held her friend. “Dear Lord, please be with Tilly as she suffers through this trauma. Please allow her to heal if it’s your will.” She rested her head against Tilly’s blood-soaked hair and wept. Dear Lord, I made a friend and now you’re going to take her away? Why? What about her child?
A few minutes passed and Janna was afraid to raise her head for fear her friend was gone when suddenly, she spoke, “I want you to have Jessie if he’s still alive. Raise him as your own.” Her voice was weak and halting, but firm.
“I can’t, Tilly. He has a dad.”
“He won’t have a choice. Jessie isn’t his.”
The circumstances didn’t keep Janna from gasping in disbelief. “You’re in shock, girl.”
“No, he knows Jessie isn’t his. He was going to raise him, anyway. All my papers are in the safe. Make sure you find…them.”
Janna had been staring into her friend’s eyes, but they had fluttered closed, and she knew it was for the last time. “No, Tilly…” She stroked the dark hair, her hands encountering sticky blood, but she didn’t care. Tears streamed down her face in grief. Why?
She had no idea how long she sat there stroking Tilly’s hair, but finally the pain in her arm insisted she do something to get herself out of the basement. She needed a doctor, and she needed to find Jessie. Please help me find him, Dear Lord.
She drudged through several feet of debris, trying to find a way out. Finally, she poked her good arm up through a hole. Was it freedom? Her heart pumped with joy. She needed to find Jessie and make sure he was okay.
She heard a noise. Her heart sped-up double-time. “Hello, is someone out there?” Her voice trembled with pain and exhaustion but she’d gained renewed energy once more.
“Hello?” A male voice questioned from above her.
It sounded vaguely familiar. Where had she heard that voice before? Her own eyes felt heavy with tiredness as she dug through the hole, trying to see who was out there.
The sound of a child crying made her halt. She tilted her head and said, “Jessie?”
His little baby-voice sounded scratchy and scared.
“Yes Jessie, it’s Janna.”
“I want my mommy.” The little boy cried, apparently so relieved to hear a familiar voice he allowed himself to let go.
Heaviness filled her heart. How could she tell him? Would he even understand? “I know you do, buddy, but let’s get you out of here first.” She’d uncovered one chubby arm. “Do you hurt?”
“My leg hurts real bad.” Her good hand ran along the length of one chubby leg and he winced, as if to prove his point.
“I have to get you out of here, little man.”
“What happened?” The three year old asked.
“It was a tornado, buddy.”
Silence for a moment. “Oh.”
He raised both chubby arms and attached them around her neck when she moved the piece of vinyl siding from his side and pulled off a sheet of wet, pink insulation.
“Hello?” The male voice came from above her again.
She’d forgotten about the man at the little boy’s cries. “Yes, can you help us out?”
“Yes.” There was a loud thumping noise as Jedidiah jumped down through the hole.
“Yes me.” He gave her a big grin as he pulled woman and child up through the hole and laid them at the side of the yard.
He sat down beside them, panting from the exertion. He wiped his forehead with a black, sooty hand. “The child’s mother?”
She gave him a sharp look. His face fell, seeming to say, ‘I’m sorry.’
He got to his hands and knees, and then rose to his feet. He picked them up and carried them to his car.
The last thing Janna remembered was being deposited in the front seat, Jedidiah’s hand gently pulling a strand of her wet, gritty hair from her face and fastening her seatbelt; and then blessed darkness.