|Planted by the Rivers
To Order: Planted by the Rivers of Water
Rachel Todd, a strong woman of independent means, finds herself abandoned by her husband of almost three decades. Alone, her children grown, she searches for God's help in rebuilding her shattered life.
Her journey to begin anew is filled with unexpected twists and turns as she seeks comfort in the familiar surroundings of her childhood home. There she awaits God's guidance and direction.
As she overcomes the pain of rejection and is empowered by a new sense of purpose, Rachel courageously ventures into new domains where she grows spiritually stronger and finds romance, peace and contentment.
Chapter One-The Nightmare
The night was dark and foreboding, the full moon was hidden behind dark dense clouds. The air was heavy with moisture and rain was imminent. Hopefully, I could get home before the downpour began. In California the rain can come slowly, like a gentle mist, or savagely, destroying everything in its path.
Going out alone at night didn’t bother me as a rule. My husband Paul and I lived in a safe and peaceful community, but tonight something was different, tremulous. The atmosphere had a surreal quality that made me feel edgy but I shrugged it off and went about my errand.
I arrived at “Marie’s Gourmet Coffees and Teas” just before closing time. Having used my last drop of coffee at dinner, I needed to get some more for my morning brew. Senseless, some might think, going out in the rain just for coffee, but for me it was a necessity. I dreaded facing the dawning of a new day without caffeine and having few addictions felt justified in placating my need and desire for the invigorating black elixir. A pound of Double Dark Chocolate and one of French Vanilla, my two favorite varieties, would last a while.
Marie, the owner and my best friend, ground the two pounds of coffee beans for me and gave me a cup of Caramel Mocha, the flavor of the day, to enjoy on the way home. I said a hasty ‘good-bye’ with a promise to call soon.
By the time I reached my car the store’s lights were shutting down and the proprietors were retreating through the rear doors. Glancing around the parking lot I felt a sense of panic sweep over me. The town seemed deserted and eerie. I quickly unlocked the car door and leapt inside.
“Get a grip!” I whispered to myself, feeling ridiculous and a little embarrassed.
Inserting the key into the ignition took only seconds but when I attempted to start the engine nothing happened. Turn and click, turn and click, turn and click, and still nothing. The car simply refused to start.
“Now what?” I murmured angrily. My voice resonated in the empty car which produced a cave-like quality. Chills ran down my spine as I conjured up mental images of dusty tombs filled with human remains. Too many murder mysteries, I guessed.
Shaking off the gloom of the night was difficult. Odd that the rain should produce such peculiar patterns of thought. It was usually a source of inspiration and joy.
I tried one more time to start the car, and after failing I decided the best thing to do was to call home. I picked up the cellular phone and looked at the dial. Paul was out of town. Charlotte, my youngest daughter, was home from college for the Christmas break but she and Edgar, her boyfriend, had gone shopping. Martha, the only current live-in servant, had the night off. There simply was no one to call except the auto club or a taxi. Since it was too late to bother with the auto club, I decided to call a taxi and go home.
I disconnected the phone from the floor mount and inserted the battery pack. After pressing “power,” I waited for a dial tone but there was only silence. “Unbelievable!” I muttered and tried again. The battery pack was brand new so there was no reason why it shouldn’t work, but nevertheless it wouldn’t work. I slammed the phone down on the seat and sat frustrated and annoyed contemplating my next move.
Where was the nearest pay phone? Probably the one at the gas station down the street, two long blocks away. I didn’t like the idea of walking there in the dark and now it was raining. But what other choice was there? None that I could think of!
I searched the glove compartment for my flashlight and was relieved to find it in good working order. Grabbing my purse, I locked the car and was off. At least the rain wasn’t falling hard enough to impede the way.
Keeping my eyes on the ground, I used the flashlight to illuminate my path and keep from stumbling and falling. Once I glanced back over my shoulder toward the car and felt apprehensive about leaving it. Perhaps it would have been safer and wiser to stay there and wait for a patrol car to find me. However, I was already on my way and instead of turning back I decided to increase the speed of my steps as I headed in the direction of the gas station.
Looking around the town I found it hard to believe it was almost Christmas. Not a single store was still open. Where were all the last-minute shoppers?
My thoughts drifted as I walked, and then…thinking I heard Paul’s voice I stopped once and looked around. But no one was there.
“Where are you, Paul?” I uttered. Silly. I found myself laughing out loud. He’s in San Francisco on business. Are you sure? Another unspoken question popped into my mind. But why should I doubt it? I never had before. Don’t be a fool! A still small voice yelled at me. He’s distant and untouchable. Wake up!
Nagging thoughts continued to flood my mind as I continued my journey down the dark and deserted street. Twenty-seven years of marriage is a long time. Things can get boring. A lot of hard work goes into making relationships successful and marriage was harder than ever. People just weren’t willing to work at it anymore it seemed. But then both parties have to be willing to work. Maybe a long vacation would help spice things up a bit. Would Paul agree? I hoped so.
