Recap: Mrs. Bowers instructs Diana, Bonnie’s older stepsister, to search Hope’s room for Mrs. Bowers’ missing diamond ring. She finds the ring, which was carelessly dropped by Bonnie, but she isn’t truthful to her mother about where she found it. Hope is very upset that Mrs. Bowers accused her of stealing the ring, and so she wants to find a different place to live.
That night, I gave Bonnie her bath and supper, I read her Goodnight Moon, and I tucked her into bed. I tried to eat the chicken and rice, but it was hard to eat with my stomach all in knots.
Later, I lay on my rickety cot, wondering what my parents were doing. Were they thinking about me? When would I see them again?
I kept looking at the clock…midnight, 1 a.m. Finally, I fell into a restless sleep. I was spinning and twirling on a stage with pink and green stage lights. My tutu sparkled in the light. I leaped a grand jette and then I pirouetted and glided into arabesque and attitude. The music rose to a crescendo. I woke with a start.
There was a sharp knock on my bedroom door.
“Hope, it’s Mr. Bowers. You have to get up now.” His voice was soft but urgent through the door. I jumped out of bed and pulled on my jacket and hurried up the basement steps to open the door.
Mr. Bowers walked down a few steps. “Those men I told you about are watching the house. They’re in front. You have to pack up and leave now. I don’t want them to see you.” He was whispering and glancing behind him.
“Where should I––?”
Just then there was a loud knock at the front door of the house.
“They’re here. Take a sweater and go out the back door. It’s dangerous to stay here. Go to Rabbi Jacobson. That’s the best thing. I’m sorry. I don’t know what else to do. They have political connections here. I can’t do anything.” He handed me a flashlight.
He left to go answer the door.
I grabbed a sweater from my drawer and dressed quickly, without turning on the light. My hands shook as I stuffed some clothing, my siddur, and my journal into a small backpack and then I headed to the back door. I glanced in both directions. I could hear the running car motor from the front yard. The men from the KKK were in that car waiting to catch me. I heard them whispering but I couldn’t make out what they were saying. I swallowed and crept outside. The moon shone as I hid in the shadows of the oak trees in the backyard. A cat with gleaming green eyes screamed as it ran past me. My whole body was shaking. I started towards the Jacobson house, keeping in the shadows. At one point, I thought I heard a car behind me. I turned back and saw a garbage truck lumbering down the street. As I neared the main street, I kept my head down and darted behind trees along the way. The park was just a few more blocks away. Suddenly, I heard a car behind me. It was driving slowly, and when I looked back, I glimpsed the front of our white Cadillac. I sprinted behind the nearest fat tree and waited. My heart was pounding so loud, I thought for sure the men in the car could hear it. The car stopped a few feet away from me. Had they seen me?
They were standing outside the car.
“I think she’s here,” the man who was the hunter said. “I feel it. I’m always right.”
“Aw, Jud,” the man with the scar spit chewing tobacco onto the street. You said that before. We’ve been circling and circling. I want to go home already.”
I couldn’t hear what they were saying. I held my breath and davened. Please don’t let them catch me. Please. If they caught me, they would use me to get to my father. I didn’t want to think of what they would do. Thank G-d that Mr. Bowers had warned me.
The men stayed a few feet from me. They’d left their car motor running. They were whispering loudly, cursing, and smoking.
A night animal screeched.
“You wanna go face the Preacher?”
“I don’t care. I’m fed up. We’ve been looking for weeks.”
“Where’s yer patience.”
“Ain’t got none and don’t want none. I’ve had enough, I tell you. Let’s head back. Preacher’s in it to his neck with those federal agents and the FBI nosing around.”
They continued to argue.
Suddenly, I heard a loud clap of thunder. Oh, no. Now, it was going to pour. I’m standing right under a tree during a thunderstorm – exactly the most dangerous thing – well, no, exposing myself to them would be more dangerous.
“Ya hear that? We gonna get soaked standing here. Let’s get outta here.”
Finally, they jumped into the car and they pulled away. I thanked Hashem. A streak of lightning slashed the sky, illuminating the trees and everything around me for a split second. Then thunder boomed and sheets of rain exploded all around me. I was soaked in a matter of seconds. I started running. I had to get out of this crazy downpour.
I ran and ran. I slipped at one point and fell in the mud.
I picked myself up and kept running.
The rain fell in sheets, strong and steady. The drumming sound of the storm, with intermittent explosions of thunder and blinding rain, made it impossible to see or hear if the car was anywhere nearby.
I looked wildly around, trying to get my bearings and praying for some sort of shelter. Lightning flashed and I saw I was by the park. I was shivering. My stomach was grumbling. I wished I’d eaten more the night before.
I kept walking past a line of maple and elm trees that edged the park. The dark outline of their branches felt like monsters’ arms reaching out to grab me. I held the flashlight in my hand, but I didn’t dare to turn it on. I headed deeper into the park. Lightening flashed and I spotted the cave recessed from the road. “Thank you, Hashem!” I bee-lined towards it.
I stepped inside the small cave. I was dripping, drenched to the skin. The rain hammered against the outside of the cave. I felt dizzy. I plopped down on the cold stone floor and rested my head against a rock. My breaths came in short spurts. What if they saw me? What if they had followed me here? I prayed: Please, Hashem, protect me. I remembered that Rivkah taught me about angels that surround you at night, and I asked Hashem to put Michael at the right, Gabriel at the left, Raphael behind me, Uriel in front, and Hashem’s presence above me. As soon as I said this, I felt calmer, and I was able to breathe more normally. My stomach clenched with hunger. I felt nauseous. I took a deep breath. Was I dehydrated? How ironic with all this rain falling around me. I was so exhausted. I found my eyes were closing. I had to plan where to go but I was too tired now to think.
I must have fallen asleep. I woke to the sound of an animal whining. I shivered. Where was I? I glanced around and remembered with a pang what had happened.
It was pitch dark outside. I wondered what time it was. My stomach was grumbling. My tongue felt thick. I longed for a drink of water. I sat up and everything around me turned black. I quickly lay back down. “Would I die from being dehydrated in this cave?” I listened. The rain had stopped. Early morning light filtered into the cave. I thought I heard a sound. Yes, I heard footsteps. Were they coming after me? I had to run. I had to get to the Jacobsons. I forced myself to sit up. I was so weak. I felt hot and then cold. I must have a fever. Great, now I’m sick and dehydrated and no one knows where I am. I thought of times when I’d been sick at home. Sarah was always there with a cool washcloth, lemonade, and iced tea. Mother would be fluttering around, fluffing my pillows and coaxing me to eat a piece of toast.
I had to get water. I looked around the cave. There was nothing to drink here.
Just then, I heard footsteps nearby. Were those men here? Had they followed me?
To be continued…
Susie Garber is the author of the newly released historical fiction novel, Flight of the Doves (Menucha Publishers, 2023), Please Be Polite (Menucha Publishers, 2022), A Bridge in Time (Menucha Publishers, 2021), Secrets in Disguise (Menucha Publishers, 2020), Denver Dreams, a novel (Jerusalem Publications, 2009), Memorable Characters…Magnificent Stories (Scholastic, 2002), Befriend (Menucha Publishers, 2013), The Road Less Traveled (Feldheim, 2015), fiction serials and features in Binah Magazine and Binyan Magazine, and “Moon Song” in Binyan (2021-2022).