The following is Chapter Five from a WIP (work in progress) tentatively titled Seeing . . .
They ate in silence, a covert solitude between strangers whose lives had intersected. Micah rarely had a companion traveling with him. In fact, it had been several years since his sister accompanied him on a quick day trip, and his pastor rode with him a couple of times in the last two years on day trips. This was something else entirely, and if he gave the specifics too much thought, they’d no doubt shake his resolve.
A woman living in his house. With him. How did this happen? So quickly. Didn’t matter. He had no real qualms about it, sensing this is what God had wanted of him. Strange as it might seem to others, Micah had given up on viewing occurrences as strange. His life reeked of strangeness. In order to handle it, he accepted the unusual, rarely questioning the oddities in his life.
“Why are you doing this?” Her voice was timid and sounded more like an echo bringing him out of his meditation.
“Because it’s the right thing to do.”
“Do you always do ‘the right thing’, Micah Jones?” There was a hint of a smile in her voice.
“Hardly,” he answered, glancing over at her.
Quiet filled the cab again. A voice barked over the CB, and Micah reached up to turn it down. The trucker was letting him know there was a “plain wrapper” up ahead. Micah checked his speed and thanked the other trucker.
“You’re a God person?”
Micah couldn’t stifle a laugh. “A what?”
“You know, like a Christian?”
“Oh. Yeah.” He smiled over at her. “Yeah, I’m a Christian—a God person.”
Her swollen lips formed a brief smile in the glow of the dash lights. “So you think I had this coming then? Like because of my many sins?” Her voice took a sarcastic turn.
“Of course not. Why would you say that?”
A long silence filled the cab.
“Isn’t there a saying like ‘You reap what you sow’ or somethin’ like that?”
“Yes there is, but it doesn’t mean that a guy gets to beat up on a girl. Rest assured he’ll get his.”
“You really believe he will?”
“I know he will. We might not get to see it or even know what happens, but there will be justice. Eventually.”
“Even if I hit him first?” Her voice was soft, and he sensed regret.
“I’m sure you had your reasons. Doesn’t matter anyway. He’s twice your size, and he’s a guy for cryin’ out loud. Anyone who justifies what he did to you belongs in jail right beside him.”
The miles led them on until Micah saw a motel sign in a town not too far from where he had to go to get his backhaul. He took the exit and pulled into the back lot where there were two other semis parked.
“I’ll get you a room for the night. I’m well out of hours and my eyes are burnin’. I’ll stay in here, but if you don’t mind, I’ll wash up in your room tomorrow morning.”
“You don’t have to pay for a room, Micah. I can sleep here in this seat.”
“Uh, no. I don’t mind, and you need to rest. Stay here, and I’ll go get a key.”
He climbed down out of the cab and stretched. He asked for a room in the back by his truck, mostly because he didn’t want anyone seeing Bonita and thinking he was the culprit. He stepped up and unlocked her door.
“I’ll carry your stuff in for ya,” he said after helping her out of the truck. “It’s no smoking, so if you need a cigarette, I’ll wait out here with you.”
“You don’t have to do that, Micah Jones.”
“Yeah, I do.” He climbed into the sleeper and got out her pack and suitcase, leading the way to her room which was no more than 20 yards from the truck. After setting her stuff inside the room and turning on a lamp for her, he stepped back outside, handing her the key. She joined him after finding her cigarettes.
The light shone dim from the outdoor lights at each end of the motel. Micah got his first real look at the colors on Bonita’s face as she lit her cigarette.
“He coulda killed you,” he said with disgust, leaning up against the building with his hands in his Levis’ pockets.
She looked away and took another deep drag. “I thought he was going to for a coupla minutes.” Her voice sounded faraway, even though the only other noise was an occasional car or truck on the nearby freeway and a few frogs and crickets singing in the night air.
“I’m just gonna dump the garbage while you finish that,” he said, headed back to the truck. He gathered the plastic bag he used for garbage and collected a stray bottle of water, tossing it in the large trash container at the end of the row of rooms. He went back to the truck and got another bag, hooking it over the arm of the passenger seat. Then he locked the passenger side of the truck and walked back to Bonita who was extinguishing her cigarette.
“You gonna be alright?”
“Okay. I’ll see ya in the mornin’. It’ll be about 6 AM. That’ll give me time to shower, if you don’t mind, and then we’ll be on our way.” He started to walk off.
“Micah Jones,” she called.
“You get inside, alright?”
She obeyed his request and closed the door.
Micah carried a change of clothes and his shaving kit headed for Bonita’s room when he saw her standing outside with a cigarette. She managed a smile.
“You’re up early.”
“I can find a way back, Micah Jones. You don’t have to take me home with you.”
“What’s your last name?”
