She is Safe, by Paula Rose Michelson

~~~~~~~~Reflective Questions

Have you ever heard someone pronounce you health, happy, or safe and wonder why they thought they knew you well enough to make such a statement?

Have you ever wished that the person making those pronouncements could make them come true?

Have you ever been in such dire straits that you chose to believe that you wished for could become real? If so you are more like Naomi than you might have originally though. If not you might find this posting helps you understand the plight of those poor souls for which Emma Lazarus’s poem The Grand Colossus stands as a beacon for it says, “…give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me …”

~~~~~~~The Text

Naomi roused herself and looked around the room. I am grateful to have a place of my own, she admitted. Surprised that the simple act of admitting how she felt caused her to shudder; unwanted memories of the bitterness she had experienced in Spain assailed her. She knew that her situation could be much worse, tried to find something positive to think about, and told herself, I should have some privacy here. Then she cautioned herself, Remember to do nothing that breeds familiarity.

Aware that she needed to return to the kitchen as soon as possible, she stood and walked to the large oak wardrobe. She ran her hands over its beautifully carved panels. Why is something this fine in a servant’s quarters? she wondered. She opened the large, double doors and peered inside. There were no uniforms, just hangers that held ordinary garments. Each dress was modest but none would reveal her station. Keenly aware that her sponsor had chosen colors and styles that would not cause her to appear a servant and yet not allow her to think more highly of herself than she should, Naomi forced a tentative smile. This Tía is more like mi tía Rosa than I thought. She assumed that she understood the old woman’s hidden message, appreciated her thoughtfulness, and decided to call Tía Vida, her tía. Pleased with the realization that she would not be humiliated in front of others she took off her clothes, folded and placed them in the bottom of the wardrobe. Then needing to assure herself that her uncles letter was safe, she took out her skirt, felt for it, then placed it on top.

When she returned to the kitchen, she wore the mustard-colored dress with the white collar. Because of the formality of their agreement, she waited in the hallway for an invitation to enter. She saw her tía at the sink with her back to the hall, holding a phone to her ear, and heard her say, “Yes, Victor, we arrived home without incident. Do not worry. Naomi understands everything. Yes … yes, I see. No, she will not run away. I scared her just as I do every girl I bring home. Yes … I did … I used the handcuffs, just as you told me to. Do not worry. She is safe.”

When her tía hung up the phone, Naomi cleared her throat. Tía turned in her direction and waved her in. “Let me see you.”

She stepped into the kitchen and waited.

“Good, very good,” her tía muttered. She walked around the girl and nodded toward a chair. “Sit down, Naomi.”

Naomi acquiesced and was pleasantly surprised when her tía sat down across from her. “Naomi, I know our arrangement forces you to delay your plans. However, if you are as clever as I think, all that you learn here will serve you well when you leave. Understand?”

“Yes. I understand.”

“Now, this is our first night together. I always try to help my new niñas feel at home on their first night, so we will eat together and we can talk. You can ask me questions about this situation. After tonight, you will find your position in my home will not allow you to treat me with familiarity, nor will we dine together.”

As Tía finished her last sentence, there was a knock at the door. She stood, walked to the pantry, and brought out some dishes. “Naomi, I believe our meal has arrived. Answer the front door.”
Naomi rushed to the vestibule, turned on the light, opened the door, and saw a young woman who wore a bright orange dress with a matching sweater. She held a sack, which Naomi assumed was their food. The girl looked her over and giggled. “So you’re her new girl.” Her lips curled slightly in obvious disdain. “Let me look at you!”

Naomi stood still, frozen by the brazen attitude of one she did not know, a girl who acted superior to her for no apparent reason. “Come on. Turn around,” the girl ordered. “You aren’t much to look at, so scrawny, with that wild, curly, hair and those big, sad eyes.” She patted her shiny, straight pageboy hairdo, which was so popular. While the girl stared at her, Naomi remembered that her mamá had said, “Only a harlot wears her hair like un hombre!” Not through with her insults, the girl raised her voice, “I heard La Señora brought another beggar home. I also heard you’re Spanish! No wonder you can’t answer! None of you knows enough to learn English before you come here.” The girl glared into her eyes and demanded, “Cómo te llamas?

Naomi saw no reason to offer her name in response.

“No wonder you had to leave Spain. You’re too stupid to know your own language! Probably nobody wanted you around. What’s the matter, cat got your tongue?”

La Señora stepped out of the shadows of the living room, into the light of the vestibule. She narrowed her eyes and clenched her jaw. Everyone who knew the old woman feared this look. However, the delivery girl did not notice, nor did she hear the tension in Tía’s voice when she exclaimed, “Shame on you for such rude behavior!” She walked to where the girl stood and snatched the bag out of her hands.

The girl shrugged. Then she realized she had to say something and mumbled a halfhearted, “Sorry.” She turned to leave.

“Come back here! I’m not done with you!” La Señora’s icy cold voice stopped her in her tracks.

The girl turned back, her look of arrogance replaced by one of fear.

“Apologize to Naomi!”

The girl stood her ground.

La Señora looked at her watch then back at the girl. “Rochelle, I hired you. Now I am firing you! Pick up your things from my store and do not come back, not even to buy something. I do not want to see you again. Do you understand me?”

“But, Señora, look at her!” the girl whined. “She’s just a little mouse!

The old woman glanced at Naomi. “That may be but this little mouse has more dignity and courage than you will ever have. I am sorry I wasted my time on you. Now, leave!”

As the girl turned away, the old tía put her arm on Naomi’s shoulder in a comforting gesture. “This will not happen to you again,” she promised.

~~~~~Authors Comments

Actions always speak louder than words for they reveal our heart. I believe that God’s Word illuminates this point best. Therefore, I have posted three verses for you to consider.

1 Samuel 2:3 “Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the Lord is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed…”

Psalm 92:4 For you make me glad by your deeds, LORD; I sing for joy at what your hands have done.

James 2:18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.”

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