David stood off to himself and watched Esther interact with the family members of the graduates and he felt pride welling up in his heart. He watched as she made her way to Mr. Johnson, and couldn’t help but feel grateful for the kind act he showed to Esther by acknowledging Ruthie tonight. No doubt that one day, Esther would personally give the diploma and certificate to her daughter. David could tell that her heart was full from the events of the evening. He tried to remember the last time he saw that spark in her eyes. Oh, it was there briefly when he kissed her, but nothing like tonight. He only hoped that she was not being set up for a big disappointment. David knew what God had shared with them, and finding Ruthie this quickly didn’t go in line with the words God had spoken. Of course, he and Aunt Minnie could have missed the voice of God, but he highly doubted that they both had mistaken His voice. He could hear Esther thanking Mr. Johnson for being so considerate and for showing so much compassion. He was grateful that she kept what Norma had shared with them earlier in confidence. He wanted to come up with a good plan before jumping the gun so to speak. Esther slowly made her way to him and spoke softly, “Why, David Fisher, you’re mighty quiet. Does a cat have your tongue?” He laughed out loud and rocked on the heels of his feet as he replied, “No Ma’am, but a beautiful woman has the strings to my heart, and I can’t seem to pull my eyes away from her as she talks to everyone.”
“Why, David, are you trying to tell me that I’m a chatterbox?” she said playfully.
“Not at all, sweets. What I’m trying to tell ya is that I could sit back all evening and not say a word as long as I can listen to you do all the talking. I would never get tired of your graceful way of conversing with others. Why, you have a way of lighting up the entire room and captivate those around ya, I might add.”
Esther batted her big blue eyes and then quickly glanced around to make certain no one witnessed her gesture. “My lord, do you mind taking me back to my palace?”
David offered his arm, and she slipped her hand through willingly as he spoke in a playful formality, “Not at all, Madame.” He walked her to the door, swept his hand forward, and said, “After you, Madame.” She laughed out loud as they walked toward his truck. The ride to her house was calm and peaceful. Neither of them talked much, but words were not necessary because they both were enjoying God’s peaceful Spirit. As David parked his truck in front of Esther’s house, she asked him to join her for some freshly squeezed lemonade, and he gladly obliged.
David looked at her and said, “If you don’t mind, I’ll just wait out here under the stars while you get our lemonade. This here porch swing is mighty comfortable.” He was feeling strong emotions for her and knew the fresh air would do him some good.
“I’ll only be a minute.”
“I’ll set the timer on my watch, and if ya take too long, I’ll have to come in after ya.” he said playfully.
In just a short time, she returned with two glasses of lemonade. “Did I take too long?”
“Yes, you were gone for one minute and forty-seven seconds,” he said jokingly.
Esther huffed and playfully swatted him on his arm as she sat beside him. “Why, David Fisher, I didn’t realize you were so precise.”
David took her hand in his and intertwined his fingers with hers as he looked at her with eyes that spoke volumes. “All part of being a farmer and being in love.”
Esther allowed her eyes to stay locked with his and felt her heart slam against her chest as she whispered softly, “I love you.”
Her words were like sweet butterfly kisses. Oh, how he longed to take her in his arms and show her just how much he loved her, but also, he desired to honor her and God’s Holy Word.
“I love you too, Essie, please tell me you’re not desiring a long engagement. I realize I haven’t given you a ring, but I plan to real soon. There’s been so much going on. You do understand, don’t you?”
“Yes, of course, I understand, and no, I don’t desire a long engagement. However, I do desire for Ruthie to be a part of our wedding. Oh, David, isn’t the tad-bit of information Norma shared with us tonight wonderful? I never could put my finger on why I felt uneasy about Ruthie befriending Norma, so I simply prayed and asked the Lord to reveal it to me. I believe that God has given me my answer tonight, but He has also softened Norma’s heart through my prayers. I believe she was being very genuine with us tonight. I’m sure she cares for Ruthie a great deal. But we need to formulate a plan right away. I was thinking maybe we should go to the police station first thing Monday morning. You can ask Sheriff Ferguson to question Buddy Nelson . . . and—”
David quickly put his hand up to stop her from proceeding and was careful to walk softly as he approached the topic with wisdom—God’s wisdom. “Essie, darling, I too felt uneasy about Norma, but it’s very apparent that God has intervened. I understand you’re excitement, but we have to remember that we are going by mere speculation on Norma’s behalf. Now, I have kept Sheriff Ferguson updated, but I just don’t think we should be so quick to jump the gun. Don’t you think it would be a little better if we pray and ask for God’s guidance?”
Everything within Esther wanted to scream no, but instead she sat allowing her mind to process what David had just said. Of course, she knew he was right. They needed to pray and allow God to direct them, but this was her child missing. David has no idea how it feels to have a missing child. He’s never had a child. His wife, Sadie, died before she was able to give him children. Her mind continued to spin faster and faster.
“Essie, are you okay?”
In a whimper, Esther spoke, “David, you don’t understand. Memories of my only child are carved deeply in my heart, and now I have a tiny flicker of hope. And on the other hand, there’s the regrets that seem to suck life out of me . . . such as all of the times I failed to be the mama I should have been. The times I allowed church affairs to interfere with personal affairs. I could go on and on, and if I never find her, the memories will forever haunt me. And my Ruthie, she is so naïve.”” She buried her face in her hands and began to weep as despair flooded her shattered heart. “I’m afraid for her, David. I fear that she will be devoured in this cruel world.”
David stood and fell on his knees directly in front of her and took both of her hands into his hand. He gently wiped the tears from her eyes with his other hand and brushed a piece of hair from her angelic face. For what seemed to be eternity, he looked at her and said not a word. She longed to look away but couldn’t pull her eyes from his stare. He finally whispered, and his words went deep into her soul, “Do you not think that God is greater than this cruel world? His eye is on the sparrow. He’s watching over her.”
Esther placed her hand at the side of his face and smiled as she spoke, “Ruthie sang that song so beautifully.”
He placed his hand over hers, and he tenderly spoke, “I remember.”
She placed her hand over her heart and, with passion spoke, “David, you have touched a place in my heart that no other person has touched . . . not even Sammy. And the strangest thing is, I don’t even feel I’ve betrayed Sammy . . . God rest his soul. What have you done to me?”
He tenderly kissed her on her cheek and then the tip of her nose until he reached her lips. He brushed his lips across hers and pulled back breathless. “Marry me next week, Essie. Come Sunday, we’ll talk to the church family. This relationship is God ordained. He has sealed it with His love. I feel the same as ya do. I have never loved liked this . . . not even Sadie, and I too have no sense of betrayal. Can you at least agree to marry me before the month of June is behind us? Please . . .”
She gave him a teasing look and said, “Why, David, don’t ya think we should at least pray and ask God if June would be a good month for us to get married?” He took her in his arms and whispered, “Ya got a deal. Come on, let’s pray right here . . . right now . . . for Ruthie . . . for direction concerning Buddy Nelson . . . for our June wedding.” With that said, she fell next to him and they both began to pray.