The last of a series of summer storms released her wrath one August. Shades of gray smeared across the heavens, and a soft mist showered into rain as shrieks pierced the atmosphere. The eldest three McCallister sons stood with Melia against their farmhouse, and Rearden's back was to them.
"I am going to get one of you," Rearden announced and crossed his arms as they sneaked up to him.
"What time is it, Mr. Fox?" they chanted.
The children crept up closer and exchanged anticipated glances. "What time is it, Mr. Fox?"
"Dinnertime!" Rearden roared and pivoted around with a swipe of his small hand. Eagan leapt back and shoved Melia toward the boy as she shrieked with surprise. Rearden practically caught the older girl with a merry smile. "See, I said so! I got Melia!"
"Eagan, you pushed a girl!" Callum scolded.
His brother raised his shoulders and gasped for breath, exertion searing his nostrils with the scent of rain. "So? She wasn't fast enough."
"You made her lose," Calder punched his arm.
"Stop!" Eagan shoved his brother away, but Calder returned his force. With a battle cry, Rearden ran to tackle both at once and toppled them all to the marshy ground. Melia stood back in awe as shouts rang out and Callum bent to pull his brothers apart.
"Stop! Stop! Eagan, this is bad for your heart!"
She raised her eyes to see her father standing before her with tears in his eyes. He reached out his hand, and she accepted it. Mud smeared the hem of her pansy dress as she trudged into the empty house with Eli Moody.
The boys rolled apart and stood when their mother emerged through the back door and approached them with pursed lips. As she knelt to explain to them what had happened that day, Eli Moody kneeled on the creaking wooden floors before his daughter.
He gently tucked a tendril of dark curls behind her ear and caressed her cheek. "Mo chroí," he started. "Your mamma is in Heaven right now. She died in her sleep today."
Melia melted into tears and wrapped her arms around his neck. He heaved her into his arms and made his way to the front door as the boys came rushing up behind him. Silent, he threw a glance at them and set his daughter down.
Rearden leapt into her arms. Callum surrounded them both with an embrace. Eagan and Calder each gave her a brotherly slap on the back. Then Eli Moody gently parted them and led Melia to their car by her hand. They watched the car disappear down the dirt road in astonishment.