“Jim must still be at the library,” Laura thought to herself. “His car’s not here.”
Swinging the extra weight of her heavy metal leg brace carefully up each step to their modest apartment, she tried to balance the groceries so she wouldn’t fall. Now 35 years old, Laura had worn the cumbersome brace since she contracted polio at the tender age of six, only weeks before the Salk vaccine was made available to the general public.
She unlocked the door and pushed it open with her hip.
Mrs. Dunlap, her caring neighbor across the hall, was the first to hear Laura’s scream. She found Laura standing in her living room, groceries spilled out around her feet, with her fingers splayed across her cheeks.
“Everything’s gone! Where’s all our furniture?” Laura stumbled toward the kitchen and then to the emptied bedroom.
Every piece of furniture, except one, was gone. Most had been purchased second-hand from other students at the seminary where Jim had only yesterday received his graduate divinity degree.
Mrs. Dunlap held the sobbing younger woman in her arms as they surveyed the rooms, stripped and barren.
“Who would rob us?” Laura asked, this time to other neighbors who had by now entered the open apartment and were milling around.
Mrs. Dunlap and Laura spotted the note at the same time. It was taped to the door of the pantry by two pieces of unevenly torn masking tape.
Laura looked quickly at the bottom of the note to see who had signed it.
“It’s from Jim!” she gasped.
“Dear Laura. I’m sorry I didn’t wait til you got home from work to say goodbye but I felt it’s better this way. My sister, Kim, arrived this morning with a U-Haul
to help me move. Kim found an apartment for me in another state and I think I have a job lined up. I cashed the checks I received for graduation so that will tide me over.”
Laura slid down to the floor staring in disbelief at the hurriedly written note.
I’m sorry our marriage didn’t work out. Our age difference was partly responsible but also our personalities failed to mesh like I had hoped. I took the furniture because I know you’ll move back home
with your folks and it would just mean more things for you to dispose of. I did leave the easy chair that your folks gave you last Christmas, though. I’ll contact you through Kim in April and I hope you’ll see your way clear to giving me half of our income tax refund.”
Mrs. Dunlap sat beside her, her arm tightly wrapped around Laura’s thin shoulders.
“You can stay with me,” she offered, leading the dazed younger woman across the hall to her comfortable apartment, putting her to bed in the guest bedroom.
Since it was the weekend, Laura slept, though fitfully, for the next 48 hours. With Laura’s permission, Mrs. Dunlap had telephoned Laura’s parents, several states away. Heartbroken, they promised to be on the road within the hour.
When she finally woke, little by little Laura began spilling it all out.
“I’m so confused. I thought Jim loved me. We met at a missionary conference five years ago in Chicago. I was the speaker. Afterward, Jim came to the front and asked if he could hug me. He is 15 years younger than I and I thought it was just a school-boy crush. It turned out to be something more and a year later we married.”
Laura paused. “I had been a missionary to the Philippines for 8 years and was planning to return. Jim said he also felt the call to be a missionary and had just finished his
undergraduate training. The last three years I worked to put him through seminary. And now, the day after graduation, he just leaves.”
Laura never heard from Jim again except to be served with divorce papers. As a divorcee, she was no longer eligible for missionary service.
For two years she struggled with her confusion, begging God for answers while working at her new position as a patient advocate and counselor for abused women back in her hometown.
One morning an inner-office memo was delivered to her desk.
Teresa M. died this morning from the beatings.
She said God wanted you to have this message:
‘I will be a husband unto you.’ I don’t know what that means.”
Laura stared at the paper, then smiled.
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