The Eaton Man

This may sound strange but sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.  I was dating a guy for two years.  We got engaged but months before the wedding, we decided that we weren’t right for each other.  Now, he’s engaged to one of my friends and I’m one of the bridesmaids.  The wedding is tomorrow.  It’s going to be strange seeing his family again, especially since they would have been my in-laws.  Still, I know that Nathanael and I made the right decision.  I’m happy for him.  His fiancee, Gina is a great person.  She and I have been friends since high-school.

When I think about it, Nathanael and Gina are perfect for each other.  He and I wouldn’t have worked out.  We loved each other but weren’t in love with each other.  When we announced to his family that the engagement was off, everyone was shocked and very disappointed that there wasn’t going to be a wedding.  They had been looking forward to it.  I noticed that Nathanael’s Dad didn’t say much.  He was a very reserved man.  When I first met him, I wasn’t sure if he approved of me.  Nathanael assured me that his Dad liked me.  He told me that he was a very private person.  He wasn’t an extrovert like his son.  It had been ten years since his wife, Nathanael’s mother, died from heart disease.

When I met Nathanael’s father, I knew I was in big trouble.  I was instantly attracted to him and felt really guilty about it.  I mean, I was dating his son.  What kind of woman I was–dating a guy and being attracted to his father?  I was afraid to go to family get-togethers because I knew I was going to see Mr. Eaton and it worried me that I might end up being alone with him.  What would I do then?  Would I be able to hide my attraction for him?

I’m going to see the family and Mr. Eaton tomorrow at the wedding.  I’m debating whether or not to take someone with me as my guest.  I don’t have a boyfriend.  Since Nathanael and I broke our engagement I haven’t dated anyone.  I suspect that it’s because of Mr. Eaton which is very foolish because I don’t stand a chance with him.  He probably just sees me as Nathanael’s ex-fiancee who is young enough to be his daughter.  Besides, he’s such an attractive man, it won’t be long before there’s a love interest who will be closer to his age.  The thought of him with another woman bothered me greatly.  I pushed it out of my mind and picking up my phone, I call my good friend, Troy and ask him to go to the wedding with me.  Fortunately, he was available.  So, I had a date, well, in a manner of speaking.  Nathanael and Troy never met.

It was the day before the wedding and I was on my way home from the grocery store when I spotted Mr. Eaton.  My heart and pulse immediately began to race.  He was standing just a few feet away, looking at me.  As I stood there debating whether or not I should walk over to him he started walking towards me.  I willed myself to act calm.  When he reached me, I smiled nervously.  “Good afternoon, Mr. Eaton,” I said breathlessly.  I shifted the bags to my left hand so that I could shake his.  I know shaking hands with the man who was almost my father-in-law seemed a bit formal but I was afraid to hug him.

He towered over me although I was wearing heels.  His eyes flickered over my face and there was a slight smile tugging at his lips.  “Hello, Adah.”  He clasped my hand in his large one.  His fingers felt so warm.  “It has been a while since I last saw you.  How have you been?” he asked.

“I–I’ve been well, thanks.  Busy at work.  What about you?”

“I’m happy to hear that you’ve been well.  Ever since Nathanael started dating another girl, I have been wondering how you were.”

He had released my hand and I was holding the bag again rather tightly.  If he only knew how seeing him and being this close to him was affecting me.  “I’m doing fine, Mr. Eaton.  I’m happy for Nathanael and Gina.  I think they will be very happy together.”

“So, it really doesn’t bother you that he’s marrying someone else?”

“No, it doesn’t.  He met the woman who is right for him.”

“What about you?  Have you moved on?”

“Yes, I have.  As-as a matter of fact, I’m bringing a date to the wedding tomorrow.”  Now why did I say that?  I saw his expression change.

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“Well, I have to be going now.  I’m meeting a friend for dinner.  Enjoy the rest of your day.  I’ll see you tomorrow at the wedding.”

“Thanks, you too.  I’ll see you tomorrow.”  I watched him walk away, my heart heavy.  I wanted to run after him and tell him that I hadn’t moved on with someone else and that the person I was bringing to the wedding was just a friend.  Then, I remembered that he said he was having dinner with someone–probably a woman.  Well, that settled it.  He was seeing someone.  I turned and headed in the opposite direction.

I was depressed when I got home.  I didn’t even feel like eating but I forced myself to.  I spent the rest of the afternoon, busying myself with cleaning the apartment because I knew I wouldn’t have time to do so tomorrow.  I went to bed early but it took a long time for me to fall asleep.  I lay awake, staring up at the ceiling and thinking about him.  I was in love with him.  I wondered what Nathanael would say if he knew that I was in love with his father.  Would he be upset, amused or would he feel sorry for me?  I sighed heavily and rolled on to my side. I closed my eyes.  I dreamt that I saw Mr. Eaton having dinner with a beautiful woman at a cozy restaurant.  They were laughing and toasting.  I watched them, feeling miserable but they didn’t notice me.  I dreamt that I told Nathanael that I loved his father but he laughed at me.

When I woke up the next morning, I felt terrible.  I dragged myself out of the bed and fixed myself a light breakfast.  The hours seemed to drag but finally, it was time to get ready for the wedding.  I showered and got dressed.  The car with Gina’s mother and the other bridesmaids drove up just as I came through the doors.

“Thank you, Troy,” I said as I pulled on my coat.  “You look really nice in your suit.”

He thanked me as we left my apartment and walked to the elevator.

It was a 20 minute ride to Gina’s family home where the two limos were to pick us up.  Troy and I arranged to meet at the church after the service and ride over together to the reception.   I rang the doorbell and Gina’s mother let me in.  After we hugged, we went to Gina’s bedroom where she and the other bridesmaids were.  We all hugged each other.  Gina looked lovely.  I gave her a chain which my mother had given me before she passed away.  “Something borrowed,” I said.  I put it around her neck and when she looked at her reflection in the mirror, she was touched.

“Thank you, Adah.  It’s lovely.”

“Now don’t start crying or we’ll all be crying,” I scolded her and she laughed.

We went to the church in separate limos.  I went with Gina’s mother and the other bridesmaids while Gina rode with her paternal uncle who was giving her away.  Her father had passed away when she was seven years old.  It was a beautiful, mild, sunny day.  The guests were still arriving and the parking lot was filling up.  We were ushered to a room where we were to wait until it was time.

And then, the wedding service was on the way.  We walked down the aisle and when the bridesmaids took our seats, my eyes strayed over to where Mr. Eaton was.  He looked really handsome in his three piece suit.  I wondered if the woman he had the dinner with was there.  I forced myself to concentrate on the service.  When it was over, Troy and I headed over to the church.

The reception was held in the Courtyard ballroom at the Vaughn Estate.  The room was elegant and beautifully put together.  I was very impressed.  The bridal party along with their guests sat at one table while the bride and bridegroom sat at another with the groom’s father, the bride’s mother and her uncle.  My eyes kept straying over to where Mr. Eaton was and a couple of times, I caught his eye.  I wondered if we would have a chance to speak to each other before the night was over.  I looked away as Troy and I took our seats.

“Aren’t you going to introduce me to your young man?” A voice inquired a few minutes later.  Startled, I looked up and saw Mr. Eaton standing there.  As usual, my heart and pulse began to race.  He looked so handsome.  His gaze shifted from me to Troy.

