Every part of her body ached. There had been too many men today. She knew protesting was useless. Either she would be denied food, beaten or worse and she had the scars to prove it.
Climbing, no crawling really, on to the pallet where she was not only forced to entertain customers but also slept, from between the threadbare sheet and pad she retrieved a small shard of glass not much bigger than her thumb but enough to do what she had kept if for so long.
Turning her tiny wrist over, she placed the glass against it and pressed. If she was going to do this, it would have to be perfect. She couldn’t imagine the horrors that might await if she failed. With a heavy sigh of frustration, she let the hand holding the glass fall beside her. Why she lacked the courage to put an end to this waking nightmare, with the only way out she could imagine, she couldn’t say. Perhaps, she thought, she just wasn’t brave enough.
Then she wondered if it was the words of another girl stuck in this living hell. The closest thing to a friend she had, the girl never seemed to lose hope or to show the effects of this brutal existence. When she had asked her why the girl had been quick to share.
“It’s my God. My savior will rescue me.”
“If there’s a savior who will rescue you, how is it you’re even here?” She had countered.
Her face took on as grave a countenance as had ever crossed it. “I was tricked. My family is poor, and a woman came to my village with promises of a good job in the city. But when I got to the city, I was sold to the mama-san and told I’d have to work off the cost of bringing me here.”
“Why didn’t your ‘savior’ protect you?”
“He would have, if I had listened, but I didn’t. He didn’t send me here. I came because I was foolish.”
“So how do you know he’ll get you out then?”
“Because I’ve asked him. And I trust in his love for me.”
She herself had never believed in God. If there was some greater being out there, she’d certainly never seen any signs of it. Yet, something in the girl’s bright outlook in the middle of this darkness sparked just the faintest flicker of hope in the furthest recesses of her mind.
With weary resignation, she carefully returned the glass to its place. It wouldn’t be easy to explain tears to the pad or the sheet that covered it. Climbing into the furthest corner, she curled into a tight ball. “I know I don’t deserve it. I’m not sure if I believe in you or if you’re even real. But if you are, please, please, please get me out of here too.”
In the weeks that passed, with no change, she forgot about the desperate plea she had made. It took every reserve she possessed to get through each day without losing her mind completely, dull as it felt like it was.
Today had been particularly difficult. Too many customers, but even one was too many against one’s will, and some of them rough and demanding. She lay still, wanting to vomit, her mind empty, trying to block it all out but failing.
When her door started open, her whole body tensed. She needed a break but knew one only came when no customers did.
The face of her optimistic friend, Hope, peered around the door. “Can I come in?”
She thought it cruel that the mama-san gave them names that seemed to declare the very opposite of their circumstances — except Hope. For her the name fit; she seemed to bring it to everyone else and was one of the reasons they weren’t all dead or stark raving mad.
Company was the last thing she wanted, but she couldn’t say no to Hope. She answered with a silent nod.
Taking a seat on the edge of the pallet, her voice was soft and soothing. “Bad today?”
If she’d had any tears at all left inside, her eyes would have filled, but she’d cried out so long ago she couldn’t even remember. Her own voice was low and raspy. “It’s always bad.”
Hope gave her a weary smile. “We’ll be getting out soon.”
That caught her attention and brought her focus. “What do you mean?”
She grinned enthusiastically. “There was a lawyer today. He said he would help.”
“A lawyer?” She replied doubtfully. “Did he pay for you?”
A shadow passed across her countenance but disappeared just as quickly as it had come. “Yes, but… he said he knows people. That he’ll talk to them.”
Lucky, a name that was as cruel a moniker as they could have given her and with no explanation, didn’t have the heart to tell her that she’d been begging customers for years to help her out of this hell and heard any number of promises that never came to pass.
“So don’t give up, Lucky.” She reached out and stroked her hair.
As she sometimes did, Lucky put her head in Hope’s lap.
Hope stroked her hair as she began to hum and then to sing softly. She had a pleasant, lilting voice that washed over Lucky and filled the room.
Peace soothed her until the door opened.
Hope quickly fled.
Lucky sat up. It was starting again. She wished she could just die.
In Lucky’s world, it was difficult to tell whether it was day or night. Her cell had no windows and only for special events were any of them allowed past the door that led out. She’d never been that lucky if you could call it that. Their quarters were dark, dull, and close.
