06 Aug The Still Small Voice
“Kat, honey, what are you doing?” Leah had just laid her two-year old daughter down for the night, but the girl kept tilting her head to look around Leah.
“Trying to see Jesus.” Kat smiled matter-of-factly as she looked up at the ceiling. As if this were a common occurrence.
Leah followed her gaze but all she saw was the smoke detector attached to the ceiling. “I don’t see anything, honey.”
“Jesus is right there, Mommy. Don’t you see him?” Kat’s green eyes were wide and round beneath her dark curls.
“I don’t honey.” Leah tried to keep her voice even as she shook her head. She didn’t want her daughter to know she was afraid of her seeing visions. This wasn’t the first time she had claimed to see Jesus.
The first time, Jesus had been on the hall ceiling as they were heading out to church.
“Are you ready, munchkin?” Leah scooped up her daughter who giggled as she flew through the air. “You ready to go to church?”
Kat’s curls bobbed as she nodded.
“And do you love Jesus?”
Kat’s tiny mouth pulled into a large smile and she pointed to the corner of the ceiling. “Uh huh. Hi, Jesus.” She waved her little hand, the same way she waved to Leah whenever she dropped her off with the nanny.
Leah brushed it off as a two-year old’s imagination. “Do you see Jesus up there?” Kat nodded again and Leah kissed her on the cheek. “Well, that’s nice. I wish I could see Jesus like you do.”
The second time, Jesus appeared in the corner of Kat’s ceiling as Leah was reading her a story.
“Honey, where are you going? The story isn’t finished yet.”
Leah watched as Kat toddled over to the small area between the closed bedroom door and the closet. She pointed her tiny hand up at the ceiling. “Hi, Jesus.” Then she held up her bunny as if offering the stuffed toy to someone. “No?” She lowered the bunny and looked around the room. Then she grabbed a book, returned to the spot, and held it up. “No? Okay.” She returned to Leah and climbed back onto her lap to finish the story. “He doesn’t want bunny.”
Leah forced a tight-lipped smile across her face. Was her daughter really seeing Jesus or was this the natural young child imagination at work?
Tonight, Jesus was in a different place. He was still on the ceiling but now firmly over the foot of Kat’s bed instead of by her bedroom door. While Leah hoped her daughter was seeing Jesus, she couldn’t dismiss the possibility that she was seeing something else and that bothered her. “Can you tell me what he looks like?”
“He’s wearing white, but he’s not talking to Bunny.” Kat held up her stuffed bunny – the one that went everywhere with her. Once a soft pink color, time and dirt had worn the plush animal to a dull grey color now.
“Does he talk to you?” Leah supposed she should be relieved that whatever Kat was seeing was wearing white and not black, but the fact he didn’t talk struck her as odd. If Kat was seeing Jesus, wouldn’t he tell her how much he loved her or something like that? Leah was a religious person. She believed in God, but she’d never seen God or heard him speak to her.
“He’s not talking right now.”
“Is he smiling?” She was trying not to ask leading questions, but it was hard with a two-year-old who was just now putting sentences together. Leah wished she could see what her daughter was seeing to make sure it was safe.
“Mommy, who’s that?”
Leah followed the tiny index finger pointing to the top of Kat’s closet. “I don’t know, honey. I don’t see anything.” A cold stone settled in Leah’s stomach. It was one thing to be seeing Jesus, but now she was seeing something else too? What was wrong with her daughter? She tried to keep the tremor out of her voice as she spoke again. “Here, let’s get to sleep. We’ll see Jesus in the morning.”
She whipped the blanket up and let it fall until it covered Kat completely, another thing Leah found odd. Most of her friends said their children were afraid of the dark, but Kat wanted to be under the blanket. It had to cover her head and her toes. Leah wondered if the visions were why Kat wanted her head covered. Though not simultaneous, they had started at similar times.
Leah sat in the rocker in Kat’s room until she heard the rhythmic cadence of breathing signaling her sleep; then she tiptoed out of the room and to the master bedroom down the hall. Her Bible lay on her nightstand, where she kept it to remind her to read every night, and she picked it up before sinking to her knees on the floor.
She clutched the Bible against her chest and turned her head heavenward. “Lord, please protect my daughter. I don’t know what she is seeing, but please protect her.” That was all Leah could get out before the tears ran down her cheeks. She had waited so long for her baby girl, and now she was terrified that either something was wrong with her or that something would happen to her.
