Chapter 23

Marie was enjoying her internship in Chicago, but Gretchen was keeping her so busy that Sunday was really her only day off. She’d been sleeping in each Sunday to rejuvenate herself. She hadn’t attended church yet and actually didn’t know where the closest meetinghouse was.

She felt mildly guilty about it, but she really needed a mental break each week, rather than having more people tell her what she should do. She really admired Gretchen, but the woman never slowed down. It was always “rush, rush, rush” with her.

It was a beautiful Sabbath morning, so Marie put on some casual clothes and decided to do some exploring. The Bloomingdale’s Building had literally everything she needed, so she had rarely gone outside.

“Go get some sunshine,” she told herself.

She purposely left her cell phone on the kitchen counter and made her way down to Michigan Avenue. The sidewalk was relatively empty, so she just started walking south along the Magnificent Mile. After a half hour she decided to get her first close-up look at Lake Michigan and she made her way to Navy Pier.

She walked among the crowds there, just blending in, and occasionally going to the edge of the pier to feel the soft breeze on her face. She stood beneath the huge Ferris Wheel that dominated the sky and felt liberated, realizing no one on earth knew where she was at that moment.

As Marie began to leave the pier, she walked alongside a convention center known as Festival Hall. On one of the lower levels she saw a sign that read “The Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows.” She noticed admission was free, and she figured it was a good way to spend Sunday. She was pleased that many of the windows depicted the Savior, and she felt spiritually refreshed as she studied each window.

“Heavenly Father, I’m going to church next Sunday, no matter what,” she prayed as she left the museum.

She’d enjoyed her time wandering the city so much that she dreaded going back to her apartment, but the sun would be setting soon and she remembered Bianca’s counsel about being alone on the streets after dark.

She returned to her apartment to find her parents had left a phone message. She checked the message and heard her mother say, “Marie, we need to talk to you. Call us as soon as you get this.”

Marie called them back and was surprised at how relieved they sounded to hear her voice. Carol got on one line and Aaron got on another one so they could all talk together. 

“Did you hear the announcement in Church today?” Carol asked.

“Uh, no. I didn’t make it there. What happened?”

“The prophet invited all of the Church members to gather to camps in the mountains. It’s causing quite a stir around here.”

Marie paused. “I guess I’m confused. Why would the prophet ask us to do this? Are things really that bad?”

“Not at this moment, but everything could fall apart quickly.”

“Are you two going to a camp?” Marie asked.

“Not yet,” Aaron said. “It would be impossible to leave my job that quickly. But we plan to, and hopefully you’ll come with us.”

“I don’t know about that,” Marie said. “It still seems to be some sort of knee-jerk reaction. Let me think about it.”

“By the way, we saw Nathan this morning,” Aaron said. “Part of his job is to help transport people to the camps. He wanted us to tell you hello and that he’s eager to see you again.”

Marie’s heart skipped a beat. “I want to see him, too. I admit I’m feeling a little lonely.”

“Is there any chance you could fly home for a weekend?” Carol asked. “We’d be happy to pay for it.”

“I wish I could, but they have assignments lined out for me several weeks in advance. I feel like I’m running as fast as I can but that I’m falling even more behind.”

“Are they treating you okay?” Aaron asked.

“Yes, and they’re very happy with me. I’m just still adjusting to the pace. Today I just needed some time alone, so I took a nice walk down to a pier on Lake Michigan, and I feel like myself again.”

“That’s good to hear,” Carol said. “Is there anything else we can do for you?”

“Just make the next three months go faster,” Marie said with a laugh. “I miss home, but I’m going to stick it out.”

They talked for a few more minutes, but after they hung up, all she could think about was that Nathan was eager to see her again. His absence had indeed made her heart grow fonder, and she appreciated his high standards and values more than ever. 

