The distress in Charlotte’s ashen face was apparent when she answered the door. The clip holding her hair was askew, and her thick luxuriant brown hair spilled out onto her shoulder. There appeared to be splotches of liquid on her jeans. A tall, willowy woman of 42, Charlotte still looked like the department store model she had been during college even with disheveled hair and wearing an old faded shirt and torn jeans.
Liz shut the door behind her quickly and enveloped Charlotte in her arms as she collapsed. “What is it, Charlotte?” Liz asked, apprehensively.
“I don’t know . . . how or what just happened . . ..” Charlotte whimpered.
Composing herself, she pulled a Kleenex from her jeans pocket and said, “Everything was fine, I tapped on one of the shelf pins in the wet bar with my little gold jewelry hammer, and suddenly everything started crashing down and large shards of glass were whizzing by me—I took two steps back and then froze. The glass kept coming and coming—all of the bottles and those glass shelves. It lasted an eternity. While it was going on, I knew that I would be cut up terribly, but would probably survive, but not my baby . . . ” she wailed. “Not my baby. . . “
Still holding onto her, Liz looked over Charlotte quickly. Okay, sweetie, I don’t see that you were cut, so let’s get you settled in the family room, and I’ll make you a cup of tea.
Liz grabbed a towel from the guest room, and holding Charlotte tightly around the shoulders, guided her into the family room to the plush sofa. She gently helped her onto the sofa. Charlotte’s face was pale and her hands were clammy.
She lifted Charlotte’s legs onto the sofa and removed her shoes. “Now, just lie down for a few minutes, while I get the tea” she said soothingly, unfurling an afghan and covering her friend. “I’ll be back in a jif, with a nice cup of tea.”
Liz walked by the living room to take a look at the wet bar on her way to the kitchen. She was shocked by what she saw. The mirrored back of the wet bar was the only glass that was intact. The four glass shelves and all of the bottles of liquor that had neatly lined the shelves were shattered on the red oak wood floor, in a large swath in front of the wet bar. The area was covered with glass—broken liquor bottles and large pieces of glass from the shelving—except for a small two -foot circle in the middle of the wreckage.
There was so much glass in the area that the liquor had been contained to the area covered by the broken glass. It was a miracle that Charlotte hadn’t been seriously injured. No wonder she was in shock. She had just been through an onslaught of flying glass. It looked like a war zone.
Liz put the kettle on, fetched the tray and tea things from the cabinets, and hurried back to Charlotte, who was sitting up with her face in her hands. Liz held her friend’s wrist to check her pulse. It appeared to be returning to normal, and she was starting to get some color back into her face.
Liz looked her over again. She didn’t have any obvious physical injuries.
“You’ve had a tremendous shock, Charlotte. Do you want me to call 911 to have the paramedics come to check you out?”
“No, I feel better with you here,” she said, smiling wanly. She pulled the afghan up over her shoulders.
Liz popped up when the tea kettle started to whistle.
“I’ll be back in a minute,” Char. You stay put and rest.
Liz had spent many an evening in Charlotte’s home over the years and knew her way around her kitchen. She poured the boiling water over the teabags into the blue and white floral English bone china teapot, put the quilted tea cozy over the pot, and let it steep for the requisite five minutes. While the tea was steeping, she busied herself with arranging the matching tea mugs on a tray with a hot pad under the teapot.
Liz and Charlotte met 20 years earlier when they were both in their 20’s. They worked on a quilt project after 9/11 that had been Liz’s brainchild. Liz and Brian had just graduated from law school, taken the bar exam in July of 2001, gotten married and moved into a townhouse in St. Michael’s Cove.
A few days after 9/11, Liz was hiking in the Santa Monica mountains by herself, racking her brain about what she could do to help during that terrible period of national distress. When she emerged from the canopy of trees in the canyon, an idea was beginning to take form.
Liz’s idea was to collect quilt blocks from members of all of the houses of worship in St. Michael’s Cove to create a community quilt. The quilt would be raffled off at the village ecumenical Thanksgiving service. The money raised through raffle ticket sales would be donated to the Red Cross to benefit the families affected by the tragedy. The theme of the quilt would be prayer, which was the common thread running through of all of the faith communities.
