Blu attempts to get more personal details about Cleo’s life.
Blu: Don’t be shy, is mommy-hood all you hoped it to be?
Cleo: More actually, I didn’t think I’d get to be a mom−
Blu interjects with a theory−
Blu: Is he your miracle baby?
Cleo searches within her soul how to best phrase her answer.
Cleo: Um, more like my shock-happy-baby. It’s not like I couldn’t have kids or anything, I just thought I’d get raptured before I could be a mom.
Cleo and her group of mutual wanderers saw the sign in the distance. They finally made it to Casa Grande. After a couple of days of hiking along the highway, Cleo wishfully hoped she heard the Holy Spirit correctly. He said to be in Casa Grande in two days, find Christ Life Church… that He’ll lead the way.
Step one was completed, now for the latter part.
Originally, Cleo planned to take just herself, Bailey (Cleo’s friend), and her grandmother… But plans quickly fell apart. Grandma refused to go… Bailey
left for Mexico with her boyfriend. As Cleo went on alone, she found people along the way.
First, a little Asian 9-year-old girl that wouldn’t speak… The girl looked scared, thirsty, and hungry. Cleo gave her a granola bar and juice box, which seemed to be enough for the girl to follow her. If the world was normal, what Cleo did would classify as weird and creepy, but the world wasn’t normal. It was stuck in a state straight out of a dystopian young adult novel.
People say it was a solar flare. Others say an HEMP from space. Bottom line… all technology doesn’t work… People are getting sick left and right. Vomiting, fever, diarrhea that all eventually leads to death… When it didn’t rain, the earth quaked… When the sun’s rays didn’t blister the skin of dark-pigmented people, tornados rolled through town. Thieves looted, people killed each other over soda. Cleo witnessed demon possessed people mutilate themselves or attack people. Bodies of suicide victims in cars, in houses, on the street, or hanging from bridges and trees. For 21 days, the enemy has placed thoughts of suicide in Cleo’s head, and every day she had to pray the evil forces away. The world, or at least Tucson, seemed consumed by darkness.
As Cleo walked out of Tucson toward Casa Grande, Cleo saw a military fleet on foot, marching into Tucson. If she didn’t hide with the little girl behind chaparral bushes they may have been stopped. High ranking officers stopped people walking along the highway and encouraged them to walk back into the city… If they didn’t, they were forced to comply.
Along the way, Cleo and the girl encountered a pregnant woman, Joan, her husband Martin, and their son, Jackson. They, too, were heading to Casa Grande, to go to Christ Life Church. Talking along the way, Cleo learned Joan and Martin knew Bianca. Bianca went to high school with Martin’s sister, Bailey.
“I’m almost out of water…” Cleo said, taking a swig of hot, sour water from her camel pack.
Out of breath, Joan whined, “We’re already out…”
God, we need water… Cleo thought.
Pick up the next rock you see in the dirt, and dig a shallow hole with our hands, then place the rock back in the hole. Said the Spirit of the Lord.
Cleo found a rock the size of her hands, reddish-gray, maybe two feet in front of her. Down on her knees, she picked up the rock and set it aside. Jackson began crying because his sun burnt skin began to peel and he was hungry and extremely thirsty.
“What are you doing?” Martin asked, agitatedly.
Cleo handed him the rock to hold as she dug with her fingers. She was totally grossed out. The grime on her hands building up from the dusty, hot dirt, crusting underneath her nails made her want to implode, but she dared not disobey God at a time like this. Making a three-inch-deep, three inch in circumference hole, she held out her hand to get the slender rock back.
“Give me the rock, come on…” She huffed… exhausted and wishing for a cool breeze to kill the piercing heat.
Martin handed her back the rock. “I think the heat has gotten to your head.”
The moment the rock sat in the hole, clear water sprouted forth like a fountain, shooting up three feet high.
“Praise the Lord!” Cleo huffed weakly, but meaning it with all her heart, and everyone else was so amazed they didn’t know what to say.
Fill only your water containers, do not drink from the spring, the Lord directed her.
