They group has dinner in a park near the sister church. Once night falls, they sit around the fire and sing songs. Gabe and Maddie sing a duet which has the girls in tears—including, Claire. She even asks them to sing I’d Rather Go Blind for her.
“Don’t think I know that one,” Gabe admitted.
Clayton shook his head. Brad shrugged.
“Happens that I know that one,” Craig said proudly. “Maddie, know the lyrics?”
“Surprisingly, I do. My mom loves this song. I’ve only heard it about a million times. Sing with me,” Madison offered.
Claire started to refuse, but Maddie could see her make up her mind to take a chance. She smiled encouragingly. Madison started singing, but Claire joined her on harmony. Soon, her voice grew stronger. The second verse, Madison quit singing and let Claire take lead, humming harmony behind her. They finished the song together, their voices blending perfectly. The song finished and Craig muted the strings. The only sound were sniffles. Everyone wiped tears, even the guys, though they tried to hide it.
“I think that’s the best that song has ever sounded,” Caroline said quietly. “May I make a request?”
Craig cleared his throat. “Sure.”
“Let’s all sing Jesus is Just Alright. I love that song and I think this group could do it justice.”
Gabe grinned. “That one, I know.” He played a fancy riff on this guitar and strummed a couple chords.
Clayton improvised a bass line on his acoustic guitar while Gabe and Craig alternated lead. Brad finally asserted himself, blasting through with a loud solo. Everyone sang and clapped. Daniel and Beverly tapped coolers for drums.
Their mini-concert went on until everyone was too tired to sing anymore. They prepared another round of s’mores and packed up to go. It was difficult driving down the narrow mountain roads in the dark, but Jose led the way with unerring skill. Gabe followed in his truck and Craig brought up the rear in one of the station wagons. As they neared town, there was an orange glow on the horizon. No one could figure out what it was. Suddenly police and fire trucks rushed past them, sirens screaming, lights flashing. Jose and the others pulled over, watching.
Gabe’s mouth dropped open in horror. “Oh, my God,” he whispered.
Jose pulled out in traffic, heedless of the other cars. Gabe followed a bit more cautiously, eyes wide with fear.
They arrived at the church parking lot to find it cordoned off. Police and fire trucks jammed the parking lot. Water arced toward the roof. The entire structure was in flames. Windows burst from the heat sending shards of glass flying. Police officers moved everyone further back. Jose stared at his church, tears in his eyes. He muttered prayers in Spanish. Gabe stood with him, his arm around his father’s shoulders, head bowed.
One of the officers spotted them and came over. “I’m so sorry, Padre,” he said. “By the time the fire engines got here, it was too late. I’m so sorry.”
“There was choir practice tonight. My wife!” Jose tried to get past the barricade.