Like Day

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This story is about a woman named Ruta who against tremendous odds, is able to discover her true identity and a love that is displayed not merely through words but in actions and deeds. Escaping an abusive relationship, Ruta must create her own life in the harsh countryside of Mexico and embark on a journey that will test not only her endurance, but also her ability to love and let go.

Submitted: May 20, 2017

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Submitted: May 20, 2017

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It hurt only slightly.  The blood was merely the consequence of the action.  In fact, she could barely feel the blade that rubbed against her neck incessantly.  She tried to wriggle away but he held her still and dangerously close.  

 She could smell his putrid breath and rotting teeth.  His attempt at a kiss was only rewarded with a spit.  He just smiled and wiped the saliva from his mouth.  He was a relentless tyrant.  

 Ruta focussed not on her husband’s futile attempts to abuse her, rather on the soft light which floated in from the outside.  She closed her eyes and listened to the birds chirping automatically, ritualistically.  This was ritual.  This was life.  The darkness would come.  And then she would breathe.

 

 A frog croaked near Ruta’s feet, startling her, causing her sobs to cease for a moment.  She looked up at the sky and counted the stars she could see.  Seventeen.  Seventeen.  She was married at seventeen.  She had hope at seventeen.  She smiled at seventeen.  She was so young at seventeen.  

 Twenty.  Twenty was an age where the dreams stop and only reality reigns.  At times, it was difficult to accept this fact of life but in time, Ruta’s hurts became her companions.  She learned to smile at the women at the marketplace and cover her bruises with powder.  She stood straighter, stopped whimpering, and accepted life.  Only on cold nights like this one did she give into her fears and pains, when strength was impossible to fathom.

 The scent of wafting smoke came drifting in from a cooking fire far away and Ruta smiled.  If only she could traverse these long fields and find home.  Home.  There was another futile dream.  Home was gone like the rest of her past.  The last time she saw her parents was two years ago when they came over to see how she was doing.  They had heard a rumor that she was pregnant.  Ruta remembered ruefully how her parents had practically shunned her when they saw her flat stomach and empty expression.  

 A child was the only desire for a woman here.  At least that’s what they said.  But for Ruta, motherhood was far ahead of her.  She didn’t expect her husband to start questioning why she wasn’t pregnant after only four months of marriage.  She thought he wanted to take care of her.  But then twenty came.  

 Twenty.  Three years and still no child.  Jorge was getting angrier by the day.  The nights would come with hope only to be dashed during the day.  And now, Jorge was completely avoiding Ruta.  She had heard rumors that he was seen with another local girl by the name of Anda.  Ruta had wept so hard that day.  

 The rooster crowed and Ruta tried to stand.  Today was washing day, her least favorite of them all.  How many times did she curse her husband’s filthy line of work in the ditches, taking hours to wash the stains away.  At least she could remove the outward stains.  Inside Jorge lay a whole new frightening world Ruta was afraid to discover.  

 Ruta walked quietly back to her humble abode.  Her small flower garden was beginning to become overcrowded by weeds.  Just another chore.  But chores were straightforward.  Chores required no thinking.  When it came to consoling her husband about her bareness, Ruta was completely ignorant.  

 A bird was floating above, Ruta could hear its soft wings flapping ever so steadily, pushing against that indescribable force of wind.  The sun was beginning to rise, bringing with it the daily reminder of the work at hand.  Ruta sighed and entered the hut, calculating what to make for breakfast out of the ingredients they had left.  Jorge met her straight on, his face unwavering and steady.  Ruta hated her incompetence, her fear so evident by her shaky hands and trembling heart.  Jorge noticed it too, and relished in his defeat.  He stepped towards her, took one of her hands and kissed it.  Ruta knew what was coming but couldn’t help dreading it all the same.

Mi amor, you forgot about me last night.  You ran away again.  And left me alone.  Why would you want to leave me?”  Ruta could see his fake sincerity begin to fade as his anger grew hotter.  

“Hmm?  Why can’t I have a loving wife who doesn’t make me chase after her day after day?  Can you tell me that, oh sweet one?”  His eyes narrowed and Ruta felt her throat begin to close up with fear.  She had no words and Jorge knew it.  

“Stay here and cook me breakfast”, he sputtered and walked away abruptly.  Ruta didn’t realize she was holding her breath until she let it all out in one big sigh.  Her eyes smarted, but she refused to give herself the pleasure of yet another waterfall of tears.  They never did her any good.  They couldn’t change her situation.

Picking up an iron skillet, she began cooking what was left of the eggs for her husband.  No doubt, there would be none left for her, she would simply have to content herself with a leftover tortilla.

Cracking the eggs, Ruta watched them sizzle in the pan and let her mind wander.  She embraced the memories she had buried for survival's sake.  She saw her mother, ever frowning, ever wondering if she would get married.  “Yes mama.”, she had said.  “I will soon be gone and you won’t have to worry about me any longer.”  Ruta could never forget how elated her mother looked when Jorge and her daughter left their home after the wedding ceremony.  And her father…  He looked almost saddened to see her go, but he covered his emotions with silence.  How Ruta had hoped that day, how she had dreamed of a life full of happiness.  Love of course was not expected, being an arranged marriage, but surely her father had picked a man nice enough for his daughter.  

But Jorge was of a different sort.  He was nothing like her father.  He talked endlessly, he bragged, he demanded, he swore.  Ruta could still remember the first time he had hit her.  She was complaining about him never giving her time to go outside of the home.  She had wanted independance.  She called him oppressive and a despicable creature.  He gave her one look and hit her hard upon the face.  As she stumbled back and cowered, she glanced at his face and realized that her feelings were irrelevant.  And that had been more painful than the dark-colored bruise on her face.  

Noticing the eggs were ready on one side, Ruta flipped them over and began to fold the tortilla she had made yesterday.  The sun was shining brightly as she stood above the open flame, embracing both the heat and the occasional cool wind coming to calm her reddened face.

 

Jorge didn’t come back in time for lunch like he usually did.  Ruta assumed it was because of her disobedience.  No matter, she wouldn’t have to cook him another meal.  Her own stomach was rumbling and her legs were tired from weeding and pruning their small garden.  She could use some food, she could use some extra strength, some revival.  Looking at the deadened plants made her want to run from this place.  But where would she go?  

Hearing the sound of horse’s hooves, Ruta went outside.  Two men who looked slightly familiar stood by, waiting for her arrival.  

“Can I help you?”, Ruta asked cautiously.  

“I am here to collect the debt that is owed to us”, the older men replied.  Ruta’s stomach dropped to her feet.  Jorge had been gambling again.  She had begged him before to stop spending the last money they had on silly games but he hadn’t listened.  Now, he was running them into bankruptcy.  

“I’m sorry, I do not understand.”  Ruta tried to feign ignorance but the man was too sly to be fooled.

“Your husband’s debt.  We need the money now or we will have to begin taking away your property.”  Ruta was amazed at this man’s lack of discretion.

“Yes, I shall see what we have to pay you.”  While Ruta would have loved nothing more than to tell the man to go to Jorge and ask him himself, she knew she would be the one to suffer.  She wasn’t in the mood to try Jorge’s patience, nonexistent as it were.

The only money left in the house was her private collection that she had been saving since she was ten.  It had a sizable amount and she had always hoped to use it for herself one day.  

“How much does Jorge owe you?”  Ruta refused to include herself in this despicable affair.  When the man told her the amount, she almost broke down right then.  But holding her composure, she handed the man her earnings.  Almost every penny.  He grabbed the money without a second thought.  Watching the two men ride away, she put her head in her hands and stared without blinking.  

It was dark by the time Jorge had arrived.  Ruta had prepared him stew.  Walking inside, he didn’t speak a word except to demand for food.  He complained of how tired he was.  Ruta tried to hold her tongue, attempting to find the right moment to tell him what he had done to their financial situation.  While Jorge gorged himself, Ruta sat, pensive and nauseous.  Finally, she couldn’t hold back the words sitting in her mouth for the past six hours.