“Well, Bonita Carson, unless you have a personal aversion to me, I’m taking you home with me. We can come back next week, and you can start over if you want. Just consider this a mini vacation or something, a side trip in your life. You worried I’m gonna come on to you, or worse, preach at you?” He gave a slight smile.
She laughed a bit, but protectively put her free hand to her split lips at the pain. “I wish, and, no, to answer your questions.”
“You wish what?” She’d confused him.
“I wish someone like you would come on to me. Mostly, I attract losers.”
He hadn’t had a vision of her since he’d seen her this time, but in a flash he saw a vivid picture of a hulking figure on top of her as a little girl. He shuddered. She caught his brief movement.
“Yeah, I know. I wasn’t pretty to begin with and now I look like hell. Plus this sad excuse for a body isn’t much, but you’d be amazed what I can do with it, Micah Jones,” she said defiantly, mistaking his shudder for repulsion.
“Who says you aren’t pretty, and you don’t know what I see,” he responded defensively.
“I know you see a slapped around slut you probably wouldn’t be caught dead with in public,” she retaliated, stomping on her cigarette and turning back to open the door to the room.
Micah reached for her hand with his free one. “Bonita,” he said, waiting for her to face him. “I . . . I see things that God shows me about people. I don’t want to freak you out or scare you since I more or less abducted you. If you want to know more about what I believe, just ask me. But one thing you need to know is I don’t see you as anything but a woman in need of a friend and a person in desperate need of some relief from the pain in your life.” He looked away from the sadness in her bruised eyes. “And not just the physical pain.”
She looked at him, skeptical in her brief study of his features but wanting to believe he was as real as he sounded. “Sorry for the drama. You need to shower?”
He let go of her hand. “I’ll hurry, and we’ll be on our way. Alright?”
“Fine with me. I made the little pot of coffee for you.”
“You don’t drink coffee?”
“Only when I have to.”
“We’ll grab something to eat on our way out of town.”
“I’m not hungry, but you go ahead and stop. I’ll get a hot chocolate.”
Micah succeeded in talking Bonita into ordering something to eat, explaining he wouldn’t be stopping again for food for several hours. He could tell she wasn’t used to eating breakfast, but she steadily nibbled on her meal as they traveled the miles it took to get to his backhaul.
The quietness between them grew somehow comfortable. It seemed they both knew there would be ample time for getting to know each other when they arrived at Micah’s home. When he pulled into the drive leading to the mill where he would pick up a van load of wood pellets, she asked him if he’d mind if she rested in the sleeper. He told her to make herself at home, suspecting she didn’t want anyone seeing her battered face.
When he returned to the truck and finished his paperwork, he looked back to see her reclined and hoped she was getting some sleep. It was then he remembered she smoked and figured when she got up, he’d have to find a rest stop for them to use the facilities and for her to have a cigarette.
Just before he reached the rest stop, she climbed back into the cab.
“I didn’t mean to fall asleep,” she said, almost an apology.
“I always liked to crawl back there when I was a kid goin’ on what I thought was a long trip with my dad. The hum of the truck put me to sleep before I knew it. I never intended to fall asleep, but it worked like a charm. You probably needed it.” He smiled over at her. “We’ll be stopping up here a little ways.”
She gave him a brief smile and looked out her window.
They’d been on the road for about an hour with nothing more than a welcome sun exclaiming spring was in fact on its way. Micah offered Bonita his extra shades after donning his sunglasses, and she accepted.
“Tell me about your wife,” she said, ending the silence.
The statement gave him a fair jolt, and he looked over at her, but she stared straight ahead.
“Rosie said you married young and lost your wife.” Her voice was soft, kind.
“Yeah.” He wondered if he could talk about it without exposing his tired grief. For whatever reason, he figured he should try. “Jean July Owen,” he began. “I was 12 years old when I met her. If you believe in love at first sight, I was.” He managed a brief laugh at the familiar recollection. Why couldn’t he just talk about her, about them, about the love that developed between two young kids into a devotion and passion he couldn’t recall without such deep regret?
“You must’ve really loved her. Rosie said it was a long time ago.” She continued to stare out ahead of them.
“It was. And I did. Do, I guess. Loving somebody never ends, you know?”
Silence settled in the cab again. He assumed he’d said enough.
“’No’ what?” He looked over at her, and this time she turned to face him.
“No, I don’t know about loving somebody.”
Her plaintive sentence brought pain. The old cliché about it being better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all gave a new clarity to his experience, even though he knew he’d lost his wife through her death not from a fading love. He met Bonita’s gaze, her concealed eyes hiding the empty longing. She looked away.
“What do you see, Micah Jones?”
He knew what she referred to, and he wanted to tell her, but he prayed first because what he had to say could easily cause the wounded woman to run away from his rescue.
Father, you provide the inspiration and the words. Help me to keep listening. Thank you for every word. Apart from you, I can do nothing. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.