“Oh, yes.  Sorry.  Troy, this is Mr. Eaton, the bridegroom’s father.  Mr. Eaton, this is Troy.”

The two men shook hands.  “I’ve been to weddings before but this one is very classy,” Troy said.

Mr. Eaton smiled.  “Thank you.  I’m delighted that you think so.  I hope you enjoy the rest of the evening.”

“Thank you.  I’m sure I will.”

Mr. Eaton’s eyes met mine in a steady stare, making my stomach do crazy things.  “Excuse me,” he said before he turned and walked away.  I watched him go, wishing that he and I could be alone together somewhere.

“Very nice man,” Troy commented.  “He looks extremely good for his age.”

“Yes, he does.”

Troy leaned over and said in a low voice, “I think he likes you.”

I stared at him.  “Really?  What makes you think that?”  Just then, the rest of the party joined us so Troy didn’t get a chance to answer my question.  Bummer.

The food was delicious.  The conversation flowed.  We were all having a great time.  Nathanael and Gina came by our table and stayed for a few minutes before they returned to theirs.  Everyone agreed that it was a fantastic wedding and the banquet hall was perfect.  Soon, dinner was over and it was time to dance.  We watched as the wedded couple danced their first dance.  They looked great together.  I was so thrilled for them.

I didn’t realize that I was alone at my table.  The others were either on the dance floor or had gone off somewhere.  I had no idea where Troy was.  I thought he was going to ask me to dance.  My heart leapt in my chest when I saw Mr. Eaton coming towards me.

“Are you enjoying yourself?” he asked.

“Yes, I am, thank you.  And-and what about you?”

“Yes, I’m happy with how everything has turned out.”

“Yes, things couldn’t have been more perfect.”

“You look so beautiful, Adah.”

I felt so shy and flattered by his compliment.  “Thank you, Mr. Eaton,” I managed to say.

“May I have this dance?” he asked.

Tongue-tied, I nodded and followed him to the dance floor.  Our eyes met briefly before he took me in his arms and we began to move to the music.  I could smell the aftershave.  It felt so good to be so close to him.  He was a terrific dancer and we moved with such ease.  I caught Nathanael’s eye and he smiled and winked at me. Gina looked very pleased too.

After the dance was over, I was expecting him to lead me off the dance floor and back to my table but instead, we ended up outside of the ballroom. “I need to talk to you,” he said urgently.  “We can talk on the walk out patio.  Here, you can put on my jacket.”  He took it off and helped me on with it.  Then, holding my arm, he escorted me out on to the patio.  We were completely alone and where we stood, no one could see us.

We faced each other.  The night was clear and beautiful.  I couldn’t believe that I was wearing his jacket and that we were out here alone together.  My heart was pounding like crazy.  “It has been a wonderful wedding, hasn’t it?  I loved when they read their own vows and they looked so much in love when they danced their first dance and the food was to die for.” I was babbling because I was so nervous.

“Adah, is Troy your boyfriend?”

I shook my head at once.  “No, he’s just a good friend.  He’s more like a brother to me.”

He released his breath.  “You have no idea how relieved I am to hear you say that.”

I stared at him.  “You’re relieved?” I asked.  Why was he relieved that Troy wasn’t my boyfriend?  Could it be…?

“Yes, I’m relieved because it means that you’re not seeing anyone.”

“I’m sorry that I made you think that I was.”

“When my wife, Joan died, I was devastated.  She was my first love and my high-school sweetheart.  Nathanael was our only child.  After Joan died, I withdrew.  I didn’t want to go out and socialize.  I just wanted to be alone to grieve.  I took some bereavement time off and went for grief counseling.  It was hard going to church because Joan was in the church choir.  I missed seeing her with them.  She used to love to sing to the Lord.  She had such a lovely voice.  Family and friends told me that Joan would want me to move on–to be happy again but that seemed very unlikely until I met you.  I was deeply attracted to you the moment I first saw you and it scared me.  It scared me because you were young enough to be my daughter and you were dating my son.  I tried to fight my attraction for you and when Nathanael told me he was going to marry you, I tried to be happy for him but it was so hard because by then I had fallen in love with you.

“I was so torn up over it that I asked God to help me to get over you but for the first time in my life I felt as if my prayers weren’t being answered.  I didn’t know what else to do.  Then, Nathanael and you announced that the wedding was off.  Instead of being sorry, I was relieved.  I wanted to get in touch with you and be there whenever you needed someone to talk to.  And when Nathanael became involved with Gina, I wanted to see you and make sure that you were all right.  I wanted to be your friend–a father figure if you preferred.  I began to hope that in time you would come to care for me but when you told me that you had moved on with someone else and that your were bringing him to the wedding I was heartbroken.”

“Is that why you had to leave?”

“Yes.  It was torture standing there talking to you and knowing that there wasn’t any hope for me.”

“You said that you were meeting a friend for dinner.  Was the friend a woman?”

“No.  It was Jim, an old buddy of mine.”

I breathed a sigh of relief.  “I was so afraid that it was a woman.  That’s what stopped me from coming after you.”

“Why did you want to come after me?” he asked.

“I wanted to tell you that I hadn’t moved on with anyone and that my date was just a very good friend.”

“If you had done that I would have told you right there and then how I felt about you.”

“I didn’t think that you had feelings for me because of my age and my past relationship with Nathanael.”

“Adah, is there any hope for me?”

“So, you don’t want to be friends?”

“No.  I want more,” he muttered.  “Much, much more.”

I moved closer.  “Me too.”

He reached up and cupped my face between his hands.  “I love you, Adah,” he murmured huskily.

“I love you too, Mr. Eaton.”

“Call me Robert.”

“I love you, Robert.”  I put my arms around his waist and closed my eyes when I felt his lips on mine.

We got engaged a couple of weeks later and married in May.  It’s funny when I think about it.  Things didn’t work between Nathanael and me for one very good reason–he wasn’t the Eaton man I was meant to spend the rest of my life with.

If two people are meant to be together, nothing can keep them apart – Sarah

Matt’s Story

large-1531167473-1c546e4b85f6c127d98bd3212423c485A couple of years ago, my world as I knew it was turned upside down.  I was 17 and at my cousin, Rose’s wedding.  At the reception, a relative who had way too much to drink, put his arm around me and said, “I don’t know about the rest of the family but I’m sure glad that your Mama didn’t abort you ’cause you turned out to be a fine lad.  Yes, a fine lad.  You’re not at all like your Daddy.”

I stared at him, shocked and shaken.  What was he talking about?  Why would my mother have considered aborting me and what about my father?  Did he know who my father was?  Was he for real or was it the liquor.

I politely removed his arm from around my shoulders and excused myself.  I went out on the terrace to get a breath of fresh air.  My mind was spinning and my heart was pounding.  A feeling of dread came over me.  My mother died a year ago from pneumonia.  She never told me who my father was and whenever I asked about him, she would say, “the only father you have is God Almighty.  He takes care of you better than any earthly father can.”  After a while, I stopped asking her.   On my birth certificate it said “unknown” where my father’s name should have been.  I hoped that one day I would find out who and where he was.

My mother never married.  She was a single, hardworking mother who raised me as best as she could.  I know she loved me and that she wanted me to have a good life.  At night after she read to me, she got down on her knees and prayed.  She was always praying for me.  I loved my mother very much and I was devastated when she died.  After she died, I moved in with my grandmother.

