The seat was empty! Ramona looked around. There was no way Edith could have slipped out. Ramona was on the aisle seat! Now she was really confused! What could have happened to her? She knew it was crazy but she even looked under the seats.
Then she noticed that the bag was still there. She grabbed it and stood up. Edging her way up the aisle to the rear she looked at every seat for Edith. Arriving at the onboard restroom she checked there, too. It was unoccupied. Puzzled, she returned to her seat.
Well, that was surely weird; almost creepy, that she had been sitting by someone who suddenly disappeared. What on earth was going on? She settled back into her seat not sure what to think now. Well, there must be an easy explanation, but what? One moment she was talking to this nice, sweet, grandmotherly lady and the next she had disappeared!
She drew a deep breath and exhaled slowly. Now really! Did all that just happen? No, she probably imagined it all. Surely it was brought on by the turmoil of the last several hours. At least she could chalk it up to a stressful day! Your mind can play tricks on you sometimes. She was just starting to believe this self-talk when a disturbing fact dawned on her. The bag!
She was still holding the bag Edith was carrying. Oh, God! It wasn’t her imagination, as she had tried to convince herself. The flowered bag was still in her hands. She slowly raised it up to look at it. It wasn’t very heavy for an overnight bag. She set it on the seat and laid her head back. Wasn’t this bizarre?
What did it all mean? And the way Edith had looked at her when she last spoke; her eyes seemed to penetrate into her very soul. How did she know how Ramona felt when she was little; that she loved Jesus so much? It was a bit spooky. Or, or maybe, just maybe . . . no, no that was too trippy.
She fell asleep. Grandma Beckett was holding her on her lap, shushing her while putting a Band-Aid on her scraped knee. Grandma kept saying, “It’s gonna be alright, just alright sweetheart,” her sobbing comforted by the elder woman’s gentle voice and she felt, no, she knew, that everything would be alright. Tomorrow always would be better than today.
Mr. Beckett woke up slowly. He laid there not wanting to open his eyes. His concentration was a bit groggy as he tried to recall the day’s events. His daughter had stopped by; he remembered that. How did their conversation go? He really hoped she would get back to church but then he started to grasp the content and reality of what he had said to her. That part about how hard it was to keep her obedient to God with rules. Had that been the right approach? Well, he just wanted the best for her and to make sure she was ready for heaven.
There definitely was a rift that had developed in their relationship these last several months since Sarah passed. He really missed Sarah. Her absence left such a hole in his purpose and enjoyment of life. He knew she was in a better place and was waiting for him there; in heaven. Pastor Marlowe had counseled him to be sure he was ready so he could see Sarah again. That had driven him to a renewed enthusiasm for the Bible and being faithful to its precepts more than ever! He continued to seek God and consecrate his life and behavior so that he would be more Christ-like and holy.
Now with Ramona pulling away and the added pain of her having a baby out of wedlock seemed to tear the hole even larger. What had gone wrong? He had tried to be more careful to direct her and instruct her in the ways of God. Whenever Pastor would bring something from the Word, he made sure Ramona followed the teaching. After all, he was responsible and his reputation as a Christian father was at stake.
Becky and Jeremy stood in the middle of the bus station. This late in the evening it was quiet. There was a faint smell of stale popcorn lingering in the air that stole your attention when by day the busy activity would have. As there was hardly anyone there it was easy to see that Ramona wasn’t either. Jeremy strode over to the ticket counter. The only window open revealed an older gentleman sitting on a worn metal stool dressed in a gray uniform with a nametag, Robert G., proudly prominent on his right pocket.
“Sir, may I ask if you have seen someone?” Jeremy proposed.
“Ask away,” the man answered.
“Well, I am wondering if a girl, about twenty, or so, just bought a ticket from you?”
“Maybe,” he said. “What did she look like?”
Jeremy described as best he could Ramona’s physical features. By now Becky had joined the conversation and added more detail.
“I just sold a ticket to someone like that about forty-five minutes ago. ‘First bus out,’ she wanted, so that’s what I gave her.”
“Where was it headed?” Jeremy inquired.
“Rancho Cucamonga,” he said. “Won’t get there till late tomorrow some time though.”
“Where is that?” Becky asked.
“Southern California, just east of Los Angeles area,” the man in gray answered with an obvious pride in his geographic knowledge.
“Oh no,” Becky and Jeremy answered together. “Thank you, sir.”
“Yup,” Mr. Robert G. said. “No problem!”
As they walked toward the exit, the seeming finality of Ramona’s decision settled in to Becky. It looked like she was going through with it and there was nothing Becky or Jeremy could really do right now. Becky stopped.
“Jeremy, it looks like it’s a done deal for Ramona but I still think there is hope. God can arrange her circumstances to help her make the right choice about this baby.”
“Yes, I believe that, too. I don’t want her to choose to end the baby’s life but even if she does, there is still hope for her to find a way to trust God for her future. He is such a loving and forgiving God, isn’t He?”
Ramona woke with a start. The bus lurched over the driveway apron and into the parking lot of a small town. The flickering sign over the station revealed it wasn’t her stop. Brownsdale, it announced, Home of Elkhorn Tractor.
She got up to go inside to the restroom, as this was a 20 minute stop, and took Edith’s bag with her. Well, whoever that was that sat with her for an hour and a half! As she waited her turn she became curious about the bag. It couldn’t have had much in there: maybe some clothes and toiletries. She guessed she may as well open the bag. There could be something to identify the owner.
Pulling the zipper she reached inside. There was something soft and a small box. She pulled out the softness: a smallish blue blanket, like a baby blanket. Well, maybe there was something that made sense about that! The woman obviously had mental issues. She opened the box. It contained a baby pacifier.
Ramona was suddenly taken aback as her mind connected some dots. This woman, Edith, was no mental case! Somehow, she knew that Ramona was pregnant. It had to be that. And, Edith had to be an angel of some sort. That was the only rational answer to her disappearance and the strange events the last few hours!
Ramona forgot she needed the restroom. Dashing out to the bus she begged the driver to retrieve her suitcase. She had to get back to Maple Valley!