4 years earlier.
“. . . 8 . . . 9 . . . 10! Ready or not, here I come!” Tara shouted. She ran down the hall, throwing open doors and peeking in. “Theo, where are you!” Tara shouted, looking inside yet another empty room. She paused, watching the rain pour down the window in streams. Lightning struck, making the lights flicker. Tara jumped. Although the big house looked gloomy, it was a great place to play during bad weather. “Theo!” she yelled, her footsteps echoing in the hall. She pulled open a laundry closet. “Boo!” Theo hollered, springing out. Tara shrieked. “Now I’ve found you. You have 5 seconds to get away before I tag you!” The twins ran down the stairs, squealing and laughing. Theo tumbled forward and nearly crashed into a body.
“What’s this?” Jane asked coldly. The twins froze. “You kids are giving me a headache with all your noise.” Theo sighed. Tara slumped her shoulders as she trudged away. “Come back. I will give you something to do. Follow me,” Jane ordered. Tara and Theo glanced at each other before following Jane. Jane led them to her exercise room and instructed them to sit down on some yoga mats. The room was dark and eerie. Candles flickered around the room and soft music played. Tara felt uneasy. “Now, copy me.” Jane sat in a lotus position, stretched out her hands and began humming. “Think about nothing. Let your mind be blank. Relax.” she intoned. The cloying scent of incense filled the room. Tara couldn’t make her mind blank. Her mind kept wandering.
“I miss Julie and her husband. They would play games with us instead of telling us to do boring meditation.” She wiggled on the mat. “I miss Pastor James, Mrs.James, Liam, Leah and Mary. I miss my friends and my old school.” She sighed. “Julie used to tell me that whenever I’m lonely, I should talk to God. I haven’t talked to God for a while. I don’t really know what to say to Him. I guess I’ll give it a try.” Tara thought. “Dear God, I’m sorry for not talking to you. I need to ask you a few questions. Why did you let Dad and Mom die? Why do you keep taking away the people I love? And why does no one want us? Umm . . . I think that’s it for now. I’d really appreciate it if You’d answer me. Thanks. Amen.”
The rain drummed on the roof, making it hard for her to concentrate. A shiver went down her spine. Why did she feel so troubled? She used to feel at peace after she prayed to God. But now, she felt like God was really far away. Her toes tingled and she shifted again. “You’re right. Nobody cares about you.” a voice whispered in her ear. Tara stifled a gasp. Her eyes popped open. Both Jane and Theo were too far away to have whispered to her. Tara slowly closed her eyes again. “Not even God cares.” the voice continued. “That’s not true. Julie always told me that God loves me.” Tara thought with trepidation. “Julie was mistaken.” the voice whispered ominously. “No! You’re wrong! God does love me!” Tara yelled. But a tiny sliver of doubt was in her mind. If God truly loved her, wouldn’t He have let Pastor and Mrs. James live? Jane slowly opened her eyes and stared at Tara. Jane’s green eyes glittered menacingly in the candlelight. “Get. Out.” she barked through clenched teeth. Tara and Theo fled from the room like frightened deer.