After what the relative told me I couldn’t enjoy the wedding.  I kept playing his words over and over in my mind.  I couldn’t wait for the morning to come when I would talk to my grandmother about it.  I know that if anyone could give me answers, it would be her.  So, when we were sitting around the table having breakfast, I asked her, “Grandma, did Mama want to abort me?”  I knew I should have broached this in a more delicate way but I was desperate for answers.

Her face went pale and she dropped her fork.  “Where did you hear that?” she asked.

“Some distant relative, I don’t remember his name, said that he was glad that Mama didn’t abort me.”

“Eat your breakfast.”

“Is it true, Grandma?  Was Mama going to abort me?”

“No!  Your Mama was a godly woman.  She would never have agreed to an abortion even though her father and other people were trying to talk her into it.”

“Grandpa wanted her to have an abortion?”  I couldn’t believe it.  I adored my grandfather.  He was like a father to me.  His death five years ago really hit me hard.

“Yes.  He thought it would have been thing for her.”

“But why?”

“Matt, what does it matter?  You’re here, aren’t you?  Why don’t we forget about the past and move on?”

“Grandma, I need to know.  Please!”

My grandmother buried her face in her hands which were trembling slightly.  “Oh, Matt, I wish you didn’t have to know the truth.”

I was getting scared now.  Part of me was afraid to hear the truth and the other part had to.  “Please tell me, Grandma.  Was it to do with my father?”

She dropped her hands and I saw the anger and rage on her face.  “Your father was a monster!” she cried.

“Who was he?  Is he still alive?”

“Yes, he’s still alive and still rotting in prison.”

“Prison!  Why is he in prison?”

“Matt…”

“Grandma, I need to know.”

“He’s serving 30 years in prison for…rape and incest.”

“I–I don’t understand

“Matt, your mother got pregnant when she was raped by her brother.”

The color drained from my face.  I felt sick.  I got up from the table and dashed into the washroom where I threw up.  When I was done, I flushed the toilet, rinsed my mouth and washed my face with cold water.  My hands were shaking.  My grandmother was standing behind me.  I turned to face her and she put her arms around me and hugged me tightly.  We were both crying.

“This is why I didn’t want to tell you,” she said after a while.  “It’s a shameful thing that this family has had to deal with and that is why some of us, excluding me, wanted your mother to have an abortion.  They were thinking about her well-being but once your mother insisted that she was going to have you, we all tried to protect you from the truth.  It was your grandfather’s idea that she put “unknown” for the father’s name.”

“Why did she keep me? Wasn’t I a painful reminder of what happened to her?”

“She kept you because she loved you and she didn’t see a painful reminder of what your father did to her.  She saw a beautiful and precious gift from God.”

The rest of that day was a blur.  I was so overcome with pain and guilt that I became withdrawn and depressed.  My grandmother was very concerned about me and she tried to get me counseling.  It helped–somewhat.  And after I graduated from high-school, she sent me away to South Africa to study and live at the university there.  She would take care of my tuition and anything else I needed.  “It would do you good to get far away from here,” she said.  “You’ll be in a new country and meet new people.  Forget about the ugly past.  Live your life the best you know how for your mother’s sake.  Write me.  Don’t come back here.  When I can, I will come and visit you.”

So, at her insistence, I left Virginia and moved to South Africa.  I asked my grandmother why she choice South Africa of all countries to send me and she told me it was where she met my grandfather.   When I arrived in Cape Town, I knew that I was going to love living there.  Life on campus was a great experience for me.  I met diverse students and forged several life-long friendships.  I enjoyed my studies and had a relatively active social life.  There were lots of pretty girls but I wasn’t interested in dating at that time.  I wanted to focus on my studies.

Then, in my third year at the university, I met Joycelin, a girl from Namibia and a 765full-sydney-nelsonfreshman.   I remember the first time she smiled at me, I felt as if my heart had stopped.  A mutual friend introduced us when a group of us went on a Saturday morning to visit the Penguins at Boulders Beach.  Joycelin and I immediately hit it off and we spent most of the time together, getting to know each other.  By the time we were on our way back to campus, I knew that I wanted to date this girl.  And I did.  Our friends, especially the one who introduced us, were thrilled.

I wrote my grandmother about Joycelin and sent her photos of us.  She was happy for me.  I was relieved that she didn’t have a problem with me dating an African girl.  I know that other members of my family would, however, including the relative who made that careless remark about my mother at my cousin’s wedding.

Things were going well for me and after I graduated from university, I moved into a waterfront apartment which wasn’t far from where I worked.  Joycelin was still living on campus but we phoned each other during the week and saw each other on the weekends.  I was getting pretty serious about her but always at the back of my mind I asked myself how she would feel about me if she were to find out about my father.  I found out one day.

Joycelin and I were in De Waal Park on a Saturday afternoon when the subject of abortion came up.  “How do you feel about abortion?” she asked me.

Her question startled me.  “I don’t know.”

“I’m against it,” she said.

“Even–even in cases of rape and incest?” I asked, my heart pounding.

She nodded.  “Yes.  The life of a child born of rape or incest is just as valuable as a child born under normal circumstances.  Ending the life of the child of a person who has committed rape or incest isn’t the solution. The law should punish the criminal, not kill his child.”

“You really believe that, don’t you?”

“Of course, I do.  And the Bible says that ‘a child won’t bear a parent’s guilt, and a parent won’t bear a child’s guilt.'”  She looked at me closely, frowning and there was concerned expression on her sweet face.  “Matt, are you okay?  You look pale.”

“Joycelin, I have something to tell you.”

She slipped her hand in mind.  “What is it?” she asked.  “You can tell me anything.”

I closed my eyes and told her the awful truth about my birth.  I didn’t realize that I was crying until I felt her fingers brush against my cheeks.  I opened my eyes and found myself staring into her tearful face.  “That’s why I said I didn’t know how I feel about abortion.  There were times when I felt it might have been better if my mother had aborted me because I was a reminder of what happened to her.”

“Matt, you’re not to blame for what happened.  Your mother chose to keep you because she loved you.  She saw you as a beautiful and precious gift not a horrible and painful reminder of what happened to her.  She chose to give you life and the best way to honor that choice, is to live your life to the fullest.”

I held her face between my hands and whispered brokenly, “I love you.”

She smiled.  “I love you too.”

“I wish my mother could have met you,”

“I wish I could have met her.  She sounds like a remarkable woman.  I believe you are the way you are because of her.  She was a godly woman.  God heard her prayers for you and He answered them.  She would be extremely proud of how you’ve turned out.”

“That’s what my grandmother said.  Her, you will get to meet when she visits me in December.  She’s coming for Christmas.”

“That’s great.  Speaking of Christmas, my family are flying over too.  I can’t wait for them to meet you.”

“Good.  It will give me a chance to ask your father permission to marry you.”

She stared at me, her eyes and mouth wide open.  “Are you serious?”

I nodded and replied,  “Yes, I’m very serious”  before I lowered my head and kissed her.

Ten years have passed since I learned the truth about my the circumstances of my birth.  The guilt and shame I felt all these years are gone now.  I have accepted that I have done nothing deserving of death and I will live the life I have been given to its fullest.    Joycelin and I are engaged.  The wedding is next year Spring.  She’s teaching me about God and like my mother, she prays for me regularly.   I’m thankful that God blessed me with three phenomenal women–my mother, Joycelin and my grandmother.  The life He has given me I will live worthily for Him and for them.

