Angel swallowed hard and reached for a stick of gum to try to moisten her tongue. Her skin crawled at the mere thought of what she was doing. “It’s the only way,” she reminded herself. Her stomach threatened to wretch up its contents again, and she rushed for the antiseptic bathroom.
Returning to her chair in the waiting room, she hung her head, not wanting to see or be seen.
She was sick of the protesters. She could hear them outside. Why couldn’t they understand, this wasn’t a game for her?
Her pantry was no game either. Checking it’s contents this morning, a can of beans and half a box of crackers were all that looked back at her. Her purse held only a few dollars, and her job prospects were not good.
A limousine passed by on the street in front of the clinic. Angel stared out at the people holding signs. Nice dresses. Even the ones in jeans, those cost more than she could make in a month. Ricky had been one of those, the “nice jeans” kind.
She smacked her gum and looked at the clock on the wall. Had it only been twenty minutes? She wanted to get this over with and get on with her life.
Sirens sounded, coming closer. What was happening outside? Police officers were approaching the protesters. Why were the protesters getting on their knees? She leaned forward out of sheer boredom to see.
The woman behind the desk got up and closed the blinds. Angel wondered idly why she was smiling.
The arguments she’d used to talk herself into this came to mind. They were never far from it anyway. No money. No Ricky. No job. “A whole lot of nothing for another mouth to feed,” she thought dejectedly.
Shouting drew her attention to the happenings outside again. She got up and went to look out the door.
“Don’t worry about that Miss Costello. They’ll be gone soon.” Angel barely heard her.
People were shouting for the police to do something. The protesters remained huddled on their knees, their heads bowed. One protester was reading something out of a book to the others.
Suddenly someone picked up a rock and threw it at the reader. The rock took a chip out of the man’s shoulder; still he continued to read.
A policeman shouted something at the rock thrower, but took no action. How puzzling.
“Miss Costello, it will only be a few more minutes. Please relax. Can I get you something to drink?”
The protestors were singing now. Angel opened the door to listen.
“Jesus calls the children dear,
Come to me and never fear,
For I love the little children of the world;
I will take you by the hand,
Lead you to the better land…”
“Jesus loves the little children…”
Roughly, Angel was grabbed by the arm and pulled back inside the door and the door was slammed. The woman glared in the direction of the protestors uttering a few choice words under her breath.
The shouting grew louder, trying to drown out the singing.
The woman then turned an ingratiating smile on Angel. In a silky voice she cooed, “I’m sorry for the wait, sweetie. It’s your turn now.”
The song wafted through the closed door.
“…they are precious in his sight.”
A chill seized Angel, looking into the frigid eyes of the smiling woman.
“Jesus loves the little children…”
The walls of the room began to close in on Angel. She gasped for air, pulling the door open, stumbling, and running for help.
A few blocks away, a door was open. The dark cool interior was inviting.
As Angel’s eyes became accustomed to the dim light, she saw rows of pews. She was drawn irresistibly forward to the front.
Above and ahead of her stood a Man with open arms, reaching out to embrace her and the life she knew she would now choose herself to embrace.
A basket with a few coins sat on the first pew. Angel sat down beside it.
Thinking of the song’s words, she prayed “Jesus, love my child. Love me. Help me, please.”
“Ricky, what are you doing here?”
“I saw you run out of that clinic. Angel, what were you doing there?”
Ricky sat beside her, taking her hand. “Angel, you should have told me. I love you.”
Angel relaxed the fist of her other hand and the dollars she’d been clutching dropped softly into the basket.
Original words to “Jesus Loves the Little Children” by C. Herbert Woolston
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