"If I think about it today, I'll go crazy. I'll think about it tomorrow instead. Tomorrow is another day." Scarlett O'Hara
Strong, powerful women learn to learn to live in the present. They know that if it's not happening now, it's not happening and they'd learn that they should leave tomorrow's problems to tomorrow's strength. It doesn't do much good to worry too much about the future because when the problem occurs, you may have options that you don't have now.
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Scarlett O'Hara Necklace
And now for Chapter 3 For Such The Angels Go
Joseph was true to his word and brought Jean some beans, fresh corn and a small bucket of water. He even managed to give her a threadbare sheet and a blanket, which he suggested that she roll up and use for a pillow. Jean didn’t hide her gratitude.
“You’re very nice,” she told him. “Why are you doing all this?”
“I believe that children are everyone’s responsibility,” he said. “And I’m appalled by what is going on in some of the cities. Men convincing uneducated people that witches are responsible for everything from war to AIDS, to dying crops, to sickness, to just bad luck. It doesn’t occur to these people that after tormenting children, things don’t get any better. But the mob, it is a terrible thing.” He cleared his throat and then said in a discouraged tone, “I can’t fight it alone.”
“As soon as it’s light, I’ll leave,” Jean promised. “This refuge is forty-two kilometers in what direction?”
Jean had only gone to school until she was eight. Then her mother lost her job as a bathroom attendant in one of the hotels and she couldn’t afford the cost of the uniform and the books. Jean had no idea where southwest was.
“I could point it out to you,” Joseph said, “but it will be meaningless.”
“I don’t want to ask. People might know who Sister Mary Jude is. Then they’ll guess that I’m a witch child.”
“You are not a witch child!”
Jean nodded. “I am not a witch child,” she repeated solemnly. “But still they might turn me in.”
“They might. I don’t think the government will look for you very hard and very long, though. They are too many other children to chase after. But you’re right, someone might believe that there’s a reward on your head and, for a few measly francs, they might bring you back to the city. Or,” Joseph hesitated, “they might decide to take matters into their own hands. So, you’re right, it wouldn’t be a good thing to let people know where you’re headed. Tell them you’re going to the small village of Hawa to find your uncle, who is expecting you.”
Jean nodded as Joseph rose.
“I’ll never forget you,” Jean promised.
Joseph smiled with those big, white teeth again. “Someday,” he said, “when you’re in America, you’ll do a kindness for someone there. And, like a little miracle, hope will spread.” He gave her a brief wave and then disappeared into the night.
Jean drank a bit of water, then tucked the pail in the corner. She’d leave most of it for the morning. If tomorrow was another hot day, she’d need to hydrate herself before continuing. Twenty-six kilometers, she thought. If there are people who can run it in a few hours, perhaps I can do it by afternoon. At least by nightfall. Even walking, I could do it in a day. My legs are strong and I’m young.
She lay down on the cool white sheet and crunched the blanket into a small pillow. She had never known her father and it was difficult to conjure up a picture of him. But after meeting Joseph, she knew exactly what her father looked like. He would be tall, with kind eyes, and very white teeth.
Maybe Joseph was her father and he suspected it and that’s why he had been so nice to Jean. Maybe when she was settled, had some money and she was a famous athlete, she’d come back and repay him for the francs. Then he would tell her with pride in his voice that she was his own child.
With these thoughts whirling in her mind, she fell into a restless sleep.
She never saw the eyes staring at her from the distance, watching and waiting.
Jean woke up to the sound of a soft roar. At first she thought it was part of a dream. Her mother and her baby brother were still alive but they had joined the mob chanting, “Come see the witch child, come see the witch child,” as they threw sticks and stones at her.
Upon waking Jean was slightly relieved to find herself alone in the abandoned shack. But when she turned her head towards the entrance, she froze with fear.
A lion stood stationary just a few feet away. As the lion glared at her with enormous black eyes, Jean was convinced that the animal was Satan in disguise and somehow her tormentors had sent him.
I’m never going to get out of this alive, she thought. One way or the other, they will find me and destroy me. Is it better to be devoured by a lion or be burnt alive or be beaten to death?
Jean remained motionless.
So did the lion.
Jean’s mother had taught her that there was no need to fear lions because lion mothers teach their young how to hunt and what to eat. Human beings are not on their menu. Lions only attack if they feel threatened, she said.
But lions are wild animals, Jean reasoned, and wild animals are unpredictable.
The lion watched Jean, blocking her path to safety.
If Jean started to scream, would Joseph hear her? Would he come for her?
Or would she just scare the lion into attacking?
Her mother had also taught Jean that everyone had a guardian angel, who stood behind her and made certain that no harm came to the child. Jean had even named her guardian angel, Michael, because that seemed like a good strong name. Where was Michael now?
The lion moved closer.