A child conceived in violence is himself innocent and created in the image of God. He has done nothing to deserve the death sentence, any more than a child conceived in a loving marriage – Human Life International

The solution to incest is not abortion, but prosecution of the criminal so he does not commit more crimes, and loving care for his victims so that they experience true physical and emotional healing – Human Life International

Matt is a fictional character, but there are real men and women out there who were conceived in rape.  Read their stories.

It takes courage for a woman who chooses to go through with an unplanned pregnancy but it takes far greater courage for the one whose child was conceived by rape or incest.

Sources:   University of Cape TownWikipediaStudent World Online;

From Self-harm to Self-love

39a1ef3b-4d0c-44bb-ad22-cd952e418c41Neeha always wore long sleeves even when it was hot and humid outside because she didn’t want anyone, especially her friends to see the ugly cuts on her arms.  She wanted to stop cutting herself but she couldn’t seem to.  It started when she became pregnant and told her mother who said, “Unless you get married or give up your baby for adoption, I won’t have anything more to do with you.  What you have done is a disgrace to the family–getting pregnant before you’re even married.”

Neeha was devastated.  She needed her mother but was rejected–shunned.  Marriage was out of the question.  Her baby’s father was already married and he didn’t even want to acknowledge the child.  He had even suggested that Neeha have an abortion which he was willing to pay for but she refused.  The thought of killing an unborn child horrified her.  So, she decided to go through with pregnancy.  When she started to show she would wear loose clothing.

When things got really bad and she felt there was nowhere or no one to turn to, she began to harm herself.  She used a pair of scissors to do it.  Soon, the beautiful, clear skin on her arms was covered in red, ugly welts.  What she was doing to herself horrified and repulsed her but she couldn’t seem to help it.  It was better than turning to drugs or alcohol or even committing suicide.

At the office, she would go into the bathroom and cut herself and when she came out no one suspected anything.  She kept to herself because she feared the backlash from her mother and the rest of the family.  This kind of behavior wasn’t something one would imagine would happen in an Asian family.  It wasn’t something that they would want to acknowledge or talk about or want their white friends and neighbors to know about.

One afternoon, she was flipping through the channels when she came across a program.  It was a sermon.  She decided to watch it.  It was about a demon possessed man who was living among the tombs.  He was naked and in chains which he broke.  What got her interest is that the man cut himself with stones.  When she heard how Jesus freed the man from the demons and clothed the man, she began to cry.  The man was in his right mind and no longer hurting himself.  She heard the preacher say, “Jesus can help you just like He helped this man.  Whatever you’re going through, come to Jesus, fall at His feet and He will free you.  He will heal you.  You don’t have to go through what you’re going through alone anymore.  Jesus can help you.  All you have to do is to cry out to Him and He will hear you.”

At the end of the service, there was a free offer of a book, entitled, Hurts So Good: Exposing the Lies of Self-Injury.  She quickly scribbled down the information and sent for a copy.  Afterwards, she cried out to Jesus whom she had heard so much about.  Now, she needed Him.  She wanted to believe that He could help her.  Tears poured down her face as she asked Him to free her from this cycle of intentional self-injury like He freed the demoniac.

When she was finished, the tears subsided and she felt a peace she had never experienced in her life before settle over her.  She knew then that Jesus had answered her prayer.   With the nine action steps outlined in the book, she was on the path to hope and healing in Christ.  She replaced the knife or scissor blade with the Bible and its promises.  She gave birth to a healthy baby girl and called her, Prutha which means “daughter of love”.

Neeha found a church nearby and began to attend their worship services every week while her best friend, Farha took care of Prutha.  There at the church, Neeha met Safal, a widower with a five year old son.  They struck a friendship which soon blossomed into a romance.  Two years later, they got married.  Neeha’s mother attended the wedding.  She apologized to her daughter for the way she treated her.  Neeha readily accepted her apology.  She was just happy to be back on speaking terms with her mother.  Prutha never knew about her biological father.  As far as Neeha was concerned, Safal was her father.  He was happy to adopt her as his own.  He doted on her and she adored him.

Neeha is currently expecting another child and she is ecstatic.  Prutha is now six and is excited about having a baby brother or sister and Taj, Safal, son, whom she adopted, was looking forward to the new addition to the family as well.  Neeha is thankful that she watched that Christian program.  It changed her life in so many ways.  She is a volunteer for an organization called, Samaritans, a unique charity dedicated to reducing feelings of isolation and disconnection that can lead to suicide.   Some of the people she has helped were victims of self-harm and a few of them have requested prayers.

Self-harm is a very serious issue.  If you find it difficult to speak to a family member or a friend or even a co-worker, here are organizations you can reach out to for help:

  • Samaritans – The Samaritans provide a free anonymous helpline. Someone will listen and help you, 24 hours of the day on 116 123. (UK)
  • Harmless – A user-led organisation for people who self-harm, and their friends and families.

You can also ask your GP to give you advice and direct you to the best place to get help, whether it is counselling or some form of treatment.

Self-harm is something that can happen among Christians as well.  Read this story of a Christian student who struggled with self-injury.  Please reach out for help.  Don’t let fear or shame prevent you.  Take the first step toward healing.  Take the path from self-harm to self-love.

Source:  Desiblitz; Samaritans; Blue Letter Bible

Folani’s Story

photo-1553394951-efd4b4aadd2bMy name is Folani.  At the age of 16, I was forced to marry the man who raped me so that I wouldn’t bring shame on my family.  He wanted to marry me but after I rejected him, he raped me.  I told my my mother what he had done to me and she insisted that if he still wanted to marry me that I should consent.  “No other man is going to want you,” she told me.  “Be grateful if Mr. Adebayo still does.”

“But, Mama, he raped me.”

“And whose fault is that?”

I couldn’t believe how unfeeling and uncaring she was.  I wished my father were still alive.  He would have had Mr. Adebayo arrested and charged.  I wished I had older brothers who would make Mr. Adebayo pay for what he did to me.  I wouldn’t want them to kill him, of course.  There are other ways to make a person pay for what they have done without taking their life.

I got no sympathy from my mother or my step-father and when Mr. Adebayo asked their permission to marry me, they consented.  I know he wanted to marry me because he wanted to avoid punishment and prosecution.  He was a government official and he had his “reputation” to think about.  I had no choice but to go along with this.  I had brought my family into disrepute and the only way to preserve my family name and avoid a life of sexual shame was to marry the man who raped me.  This was the only way to prevent the social stigma of pre-marital sex.

The night before the wedding, I cried bitterly.  I didn’t want to marry this man.  I didn’t want to stop going to school.  I had dreams of becoming a doctor but now those dreams were squashed.  I lay in my bed curled up, wishing I could die.  Death would be better than the future.

I married Mr. Adebayo and we lived in his big house on the hill.  He was abusive to me, demanding his rights as my husband.  He struck me when he tried to touch me and I pulled away.  Night after night, I was raped.  I became pregnant but I miscarried because of repeated domestic violence.  Just when I didn’t think I could take any more of the physical and sexual abuse, my husband suddenly died.  I could have run away and left him there in the floor but I called the police.

It turned out that he died from cardiac arrest.  After the funeral, his sister and mother threw me out of the house.  I didn’t return home to my mother and step-father.  I went to my paternal grandmother who let me stay with her.  When I told her all that had happened to me, she cried and prayed over me.

