Hey Friends! Thanks for continuing the Country Girl Cattle Drive as we herd 111 verses from the pages of our Bibles to our hearts. (Matthew 5-7)
(If you are new, here’s the scoop: I write down a verse and then write a story to help us remember the verse. If you want to begin at the start of the current story, go to the post titled “Store Up.”)
Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
“Night coming tenderly, Black like me,” Eleanor whispered, walking across the snow-dusted street. She turned the corner and the street light was blocked by the LMNO Pizza building. She looked up at the now-clear sky, at the lovely blackness of all of space, at the little pinpoints of light. It made her feel like everything might turn out okay.
Then her eyes fell on Abe and Sapphire’s house. The green crossover with tinted windows was in the drive.
Maybe I should go back to the coop, she thought.
Things had been so strange over the past month at Uncle Abe’s house. Maybe she should say that Sapphire had been strange.
No, it was more than that.
The house had a different feel. And things were going missing. Abe’s pocket knife. A pair of pearl earrings that had belonged to Sapphire’s grandmother. Eleanor had started getting off the bus at the coop and then driving home with Abe. Things at the house were better if Abe was there.
And the people in the green crossover never stopped by when Abe was home.
It’s my home, she thought. I have a right to go home if I want to.
She stuck her chin up and marched down the street.
But then she stopped. Her bedroom light was on. Had she accidentally left it on that morning? But as she got closer, she saw a shadow against the curtain. As she dropped her bag at the corner of the house near the driveway, she sensed that she was being watched, but brushed off the feeling and tip-toed around the front of the house, the frozen grass crunching under her white tennis shoes.
Through the slits of the blinds in the living room window, she could see Sapphire and the freak lady with the jade necklace talking. Eleanor heard a creaking sound and tip-toed back around the house. She looked up at her window just in time to see her bedroom light shut off.
That’s when a hand grabbed her arm.
Sister Love is the best cook in the whole world. She has opened the eyes of my stomach. Mom let me stay at the mission one day, but the rule was that I had to go wherever Sister Love went. (Some of the people who come to the center have done some pretty terrible things, especially to children, so we have to be careful.) I watched her put away a truck load of donations, make a menu for the week based on the foods received, make and clean up lunch with the help of several homeless women, then start battering fish for supper.
I didn’t know I liked fish. But I do. At least if Sister Love is making it and serving it up with greens.
We had fish tonight at the center. I sat down at the table with my family (they have a table just for us now with a little sign that says ‘Reserved’). I helped Cal get the meat off the bone and then set his fish bones on my tray. It smelled so good the whole time I was helping him. The little cloud of steam was so enticing, but when I finally put a bite in my own mouth, it was hard to chew and totally and completely impossible to swallow.
I was trying so hard not to think about it, but tonight was the last performance of the Nutcracker and it just wasn’t going to work out for me to go and I just really wanted to cry.
Eleanor screamed, wrenched herself free, and ran. Her feet slid as she turned the corner again into the streetlight, but her shoes gripped fine from there to the coop. She stopped at the metal Cenex sign, clutching it, breathing heavily.
What should she do?
“Mom, why can’t you come home and be my mom?” she whispered.
But only the silence of the night answered. “I don’t want to live here anymore, Mom. And I don’t know where else to go.”
That’s when she remembered her father’s parents. It was hard to think of them as grandparents—she had never really known them. And why was that?
Nia’s truck was still at the coop.
Yes, she thought. She remembered something about Nia’s family moving to downtown Wichita. This was the answer.
Her face turned sadly toward Uncle Abe’s house—her dance bag was there—but then she looked back at Nia’s truck, stuck her chin in the air, and marched forward. She hoped that there was a blanket or some coats or something in the back seat of the cab of Nia’s truck.
After supper, I was better, actually. I told God in my heart that I know He has to say no sometimes. We were taking our dirty dishes to the window for a man called Red to wash when Mrs. West called my name. She was marching through the dining room and waved for me to follow her. Given a nod from mom, I fell into step with Mrs. West.
Her office smelled like pine trees. Her keys made tinkling noises as she crossed the office to the couch draped by a long, transparent bag. “These came today,” Mrs. West said. “I think there’s only one person around here they will fit.”
But Mrs. West was wrong.
Our family drove the one block home where Nia had parked the old Ford. Just after we pulled in, Uncle Cyrus pulled in beside us. Mede and Cal crawled all over me and my new dresses to scramble out the door to say hi to him. It occurred to me to be grumpy about the dresses, but, seriously, that sounded like something the snotty girls in books would do. I was still gunning for the part of mistaken-for-a-pauper-actually-a-for-real-princess-Sarah Crew. It’s a long shot, but a girl can dream.
We all tromped up the steps to our apartment.
“This place is awesome!” Cyrus declared, extending his long arms, gesturing to the apartment. Ro thought he wanted a hug and bull-dozed him. He fell back into a couch, laughing, and looked over at me. “Watcha got there, Io?”
“Dresses,” I shrugged.
“Cool.” He glanced at Mom.
“Why don’t you try one on?” Mom said.
I scrunched up my face.
I shrugged and headed for the bedroom I share with Nia. Just the lamp was on. Nia was sitting on our bed, brushing her wet hair.
“Hey,” she said.
I pulled the dresses from the bag and laid them on our bed.
“Wow,” Nia said. “Where did those come from?”
“Mrs. West. She said they were donated today.”
“Are you going to try them on?”
“Better shut the blinds first.”
I nodded and stepped over to one of the windows. I looked down into the street where the streetlights shone on the cars. There was a girl standing there, looking at her phone. She looked like she was about my age. I wondered if she lived nearby. Probably not. There aren’t many houses around here.
I twirled the plastic piece that closed the blinds and moved to the next window. The girl was still there, looking at her phone. That’s when something stabbed my heart. What had I been thinking? Why was a girl my age in this part of Wichita at night? She must be lost. “Nia,” I said. “Look.”
Nia cocked her head and joined me at the window. Suddenly, the brush fell from her hand, hitting the window. Nia ran for our door, shouting, “That’s Eleanor.”
We thundered through the apartment. Nia got out the main door to the steps, but Dad stood in front of me, blocking my way. “What’s wrong, Io?” he asked, his brow creased in concern.
“My friend is down there, in the street,” I said, looking over at mom. “It’s Eleanor. From Mount Hope.”
“That’s impossible,” Mom said.
“That’s great!” Uncle Cyrus said. I turned to follow Nia down the steps when Uncle Cyrus said, “She can go to the Nutcracker with us.”
My whole body froze.
I turned back around.
“What did you say, Uncle Cyrus?”
Uncle Cyrus just smiled.