“Two men came today.  They came to collect the debt you owe them.”  Jorge stopped eating and stared at her for so long she almost squirmed.  But taking a breath, she continued.  

“I payed them almost every coin we have left in this house.  Jorge, we are going broke.  I must ask you to stop this madness.”  His face began to turn red.  Ruta bit her lip incessantly.  

“And who are you to tell me what to do?”  His defiance only egged her on.

“I am your wife, the keeper of this household.  I cook for you.  I clean for you.  I even pay for your mistakes!  But I will not sit idly by, watching our home and all that is dear go up in smoke because of your foolishness!”  The spark was lit, and the fire began blazing.

“So, you think I am irresponsible, do you?  You think you can sit here, so self-righteousness and tell me what to do?  You are my wife!  You speak when I say speak!  You breathe when I say breathe!  And you do NOT talk back to me!”

“I am not your slave!  I am flesh and blood!  Can’t you see all I’m trying to do is protect us!  I cannot even speak my opinions without being bombarded by your ruthlessness!”  

Jorge stood up, his eyes fiery red.  Though her heart beat in her ears, Ruta wasn’t afraid.  She was sick of always bending to her husband’s will.  She was sick of obedience.  She was sick of settling.  She wasn’t giving up.

“I know you think you know what’s best, but I cannot have it anymore!  I cannot take your lies and deception and--”  Ruta’s words were cut short by the strong hand around her throat.  He looked so angry.  Ruta looked right back at him, undeterred, unmoved.  That only made Jorge more angry.  A few punches and she would be completely silenced.  He had had enough of her disrespect.  Time to show her what happens to ungrateful wives.  

Ruta tried to get up from the floor but her head ached too much and everything around her was tottering and dizzy.  She could make out a face above her, leering.  How she wanted to go and slap that face silly.  But at the moment, she was as helpless as he wanted her to be.  And that angered her the most.  Giving one last kick, Jorge went to bed.  Ruta lay in that same position all night, waiting for her body to come back to her piece by piece.

The dawn light came in slowly but swiftly.  Everything hurt worse than the night before.  But somehow, Ruta managed to get herself off the floor and walk outside where she sank into the grass.  It wasn’t much of grass anymore, the drought had stolen all beauty from this place.  While her body ached indescribably, it was her pride that hurt the most.  Jorge was a skillful master, that was for sure.  He knew how to defile and crush his opponent.  And crushed and defiled was she.  But she had to get up before he saw her.  She couldn’t let him know he had defeated her.  She had to appear strong.

The day passed slowly, crawling on all fours.  And Ruta could not stop thinking about how much she wanted to leave.  The thought had often crossed her mind, but now it pressed against her, constantly demanding an answer.  She had found ways to say no before, she had reasoned out that it made no sense practically.  But today, there were no reasons.  She couldn’t give a response to the thundering voice in her head.  Town was at least five miles or so but she could get a horse or walk, traveling from there to another village.  She could find a better life somewhere else.  That dream seemed more real today than ever before.  While normally she would never have listened to that voice, today it was different.  There was a sense of urgency in its tone that she couldn’t ignore.  If she stayed, she could end up worse than she was now.  A few broken bones were nothing compared to a lost life. Ruta shuddered.  Could her own husband really do such a despicable thing?  Something deep within her confessed the truth.  She looked far out, along the horizon.  Must she run?  Was that the only way?  How could she with her mangled appearance and lack of funds?  She had no answer to those questions.  But strangely, it didn’t seem to matter.  Gathering her few belongings, she ignored the growing fear within her and instead focused on that small voice inside her, urging her to flee.  And with that, as the sun shone brightly, she walked on.  

 

Her feet were covered in dust, her head ached from lack of water, but her spirits were soaring.  She was leaving.  She was finding her true home.  And that was more refreshing than any sip of water she could find.  After a long day’s walk, Ruta found an abandoned cave to settle in for the night.  While the harsh winds blew around her, she felt oddly secure and sure of herself.  What could happen to her?  An image of her grandmother came to mind and Ruta relished it.  Nunca te olvides tu salvador.  Never forget your Savior.  For years, Ruta had blocked out any thought of the unseen being.  She couldn’t focus on his desires when she was so busy tending to her husband’s.  But now she was alone and she couldn’t help but wonder if there was such a deity as her grandmother professed over and over.  And if such a being existed, would he protect her along her journey?  Ruta had heard plenty about the gods of the earth, who sustained the land with food, water, and protection.  Little help that did.  During the past drought, Ruta had seen countless rituals and sacrifices to the god of rain, Tlaloc.  Instead of rain, the drought had only worsened and didn’t seem intent on stopping.  Those were just lies and Ruta knew it.  Was this savior the same way?  Abueladidn’t sacrifice to her god, instead she served those on earth with a reckless abandon.  She had once told Ruta that the Lord was a God of love and not of vengeance.  Ruta couldn’t fathom what love looked liked any more.  That was a concept as distant as her unknown destination.

The night was not as calm as Ruta had hoped it would be.  Her seemingly serene place of refuge had turned into a cave of bats, loud and impeding.  Ruta tried not to scream as she ran as far and as fast as she could from the horrid creatures.  

Walking for several more miles, she finally found a stream and drank deeply from it.  Never had she tasted anything so beautiful.  Filling her canister, she set off, not sure of where to go.  Her once hopeful demeanor had now turned to despair.

The next day proved to be long and tiring as Ruta tripped and stumbled her way across the god-forsaken land of her country.  Passing only a few weary travelers, Ruta began to doubt if she would ever reach the city.  She needed a job, a way to sustain herself.  She would be free.  That was the one thought propelling her through those tumultuous boulders and lack of food. She would be free.  

Ruta had managed to reach the city in only a matter of hours.  She was first struck by the bustling population.  This city was filled with people, almost bursting at the seams.  Would she really find a job here?  Ruta pushed the thought away and walked confidently into the first store she could find.  

“Excuse me sir”, she asked.  “Would you happen to know where I could find a suitable job in this town?  Do you have any openings in this store?”  Instead of answering, the man merely stared at her, silently mocking her ignorance.  

Finally, he smiled sardonically and said, “You looking for a job, miss?  I could use a pretty lady like yourself to do my cooking and cleaning?  Maybe even you might want to marry me.”  He laughed hard and loud causing the rest of the customers to glance Ruta’s way.  Blushing fiercely, Ruta pushed her way outside, the man’s harsh laughter still haunting her ears.

What was this vile place?  She looked around frantically, seeing how fruitless her original plan was.  In this country, even in the city, a woman was not to work outside of her home.  She was to be married and beget children.  Ruta had wanted to believe the same wasn’t true in this city.  But it seemed, no matter where she went, she was always to be followed by the shadow of oppression and the rules of society.  

Sitting on an abandoned milk cart, Ruta put her head in her hands, trying to decide what to do next.  She could stay and attempt to find a job here.  Or she could get married.  That thought was so repulsive to Ruta, she chose to not even contemplate it.  She had to find a job here.  There had to be someone looking for help.

So entrenched in her own thoughts, Ruta hardly noticed the man standing over her and staring.  He laughed softly, startling her.  

“You need something miss?”, he asked still chuckling.  

“Nothing from you, thank you”, was Ruta’s curt reply.

“Aw, there’s no need to be like that señora.  I’m not here to make fun of you, just couldn’t help noticing your glum disposition.  What’s the problem?”

Ruta debated against telling this stranger her deepest worries and thoughts, but somehow she couldn’t resist the urge to be listened to.  

“I am unemployed.  I have nowhere to go, nothing to do.”  Even more mortified, Ruta brushed away some silly tears, looking away.  

The man simply sighed. “Ah yes, times have been hard indeed.  But what could a young lady need to do?  Find a husband, let him take care of you.”  

Ruta snorted at the prospect, “The last thing I need is another man to take care of.”  

