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Never lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
Glancing at the lone figure standing in the reflection of her side mirror, Dottie Hart stomped hard on the brake and wrangled her prehistoric motor home to a groaning halt.
What in the world is that kid thinking?
In less than a shake and a wiggle Dottie was out the door watching the girl jog toward her along the shoulder of the hectic highway. The world was full of crazed people just waiting for the opportunity to snatch up a girl like that...and here she was hitchhiking!
Well, it wasn't happening today, because Dottie's new prayer each morning was for the Lord to use her any way He chose. Looked like today He'd put this girl in her pathway.
"Hey, thanks for stopping," the girl said, dropping her bag with a thud at Dottie's feet.
She looked to be in her late teens, maybe even twenty, older than Dottie had first thought, but still too young to be hitchhiking...no one was old enough to do that!
"Don't thank me. Thank the Lord," Dottie said. "He's the one watching your back today." Thank You, Father. Thank You so much for putting me in her pathway.
The teen lifted her chin defiantly, eyebrows knitted together. "Oh, brother!You aren't one of those wacko people who go around picking up hitchhikers just so you can cram that religion stuff down their throats, are you?"
Dottie shook her head. "Do I look that brave? I just thought I'd mention why I decided to give you a lift."
The girl relaxed a bit but still looked wary. "Okay, I'll accept the lift 'cause I need it. Just don't get carried away with the God stuff. Me and the big guyaren't getting along so well right now."
Dottie studied the teen. "That's too bad. Here, let me help you carry that thing."
"Hey, hey!" The girl jerked her bag away when Dottie reached for it. "I carry my own bags, lady. You may have wheels but I've got backbone. And I gotta tell you, by the look of your wheels, my backbone's looking like it's the winner. How old is this thing anyway?"
"Hey! Watch what you say about my rig!" Dottie patted the side of her RV. "It's ugly, sure, but this baby's gonna get us where we need to go long before it wheezes its last breath." Walking to the cabin door, she opened it then glanced over her shoulder. "If you're still up for a ride, chuck that bag inside and let's hit the road."
Climbing back into her faithful RV, Dottie tried to calm the jitters threatening to set in. Tried to reassure herself that it was going to be fine.
You've really picked up a hitchhiker! True, but calm down, she told herself. There were no hoodlums hiding in the bushes, using the girl as a front. She didn't appear to be a teenage ax murderer, so everything was going to be okay. Really.
A woman had to take a risk every once in a while, didn't she? On the other hand, if she truly believed God put people in a person's life for a reason, then this was no accident--and she did believe that with all her heart.
God had given her a second chance at life and she'd made a promise that she was bound and determined to follow through with it. This was a test.
Not that she was an advocate for a woman traveling alone to pick up strangers off the side of the road. She'd never done anything like this before. And when her brother learned what she'd done he might skin her alive, but it felt right. And that was good enough for Dottie.
For goodness' sake, she was about to start working at a women's shelter--a home for women at risk. How could she live with herself if she passed one on the side of the road and didn't help her!
She couldn't. And that was that. Decision made--case closed. So relax.
Grabbing the big plastic bag of Gummi Bunnies off the dashboard, she held it out. "Want a handful?"
"Sure," the girl said, slamming the passenger's door closed and reaching for the bag.
Watching her dig into the candy, Dottie relaxed even further. True, she was supposed to be back in California as quickly as possible, time was of the essence, but this girl had obviously needed a friend. "There's drinks in the fridge if you need something. And real food." Biting back any other reservations, she smiled. "I'm Dottie Hart," she offered, meeting the girl's hazel eyes that were similar to her own.
"I'm Cassie Bates," she said, nibbling a mouthful of the chewy little bunnies from her open palm. "I'm on my way to Mule Hollow--where the men grow tall and the women aren't at all."
"Do what?" Dottie laughed, digging out a handful of candy for herself. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Cassie gaped at her. "You know, love is in the hair and the air!" She sang the line.
All the while Dottie stared. Okay--so maybe something was loose and it wasn't Dottie's screws.
"You really don't know what I'm talking about?"
The silent "Duh!" at the end of Cassie's question hung in the air between them.
"Not a clue." But she was curious. Extremely curious.
Cassie dug in her back pocket and pulled out a bundle of newspaper clippings and waved them. Neatly cut and folded in a half-inch-thick bundle, the clippings were very organized. "This is Mule Hollow, Texas. The tiny town way out here in the middle of nowhere that advertised for women who want to get married, move there and live happily ever after."
Oh, brother. Dottie had heard it all now. "You're saying they, this town, is advertising for women to come marry the local men."
"Yes. Are you deaf? It's all right here in Molly Popp's column." She waved the clippings.
"Who is Molly Popp?"
"Molly Popp?" Another duh. "She writes this really cool article every week about what's happening in Mule Hollow. Every-body's following the stories. Where have you been? The moon?"
If she only knew, Dottie thought. "Let's just say I haven't had much time for reading. Who would think up something so outlandish?Are you sure it's a real story and not some promotional gimmick made up to hook readers?"
"Oh, it's real. And I'm going there to change my life."
Now, that was something Dottie could connect with. "And how are you going to do that?"
"I'm going to find me a husband."
"You can't just go into a town and pick a husband out like he was a shirt waiting to be bought off the rack."
"Says who? You should read these articles." Another wave of newspaper clippings.
"These are nice guys. Guys who know how to treat a woman and want to get married. And stay married."
Dottie could not believe her ears. But obviously Cassie was determined to do this, this...harebrained thing, so what exactly did that mean? She took a breath.
Okay, Lord, what's the plan?
She knew the answer before she asked the question. She'd committed to the task the minute she pulled onto the shoulder, actually the minute she prayed that morning for the Lord to use her today. Her granddad always said, never ask the Lord to put someone in your path unless you mean business. The good Lord would take you up on the offer every time...
But taking a detour? Going to some really weird little town out in the middle of nowhere--a town that advertised for wives! Now, that just wasn't a blip on her screen of possible scenarios.
However, even being alive, sitting here being allowed the opportunity to even consider such a scenario was a gift...