“Beth left the family.” Those words caused time to stand still for a moment. I my entire body started to burn with a feeling that I still can’t describe. I have heard of daughters leaving many times, but I never actually knew one until that moment. I didn’t want to know them anyway, they were ungodly sluts for me, rejecting the Lord and salvation, rejecting everything I so strongly believed in. The information Harry had just given me wouldn’t sink in for a while.
“Oh, when is she coming back?” I said. “No, Lisa, she left. She packed her stuff and moved out. We don’t know where. A girl picked her up, but she said she won’t come back.” I still didn’t get it. “Where did she go?” – “I don’t know Lisa. I really don’t. She broke off her engagement without asking anybody. Dad was unspeakably upset and they got into a huge fight, yelling terrible things at each other. She stormed off, still screaming, packed up a bag with a few things and called somebody. They kept screaming and fighting. Dad wanted to lock her in a room but I thought that was a bad idea, so I tried to settle things between them. At some point, she just stormed out of the door and ran down the street. I tried to follow her but a car with a girl showed up, she got in and they drove off.” It felt surreal. I was convinced that Harry knew where she was, or that she would come back, but decided not to hurt him by asking again. I later found out that my thoughts were completely wrong and Harry really didn’t know anything.
I forced myself to keep the conversation up for a few more minutes until I told Harry I needed to help my mother out. As soon as I hung up, I went upstairs to the girls room, sitting on my bed, staring at the wall.
I just didn’t understand. Why did she leave? Where was she? Why didn’t she tell me? Wasn’t I her friend? I felt so betrayed, left back, angry at Beth for throwing away everything the Lord had blessed her with. The entire evening was a fight to get through. Fighting tears, fighting anger, fighting fear. I spent a lot of time reading my bible, marking verses that clearly proved to me that Beth was wrong, in rebellion and that I needed to bring her back on track.
The following days were a drag. I felt like my brain cells cut off all their connections to the outside world and were doing their own thing.
After two days of this, I had a moment of enlightenment. I was in the kitchen, cleaning and scrubbing pans and pots. I could almost hear my thoughts click. The piece of paper she had given me, I finally had an idea what that was all about. It must be a phone number. Most likely the phone number of the girl who had picked Beth up. My hands started to shake, incredibly nervous about the thought that I might be able to fix everything up. I left everything standing, dried my hands and jumped upstairs. I had the piece of paper well hidden in my bible, acting like it was merely a marker for a page I found important, one piece of paper among many in my bible. My shaky, sweaty hands unfolded it to take a look at the number. I was right, it must be a phone number. The amount of digits made sense. I stuffed it into a pocket of my dress and headed downstairs into dad’s office, where our phone was. I picked up the speaker, started dialing, one number after the other. As I was about half way through, horror caught me.
This phone wasn’t safe. It saved numbers. All phone calls were on the bill. Full number, length, everything. The area code was a strange one, probably an area we never called. My dad always checked our phone bills thoroughly. He would see it, wonder who it was and call the number. My promise would be worthless. When a man makes a vow to the LORD or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said. Numbers 30,2. How could I call her now, from this phone? It just wasn’t possible. I folded up my precious piece of paper, stuffed it back into my pocket and hung up on the half dialed number. I sat there for a minute, trying very hard to think. I couldn’t use a public phone. I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere without my parents. All cellphones we had were checked through my dad. I couldn’t ask anyone from outside because everyone would tell my parents. I had no way of contacting Beth. A phone number was worthless to me.
Another few days passed. I desperately tried to figure out a way to make this phone call. I couldn’t trust anybody.
Sewing day came around and my mother dropped me off at Tiffany’s house. I tried to seem as normal as I could but I just couldn’t concentrate on anything. Tiffany quickly recognized that something was wrong. She asked me what was on my mind and after short hesitation, I figured she’d hear anyway, so I told her about Beth leaving her family. Tiffany listened without a word, and as I was finished, she said something that I didn’t expect from a member of our church: “You know, Beth is an adult. She should be able to follow her own calling, not be forced into what her parents think is good for her. You girls, I feel sorry for you. You never get to do anything remotely normal. How are you going to grow up into reasonable adults?” I was shocked. That was a very worldly thing to say, but my hopes went up. Maybe I could trust Tiffany after all. “Tiffany, if I told you that I needed your phone for a call, but I can’t tell you what for, would you let me use it? And not tell anyone you know?” Tiffany looked surprised, but smiled. “Yeah sure, go ahead. It’s in the living room.” – “Not right now. I don’t know the number. But next time I will. If that’s ok.” Tiffany agreed and told me I could use her phone whenever I wanted to. “I wanted you to be a bit more normal all along anyway. Call your friends whenever, I’ll be quiet. I know that your family wouldn’t be happy about it.”
The next few days again were a blurry mix of anxiety, fear, hope and excitement. I couldn’t wait to get back to Tiffany’s house. The day came around and I checked many times if I had really put the number in my pocket, if it really was the correct piece of paper, if the number really was still on there. Tiffany welcomed me as always. I didn’t want to be impolite, but my emotions got the better of me. “Can I make that call right now?” I asked as soon as I heard my mother drive away. “Sure. Do you want anything, coffee, cookies, cake?” I asked her for a coffee and some cookies, hoping they would come in handy and call me down. I sat down next to the phone, waiting for I don’t know what. The courage I guess. Tiffany came into the living room. “Are you done already?” she looked at me puzzled. “No, I didn’t call yet.” Tiffany looked surprised. “You DO know how a phone works…?” she asked. She was serious. I cracked up laughing. “Yes I do! Of course! I’m not living on the moon!” “Ok, just making sure”, she giggled. She told me she wanted to do some laundry quick and left the living room.
Silence all around me. I pulled out my piece of paper, straightened it out, making sure I could read every digit correctly. I picked up the phone and started dialing. Very slowly. Held the speaker to my ear. I hear a click. Another one. It was ringing. Ringing. Ringing. Again. Then somebody picked up. A girl. I didn’t know that voice. “Hello?” she said. “Yes. Hello. This is Lisa. I’m calling because I’m looking for someone.” I didn’t dare say Beth’s name, fearing I might be doing something wrong and breaking my promise. “You looking for Beth?” She said. “Yes.” “Just a minute, I’ll get her for you.” “Thanks” I said. Silence. The girl calling Beth’s name in the background. Beth asking what’s up. “It’s that girl you’ve been talking about.” Steps getting closer. Beth picked up the phone. “Hey Lisa, wow, I didn’t expect you to call that soon!”