Sensing Ruta’s frustration, the man didn’t say anything for a while.  “I’m sorry”, Ruta said a few minutes later.  “I shouldn’t have spoken so harshly.”

“Nonsense, I’ve seen countless ladies such as yourself, ‘don’t need a man’ they say!  Well, as luck would have it, we could use some extra work down at my master’s fields if you’d like.”  

Ruta immediately sat up straighter, “You’re offering me a job?”  

“A temporary one yes, until the end of the dry season.  I could use some workers to pick corn.  Are you interested?”

Smiling broadly, Ruta agreed and soon enough found herself on a wagon heading to a plantation outside the city.  A job, she thought, I have a job.  I am free.  Suddenly, the sun didn’t seem so harsh and the birds in the air sang joyous songs.  Ruta wanted to sing along with them.

 

The plantation was certainly large, much bigger than the one Jorge owned.  The labor was backbreaking and the pay wasn’t all that plentiful, but she had a place to sleep, food to eat, and was living on her own.  For now, that was all Ruta needed to be happy.  And happy she was.  

“Have you seen the overseer yet?”, one worker asked Ruta as they were harvesting.  

“No, only glimpses.  I met his assistant, the one who recruited me here, but not the actual master.”  

Ay, ¡qué lástima! He is easy on the eyes.”  The woman smirked, but Ruta couldn’t manage even a smile.  She had no interest in observing men.  Men were always handsome on the outside, but inside had only dark and deceptive hearts.  That’s all Jorge ever was.

Getting up and walking towards the fields, Ruta went to the farthest row she could find and sat on the dusty ground, letting her tears flow farther and wider than she had ever allowed before.  Silence was always her form of defiance, but even that couldn’t console her as she thought about her home and the strange sensation that she missed Jorge.  

 

Field work was certainly not easy, but Ruta enjoyed its simplicity, each day she would go out to the field to pick the corn, until the time came to shuck it in a shack nearby.  No one talked very often, only those who cared little for their work, and Ruta was free to be on her own.  She wasn’t restricted by someone else’s demands, she simply worked.  Even so, at night, she was haunted by images of Jorge and wondered constantly if he had already found a new wife.  What was his face when he found her gone?  Was he looking for her?  No doubt he might be.  Ruta shivered, that was such a frightening thought.  She was only a couple day’s walk from their village.  Why hadn’t she gone farther?  Was she right to leave him?  Despite his acts, he was her husband and she had left their commitment.  Ruta tried to remain optimistic, but Jorge's enraged face never left her, it saturated her every thought and desire, destroying her slowly.

“You want to go to the dance tonight?”, a young worker named Marta asked Ruta on one sunny afternoon.  

“What dance?”  

“The one the master has at the end of every season.  We are almost done with the corn so now it’s time to celebrate!”  Ruta’s heart quickened, the young man who had brought her here said that she was to work for this season.  Was she to leave in the next few days?  Where was she to go?  

Ruta had only seen the master twice upon coming, and was immediately intimidated.  He had a height and build much like Jorge, lean and strong.  He didn’t look like someone to get into trouble with.  

“Are you alright Ruta?  You look more scared than Felicia when she found that dead snake on her mattress!”  Marta laughed heartily.  Ruta could only chuckle slightly and shake her head.

“No reason.  I should really go and bring this carton of corn to the stockpile.”  Marta’s eyes bulged, “You want to carry that heavy load?”  Ruta nodded and picked up the box, eager for any way to leave this conversation and her growing troubling thoughts.

Barely able to walk, Ruta stumbled over to the larger supply barn where a bounty of peeled corn was sitting, waiting to be shipped.  Tripping on a small rock, Ruta faltered, sending the box of corn down to the ground.  Feeling a strong hand grab both her arm and the box before it fell, Ruta looked up to see a man vaguely familiar helping her.  With horror, she realized it was the master.  

“You should be careful miss.  This is a big box to carry for yourself.”  The man placed the box along with the others and stood facing her.  Ruta blushed and could only manage a feeble apology.  Eyes glued to the ground, she wished to float away.  

“You must be one of the workers I hired for corn season.  Ruta, correct?”  Stunned the master had actually learned her name, Ruta looked up and nodded yes.  

“Yes, I remember now.  Well, we could always use more workers for the sugarcane season.  Are you interested?”  Ruta gratefully nodded her head and added, “Yes, thank you so much sir!”  The master simply nodded and walked away.  Feeling light and bouncy she almost kissed the air for giving her another chance at a new life.  She could work these fields for her whole life and that would suit her just fine, if only her heart hadn’t trembled at the idea of living alone.

 

The evening sky was a dull gray with virtually no stars.  The wind had calmed and only the crickets were making a sound.  Everyone else in the fields had retired to bed but Ruta couldn’t sleep no matter how hard she tried.  Each time she closed her eyes, Jorge’s face would appear in all its might and anger and she would shrink away, afraid and shaking.  Even miles away, he still had the power to haunt her.  The worst part was that at certain points she would long for his companionship, she would miss being around a man.  Despite his increasing fits of rage, Jorge could be a man of beautiful passion and vitality.  Why couldn’t she move on from her past life?  How could she miss and fear Jorge at the same time?  Head muddled, she could only sit, pulling the shawl around her shoulders tightly, lifting up a familiar prayer her grandmother had often quoted.  

 

Padre nuestro,

que estás en el cielo.

Santificado sea tu nombre.

 

Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…

 

 “Ruta, are you asleep?”  Marta jolted Ruta awake as they were cutting the bare stalks of sugarcane.  Ruta could only smile weakly.

 “Yes, Marta I am here.”

 “Yes, you are here in person but somehow I feel like you are somewhere far away.”  Marta stood with her hands on her hips, waiting for a response.  Ruta gave none. Sighing, Marta began cutting again.  

 A few minutes later Ruta couldn’t help but speak.  “I suppose I am just thinking about my life before and caught in memories.”  

Marta smiled, “, how often have I been tempted to reminisce and remember the good times of family and happiness before the drought came.  Now, what’s left of my family are sick and dependant on the money I send home each month, which often isn't much.  But we must try to think about our lives now and all the blessings we have.  We have food, shelter, and a caring master.  You should see the master who owns the fields to the left of ours.  He’s a brute.”

 “Yes, I am grateful.”  Best she just leave it at that, any more words and Ruta would spill all of her life’s story, both the good and the ugly.  They worked in silence the rest of the afternoon, each contemplating their previous lives and wondering if their future ones could be any more plentiful.  

 Ruta was picking sugarcane when she saw the master for the second time.  She couldn’t help but stare at his face, his strong features and confident stance.  What was she doing?  Why should she, the lowest of the field workers look at the master so closely?  She quickly looked away, but not before he saw her gawking.  Finishing his conversation, he began walking towards her.  Horrified, she busied herself pulling the hard stalks, praying he would walk right past her.  But he didn’t.  Instead, he stood right next to her and quietly asked, “How is my harvest this year?”  

 Swallowing hard, Ruta replied silently, “Very well my lord, the sugarcane is almost completely harvested and soon we will begin to plant sorghum.”

 “Excellent!  I’m glad to  hear it!  Thank you for your hard work.”  Surprising Ruta further, the master offered a quick smile before disappearing.  

 Ruta was befuddled.  Why should such a high-ranking boss want to talk with a worker such as her, a woman no less?  She couldn’t imagine Jorge ever complimenting her for her good cooking or cleaning. Ruta shrugged and went back to her work, silent and pensive the whole day.  

 

The sorghum harvest went quickly, the work difficult but enjoyable.  Ruta loved to run through the high, swaying stalks of wheat whenever she could, dancing and looking up at the sky.  She felt alive with the earth.  And yet, she never stopped having nightmares about Jorge coming back and getting her.  His face still loomed over hers, his mouth curving into that horrid smile.  And strangely enough, Ruta would often reach out in her dreams and kiss that putrid face.  Each night, she would wake up, horrified that she could still love a man who thrived on control.  She would shake, and tell herself she would never go back.  But she knew his house was only a couple day’s walk from the farm.  If she went back, she could have a real bed, make supper, even sit and relax every now and then...  Ruta shook her head.  No, she couldn’t go back, not to Jorge at least.  

