The sheets of freezing rain fell all night and into the next morning. Manaen called and told the boys to not bother coming in until the weather cleared. That messed up wall could wait. But the freezing rain didn’t let up, it was joined by scattered hail that kept up its assault for the rest of the week driving everyone stir crazy.
They had only the slightest relief when the rain would let up a bit and they could walk around under the overhang between their building and the next, but even then they had to be careful. The rain was falling at an angle so it froze over every inch of pavement it touched.
With nothing else to do, Siah attacked the coats. Thank God the boys had brought home all those MRE’s and sacks of charcoal. This weather was too dangerous to go hunting.
Siah knew Gods hand was on her because by the end of the week, she had not only managed to NOT scream out loud- she had finished Eric’s coat.
Nathan was a little miffed that Eric’s coat had been done first but he was so curious, he got over it quick.
Eric slowly shrugged into the dark blue coat as she stood back and took in the result of her handiwork. It fit him like the custom piece of clothing it was. She had had him try it on several times during the week as she made tweaks and adjustments, so the boys had a rough idea of how they would look. She stood on Sharlie’s stool behind him in the bathroom and smoothed the seam at his shoulder, admiring her own handiwork.
“Not bad boy.” She ruffled his ever growing hair. “Not bad at all if I do say so myself.”
Siah had him hold his arms up and level as she hopped off the stool and put in pins where she’d have to do some hem alterations. His mind wandered as he looked at himself in the mirror.
The smell of the essential oils Siah put on him every night was in his very skin now. He’d long decided he’d let himself like it. His hair had grown out since Siah had cut it, thicker and healthier than he could ever remember it being. Now that he was sleeping regularly, his eyes weren’t red anymore. The dark circles he’d thought were part of his face were gone. His cheeks had filled out and so was the rest of him. He was growing. Siah had had to adjust the measurements of the shoulders and arms of the coat even while sewing it.
He stared at himself as Siah continued with her alterations; for the first time in his life, Eric thought he looked- good.
Siah could see the boys’ shock at the difference the coat made on Eric. The birthmarks and gouges on his face had taken away any chance the older boy had of ever being considered traditionally handsome, but between the clothes that actually fit and the fine quality knee length wool coat that emphasized his height and broad shoulders, the depth of his chest- he looked strong and masculine. And that jaw- oh yes, her big boy was a handsome one. She ruffled his stubbly inch of black hair as she had him shrug out of the coat so she could finish the final touches.
She finished the tweaks on the hem and cuffs that night, feeling very proud of herself- until she saw Eric actually going to sleep in the thing!
“Uh, Eric, you don’t have to sleep in it.”
“I know. I want to.”
“Eric, it’s not that cold that you should sleep in it. At least take it off and use it on top of your quilt.
“Fine.” He whined as he sat up and took it off.
The freezing rain kept on for another week.
She had started working on Nathans coat the same day she’d finished Eric’s, and without a word the boy was making it clear he couldn’t wait for his to be done. When he wasn’t working on something or playing with Sharlie, he would just sit and watch her sew. She raised an eyebrow the first time he sat directly in front of her.
He’d returned her look with a pleading gaze. Really boy? She sighed and went back to work. She never could resist a little boy’s puppy dog eyes.
Night after night Nathan watched as Siah carefully stitched together the pieces that would make his coat. His dream vision was coming true right in front of his eyes and he still couldn’t believe it- and he didn’t know how to feel about it.
Was he having real dream visions? If that was true, what did it mean?
Since the whole blow up with Holsun none of them had ever brought up them leaving. Siah had said before she wanted them to stay. That was- good.
If she wanted to adopt them, that was- weird. How did he feel about that? Did he want to be adopted? Unmoving, he lifted his eyes to the woman making careful stitches into the dark green wool. Did he want to have a mother?
He didn’t remember his real mom. All he knew about her was what his grandfather and Eric had told him. Eric said his clearest memory was her leaving. He wondered how true that was, but he’d never pressed him for more.
Seeing Eric in his completed coat had been a shock. He had looked- good, really good. He wondered how he’d look in his. She’d made the coats with the same basic design they’d come in. It was knee length, trench coat style, but out of the extra fabric she’d cut off, she was making detachable hoods.