But he was not heading towards Jean. Instead his eyes fell on the bucket of water. With quick and steady footsteps, the lion made his way to the corner. Then he bent down and began to drink, making loud slurping sounds.
It’s now or never, Jean thought, as she sprang up and tiptoed out of the hut. And then she ran. She ran about a quarter of a mile down the long, dusty road before she drew a deep breath and found the courage to turn around. The lion had not followed her.
She was safe but she had left her water. The day was already sticky with humidity, although the sky was murky and overcast. In one way that was good, it meant that the sun would not be beating down on her head. But if it should rain –
So it rains, Jean thought, marathoners run in the rain all the time. The rain can’t hurt me. In fact it might bring some cool air.
She would run slowly at first, so not to exhaust herself. She could pick up speed towards the end, especially if night was approaching. When she came to a village, she would ask directions.
She hoped that people would be generous and good.
And somewhere in the distance, she prayed that her aunt and her mother were looking down from above, guiding her every step.
In about an hour it started to pour. Big, fat drops fell on Jean soaking her to the bone. She ran anyway, trying to keep an even pace. As she ran, she pictured herself sprinting in a marathon, with people clapping hard on either side of her, and a car, riding with a camera in front of her, filming her every move.
She had seen a photograph like that once in a newspaper and it was a vision that she clung to. So she wasn’t minding the run at all, even in the blinding rain.
She passed a pack of wild dogs, who lunged at her, growling and nipping at her heels. She outran them.
She was doing fine until she stepped on something hard and sharp. An acute pain ripped through her right foot.
She stopped and stumbled over to the side of the road. Panting, she sank in the mud and turned over her right sneaker. A sharp piece of glass was embedded in the hole of her shoe, piercing the sole of her foot. The gash was about two inches wide. Jean had no recourse but to take off her sneaker and yank the glass out of her skin.
Jean had always been a bit squeamish and she hated the sight of blood, especially her own. But she could not walk, let alone run with the jagged piece of glass thrust into her flesh.
She took a deep breath, closed her eyes and pulled. The pain was sharp and swift. And the blood came flowing out.
Jean had to find a way to stop it. She was wearing a dirty pair of shorts and a tee shirt. She had no underwear on, so taking her shirt off wasn’t an option. She looked around in the field to see if she could find even a piece of paper to hold against her skin. But it was raining so hard, it was difficult to see anything.
There had been a doctor in Kinshasa, although Jean had never gone to him. But she knew when wounds penetrated deeply they often had to be sewed. She could not sew her own wound and she couldn’t go back to the Kinshasa, even if she wanted to.
Could she bleed to death from a cut in her foot?
She pressed two fingers over her wound in a vain attempt to stop the bleeding. A crackle of lightening lit up the sky. Jean had heard that being in the middle of a field during a thunderstorm was dangerous. You were likely to be struck by lightening, electrocuted from the air.
Funny she was afraid that would have been her punishment if she had stayed in the city. It might happen anyway. God might be sending the storm as she lay bleeding to death in the middle of no where.
Jean tried to remember her childhood prayers, especially the Act of Contrition, but the words escaped her. Something about being heartily sorry for her sins. The problem was that Jean wasn’t quite sure what her sins were. And hadn’t she already paid her penance?
A deafening roar of thunder, followed by another crackle of lightening. Then Jean heard another sound, the sound of a car coming down the road. She crawled to the edge and waited. Soon a black sedan crawled into sight. She couldn’t see the driver but it didn’t matter. She popped up and made a weak attempt to jump and wave.
A crushing pain seared through her. She began to hop.
The car slowed down. An older man with a brown beard and a head full of chocolate colored tufts stuck his face out the window.
“Please, sir, can you help me? I need to get home and I’m injured.” She tried to show him her bleeding foot but she couldn’t raise it that high.
“Where you headed?”
“To Hawa. I have an uncle there.”
“What’s his name?”
Jean was not prepared for this question so she hesitated. The pause raised suspicions in the man’s bloodshot eyes. Even with the whipping rain, Jean could see him squinting.
“Adam,” she said quickly.
She was tempted to answer that she didn’t know his last name but surely that would not sound right. If he were indeed her uncle, than she would know. “Nkanka,” she said quickly, the first common name she could think of.
The problem was that it was the same last name of the pastor who was trying to persecute her. But what did it matter? If she didn’t get out of the field, she would die before her tormentors ever had a chance to locate her.
The driver nodded and opened the door. Then he looked down at her right foot and released a low whistle.
“I stepped on a piece of glass,” she explained and, at least, that was the truth.
“Look like you’re going to need a couple of stitches. Otherwise, you may have trouble walking. You don’t want to have a limp for your whole life, do you?”
Jean shook her head. How could she be a marathon runner with a limp? How could she get stitches? Would Sister Mary Jude help her? With a ride Jean would be at the refuge within the hour. Suddenly her heart tingled with hope.
“Well, get in. I don’t have all day.”