Becky called the names Marlowe had given her. The second girl, Rachel, answered.
“Oh, I don’t really know where she could be. I haven’t talked to her since, well since she left church and kinda went into sin. She could be anyplace. Did you check that saloon, or whatever?” Rachel said.
“No, I haven’t, but thank you for the lead.” No answer on the third girl’s phone either.
“I’m not sure what to do now, Jeremy.”
“How about asking someone who does know?” he suggested.
“I’m sorry. You are so right! I’ve been a bit consumed by the crisis here and I forgot what I really should be doing first.” She bowed her head slightly. “Father, we really need some help here. Would you please show us, or lead us to Ramona? Whatever she decides to do next could impact her life forever and she needs some friends with her.”
“Thank you, Lord,” Jeremy finished.
“Duh!” Becky suddenly exclaimed. “Why don’t I just call her?” Her voice rose a bit in pitch at the end in a rhetorical question. Jeremy’s eyes rolled back in his head.
“I can’t believe we didn’t think of that already!” She scrolled down to Ramona’s number and tapped it.
Ramona nervously paced back and forth across the large waiting area at the bus station. The room was empty except for a sleeping pan-handler or two, and an older, sweet looking lady carrying a small bag.
A few minutes earlier she had purchased a ticket to some California town, Rancho something-or-other. She didn’t really care where she went. She just thought that any place in California would be safe and far enough away that she could start over. With the few hundred dollars or so she had saved, at least she could get a room somewhere, pay for the procedure and hopefully find a job before she ran out of money. If only she could stop this insistent, naggy voice deep down inside that was disagreeing with this whole line of reasoning!
She felt her phone vibrate and then ring. She looked at the number that popped up; Becky Moore!
“No, I just can’t talk to her right now,” she thought as she let it go to voicemail. “She will just try to talk me out of this.”
The monotone loudspeaker voice sounded bored as it announced the arrival of her ride south. She walked to the door indicated by the voice and waited. The sweet, old lady approached and smiled at her.
“Hello. You must be going on my bus, too.” Her smile was disarming and friendly to the point that Ramona couldn’t ignore her.
“Uh, yes, I guess so.” She kind of reminded her of her grandmother. She died when Ramona was only six years old but left such a wonderful memory.
“My name is Edith. Would you care to share a seat with me? I could use some company.”
Ramona really didn’t want conversation with anyone but maybe she would be kind and gentle, like her grandmother. She decided to take a risk anyway. Maybe “Edith” would go to sleep.
Becky hung up her phone.
“No answer, Jeremy. Well, I can try again later. I don’t have any other ideas, do you?”
“Do you think she might leave town?” he posited.
“Well, I don’t know. I haven’t heard of any doctors who do that sort of surgery here in Maple Valley. Maybe she would leave. Let’s drop by the bus station before we head home. It’s only a few blocks away.”
“Sounds good to me,” Jeremy said.
They left the coffee shop and walked toward the Pub-Trans station. As they approached the block where the station was, they had to pause while a big interstate bus turned in front of them.
“Oh, I hope she’s not on that one!” Jeremy moaned. They tried looking in the windows but they were all darkened by the tint and couldn’t make out any faces.
At that moment, Ramona looked out past Edith. Her heart nearly stopped as she recognized Becky waiting to cross the street. As the blood drained from her face, which must have had a look of horror as well, Edith asked, “Are you alright dear? You look worried about something.”
“I’m OK; I just . . . may have forgotten to turn the iron off. Well, no worries, it goes off after thirty minutes. I’m fine.”
“Oh, that’s a relief. Well, where are you going; to visit some relatives?” Edith asked.
“No. I don’t know anyone where I’m going.” She suddenly realized what she had said and knew that statement made her vulnerable to more lines of questioning from this Edith lady. But Edith didn’t pursue the unintentional blunder.
“Oh, that’s lovely!” Edith said. “What a great adventure you must be looking forward to!”
The statement sounded like her grandmother, too. Come to think of it; she had a slight resemblance to Grandma Beckett. She was short, plumpish and smelled of lavender.
“Yes. It will be an adventure, I’m sure.” Ramona returned. The way she said it, she was sure she didn’t sound very convincing.
“I’m off on an adventure, too!” Edith shared. “It is completely new territory for me. I’m going to a retirement village down near the Oregon border. All of my things are there already and I am excited to meet my new friends.”
“Meet . . . your . . . new . . . friends?” Ramona asked haltingly. “How can they be friends and you haven’t met them yet? Doesn’t make sense.”
“Well, you ARE right. I don’t know them yet but I am sure I will like them. I have peace about my future and I know everything that happens to me will be special. I am so blessed!”
This sounded a little too disconnected from experience for her taste. She felt special all right; like, specially taken for an idiot and especially in trouble now! But blessed? All she felt was cursed; cursed to a life controlled by everyone but her.
“How can you feel so confident about your future? I’m not sure about tomorrow but I intend to take control of my future and do what I want to do.”
“Oh no, my dear. I didn’t mean I am in control. Usually it’s quite the opposite. I just mean that I am alright with what is coming tomorrow because I trust the process and who is actually in control. Every day is challenging but I am grateful for it. I meet new people; like you for instance, and I only want to try to be kind and love people because I know I am loved and valued.”
“Hmmm. I thought I was loved but it seemed like it was only when I obeyed rules; not just loved for who I am. And, I was not valued after I was taken advantage of, for sure!” She ended with an edge of venom in her voice.
This did not go unnoticed by her seat companion. “We have all been taken advantage of at some time or other,” Edith shared. “I married young. My husband was a charmer but he had a drinking problem. He used to come home and physically abuse me and the children. Then . . . well, he would fall asleep after he had his way with me. I had quite a painful time for several years.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Ramona was sincerely moved. “What happened then?”
“Well, he met with an accident on his way home one night. I was so bitter. Not that he was gone but that I let him abuse me and the children for so long.”
“You don’t seem bitter now,” Ramona said. “How did you get over it?”
“Well dear, I don’t know whether you can ever “get over” an experience like that. The scars are so deep. But I met someone who helped me learn to forgive him and myself. That was the best thing that could have happened. The memories are painful but they are in the past. I try to live each day with a joyful spirit while being at peace with the future.”
“Wow! I wish I could be at peace with the future. I mean, I’m going to make my own future and it will be what I want but I don’t know about the peaceful part yet. There will be some trouble and hard times before I get there, no doubt.”
Edith looked directly at her. “Yes . . . there will be some trouble and hard times. But you will come through all of that just fine. Just remember how you felt when you were a little girl. Remember how your faith and trust was so strong in Jesus? Get back to that place and you will be peaceful.”
Ramona teared up. She glanced away out the opposite window to keep Edith from seeing her cry. Yes! She remembered a time when life seemed simpler. Her faith was strong and she used to talk to God a lot! How she missed those times, but they seemed so long ago and far from reality now. How many bridges had she crossed and how many were burned that might be keeping her from getting back to that place?
She discreetly wiped her eyes and turned back to Edith. “I just don’t know if I can . . .”
She froze in mid-sentence. No one was sitting next to her.
– To Be Continued –