Barely coming out of sleep, she saw her door opening. Quickly, she sat up. If she wasn’t ready, she’d be punished later.
The man who entered was different than the usual sort who entered her cell. He didn’t appear sleazy or dirty and from his build, it seemed he took good care of himself, or at least did whatever was necessary to maintain a somewhat muscular physique. Coming toward her, he crouched next to her cot and put a finger to his lips for silence.
Oh no, she thought, one of those. The special customers were the worst; she hated them even more than most if that was possible. If she wasn’t damaged physically, her mind tilted and sometimes she would be sick. Why she seemed to get more of them than the rest, she didn’t know. Just lucky, I guess, the mama-san had remarked with a sadistic chuckle.
He reached for her forearm.
Lucky jumped and her eyes grew wide. If the customer wasn’t pleased, she’d be beaten.
“Don’t be afraid.” He said softly. “I’m not going to hurt you. This is a raid.”
Now she trembled. A raid meant police. Police meant all kinds of bad things, or so she’d been told.
“Get your things, we’re leaving.”
Was she dreaming? Had she hit her head? She thought he’d said they were leaving.
“Come on.” He took her arm and helped her to her feet. “Get whatever you want to bring with you. You won’t be coming back.”
Almost in unison, they looked around her cell. There was a basin for water and a hairbrush on a spindly table.
He reached for the brush and held it up, questioning.
With a nod, he took her arm and opened her door. “Whatever happens, don’t let go of me.”
Chaos had erupted in the space outside her door. There were men and girls moving in the hallway, interspersed with people from the house trying to grab some of the girls and escape into the recesses and tunnels hidden in some of the walls.
Lucky hadn’t even known they were there, but she quickly stopped looking around as she clutched the man’s arm and tripped along behind him toward the door.
When they came to the door, she hesitated. Trying to go through it had always resulted in punishment, usually a beating or deprivation of food so she had long ago quit trying.
“Come on,” her guide urged. “It’s okay.”
When he opened the door, she noticed vaguely that the only people she recognized were being led away, hands fastened behind their backs, by official-looking people. The light was bright, compared to the hallway and her cell, and the noise was almost deafening; she was so used to near silence. Something in her knew following her guide was the only choice.
Once outside in the street, the sounds and motion were even more assaulting. Her guide turned to her and led her around in front of him as a woman approached. He spoke to the woman. “Get her in the van.”
To Lucky’s eyes, she was an unusual looking woman. In dark, non-descript pants, a shirt with buttons down the front tucked into it and an open sweater over it, her long, pale brown hair was gathered in a tail behind her head, and she wore little makeup, if any. Her smile was warm and friendly as she reached out a hand to touch Lucky’s arm.
The only women she had ever seen were heavily made up, with a carefully maintained veneer that appeared welcoming and kind but concealed a sadistic brutality beneath. She jerked her arm away instinctively.
Without anger, the stranger responded. “It’s all right. We’re here to help you. No one will hurt you now.”
Overwhelmed with what was happening around her, her mind barely functioning, she stared blankly but allowed herself to be led away.
“My name is Celia.” The woman said casually. “What’s yours?”
Lucky didn’t respond as they came to a dull, white cargo van. She shrank back. This couldn’t be good. Bad things happened in vans like that, or so she’d heard.
“It’s okay.” Celia assured, her tone genuinely calm and soothing. “We use a closed van to keep you safe while we get you out of here. You can trust me. It’s okay.”
Climbing into the van, she saw several girls already seated there. Silently, she took a seat next to one of them. She didn’t know her name. It then occurred to her: there was one face she hadn’t seen. Distractedly, she mumbled. “Hope… where’s… where’s Hope?”
“You’ll learn to hope again.” Celia offered quietly.
“No! No!” She insisted. Then her voice wailed in desperation. “You’ve got to get her out! Where’s Hope? You’ve got to get her!”
Celia climbed out of the van and then turned to her from the doorway. “Is she your friend? Let me see if she’s in one of the other vans.”
Lucky stared without seeing as she waited for Hope to appear.
It seemed like an eternity and when Celia returned, she was alone. Climbing into the van, she closed the door behind her. Turning to Lucky, she seemed apologetic. “I want you to trust me, so I won’t lie to you. No one remembers anyone named Hope.”