The gas station appeared in the distance and a sense of relief brightened my steps as I hurried ahead. I turned off the flashlight and put it in my coat pocket. The sound of a vehicle approaching from behind drew my attention and I turned to look over my left shoulder. The driver slowed down for a moment before speeding away. The rain and the blinding light obscured my vision somewhat but the car looked a great deal like Paul’s. Mind over matter, I guessed, and dismissed it as such.
The flashing neon lights were a welcome sight; at least the station was still open. I could probably arrange for someone to look at my car in the morning or at least tow it to the garage.
“Rachel,” someone called in a whispery voice. I stopped and looked around but saw no one.
“Rachel,” the voice called again, this time a little louder. Fear gripped me suddenly and held me captive. My feet were glued to the ground and no matter how hard I tried to lift them I could not move forward. Who was it? Panic stricken, I tried again to walk toward the garage office but couldn’t budge. Where was everyone? I frantically looked around for the gas station attendant and attempted to cry out for help but I was unable to speak. Tears welled up in my eyes as the terror of the moment enveloped me.
Powerless to do anything to escape the nightmare, I waited, scared senseless, to see what would happen. But the terrorizing voice was now silent and all I could hear was my own heart pounding loudly inside my chest.
This is not real it’s a bad dream. I told myself. Think realistically and try to relax, you are simply overreacting. My mind belittled me and some of my fear subsided. Once I was able to stop crying I felt a release sweep through my body and I was once again able to move. My feet walked slowly at first but as my energy returned I soon found myself running toward the open office door. It was empty. Where was everyone? The lights were on and Christmas carols were playing on the radio next to the cash register but the room was vacant.
Odd, there was no telephone inside of the office but through the large window I could see a public telephone booth located in the corner of the parking lot. I ran to it, closed the door, picked up the receiver and plugged in a quarter; then the lights went out. Everything was now shrouded in darkness and a plaintive voice called to me.
“Rachel,” he whispered insidiously, “don’t be afraid.”
The darkness made it impossible to see anything but I knew that he was near. Once my eyes adjusted to the blackness I could see the faint, dark outline of someone standing in the near distance. He held something in his hand. What was it, a club?
Slowly he raised his right arm as he approached the phone booth. My mouth was dry; my voice had disappeared. Beads of perspiration rolled down my face and my hands were wet and clammy. Tears of fear and anguish welled up in my eyes once again and finally the muscles in my legs gave out. I slumped down onto the floor of the phone booth overwrought and overcome by my fears.
“Raaachel,” the voice yelled at me. I began to scream; my body convulsed from fright. The man grabbed the door handle and pulled as hard as he could to force the door open. I put my back against one side and used my feet to push against the door to hold the intruder back but he was too strong. He thrust the door open far enough to grab my arm and began to drag me out into the open air.
I struggled against him but it was no use. He was too powerful and I was too tired and hysterical to continue fighting.
“Rachel,” he shook me, “what’s the matter with you?” I looked up in surprise. Paul?
“Paul!” I screamed. “Oh dear God, it’s you.”
“Who did you think it was? I’ve been searching all over for you. Why did you run away?” His face showed signs of anxiety and exasperation and I could tell he was trying to control his anger.
“I didn’t recognize your voice. It sounded so, so different. I was scared and I, I…” Nothing but babbling words came out of my mouth. Relieved and tired, I finally said, “Oh, I don’t know what I thought.” The warm salty tears melted in my mouth along with the rain that was coming down harder now being propelled by a strong wind.
Paul took me in his arms and held me tightly. My crying continued but gradually I began to regain control over my body. Paul kissed my head and stroked my hair the way he always used to when I needed comforting.
Suddenly, the lights came on in the garage. We both turned to look and saw the gas station attendant appear from the rear of the building.
“Sorry ‘bout the lights,” he yelled, “sometimes the power goes out during a storm. You folks need some help?”
Paul arranged for the man to drive us back to my car. He said he had parked his car in the space next to mine. I listened as he explained how he arrived home earlier than he anticipated and found the note I had left for Charlotte. When I didn’t return home and he couldn’t reach me on the cellular telephone, he began to worry.
“I drove to Marie’s first and saw your empty car. I knocked on the door of the shop but no one answered. I called Marie’s home from my car and she said you had been by just before closing but that you were going straight home. She was worried. I told her I would take a drive around town and look for you. When I couldn’t find you, I returned to the coffee shop to leave my car and a note for you in case you returned and I started out on foot looking for you. I was just about ready to call the police when I spotted you in the gas station. Then the lights went out.”
