A few had run for the barn or the chapel but the majority of the crowd had bundled into the parsonage. It was crowded and sweaty, and there was no room to get comfortable. The wind began to pick up like it does just before a bad storm—first gentle but shifty. If you were outside you would feel streaks of noticeably cold air weaving through the hot, humid breeze. As it picked up speed, a general chill would become noticeable. Then the gusts would become cold, wild, and unpredictable, smelling of smoke and rain. Sparks like manic fireflies would whirl past you, lighting small fires that would blow out moments later. But no one was outside to see or feel that. No one but the six men who had gone hunting wood for the marshmallow fires.
A dozen women, wives and mothers, peered out the kitchen windows. Crowding beside them were grand-daughters and sons, barely tall enough to peer over the bottom of the window sill. All eyes were fixed on the Grove and the path that led from the woods into it and out onto the lawn in front of the parsonage. All watched but no one came.
Then the heavens opened and icy curtains of water poured from the sky, wave after wave sweeping over the lawn and splattering half way across the porch floor. Behind the curtains of rain, the Grove became invisible.
Then one of the women screamed.
“There’s someone out there!”
There was a rush to the windows and more shouts and gasps.
The Girl—the one everyone had heard about, the one everyone looking out the window knew about but had never seen—was walking barefoot toward the Parsonage in the pouring rain. Dress faded almost to white, long blonde hair drenched with rain, holding her stomach.
“What do we do?”
“Go get Esther!”
“She’ll know what to do!”
“I’m right here.” Esther Morgan, the Founding Pastor’s wife, stood just inside the kitchen, leaning on her cane. “I expected this. Open the door.”
No one moved in the ensuing silence.
“Open the door,” she repeated, as she shuffled toward it.
The crowd parted, leaving her a clear path. The woman closest to it hesitated. Esther nodded and she turned the knob. The door flew open and rain blew half way across the room. Esther leaned a little forward as she continued toward the open door. She slipped once, caught herself and steadied herself with one hand on the door frame.
“Come here.” It was an invitation, not an order.
The Girl took a few steps up onto the porch and stopped.