She called Pastor Richard Albrecht, who was the Hope Chapel pastor in 2001, and explained her plan to him. Pastor Albrecht embraced the idea enthusiastically. He reached out to all of the pastors, priests, and rabbis in the area.
Within a week Liz had designed the quilt and distributed blocks to quilters and artists from each congregation, who were encouraged to use different mediums to create their blocks. The project brought artists and members of the ecumenical community together.
Charlotte was one of the quilters who made a quilt block for the Methodist church she attended.
The group raised over $6000 for the Red Cross. An elderly couple from England, Barbara and Henry Banks, visiting their son and his family in St. Michael’s Cove for the holidays, purchased the winning ticket at the Women’s Club when they were there to get their flu vaccinations. They took the quilt back to England with them, where it was displayed in Salisbury Cathedral, and other august cathedrals and community centers in that land.
The quilt was brought back to America by the Banks’ son, in 2015 after both of his parents passed away. Over the years Liz had run into a few of the artists in the village, but was not in regular contact with them. When the quilt was returned to St. Michael’s Cove, she contacted those who still lived in the area, and invited them to her home for brunch and to see the quilt again.
Over the next several years, the quilt was displayed at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, at the Los Angeles County fair, at the local fire station, and in the churches and temples in St. Michael’s Cove.
They had called themselves SIS, or Sisters in Suffering, while they were working on the 2001 quilt. After the 2015 reunion they decided to meet monthly in each other’s homes, and the SIS moniker stuck. They often called each other “Sis,” especially when they were distressed, and needed a shoulder to lean on.
And because so much of their monthly meetings was spent laughing, they decided that SIS could also mean Sisters in Stitches—which could be interpreted in more than one way. Each member of the group brought her current project to the monthly meetings, and they spent an evening together, stitching, chatting, and supporting each other.
The group was proof that people of good will, of different backgrounds and faiths could form strong personal bonds based on their common experiences as human beings. Their faith backgrounds varied, yet they shared their joys and their sorrows.
Liz returned to Charlotte in the family room and set the tray on the coffee table. She fluffed some large sofa pillows, put one on either side of Charlotte, and handed Charlotte a mug of hot tea.
“Now you just lean on these and relax okay?” She sat down next to Charlotte and rubbed her back.
“How am I going to clean up that mess with all of that glass? I have no idea what to do, with Jeb being out of town,” Charlotte said disconsolately.
“Don’t worry about that. I’ll call William before I leave . . .”
Charlotte raised a quizzical eyebrow.
“You know, the retired contractor who can do anything? I’ll ask him if he can come over first thing in the morning to clean it up. In the meantime, I’ll go to your recycles bin and grab some old newspapers to cover the glass and to sop up the liquor so that it doesn’t damage the floor overnight.”
Charlotte nodded, exhausted.
“Do you feel like talking? You said something about a baby.”
“Yes . . .” Charlotte acknowledged. “The baby.” She took a sip of tea. Well, you know how long we’ve been trying to get pregnant. I had a couple of miscarriages years ago, but no pregnancies in about 10 years. Jeb and I had given up on having a baby. My gyn retired, and the new one thought we should do one more test called HSG—short for hysterosalpingogram. I’ll save you the details, but I had the test about a month ago.
“The funny thing is, after I had the test, the radiologist said that everything looked normal . . .but . . . well, I just found out that I’m pregnant again—at 42 no less!” She hesitated. . . “So maybe it’s related to the test somehow? I don’t know.”
“That’s wonderful! How are you feeling hon? Are you sure you don’t want to go to the hospital?”
Charlotte took another sip of tea, and held the mug in her hands.
“No, I called my doctor after I called you. She just said to take it easy and to call me if I anything happens. There isn’t anything they can do this early in my pregnancy anyway.”
“But I have to say, I have been feeling better about having this baby. It’s only been two weeks, but I’ve already had some strange abdominal sensations and am reacting to odors that never bothered me before. Also, I am starting to have a bit of nausea with this pregnancy that I didn’t have with the babies I miscarried. The doc says that’s a good sign.”
“Have you called Jeb to tell him about the accident?”
“No, . . I just called my Sis—you—my Sister in Suffering. . .
Liz patted her hand. “I’m here for you, kid.”