Her mind seemed unable to function, her eyes empty as she stared almost through the other woman. Quiet and raspy, her voice barely audible, she insisted without force. “No. No. She has to… you’ve got to… someone get her…”
“The house is empty.” She replied quietly. “There’s no one left.”
“But… but…” She couldn’t even form the unthinkable idea.
“Two vans have already left. There is a possibility she was in one of them.” Celia admitted cautiously. “We’ll find her if we can.”
As the van lurched forward, Lucky stared. Even now, she couldn’t form any thought and she couldn’t cry.
When the van finally stopped, they were let out and ushered into an official looking building. There were people, many of them men with badges, milling about everywhere.
Lucky began to tremble as Celia led them to a room and told them all to sit down. She had been told for as long as she could remember that if she was ever taken by police, she should keep quiet because bad things would happen if she didn’t.
“Listen,” Celia said just louder than conversation level and addressing the group. “I don’t know what you’ve been told about the police but it’s most likely a lie. We’re only here to get your identification in order, find and return you to your families if possible and take your statements so we can put the people who did this to you in jail. You will not be harmed in any way and will be taken to a safe house to recover, or until we can return you to your families. Ok?”
Murmured acknowledgement was the reply.
Most of the other girls were called first but when Lucky’s turn came, Celia offered her a sweater to cover the flimsy shift she wore and guided her to a desk.
The kind-looking officer, probably in his fifties sat slightly slumped over. When he saw her, he ran a hand over his face and through his hair. Addressing himself to Celia, he sighed. “Good God, she’s probably my granddaughter’s age.”
Lucky’s eyes questioned the older woman.
“Don’t worry. I’ll be here the whole time. Just answer the officer’s questions and everything will be fine.” She indicated that she should sit in the chair next to the officer’s desk and stood behind her.
“No need to be afraid. I just need some basic information to start. All right?”
Lucky stared at him. This was all so foreign and uncertain.
“What’s your name?”
Hesitating a moment, she realized there was nothing she could do about the situation. Her whole existence had been enduring bad circumstances she didn’t like or want and couldn’t change or prevent. She was in this now; if she didn’t do what they wanted, she would probably be punished. Her voice low and uncertain, she replied. “They… they called me Lucky.”
“That your name?” He asked kindly.
She shrugged uncomfortably.
“What’s your real name?”
“I… I don’t know.”
The officer looked up. “You don’t know?”
Lucky shook her head.
“How old are you?”
With a frown, she focused on her feet and shrugged.
He turned from his computer and looked at her. “Don’t play games, young lady.”
Troubled, her face a mask of confusion, she shook her head.
The officer hated this detail. As much as he wanted to help these victims, the shellshock most of them displayed tore at him. “Are you telling me you don’t know either your name or how old you are?”
Wistfully embarrassed, she fiddled with the end of the sweater and nodded.
Taking a softer tone, he asked. “How long have you been at the place where we found you?”
He looked up at Celia who shrugged in disbelief. “What do you mean?”
“I don’t remember anywhere else. I think my mother… that she was…”
“Are you saying your mother worked there? Were you born there?”
She shrugged. She really didn’t know.
“Okay.” He sighed. “I’ll put your name down as Lucky. How long… when did you start… working there?”
“I don’t know. For as long as I can remember.”
The officer closed his eyes. He wanted to be sick. “Celia, there’s not much I can do for her. Take her to the nurse. See if they can determine even a guess at how old she might be.”
Celia nodded. “Come on, Lucky. We’re going to have the nurse see if you need any medical treatment.”
“Is that all?” She asked as she stood up.
Smiling wearily, she replied. “For now.”
Lucky hadn’t heard what the person who examined her had said but since they were able to walk out again with nothing else required, she paid no attention.
Celia had a folder in her hand but didn’t say anything.
To Lucky’s surprise, they didn’t return to the officer’s desk. Instead, Celia led her out of the police station to the parking lot where they found a compact car.
Unlocking the door with her key ring, the older woman instructed. “Get in.”
Warily, she opened the door and sat in the passenger’s seat. When Celia got in on the driver’s side, she asked. “Where are the other girls?”
