Tornado – Part 2 by Karen Uffelman
They drove to Maura’s parents’ house without too much incident, despite the piles of wreckage and other cyclone detritus scattered across the town. There was one close call, driving up over the hill at the end of Cheyenne St. The road there dips right after the crest of the ridge and Maura saw the giant uprooted oak tree with just enough time to slam on the brakes, barely avoiding the wall of bark and branches.
Maura realized she had been holding her breath and slowly exhaled. Andrea, pale at the happiest of times, was the color of a sheet.
“Can you make sure there’s no one behind us?” asked Maura, preparing to back up and turn around.
Andrea had begun crying again, had never totally stopped, actually. But she wiped her eyes and turned around in the passenger seat.
“You’re all clear, I think.”
They backtracked down the hill and found a parallel street going back the right direction. What was normally a 45 minute drive took them almost three hours. Streets were closed, aid vehicles blocked passage, and there was random stuff strewn across every roadway. When they finally arrived at the parsonage tucked behind the Methodist church where Maura’s dad preached, Maura’s mother, Janet, was outside waiting for them.
“You girls okay?”
Maura held back, but Andrea rushed forward into Janet’s arms, taking Janet somewhat by surprise.
“It was terrible, Mrs. Bell! Our apartment building, it’s completely gone. All of our stuff. All of our neighbors,”she looked up, embarrassed about the order of her complaints.
Maura finally approached, carrying the empty water bottle Andrea had been gripping all afternoon.
“Do you have any coffee, Mom? Something to eat? Andrea, here, is a wreck and I’m not doing much better.”
“Yes, of course. Let me get you inside.”
Once Marua and Andrea were settled down at the kitchen table Janet started asking questions about the damage to the town. She’d been in a panic when she heard the tornado had touched down in Cedar Bluffs. Was relieved by Maura’s brief call that they were safe and headed her way, and then worried that something would happen to them on route (there was plenty of coverage on the evening news of blocked and torn-up roads and subsequent car accidents). And then she had worried about having Maura back in the house, her own personal raincloud. Maura was never quite disrespectful as a child or teenager, but always quietly judging and disapproving. It wasn’t until she moved out that Janet realized how oppressive she found her daughter’s company, and her disappointment that Maura rarely came to visit was mixed with guilty relief.
Maura seemed to have totally lost (or maybe never accepted) the values that Janet and her husband had worked so hard to instill. She was a smart girl, too smart for her own good, probably. And she could be sweet, too, but it was rare that her parents saw that side of her. Especially her dad.
“Where is Pastor Bell?” asked Andrea, spooning more sugar into her milky coffee.
“Tending to poor sinners, right Mom?”
“Warren answered the call of our sister church in Cedar Bluff and is helping the minister there check on congregants and arrange shelter for families that have lost their homes. Helping people, Maura, like he always does.”
Andrea continued to dig into the plate of sandwiches Janet had made them, as if she hadn’t eaten in days. Maura rolled her eyes at Andrea, but Andrea couldn’t determine if it was in solidarity against Janet or if she, Andrea, was the target of Maura’s ire. She stuffed another sandwich in her mouth.
The phone rang.
“Yes, this is the Bell residence…Yes, this is Maura Bell’s mother…Oh, she’s fine, she’s actually right here, sitting ten feet from me…Yes, I promise, she’s fine…Oh, I’m very relieved, too….Oh, yes? Oh no, that’s awful…That’s awful! I’m so sorry to hear it…Oh no! Yes, just terrible, I know…Well, of course, we have plenty of space here…Yes, that’s right. 615 Dunlap…Okay. We’ll see you, then.”
Janet hung up the phone and sat back down at the table.
“Who was that, Mom?”
“That was a friend of yours. Rebecca. Worried sick because she couldn’t get a hold of you!”
“Uh-huh. So you told her I was okay?”
“Yes, told her you were just fine. All in one piece.”
“And, the most awful thing, she was visiting her brother…”
“That’s right, Jackson, and they barely made it to the cellar before his apartment was blown off the top of them, and her place was also destroyed and then, apparently, they went looking for you…”
“And couldn’t find you and they have nowhere to go! So I told them they could of course come stay here!”
“I mean, she’s a good friend of yours, right?”
“Yes!” Andrea piped up, her mouth still full of ham and swiss cheese, “I’d say a very good friend!”
Maura glared at Andrea, who began to choke on her sandwich.
“So that settles it.” Janet handed Andrea her milky coffee and patted her vigorously on the back. “You and Andrea can have the two main floor bedrooms, we’ll put Rebecca upstairs and her brother in the den. Your dad should be home by 8:00 and we can all have dinner together.”
Andrea finally swallowed the bite that had caught in her throat. Her eyes were watering, and she had a funny look on her face.
“Come on, Andrea.” Maura took their plates to the sink and nudged Andrea up and out of the kitchen. “I think you should give those sandwiches a break. I’ll show you your room. You might want to get settled in before the circus starts.”