by Lizzy D.
Levi Swanson looked at the page in front of him. The black numbers danced before him and he felt hot.
No wonder! Wearing this uniform would make anyone extra warm. If Aunt Rebecca hadn’t made Mother send me here, I would probably be visiting Grandma at Circle C instead of doing arithmetic!
Levi tried to pull his collar away from his neck, only to get a glaring look from the teacher. He suddenly felt faint and knew he was not just hot. He raised his hand to get the teacher’s attention.
“Yes, Mr. Swanson?” the teacher looked at him with a questioning expression.
“I would like to be--” Levi wobbled and fell to the floor.
Gasps and murmurs came from the other boys.
Levi could see black boots rushing towards him as he slipped into unconsciousness.
Kate walked through the door of the ranch house. No one was at the door waiting for them. Kate looked down at Betsy and Hannah then back at the empty room. “Hello? We’re here!” Kate called.
The house seemed to echo with her call as she walked through the empty parlor.
Betsy’s shrill call sent Kate flying through the parlor door and into the kitchen.
In the doorway stood Mitch, holding a letter and his expression blank.
“Hannah, you didn’t need to yell like that. I thought someone was hurt!” Kate scolded her daughter.
“But mama, someone is hurt.” Betsy took the letter from Mitch’s hand and gave it to Kate.
Kate looked down at the letter, with its neat penmanship on the envelope. She flipped it over. The seal was already broken. She quickly took the letter out and unfolded it.
Dear Mrs. Swanson,
We regret to inform you that your son, Levi Swanson, has taken ill. We are led to believe that it is a severe case of influenza. Our physician, Doctor Lewis, says that your son may not have long to live.
The San Francisco School for Boys
“Oh, no! No!” Kate crumpled to the floor and sobbed. She needed to go back to San Francisco. She felt her mother’s hands wrap around her body and pull her close.
“Andi! Go up and pack your bags! We’re going to San Francisco!”
“Mitch! I can’t find my satchel!”
“Justin. We’ll need money for train fare!”
“Hannah. Come with me, and we’ll get your things.”
Kate half-listened to the conversations going on around her. Pull yourself together, Kate! Your son isn’t dead yet! Your daughters need you!
Kate tried to listen to herself, but continued to uncontrollably sob. She slowly stopped crying and nodded to her mother in thanks as Elizabeth handed her a handkerchief. She realized that everyone was standing around the kitchen, satchels and carpet bags strewn about. She stood and accepted her satchel from Justin.
“Are you ready, Kate?” Justin asked softly.
Kate nodded and the family walked out to a waiting buggy.
After everyone had gotten in, bags and all, they drove on towards Fresno and towards Kate’s dying son.
Lydia Williams glanced down at the tall boy lying on the bed. He had come in two nights ago with a bad case of influenza and it had only gotten worse.
“Excuse me, doctor! What’s this boy’s name?” Lydia asked a passing doctor.
“Levi Swanson. Make sure you stay on this side of the window, that boy is dangerously contagious.”
Lydia knew all about staying on this side of the window. A year ago, she had stood at this very window, watching her husband die. She had recently decided to take her young son back to her family’s ranch and would be leaving next week.
Does my family even remember me? I wonder if my little sister, Andi, does?
Lydia got pulled out of her musings when a door crashed open and a very large family came. Lydia stared hard at them, thinking she knew some of them.
“Nurse! Where is Levi Swanson?” she heard one of the men ask.
The nurse pointed towards Lydia.
A woman broke out of the group and rushed towards her. “Levi!” The woman said, pressing her hand against the glass.
Lydia backed away from the glass and sat in a chair nearby.
“Excuse me. Do you know this boy?”
Lydia looked up to see a man pointing towards the window.
“Uh... no. I bring baskets of treats here for some recovering patients and happened to end up here.” Lydia definitely knew him from somewhere.
“Do I know you?” The man asked.
Lydia paused. “I think so. My name is Lydia.”
