The truck came to a sudden halt. Maria peeked through the rear cab window and saw flashing blue lights and men running toward the truck. She slid the glass apart then shimmied into the cab and behind the seat. At the same time she heard the doors of the truck being opened and the shouts of men and women as they were herded out of the vehicle. “Protéjame Jesús.” Tears began to run down her cheeks. Her slight frame was wedged so tightly that she could barely move and the moisture of her tears mixed with perspiration and burned her eyes.
The two cab doors jerked open and the two men in the front seat screamed as they left the truck. She could only imagine that they were somehow hurt. She heard English words which she did not understand, but seconds later another man (she could tell by his sweaty smell), jumped onto the driver’s seat. The springs of the seat pushed into her head and she felt dizzy, but dared not move or call out.
Soon the truck was moving again. Maria closed her eyes. Oooh, Jesús, yo le necesito ahora. Her thoughts drifted away with the hum of the truck engine and she slept. Sometime in the wee hours of the morning she woke to the sound of the door slamming. She was alone.
She pushed away from the floor with her left hand and the springs forgave her action and moved a couple of inches. With her right hand she grasped the seat back and pulled herself to the top of the seat. She managed to crawl over the back cushion and crouched looking out the driver’s side door. She curled up on the bench, pulling her arms around her and her knees to her chest. The sky outside the truck was beginning to lighten. Morning would soon appear.
Voices suddenly chattered away somewhere behind the truck, then Maria heard the sound of footsteps approaching. She felt herself begin to panic. It was too late to crawl back behind the seat. She slid onto the passenger floor and curled up into a ball, pulling accumulated trash over herself.
The door opened and a young Anglo woman got into the driver’s side. Maria felt the woman’s eyes.
“Shhh.” The woman looked straight ahead. “Ningún ruido. Sea callado.”
Maria understood that she was to be quiet and make no noise. She ducked and pulled an old newspaper over her face.
The truck began moving again. And after several bumps the woman said. “Go ahead and get up, you are safe. Levántese. Está a salvo ahora.”
Maria pulled herself up onto the seat. When the truck stopped at a stop sign, the woman reached over and pulled the seatbelt around Maria.
“We wouldn’t want to get stopped for a seatbelt violation.”
Maria understood not a word. She looked around in amazement at the buildings while the truck passed through the streets. So many things were running through her head, she didn’t know where to start, who the woman was, or where she was going. A day before she was crawling along a sage brush line and under a wire. Now, she was lost in a new land.
The woman glanced at Maria. “How old are you, uh, ¿Cuántos años tiene?”
Maria gulped. “Tengo diecisiete años.”
“Seventeen. Hmmm. You’re awfully small.” The woman turned the truck down a street.
Maria looked out at the well-kept lawns and pretty houses. The truck finally stopped in front of a stucco house.
“I hope she’s home, come on. Vamos.”
Maria didn’t know whether to trust the woman, but at least she seemed friendly. Maria got out of the truck and followed. Jesús, yo le necesito.
The woman knocked on the door and a Hispanic woman appeared. “Carmen, I found this one alone at the impound. Can you help?”
Carmen peered behind the Anglo woman. “Bring her in quickly. If we can’t find her family I can keep her here for awhile.” Carmen reached over and took Maria’s hand. “Esto es una casa de Dios. Está bienvenido aquí.” Carmen hugged the Anglo woman then closed the door.
Maria felt a smile cross her face for the first time in several days. She raised a hand to praise God. “Gracias. Alabe a Dios.” She still didn’t know where she was or how she got here, but the warm feeling inside of her said that Jesus heard her prayers. “Gracias Jesús.”
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