Ruta worried day and night about where to go.  The master had no need of them during these rainy months, there was no harvesting to be done.  Many workers had already left the farm, returning to warm homes and happy families.  

Ruta smiled sadly as she watched her one friend at this place, Marta, walk away, returning to her family.  She looked so happy as she discussed new additions to the family and exciting news she was ready hear personally.  Ruta had only nodded and wished her friend all the best luck.  

Grabbing her arm, Marta looked deep within Ruta’s eyes, searching for the emotions her friend had tried to hide.  Ruta looked away, too ashamed to admit that she had no home to return to.  She tried to stifle her tears as she watched Marta slip away.  She didn’t move until Marta was only a speck in the distance.  Ruta tried not to think about her own immediate future.  What was she to do here now?  Worry began its daily infestation as she attempted to gather enough courage to go to the master and ask for a permanent job.

But it seemed the master had already made up his mind, dismissing all the field workers with a note nailed to their door.  Many grumbled, complaining of the young master’s incompetence at communication.  Ruta only trembled, fearing that she would have no choice but to return to Jorge.  She had to ask the master, it was the only way.  

It was almost dark by the time Ruta had gathered enough courage to go to the master’s tent.  There was a large dinner and all workers were invited as a farewell gift.  Many field hands had already gone, leaving to go back home or to the city.  

Ruta walked in, her heart pounding, her breath quick and shallow.  Spotting the master laughing with one of his good friends, she could barely sit down. But sit down she did, and even managed to eat some of the succulent food she was given. All the while, as people were laughing and joking, she sat, pensively waiting to find the right time to talk to the master.  

Finally dinner began to wind down, and many workers retired to bed.  Soon, just a dozen or so remained at the table.  Ruta saw the master yawn.  This was her chance, now or never.  

Standing on shaky legs, she walked over to the master’s spot, at the head of the table.  Upon clearing her throat, the master turned to look at her.  Ruta was immediately struck by the depth in his eyes, she could see no hatred or sign of a power-hungry man, rather a being committed to kindness and fair treatment.  Her fear seemed to melt away, and she stood up straighter.  

“Master, I was wondering if I may have a word with you?”

“You may”, was his simple response.  He turned to face her and waited for her reply.  Struggling not to look directly at the floor, Ruta spoke.

“Sir, I know we as fieldhands have been dismissed due to the end of the sorghum season but I must beg you sir to allow me to stay on here.”  Before waiting for a reaction, Ruta continued.  “I will do anything you say sir, I can clean for you, or feed the horses or anything.  Please though sir, let me stay here and work for you.”  Ruta could see the master’s friend frown, annoyed that a lowly worker should talk to her superior in that way.  The master however, seemed deep in thought.  Ruta waited a few painstaking moments before she heard the Master’s reply.

“Alright Ruta, I will allow you to stay on as a tender of the pigs.  I’ve just had a new shipment of them and needed a worker anyhow.  Will that suit you?”  

Ruta, smiling big and wide replied, “Yes sir!  Oh thank you!”  Turning on her heels, she nearly danced out of the tent praising that strange unseen being who her grandmother had loved so long ago.  

 

One of the pigs snorted at Ruta for food.  Hurrying and spilling some of the slop, she filled the trough with the decaying leftovers from last night.  Pausing for a moment, Ruta watched as the pigs took their share, often pushing others out of the way.  How similar these pigs were to many people, always pushing and shoving just to be the first in line.  She saw it every day, as the servants and animal keepers waited to get water.  She was often disgusted at the women who played with men’ s hearts just to amuse themselves.  For the most part, Ruta was happy with her life.  She was alone and everyone kept to themselves, which she liked.  But there were times when she all she wanted was to sit and have a good laugh.  That hadn’t happened since Marta left.  

A storm was coming.  Ruta was certain of it.  The dark clouds were getting aboundingly close.  Her pigs were going to be filthy.  Not like that wasn’t any different from their normal state.  It had been too long, life getting stagnant.  How could it, when all around were blessings?  The master had shown only kindness towards her, and she always had food and drink, so why this desire to leave?  

She wanted a family.  Ruta didn’t like to admit it, but it was true. Everytime she would see one of the little ones walking with their mother, her throat would close and tears would come to her eyes. Each day, she couldn’t help wondering what her life would have looked like if she’d had children.  While with Jorge, she had wanted children only to appease his fury, now she wanted children for the sake of companionship.  

An unsettling thought came to mind; she had to get married.  Though she detested the risk of getting into a relationship like the one with Jorge, she had to try to find a reasonable man, someone who would protect and take care of her.  Otherwise she would never leave this place, she would remain an old maid, working until she dropped dead of old age.  Though she enjoyed the stable life of a fieldworker, she felt an odd sense that this was not her final destination.  There was something else in the distance even greater, and she couldn’t resist it.

 

The light was coming in slowly, the calm after the storm.  Ruta hadn’t slept a wink, and wished she could just slip out into the morning light without having to tell anyone that she was leaving.  Luckily, there weren’t many people to say goodbye to. Marta was gone and no one had been suitable to take her place as a loving friend.  

Spotting the overseer, Ruta gathered her courage and walked towards him, heart hammering.  

“Excuse me sir?”  She hated the tremble in her voice.

He looked up slowly, and upon recognizing her said, “Yes?”  

Looking the man straight in the face Ruta replied, “I wanted to inform you that I have to be moving on.  I wanted to give you notice before I leave tomorrow morning.”

The man’s face was emotionless, “I see, well I must tell the master, he’ll be looking for a new worker to tend the pigs.”

The master.  Why did Ruta feel a tug of guilt for leaving him.  He had granted her this job and she was giving it up voluntarily.  Yet deep within her, she knew this was the right thing to do.  

“Thank you sir.”  Turning away, Ruta went to gather her things.  

Saying goodbye was no long escapade, and soon she was ready to leave.  Gathering her small shoulder bag containing everything she had, Ruta left the safety of the fields which she had cherished working on for the past year and set out for the unknown.  In one last moment of weakness, she looked back and saw a man, fuzzy and too far to be seen clearly, raise his hand and wave goodbye.  Raising her hand high, Ruta waved back.  Turning towards the dirt road, she took a deep breath and began walking.  

 

The daylight was fading fast and Ruta knew she had to find shelter soon enough for the night.  While the wilderness didn’t frighten her, being alone did.  For these past few months and for most of her life, Ruta had always been surrounded by individuals.  Now, in the silence of the night, she shivered and longed to hear someone else’s voice.  Spotting a small village in the distance, she gathered her courage and walked towards it.  

Dusk was falling as she approached the small collection of huts.  A few people were milling about, but for the most part, it was quite empty.  Motioning towards a man coming towards her direction, Ruta asked him if there were any places where she could rest for a while.  Expecting hostility, Ruta was met with a warm and handsome smile.  

“As it seems, I have room in my house if you’d like to rest there.”  

Torn between desperation and fear of this man’s true intentions, Ruta replied, “Thank you, but I--.”  

The man waved away her words, “Speak no more, I understand.  If you would like to stay with Señora Cristina in the hut next to mine, I’m sure she wouldn’t mind.”

Flushed with gratitude, Ruta thanked the man and walked towards Señora Cristina’s home.  It was only after the woman invited her inside and gave her a warm bowl of soup that Ruta realized she had never asked for the man’s name.  

 With a full stomach and warm company, Ruta slept extremely well and rose the next morning, invigorated and ready for the day.  Leaving the kind old woman some gold coins as a thank you for her hospitality, Ruta began walking out of the village and came upon the same man she had met earlier the day before.  His vibrant smile brought odd butterflies to her stomach.  