“I’m sorry, Lucky.” She said with a sigh. “There’s been so much going on, I haven’t taken the time to explain anything to you. This must seem very strange and overwhelming.”
Staring blankly was her only response. She’d been used to just existing, simply taking things as they came and most of it very ugly; but she didn’t know there was anything else.
“I work for an organization whose primary goal is to eliminate slavery from the world — and that includes forced prostitution.”
She had no idea what that meant.
“Once we shut down a house like the one where we found you, we take the people in charge there and attempt to prosecute them.” In response to the empty expression, she added. “To put them in jail so they can’t do what they did to you to anyone else.”
An unusual thought; one she’d certainly never had.
“See, what they did to you is illegal — against the law.” She sighed. “We’re hoping you’ll help us to put them in jail for a long time. But in the meantime, we’re going to take you to a safe place where you can learn to live the kind of life a young girl should have, including a future.”
A future? What did that even mean?
“But the houses we have around the city can only take so many girls at a time. Some of the girls that came in with you were able to return to their families. Others will be placed in homes where we have room for them.”
She nodded dumbly. Everything about this day was foreign and overwhelming to her mind. At least there were no customers to brutalize her against her will. It had all been so consuming, she had forgotten something, and a tremor of guilt rushed her. Quietly staring out the window as they began moving, she asked. “Where’s Hope?”
“I’m sorry, Lucky. I don’t know. She wasn’t among the girls we brought in. It’s possible she didn’t make it out.”
“But…” Lucky frowned. “She told me…”
“Told you what?”
“That she prayed to her savior, and he was going to get us out.” She groaned low in her throat. “How could she not…?”
“I don’t know.” Celia admitted. “But I’ll pray for her.”
Lucky had long ago learned to keep her mind idle and disconnect from what was happening to and around her. She practiced the skill now as they drove, grateful that this woman she barely knew didn’t find it necessary to fill the gap.
“Here we are.” Celia announced as she stopped the car and parked.
Without paying much attention to her surroundings, Lucky followed her through the break in a wooden fence and up a neat walk onto a porch. She noticed Celia didn’t bother to knock as they entered the house.
Inside, she noticed a small sitting room with a couple of accent tables containing some publications, one in front of and the other beside the short couches.
A woman came hurriedly from the hallway.
Uncomfortable, Lucky hesitated just inside the door. This felt like the house she’d come from and horrified, she wondered if it had been an elaborate ruse and she’d just been taken and sold to someone else. At least there she’d known what to expect.
The only difference was that the woman who approached them was anything but your typical mama-san. Clearly of Hispanic descent, she was heavy set and wore little or no makeup. She wore her floral top out and over her slacks with practical shoes. Her face appeared care worn but friendly.
“Hello,” she greeted looking at her with a smile. “You must be Lucky.”
Trembling, she half-shrugged in response.
Celia held out the file. “Here is all the information we have. It’s not much.”
Taking the file, she nodded. “Which I’m assuming is why you brought her here.”
The woman looked past her to Lucky. “Welcome, Lucky. I’m Marisol. The girls call me Mari.”
Lucky didn’t move.
Mari reached a hand toward her. “I won’t pretend I have any comprehension of what you’ve been through. But I promise you, you’re safe here. I know it’s a lot to take in but we’re going to take care of you and help you on to a better life. You have no reason to believe anything anyone tells you right now, but that’s okay. No one here is afraid to earn your trust. Okay?”
Lucky relaxed a little and moved away from the door but didn’t take the offered hand.
Marisol smiled. She wasn’t offended or surprised.
“I’ve got to go now.” Celia said. She moved toward the door, then stopped to lay a hand on Lucky’s shoulder. She acted as if she would speak but then thought better of it. Instead, she nodded and patted her a couple of times before slipping out the door.’
“There are only five other girls here.” Marisol said. “It’s all we have room for, but it lets us give each one all the attention she needs. The girls are two to a room. What do you say I show you to yours and let you get settled?”
Without speaking, Lucky followed her.
The only thing she noticed was that there were several doors but none of them were closed. As they got to the end of the hallway, there were two much wider than regular doors. On the right, a room housed some machines she didn’t recognize but on the left was a brightly lit room with several large windows, comfortable furniture, and a lot of colored touches, including pictures on the walls and pillows scattered.
