When Mercy Rains
The hiss of approaching tires on wet pavement broke the tense silence between the mother and daughter seated on the bus-stop bench. Suzy flicked a look at Mother and dared a timorous comment. “Here it comes.” Now that her leave-taking was upon her, would her mother’s disapproving demeanor soften?
The lines of Mother’s mouth remained etched in a stern line, the furrows between her brows forming a V so deep it might never depart. Suzy hunched into her wool coat—a coat far too cloying for the damp May dawn but also too bulky to fit in her small cardboard suitcase. She’d be gone well into the winter months, and Mother insisted she’d need it so she should wear it. And she always did what her mother said.
Well, almost always. Who knew one foolish mistake could hold such farreaching consequences? I’m so sorry, God
The bus groaned to a stop at the curb, and Mother curled her hand around Suzy’s elbow, forcing her to rise. Although Mother’s grip was hard, impersonal, Suzy welcomed it. Her ordinarily demonstrative mother hadn’t touched her even once in the past two weeks, as if fearful Suzy’s stains would rub off. So she pressed her elbow against her rib cage, needing to feel the pressure of Mother’s work-roughened fingers against her flesh. But the coat proved too thick a barrier. Suzy blinked rapidly.
“Get your case.”
The moment Suzy caught the handle of the old suitcase, Mother propelled her through the gray drizzle toward the bus. The slap of the soles of their matching black oxfords sent up dirty droplets from the rain-soaked sidewalk, peppering their tan hosiery. The dark spots reminded Suzy of the dark blotch now and forever on her soul. She pushed the thought aside and looked into the opening created by the unfolding of the bus door.
The driver glanced from Mother to Suzy, seeming to focus on their white mesh caps and dangling ribbons—Mother’s black, Suzy’s white. Accustomed to curious looks from those outside her Mennonite faith, Suzy didn’t wince beneath the man’s puzzled scowl, but she battled the desire to melt into the damp concrete when Mother spoke in a strident tone.
“I am Abigail Zimmerman, and this is my daughter. She is traveling oneway to Indianapolis.”
One-way… Suzy swallowed hard.
Mother gave her elbow a little shake. “Show him the ticket, Suzanne.”
Suzanne. Not Suzy as she’d been tenderly called her entire life. She gulped again and drew the rumpled ticket from her pocket.
The driver eased himself from the seat and plucked the rectangle of paper from Suzy’s icy fingers. He stared at it for a moment and then bobbed his head and waved a hand in invitation. “Come on aboard. Long drive ahead of you.”
Suzy gritted her teeth to hold back a cry of agony. He didn’t realize how long. She turned to Mother, silently praying the mother who had dried her tears and bandaged her childhood scuffs would reappear, would read the fear in her eyes and offer a hug. A kind word. A hint of forgiveness.
Mother leaned close, and Suzy’s heart leaped with hope. “The people at the…in Indianapolis know what to do. You do what they say.” Mother’s harsh whisper raised a slight cloud of condensation around her face, softening the fierce furrows of anger etched at her eyes and mouth
“I will.” Questions Suzy had fearfully held inside pressed for release. What had Mother and Dad told Clete, Shelley, and little Sandra? Did the fellowship know she was leaving? Would she be allowed to call home?
“Afterward you can come to Arborville again. It will be as though this never happened.” Mother took a step back, shoving her balled fists into the pockets of her lightweight trench coat.
Tears flooded Suzy’s eyes, distorting her vision. The suitcase encumbered one arm, but she lifted the other, her fingers reaching fleetingly toward her mother. “Mother, I—”
“At least you will be able to bless your cousin Andrew and his wife. God will redeem your sin. Now go, Suzanne.” Mother jerked her chin toward the rumbling bus. “Go and put this unpleasantness behind us.”
… Suzy’s shame had spilled over and tainted her entire family. She bowed her head, the weight of her burden too much to bear.
“I will see you afterward.”
Mother’s words sealed Suzy’s fate. With a heavy heart, she climbed the stairs, the unwieldy suitcase and her trembling limbs making her clumsy. She trudged down the narrow, dim aisle past snoozing passengers to the very last bench and slid in. Hugging the suitcase to her aching chest—to her womb, which bore the evidence of her shame—she hung her head and toyed with the plastic handle of the suitcase rather than clearing a spot on the steam-clouded window to see if Mother might wave good-bye.
The bus lurched forward, jolting Suzy in the seat. She closed her eyes tight as a wave of nausea rolled over her. Her thoughts screamed, Wait! Let me off!
She didn’t want to go so far away. She needed her mother. She would miss her father and sisters and brother.
Her mother’s final comment echoed in her mind. “I will see you afterward
.” After Suzy delivered this child and handed it to others to raise. The ache in her chest heightened until she could barely draw a breath. She leaned her forehead against the cool glass and allowed the long-held tears to slip quietly down her cheeks. She would leave her home in Kansas, and she would count the days until she could put this nightmare behind her and go back to being Mother and Dad’s Suzy again.