 “Leaving so soon señorita?  I thought you were going to stay longer?”  

 Shaking her head, Ruta explained that she must really be getting on her way.  “But thank you so much for your hospitality Señor--I’m sorry, I’m afraid I don’t know your name.”  

 The man gave a deep, hearty laugh, “Mi nombre es Juan.  And what about you?”

 “Ruta”, she replied softly.  

 “Well Ruta, would you mind if I accompany you out of the village?”  

 Surprised, Ruta said that would be fine and the two headed down the road together.  

 “Are you from around here?”, Juan asked after a few moment’s silence.

 “About a three days walk.  Well, I used to….well, it’s really a long story.”

 Juan gave a silly grin, “I like long stories.”

 Fearful of exposing too much of her troubled past, Ruta explained that she had worked in the fields and was alone. After finishing, Juan remained silent.  It occurred to Ruta that they had been standing still for some time.

 “So you have no idea where to go?”, he finally asked.  

 Ruta looked up at the sky, “I’m afraid not.  I know I must get married but I don’t know where to go.”  

 Juan stopped a moment and took her hand, “Señorita, I know this may seem a bit forward of me to ask, but what if you lived with me?  As it is, I need a wife desperately and have been looking for quite some time.”

 Ruta blinked, “But you barely know me.”  

 “Maybe so, but I can see that you are a genuine, kind person.  And I know what God is asking of me.”

 “And what is he asking you?”

 He smiled, “For you to be my betrothed.”

 Ruta trembled, “He said that to you?  You talk with the Unseen One?”

 “Everyday.  He is my rock.  He guides my every step.  And it seems He has guided you to me.”  

 Ruta studied the man carefully. He had a bright happy face, and strong faith, but what was beneath that confident exposure?  Was he anything like Jorge?  Desperation mixed with anxiety.  What would he say if he knew she was barren? Despite her doubts, she felt a soft voice telling her to stay.

 Gathering her voice, Ruta replied, “I will remain here for a little while.  What if I stay with you and your family for a month, then we can decide from there?”

 Juan smiled, big and proud.  “Of course, mi hija.  Como tu quieres.  Taking her hand, he led Ruta back towards the village.

 

 Ruta stood, holding a spoon in one hand and a bowl in the other.  She smiled wide and laughed as Juan tried to steal a taste of the soup.  

 “You know that I cannot let you take some before I finish seasoning it!”  

 Juan gave an impish grin, “Who cares?  I’m sure it tastes fine as it is!”  

 Ruta could only laugh and watch as Juan stole a taste of her soup.  She was amazed at how different she was, almost a month since she arrived at this small village.  Where once she had been desolate and without hope, now she looked upon this man with favor.  He was nothing like Jorge, much to Ruta’s joy.  Juan never screamed vehemently or hit her.  In fact, he never touched her, respecting her as would a friend.  He was compassionate, he listened to her before making decisions.  Oh, he had his mistakes like anyone else, but above all, he loved.  

 Even with all of Juan’s goodness and his family’s kindness, Ruta still felt like an intruder.  She cooked, she cleaned, and did all the things a servant would do, but she was too afraid to hope that this man was as madly in love with her as she was with him.  God had indeed smiled upon her, but how long was this joyous period going to last?  How soon until Juan turned into the man Jorge was, or until he decided to throw her out?  The feeling of anticipation clung to Ruta, refusing to let go.  

When the month finally came to a close, Ruta was filled with nervous dread.  She was sweeping the floors when Juan come inside.  She looked up at him, and noticed his grim expression.  She sighed to herself, well so be it.  It was bound to happen anyway.  

 Finishing her sweeping, Ruta went over to the open stove and put some beans in a bowl along with some freshly-made tortillas and set it before Juan.  He looked up at her and smiled.  Oh that smile!  It took away hurts, it destroyed pain, and it was so wonderful to look at.  

 After inviting her to sit down and get her share of food, Juan prayed for the meal.  Upon saying “amen”, Juan looked up at her, this time his expression questioning.  Ruta tried to eat, but her stomach cramped with fear.  Finally, she said, “It seems as if my month is up.”  She figured cutting to the chase would be best for all.

 He looked at her for a long time before answering. “Indeed.”  He stopped eating and looked in her eyes.  “I have done a lot of thinking about this Ruta.  Though I have only known you for a month and though my friends think I am out of my mind, I am sure that you are the person God has given me to marry.  It may not be a perfect life, but I promise to give you a fruitful one.  But before anything happens, I must ask one thing.”

Ruta shifted nervously in her chair, “If I want to marry you?”

Juan frowned, “No, I suppose that would be a good question also.  Would you like to marry me?”

 Ruta thought deeply about how to respond.  While she would have loved not to speak of her past, she sensed its power over her and decided to give it up to this man.  He deserved to know the truth.  Only then would he come to his senses and dismiss her.

 “Juan, I care deeply for you.  I once cared deeply for another man a few years ago.  His name was Jorge.  He had deep, handsome brown eyes and by all accounts, he was very able to take care of me.  I was seventeen, I had no notion of what true matrimony was like.  I was only a girl at that time.  Well, after a few months I saw what Jorge’s true character was like.  After a little while, we found out that I could not have children.”  Ruta looked away, too afraid to see the expression on Juan’s face.  

Taking a breath, she continued.  “He was so angry after that.  Jorge was the type of person who was very concerned with his ego.  And when we couldn’t have children, I think it made him feel weak.  That’s probably why he beat me.”  Seeing Juan’s face soften in compassion, Ruta hastened to add, “Jorge wasn’t a horrible human being.  I hope you understand that.  He just couldn’t accept failure.  And I was a failure.  That’s why I ran, hoping to find a new life.  I happened upon a farmstead with a kind master.  But then I felt a presence, something telling me I should leave.  It was hard to depart from such a freely independent life.  But something inside me begged for protection, for companionship.  I know I can’t give you children, and I’m so sorry.  I understand if you do not want me as your wife.  No one needs an infertile spouse, do they?”  Ruta gave a rueful smile and dared to look at Juan’s face.  

 Moments passed so slowly, Ruta could hardly believe it was still night.  At last, he spoke.  “Ruta.  Ruta…”  And to Ruta’s horror, Juan broke down and began crying.  Feeling embarrassed for making such a wonderful man upset she rushed to comfort him.  

 “Juan, please do not worry.  I can leave as soon as possible.  You don’t even have to say that I was going to be your betrothed.  I’ll simply say that I was your servant.  You can just--”

 “No!”  Juan’s yell startled Ruta, immediately silencing her.  He took a shaky breath and looked up at her, tears streaming down his face.  “Ruta, I do not want you to leave.  I am upset not because I am mad at you but mad at those who have hurt you.”

 Ruta couldn’t help but speak.  “No, please don’t worry Juan.  Jorge didn’t hurt me.  Nothing can hurt me.”

 “Nothing can hurt you?  Ruta, how can this be true?  How can you not carry emotional scars from your past?  I know I still do.”  Surprised, Ruta waited for Juan’s explanation.  

 Juan looked down at the table.  “My father was much like your previous husband.  He wasn’t a ruthless tyrant, he didn’t physically beat my mother.  But he hurt her and myself emotionally.  I didn’t find out about his first mistress until I was eleven.  And who should tell me, but my mother!  She had known for two years.  I couldn’t understand why she would remain silent, why she would not leave a man so unfaithful.  But my mother loved my father so deeply, she was able to look past his mistakes. I however, was not.  I resented and hated my father for years.  Even today, I struggle to think of him as anything but a monster.  And that’s why your story makes me weep.  I hurt because you have been the victim of such atrocities and you are able to forgive him.  Ruta, you are such a beautiful example of forgiveness, the kind Jesus teaches in the Bible.  Have you ever heard it?”

 Ruta nodded her head solemnly.  “Yes, my abuelita would always read a chapter each night to me when I was little.  My mother was a believer but my father refused to accept Jesus as his Savior.”