“This is the community room.” Mari explained as they crossed it. “It’s used for school, group sessions and some social time.”
School. Lucky had heard of it but where she’d been, they hadn’t thought she needed it.
Mari led her to one of the open doors off the community room.
Inside, there were two closets, two chests with drawers, a full-length mirror on one end — and a girl seated on one of the two single beds, both of which had pretty coverings and plush pillows.
“Hi!” The girl greeted warmly.
“This is Ruthie.” Mari introduced with a gesture. “She’ll be your roommate. Ruthie, this is Lucky.”
“I’m glad you’re here.” Ruthie gushed. “I’ve been alone in my room for a while. It’ll be nice to have a roomie again.”
Lucky just stared. She’d never seen anyone around her own age with so much energy.
“I’ll leave you two to get acquainted.” Mari said, turning for the door. “Help her with whatever she needs. Okay, Ruthie?”
“Of course.” She answered as the older woman left the room. With a wave of her arm indicating the unoccupied bed, she continued. “I hope you don’t mind. I put some stuff up on the wall so it wouldn’t be so bare when you got here. You can change anything you want; I won’t be mad. I just thought it would be friendlier if it wasn’t empty.”
Lucky just continued to stare, dumbstruck.
Ruthie grinned. “Sorry if I talk too much. I didn’t talk at all when I first got here but once I got started…”
For the first time, Lucky took in her surroundings. It had never crossed her mind what life might be like for girls her age outside the house. This seemed like… she couldn’t even describe it. So much stuff and… a window over Ruthie’s bed. She’d never had a window or been even able to look outside.
“I have books if you want to borrow them while you’re getting used to things.” Ruthie offered, patting a small stack on the bed next to her. “What do you say I show you around?”
Answering with a shrug, she just watched as the other girl stood.
Ruthie crossed to the chest on the opposite side of the room. “This is yours. Everything is new.” Pointing to a small bucket, she said. “This is your bathroom kit.”
“Bathroom kit?” Lucky’s tone came out low and raspy.
“Shampoo, your own soap, toothbrush and stuff.” Patting the top drawer, she giggled. “Unmentionables.”
“Undies and stuff. You know…”
She didn’t; all she’d ever worn was the shift she had on. Everything here seemed so out of scope for her.
“There’s one bathroom for us girls and we each use our own bath and hand towel for the week. We take turns cleaning and doing laundry.” At Lucky’s perplexed expression, she added. “It’ll be useful for when we graduate and have a place of our own.”
The very idea was beyond her.
“I picked out some clothes for you.” Ruthie pointed to the bed where a dress with a colorful print was laid, some things unfamiliar, towels and on the floor in front, a pair of shiny open shoes. “If you want, I can show you where the bathroom is. You can get a shower and change.”
Suddenly feeling uncomfortable and dirty, something else she hadn’t thought about in the house, she nodded emptily.
“I’ll take you to the closet later and let you pick out some clothes for yourself.” Ruthie said. “Sorry if I’m, you know, bombarding you. I was hoping to make it easier.” She grinned. “I won’t be mad if you chuck everything, once you get used to it here.”
It occurred to Lucky suddenly that she reminded her of Hope, light and effervescent but with no shadow like there’d been at the house. She nodded. “I’m… I mean, I don’t… You must…”
For the first time, Ruthie’s countenance turned sober. Reaching out to touch Lucky’s arm, she met her gaze directly. Her voice went quiet. “No. We’ve all been where you are so don’t ever feel bad about it.”
Lucky gave a half nod.
“Getting over it is a process and everyone’s is different.” She assured. “But I promise, it gets better. You’re going to like it here.”
She felt something inside begin to unclench, just a little.
“Now why don’t I show you where the shower is. You can start getting rid of that old life with some scented soap and a new dress.”
As afraid as she was to admit it, Lucky was already starting to like it here.
In the few weeks that had passed, so much had changed that at times it seemed that the old life had been a nightmare that happened to someone else. Most of the time, though, Lucky was painfully aware of how narrow, ugly, and abnormal her life had been and sometimes she woke in the night, terrified that customers were coming. She was learning to use the anger that rushed her when thoughts of it flooded her mind to strengthen her resolve never to be a slave to anyone or anything again.