While I stayed with her, she read the Bible to me and told me about God and Jesus.  I listened.  I missed going to school but my grandmother couldn’t afford to send me.  One night, I got down on my knees and asked God to help me.  I couldn’t give up my dream of becoming a doctor one day.  The next day, someone from Camfed came to my grandmother’s house.  They had heard about my situation through its network of former students who had been supported through their education program.  The charity offered to pay my school fees, and provides books, uniforms and sanitary protection.  As my grandmother and I listened, I knew that God had answered my prayers.  Thanks for Camfed has enabled more than two million girls like me to go to school has made my dream of becoming a doctor a reality.

After I graduated from school, I went on to university.  I chose to live on campus but visited my grandmother every weekend.  I thank her for telling me about God and I thank God for coming through for me.  I wish I had run away from home and gone to live with my grandmother instead of marrying Mr. Adebayo but I was afraid that I would bring shame on her.

When I told her this, she reached for my hand and gently squeezed it.  “You wouldn’t have brought any shame to me, Folani child.  What happened to you wasn’t your fault.  A wicked and evil man violated you and to avoid what was due him, he, your mother and step-father forced you to marry him.  You’re free of him now that he’s dead and you are free to live the life God has planned for you.  Now you can become a doctor–the first in your community and family.  Your father would be very proud of you.”

With tears in my eyes, I hugged her tightly.  “Kutenda, Ambuya.”

Folani’s story is fiction but there are true stories of girls who have been forced into marriages because of poverty, economic hardships, difficult circumstances and protection from sexual violence.  Advocates for rape-marriage laws argue that they shield the victim and her family from the shame of rape.  This isn’t true.  This law benefits the rapist and the girl’s family.  The girl has no say in the matter and is forced to marry the man who violated her.  She is forced to drop out of school and forsake her future which only education could make possible and be in a marriage which more often than not is abusive.

I urge you to help Camfed which is changing the lives of girls through education; Girls Not Brides, a global partnership of more than 1300 civil society organisations committed to ending child marriage and enabling girls to fulfil their potential; Girl UP which believes that Girls are powerful. Girls have limitless potential. Girls can change the world. And yet in certain places around the world, girls continue to lack access to opportunities; CARE which is working towards gender equality, women’s empowerment, champions among men and boys, and an end to violence against women and Forward, the African women-led organisation working to end violence against women and girls.

Marriage is a choice not something to be coerced into.  Education not marriage should be a girl’s priority.  Marriage is between an adult man and woman not between an adult and a child.  And girls who are raped should be protected by the law and their families and not forced to marry their rapists to save him persecution and jail time or to safe the family face.  Rape is a crime and should be treated as such.

Take action to help girls like Gloria, who was forced into marriage at 12 and a widow twice by the time she was 17, to have an education and a future.  Help them to fulfill their dreams.

Sources:  Wikipedia; UN Women; BBC News; UNFPA

Mia’s Story

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Ours isn’t your typical love story.  I was a victim of human sex trafficking and he’s an FBI agent.  My name is Mia and I’m 28 years old.  I was 18 when I ran away from home.  I was having problems with my mother who always made me feel like I was no good and that she was sorry that she had me.  And my father who was hardly around and when he was, he fought with my mother and ignored me.

Life at home was hell and sometimes I just wished it was a nightmare and that I would wake up in a different house and with different parents–people who loved and cared about me.  It got to the point that I knew that if I didn’t leave, I would kill myself.  One night after my parents had gone to bed, I grabbed my knapsack and sneaked out of the house.  I had some money which I took from my mother’s purse and my father’s wallet.  I didn’t have time to count the amount but it looked like it would last me for a while.

It lasted for a couple of weeks and then I was broke.  I had no idea of what to do.  I had no where to go.  I refused to go back home.  I called other family members but they hung up when they knew that it was me.  I was too ashamed to call my friends.  So, I decided that may be I should find a job at McDonald’s or some other fast food place.  It was better than staying on the streets or going to a homeless shelter.

I stood there trying to figure out where the nearest MacDonald’s was when a really cute guy came up to me.  He had the most incredible blue eyes and an amazing smile.  “Hi,” he said.  “Are you lost?”

“I’m trying to find a McDonald’s,” I explained.  “I’m looking for a job.”

“I see.  It just so happens that I work at a restaurant just around the corner and the manager is looking to hire a cashier.  Are you interested?”

My expression brightened.  “Of course!  I’ve worked as a cashier before.”

“Good.  I’m heading there now so I can introduce you to the manager.”

“Okay.”

“What’s your name?”

“Mia.”

“I’m Joe.”  He held out his hand.

She smiled and shook it.  “Nice to meet you, Joe.”

We headed in the direction of the Space Needle.  I promised myself that one day I would visit it.  As we walked we talked.  He was so charming and easygoing.  I found myself hoping that he didn’t have a girlfriend.  About ten minutes later, we stopped in front of a restaurant.  It was packed.  He pushed the door open for me to enter.  The smell of fried food assailed me and reminded me that I was hungry.

As if he read my mind, he asked, “Are you hungry?”

I nodded.  “I haven’t eaten all day.”

He took me by the elbow and led me down a long corridor and into a room.  “Sit here while I go and get something for you to eat.”

I sat down, grateful for his kindness and to be able to sit down after being on my feet for so long.  Fading light streamed through the windows.  The sun would be setting soon.  I hoped that Joe was right about his manager and that he would hire me.  It would be so cool working there with Joe.  I was feeling a little hot so I removed my jacket.  I pulled my hair back into a ponytail.  I was about to get up and walk over to the window and look out when Joe came in carrying a tray with a burger, fries and a soft drink.  He set them down on the table.  My mouth was watering.  “Thanks, Joe.”

He smiled.  “No problem.  When you’re finished just come to the front where the cashier is and I’ll be there.”

“Thanks.”  I waited until he left before I wolfed down the burger and fries.  They were sooo good.  I drank the Ginger-ale.  It was nice and cold.  I was half-way through it when I started to feel dizzy.  The room started to spin and I squeezed my eyes shut.  When I opened them again, I was in another room and there was a strange man standing over me.  Was this the manager?  Had I passed out or something?  Did I eat too fast?  All sorts of questions whirled around in my mind.  My head was pounding but at least the room wasn’t spinning and the dizziness was gone.  I tried to sit up but the man pushed me down.  Panicking, I cried out but he put something over my nose and mouth and everything went black.res

When I regained consciousness I was alone and I realized that I was lying on a bed.  I managed to sit up and I screamed when I saw that I was wearing red lingerie.  How did I end up here?  Who removed my clothes?  Where are my clothes?  I looked wildly about the room for my clothes.  I tried to get out of the bed but the door opened and Joe came in.  He grabbed me and tried to force me to lie back down.  I struggled wildly and he struck me.  I was so shocked that I fell back against the pillows.  Joe looked like a different person.  His eyes were cold and his expression impassive.  “You’re not going anywhere,” he muttered.  “You’re going to be here for a long time.”

“Where am I?” I asked, tears streaming down my face.  “Who are you and why are you doing this to me?”

“I don’t have time to answer your questions.”

“What is this place?  Why have you brought me here?”

“You wanted a job, remember?  Well, here you are.”

I struggled to get up.  “You told me that it was a cashier’s job at your restaurant.”

“You’re far too pretty to be a cashier.  You will make more money on your back.”