I’ll call Jeb tomorrow morning. She looked at her Fitbit. He’s at a conference in Great Barrington, Massachusetts—three hours later. His first session is at 8 tomorrow morning, so I’m sure he’s in bed,” she said, wearily.
“But please don’t tell anyone about my pregnancy, okay? Given our history, we don’t want to tell anyone yet.”
“My lips are sealed,” Liz assured her, patting her hand. “Do you want to talk about what happened?”
“Yeah, I guess I do . . .
Now that I’m over the shock of it all—it is a miracle that I don’t even have a scratch.” She emphasized miracle.
Liz nodded. “Yeah, it looks like a war zone in there.”
“I was just trying to keep busy while Jeb’s out of town, so I decided to clean out the wet bar drawers and cabinet. I had finished straightening up, when I noticed that one of the metal pins holding up the first glass shelf looked like it was going to pop out, so I got my little gold hammer that I use for jewelry making and crafts, and gave the pin a gentle tap.
Well, the next thing I knew, the pin flew out, and that shelf crashed and all of the liquor bottles on it. I stepped back to avoid the glass, when I heard another crash, and another crash. I looked up and shards of glass flying through the air. I couldn’t move. I knew that if I moved, I would be hit by flying glass.”
She shuddered. “The shards from the glass shelves were huge. I felt the pieces of glass whizzing by me—some small pieces from the bottles, and the large pieces from the shelves.
“I know what damage broken glass can do to the human body,” she said, remembering.
“Back home when I was a kid, I saw a boy run through a plate glass door at a rec center before they required safety glass. He was slashed all over his body and covered in blood. He was unconscious when they loaded him onto a gurney and took him away in an ambulance.”
She paused, then continued. “I buried my face in my chest and covered my head with my arms. The crashes didn’t stop, they kept coming. The bottles were exploding around me. I felt the alcohol splash on my jeans. I just kept praying, “Help me, Lord. Help me.”
She gulped the remainder of her tea, and set the cup down on the coffee table. Liz removed the cozy from the teapot and poured her another cup.
“I had my phone in my jeans pocket in case Jeb called while I was cleaning the living room. During the onslaught of glass, I figured that I could call 911 when it stopped—that is, if I was still conscious.
I kept expecting to be slashed and shredded by the glass. I remember thinking that it was a certainty that I would sustain serious injuries, and that more likely than not, I would lose a lot of blood and that the baby would not survive such a traumatic injury to my body. . .
And after that, as the bottles and shelves kept crashing around me, I felt an inner calm—like there was nothing to be done but wait.
When the noise from the crashing glass stopped, I uncovered my face and looked around. The whole room was covered in glass except for the small area where I was standing.”
Liz nodded. “Yeah, I saw.”
She repeated, “It was a miracle. For me and for my baby. It was a miracle that I lived through this terrible accident.” She smiled weakly. “Maybe I’ll have a miracle baby.”
Liz remained silent.
Reflecting on the accident, Charlotte said, “You know, at first when I saw the pin pop out and the glass shelf fall under the weight of the bottles, I stepped back instinctively because I thought that just the first shelf and bottles would fall, and that would be it. Even so, they started falling so quickly that I had no time to move. The glass was flying all around me. And I had no idea that it would trigger a domino effect with all of the shelves and bottles crashing down.
A few seconds later, I realized that the other shelves had started to collapse—I’m not quite sure why. I guess the deafening roar and movement of the first glass shelf and bottles crashing must have caused an instability that jostled the others shelves. The other pins holding up the shelves must have popped out. And maybe the shelves weren’t strong enough to support the weight of the bottles, and that was the final straw. But within seconds I was surrounded by shards of glass on the floor and flying glass rushing by me.”
She paused for a moment to take another sip of her tea. Her eyes filled with tears, “You know, after my initial thought that I would be cut to shreds and lose the baby–when the crashing kept going on and on and on, and I wasn’t getting cut—I felt that I was surrounded by an invisible shield. You know, I felt that God had sent his angels to surround me, to protect me.”
“God is good,” Liz said, as she hugged her friend. “I will be thanking him for sparing you serious injury. When we see the good things that God does for us we can see beyond our circumstances to his innate goodness and love for us.”
Liz called William before she left to arrange for him to come in the morning with a helper to clean up the glass in the living room, and stayed with Charlotte until she was sure that she could care for herself.