“Waiting” by Katherine Cowley was a finalist in the 2012 Four Centuries of Mormon Stories contest. It was originally published online at Everyday Mormon Writer on October 27, 2012.
Without fail, something always went wrong during visiting teaching. As her sons Tyren and Luke ran into the room, Jayla glanced at the holographic control in her eyepiece, hoping her old computer could handle the projection layers. Luke stopped running, squinting at the layered space. He reached through the projected space and picked up a large plastic airbus, making it visible on all layers. Luke threw it straight at Jayla’s visiting teacher, Luciana. The toy went through her head and bounced harmlessly onto the floor.
“Sorry Luciana. Luke has an obsession with throwing toys through visitors.”
Luciana smiled. “My kids do that all the time. Last week my uncle actually came over and Tiago thought he was a projection. Luckily he only threw a rubber ball.”
Jayla chuckled, and then clutched her rounded belly, biting her lip as she felt the strength of the contraction. Soft music began playing in her earpiece, fading as her skin relaxed and the cramp beneath her belly lessened. The contractions always came in sets, four or five an hour, enough to make her wonder when the baby would come, but never enough to go to the Birthing Hospital.
Luciana looked concerned. “Are you sure you don’t need me to come over and help? Three weeks until your due date—the baby could come anytime.”
“I’m fine, really. What were you saying about earthquakes?”
“Well, isn’t it interesting that just a year ago the prophet told all the Saints in the South Pacific that it was their turn to move to Zion, and to do so quickly. And now there’s all these earthquakes and tsunamis?”
At her doctor’s orders, Jayla had turned off alerts on the millions of casualties; the news gave her panic attacks, which were bad for the baby. “Did everyone move?” she asked, guessing the answer.
“Most of them.” Luciana paused. “I keep wondering when our area will be called to go. But the Second Coming could happen before then. The nice thing is whether or not we’re living in Zion, the Lord will protect us. ”
Jayla shivered, wishing her husband was home to wrap his arms around her and whisper that everything would be fine. But he was thousands of miles away, and they weren’t even allowed to make holographic calls. Perhaps the military would make an exception when she had the baby.
Jayla felt worried and worn. She groped for the words to signal the end of the visit. “Well, I’m sure you’re busy, and I have some things I need to take care of…” Jayla looked to the left and blinked twice, trying to bring back the controls. She glanced around the room and spotted Tyren and Luke in the corner. They must have overridden the system using their computer. “Give the living room back to Mommy. Right now please.”
Instead they grinned and clapped their hands, turning off every hologram except for Luciana. Jayla closed her eyes, not wanting to look at Luciana, who could now see what her living room really looked like. Limp, faded couches, ripped and sewn back together. Toys and cereal strewn across the floor. A pile of dirty laundry in the corner.
“I had to sell the last of the cleaning bots,” Jayla whispered. “My husband’s salary hasn’t arrived for months, and I had to buy food.”
Luciana stood up, no judgment on her face. “Well, it sounds like you do need my help. I’ll be over in a couple hours, whether you want me or not.”
After the projection faded, Jayla turned to her sons, uncertain of how to discipline them. “Tyren, you need to be a good example to your younger brother. And Luke…” Luke ran from the room. “No simulations for the rest of the day!” Jayla heard a loud crash from the kitchen—something broken that she would not be able to fix.
“Tyren, go keep your brother out of trouble. But give Mommy a hug first.”
Tyren dutifully approached her, said “I love you Mom,” and gave her a brief hug. Then he pulled her hair and ran from the room. Jayla knew she should follow her sons, but she stayed on the couch, waiting.
Why couldn’t the Savior just come, so she could live peacefully in Zion with her husband and children?
Jayla reactivated the screen on her eyepiece, which was really just an old-fashioned, electronic contact lens. “Bring up the LDS forums on Signs. Summarize relevant details.”
“Still no confirmed rainbows this year in the Western hemisphere.” The computer summarized riots, assassinations, battles, and natural disasters, showing maps and images from the events. There had been signs for hundreds of years, and now there were so many of them. Yet still the time had not come.
An alert from the pregnancy monitor appeared on her eyescreen. Her stress level and heart rate were increasing, as always happened in the minutes before a panic attack. Worse, the baby’s heart rate was dropping. It wasn’t enough just to take care of her physical body; she had to control her emotions or she’d harm her future child. Jayla logged out of the forum and began to calm herself, but she couldn’t stop worrying and waiting. After a few minutes, her next contraction started, accompanied by soft sea sounds in her earpiece.
“How long since the last contraction?” she asked.
“16 minutes,” said the computer’s voice in her ear.
“How far am I dilated?”
Still three centimeters. There were so many things Jayla could and should do before the baby came, but she didn’t want to start any projects she might not finish. And so she waited. Waited for the next contraction. Waited to hear from her husband. Waited for the Second Coming. Waited, because she was too stressed to play with her sons, too tired to think about dinner, too distracted to prepare her Sunday School lesson. Waited, because surely her visiting teacher could fix more than just the mess.
Jayla heard a soft buzzing in her ear. “Yes?” she asked her computer.
“Scripture reading.” If she glanced right, it would postpone the task. Jayla glanced left.
“What’s that scripture in the D&C… the day and the hour?”
The words came up on her eyepiece screen. “For the time is at hand; the day or the hour no man knoweth; but it surely shall come.”
Jayla pulled out her earpiece and eyepiece, and folded her arms in prayer. Then she stood up, careful not to jolt her belly. She would not just wait; she would do something. The Lord had always been good to her before, and He would surely help her now. When the time came, she wanted Him to find her on her feet.
About the Author: Katherine Cowley has a Masters of English from Brigham Young University. In addition to writing, she enjoys making short documentary films. Katherine has worked as a radio producer and a writing teacher. She currently lives with her husband and two daughters in Phoenix, Arizona.*
*Author information as of the publication of this story.