Dee ran as far as she could and then collapsed in the mud. Tears of frustrated helplessness had long dried, totally spent on the final straw that pushed her to flee in any direction -- as long as it was away from the confusion and hate. She heard footsteps sloshing through the rain but had no inclination to move. It didn’t seem to matter anymore.
She felt a hand on the side of her neck feeling for a pulse; still, she did not move.
“Are you hurt, Miss?”
It was the sweet voice of an older lady with a Scottish kind of accent. Dee opened her eyes but did not respond.
“Oh, my dear, you poor little thing. You’re going to catch your death out here in this mess. Let me help you. I just live across the way there.”
The pliable girl let herself be assisted to a sitting position, and then up on shaky legs where she was led to an inviting cottage. As they entered, a delicious aroma wafted over her like a warm blanket. The Good Samaritan helped her sit in a brightly painted kitchen chair and promptly put the kettle on for tea. She wrapped an old quilt around the girl’s trembling shoulders; then, gently bathed her face and hands.
“Now, Missy, we’ll have ourselves a cuppa and some of that darlin’ gingerbread. You don’t hafta say a word. Just get a little strength back and I’ll draw you a nice bath.”
The kind woman bustled and chirped while Dee followed every move with shock-filled eyes. There had to be a catch. There always was. The cup of tea was like a soothing life-saving liquid. The rescuer did not stop chattering the whole time.
“ Me girls are all gone now, but there’s some flannel sleep things in the bureau in Fran’s old room; and plenty of soap and stuff in the lavatory. Help yourself.”
After a few more sips of the strong brew, Dee spoke.
“Who are you?”
“Oh my dear. I’m nobody; just a passerby coming back from posting a letter to me daughter. My goodness but you gave this old ticker a start, all crumpled up there in the puddle.”
“Thank you, Ma’am.”
“I’m Elizabeth Brown, but you may call me Bessie . I’m all alone. The mister passed years ago.”
Dee soaked in the huge claw-foot tub and washed her short hair. Afterwards, she studied the pitiful reflection in the mirror over Fran’s dresser. Purple bruises had healed to a disgusting shade of yellow. She quickly covered them with the soft nightgown. Not knowing what else to do, she crawled between the crisp sheets and fell asleep.
Insistent sunlight slipped around the window shade to remind Dee she had survived another night. She smelled bacon and biscuits and realized she was hungry for the first time in months.
Bessie had instructed her to wear whatever she could find in the charity bag. She retrieved slacks, a decent looking blouse, and some sneakers. With a dab of make-up she had found in the bathroom , she felt more human today.
“Good morning, Luv. Sit down now. The scrambled eggs and hot coffee will do you good.”
More bustling followed more chirping and kindness. Bessie asked her to stay as long as she liked, then she invited her to what she called a worship service. It would be on Saturday night and there was no dressing up. Dee couldn’t say no.
The uninformed girl had been to church with a friend, one time, years ago. When her angry father found out, he bellowed,” There’ll be none of that stupid non-sense around here.”
Bessie and her protégé arrived at the small warehouse-looking building that was already filled with the singing of hauntingly different tunes. A few members came and embraced the newcomer as if she were family. After that first night, she looked forward to the meetings, even though she understood very little except the camaraderie and acceptance.
Before long, she joined in the worship rituals. At certain times, they moved outside and around a bond fire. The deeply devoted worshippers began a strange guttural group growl that escalated to a frenzy of crazed chants.
She drank in every drop of perverted truth and became another misguided follower. She was unaware the champion of all deceivers had fooled her. She did not know that true worship, corporate or personal, belongs only to the Father in heaven.
No one had ever told her.
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