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Fiction Christian Mystery

The darkness creeping in through the open window threatened to overtake the small room Lux was sitting in. She could see the fire burning from where she sat next to the old grandfather clock that chimed two o’clock. The fire meant the task had already been completed. There would be nothing left to find tomorrow. The only thing left to figure out now was whether she was a widow or not. Peace Wood Hollow, the town just five miles up the road, would be full tomorrow with gawkers trying to figure out who had been chosen. Tonight though, there would be relieved wives and one widow. 


Crash 


Lux heard the metal bowl fall from the counter and hit the linoleum floor in the kitchen. Then the plop of two flat feet walking into the front room where she sat. 


“Did ya pick it up?” She asked.


“Yes, ma’am.” The boy answered. 


She wished that he was too young to know what was happening tonight. But, there was little time for childhood now. Long ago children could play outside and ride their bikes in the streets. The biggest problem for kids then was the imaginary monsters in their closets. Now is different. Now children aren’t children for long. 


“When will he be home, Mama?” Carlo asked as he climbed into her lap. The boy couldn't weigh more than 50 pounds. 


“Soon I hope. Soon.” Lux answered as she stroked his hair and continued to stare at the fire in the distance. She began to sing an old hymn her grandmama taught her. 


"I come to the garden alone,

while the dew is still on the roses.

And the joy we share as we tarry there,

None other has ever known."


Lux’s eye flew open. What time was it? She had dozed off. With her heart racing, she checked the clock to her right. Three-thirty. He should be home by now. If he was coming home, that is. She looked back out the window, the fire was burning low now, but she could still see the glow from the valley. Surely they were finished. Lux took a moment to brace herself for the next thoughts she would have to sort through. 


He has not come home.


There is only one reason that he wouldn’t be home. 


He must be dead.


I am now a widow.


Carlo will be the man of the house now, and he will go to the fire next year.


The thoughts all hit at once like a punch in the gut. They were strong and sad. She was utterly alone now. He had gone just like her daddy. She glanced back out the window to find the dwindling light of the fire, but what she found instead were headlights. Was it the council? Were they coming to tell her that he had been chosen? Were they coming to get Carlo tonight for his registration? She tried to think back to the night her daddy was chosen. There were few memories apart from the tears that stung her eyes and the loss that everyone else seemed to ignore. There are memories of an empty chair the next morning at breakfast and the extra chores which were now split between her and her sisters. There was the faint memory of a cousin being registered for the family, but not much else. Life just kept going. That’s how death works. The work that was always done still has to get done, but now there are just fewer folks to do it.  


She stood from the chair, a little shaky from the weight of the boy and from the urgency of the moment. The headlights, cutting a path through the bean fields, were indeed headed to their small house. She rushed as quickly as she could, without waking the boy, to the small room in back to put him down in the bed. She slowly closed the wooden door with her left hand, while her right hand rested in the spot where the paint had worn off. She said a quick prayer that he would remain asleep through whatever happened next. 


Lux was standing at the kitchen door waiting when the truck sped into the backyard. She pushed open the screen door expected to see Chairman Brando, but instead there he stood. 


Faro was a tall man with brown eyes the color of good soil. His skin was olive-colored and darkened from years in the sun. His voice was deep and rich like coffee. Faro was broad and strong from hard work. His hands were calloused yet nimble. Faro was her man. He had chosen her from the first day he laid eyes on her, and she was not of an attitude to disagree. He was everything anyone could ask for in a mate, which was all the council cared about. But, to Lux, he was her saving grace. He truly loved her and she loved him. They were luckier than most because they actually liked each other. Most folks around Peace Wood Hollow could barely tolerate their mates, much less like them. 


The mate choosing happens when you turn sixteen and the decision is rarely based on mutual love and respect. It’s usually based on who the boy’s parents have told him to choose. And, it’s definitely based on who is most likely to give birth to daughters. After the war, there weren’t many folks left, and the more girls there are the more babies we can have. More babies means more people—eventually. 


With girls being a high commodity around here, people took to noticing how many boys were around. So in order to “control the population” and encourage more female babies, the council decided to create another choosing. This would just be for the men of the households. Each year the oldest man from each family would put their names in the drawing. If he had sons, the man’s name went in for each of them as well. A name would be chosen and that man would be sacrificed in order to atone for the sins of the town, which the council believed caused the war, and to bring God’s favor on everyone. The man is chosen this way because it was the best way to get rid of the men who were more likely to produce boys. Finally, the widow would be assigned as a wife again for the younger men who had lost their wives to sickness or in childbirth. Interestingly enough, councilmen's names rarely if ever get drawn. 


The system has worked fine for most people. But, Lux and Faro aren’t most people. They have love, and love makes you do unpredictable things.   


“I thought you had been chosen,” she said.


“I was,” Faro replied as he closed the distance between them in the backyard.


Lux couldn’t wait for him to get to her. She rushed out and threw her arms around his neck and buried her face shirt. 


“Then how are you here?” She asked. Her eyes leaked from both joy and worry simultaneously.  


“I don’t know how to explain it. But there was already a man in the fire when I walked up. He was just standing there staring at me, Lux.” He said shaking his head and holding the back of his neck.  


“So, what somebody else volunteered?” She asked confused.


“No. There was no one else there at the choosin’. He just was there in the fire.” He answered as he pushed past her into the house. “We have got to get out of here. Where’s Carlo?”


“He’s asleep in the back. What do you mean we have to get out of here?” She asked.


“I mean we can’t just sit around waiting for the council to decide I still need to go or for whoever he was to show up here,” Faro answered as he started throwing clothes of all sorts into a small duffle bag.


“How would he come here? He was in the fire. You aren’t making any kinda sense.” She shot back.


“You weren’t there. He will be looking for me.” Faro answered her, and then closed his eyes and breathed in deeply. “I just know he's gonna be comin’. Now, go and get the boy. We leave now. I’ll pack some food. We’ll go north, away from the fire.” Faro zipped the bag and headed to the kitchen. 


Lux, still confused, walked to the back of the house and shook Carlo awake. 


“Let’s go, son. Your father is back and we have to go. There’s no time for questions. Get your sandals on and head to the kitchen as soon as you can.” She half drug him out of the bed. 


Within minutes the three of them were gathered in the kitchen. 


“Ok, let’s go,” Faro said as he pushed Carlo out the back door toward the old truck in the driveway.


Lux took one last look at her kitchen. She had prepared so many meals. She had loved her family in this place. She wanted to hold it in her mind forever, so she looked at every corner and cabinet. She touched the counter as she walked by. She breathed in that last smell of their home, and then she shut the door and left it all behind. 

June 10, 2021 00:52

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