Their future was as safe as a promise. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to happen.
It was a simple starter home. It was just a used up old house waiting to be made new again by young lovers. The house was up high, which is much safer everyone told them. Down low and you risk floods or worse. You risk easy access for strangers and unwelcome guests. Up high meant you could see who was coming before they got there. Up high meant delightful breezes and a lovely view. They had a system for friends who came a calling. “Ring twice the bell,” they told them. A single ring meant an unknown lurked outside. It could be a wolf in sheep’s clothing or a cool cat with one thing on its mind. But you didn’t joke about the cat.
When Joy and James moved in, they saw only the potential of their first home. They didn’t see the peeling paint, the dangerous tilt. They saw the many bedrooms to house their future. They saw the shelter from the storm. The couple moved in and spent their meager savings and long hours on feathering their first nest. Joy was expecting, and they needed to hurry. Winter had not been kind, and they had to prepare for the torrential rain of spring. They needed a safe haven.
When lightning struck, it wasn’t a wolf, and it definitely wasn’t lightning. They were both huddled in one of the bedrooms, riding out a spring storm. The thunder made Joy tuck her head against James’s strong chest as the entire house shook with heavy malice. The leaky roof baptized them over and over again. The storm never eased throughout that long night. Joy was convinced the sun had died, that morning had lost its way.
“We’re up high.” James whispered. “Our sweet home can’t flood, and no one can get to us. We’re safe.”
Twice the bell rang.
They both stared, eyes wide with wonder and fright. Who could it be? This was no night to be visiting.
James crept to the door; Joy tumbled after. The doorknob rattled before he could even touch it. James swallowed his fear; Joy whimpered. No friend would be out in this storm, but twice the bell had rung.
James gripped the knob hard and turned; Joy trembled.
When the door was opened wide enough to look out, James gasped; Joy gulped down a prayer.
On the welcome mat was a small bell. It was the kind of jingle bell found on a collar. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to happen.