She’d agreed to go to a nightclub with Bianca that first weekend, but she had hated it. None of the men there came anywhere close to matching Nathan—in fact, they were somewhat revolting. Since then, Gretchen had dumped so much work on her that she’d had no trouble at all telling Bianca she needed to find a new designated driver.

n

After talking with her parents, Marie took a long shower and got ready for bed in preparation for another long Monday, but she decided to check the local TV news to see if the Church’s invitation to go to the camps was of interest to anyone. She was surprised to see it was the lead story with the caption “Where Did All The Mormons Go?” A woman was being interviewed by a reporter in front of the Chicago Temple.

“It’s like the prophet went nuts or something,” the woman said. “My neighbor knocked on my door and gave me a letter telling me to go live in the wilderness. I’ve never heard of such a thing, so I came down here to the temple to find out what’s going on, but the place seems empty!”

The reporter nodded gravely. “So your church has never taught such things before? This just came out of the blue?”

“Exactly,” the woman said as she adjusted her tanktop. “I’d love for someone to show me in the scriptures where people just take off for the hills on a moment’s notice. It’s insane!”

The reporter turned to the camera and said, “There you go. It looks like the Mormons have flown the cuckoo’s nest, so to speak. Back to you in the studio.”

Marie shook her head and turned off the TV. 

“That woman’s an idiot,” she muttered. “She didn’t even know the temple is closed on Sunday.”

Marie fumed for a few minutes, but she was admittedly feeling apprehensive about the Saints being told by the prophet to gather in the mountains. She cringed as she remembered her parting words to Nathan—“I highly doubt the world is going to collapse during my four months in Chicago.”

Marie suddenly felt weak in the knees, but assured herself, “Everything is going to be all right. I just walked all over this city and had one of the most peaceful days of my life.”

n

The next morning Gretchen called Marie into her office and motioned toward a chair.

“I saw on the news that the Mormons have staged a mass evacuation,” Gretchen said. “Are you planning to join them?”

Marie shook her head. “No, I’ll be staying right here. It was just a small minority of our members. I’m not quite sure what’s going on, but I talked to my parents, and they didn’t go either.”

“I’m glad to hear that. It seems really bizarre.”

“It surprised me, too,” Marie said. “Don’t worry, I’ll fulfill all of my internship duties.”

“Thank you. You’re doing a wonderful job. The ideas you’ve come up with are brilliant.”

Marie smiled. “That means so much to me to hear you say that. I’m doing the best I can.”

Gretchen waved her hand. “Sorry to question you about your religious beliefs. They’re your own business. I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to have to hire a new intern.”

“Nope, I’m staying.”

“Good,” Gretchen said before holding up the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times that had been on her desk. Next to the article about the Mormons was one about a massive hurricane that was pummeling Central America. Gretchen added, “Maybe your prophet is afraid this hurricane is coming our way.”

Marie peered with interest at the page. “Maybe so.”

n

During lunch Marie went on the internet and opened her favorite website, www.weather.com. She’d been so busy with her internship assignments that she hadn’t checked the site for nearly two weeks, but Marie had always been fascinated by extreme weather, particularly hurricanes.

She’d been a young girl when Hurricane Katrina had hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, and that storm had damaged several homes owned by her mother’s family in Mississippi. Her mom had talked about the hurricane non-stop for a couple of weeks after that, and since then, Marie had been a weather buff.

The lead story on the website was about Hurricane Barton, which had formed south of Cuba before heading west and thrashing Guatemala as a Category 5 storm with winds approaching 160 miles per hour, one of the strongest storms on record. 

Marie clicked on a link that showed news footage taken along the Guatemalan coast and was stunned as she watched villages being flooded and torn apart.

“That’s crazy,” Marie said, as she clicked on a link to see where the storm might be headed. The hurricane experts were predicting five possible tracks the storm could take, including one where the storm would cross Mexico and then die out in the Pacific Ocean. However, one scenario had the storm turning north into the Gulf of Mexico and retaining its strength as it approached the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. 

“I hope that one’s wrong,” Marie whispered. “It could be Katrina all over again.”