He thought of how she handled herself, how she’d covered for them, what she’d told them about her family. Maybe, maybe they and Siah were like the cut up fabric she was working on, like the quilts they found, maybe they just- went together.
Siah’s eyes flew open. What had woken her? She sat up and looked around. Sharlie was asleep next to her. Nathan and Eric were in their places, gently snoring away, their finished coats draped over their blankets. Then it occurred to her- it was quiet. The rain had stopped.
She flopped back into her futon and smirked into the silence. She had finished Nathan’s coat just a few hours ago. Had God set up that freezing rain to force her to work on the coats? It couldn’t be a coincidence, the bad weather lasting exactly as long as it had taken her to finish.
She propped herself onto her elbow and looked at each of the boys in turn, one at her feet and one near her head. Thank you Lord that the sleep patches were enough.
The tiny things had worked wonderfully for the boys and for the last two weeks, she’d had them use the things only every other night and so far so good. If they could just maintain this level of sleep health, she might be able to wean them off the things completely by the end of the year.
She took a deep cleansing breath and slowly exhaled as she lay back down.
The end of the year; she wanted them with her then and forever. The seed in her mind had taken root and grown like a weed on steroids the last few days. But still, she was worried. Yes, they had grown close, but now that Nathan was up and around, the seed dream was at the front of her mind constantly.
Their only parental examples had been horrible. Could they ever have a healthy parent- child relationship? They had been alone so long. She was sure they would say yes if she asked them to stay with her, but would asking to formally adopt them be too much? Did they even want a parent?
Lord, is it okay now to ask them?
She gasped and bolted upright. The voice shocked her with its clarity. She sat up and looked at both of them. How should she bring it up? When? How should she word it… would they even want it? She smeared a hand over her face. She needed to stop being a coward and come right out and ask them. She plopped back down in her futon, Sharlie hardly stirring.
She rubbed the bridge of her nose. It had been three months now since the boys had come into her life. Despite all the- issues-she looked back on that time with joy.
She punched her pillow. She was just going to have to be the adult and come right out and ask them. She took the pillow and smashed it over her face. Being an adult could be such a pain.
Asking to adopt them-
They went for a walk right after breakfast, after so many days of being cooped up it felt great to be out in fresh air.
The wet ground wasn’t so bad so long as they stayed on the old gravel walking path and were careful.
Siah thought both boys looked so handsome in their new coats. She could hardly believe she had actually made them. It had been an ambitious project. The ease and patience with which she had put the things together was nothing short of an act of God because she was not that patient or skilled.
They were just walking in a line, Eric in front, Nathan in back and Sharlie running around them all. This was it, she realized. This was the moment. Lord, please give me the words.
“So, I was thinking,” both boys looked at her. She slowed her walk.
“I know you don’t want to use your last name, but I was thinking, what if you- had a new last name.”
Nothing in either of their expressions gave her any indication of what they were thinking. Why did they keep standing on either side of her? She hated that she couldn’t look at them at the same time. She pulled to a stop and looked them both in the eye.
“You know all of my hang-ups. You know I wasn’t the best daughter. You know I haven’t always been able to be the best mother to Sharlie, but…”
“Well, could you-” Breathe.
“Would you ever be able to me as a mom? I mean as your mom.” She stuttered. She rubbed sweating palms together.
Get it together woman!
“What I’m saying is, I would like to adopt you, both of you, formally.”
They just stared at her, faces blank. Would it kill either of them to use some facial expression?! She blew out the stress and faced them both. She felt herself tapping her fingertips together. The nervous habit was a relic from childhood she’d thought she’d overcome.
“You wouldn’t have to call me mom, I would understand, but I would love if you two could ever accept me, see me as a mother, as your mother-”
Now they just looked nervous.
“You’re not babies, so it’s your decision, but if you feel that you could, I meant what I said Eric, I would be proud to call you my sons.”
Now she was tearing up and wringing her hands.
“We each have our scars, our pains- but- maybe we could be- broken- together. We could be a family, the four of us.”
“I know this is a lot to take in, you have to think about it, but-”
“Yes” Nathan blurted.