Chapter 1: Thirty years later, Saturday in Olympia, Washington
Dr. Kat Jameson dropped her head into her hands. She hadn’t specialized in pediatric oncology for this reason. No one should get cancer, but it was worse when it was a child. Children had their whole life ahead of them, and they came in with small faces and tiny hands. Hands that always seemed to wind their way around Kat’s heart.
Thankfully, she’d only had a few child patients in the year she had been practicing on her own, and they had all gone into remission, but this time was different. Cade had brain cancer. It was harder to treat and almost impossible to operate on.
A knock on her door grabbed Kat’s attention. She looked up to see Micah Gibson, a fellow doctor at the hospital in her door frame. His blue eyes held more concern than usual as he caught her gaze. “Heard you have a tough case right now.”
Kat sighed. “Yeah, a ten-year-old boy whose favorite superhero is Wolverine. I almost wish I could give this kid adamantium, so he could heal himself. Our treatments don’t seem to be doing much.”
Micah cocked an eyebrow as he continued into her small office and sat across from her. “I didn’t know you were an X-Men fan.”
“That’s what you got from my statement?” Kat didn’t know Micah well, but she hadn’t thought he was this insensitive.
His expression softened and he shook his head. “I’m sorry. I was trying to lighten the mood. So, this patient? You’ve tried everything?”
Kat nodded. “Almost. We started with diet because his mom wanted to avoid radiation. When that did nothing, we moved on to proton therapy. He’s taking it well, but the tumor just isn’t shrinking.”
“So, you’ve tried everything you know medically?”
“Have you tried praying?”
His words took her off guard, and she blinked at him. “I didn’t realize you were religious.”
“I’m not, but I am a Christ follower.” He leaned forward, placing his hands on her desk. “I honestly don’t know how doctors can see the miracles we see and not believe in God. Can you?”
Kat wasn’t sure what to say. She considered herself a believer though she didn’t get to church as often as she once had. Before med school, she had gone every Sunday and even sung in her church choir, but then she’d needed the time to study. When she’d finished med school, she’d had residency which also took up a lot of time. Even now that she was in her own practice, work filled six days of her week, and Sunday was generally her one day off. Still, she attended when she could.
“Anyhow, I’ll let you get back to work, but I’ll be praying for your patient.” Micah stood and turned to the door, but before he left, he turned back to Kat. “And you.” Then he tapped her door frame and disappeared down the hall.
Prayer. Kat knew she should do more of that, but she’d never seen a prayer answered. And she’d felt no kind of response when she prayed, so it too had fallen to the side. She prayed at church, but that was only because someone on the stage prompted it. And some nights before she fell asleep, but if she were honest, that prayer was more from habit than actually speaking to God. Yes, she should pray more, but right now she needed something else.
A drink. That’s what Kat needed. She wasn’t a big drinker, more the type to be the designated driver so she could watch other people get silly and stupid, but tonight she needed something. Something to take the edge off. Something to calm her nerves. Something to help clear her head so she didn’t have visions of Cade’s boyish face haunting her dreams.
Kat turned off her computer and grabbed her purse. She had a few charts to look over, but they could wait another day. Or until Monday.
As she passed the receptionist, Kat paused. A strange feeling that she should thank the woman for something flashed through her thoughts, but she couldn’t for the life of her think of what. The woman did a fine job, but nothing exceptional. Chalking it up as nothing important, Kat shook her head and continued out of the hospital and to her car.
Her phone buzzed as she pulled into the parking lot of a nearby bar. Kat swiped the screen and sighed as she read Stella’s message.
See you at church tomorrow?
Kat wasn’t sure she felt up to church tomorrow. Today had been rough, and if she drank too much, tomorrow morning would be even rougher. However, Stella being her best friend and being Stella, she didn’t seem to care that Sunday was Kat’s day off. She always reminded Kat of church and when Kat missed too many times, Stella would play the Maddie card. Maddie was Stella’s daughter, and she knew Kat would do anything for that strawberry blonde five-year-old.
I’ll try. Bad day at work.
Kat shoved the phone back in her purse before Stella could respond. Stella would not approve of her method of easing the pain and would try to talk her out of going in, but tonight Kat just wanted not to think. She wanted to drown her sorrows and ponder at the cruelty of the universe.
Kat locked her car and walked up the short sidewalk to the front entrance. The peeling paint and faded signage gave her a moment’s pause. Could she trust the drinks flowing inside if the exterior of the place was in such need of repair? Deciding she didn’t care, Kat gripped the solid handle, pulled the door open, and stepped into the dimly lit establishment.
