While the month August had been a peculiarly hot month, there seemed to be a change in the wind. Today, there was a difference in the temperature. Something was taking place. A storm was brewing off in the horizon. The sky grew mysterious as the ever pressing darkness of the clouds in the distance rolled nearer and nearer to the Steel’s small farm.
Several feet away from the house, propped up against the northeast side of the barn, overlooking the pastures beyond, Natalie sat perched on a bench dwelling on her emotions. The tears streaming down her warm and rather flushed cheeks became chilled by a sudden gust of crisp, cold air. Natalie shivered. Wrapping her arms around her body, she tried her best to shake off the instant chill. In her time of grief, Natalie had been unconsciously slipping away. She was letting the guilt drag her down into a depression that threatened to suck her dry of any hope and happiness that she might have left. And that whole inspirational realization she had had a few days back was lost to the wind. Whether she intentionally ignored the tug at her heart strings, or just didn’t realize that God was trying to get her attention, Natalie fell farther and farther into the deep abyss of her inward self. She dared not to expose her raw emotions to the world. Throwing causation to the wind would only make her feel worse—so she thought. And Natalie would keep thinking that until someone forced her to come to the realization that this selfish impulse to be secluded and reclusive would only ruin her instead of “protect” her. That wasn’t what God wanted of her, and that was definitely something Gracie wouldn’t have wanted from Natalie, either.
Natalie, too involved in her thoughts, did not notice her brother Ben approaching her. He was a tall, masculine teen with handsome Native American features. As Ben came closer to Natalie, he couldn’t help but smile. He knew she was hurting. Why, it was only natural to grief over a friend. But he thought it was pretty silly that his sister would take her grieving to such an extent that it would threaten her sanity. He sat down beside her and let out a sigh. The wind tossed a section of Ben’s long raven black hair into his eyes and with one finger, Ben tucked the locks of hair behind his right ear. He then scooted a bit closer to his sister and laid a hand on Natalie’s lap, giving it a tender pat.
“Cheer up, Nat.” Ben’s voice was deep, and the adorable country accent of his made it almost impossible for Natalie not to look at him. She appeared to Ben as if she had aged. Her eyes were dark due to the lack of sleep. Her skin was pale. And her once beautiful black hair had lost its sheen.
“I can’t.” Natalie said flatly. Her eyes were red and her nose appeared to be stopped up. She sniffled and wiped her eyes. Ben dug deep into his pants pocket and retrieved a hanky. He handed it to Natalie who took it eagerly. Attempting to wipe her dripping nose se was caught off guard by the sudden blast of frigid air that hit her from the left side. Ben braced Natalie to keep her from toppling onto the ground. He cared less about what happened to him, but Natalie was in a fragile state of being, that was first and foremost on his mind. Sitting Natalie back up, Ben tenderly wiped any hair from her face. He was startled to see that his sister looked like a ghostly picture of death.
“The wind is blowing hard, Nat.” Ben said observing the weather that made its way for the family farm. “Better get inside, don’t you think?”
Natalie shrugged. She didn’t care. Not even if a huge gust of wind swept her off her feet and carried her far away from home. The only thing that mattered to her at the moment was that Ben would leave her alone. She wasn’t in the mood to talk about—Gracie. And Natalie knew that that was exactly what he was pocking at. He was such a nosey brother, and Natalie hated that about him.
“Go away.” Natalie said as she rubbed her arms. It was getting colder. The wind was picking up, and it was irritating Natalie’s eyes. Squinting to lessen the irritation, Natalie looked at Ben with a distasteful look about her countenance.
Ben got the hint of Natalie’s displeasure. “What’s your problem, Nat? Why are you being like this?”
“You won’t understand, Ben. Just leave me alone!” Natalie wiped her nose again. It was bright cherry red and very dry.
“No. I want to know what your problem is, Natalie.” Ben’s voice was sincere and alarmed. He stood up and turned to face Natalie. His height was intimidating, even to Natalie who was 5’10. “Gracie is dead, Natalie. You need to stop blaming yourself and move on.”
