The days that followed were kind of a blur. People that Ruth had never seen before came around to pay their respects to the family. Then there were those nice people from that little country church. The pastor came by and he was so nice and compassionate. All the people rallied around J.L.’s family, bringing food and sitting with the small children. A couple from that church had been by several times over the years to pick Karen and Ruth up on the church bus – sometimes for Sunday School and worship but usually one week of the summer for VBS. Anyway that’s how that little country church became Ruth’s home church. It started with the bus ministry and after J.L. died the whole family started going to church there every time the doors were open. Annie and Karen were born again and baptized there and Ruth, well she went for a nice swim in the baptismal pool. But more about that later. Some of Ruth’s fondest memories are of that church and the people there.
The weeks that followed J.L.’s death were slim. Everything from the checking account to the house were in his name. Bank accounts frozen, Annie was short on cash. Truth be told Annie was scared out of her mind, but she never let on. Annie, Karen and Ruth sat at the dining room table and rolled all the pennies they could find to go buy milk and bread. J.L. had no life insurance but once the social security death benefit started coming in things were a little better, but $855.00 a month doesn’t go very far with a family of five. Once Karen and Ruth were back in school after the summer Annie took a job with a local fabric shop. She was the staff seamstress. Annie made custom clothes for all the town’s well-to-do. She used scraps of left over fabric to make clothes for her own children. Annie tried a little bit of everything to earn a decent living. Once the fabric shop closed down she started hanging wallpaper for local contractors and after that she started her own custom drapery and furniture upholstery business. Always dragging Jackson and MaryBeth along. Ruth babysat after school and during the summer.
Ruth was fourteen when Karen graduated high school, got married and moved away. Her husband was in the Air Force and they were stationed in Alexandria, Louisiana. So that just left the four of them – Annie, Ruth, Jackson and MaryBeth. Annie worked as much as she could and Ruth was a little mother hen to Jackson and MaryBeth. A closer foursome you could not find. They did everything together.
Two years later Ruth and Charles started to date. He was older and Ruth was enamored-he was the first guy who had ever asked her on a date. The very first night they met Ruth remembers he was wearing a Peanuts Comic Strip sweatshirt. She thought he was so charming and funny. She loves a sense of humor. They really hit it off. He took her places she’d never been and really showed her a good time. All of this was against Annie’s better judgement but she thought if she flatly said no that it would just push Ruth to it all the more. Annie also gave Ruth a bit too much credit for being so mature, after all she’d been helping to raise two kids under the age of six for the last four years. She figured the new would wear off and it would all blow over in time, but it didn’t. When she realized things were getting serious and it wasn’t just a passing fancy she had Charles out to the house for lunch a few times for a home cooked meal, just to get to know him a little bit better.
Annie started to notice a few things she didn’t particularly care for, but she didn’t make a big deal about it. He was sort of controlling, but Ruth just blew it off and made excuses for him. They were in love and wanted to spend every spare minute together. He said things that hurt Ruth’s feelings, but again, she just made excuses and rationalized it all. Annie said to Ruth one day, “it’s alright for you to be a sounding board, but just remember you are not anybody’s whippin’ post”. Words Ruth really wishes she had taken more heed to, but hindsight is always 20/20. Besides you can’t tell a sixteen year old anything they don’t already know.
Not long after Charles and Ruth started dating Annie took a job at Noah’s Ark Daycare. That also happened to be where Charles’ ex-wife took her son. Annie started to hear some things that concerned her, but when confronted with them Charles just said she was a jealous, bitter ex-wife. After all she’d had an affair and that’s where her son came from and the whole town knew it. She’d had him while they were married and he’d agreed to raise him as his own, but it just didn’t work out. She just didn’t want him to be happy and Ruth made him the happiest man in the world. Annie accepted that explanation and though she was still concerned she just kept it to herself.
Noah’s Ark Daycare turned out to be a good fit for Annie. She had prayed and prayed after five long years for some companionship. Though she loved J.L. still, he was gone and she was lonely. But she told the Lord if it was to be He’d have to drop him on her doorstep. And that He did. A man knocked on the door one Saturday and said he’d been told by some people from Noah’s Ark she might be interested in some after hours childcare work. He explained he was new to town and he worked for the sheriff’s department as a deputy and he’d be working shifts. He was a single dad and he needed somebody responsible to care for his daughter, Renee. She was the same age as MaryBeth. Annie agreed and before long she and Ray were eating dinner together and going to church together. They were married before the year was out. Annie was getting a second chance at a fairy tale or so it seemed.