I listened carefully to everything he said without comment. My mind was baffled and confused. Was Paul the person that drove by? Why couldn’t he see me? Was he the one who called out to me in the terrifying voice? Why didn’t he identify himself when he saw how fearful I was? A thousand questions ran through my mind but the most depressing one of all was why didn’t I trust him?
“Rachel, are you listening to me?” I looked into Paul’s sparkling blue eyes and felt cold and alone.
“Yes, Paul,” I said with little emotion. “I was just wondering why you never identified yourself to me. Surely you could see how scared I was?”
“I caught a cold while I was in San Francisco, so my voice is a little raspy and I wasn’t able to yell. In the dark I wasn’t quite sure it was you. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to frighten you.”
He sounded sincere but I remained apprehensive. I wanted to believe him.
We quickly arrived at the parking lot and the attendant waited while Paul checked the car. He unlocked the car door and climbed inside. Within seconds the engine had started and was purring like a kitten. Paul smiled at the attendant and thanked him for his help and he drove back to the gas station alone.
I peered into the open door as Paul plugged the cellular phone in and turned the power on. I could see all the lights turn on and knew it was working. My mouth dropped open as I stared in utter amazement at my frowning husband.
Paul stepped out of the car and held the door open for me to get in.
“I’ll follow you home.” The tone of repressed anger and contempt filled his voice.
“Paul, I don’t understand. The car wouldn’t work and neither would the telephone. Please believe me, I don’t understand it.”
I climbed into the driver’s seat and Paul slammed the car door closed.
“Rachel,” a voice whispered again. I looked out the car window and saw only Paul. He was standing a few feet away and he was laughing.
“Rachel!” Paul whispered my name again, this time his voice was gruff and his tone derisive. His features had changed; his face was hard and full of hatred. His eyes scowled at me while his nostrils flared, as his breathing became deeper and more agitated.
“Paul,” I screamed, “what’s happening to you? Why are you doing this to me?” I cringed in fear at the man that I had known for almost three decades. This man wasn’t Paul. This man was a monster, an evil, adulterous monster.
I closed my eyes trying to make sense of the confusion that surrounded me. When I opened them Paul was gone. I scanned the parking lot but he was no where to be seen. A wave of relief poured over me and then--I woke up!
Beads of perspiration dripped down my forehead; my long hair was soaked and matted down at the temple. I was home and I was alone. I got out of bed and walked to the bathroom. Cool water on my face refreshed me and helped clear my fuzzy mind. I spent a few minutes brushing my hair and then loosely braided it.
Quietly, I tiptoed downstairs to make myself a cup of hot milk with honey. A favorite nighttime drink since childhood, it seemed to comfort me and help me think.
I took my cup back upstairs and climbed into bed pulling my knees up under my chin. Sitting in the darkened room I began to go over in my mind the contents of my dream.
Subconsciously, I was facing the truth about my life. Paul had a lover, or so I suspected. You couldn’t live with a man for twenty-seven years and not know when something was wrong. The problem wasn’t proving it; the problem was proving it and losing. I avoided facing the issue because I loved my husband and didn’t want to lose him but I knew I couldn’t play ostrich forever. I had hoped the affair would blow over; that it was just a mid-life crisis for him. Apparently, that wasn’t going to happen.
I lay back on my pillows and closed my eyes. The night was so silent it scared me. Everything seemed to scare me lately. I was no stranger to grief, having lost my parents and only brother when I was nine but I did fear being alone. At forty-six years of age I just didn’t want to start over again. I wanted the storybook ending. “They lived happily ever after.” Why not? Didn’t everyone?
I looked through the darkened room toward the large, bay window. The curtains were open and I could see the sparkling stars beaming in the twilit sky. I believe in God, I thought to myself and I believe in His guidance. My grandparents had taught me to trust Him implicitly and never doubt His love. It had been hard when my parents died to see His plan for my life and it was hard now to accept the fact that difficult days lay ahead of me. Did I have the courage and faith I needed to overcome? Only time would tell.
I turned the light on over my bed and took out a small Bible and my journal, which I kept in my nightstand drawer. I turned to the book of Psalms, a place I always found wisdom and comfort and I read,
“Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday. Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.” Psalm 37:5-9
I laid my Bible down next to me and picked up my journal. Removing the pen clipped inside I wrote down the date and the text. Beneath it I wrote in large capital letters, “HAVE COURAGE.” I didn’t know why I did only that I felt compelled to.
I knew I was going on a journey—a spiritual journey. I wasn’t sure where God was leading, I only knew I had trust Him to get me to my destination peacefully. Sorrow and suffering were to be endured and hopefully in time and with His grace, transformed into something wonderful.
Glancing through the pages of my journal I realized they contained bits and pieces of the history of my life, my past. My future lay ahead, in the blank pages yet to be written on. I closed the book and laid it aside and turned out the light. My heart ached and my head hurt, but somewhere amidst the flow of hot salty tears I found comfort and then sleep.