All was silent. For a moment Alli felt her mind become foggy. I must not faint! She stood and glanced around her. All the men had departed–except for one. The young man who had fetched her was leaning against a nearby tree. He slowly walked toward her, his cap in his hands. Standing beside her, he looked down at Dick.
“I’m very sorry. I would like to offer my services. Would you like me to fetch the undertaker?”
Alli turned to look at him. “Yes, thank you. I will wait here.”
The young man quickly mounted his horse, disappearing a moment later. Alli suddenly realized how fatigued she was. She leaned against a tree and closed her eyes. The day’s events felt misty. Perhaps it was all a dream. But no–she opened her eyes and could not deny the sight before her. Her stomach churned and her throat tightened.
The sound of hoofbeats met her ears. Looking up, she saw the young man on his horse followed by a man driving a wagon. The next several minutes were a blur in her memory. Somehow Dick’s body was transferred to the wagon and taken away. She vaguely remembered agreeing to a funeral scheduled for two days later.
The sound of the wagon died away and everything was quiet.
“Are you ready to go back?” asked the young man beside her.
Alli shook herself out of her thoughts. “Yes, please.” Her weary voice was barely audible. She mounted and he climbed on behind her.
When they arrived, he dismounted and helped her to dismount down. She turned to face him, suddenly aware of the thanks she owed him.
“I cannot thank you enough for taking me to see Dick before it was too late. Thank you for bringing the undertaker as well, and for taking me back. You will never know how much this means to me.”
The young man nodded, his expression genuine and caring. “I feel honored to have been able to serve you. I will be praying for you—Alli.” He turned suddenly, mounted, and galloped down the road.
Alli stood outside for several minutes, strangely puzzled yet not able to understand why. She then realized that she had not caught his name. With a deep sigh, she entered the shop.
As she stood beside her work table, complete exhaustion overtook her. Her eyes closed and she collapsed onto the floor.
When she awoke, she was in her own bed. Laura was bending over her, a wet rag in her hand.
“You’re awake!” She hurried from the room to arrive a moment later with Ellen and John behind her. Ellen knelt beside her bed and took her hand, holding it warmly in hers.
“Do—do you know?” Alli ventured to ask.
Ellen nodded, her eyes full of tears. “Yes, we know. I’m so sorry, Alli.”
As her sorrow returned, Alli closed her eyes and let her mind drift. Her body felt so weary, so burdened, so lost…
She opened her eyes again and this time it was John at her bedside. “Good morning, Alli. How do you feel?”
Alli yawned and sat up. “Better. I feel very hungry.”
“I was told you would be.” He handed her a bowl of chicken soup. “Eat this; it will give you strength.”
Alli took a few bites and felt her mind clear. “How long has it been since…Dick…”
“That was on Monday. Today is Tuesday,” John answered.
“So tomorrow is the funeral?”
“Yes. Do you think you will feel able to attend?”
Alli swallowed with difficulty. “Yes.”
It began to rain only ten minutes before the funeral began. Alli huddled under Ellen’s umbrella, trying hard to keep her mind alert. As Pastor Williams gave the short eulogy, Alli’s tears slipped down her cheek and landed on the wet ground. The realization of Dick’s death was still sinking in. It had happened all too quickly.
As the service ended, Alli was handed a shovel. She stepped out from under the protection of the umbrella and stuck the shovel into the pile of mud beside the hole in which Dick’s coffin lay. Slowly, it splatted down on top of the coffin. She dropped the wet shovel. Her knees suddenly felt weak and she took three wavering steps back to where Ellen stood.
“Alli, dear, John and I must be going now. That is if you are well enough to be home alone.”
Alli nodded as she wiped her tears away. “Yes. Thank you so much for all you’ve done for me. I know your sorrow must be greater than mine.”
Ellen shook her head. “No, dear. The love between a man and a woman is the strongest tie on earth. My heart breaks more for you than it does for me.” With a final hug, she released her. John turned to take her in his arms.
“Even though you never became our daughter-in-law, you shall always be one in our hearts. Please send us a telegram if you need anything.”
Alli could only nod, her throat tightening again.
As Ellen and John departed, Laura stepped up to her and hugged her gently. “Alli, my heart goes out to you. I don’t even know what to say. But I do bring you a small comfort. I told Miss Weston of what happened and she has agreed to let you work from home for the next two days. I have already put your stitch-work in your wagon. I hope that will give you some time to—well, rest.”
Alli smiled. “Thank you, Laura.”
As Laura waved goodbye, Pastor Williams stepped up. “Alli, your loss is great but your God is greater.” He held her hand warmly in both of his. “I will be praying for you often. Remember that He does all things well.” Tears formed in his eyes and he nodded goodbye as he made his way to his wagon.
Alli closed her eyes for a moment. Her hand shook as she longed for Dick’s firm and loving grasp. A tear slipped down her cheek, falling helplessly onto the muddy ground.
With a deep breath, Alli lifted her head and opened her eyes. Only one person remained. It was the young man at the accident.
