Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "Every Dark Cloud has a Silver Lining" (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (02/28/08)
- TITLE: The Wages of Kindness
By Patty Wysong
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Rosie stirred, her mouth puckering to cry. Micah gently bounced her, hoping she would hold out a little longer. When he looked up, Jessica was walking to her wagon. Micah followed her, watching as she reassured her children.
“Jess?” Micah called as he neared her fire.
With a smile she took the baby, “There's beans in the pot, if you'd like some, Micah.” She adjusted her light shawl, murmuring quietly to Rosie.
It's too soon to talk to her, Father.
Jessica held out a leather pouch to Micah. “This belongs to you.”
Micah eyed it, mentally weighing how much was there. “No, it's yours. Your wages for wet nursing Rosie these weeks.”
With a gentle toss, it landed beside him.
“I would never charge anyone to nurse their motherless baby.” Jessica caressed Rosie's head through the shawl. “This little one eased the pain of losing my own. She's brought comfort and joy to me. Jake had no business charging you. I know why the amount was so high, too.”
A steely glint entered Micah's eyes. He lowered his voice, so it wouldn't carry to the children playing nearby. “Did he tell you I was paying to ensure he didn't lift his hand against you or the children? Did he tell you that?”
Jessica's eyes searched his. “No,” she whispered. “He didn't tell me that.” She looked down at Rosie and gently stroked her cheek before looking back up. “Thank you. I wondered why he had stopped.”
“Did you love him?” Lord, I can't believe I asked her that! She just came from burying her husband.
Jessica looked into the dying fire. “No. I never did.”
“Why did you marry him?”
A shudder went through her. “Pa didn't believe that Jake had forced me so he made me marry him. Pa's heart gave out shortly after overhearing Jake brag about it to his friends.”
Micah's hands and jaw clenched convulsively.
Jessica turned to Micah and smiled. “It's been a long six years, but God kept us safe and got us through. I accepted Christ after a Christian lady nursed me when Jake was on a binge, so there has been some good come from it.”
Did any good come from my marriage, Lord?
“Did you love Rhonda?” Jessica asked.
“I loved who she pretended to be but she was spoiled and self-centered. I'd hoped having a baby would help her outgrow all that, but...”
“Don't blame yourself, Micah. You have Rosie, now.”
Good did come from those years; I have Rosie.
Jessica's children stopped playing and leaned against her, silently studying Micah. With a smile he reached into his vest pocket and withdrew candy he had brought for them. He offered it as he would to a skittish animal. With round eyes they looked to Jessica for permission. She nodded then watched as they plucked the candy from his hand and whispered their thanks.
Micah's heart ached. “You don't need to be afraid anymore.” Their shy smiles gave him hope. Lord, I want to take care of them, and Jessica.
A neighbor's voice carried from nearby. “I'm tellin' ya', Micah should jest marry Jess. They're a matched pair.” Harriet being shushed made Micah laugh and Jessica's face glow.
“She's right, you know,” Micah said.
Jessica's startled eyes flew to him.
“Do you think you could trust me not to hurt you or the children?”
“Oh, Micah, even that time you were furious with Rhonda you never raised your hand against her, and you're a kind man; I've seen that. I completely trust you.”
Micah smiled, his hope soaring. “And through all these weeks I've seen your unselfishness and love for others. Would you marry me? I know Jake just died, but...”
Harriet marched up, grinning. “Thet goat's been dead plenty long enough!”
From nearby someone called out, “Harriet, let the girl answer the question!” Micah laughed and looked at Jessica.
She smiled and nodded. “Yes, I'll marry you.”
Harriet let loose a whoop. “Call the preacher; she said yes!”
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