Little Jackson ripped away from his mother’s hand and rushed to the spring to drink. Quickly, Cleo grabbed the boy by the waist and leaped up. The boy screamed.
“What are you doing? Let him drink!” Joan growled in Mama Bear Mode.
“I don’t know why, but we can only refill our water containers, we can’t drink directly from it. Last time I read my bible, people who didn’t listen to God during desperate times, paid a terrible price… I’d like to live until the rapture, I’m not sure about the rest of you.”
Believing Cleo had a valid point, they all listened, and continued to follow her direction. They filled up on water and moved on…
They arrived at the church, which was surrounded by tents, full of very healthy, very happy people. A black man in his 50s walked up to Cleo and greeted her by name.
“Thank you for coming, Cleo Swan, the Lord said you’d be arriving today.” He said, shaking her hand. Cleo was speechless.
He crouched low to meet the girl at eye level, he said something to her in Korean, Cleo was pretty sure. The little fell into his arms crying and he comforted her. He picked her up off the ground and told Cleo and the Slaughter Family to follow him.
Inside the church, in the sanctuary, he gave the little girl over to a tiny Latina woman with wavy black hair and big brown eyes…
“Marisol will take good care of Jane. The rest of you, come with me to the medical wing…” Chuckling he added, “It used to be a kidz church…”
The moment they stepped into the wide-open area, Joan began to go into labor, it was not a drill.
A gust of wind burst from the bathroom door as a pure, white light flashed. The door opens and Bianca steps out.
Okay… when did humanity invent a teleport machine? Then Cleo remembered Philip was teleported by God in the bible… But why did Bianca need to be here?
“What are you doing here?” Cleo asked.
“I’m here to deliver Joan’s baby,” Bianca acted like Cleo should know that.
“There’s no one in Casa Grande who could deliver a baby, aren’t you supposed to be in Ohio?” Cleo inquired as she followed Bianca like a shadow.
Bianca began barking orders, while guiding Joan to sit down in a tub of water already prepared.
“Pretty much, and yes,” Bianca said. Then she told Martin to encourage Joan to do her Lamaze breathing.
“Why didn’t Paul come?”
“He was needed back there.”
“Do you know what’s going on?” Cleo asked.
Bianca looked at Cleo perplexed why the girl didn’t know already, “It’s the Storm… After this the R-,” Cleo attempted to finish Bianca ’s sentence.
“The Rapture happens?” Cleo knew Bianca was wrong… She would not become a mom before the Rapture happened!
Bianca raised a brow, and looked at Cleo like she was a lunatic, “No, girl… The Revival will occur in the land… Like a real, massive, full blown revival!” Bianca clapped her hands… She also added, “Before I forget, after you’re done here… head to Kentucky… God will lead you. Now, why don’t you go with Clive, and get settled in…” Bianca said nudging Cleo towards the black man that led them all to this room.
Clive held an arm toward the door, insisting she’d go first. Obliging the man, Cleo walked out the door with Clive close behind.
Poorly, Blu jokes−
Blu: Well, you must have gotten left behind, then?
Together, they laugh awkwardly.
Blu: Do you and the husband want more kids?
Cleo shrugs her shoulders, uncertain.
Cleo: I love being a mom. And yes, I for sure want another kid as soon as possible, but my husband is happy with just us three, so we’ll see. I’ll have to pray about it.
Cleo made it to Frankfort, Kentucky in a month and one week. She stood outside the city hall, exactly where God led her. She made the journey all by herself. Part of Cleo wished she’d gotten teleported here, but walking kept her in shape.
A group of people emerged from city hall. To her surprise, it was both sets of parents, all her siblings, but Josiah. Oddly enough, Paris and her niece, Prim, were present. At the helm of the group was a face she thought she’d never see again, Rafael Alvarez. Behind him was an older couple that shared some of his features, Cleo presumed they must be his parents.
Suddenly, a digital billboard nearby clicked on. A broadcast from the President came on. Today was the day America got its power grid up and running again. The President praised the Lord and said a prayer, giving glory to God… No one knew what to think about that, considering that the President was an atheist when elected. The Storm was over.