He held his hat in his hands as he walked slowly towards her. His expression was sad and ponderous. For the first time, Alli noticed that his young face was handsome and kind.
“I am very sorry for your loss. But it must be a comfort to you to know that he is now in Heaven waiting for you.” His voice was strong and manly, despite his slender form.
Alli nodded slowly. “Yes, it is. But I am finding it very hard to trust God through it all. Dick’s last prayer was that I might not depart from the Lord. I am trying, but it is very hard.”
“I have been praying for you,” he said sincerely. “Would you mind if I ask you something?”
“No, I don’t mind,” Alli answered, puzzled.
He took a deep breath, searching her eyes with his own. “Your name is Alli Stratford, is it not?”
“My name is Joseph Stratford.”
Alli gasped and stumbled backward. Joseph stepped toward her and took her arm.
“You can’t be Joseph,” Alli insisted. “He disappeared ten years ago.”
“Come sit down,” he offered. He led her to a large rock under a clump of trees. It was still raining and Alli brushed her wet hair out of her eyes. She seated herself and Joseph stood beside her. Her heartbeat quickened and she bit her lip.
“If you will listen, I’ll tell you my story.
“Up until I was seven years old, I lived with my father, mother, and sister, Alli. We lived in a house in the country, surrounded by large fields. When I was seven, I took a walk one day a little too far from the house. A man driving on the road saw me and lured me into his wagon. He took me to his house several hours away. I lived with him for the next nine years. He forced me to beg for money and purchase alcohol for him. He beat me often when he was drunk.”
“That’s awful! Why didn’t you run away?” Alli suddenly cut in.
“I wanted to, but I was too afraid. He had threatened to find and kill me if I ever ran away. As the years went by, he made friends with some counterfeiters. Against my will, I helped him and his friends to make counterfeit money.
“Eventually I was discovered buying alcohol with the counterfeit money. I insisted that there were other men who were responsible. I led the police to the secret room where they made the money. We were all taken to prison until our court case a few weeks later. At court, I was declared innocent, while the others were sentenced to ten years in prison.
“I was homeless. I remembered the name of the town I grew up in, so I came here immediately. Within a few days, I found a job as a bricklayer and moved into a tenement house. That was about a month ago. Once I got settled, I began looking for my family.
“When Dick asked me to bring you to him, it took everything in me to hold myself together. I recognized your name and felt certain you were my older sister. I decided to wait until now to introduce myself to you. I’ve been longing to see you again for ten years, Alli. Do you not believe my story?” His pained expression pled with her.
Alli stood and took a deep breath, a puzzled expression on her face. “I—I want to believe you. But I cannot take any more sorrow. Are you really my younger brother, Joseph?”
In answer, Joseph thrust his hand into his pocket and pulled out a heart shaped rock. She took it from his hand and brought it close to her face. On one side was scratched the words I love you. Her hands shook. As if it were yesterday, she remembered scratching those words into that special rock and giving it to her younger brother all those years ago.
“Here, Joey,” she had said. “This rock is for you. It looks like a heart, see? And I wrote I love you on this side. So keep it forever and remember that your sister Alli loves you very much.” Then she had bent down and given him a kiss.
The rock fell from her hand and she looked up. Her eyes widened and she fell into his arms. “Oh, Joseph!”
The strong, secure embrace gave her strength and peace, despite the dreary weather. Joseph held her close and rubbed her back tenderly. For a moment it was quiet as brother and sister connected deeply through the loving touch they shared. Finally, Joseph pulled away gently. “Alli, I know you are alone now. I heard from Dick of your—our—parent’s death last year. And now with him gone, you are alone again. I know I can never replace Dick, but I want you to know that I will care for you with all that I am. I will visit you every day and spend my days off with you. I’ll show you where I am living. Come to me if you ever need anything at all. You’re my sister and I will take good care of you.”
Alli blinked and tears slipped down her chin. “Joseph, you can never know how grateful I am, to the Lord and to you.”
Joseph reached out and caught her hand. “Praise the Lord that He has brought us back together.”
Alli sighed. “You know, I have a lot to tell you. A lot has happened in the past ten years on my end as well.”
Joseph pulled her close. “Let’s go to my apartment and have a nice long chat.”
“Don’t you have to work?” Alli asked.
“No, I already arranged with my boss to have the day off.”
Alli smiled and drew closer to her brother. “Oh Joseph, I just can’t believe that you’re here!”
Leaning down, he bestowed a gentle kiss on her head. “I can. I’ve been praying every night for years that I might be brought back to you. I knew God would answer my prayer—in His timing.”
This story always gives me the chills… so sweet! I especially love the sibling love in this story.
I would like to thank Schylie La Belle for allowing me to share this wonderful story! Lord willing, we’ll be hearing from her again. 😀
Schylie La Belle also has other stories! You can buy one as an E-Book via Tirzah Magazine. Here is the link to buy it:
I definitely recommend it! 😉
What did you guys think of the story? Any comments? I would love to hear from you if you have a story you’ve written and would like it published!
Sorry I’ve been absent, you guys! 😉 Won’t be anymore! Unless I get super busy or something comes up. 😛