by Vilo Westwood
Emily started awake and stared in astonishment. Green everywhere. The sides of the road were bursting with lush emerald green grass, heavy branches laden with dark green leaves, thick green bushes, green stalks adorned with yellow and orange flowers. “Where are we?” she whispered.
Brad turned toward her, one hand gently moving the steering wheel and the other on his knee. “We’re in Columbus, Ohio,” he said. “Home, sweet, home—‘til I finish my degree, anyway.”
“Ohio,” murmured Emily, thinking of the stubby plants clinging to parched soil along the freeways in Utah, the endless winds of Wyoming, the endless waving grain of Nebraska. “Those poor pioneers. I never understood what they had left.”
Getting ready for church in the morning was a scramble. Emily stumbled over boxes and showered in the clawfoot bathtub that looked older than she was, the old pipes wheezing and spurting as it delivered the water. She found a wrinkled dress in her suitcase and sandals that were not dressy but didn’t look like athletic wear.
“Breakfast!” Brad said, handing her a paper plate with sliced fruit arranged like a face and a cup of yogurt.
Going out of the apartment door Emily felt that she had been dunked into a sauna. The air was thick and damp around her. She could sense her hair frizzing.
“Whew!” she said.
“Gotta love that humidity,” Brad said.
As they entered the church’s foyer, Emily reached for Brad’s hand—-the building, at least, seemed very familiar.
“Hello!” boomed a voice. “Are you new to our ward?”
Emily nodded, trying to see the worn face underneath the Stetson.
“Welcome to Zion!” the man answered, grabbing her hand and shaking it firmly, then turning to shake Brad’s hand.
The argument Monday morning was just stupid. Brad was crashing around trying to find a matching shoe. “Is breakfast ready?” he called. Emily looked at the hardening egg on the skillet.
“I guess so,” she said, trying to form a smile with lips that felt thin.
“Thanks,” he muttered, chewing rapidly. “Where are the keys? I’m going to be late.”
“I thought I was going to drive you,” Emily said.
“You’re not even dressed,” Brad pointed out.
“Because I was making YOUR breakfast!” she yelled at his retreating back. “What am I supposed to do all day without a car?”
“Walk!” Brad yelled back, opening the door. “Unpack!”
Emily did not get dressed. She sat among the boxes, pulling her thin robe around herself. She’d been so excited to get married to her thrillingly handsome best friend and have the adventure of her life, moving somewhere new and different. She’d applied for lots of jobs online, and hadn’t even felt discouraged when none responded. Now here she was, feeling she might drown.
Zion, she thought. Reverse Zion. Original Zion. How did the pioneers do it—trek all that way and settle in the desert?
Would she ever feel at home here?
She jumped at the knock. Surely it wasn’t the door of this apartment. The second knock left little doubt. Cautiously she opened the door and saw two women on the steps. The older one with a cane looked a little familiar.
“Good morning,” said the younger one. “I’m the Relief Society president, Nancy Marshall, and I was just out making another visit with Sister Carlson. We thought we’d stop by and see if you needed anything.”
Sister Carlson stretched out a trembling hand. “Welcome to Zion, my dear.”
Emily couldn’t help feeling cheered. “I think I met your husband yesterday!” she said. She stepped back and as the women entered, she pushed a few boxes aside so they could sit on the couch.
“What can we do for you?” said the younger woman—Nancy? “I’ve got a little bit of time before kindergarten ends. Can we unpack some boxes with you?”
“Oh, no, that’s all right,” Emily stammered, thinking of the few things they owned and not really wanting anyone else to see how bare the apartment would be even when unpacked. “It won’t take long.”
“Well, I brought some pamphlets we have in a Welcome Packet,” Nancy said. “This first paper has a website where Katie Rawls has posted a lot more information about the city, but this gets you started.”
“Thank you—we don’t have internet hooked up yet,” Emily said.
“Until you do, you can use the computers at the library,” said Nancy. “You’re pretty close—just walk to the end of the next block, turn right and you’ll see it. To get to the nearest grocery you turn left instead of right.”
Emily thought Nancy had probably noticed there was no car outside.
“I’ve been in Columbus over 7 years,” Nancy continued. “There’s so much history here.” She described the State Capitol building, Underground Railroad sites, museums and conservatories, and pioneer houses from around the time of the Revolutionary War.
A tingle of the possibilities warred with Emily’s growing sense of fatigue.
Sister Carlson leaned toward Emily. “How long have you been married, dear?”
Emily blinked and turned to her. “Three months,” she said. Months that had flown by—preparing, packing, saying their goodbyes.
“It’s a wonderful institution, marriage,” said Sister Carlson. “I’ve been married 53 years now.”
Emily’s cheeks burned she remembered the morning’s stupid fight.
“Wonderful,” Nancy agreed. “I’ve never considered divorce—murder, yes—but never divorce.”
Emily’s mouth dropped open in shock. Sister Carlson’s shaking hand patted her hand.
“You’ll be just fine, dear,” said the old woman. “You’re strong and healthy and have plenty of sense. You’re a modern pioneer—full of faith and hope. Right?”
“Right!” said Nancy.
Emily hugged the thin robe to herself. “It’s possible,” she said. She could feel her faith thickening as Sister Carlson’s smile kept warming her. “Very possible.”