 “And what about you Ruta?”  

 Ruta was struck speechless.  Did she really believe in the Lord as her savior?  All these years she had doubted, she had wondered.  Was this Jesus really her Messiah?  Closing her eyes, she finally found her voice.  

 “I want to believe.  I really do.  But I just cannot be sure that He is the truth.  My grandmother’s faith was so strong.  And I feel so weak.”

 “We are all weak Ruta.  That’s why we need Jesus.  I could not have forgiven my father or even walked up to you without the Lord’s direction and voice.”

 Juan’s words made Ruta’s stomach twist and twirl.  Somehow, they seemed not Juan’s but someone else’s.  Someone powerful.  Ruta shook with the sovereignty she now saw reflected in Juan’s eyes and she sensed a peace she had dreamed about for so long.  It came floating inside her, like a beautiful dream.  Ruta smiled.

 “Juan, I want to believe in God.  I do believe in him.  But it will take a journey for me to get to that place of true understanding.”

 Juan took her hand and squeezed it, “I’m still on the journey too.  We are all on that journey.  What do you say we go on together?”

 Ruta laughed silently, “I’d like that very much Juan.”

 

 It was very pleasant with Juan.  After they were married, Ruta enjoyed the daily routine of being a wife.  Though the time in the fields helped to gain her independence, she relished living in a home with someone who truly loved her.  And Juan did love her.  In fact, at first it was hard to believe his feelings were sincere.  After all, Jorge had seemed in love with her, until she couldn’t have children.  But Juan was different, he bore all of their struggles together, never leaving her out.  

 As blissful as married life was, Ruta could not help but long for a child.  Juan repeatedly told her that it was okay, that this was God’s plan.  She wanted to believe that was true.  She wanted to have Juan’s strong faith.  But at present, all she could see was her flat stomach and the shame of infertility.  Each time she saw one of the villagers with their child, Ruta’s heart broke.  Why would God deny her one of the greatest joys?  What had she done to deserve this?

 She didn’t want to burden Juan by telling him about the many questions she would get from her friendly, but nosy neighbors about when she was going to have a child.  She began to avoid going into the market simply because she couldn’t stand all the questions, reminding her of her failure.  

 Even so, Juan repeatedly told her that he loved her.  He began to teach her how to read, and within time, Ruta was able to read small passages from the Holy Book, giving her great joy.  Seeing the words take form in her mind, and truly understanding their significance was like discovering hidden treasure underneath a garbage pile.  

 Ruta began to read the passages so often, that she memorized various ones.  One of her personal favorites was: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart”.  Putting her faith in someone else’s hands was incredibly difficult but somehow, she sensed that God was with her and would never let her go.  

 

 Months had passed since Ruta said “I do” and with each day, her despair grew further.  Every morning she would arise, look towards the sky and beg her Lord to send her the gift of a child.  And each time she called, he would answer “Abide in me and I in you.”  Ruta tried to take comfort in her accomplishments.  She could read now, a task not many woman could claim to do in the village.  She was also extremely talented at sewing which she often did for pay.  It seemed that the Lord had blessed her with independence even as a married woman.  And best of all, she had a loving husband who cherished and took care of her.  Time had taught Ruta of Juan’s character, and trust grew stronger between them each day.  She felt free to tell her husband her deepest fears and he listened and told her his.  

 After a year without children, Ruta had become extremely depressed.  Juan begged her to look up and see the many blessings they had.  She tried, but it seemed that only a child could bring that everlasting happiness she had always longed for.  When another year had passed, Ruta gave up hope of ever receiving a child.  She never could have suspected that God had another plan for her.

 It was a sunny afternoon and Ruta enjoyed the light breeze which alleviated the clawing heat.  She was washing clothes in the river when she heard a distinct cry in the distance.  Stopping her work, she listened closer and heard the cry again.  Sensing that it was coming from the other side of the river, Ruta gathered her courage, lifted her skirt, and stepped through the icy currents quickly, forcing herself to stay upright.  Once ashore, she walked quickly toward a group of rocks where the wailing seemed loudest.  Turning the corner, she saw a young boy of about nine years of age, huddled, dirty, and weeping loudly.  

 Seeing Ruta, the boy tried to run away but Ruta grabbed his hand.  She tried to assure him that she was here to help him, but his face reflected skepticism.  It was only until Ruta asked if he wanted to play a game and tickled him, that she saw his smile.  It looked so odd when his face bore the tales of his journey.  

 “What is your name?”, Ruta finally asked

Looking up into her eyes for the first time, the boy replied, “Guillermo”.  

“Guillermo”, Ruta replied.  “Qué hermoso.  Like a strong warrior?  You look too young to be a soldier.”  She winked, hoping to revive his smile which had disappeared too quickly.  “Where are your parents child?”  

Guillermo sniffled, “I don’t know.  I was seperated from my papi y mamá a day ago.  I can’t find them.”  

Picking the boy off the ground, Ruta held his head in his arms for a few moments and let him weep bitterly once more.  

“I understand Guillermo.  I had to leave my parents too, but I was a little older than you.  Why don’t you come to my house and we can try to find some way to get you back to your parents?”

The boy seemed distrustful.  What had he gone through in this past day to make him so wary even when it came to survival?  

“I promise to treat you as my own son until we can find your parents.  You can trust me.”  Ruta took the boy's hands and kissed them, praying that God would open Guillermo’s heart enough to trust her.

Finally, Guillermo nodded yes and Ruta led him to her village.  The boy seemed to jump at every noise and it wasn’t until Ruta had bathed, clothed, and fed him that his true personality came out.  

When Juan arrived home that night from working in the fields, Ruta immediately went to him and begged him to keep Guillermo until his parents could be found.

“If they will be found”, Juan said.  “It’s highly unlikely that he could find his parents, not if he doesn’t know where they are going to or how.  For all we know, we could be taking in this boy for life.”

“I spoke with Guillermo and he said his parents were heading east and were walking with a cart.  It isn’t hopeless, don’t you remember how many miracles God did for the Israelites in the desert?  Nothing is impossible through Him.”  Ruta smiled, “And besides, even if Guillermo stays with us, you’d be getting the son you’ve always wanted.  Please Juan.  Take pity on him.”

Juan sighed, “I suppose he can stay for the night, but I need to do some serious praying about this to see if it’s God’s will that the boy stay here.”  

Ruta grinned wide in relief.  “Of course, come over to the fire, I’ve made some tortillas and beans for dinner.  Bringing Juan over to Guillermo, the two shook hands very formally and Ruta smiled for the joy bursting in her heart.  Finally, after years of waiting, would the Lord bless her with a child?

 

Juan began to warm up to Guillermo as he taught him the trades of working in the fields.  Soon, Guillermo was Juan’s little helper, going out each day after his lessons to work alongside his adopted father.  Against her wishes, Ruta attempted to keep her promise and ask around to see where Guillermo’s family had gone.  After several weeks without word from Guillermo’s parents, finding them looked hopeless.  

This realization brought strange satisfaction to Ruta.  While she pained to have to tell Guillermo each night that they didn’t find his family, she watched as he began to bond with their family and wanted it to last.  Surely this must have been the Lord’s work.  Surely, at long last she would have the child she had always dreamed of having.

One night, after putting Guillermo to bed, Juan walked over to Ruta, putting his arms around her and leading her outside into the darkness.  She sensed his inner struggle and yearned to know what was the matter.

Once outside, Juan sighed, deep and low.  Ruta’s heart began to pound unexpectedly, what could her husband want to say that was hurting him so much?  Finally, Juan began to speak.

“My dearest Ruta, you know how wonderful it has been to have Guillermo in our home.  I have enjoyed the extra help and he is a great worker.  But…”  Juan turned and faced Ruta directly.  Ruta pulled her shawl tighter, dreading the words that would come next.

