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Heaven Beyond the Closet Door
By Joanne Sher

"But I'm afraid, Mama."

"Don't be, little one. Mama's here, and I will protect you."

Phoebe curled up in a ball and snuggled into her mama's chest. Marlene, her body against the closet door, was thankful the door opened inward. She also praised God that her friend, Danielle, had called and warned her of Frank's news, and his impending arrival.

"The boss called him into his office, and Frank came out steaming," Danielle had said in a whisper. "He's cleaning out his desk right now-and I just saw him put a bottle of bourbon in his briefcase."

"Thanks, Dani. Just pray, would you?"

"You know I will! And remember; you have my number."

How long ago had that conversation been? Marlene looked at her watch, placing her arm by the flashlight she'd brought into the closet. Twenty minutes ago-felt like longer. For all she knew, Frank was pulling into the driveway this very moment and would barge into the house before she could finish her thought.

Running her hands through Phoebe's blonde locks, Marlene sighed. There was one thing she did know, as surely as she was breathing. When he did walk in that door, that bottle of bourbon would be empty.

'Lord, protect my baby. Tell me what to do next. No three-year-old should have to go through this.'

It had been one thing when Frank took out his frustrations on his wife. She could handle it. But two days ago, Phoebe had been the target. Her baby girl had welts on her legs to prove it.

Frank had stormed out, furious at Phoebe's crying, and drove away to who knows where. Since Frank had crashed the other car a week ago, Marlene and Phoebe were stranded.

He hadn't been home since. According to Dani, he'd reported to work the next morning an hour late. He hadn't made it home last night either. Here it was, the next morning, and it appeared he had been fired, and he had a bottle of liquor. She knew her husband-he'd head right home now, and have one of his fits. The worst thing would be for her and Phoebe to be out of the closet and available to be his punching bags.

"If we can just wait him out."

"Wait for what, Mama?"

Marlene kissed Phoebe on the top of her head and held her close.

"Wait quietly until Mama says it's OK. All right, sunshine?"

Phoebe nodded and kissed her mother gently on the cheek.

The slamming of a door and heavy footsteps broke the silence. Marlene leaned harder against the closet door, turned off the flashlight and whispered to Phoebe, "Very quiet, sunshine, very quiet."

Marlene tried to tune out the noises from the other side of the closet door-the sounds of swearing, yelling, broken glass-but she could not. She rocked back and forth, cradling Phoebe in her arms.

'Thank you, Lord. That could have been one of us.'

Phoebe touched her mother's cheek.

"Can I whisper sing, Mama?"

Marlene nodded. "As long as it's quiet, sweetie."

"Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so…."

Marlena focused on the words of that precious song, coming from the mouth of her precious angel. She was finally able to block out everything else but the singing and Jesus' love and protection for her.

'Oh, God. Thank you for reminding me!

By the time Phoebe had finished singing, the house was silent.

"Just a few more minutes, my little one."

She opened the closet door a crack and recognized snoring. Signaling for Phoebe to stay put, Marlene ventured out.

Walking as quietly as she could, she found the house a shambles: chairs were thrown askew, there was a new hole in the entryway wall, and the curio cabinet glass had shattered all over the living room floor. She found Frank asleep on the couch, his car keys on the floor where he'd obviously dropped them.

'Thank you, Lord.'

Marlene quickly grabbed the car keys and slunk back to her daughter.

"Come on, sunshine. We can go now."

Phoebe picked up her backpack from the closet floor, and Marlene grabbed her suitcase. They tiptoed out toward the car, closing the front door quietly behind them.

As she buckled Phoebe into her car seat, Marlene let out a sigh of relief.

"Where are we going, Mama?"

"Far away, sunshine. Just remember that wherever we go, Jesus will be close beside you-and so will I."

* * *

"Jesus Loves Me" Words By: Anna B. Warner
Joanne Sher is a freelance writer and homemaker who was saved out of Judaism in her 30's. She lives in Michigan with her husband and two small children. She is currently working on her first book, a non-fiction work on God's protection, provision and preparation of her and her family for her husband's health problems. If you would like to write to Joanne, you can do so through the Letters page of this magazine.