The house was dark. The sky outside was dark with flickers of flashing light. A storm had decided to blast Jonesboro, Texas, and in the process slammed some trees to the ground, and knocked out several power lines, including the one in front of Zola and Chris Akins’ front gate.
It was a summer day, and storms like these in Texas were typical, and normally, Zola, age 43, was prepared. She would have the flashlights charged up and set up in the kitchen, lanterns with batteries would light up the whole house and that would be it.
But not today. This storm came up on surprise – even the TV weatherman was a little shocked as he reported it was on its way. That was before the power went out, and Zola, Chris, and their two children went looking for their electronic devices – which had been charging thankfully.
Well, all of them had been charging except for the kids’ iPads. No fresh batteries in the house, so the flashlights weren’t optional – except for two on the kids’ keychains. They had grabbed them, and headed for the living room to watch the storm from the windows.
Chris looked at Zola as they stood in the kitchen. “I will go get the candles.”
Zola sighed. Though she kept candles in the house – all were in jars with lids, she rarely used them, unless Chris was home.
“Mom, can I check my Facebook account on your iPad?” Zack, her oldest at 16, hollered from his spot on the couch, where he was entertaining his little brother, Jason, age 5, with the shadow puppets.
“Use your own phone, dude.” Zola called as she searched for matches or a lighter in the catch-all drawer near the dishwasher using the shimmering lights from the sky to help her.
Zack groaned, “But it is upstairs.”
“Zack, go get your phone, dude. Be a man. Can’t believe you are still afraid of the dark.” Chris called as he walked through the living room holding three candles, and two lanterns.
There was some sort of mumbling coming from the spot Zack sat. Chris stopped almost to the kitchen. “What did you say, boy?”
“I will go with you, come on, Zack, you can hold my hand,”Jason piped up. They could hear the boys fumbling up the stairs, laughing and talking.
Chris looked at his wife, and she grinned. “That is your son. The scaredy cat.”
“And Jason is all you for sure – adventure awaits. Ha, here are the matches and a lighter.” Zola shut the drawer, and walked over to where Chris was standing, and handed him the box of matches and the lighter.
He took them, and then put them on the counter. “You know, Zo, you have got to learn how to light a match sometime … you are 43.”
Zola peeked down at her feet, and looked back at her husband, “That is why I married you, honey, you little fire starter, go ahead. Let’s shed some light around here.”
A banging could be heard upstairs, and then the boys started laughing. “WE ARE OK. WE DIDN’T BREAK ANYTHING.” Zack hollered.
Jason added, “YET.”
Chris and Zola laughed at their sons.
While popping the lid off of one of the candles, Chris handed Zola the box of matches. “Come on. Today is going to be the day.”But I can't light the match
Zola shook her head, and let the matchbox drop to the counter. “No. Chris, that is just one skill I didn’t ever catch on too. Ask my dad. He tried. I am just not coordinated enough or maybe my fingers are too fat. I do have fat fingers.”
The boys’ footsteps could be heard walking down the steps – thumping. There was a glimmer of a light, then two, shining.
Chris turned around “What did you two find?”
Jason ran over to his mom, who was leaning over the counter. “Here you go, Mommy. I found my Spiderman flashlight that I got as a favor at Nicholas’ birthday, and look, it works.” He pointed the light her face – she squinted, and turned her head.
She took the flashlight from her son, “Not in my face, dude. See, we have a flashlight. We don’t need the candles.”
Zack was typing into his phone, “Mom doesn’t want to try striking a match, huh?” He stood next to his dad. Chris shook his head.
“Mommy, why can’t you strike a match? Are you scared?” Jason asked sweetly.
Chris and Zack looked at Zola. She sighed. “I don’t know, honey. I just have never been able to do. It is like Mommy’s fingers don’t want to work right.”
Jason stood there. “Mommy, you know, when I didn’t know if I could hit the T-Ball, what did PaPa tell me? I had to try. He said practice, practice. Well, how do you know you can’t do it if you don’t try?”