“But he isn’t our son.  He belongs with his family.  I feel wrong taking him in without asking for permission.  His parents are probably wandering out in the wilderness, searching for their son day and night while we have him tucked away here.”

Tears quickly sprang to Ruta’s eyes.  “How do you know that’s the case?  Maybe they wanted to leave him!  You didn’t see him when I first found him.  His eyes….  He was so dirty and confused.  For all we know, he could have no parents and be in so much grief not to know the truth!”

Juan cupped her face tenderly.  “Ruta, I know you have longed for a child for quite some time.  And I myself would love to have a son at my side.  But the fact of the matter is, I’m not sure if it really is the Lord’s will that we take Guillermo in.”

Ruta stopped and stared at his face, unbelieving.  “You really believe that?  How could it not be the Lord’s will when he sent us this child directly?  What other reason could God have except having us keep Guillermo?”

“Perhaps He wanted us to protect the child until his parents come.”

“Perhaps his parents never come!  Perhaps we spend the rest of our lives, never getting close to Guillermo for fear that his parents will show up and take him away!  I couldn’t bear it Juan!  I won’t bear it!”

Trying to silence Ruta’s loud sobs, Juan took her in his arms, but she struggled to be free.  

“How dare you say that Guillermo isn’t meant to be with us!  I know he is!”

“Have you asked God about His will?”

This question hit Ruta hard, taking her breath from her.  Stumbling for words, she began, “Of course I have asked God…of course.”  Weeping bitterly, she realized she hadn’t and was filled with intense grief.  

Juan continued gently, “I don’t know what God’s will is in all of this.  But I do know that we should always ask Him what we are to do, and He shall make straight our paths.  Do you remember that passage Ruta?  I have had to remind myself many times and I think it’s a good idea to take it to heart.  Why don’t we take a few more days to earnestly seek God’s will in this situation and then discuss what we are to do about Guillermo.  What do you think my love?”

Lifting her head to the sky, Ruta wanted to say no with all of her heart.  She wanted to ignore the fact that God might have another plan for Guillermo than to remain in their home.  But that voice within her reminded her that this boy was not hers to keep but the Lord’s.  

“Yes”, she finally choked.  “Yes, that sounds reasonable.”  

Smiling with tears in his eyes, Juan took Ruta’s hand and led her inside.

 

All morning and all night Ruta beseeched of the Lord what to do about Guillermo, all the while pleading that He allow Guillermo to stay.  By the third day, around midday, Ruta got an answer.  Let go.  Ruta stopped sweeping and listened intently, making sure the answer she heard was the Lord’s.  There it was, that same voice inside of her saying, Let go my child.  Let go.  Weeping loudly, Ruta sank to the floor and covered her head.  ‘Why Lord?’, she asked over and over again.  ‘Why?’  She sat still for a few moments, waiting for an answer.  There was none.

It was nearly dark by the time Juan and Guillermo arrived home from the fields.  Ruta tried to prepare dinner and smile as usual, but her heart twisted each time she saw her Guillermo, and feared that this would be one of the last times she would get to serve him.  Seemingly oblivious, the boy went to his cot and read while Juan finished eating the stew and walked outside with Ruta to clean up.  

Though the dark night clouded her face, Ruta was sure that Juan could hear her deep, wavering sighs and catch a glimpse of her tear-streaked face in the candlelight.  And see her he did.  

“Ruta, the Lord spoke to me today.”

“As he did me”, Ruta whispered.

“And?”

“And...and he told me to let Guillermo go”, Ruta couldn’t help sobbing loudly this time.  Juan didn’t say anything, waiting for Ruta to finish.  “How could He be so cruel?  To give me a child and take him away so suddenly?”

Juan could only smile ruefully and hold Ruta tight in his arms.  “Remember the story of Hannah in the Old Testament?  She had prayed to the Lord for years to have a child.  And once he granted her one, what did she do?  She promised to give the child back to Him.  Maybe that’s what the Lord wants us to do now.  Maybe giving this child back to the Lord is the best thing we can do for him.”

“But where will the boy go?  His parents are long gone and there is no one else to take care of him.”

“I think I have a solution.  I was thinking the same thing upon coming back from work when the Lord directed me.  I sent Guillermo away and talked to a man by the name of Alejandro.  He was telling me about how his sick daughter has been begging for a brother and how they must travel far to get her to a hospital.  For months, Alejandro had been asking for a child, but the Lord kept telling him to wait.  And then, upon seeing me and Guillermo, the Lord directed him to me.  He was so nervous to ask such a crazy question.  Hearing his request broke my heart.  I thought, ‘How could the Lord want me to give up this much-needed boy for another family blessed with a child?’  I struggled Ruta, I really did.  I wanted to tell the man he was crazy and run with Guillermo.  But I was strongly convicted.  I knew this was God’s plan all along, not mine.  And so I told Alejandro that I would ask you to see if the Lord told you the same thing and tell him by daybreak tomorrow.”

Ruta looked away, horrified to hear the Lord’s plan being put into action so quickly.  “When are Alejandro and his family leaving?”  

“Tomorrow afternoon.”

Ruta nearly cried out, “Tomorrow!  That soon?!”  Falling into hysterics once more, she began to cry out, “Not my beloved Guillermo!  He and you are all I have!”

“No Ruta.”  Juan’s voice was firm.  “We have the Lord.  And He will do what’s best for His children Ruta.  Maybe not in our time, but in His.”

Too embittered to speak, Ruta walked inside.  Guillermo looked up, surprised to see her so emotional.  

“What is it Ruta?”  

Ruta went over to Guillermo and hugged him tightly.  “Never forget about us, okay?”  

Guillermo looked up at her face and smiled with tears in his eyes, “Of course Ruta.  Never.”

 

The sun was out, bursting, waiting for the world.  And waiting for Ruta and Guillermo.  Juan had gone to tell Alejandro his answer.  Ruta and Juan had told Guillermo what the Lord told them that night.  The boy had wept bitterly before hugging them tightly and promising that he would always be grateful for his time here.  To their surprise, he confessed that his parents had left him as they fled from a well-known gang that his father had been a part of.  He was sure they weren’t coming back.  Ruta could only nod her head, hearing the Lord’s confirmation once again that this was what He wanted.  

And now here her precious angel was, with his few belongings and as much food as she could give him to carry for his journey.  He and Alejandro’s family would be traveling for two days before reaching their new home.  

Alejandro and his family arrived only a few minutes later.  The father had a deep smile and a warm embrace.  His wife was equally kind and considerate.  Any fears Ruta had that this family would treat Guillermo badly, disappeared as she admired these loving parents.  And the daughter, Josefina, was a sweet little girl.  But sick indeed, it was evident.  Upon seeing Guillermo, the girl smiled for the first time and waved hello nervously.  Guillermo smiled and took her hand tentatively.

“Well, we really must be going.” Alejandro said after a few moments.  Juan took Guillermo into his arms and hugged him tightly, promising that he would pray for the boy everyday.  Ruta bent down, unable to keep the tears from flowing and embraced Guillermo.  “I will never forget you Guillermo, or the joy you have been to me over these past months.”  

The boy smiled and squeezed her hand, “I will never forget you either Ruta, or what you taught me.  The Lord has a plan for me.  And I think it is with this family.”  Struck by the boy’s sudden matureness, Ruta nodded and hugged him once more.

Watching the entire ordeal, Alejandro came over to Juan and Ruta, pleading they take some money for their care of Guillermo over the past few months.  Juan refused, asking only that Alejandro and his wife take the best care of Guillermo they could.  The man nodded solemnly.  “I am the Lord’s servant and I will do what He says”, he stated.  Then, with a quick smile said, “You don’t know what this means to my family.  I have been praying for healing for my Josefina for so long.  I truly believe that Guillermo will be our saving grace.  I am so grateful.”  The man’s face looked so sincere, Ruta felt almost sorry for being so selfish and wanting Guillermo for herself.