Then, it hit me.  He was forcing me into prostitution.  I felt sick.  I clawed at him until he clamped his hand over my nose and mouth.  Everything went black again.  I don’t know how long I was out but when I came to, I heard Joe say to someone, “She’s all yours.  I broke her in for you and she’s nicely cleaned up.  Remember to wear a rubber.  We practice safe sex here.  She’s no use to me if she gets pregnant and I’m not to spend my hard earned money on an abortion.”

I heard the door open and close.  Then silence.  I opened my eyes and I saw a man leaning over me.  I felt his hot breath on my face.  I struggled to get up but I couldn’t move.  Then, I realize that he was on top of me.  I pushed at him but it was no use.  I lay there helpless while he raped me.

When it was over, he got off me and I heard him moving about the room as he got dressed.  Then, I heard the door open and close.  I lay there for a long time, too terrified to move or make a sound.  Then, I pushed myself up and got up from the bed.  I put on the lingerie bottom which was lying on the floor and stumbled towards the closed door.  It was a washroom.  I felt for the switch and flicked it on.  I went over to the mirror and stared at my reflection.  I didn’t recognize myself.  My eyes were puffy, my jaw was bruised from where Joe struck me and my left shoulder had a bruise as well.  I turned on the tap and splashed water on my face.  I had to get out of there.  I went to the window and opened it.  I pushed my head out.  Outside was a fire escape.  I raised the window higher and climbed onto the ledge.  I reached out and pulled myself onto the fire escape.  I made my way down to the street below and ran as fast as I could.

When I was as far away from that place as possible, I flagged a cab down and when it stopped, I begged the driver to take me to the nearest hospital.  When I got there I went straight to Emergency and told the triage person what happened to me.  I was ushered into a room where I was told to wait.  Minutes later a nurse came in and asked me “Did anyone you worked for or lived with trick or force you into doing anything you did not want to do?” and other questions.  Then, she left and returned.  She asked me to get undressed so that I could be examined and left.  After the examination, I was given a gown.  I sat at the edge of the bed and waited.

The nurse who examined me came in and told me that I was a victim of sex trafficking.  There was evidence of forced penetration and bruising on my wrists as if I were restrained.  She asked if there was anyone I needed to call or somewhere to stay.  I shook my head.  I was in a daze.  I still couldn’t believe what had happened to me.  I had fallen for a pair of blue eyes and a charming smile.  The nurse told me that the hospital would help me with housing, transportation and any necessities I may need.  That was a real load off my shoulders.  I spent the night in the hospital.  I had trouble falling asleep because every time I closed my eyes I saw either Joe’s or that strange man’s face.  And I was afraid that I would wake up and find myself back in that room.

The next day, I was visited by two FBI agents who wanted to question me.  One was an older man with sandy colored hair, sharp eyes and a portly gait.  The other was tall, dark and very handsome.  The older one asked most of the questions and was very quick and direct.  Then, the other one said, “You were lucky to get out of there alive.  You did the right thing coming here.”

“I hope you catch Joe,” I said.  “I wish I knew the other man’s name.”

“It would be very helpful if you can give their descriptions to our artist,” he replied.

“I can,” I assured them tightly.  “I will never forget their faces.”

“Thank you, Miss Bautista,” the older one said.  “We will be in touch.  Good-day.”  He left the room.

The other one lingered for a moment.  “Good-day, Miss Bautista.”

“Good-day, Agent Fowler.”  I watched him leave.

I left the hospital that afternoon and was placed in Catalyst at Straley House where I can stay for 18 months while I work with my case manager to get connected to school and employment, and transition into permanent housing.   It turned out to be a really nice place.  I met a lot of great people.  My case manager, Rita was a tremendous help and support for me.  Before leaving home, I had graduated from high-school with honors but I hadn’t applied to any university.  After my ordeal in Seattle, I decided that I would move to another city in Washington.  I googled the best cities there and chose Spokane.  I applied to Gonzaga University and was accepted.

Before I left to go to live on campus, I received a visit from Agent Fowler who informed me that thanks to my descriptions Joe Cartwright and his cohorts were arrested.   The man who raped me was a prominent businessman who was a regular client.  Joe was a pimp and his victims included under-aged girls.  It turned out that Mr. Murphy had no clue about Joe’s nefarious business dealings.  Joe had used Mr. Murphy’s job posting to gain my trust.  I was very grateful to Agents Fowler and Benson for investigating and catching those monsters.  I hope that they will spend the rest of their lives behind bars.  I told Agent Fowler that I was moving to Spokane.  He smiled and shook my hand.  “I wish you all the best, Miss Bautista.”

As I watched him leave, I found myself hoping that I would see him again.  Years later, I did.  I had graduated from Gonzaga University and was working as a Youth Program Assistant which I loved.  I was on my way to lunch when I saw someone walking in front of me.  From the back he looked very familiar and then I realized who it was.  I quickened my pace until I was right behind him and I called out, “Agent Fowler.”

He stopped and turned to face me.  I could see that he recognized me.  Smiling, he held out his hand.  “Miss Bautista.  It’s good to see you.”

“I didn’t think I would run into you.  What are you doing in Spokane?”

“I’m here for my nephew’s wedding which is tomorrow.”

“Did you fly or drive?”

“I flew.  I didn’t feel like spending over four hours behind the wheel. Are you heading somewhere?”

“I was on my way to lunch.”

“Do you mind if I tag along?”

“I could do with the company.  There’s a bistro right up the road.  They serve the best comfort food.”

“Sounds good.”

We walked to the bistro.  Over local beef and regional fresh fish, we talked.  When it was time for me to head back to the office, he came with me.  As we stood outside the building, he asked me to have dinner with him.  I gladly accepted.  After that first dinner, we made arrangements to see each other again.  He spent the week in Spokane before he flew back.  We had a long distance relationship and saw each other in the summer, at Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.  Then, one day when we were Riverfront Park, he told me that he was moving to the FBI office in Spokane.

I stared up at him.  “Why?” I asked.  I was thrilled, of course but taken aback.

He reached for my hands, his expression serious as his eyes met mine.  “I want to be where you are, Mia,” he said quietly.

I swallowed hard, my heart was racing now.  “Why?”

“Simple, I love you.”

“I love you too, Nathan.  And I’m happy that you’re moving to Spokane.”

He leaned over and kissed me.  I felt my head explode.  We drew apart several minutes later and holding hands, we continued our walk.  The following spring, he moved to Spokane and following a very short engagement, we got married in September.  The attendees were Rita, my case manager, my friends from Catalyst, my co-workers and his FBI friends and family.  My parents weren’t there because I didn’t invite them.  They are a painful part of my past which I want to forget.

Ten years have passed since my ordeal and what thing that I have learned from it is that “Our pain can be turned into purpose”  This March, I started a support group for former sex and human trafficking victims.

While Mia’s story is fiction, it is real for many.  Trafficking of any kind is an evil that must be wiped out and those responsible for it must be brought to justice.  Check out this video for a grim glimpse into the world of child sex trafficking and what is being done to save victims.

Here is a list of non-profit organizations fighting against Human Trafficking:

Let’s work together to stop trafficking and exploitation.  Let’s fight for freedom.

Sources:  FBI Video; Nurse.com; Nurse.org; FBI; YouthCare; Yelp

News of a Wedding/Span #writephoto

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Photo by Sue Vincent

Although my gaze was fixed upon the water as it rushed forth as if it were late for an appointment, my heart was otherwise engaged in a very distressing matter–a matter which has placed my very constitution for happiness in grave danger.