The bar was mostly empty. A few couples sat in the darkened vinyl booths trading secrets and licentious glances. Kat chose a barstool instead, a few down from the one other bar customer – a portly man perched at the end of the sticky mahogany bar, nursing a beer and probably avoiding going home alone.
Kat signaled the bartender and ordered a Tequila Sunrise. She took a sip and then turned the glass in a slow circle as her thoughts collided in her head.
“You look like you’re carrying the weight of the world on those shoulders.”
Kat glanced up at the bartender who stared her direction as he wiped a cloth across the bar. Though young, his head was bald, but the hint of color on the sides told her he shaved at least part of it. Somehow, it worked on him. The dimple in his cheek softened the harsh lines of the chiseled face that was still visible under a dark stubble, and his crooked smile gave him an air of jocularity.
Any other night, Kat would have been flattered by his obvious flirtation and might have even left him her number, but tonight she wanted to be left alone. “You could say that.” She kept most of the edge out of her voice, though by the bartender’s reaction, not enough.
He let out a low whistle, and she forced her eyes back to her drink. Maybe if she ignored him, he would just leave her alone to sate her frustration with the alcohol. Lifting the glass, she tilted her head back and let the remaining liquid burn down her throat.
“When I feel like that, it always helps me to hit things.” He had not taken her subtle hint and was now standing in front of her. She could see pale flecks of gold in his brown eyes.
“How very destructive of you.” Her manicured finger tapped the glass as she debated asking for another.
“No, not like that.” His laugh was rather melodious and brought a sparkle to his eyes. “I’m a kickboxer, so hitting the bag is cathartic to me. Seems like it might be for you too right now.”
Kat kept silent, unsure of what to say, but she let her eyes wander over the rest of his body. He could be a fighter. He had the right build, lean but not too thin and sculpted arms.
“Look, I teach at a gym nearby during the week. Why don’t you come by and see if hitting something doesn’t give you some reprieve from whatever you’re feeling?” He slipped a white card out of his pocket and slid it across the bar to her.
She held his gaze another moment before dropping her eyes to the card. It was white with black lettering, simple but still eye-catching with the black boxing gloves gracing the corner. “The Academy of Brian Johnson?”
“I know, not the most original name. I didn’t name it, the owner did, but it’s a good work out. Bring that card in, and I’ll make sure you get a week for free to try it out.”
“Thanks, I’ll think about it.” Kat pocketed the card and then pushed her glass forward. “Can I get another?”
The man’s eyebrow rose as he regarded her with narrowed eyes, but he pulled out the tequila bottle and filled her glass again.
When the second glass was empty, Kat pushed a twenty across the bar and stood to leave. However, the room spun and she grabbed the counter for support.
“Hey, I don’t think you should be driving. Let me call you a cab.”
Kat focused on the bartender and took a deep breath. The room righted itself and she pulled her shoulders back and held up a hand. “I’m fine. I don’t live far. Thank you for the drinks.” Before he could say anything else, Kat made her way to the exit cursing her low tolerance.
The cool night air sobered her a little more and Kat remembered she had eaten nothing since lunch. No wonder two drinks were hitting her so hard. Thankfully, she always kept a few granola bars in her car as she often missed dinner and had to eat on the run. She’d eat one and sit in the car until she felt able to drive. While she lived nearby, she had no intention of causing an accident or getting a DUI. Either could ruin her career.
She climbed into the car, but didn’t start the engine. Leaning over, Kat popped open the glove compartment and snatched a bar, peeling back the wrapper and taking a large bite. Then she fished in her purse for her phone. Might as well see what Stella said in response.
Want to pray about it?
Kat chuckled at the irony. What was it with everyone and prayer today?
“This is the one God has chosen?” Afriel asked his superior. He was still learning the gauntlet of how to navigate the world of mortals and how to avoid the demons.
Galadriel’s smile was soft, as if he knew Afriel wasn’t questioning him, just trying to learn all he could. “God has plans for Kat. He has since she was little, but she has not been open to listening to him since her father left. Maybe she will be now.”
“How can that be?” Afriel asked. “Isn’t she a Christian? Doesn’t she believe in God?”
Galadriel smiled, but sadness laced it. “There are many who call themselves Christians, and even more who believe in God, but few of them take the time to seek his voice. Perhaps if they did, things could be different.