When it had been discovered that she’d never been to school and couldn’t read, a fact she’d tried to hide for fear she’d be thrown out as a hopeless cause, Mari had assigned a mentor to her named Iris.
A patient woman with a gentle, caring demeanor, she made an excellent teacher.
Lucky had made a lot of progress; she worked hard, and it had become something of an obsession. She could see how important it would be to be proficient for whatever might come later even as that prospect seemed so far off, she couldn’t even fathom it.
It quickly became clear that she had no talent for sewing; a useful skill that many of the girls saw as their way to independence when they graduated. She did, however, have a real gift for working with plants and spent much of her time in the garden in the back of the house either tending the vegetables and flowers or just reading. The quiet there brought a pleasant serenity to her mind that she relished.
Much to her own surprise, Ruthie had become a good friend. It was hard to ignore her exuberance and generosity. From the first day, she’d helped Lucky learn how things in the house worked, — teaching her to navigate life outside the nightmare.
“If there’s ever anything you’re not sure about — what to do or say — just watch me or give me a look.” Ruthie’s grin seemed to light up any space she occupied. “I’ll know what to do and you won’t have to feel weird about it.”
Sometimes it was hard for Lucky to imagine Ruthie had ever been in the kind of place that she had.
One thing eluded Lucky’s understanding. Each day, in addition to their schoolwork, they had a study from the bible. It wasn’t that she didn’t believe what they said but she couldn’t seem to comprehend it and didn’t participate much in the discussion. No one pushed her about it and for that, she was grateful, but Ruthie had a passion for it that leaked into her conversation constantly.
One recent discussion had intrigued Lucky and been on her mind for several days. No matter how she rolled it over, it just wouldn’t reconcile in her thinking. Most of the time she evaded opening the subject with Ruthie but it wouldn’t let her rest, so she decided to risk it. Taking a seat on her bed, she watched as Ruthie brushed through her long, stalk-straight black hair, her pretty, almond eyes lively, as always. She ventured. “Can I ask you something?”
“Of course.” Ruthie answered cheerfully. “You know that.”
“Remember that lesson, from the bible the other day, that Iris read to us?”
That caught her attention, she set down her hairbrush and turned to face her. “Which one?”
“About the treasure. You know, the guy discovers a treasure hidden in a field, so he sells everything he has and buys it.”
“Sure.” Sensing this wasn’t a casual, easily answered question, she leaned against her dresser and waited.
“Why would anybody do that?” Lucky puzzled, shaking her head. “I mean, I know in the discussion, everyone talked about it being a sacrifice, you know, to get heaven and everything but why would anybody do that? Give up everything they have, that is worth something here, for something they can’t even, see?”
Ruthie’s smiled patiently. “Because it’s what Jesus expects of us. We give our lives to him while we’re here, he gives us his life both here and after we die. Not only is heaven a place beyond imaging, we can expect God’s help while we’re here.”
“How do you do that? I mean, want something so bad that you’d do anything to get it?” It seemed beyond her. She stared at her hands. “I mean, as bad as I thought I wanted out of… where I was… and considered ending it all myself, I couldn’t do it.”
Full of compassion, her voice went soft and low. “I’m so glad you didn’t. We would never have met.”
Without lifting her head, Lucky said. “I guess I just didn’t want it bad enough.”
“Maybe,” Ruthie suggested. “It was because you didn’t know what was on the other side of it. If you take God at her word, you can be sure of it.”
Now she looked up at her. She wanted to have that kind of hope, but she didn’t know how.
For days, Lucky hadn’t been able to get past thoughts of that lesson and her discussion with Ruthie but still hadn’t gotten her mind reconciled. She’d never thought about anything this much except the nightmare she’d lived in before coming here. While she was happy she’d made a friend like Ruthie, she knew she wouldn’t give her life to have made such a friendship. So, what was it? And why couldn’t she just forget about it as she’d done with so many other things and just move on?
In the garden, seated on the swing there, a book open in her lap, she couldn’t seem to focus when she heard footsteps approaching.
With a calm smile, Iris asked. “Mind if I join you?”
Lucky shook her head. Having much social interaction with anyone besides Ruthie was still a little awkward for her.
“Seems like there’s been something on your mind.” She observed, taking a seat at the opposite end of the swing. “Trouble with your schoolwork? Something I can help with?”