Natalie felt slighted. She wasn’t ready to move on. And how dare he tell her what to do! He was her younger brother, not her father. “Gracie wouldn’t be dead if I had been a better friend.” Natalie blurted out in a guttural tone. Her face was lined with anger. Natalie turned away from Ben who was staring at her. It was as if he was staring right into her sole. She just wanted to get away. But where else did she have to go? “If I had stood up for her, she’d still be alive!”
“Natalie, God obviously had other plans for Gracie that you wouldn’t have been able to change, whether you wanted to or not. She’s not dead because of you!” Ben stated painfully. His heart was pumping; his brain was spinning with words and sentences, thoughts and ideas. He wanted to get his point across right that very moment. He wanted to be the one that made Natalie see the error of her ways. He wanted to be the hero. Ben also wanted to slap sense into his sister, and yet, he wanted to hold her at the same time.
Realizing that he was being selfish when wanting to be the “hero” and solve Natalie’s problems in one swift movement or pep-talk, Ben took Natalie by the shoulders and knelt down on one knee. Until this moment, Natalie had never realized just how black Ben’s eyes were. They were deep and mysterious, yet so calm and compassionate.
“No, no, no, Ben! She wasn’t supposed to go like that—not by suicide.” Natalie clasped her face into her hands and began to sob. “She was too young to die!”
“Yes, and some are. But it’s not for us to decide when a person dies, Natalie.”Ben looked at Natalie with tears in his eyes. Leaning in closer, Ben took Natalie into his arms and held her close.
Pulling swiftly away from Ben, Natalie spat: “Yeah, tell that to those who kill people for a living.” Her face was grave. Her body stiff as cardboard. She was a picture of lifelessness, mournfulness and hopelessness.
“Or to those who choose to die?” Ben asked in retaliation. “Look Natalie, no matter what you wish you could have done, it won’t change a thing now. Stop dwelling on what you should have done and start focusing on what you can do to prevent this sort of thing from happening again.”
What was Ben to do?! He couldn’t deal with this. He was about to give up, when he felt a strong tug at his heart telling him to continue in his mission. God, I don’t know what to do. She’s like a rock—unmovable and jagged. She’s never going to listen to me. Help me! Ben pleaded. Yet again Ben pulled his sister into his arms, this time holding her tighter. Natalie grunted with displeasure and tried to jerk herself loose from Ben’s hold. He was too strong, and Natalie was too tired to attempt to escape. God! Why are you making me go through this?! Natalie thought to herself as Ben tried to regain his composer without losing his hold on Natalie, or his thoughts and feelings inside.
“It’s not going to make a difference what I do now. I’ve screwed up my only chance to save my best friend.” Giving into the embrace of her brother, Natalie felt relieved, but she was still opposed to listening to any of his reasoning. Burying her head into her brother’s chest, Natalie continued to be confrontational and said, “And yet here you are telling me that it was all some sort of plan God has for me? Yeah, like God really has a plan for me! Are you blind? Or are you really that stupid?”
“No.” Ben stated bluntly. His tone was a mix of aggravation, concern and exhaustion. “I believe that where one door closes another door opens. You may have failed to be the beacon Gracie needed, but that doesn’t mean you have failed your mission and purpose here on earth. Natalie, God doesn’t want you to blame yourself for not “saving” Gracie. It’s possible that she would have shot herself still, even if you did stand up for her. People are unpredictable. You can base everything in life on what others do.”
“Leave me alone! Go away! You are wrong.” Natalie again tried to get away from Ben. This time she began to beat on his chest with her fists. “You don’t know what you are talking about! Gracie is dead because of me. It’s my fault she’s dead. It’s my fault—my own!” Natalie said in a sudden outburst. This wasn’t like her. She was never one to lash out irrationally. At that moment she realized that Ben was right. She needed to snap out of this emotional darkness that had consumed her. She was a captive in her own skin, and if she didn’t cry out to Jesus for help real soon, the chains of her emotional baggage would be the death of her.
“If you don’t wake up and realize that Gracie’s death was not your fault, you could possibly end up heading down the same path. And I don’t want that for you, Nat. Neither does God. You have a purpose and God will reveal that to you in time. You just need to focus on the good in life and strive to be that change in the world, rather than dwelling on the evil and the what-ifs.”