Beginning where we left off last time … No wonder she escaped so often … sometimes to neighbors’. Sometimes to her only friend’s house. Mostly to her church. She felt safe at church. She knew it’s where she belonged.
When she was younger and lived on the other side of town, she’d ridden the Sunday School bus with her older brother. They’d walk two blocks to stand on the corner in front of the Christian Bookstore and pitch pennies while they waited to be picked up. Back then, she only got to go on an occasional Sunday morning.
Thanks to an urban renewal project, however, they had to move to another house, which was back in the old neighborhood. The best thing about it: Now church was just six blocks from home. Before the family owned a car, she’d walk there and back three times each and every week – Sunday morning services, Sunday evening services, and Wednesday night prayer meetings.
The summer she was 12, she left church shortly after dark to walk home. She remembered that it was that particular June because she was wearing the polka dot blouse and matching wraparound skirt she’d make in 7th grade home economics that spring. Ever cautious about her surroundings, she watched and listened as she headed for home.
Just a block or two from the church, she heard footsteps behind her and looked over her shoulder. It was a man in a checkered shirt. Not wanting to appear afraid, she turned her head back in the direction she was going and quickened her steps, but only slightly so as to appear calmer than she actually felt. Kansas was always rainy in June, and the sidewalks had puddles here and there – mostly small, but some large. She lengthened her stride to make it over one of them – at the same instant the man did.
He wrapped his arm around her neck, slapping his hand tightly over her mouth, and commanded, “Don’t scream.”
Then he yanked her purse from her hand and took off. She didn’t know in which direction. Her heart was pounding so hard she couldn’t think. As soon as the man had let her go, she began screaming at the top of her lungs. Instinctively, she headed back to the church. Visibly shaken and out of breath, she ran into the foyer where several adults were still visiting. Her Sunday School teacher offered her comfort as she told the story. The police were called, and the pastor gave her a ride home.
She didn’t sleep well for months. Lots of months.
Now she was 14 … and living alone.