Again, Lucky shook her head. She knew Iris cared about her and it wasn’t that she didn’t trust her exactly, at least as much as she trusted anyone besides Ruthie, she just still struggled with sharing her inner thoughts and feelings.
“Well, if there’s anything…” she started to get up again.
“Can I ask you something?” Lucky blurted.
“Of course. What’s on your mind?” She settled back.
“Remember the lesson we had during bible study, a couple of weeks ago.”
Patiently, she smiled. “Which one?”
“The one about the guy who sold everything to buy a field. A field.” It still made no sense.
“Why would anybody do that?” She shook her head. “It makes no sense. I mean, I know it’s what Jesus expects of people but …”
“There’s also a deeper meaning to that story.”
“Really?” Lucky frowned and looked at her. “What?”
“Giving up everything to gain a treasure.” She explained. “That’s what Jesus did.”
“He did? How?”
“Jesus was God but he gave up all the riches and splendor of heaven to come to earth so he could redeem man from the bondage of sin and reconcile them to God.”
She pondered. “I know you’ve said that he’s the savior of the world. That he paid the price for what you call sin.”
“That’s right. He did.”
“Then why is there still so much awful stuff happening?”
“Remember how we talked about Adam and Eve? How they betrayed God and gave the rule of earth over to God’s enemy?”
“Well, even though Jesus paid the price for that so people could be brought back to God, there are people who don’t follow him. They follow his enemy, so they do the awful things he tells them to. But God is always working to bring people back to him.”
She was pondering.
“Do you see how much God loves people, Lucky? How much he loves you?”
“They say the value of something is found in what someone is willing to pay for it. Do you know the price that was paid for you?”
Pain filled her face and she murmured. “No… I never…”
Iris reached out and touched her arm. Her voice turned tender. “That’s not what I meant. First, Jesus shed his blood to buy you back from his enemy.”
Squeezing her forearm affectionately, she went on. “Then, he used your friend Hope. She talked to you about rescue and a savior before you even knew there was such a thing. It encouraged and comforted you while he got Celia and her team in place to get you out of that horror.”
She hadn’t thought of that.
“And all this time, he was preparing us to care for you when you came and to tell you about him.” She took a breath and removed her hand. “The field is the world, Lucky. You are the treasure.”
“But what about Hope? Why didn’t he…?”
Iris shook her head. “I can’t answer that. But I believe that since she trusts him, he’s working out his plan for her.”
She hadn’t ever really thought about what it had taken to get her here.
Iris could see her mind working. “I’ll leave you to your thoughts but if you want to talk or anything…”
Lucky nodded and just watched as she walked to the house and went inside. After she’d gone, her thoughts tumbled over each other as she considered what had been said. It seemed like too much to take in until suddenly, it seemed to become clear: the world was like a big brothel run by God’s enemy, forcing people to do horrible things but Jesus was like the man who’d come to her cell and offered her a way out. She could have refused to follow him and remained in prison or trust him that something better waited if she went. Just as suddenly, the weight of how much had been sacrificed for her overwhelmed her and for the first time she could remember, she cried.
Over the course of the next few weeks, Lucky couldn’t have said what had happened to her, but she knew she was different. In her reflection concerning all that had changed, she felt certain it was time for change of another kind. She and Iris were going over her lessons when she laid her book in her lap and turned to face her. “Can you help me with something?”
“Sure. What is it?”
Swallowing hard, she ventured. “I want to change my name. Can I do that?”
“Of course. There aren’t any official records. I think it could be done pretty easily. What would you like to change it to?”
“I want to be Pearl.” She turned sheepish. “I’m not the same girl I was when I came here. Like God changed Abraham’s name because of what he promised him, I want to change mine because of how he saw me.”
“Oh,” Iris stopped before she used her name. “I think that’s a wonderful idea.”
“And another thing.”
“Do you think I could ever do what you do? I mean, that I could help other girls?” She grinned. “I can’t cook and I’m not good with sewing. I need something to do for my future.”
Iris beamed with delight. “Of course you can.”
“I never want to forget how much God loves me and how much he loves other people.” Her smile was as warm as it had ever been as she glowed with it. “I’m ready to give my life to buy that field.”