Moonlight painted stripes on the mosquito net above my bed. It was the middle of the night. I lay still and listened to the sounds of the African night. I wanted to see if I could tell what woke me up. The lion roared again.
My heart beat faster. I grinned with excitement. We were in Tsavo National Park, and there were lions in the night. I put my hands behind my head and looked up at the thatched roof. My brother Rick was here.
For the whole twelve years since I'd been born, I'd never known I had a brother. Last month I found out. Actually, Rick was really my half brother.
Sandy was excited about having a big brother. I wasn't so sure. I mean, I had liked our family just fine the way it was before. Besides, Rick wasn't even a Christian.
I twisted uneasily against the sheets and remembered what had happened in the car yesterday. Mom had been quiet for a while. Suddenly she turned around toward us and said, "I'm so sorry." There were tear marks on her face.
My insides lurched. She kept talking. "Sin hurts for so long. Don't you girls ever make the same mistake I did. The Bible is right. Sin makes pain. It seems OK at the time but it makes pain." She paused, trying to get her voice in control. I stared at my feet.
"Mom, it's OK," Sandy said desperately.
"It's not OK!" Mom said. "The only hope we have for things to be OK is God's promise. In Romans 8:28, it says that God causes all things to work together for good for those who love him. I'm just holding on to that promise for all of us."
Daddy pulled the car off the road. Then he reached across to hold Mom's hand.
Mom said, "I know you're young for this, but I feel I have to tell you. I don't want you to repeat my mistake. I'm going to tell you what happened."
Sandy was staring at Mom, wide-eyed. I swallowed hard. I wanted desperately to know, but I hated this. Moms weren't supposed to have done things wrong.
Mom took a deep breath and started, "I was fifteen. Your grandfather had a hard time adjusting to having a teenage daughter. He spent a lot of time yelling at me. I felt like dirt at home. School wasn't much better. When Jim started asking me out, it made me feel better. He was one of the cute, popular guys and he noticed me. After a while he started asking me to have sex with him. I was scared to say no. I felt like if I said no, then nobody would care about me."
She paused for a long time, looking down. Daddy rubbed her shoulder. Finally she said, "When Jim found out I was pregnant, he never talked to me again."
She started to cry. "I never saw the baby. I had to give him up. It was the only thing I could do."
Daddy hugged her. After a second I crawled into the front seat. Then Sandy came too. We all sat there in a hump hugging each other.
Daddy said, "Let's pray."
He thanked God that Rick had found us. Then he asked God to make things work out so it would be good for everybody. He prayed for Rick too, but that was nothing new. He and Mom have prayed for Rick ever since they got to be Christians. For a long time they didn't even know his name. They found out his name when Rick came to find us.
Rick came when we were climbing Mount Kenya. He didn't tell anybody he was coming. That was a very weird time for us! Sandy and I didn't even know about Rick before that. I was mad. I guess I was pretty rude, too. I didn't want anybody else in the family. God helped me get things straightened out. I even decided to pray for Rick.
We never got a chance to get to know Rick while we were climbing Mount Kenya. Daddy decided he and Mom would take time off work so our family could go to the game parks, and Rick could go with us. Now we were here. Rick was sleeping in the cabin next to ours.
I stared up at the ceiling. It was so complicated. I still wasn't sure I wanted a twenty-two-year-old half brother. I turned over with a thump. My foot tangled in the mosquito net, and I shook it loose impatiently.
The lion started grunting. He sounded closer this time. Maybe it was a different lion.
"Huh! Huh! Huh!" The grunting built up to a roar that shook the air.
Sandy's bed squeaked and thumped. I looked over. She was sitting up. Her eyes were as big as saucers. Sandy is ten and she gets scared easier than I do. Her bangs were sticking straight up. That made her look even more scared.
"It's OK," I said. "The lions can't get in here."
"Shhh!" she whispered. "What if they hear you?"
The lion started to grunt again. We both held still to listen. It sounded as if he were right outside the thin wall of our cabin. Then he roared. The noise shook my insides and vibrated the bed. My muscles went stiff with excitement. A lion was right outside!
Sandy's bed was squeaking and thumping. Her sleeping bag looked like a worm with convulsions. She was crawling down to hide in the bottom of it. I stayed still, listening.
Finally the lion started to grunt again. He sounded farther away. He didn't roar. When he was quiet I said, "Sandy, you can come out. He's going away."
She didn't answer. I untucked my mosquito net and got out of bed. The concrete floor felt cool on my feet. I shook Sandy, "You can come out. You'll suffocate in there."
"Is he gone?" she asked in a muffled voice.
"Uh-huh," I said, and I jumped for my bed. We weren't supposed to go barefoot at Tsavo because of scorpions. Sandy sat up. Her hair was all over the place now.
I giggled. "Did you think that the lion wouldn't eat you in a sleeping bag sandwich if he wanted to?"
"He was close!" she said, wide-eyed. "I wonder if Rick was scared."
I grunted. I didn't feel like talking about Rick. Just thinking about him made my stomach hurt. I lay down with my back to Sandy. A nightjar called. The lion grunted again, farther off.
When I was almost asleep, I heard a door slam. Then there was a sound of running feet. I was too sleepy to wonder what was happening.