“He said yes." Eric blurted. "And so do I.”
She froze and forgot to breathe. “We’d, we’d like-” Nathan breathed, “for you to be our mom.”
The kid looked like he was expecting her to explode any second. She gasped and burst into tears as she gripped them both as best she could, not easy considering how tall Eric was, but she managed.
They were crying too. Her boys were crying. She could feel fireworks going off in her heart. Throughout the whole exchange Sharlie had watched silently.
“Nothing’s wrong baby.” Siah wiped her eyes and knelt down in front of her little girl.
“We’re all just crying because we’re so happy. Eric and Nathan said they would be okay with becoming your brothers. They will be part of our family now- forever.”
The little girl looked from her to them, puzzled.
“That means they will never go away; that we will always be together.”
Her little face turned very serious.
“So now we a big family?” she chirped.
Nathan got down next to her and Eric did the same.
“Yeah Sharlie, it means we’ll be a bigger family.”
They made their plans over lunch.
“Now for the practical questions.” she began.
“The judge may ask for your fingerprints and he’ll definitely ask for your last name. Do you really not remember it or is it that just something you tell everyone?
Both boys looked at each other sideways. It was Eric who spoke first.
“We remember it. We just hate using it, because it was his. So we don’t use it.”
She didn’t have to ask who he was referring to.
“So you’ve never used it?
“Not since we got away from him.”
“What about that first night, when you went to the hospital?”
“I used a false name then.”
She wondered how a bloody, battered, burned fourteen-year-old would’ve had the presence of mind to use false names, but was grateful for it.
“Good. The break- in’s you two pulled, you’re certain you never left any fingerprints?”
Both boys looked at each other and smirked a bit. She swore they had never done that until about three weeks ago.
“We always used gloves. We’ve read crime books and talked to real criminals.”
“Hmm. Glad you did your research. There were no murders in those break-ins I trust?”
“No!” they both exclaimed.
She quirked an eyebrow at them; both boys looked sheepish.
“I only hit a guy once.” Eric whined.
Well, for them that was doing pretty well.
“He only had a broken nose.” Nathan added.
“Mm Hmm, and a lifetime of trauma I’m sure.”
“He was a drug dealer. He couldn’t have been that traumatized.”
She raised an eyebrow. She’d ask how they knew that later.
“Either way I’ll be expecting that to stop.”
Siah tapped her steepled fingers in front of unseeing eyes. They looked at each other across the coffee table, they’d never seen her use the gesture before and it seemed odd on her.
“The Marshals have a sitting judge traveling with them now. They should still be in Tinplate. I’m sure the weather kept them as confined as we’ve been. We’ll go to him tomorrow after breakfast. He’ll probably tell us we’ll need references and some other paperwork. I don’t know what else he may ask for, but keep in mind we’re walking a delicate line here. When we go before that judge, none of us must say more than necessary. We stick to the facts and offer no elaboration unless specifically asked.”
The boys looked at each other. “What do you mean?”
“Remember what I said Eric, the Marshalls, at least Thompson, knows you two killed the pervert and that you set up Holsun. But what they know and what they can prove are two different things.”
They talked for the rest of the morning, Siah asking the boys questions she was certain the judge would ask and that, honestly, she had been curious about herself.
Eric remembered their mother leaving when he was six or seven. Nathan, three years younger didn’t remember her at all. After she left they had gone to live with their grandfather who had kept them until his death. They knew they were Native American but no idea what tribe.
If they were right about never leaving any fingerprints behind, they would have no criminal record; no warrants out for their arrest. Still, Siah was unsure of the legalities in this situation. It wasn’t like how it had been with Sharlie. The boys had no paperwork, no family history, and as far as the world knew, no last name.
She knew from her talk with Thompson the morning of the bombing that the Marshalls would set up in a parking lot around the corner from the clinic.
They would head over there first thing in the morning.
She spent the rest of the day prepping the boys how to answer and react to various questions she was sure the judge would ask. The last thing she wanted was one of them flying of the handle and attacking- anyone.
She decided to call the Carvers after lunch. For this to work out, she would need all the prayer cover she could get.