I was sixteen years old when it happened.
No one could believe it, brushing it off with a cynical ‘whatever’ just like Doubting Didymus, until they saw for themselves the hands with dark nail polish, stroking a young child’s bald head. Even then, some were still skeptical, but after the videos spread across their screens, after lines of people with wheelchairs, IV drips, and bags sticking out their hips gathered on our front lawn and got healed, then the world saw and accepted.
Was I surprised? I had been preparing for it my entire life. Since the first moment I had successfully prayed for the rain to stop, like the Tishbite, at that church picnic when I was three, I knew I had a special gift. But of course, I kept it to myself. I’ve read the stories. No sense in mentioning your dreams of wheat sheaves to your family. A prophet is never welcome in their own home.
So I waited. I studied the old stories, memorizing more than the rest of my Sunday School combined. The teachers told my parents what a brave little girl I was, and so smart and talented too. “Why can’t you be more like Naomi?” Other parents asked their daughters.
When Jaybelle was born, I was the only one who could get her to sleep without fussing, which was a miracle by itself. Only four years old, I could rock her in my lap, kissing her warm forehead and wiping drool from her sleeping lips. Was it any shock I, so tender and maternal, was cast as the Virgin in the pageant every year? Each December, families wrapped in mountains of scarves would stomp into our auditorium, shake the salty slush from their boots, and watch me rock the Messiah in front of the camels, the shepherds, and the three wise boys with cotton glued to their pimpled faces. I was the first Mary that could keep a real baby calm for the entire show.
As Jaybelle grew up, I taught her the same stories I had memorized, speaking of lions and floods and giant fish. The grown-ups noticed, and I made sure to speak loudly so everyone could hear what a responsible big sister I was. And I always kept an eye on the rain, waiting for the right moment to show the world what I could do.
I had hoped that Jaybelle and I could be a team. But she got distracted. While I volunteered at hospitals and drove the neighbor children to volleyball practice, she was off being the best friend of every boy in the sixth grade. I taught her how to apply tasteful make-up; she stole black lipstick from mall kiosks, thinking we wouldn’t notice the smudges in the corners of her lips. My parents tasked me with keeping her out of trouble. But this was a miracle I could not perform.
Then, when I was sixteen, it happened. The gift I had been waiting for my entire life. One of the families I babysat for, their father was rapidly dissolving into cancer, and I volunteered to sit with him. When I arrived, Greg Faraday was lying on the bed, eyes sunk like bruised peaches. Those forearms which had pushed the lawnmower every Sunday evening now resembled gas station pepperoni sticks.
I sat by his side, reading to him as I had read bedtime stories to his children for so many years. Then the door opened, and Jaybelle was standing there, showing more chest than shirt.
“Mom’s here. You have to come for dinner,” she said, before turning to the bed. “He looks like shit.”
I glared at my sister. “Don’t touch—“ I began, but Jaybelle was already approaching the man, brushing an eyelash off his withered cheek.
As her fingertips connected with his face, Greg Faraday’s eyes flickered, and he stared at the girl with the dark nail polish and black lipstick. He smiled.
The next Sunday, he was back to mowing the lawn.
The doctors couldn’t explain it. Our pastor could explain it easily, until he learned it had been Jaybelle, not me, who had done the healing. He dismissed it as a coincidence, and then resigned.
The next few weeks were a blur of hospital visits and interviews. The photo of her hands next to a child’s bald head went viral, and our house became a Mecca for sick people asking to be healed, with glowing screens ready to record. I warned her not to heal in front of an audience, because that just seemed wrong. She ignored me. The whole world saw her heal in her jeans, ripped at the knees. Reporters and aspiring tween YouTubers swarmed around her, asking how she had developed these powers of healing. She shrugged.
“And what about you?” A newsgirl leaned towards me. “You’re the older sister? You must be so proud of her!”
I pressed my lips into a tight smile. That was the last time a reporter ever interviewed me.
The clip of Jaybelle casually shrugging at the reporter blossomed into a meme, bouncing between phones with the hashtag #whatevermiracle.
And because my parents both worked jobs, they made me shepherd her, applying her stage makeup before each televised healing.
So. You’ve made it clear to me that my years of work don’t count. You chose her, that entitled, black-lipsticked bitch, to be the prophet of our generation? Fine. I’m done. I followed the rules, I did everything right, but I guess that just wasn’t enough for You. What kind of lesson is that going to teach everyone? I’m not going to pretend to understand it, and at this point, I don’t really care. I’d tell You not to contact me ever again, but maybe You and I were never talking to each other to begin with. Amen.