Did the earth move

This tale is retold from Kitchen Table Wisdom by Rachel Naomi Remen.

They had only been married recently, life looked so good, and it was mostly turning out that way. You see, he was a widower with one grown son; while she was a widow whose two children had recently fled the nest. Both had had successful earlier marriages, which had terminated with the death of their partners. As neighbours, they had come together when he was kind enough to help her through her bereavement. Everything seemed to work out so well after they had come together; they sold their old homes and were able to buy a good house in a good suburb; their children were enthusiastic, supportive and helpful.

He was a civil engineer, who ran a private practice from home. She had recently returned to her work as a cosmetic sales representative. She was highly valued by her employers as her attractive enthusiasm often generated lucrative contracts. She was much more than a rep. she managed the whole sales team and their strategies. The salary was impressive, but she had to work long hours and was generally away on the road for several days every week.

They were happy in their new relationship; she was about to turn forty two, young enough for another child but this was not high on their agenda. They found that marriage was a good source of companionship and security, but it lacked the naďve thrilling passion that they could remember from their first marriages.

One fateful day she took an afternoon off work to buy some clothes for a coming important conference. Her favourite shop had just the outfit, wonderful colour, except for matching shoes. “No problem”, said the sales-assistant, “just slip next door to our associated shoe store. You can wear the new outfit and leave your other clothes here.”

While she was in the shoe store she suddenly felt very faint, everything seemed to go dark and the earth moved. It really did! A severe earthquake had struck.

She picked herself up off the floor, and found that she had been hurt by a falling cabinet; her new outfit was badly torn. At first, all she could hear was screams and moans, and then a man appeared who insisted that she leave the building immediately. So she did, wading through all the shoes (and rubble?) scattered about. Fortunately the front door was open; well actually it wasn’t there it had somehow disappeared. On the street things were no better or safer. The ground was covered with rubble and one couldn’t see far because of the thick dust clouds. Water was welling up through the burst mains and there was still an electric cable crackling as it swung about. She crouched down stunned and sobbing, she was lost bewildered and very scared.

After about a quarter of an hour rescue workers started to appear, with their bright orange jackets, she was surprised to see that many of them were women. She was pulled to her feet and briefly assessed; she was in good shape (comparatively) so she was told to leave the area immediately and head for the barrier down the main street. This was not easy and she got no help. There were much more urgent cases to attend to. At the barrier she was again rapidly assessed and told to go home. How? She had no keys no money no purse no cards, nothing but a sore body and ragged clothes. She had to walk, there were no cars buses or taxis; the roads were all blocked and she had to get clear of the area immediately so that critically injured victims could be carried to the medical relief centres. Home was eight kilometres away.

She staggered home as if in a dream, nightmare actually. It wasn’t raining, it wasn’t windy; it was just dark and unpleasant. There were other people walking around, they were company, but no one was speaking. She had to wade through streams of water and much of it smelled like sewerage? There was no power, no lights just darkness and gloom.

When she finally reached home the house was standing and seemed undamaged, but it was dark and quiet. She was at the point of complete collapse as she knocked on the door; it stayed shut and locked. As she slid to the ground exhausted, the door finally opened, she was safe and he was home. She was picked up gently and for a long time they hugged and she relaxed in the comfort of his arms.

Being an engineer, he had reorganised the house so there was hot water for a bath, a gas cooker for the food and a generator on standby to keep the refrigerators and freezer cool. Oh what a home and what security! Her job had gone forever, but who cares when you still have a life to live? His job had just started; he was highly innovative and in great demand. Despite the poverty following the disaster, he was very well paid.

Nine months later their baby was born.

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