The whispers of the impending nuptials between George Allerton, my employer and the beautiful Lydia Bridewell have been growing louder.  Yesterday, I overheard Alice, the maid telling Beatrice, the cook that the wedding could be as early as a fortnight.  I wanted to inquire of Mrs. Moore, the housekeeper, if this were true but thought it best not to touch on the subject for fear of betraying my feelings if she did confirm it.  So, I held my tongue and suffered in silence.

For his part, Mr. Allerton has said nothing to me which I find to be very strange as it would be imperative for me to find employment elsewhere.  The thought of leaving Riverdale Manor, little Amy and Mr. Allerton fills me with torment.  Over a span of four years, I have grown to love my life here.  I cannot imagine finding the same happiness elsewhere.

Necessity bids me now to bring the matter of my leaving before Mr. Allerton as soon as possible.  I have made up my mind to broach the subject this evening after dinner and when we are alone in the drawing-room where he and I have spent many evenings together engaged in stimulating conversations.  It is obvious to me that he enjoys my company as much as I enjoy his and it warms my heart that he treats me not as a servant but as an equal.

My gaze swept over the beautiful landscape with the lush green grass and trees which swayed gently in the breeze.  I shall miss this place which has brought me such joy and peace.  I shall miss the solitude and the walks I have enjoyed with Mr. Allerton.   I shall miss seeing little Amy chasing after butterflies while I read or sketched.  And I shall miss Mrs. Moore who has been so kind and good to me.

Tears pricked my eyes and I turn to head back to the manor when I espied Mr. Allerton striding towards me.  I stood there, my heart racing.  Perhaps, he was coming to address the very matter I wanted to bring to his attention this evening.  He had been in town on business.  The manor was never the same when he wasn’t there.  When he went away for days and weeks at a time, it was torture for me.  I missed him dreadfully.

He was standing before me now, his hair as black as the night was tousled from his habit of running his fingers through the thick tresses and his face was slightly flushed from the exercise.  His eyes raked my face making me feel as little self-conscious.  I touched my face which felt hot.

“Miss Foster,” he said as he towered over me.  “I was told that I might find you here.  How have you been?”

I wanted to say that I have been miserable because he had been away and because of the news of Miss Bridewell and him.  Instead, I stepped back a little, attempted a smile and replied, “I have been well, Sir.”

He studied me with those penetrating dark brown eyes of his.  “You don’t look well,” he said, looking concerned.  “In fact, you look very pale.  Are you unwell?”

“No, Sir.  I’m fine.”

He didn’t look convinced but he didn’t press the matter.  “Let us stand over there in the shade,” he suggested.  I followed him over to a group of trees and we stood under their shade.

Perhaps now was the time for me to bring the matter of my leaving to his attention.  Taking a deep breath, my hands tightly clasped in front of me, I said, “Sir, it has come to my attention that I need to find myself another situation.  I will advertise and hopefully find a suitable position very soon.”

He stared at me.  “What the deuce are you talking about?” he demanded.  “What new situation and why should you advertise?  I think you may have been out in the sun too long, Miss Foster.”

“Sir, it would not do for me to remain in your employ after you are married.”

“Married?  Now, I know you have taken leave of your senses.  Where the devil did you get the idea that I’m getting married?”

“There has been talk of your upcoming nuptials to Miss Bridewell and—”

“Miss Bridewell and I?” he exclaimed.

“Yes, it is believed that in a fortnight you two shall wed.”

He laughed.  “It is true that in a fortnight, Miss Bridewell shall wed but it shall not be to me.”

I looked at him, confused.  “But, Sir, everyone said that she was to wed Mr. Allerton.”

“Yes, she is to wed James Allerton, my cousin.”

I was so overwhelmed with relief that I had to lean against the tree lest my legs give way beneath me.  When I heard the name Mr. Allerton in relation to Miss Bridewell, I just assumed that it was him to whom they referred.  I had forgotten all about his cousin, James whom I recalled had been particularly attentive towards Miss Bridewell whenever they were in each other’s company.

“There is color in your cheeks again, Miss Foster,” Mr. Allerton remarked now, watching me closely.  “I suspect that it has to do with my clearing up a little misunderstanding.”

“Yes, Sir.  It means that it is no longer necessary for me to quit your employ.  I can stay at Riverdale for as long as I am needed here.”

His expression became very serious and he moved closer to me.  “What if I needed you to stay permanently at Riverdale?”

My eyes widened.  “Permanently?” I repeated.  “What about when Amy no longer needs a governess or you decide to marry?”

He reached for my hand.  The feel of his warm fingers against mine made my heart flutter and my breath quicken.  His eyes met mine in a steady gaze.  “Miss Foster—Emma, Amy is no longer in need of a governess,” he said quietly.  “She’s in need of a mother and I am in need of a wife.”

I gawked at him.  “You mean…?”

“Yes, my dear Emma, I am asking you to marry me.”

I felt as if I were in a dream, one from which I hoped never to wake.  This was all so incredible.  My heart was pounding wildly against my ribs and my face was on fire.  “But what will everyone think of you marrying someone beneath your station?”

“When it comes to my heart and what constitutes my happiness, I care not about what others think. And I have always treated you as my equal and not as someone beneath my station.”

I smiled.  “That is true, Sir.”

He smiled.  “Since I am soon to be your husband, don’t you think it’s time you called me George?”

“Yes, George.”

He didn’t answer.  Instead, he held my face between his hands and kissed me.  My heart was bursting with happiness.

At the end of summer, we were wed.

 

This was written for the #writephoto Prompt – Span at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

Love Lives On/Tranquil #writephoto

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Photo by Sue Vincent

I stood there in the secluded spot and tranquil place where we used to meet.  It was our secret place where we could love each other freely.  Back there it was against the law for a white man and a black woman to have relations.  Race mixing as they called it was banned.  The punishment for interracial marriage to be a year in jail and the white person was fined $100 fine.  The person who officiated an interracial wedding was fined $200.  How I hated those laws.  They were passed by ignorant and racist people who couldn’t accept that people of different races could fall in love with each other.

My parents were just as intolerant.  They believed that people should stick to their own kind–you know, to keep the races pure.  They even used the Bible to validate their racist views.  I read the Bible myself and nowhere did it prohibit interracial love.  In fact, there were examples of mixed marriages.  I hated going to a school where blacks weren’t allowed and even church which was to be the temple of the God who created all races, blacks weren’t allowed to worship with us.  I hated living in a state that was so intolerant.  I promised myself that I would leave it as soon as I was old enough.

My parents made sure that I went to the best schools and associated only with those whom they deemed to be socially acceptable–the filthy rich.  They even had it in their heads that one day I would marry Governor Brown’s daughter, Virginia (I can’t believe her parents named her after the state).  Granted, she was a nice girl, very pretty and I could tell that she liked me very much.  We went on dates and such and then, I went away to university.  It was an understanding that we were going steady and that in due time, I would propose.

When I returned from university one summer vacation, my mother told me that we had a new maid, Flora.  The previous one, Berta had been fired.  My parents never told me what happened but I was sore because I really liked Berta.  Well, when I met Flora, I quickly forgot about Berta.  She was much younger than Berta but about ten years older than me.  Flora wasn’t pretty like Virginia but she was very attractive.  She had big brown eyes that didn’t seem to miss a thing, smooth dark skin and a lovely voice.  Sometimes she would sing as she worked.

