Jeff Martin had never liked sleeping alone. It was, he supposed, one of the reasons it had taken him so long to walk away from the farce that had been his marriage. That, and the kids. The fear of hellfire hadn’t played much of a role in it all. He’d lost that fear long ago, around the time he’d actually picked up a Bible for himself and started comparing its contents to the good Pastor’s weekly “messages.” No, religion had played no real part in the messy decisions of his younger self, only a desire to be normal.
And what could be more normal, he thought now, than to miss your family when they’re away? Stan had flown out two nights ago for a big medical conference in
“Jeff? Jeff, are you there?”
“I’m here.” Jeff didn’t bother asking whether Stan had any idea what time it was in
Jeff nodded silently, but couldn’t bring himself to say it back before he hung up the phone. Not now. God, what if those horrible pastors had been right all along? He grabbed his coat and his cell and ran for the door. “Hang on girls, I’m coming.”
He called Brandi from the car, and before she could snarl at him for calling in the middle of the night, told her to turn on the news. “I’m on my way over,” he said, and hung up before she could say anything.
The drive to his ex-wife’s place normally took less than twenty minutes, but with every precious second counting down to the end of the world, he ignored the posted speed limits and made it there in exactly twelve. When he pulled up, Brandi was standing out on the street, loading up her shiny little two-door car. Maddie and Emily were already in the back seat, looking sleepy and confused. He called out to them as he flung open his car door, but Brandi ignored him. Maddie saw him and waved.
“You know what this is, Jeff,” said Brandi as he approached.
“I know what it might be,” he replied. “Where are you planning on going?” He himself had had some vague idea about driving west to buy some time, maybe keep the girls safe until someone could figure out for sure what was happening, and if it could be stopped.
Brandi planted herself between him and the car. Between him and his daughters. Hands on hips, she met his gaze squarely. “The Lord is calling his people home,” she said, “and we’re driving east to meet Him.” After a moment, her face softened. “You don’t have to stay behind, you know. There’s still time to get right with God.”
“You can’t know for sure it’s the Rapture!” Jeff said. She was going to take them. Going to take Maddie and Emily and drive them into the very danger they should be running from.
Brandi’s voice was calm and cool. “Are you willing to risk your soul on the possibility that it isn’t?”
“Are you willing to risk our daughters’ lives on the possibility that it is?” Maddie was watching them. Seven years old, she had already seen her parents fighting more times than Jeff had ever liked to consider. She never liked to see it, but this time was worse. She would see the fear in his face, hear it in his voice.
“We’re going, Jeff.” Brandi had opened the driver’s door and was getting into the car now. Not believing what was happening, Jeff hesitated for one second too long before reacting.
“No!” he cried, flinging himself forward just as the door slammed shut. He grabbed at the handle, but Brandi had already locked the door. In the back seat, Maddie was crying, confusion and fright etched on her innocent face. He couldn’t see Emily at all, just the hump of her favourite yellow blanket, under which she often hid when she was scared.
“You can’t just take them!” he cried. “They’re my kids, too!”
Brandi rolled down her window just a crack. “You’ve still got time,” she said. “If you get right with God, you’ll see them again.” She smiled as she turned the key in the ignition, her expression as close to affectionate as he’d seen it since well before the divorce. “We’ll all see each other again soon. Goodbye, Jeff. And good luck.”
She turned around and murmured something soothing to the girls as she pulled out of the driveway, doing her best to distract them from the fact that their father was running alongside the car, banging on the windows and yelling. As she picked up speed, Jeff fell behind. The last thing he saw before they turned the corner was Maddie’s face, wide frightened eyes and tousled hair.
And then they were gone.