Chloe traced her finger along the key. Just a few more minutes. A few more minutes alone, and then she would go inside.
Either one worked. She simply wanted to be by herself for a little longer, before she went inside to babysit her brother, cook dinner while her mum lay sick in bed, and wonder when, or if, her policeman dad would come home.
Selfish was probably the best fit.
Chloe ran back down the stairs leading up to her house, then out the back to the cabin her dad had built on their acreage. It was her place of refuge. A place to run to whenever she was overwhelmed . . . whenever her brother threw a tantrum, whenever the meal she cooked didn’t meet her mum’s dietary requirements or whenever her dad was hours late.
She thrust the door open, her tense posture immediately softening as her eyes fell on the couch pushed up against the back wall.
She collapsed into the comforting arms of the couch.
But she had to.
It hurt to see the boredom in her brother’s eyes. It hurt more to listen to her mum’s groans of pain. It hurt even more to see the bruise on her dad’s eye when he came home.
She had to because she was scared. She was worried. She was at her wit’s end.
She forced herself to stand up and walk out to the back porch. Hopefully some fresh air would snap this selfishness out of her.
She began pacing the back porch—one wooden floorboard at a time. She reached out to touch a wooden beam. She traced her finger along a crack in the wood. The beams held up the cabin. They supported the whole building.
Who was supporting her? It seemed everyone else relied on her. Her little brother to put a Band-Aid on his knee. Her mum to remind her to take her medication. Her dad to keep her brother under control and her mum well.
“We need you, Deborah.”
Chloe spun around so fast several splinters stuck into her hand. Her eyes narrowed at the two people conversing in front of her. Then at the wooden beams holding up a scratchy piece of material to form a tent. Then at her own . . . dress? It was something out of the Bible stories she read her brother at night, which were supposed to calm him down, but only upset him when Daniel was thrown to the lions and Jonah was swallowed by a whale. He seemed to miss the ending.
And Deborah? Wasn’t she the lady whose story came after the man who was so fat that when a sword plunged into him, his fat covered the hilt?
She took a few steps back.
The man repeated his words. “We need you.” Hadn’t her dad said those exact words to her a few weeks ago? “We need you, Chloe.”
“I will come with you to battle. Don’t doubt that.” The lady, Deborah, nodded.
And what had her response been? “Oh, I, uh, I’ll try to help out.”
“But because of your lack of faith,” Deborah continued. “You won’t be the one who secures the fight.”
Lack of faith. In what? Himself? Chloe certainly had a lack of faith in her own self. She couldn’t stop her brother fighting with her over whether he had a rest time. She couldn’t win her mum’s fight with her illness. She couldn’t stop all the “bad men”, as her brother called them, fighting with her dad.
She needed someone to “go to battle” with her. Someone brave like Deborah. But right now it seemed she was that person for everybody else.
It was only when the conversation between Deborah and . . . was it Barak? . . . ended and the questions in her head went unanswered that she realised she was holding a sword.
No, no, no. She was not going to fight in a battle. She was already tired of fighting her family’s battle.
The clash of swords below caught her attention. Was she on a hill now? She turned around. The tent was gone. She stood there for a moment, staring at the now vacant spot. Had she somehow been transported from beside the tent in a peaceful camping area to a violent battlefield?
“Little girl, go home. And put that sword back where you found it.” A man on a horse rode past her, obviously not compassionate enough to listen to her cries.
“If I knew where home was! And I need this sword! I can’t fight on my own. And I’m not a little girl.” Chloe rolled her eyes, then turned around to walk away. After watching children’s shows with her brother for the past year, the battle was awfully disturbing.
And there was the tent again. She turned back around. The soldiers were gone. A peaceful grassy plain with tents dotting the landscape lay in front of her.
Chloe shook her head. Teleportation didn’t exist today, let alone back in Bible times. She would figure it out later. Right now, she wanted to watch what was happening.
A woman stood at the open flap of the tent. A man lay inside. The woman glanced down, then yanked a tent peg out of the ground.
Oh. That was Jael. Maybe she didn’t want to watch what was happening.
She squeezed her eyes shut, one hand clenching her sword and the other the nearest tree. She waited in that position for a few minutes. Surely the act would be finished by then. She opened one eye.
The tent was gone again.
Instead of a tree, she was holding onto a wooden beam of the cabin. Her other hand, in place of a sword, held a piece of paper.
Dear Chloe, it read.
Thank you for being so compliant. Taking someone back several thousand years isn’t always easy. I’m sorry if the battle and the tent peg were too much.
Battles can come in all different shapes and sizes. Battles with swords, guns or words, just to name a few.
Your brother is battling the absence of his parents. Your mum is battling against disease. Your father is battling against, well, evil.
You are battling against all of the above.
Your family all have someone that fights their battle with them. So do you. Actually, you have someone that fights your battle for you.
Barak relied on Deborah to fight the battle. And then Jael to win the battle.
But you know what? They weren’t the ones who won the battle. It was really in the hands of someone else. Deborah trusted in Someone Else, and that gave her the courage to fight.
Someone Else can give you the courage to fight, too. Someone Else can fight the battle for you. You can rely on Someone Else to support you.
PS. Thank you for looking after your family, even though it’s a hard battle.
PPS. Try reading the story of Ruth next. Naomi felt completely alone. She assumes she would have to face her struggles alone. But she didn’t. She had God by her side. She had Ruth, too. God is always there for support but having someone physically beside you helps.
You have that in your father, Chloe. It may be hard to see, but there is always someone that will stand by you in your struggles. You aren’t the one thing holding your family up. See the wooden beams that support the cabin? There’s more than one of them. They never have to support the whole structure on their own.
Chloe stared at the wooden beams. Before, she had only seen one of them, but now, she realised there were multiple structures supporting the cabin. No-one was working alone.
She folded the letter and slid it into her pocket. She was sure she would feel alone again. The stories of Ruth and Deborah would remind her that she wasn’t fighting her battle alone.
She walked back through the cabin, briefly glancing at the couch she had collapsed on. It was selfish. But it had been perfect. The letter in her pocket gave her the courage to walk through the door and up to her house.
Her brother needed her to fight his battle. Her mother needed her to fight her battle. Her father needed her to fight his battle.
She needed them to fight her battle.
She needed Someone. To fight all their battles.
Megan Southon is a year 9 student at Tweed Valley Adventist College (NSW) who enjoys reading, writing and camping with her family. She won the Young Christian Teen Writer Award for 2021.