The wedding was days away and Cleo and Rafa hadn’t gotten the clearance from the minister to walk down the aisle yet. Pastor Royce didn’t like that they couldn’t agree about how many kids to have.
“I want at least two… more would be great.” Cleo insisted.
“Why should we worry about having kids? We’re lucky we even get to be getting married. Christ could return any day now and Cleo wants to have kids?” Rafa argued.
“Bianca said back in 2015 I would be a mom before the Rapture.” Cleo snapped back.
“Bianca isn’t God! We can get more done for the kingdom without kids than-,” Cleo cut him off.
“Then why get married at all. St. Paul said more could be done for God being single than married. Maybe, we should just not get married then!” Cleo began to cry.
“Why don’t we take a moment of silence, and say a quick prayer individually… What are we really saying here?” The therapist interjected.
The three of them, in their tense counseling session, sat in silence for five minutes… Rafa spoke first…
“I guess I’m just afraid… America may be in a better place, but the world isn’t… In these hard times, I don’t want to run the risk of having a kid that may not choose Jesus…”
“But you’re such an incredible, godly man and would be the most amazing father, any kid of yours isn’t going to stray from God once you lead them to Him. My faith is stronger because of you and I didn’t think I could grow anymore with God. And you know, sometimes I think what’s the point of becoming a mom, but then, like, everyone I know is parents. Bianca and Paul, Erin and Eric, Crystal and Andre…and so many other people at church… And all their kids are saved and speaking in tongues by age three, laying hands on the sick at age four, having visions at age five, giving words of wisdom and of knowledge at age six… With friends like we have and the church we’re a part of, I don’t think we have to worry about our kids not finding the Lord… I want at least one kid… please?” Cleo pleaded with Rafa…
“You make a valid point…” Rafa sighed… Inhaling and then exhaling, Rafa began to laugh. Cleo knew the Lord spoke to his heart just by the giddy manner of his laughter. “Let’s have a baby at some point, but not right away.”
Bianca lifted her arm up in the air, from her director’s chair, and gave the bittersweet command, “That’s a wrap, folks!”
She stood up and people collapsed the circle they all made for prayer and crowded in tiny clumps to say goodbye to one another.
Cleo couldn’t wait to go home. She just wanted to sleep off whatever bug she had. She made her way over to Bianca to say goodbye. What Bianca said as she hugged Cleo took the ailed woman by surprise, “How far along are you? Are you thinking like five weeks or so?”
“What?” Cleo winced, “I’m not pregnant! I’m too old.”
“Jesus died on a cross at 33, that’s not too old. And I was 35 when I had the twins. Plus, I delivered my own daughter during the Storm and I delivered other babies during that time… I can spot a pregnant woman a mile away. All week you’ve been sick and you haven’t gotten a single other person sick. You’re pregnant!”
Cleo felt the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Bianca was right… again… Cleo was pregnant. Who knew a sun conure from Rafa could serve as a fertility god…? Granted, God is the only God, but when Rafa added Chuy to the jungle bird room a few weeks ago, they didn’t even make it to the hallway before Cleo initiated her gratitude with sex. Was it cliché of her? Yes, but she had wanted a sun conure for like 16 years and her husband got one for her! She wasn’t that in to having sex like four times a week, but they did for two weeks…
Okay, it wasn’t just that he bought her a sun conure… She wasn’t sure what got into her, but she was in the mood to get out of their routine and be spontaneous! If she knew spontaneity could have resulted in a child a while back, she would have gotten random sooner. Or maybe this was just the time for her to finally become a mom.
“How do I tell Rafa?” Cleo asked.
“Well, you can be dramatic or you can be cute about it, or you can just tell him.”
“Well, how did you tell Paul three times?”
“I only told him twice, but even then, he kind of knew… It was more eventful telling all of our parents.” Bianca stated, honestly.
Cleo forgot the twins are twins… They look nothing alike, then again, they are fraternal not identical.
*Edited by Kristen Wenneborg