After a few more minutes, the family said their goodbye’s once more and began to walk away.  Before fading into the distance, Guillermo turned around and blew Juan and Ruta a kiss.  Smiling through her tears, Ruta waved back and watched as Guillermo was enveloped in loving embrace from Alejandro and his wife.

“I believe they will treat him well”, Juan finally said after a few moments of silence.

Hardly believing herself, Ruta replied, “Yes indeed.  May the Lord bless that boy for the years to come.”  Heart breaking, Ruta went back inside and tried to focus on making lunch and not the lurking depression that had already begun to plague her soul.

 
Ruta didn’t speak for the next few days.  The silence of the home seemed to attack her relentlessly.  Each time Juan came home, she would look towards the door with rapt attention, only to look away, reminded of her childlessness once more.

 Juan had encouraged her to talk to the Lord about her grief, but she had no intention of doing so.  As far as she was concerned, God was an unmerciful, maleficent, cruel being.  Everytime she would feel a stirring in her heart to let her anger go, she fought hard against it.  She convinced herself that the pain couldn’t hurt her.  But it did.  Her sleep was fitful, her appetite nonexistent.  Everything seemed so gray and dismal.

 One night, after finishing his daily reading of the Holy Book, Juan took Ruta in his arms and kissed her cheek.  Ruta didn’t feel anything, even the tremendous love for this man, her body numb with grief.  

 Noticing her unresponsiveness, Juan said, “Mi amor, why are you holding so tightly onto this pain within you?  Let it go, give it to Jesus.”

 Give it to Jesus?  Why should she give anything to Him?  He had already tormented her.  If He had never given a child to love, she could’ve lived on, like everyday before Guillermo came.  But Guillermo did come, and Ruta had loved him with all her heart.  And now he was gone.  Ruta hadn’t got word if he and Alejandro’s family had arrived safely and in all honesty, she was terrified of getting such a letter.  What if Guillermo had already forgotten about her and Juan?  What if he was happy?  How could she bear the news?  Turning her face, Ruta wept.

 Juan moved a piece of hair from her face and held her tightly.  Ruta heard whispering and found that her husband was praying.  A tight ball lay in her throat, as her guilt combined with pain.  How could she deserve such a pious and God-fearing man as the one before her?  Drawing back, Ruta went over to her mat and lay down, too exhausted to wonder if Juan followed her.  The world was a dark place and all she wanted to do was hide from it.

 

 The morning came and Ruta knew she should get up.  Juan would be expecting breakfast before he left.  Rising from the mat, she got dressed and served her husband.  Juan’s eyes looked so soft and concerned.  Ruta tried not to notice.  She couldn’t bear to acknowledge that her pain was hurting her beloved as well.

 “Ruta”, Juan whispered, as if to a child.  “I know you are grieving, I am too.  But we must move on.  The Lord has a plan for us.  It may not be the one we are thinking of, but it is His.  We must trust in him.  Please, my love.  Try to let go of this nagging pain inside you.”  He sighed deeply, “I miss Guillermo too.  A lot.  Please don’t think I am not hurting as much as you are.”

 “You are just better than I am”, Ruta blurted.  Juan looked up, surprised.  Ruta continued, “You are just so perfect that you can forget how much that boy had changed our lives.  I was so happy…”  Ruta’s voice broke, and she rose to busy herself.  

 “You think I can forget about him?”  Juan sounded angry.  Well fine, let him be angry, might as well have it out on her.  At least then she wouldn’t have to feel guilty.  

 Ruta stood, challenging him.  “Yes I think you can.”  Juan’s face turned beet red, and Ruta waited for the blow, never wavering, egging him on.  But to her surprise, Juan simply kissed her.  

 “You think I can forget him?  I cannot.  I cannot forget the way you smiled when he made you that wood boat.  I cannot forget how perfect he was for our family.  I cannot forget all those things.  This is not easy for me either, mi esposa.  But I’m trying to trust in God that he will work things out in his time.  Maybe it’s time for you to do the same.”  

 Juan grabbed his sack lunch and walked out the door, leaving Ruta abruptly.  She sat down on a nearby milkcrate and tried to bite her tongue to keep from letting her tears flow.  She held back, fearing the torment of emotions floating beneath the surface.  She had to stay strong, she had to pretend all was well, she had to --My child.  Ruta sat up and shivered, aware of another presence not shown to her. This time, she did not refuse to listen.  My child, why do you harbor these feelings within you?  Let them go, let Me take control.  Tears streaming down her face, Ruta responded, ‘But Lord, I don't want to give up control.  I don’t want to admit the truth.  I just want Guillermo.’  Again, the voice spoke; I am the Lord of Heaven and Earth.  I laid the foundations of this world.  Is there anything I cannot do?’ Ruta trembled, ‘No Lord’.  Then give your burdens to me and I will give you rest.  I will give you rest…

 As quickly as it had come, the presence dispersed, and Ruta sprang up from where she was sitting to walk outside.  This was the Lord’s doing.  He knew what was best.  Though she didn’t feel like doing so, Ruta promised herself that in any situation, she would listen to God’s will and not hers.  Convicted by her own remorse, she straightened and with tears still dried on her face, resolved to let the Lord take on her pain and give her renewed hope and peace.  

 

 “How are you today my little flower?”  Juan looked over at Ruta, his smile large and goofy.  

 Ruta couldn’t help but laugh, “I’m alive.  I’m here, and I have you.”

 Looking pleased with this answer, Juan replied, “Have you made your peace my dear?”

 Ruta looked at her husband straight in the face, “I have.  I am surprised the Lord has put up with me all this time.  Or you!”  Ruta laughed ruefully, “Oh my heart still aches for Guillermo everyday. But now I have this strange peace that goes with me when I feel lonely.  It’s like I have enough strength to get through the day.  Juan, do you think the Lord did this to test us?”

 Juan thought over this for a minute before replying, “I am not God, so I cannot know his reasons. But I do know that in times like these, we must cling to Him even stronger.”  Taking her hands, Juan looked her straight on.  “Ruta, I pray that God grants us a child, but even if He doesn’t, will you still bless Him?”

Ruta looked at the ground, thinking the situation over.  Not having children would be such a pity.  She would feel like a failure.  How could she get through that? Suddenly that familiar inner presence began filling her, reminding her that she would never be alone, that God would always be there to catch her when she fell.  

Lifting her head, she replied with certainty, “Yes Juan.  No matter what, I shall trust in the Almighty God.”

Smiling with pleasure, Juan took her into his arms and kissed her and held her tight.  “I will always love you Ruta.  Don’t you forget that.”

“And I you”, Ruta replied, her voice shaking with emotion.  She praised God for giving her life and hope even after her selfish complaints.  God was good and He had blessed her greatly.  

 

Ruta could hardly believe it.  With each day that passed, and no blood, she couldn’t help but wonder.  Had the Lord finally granted her a child?  It had been almost two years since Guillermo left, and any hopes of a child had disappeared long ago.

After three months, Ruta knew the truth.  Rubbing her hand over her stomach, she smiled and praised the God who had looked with favor upon her.  She could hardly wait until Juan arrived home.  

Seeing him at a distance, she ran at full speed straight into his arms.  Surprised, he grabbed her and kissed her square on the mouth.  

“Why such an emphatic greeting?”

Ruta could only smile and laugh with pure joy, “Juan!  Oh Juan!”  Seeing her broad smile and the way she patted her belly, Juan began to laugh deeply and swung his wife in the air.  

“Oh Ruta!  A child?  A baby?”  

Ruta nodded yes, and Juan spread his arms to the sky praising God for his goodness.  She smiled and laughed harder than ever before.

“The Lord has looked with favor on us!”

Juan turned to his wife, “Yes he has my dear.  Dios nos ha bendecido.  God has blessed us.”

The two walked back home, hand in hand, smiles and praises being sung.  And behind them followed that ever-glowing light, making the evening like day.  



 

 

 


© Copyright 2017 Annamarie Ciccarello. All rights reserved.

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