She stood on her front steps, soaking up the darkness. She felt almost giddy since she couldn't remember ever being up and dressed at this hour of the day. She couldn't ever remember seeing the sun rise before. Her fifteen year old body was filled with anticipation. She was going to attend her first sunrise service at a local church. Her parents were not church going people so her religious background was a blank page. Her knowledge of Easter centered around rabbits, candy, and new dresses. She knew that there had to be more to Easter than boiled eggs and baskets filled with plastic grass. She was grateful that her best friend had invited her to attend the sunrise service with her family.
She bounced around on the front steps waiting for them to arrive. She had an all-over good feeling about the day. The night before, her mom had made a cake shaped like an Easter Bunny. This was a huge accomplishment for her mom since cooking/baking were not her areas of expertise. The bunny cake had come out perfect and it was now the centerpiece on the kitchen table. Covered in coconut with jelly bean eyes and nose, it appeared to welcome all who entered this house. Her mouth watered just thinking about the huge piece of cake she would enjoy later in the day.
The sky was still dark when she hopped into her friend's car. She was a bit nervous since she had no knowledge of church services or ceremonies. She didn't know how to behave or what to expect. Her mother had given her a one dollar bill to give at church. She checked to make sure it was inside her pocket. She wondered who she had to pay or when. She decided that she would just follow the lead of her friend.
The service was held in a field on a hillside. She followed the people up the hill to where there was a huge wooden cross standing. She prayed, she sang, she clasped the hand of her friend. And as the sun rose over the hill, she felt her eyes fill with tears and her heart filled with a feeling she could not describe. A sense of hope and joy filled her entire being.
On the ride back to her home, the excitement and anticipation of the day which lie ahead made it difficult to sit still. She couldn't wait to tell her parents about her experience. Maybe her family could start going to church together each Sunday. Couldn't hurt to ask them one more time. Her belly rumbled and she realized how hungry she was. Maybe Mom would let her have a tiny piece of the Easter Bunny cake for her breakfast. It couldn't hurt to ask.
She bounded out of the car, the sun filling the sky. She ran into the house, singing one of the hymns she had just learned. She hoped her younger sister was awake so they could attack their Easter baskets. She entered the kitchen and stopped skipping. She stopped singing. The sun stopped shining.
Her mother stood in the middle of the room, hair disheveled, bathrobe pulled tight around her thin body. The dark circles under her eyes seemed darker then ever. "Mom, what's wrong?"
"Your father didn't come home last night."
"What do you mean? Where is he?"
"He went to the neighbor's house to play cards lat night and he never came home. Go get him."
Tears filled the young girl's eyes. She headed out across the lawn, a path she knew all too well. Before long, she looked up to see her father headed her way, his head down. She turned back to the house and stomped inside. He entered, head still down. His wife greeted him with an icy glare, her cheeks hollow, her face full of anger. She turned on her heel, and slammed her bedroom door behind her.
The fifteen year old turned to her father, and she waited while she slowly transformed into the role of parent. The smell of alcohol poured out of his entire being.
"What were you thinking?"
"Do you know what day this is?"
"Today is Easter, A day of new beginnings, a fresh start. What kind of day do you think we are going to have?"
He attempted to make eye contact. "I need to sit down."
"Fine. You go sit down and I will try to figure out how to make Mom happy. I will try to save the day. One more time."
She resisted the urge to slap him across the face. He soon passed out in 'his' chair and was snoring. She stood staring at him, not knowing where to turn. She looked at the door of her mother's bedroom, shut tight as her mother tried to protect herself from any more hurt. She tried to take herself back to the hill where she had felt safe.
As she walked past the Easter Bunny cake, she thought about how stale and dried out it looked. It no longer looked appealing or appetizing. She laughed at how naive she had been...new beginnings, fresh start...not this time.