Chris laughed, “That is good advice, son. So, Mommy?” Chris held the matchbox out to her.
Zola sighed, and took it from her. Zack put his phone down on the counter. “Want me to show you, Mom?”
“No … Take your brother, and go tell ghost stories or something. If I am going to do this, I don’t want an audience,” Zola said.
Jason grabbed his mom by the waist, “I believe in you, Mommy. You can do it.”
Chris had to turn his head for fear of laughing. He nudged Zack, “Take your brother.”
Zack grinned, grabbed his phone, and said, “Come on, squirt. We will play cars on here.”
He took Jason by the shoulder, and guided him to the living room.
“Oh my heart … He believes in me. Chris, I have tried lighting matches for years … And lighters … I can’t do it,” Zola said.
Chris walked over, and touched her shoulder. “Come on. Take a match out of the box.” She did.
“OK, now what?” Zola asked holding the stick in her hand.
Chris stood behind her, and put the box of matches in her other hand. “All you have to do is strike the match against the box … but do it quickly.”
She sighed, and tried. Nothing happened. “See.”
Chris laughed, “Honey, that was so weak. Hold it like you are holding your steering wheel during right hour – put some strength in it.”
After about the fourth try, Zola put the box down. “I told you, I couldn’t do it. I just don’t have the skill.”
“You can do it. It is not that hard … or it shouldn’t be. You know what I think?” Chris asked, taking the box, and the match, lighting it so naturally and lighting a candle, and putting the top on it.
“See, you do it so naturally,” Zola said.
He shrugged, and he lit the other candle, and put the lid on it. “Zack, come get this candle for the coffee table.”
Zack jumped over the back of the couch, and ran in. “Carefully, son. Think of this as a football. Don’t drop it, and JASON, do not touch it.” Zola said.
Cautiously, Zack took the candle, and headed back to his spot. “OK, MOMMY. I won’t touch it. Did you light the match yet?” Jason called as he played a car racing game on Zack’s phone.
Chris looked at her, “No, Mommy has not yet. But she will.”
“What do you think?” Zola asked holding the box of matches in her right hand, and another match in her left hand. Her auburn hair was shining in the light from the candle light.
Chris said, “You are scared. You are still thinking of that birthday party when you were five and you grabbed that lit candle. You have never been a fan of fire.”
Zola shook her head. “You are silly in the head.” But deep down, she thought maybe her husband was right. She looked at him, and his mocha-colored skin looked bronze in the reflection of light the candle gave off.
Both of the boys had their dad’s complexion, and his short dark hair. That was one of the things Zola loved about their relationship – Chris is African American, and Zola is Cajun and Italian. And they made pretty boys.
But they just couldn’t get Zola to make fire happen with the match.
“No, I am not. Look at your finger – you have that scar. So, what we are going to do is get you to not think about it. You are putting too much pressure on yourself. Take the box out a little bit, and then put the match at the top, and then strike it near you, but go fast.” Chris said, sitting on top of the counter.
Zola looked at him. “I feel so stupid.” She took the match and struck it against the box hard and fast.
The lights in the house came on, just as the top of the match sparked into a small flame. “What, oh, look.” Zola held the lit match in her hand.
“Ha, ha. I told you,” Chris held the other candle to her, and she put the match to the wick. The candle lit.
Zola squealed. “I did it.”
Jason and Zack had been watching from the couch, and both of them came into the kitchen. “Mommy, you did it!”
He threw his arms around her, “I knew you could … All you had to do is try.”
Zack held a fist in the air near his mom, “Wait to go, Mom.” She bumped his fist with hers.
“See … When you think you can’t do it, you just gotta get out of your head, baby, and voila.” Chris started to blow out the candle.
Zola smiled, putting her hand on Jason’s head, rubbing it. She watched Chris blow the candle out. “I did it.”