Once I asked her why didn’t she become a professional singer.  She scoffed and said, “The only thing white folks want colored people like me to do is cook, clean, do the laundry and keep my place.”

Flora had a room built at the back of the house where she would change into her uniform and use the bathroom.  She had special plates and forks to use for her meals.  She was paid $10 a week which in that time was considered good money.

Flora was a bit cynical and who could blame her?  Although she is well paid, she is treated with disrespect and condescension by my parents, relatives and family friends.  There are times when I sit at the dining table and seethe with rage.  The final straw came when Flora accidentally spilled a glass of wine and some of it got on Mrs. Miller, an insufferable and vain woman.  She rose to her feet and struck Flora hard across the face.  “You clumsy n—–,” she cried.  “You’ve ruined my dress.  It’s too bad you can’t be whipped for this.”

My mother didn’t bat an eye.  I couldn’t believe that she wasn’t livid that one of her guests had slapped Flora.  I guess I was foolish to expect her to say something in Flora’s defense.  Instead, she said to her crossly, “Clean that mess up.”

Flora quickly left the room and was back in a seconds to clean the spill.  I wanted to go after her but propriety made me stay put.  I promised myself that I would speak to her before she left this evening.”

“You should fire her, Rosemary,” Mrs. Miller said as she resumed her seat.

“It was an accident!” I said as calmly as I could although, what I really wanted to do was throw the rest of the wine in her sanctimonious face.

“You mind your manners, Boy,” my father scolded.

“You’re excused,” was my mother’s rejoinder.

“Excuse me,” I said as I rose to my feet.  I was happy to leave the table.

I headed straight for the kitchen where Flora was busy washing up the dishes.   I wanted to help but I knew that she wouldn’t let me.  Besides, it would get her into trouble.  I went and stood beside her.  I could see that she had been crying.  I wanted to hug her.  “I’m sorry about what happened just now, Flora,” I said quietly.  “Mrs. Miller had no right to hit you.  You’re a grown woman, not a child.”

“You heard what she called me.  That gives her the right to hit me.”

“Flora, sometimes, I wish I could take you away from all of this.”

“You shouldn’t be saying such things, Master Oliver.”

“But, it’s true, Flora.”

“And where would we go?”

“I don’t know yet but some place where you’re treated better.”

“Right now I can’t think of any place like that except Heaven.”

“Flora, after I graduate from university, I’m going to leave Richmond.  I want you to come with me.”

“Master Oliver, stop talking foolish.”

“Stop calling me Master Oliver,” I retorted.  “I’m just plain Oliver and I’m not talking foolish.  I’m very serious, Flora.”

“I’ll think about it now, go before your mother comes in here and finds us together.”

“All right. I’ll go.  Goodnight, Flora.”

“Goodnight, Mas–Oliver.”

The next morning, she was gone.  My mother had taken Mrs. Miller advice and fired Flora.  I was so upset that I didn’t speak to my mother for weeks.  I found out where Flora lived and the first opportunity, I had, I went to see her.  She was alone.  After I letting her know how upset and furious I was that she had lost her job, I made her promise to meet me that afternoon at the pond where no one ever goes.

I got there first and waited.  As I waited, I picked a bunch of wildflowers I saw there.  Flora would like them.  I bet she never got flowers from anyone before.  I would be the first.  I smiled at the thought.  She showed up five minutes later.  I gave her the flowers and she took them, smiling.  She smelled them.  “Thank you,” she said.  She reached up and kissed me on the cheek.

I felt my face get hot.  I also felt strange sensations in my body.  “You’re welcome, Flora,” I said.

We sat down on the grass and talked and talked.  I loved being with her and I could tell she felt the same way.  We promised to meet there again tomorrow.  She left first and then I left several minutes after.  When I went home, my mother told me that Virginia and her parents were having dinner with us that evening.  It would be the first time I would be seeing Virginia since I’ve been home for the summer.  I was more excited about seeing Flora tomorrow than seeing Virginia that evening.

The evening went well, I suppose.  Virginia didn’t seem to notice that I was preoccupied with my thoughts.  She talked mostly about herself and what she had been up to while I was away at university.  I didn’t make any plans to see her again.  After we parted company, I went up to my room where I remained until the following morning.  As soon as the afternoon came, I was racing down to the pond.  This time Flora was waiting for me.  And she brought two huge slices of an apple pie she had baked.  After we ate them, we went for a swim.

Afterwards, we lay in the sun.  We talked about different things and then, I rolled onto my side and looked down at her.  She had her eyes closed.  The strange sensations stir inside me again and this time, I lowered my head and kissed her.  She didn’t push me away or slap me in the face.  Instead, she reached up and put her arms around my neck.  We ended up making love for the first time.

Day after day we met there in our secluded spot until one day we were discovered by Virginia’s brother and his friends.  I was promptly sent back to Atlanta where I spent the rest of the summer until it was time to return to university.  I don’t know what happened to Flora.  No one would tell me anything.  I was devastated because I was madly in love with her.  I wanted to marry her.

When I returned to Virginia, I went to her house.  At that point I didn’t care what people said or did or thought.  All I wanted was to see Flora.  However, when I went to her house, the neighbors said that she was gone.  They had no idea where she had gone.

Dejected, I returned to Atlanta where I tried to forget about her.  I even got married to a nice girl named Amy and we had a boy.  Time passed but the memories of my summer with Flora never faded.  I still yearned to see her.  I still loved her and no amount of time would make me forget about her.

After Amy died, I tried to see if I could find out any information about Flora.  I wish I had a photo of her that I could have put on Facebook but I didn’t.  In spite of these setbacks and disappointments, I haven’t stopped hoping that one day I will see her again.

It’s 2018 and summer again here in Richmond.  I’m here by the pond, allowing myself to relive the happiest memories of my entire life.  I look at the wild flowers and smile.  I will never forget the spark in Flora’s beautiful eyes when I gave them to her.  If she were here now, I would give her another bunch.

“Mr. Jones?” a voice called out and startled, I turned.

It was a young African American girl.  “Yes,” I replied.  “I’m Mr. Jones.  Who are you?”

She came closer.  “I’m Regina.  I was told that I might find you here.  Someone asked me to give this to you.”  She held out a letter sized brown envelope.”

I took it.  It didn’t have any address.  It only had my name written neatly at the front.  “Who asked you to give this to me?”

“My grandmother, Flora.”

My heart caught in my throat.  Flora.  I sat down on the tuft of grass and eagerly opened the envelope.  I pulled out a letter and some photos.  I looked at the photos first.  They were of Flora and a lovely little girl.  She looked so much like Flora but much fairer in complexion.

With trembling fingers, I unfolded the letter and read it.  Halfway through, I started to cry.  Flora was pregnant when she left Richmond.  She wanted me to know about Olivia and wrote to me at the university several times but all of her letters were returned.  She never got married, she said because there was only one man whose wife she wanted to be.

I looked up at Regina who was standing beside me.  “Where’s Flora?” I asked.  I longed to see her.

“I’m sorry, grandfather, but she died this morning.”

I broke down at that point.  Regina dropped to her knees and put her arms around me.  The only thing that gave me any comfort was the knowledge that Flora and I have a daughter and a granddaughter.  Our love will live on through them and generations to come.

Those we love are never really lost to us–for everywhere their special love lives on – Amanda Bradley

This was written for the #writephoto Prompt – Tranquil at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

 

Sources: The Washington Post; The Post and Courier