“Lydia?” he squeaked. “Lydia? Is it really you? I’m Mitch! Do you remember me?”
Lydia nodded excitedly.
Mitch pulled Lydia into a hug. He held her out at arm’s length. “Lydia. That boy in there is our nephew, Levi. He’s Kate’s boy. Kate also has two daughters, Betsy and Hannah.”
“Really?” Lydia walked back over to the window. “Levi” she whispered softly.
“How do you know his name?” a woman snapped.
Lydia suddenly recognized everyone. “Mitch told me.”
“How do you know Mitch?” Kate asked.
“Kate, this is Lydia.” Mitch said.
“Lydia! We thought you were dead!” Elizabeth wrapped her arms around her second oldest child.
Everyone hugged Lydia and asked her millions of questions.
“I wish this could be perfect.” Kate gazed into the room.
Kate paced in front of the window, glancing into the window every so often. Most everyone else was sleeping on a chair. Lydia had gone to get her son and was now holding him in her lap and talking to her mother.
Lydia looked up at Kate. She whispered to Elizabeth, then got up and walked towards Kate.
“It’s going to be alright, Kate. Do you remember James 5:15?” Lydia said.
“No.” Kate shook her head.
“It says, ‘The prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up;’ Now that is only the first part of the verse, but it is perfect for our situation. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 it says ‘Pray without ceasing’ So maybe we aren’t doing anything for Levi right now but we can definitely change that.” Lydia said.
With tears in her eyes, Kate nodded and bowed her head along with Lydia.
“Dear Lord, my son is very sick. I wish you would help him and give him strength to carry on. Thank you, Lord, for giving my big sister back. Amen.” Kate prayed.
“Lord, I know that this room may hold terrible memories for me, but I hope that you can make it carry happy memories for Kate and Levi. Help Levi to heal. I also would like to thank you for giving my family back. Amen.”
Looking up at Lydia, Kate asked. “What do you mean, terrible memories for you?”
Lydia sighed. “After Aunt Rebecca invited me to San Francisco, I wandered into the wrong part of town. I got knocked on the head. I probably would have gotten shanghaied if it wasn’t for Peter’s father. He had seen me wander in there and followed me. He probably saved my life. When I woke up, I couldn’t remember a thing. It was about three months before I remembered anything, and by then I had fell in love! The only thing I couldn’t remember was where Aunt Rebecca lived, so I couldn’t tell anyone I was alive. I married and had Peter. Then about a year ago…” Lydia paused. “John died. He died of yellow fever. In that very room.”
“Oh, Lydia. I’m---” Kate was interrupted by Andi’s call.
Andi’s shout woke the sleeping and brought doctors and nurses rushing down the hall. A doctor opened the door and rushed in. The Carter family waited restlessly as the doctor looked over Levi. After a few minutes the doctor came out shaking his head.
“I can’t believe it! All signs of influenza have vanished! He’s well! He can probably even go home.” The doctor walked away with all the nurses right behind him.
“Lydia! God answered our prayers!” Kate squealed.
“Are you shocked?” Lydia asked.
“No. Amazed, but not shocked. I knew He could!”
Levi walked out the door and into his mother’s arms.
“I say we go home!” Yawned Chad.
“When is dinner? I’m starved!” Levi sighed.
“Oh, only a few more hours. We just had lunch!” Andi teased.
A squeal escaped between Andi’s lips as Levi started chasing her around the yard. Betsy and Hannah joined in the squealing as Andi ran after them. With Peter balanced on her hip, Lydia stepped out on the porch.
“It is a pretty amazing sight, isn’t it?” Elizabeth said as she joined Lydia. “Are you happy to be back?”
“Oh, Mother! I didn’t realize that I missed it so much!” Lydia cried. “I don’t think I’ll want to ever leave!”
Lydia started down the steps. Who cares if she was an adult? She was going to play with her nieces, nephew, son, but especially her sister.