The cell phone rang just after dinner. Ken picked it up and smiled. It was Ruth.“Hi there, long time,” Ken whispered into the phone. He had just dropped her home a few hours earlier.
“Ken…there is something I have to tell you.”
Something did not seem right. Ruth was a happy, carefree person—always chirpy, always smiling. Yet, she seemed extremely distressed. Why was she crying?
“I just prayed to God. I prayed for you. I prayed that He would give you the strength to hear what I am about to say,” Ruth wailed.
“What is it, sweetheart?” Ken asked, the first signs of worry manifesting as a wrinkle on his forehead.
Ruth was everything a guy could hope to find in a girl. She was simple, sweet and devoted. Her life revolved around him. The first thing she did after joining fashion school was give Ken a makeover—a new hairstyle, a new wardrobe. She would skip classes to spend more time with him, make breakfast, do his bed, iron his clothes, and occasionally ride the bike with him all the way to his office even though it meant she’d have to make the journey back home alone. Sometimes she would leave home at 5:00 AM, before her parents woke up, and take the first bus to Ken’s house, about 20 miles away. He would wake up to find her snuggled next to him shivering like a little puppy and hold her close, amazed at how much she loved him.
When she had to move to another town for further studies, she cried herself to sleep almost every night. She spent all her pocket money on long-distance calls to Ken, always ending the conversation with the same lines: “I can’t live without you, Ken. I want to come back.”
Ken missed her too. He knew all he had to do was say the word and Ruth would be on the next train home. He knew she would do anything he said. But leaving her term midway would mean expulsion from home, and Ken wasn’t ready for marriage yet. He didn’t want to take Ruth in without first ensuring that he had the financial soundness to take care of her. So he encouraged her to hold on. “Just a few more weeks, dear; you’ll be home for Christmas.”
As the weeks turned into months, Ruth entered depression. She could not live this way anymore. She missed Ken too much. But returning meant being both homeless and unemployed. Ken was not ready to marry her or take her in.
“You are just 17,” he would say. “We need more time to figure things out.”
The wait was frustrating. One night, when her room-mates were asleep, Ruth consumed an entire bottle of sleeping pills. When they rushed her into the ICU next morning, she was hanging to life by a thread. When her heart stopped beating, the doctors had to administer electric shocks to bring her back. Ken was devastated when he found out. He knew why she did it. He wanted to be by her side, but could not. Her folks wouldn’t allow a stranger close to their daughter. They didn’t know yet.
Two weeks later, Ruth was back where she truly belonged—as happy as a lark, but not as chirpy as before. Not until Ken held her close and promised to take care of her all her life. That is all she wanted—the glow slowly returned to her face. She would do anything Ken said, and he adored her.
“What’s the matter, baby?” Ken asked again. “Why are you crying?”
“Ken…I was a prostitute,” Ruth cried out.
The silence lasted an eternity. God, this will break him. Please give him the strength, she thought. Then suddenly Ken’s voice came back.
“Uh! What?!” He had heard her loud and clear but could not believe what he had just heard her say. He did not want to believe it. Ruth, his little angel, a prostitute? No way! Surely, this must be a joke. God, please let this be a joke.
“I was a prostitute, Ken. I cheated on you,” Ruth sobbed.
“You mean like you kissed someone?” Ken’s mind began to spin as he waited for an answer. I can handle a kiss. Kissing someone is probably a big thing for Ruth; that’s why she’s calling herself a prostitute. She’s innocent. She loves me too much. Please say it was only a kiss.
“I slept around, Ken.”
“You mean intercourse?!”
“Yes. I am sorry, Ken. I really love you.”
But Ken didn’t hear her. He stopped listening the minute Ruth said “Yes.” His world stopped spinning right there. He sank into his chair, the wind knocked out of him.
Who? Why? When? The last seven years flashed before his eyes—the first time he met Ruth in an internet chat room, the first telephone conversation a month later. She mailed a picture. That sweet voice over the phone also had a sweet face. He fell in love right away. As the days passed, the conversations grew longer, often continuing late into the night. When they finally met, Ruth was instantly attracted to Ken. He was fair and slim. He was 25 and looked boyish. He was gentle, witty and had the most beautiful light brown eyes she had ever seen—they radiated kindness. He made her laugh and she immediately felt comfortable around him. They watched a movie. She held his hand. He kissed her after intermission and proposed the next day. She said she needed time. As the days passed, Ken started losing hope. Then at 4:00 AM one morning, Ruth called and said, “I love you too.”
He introduced her to his mother the same week. They made love for the first time on his birthday two months later. The months flew by. That is until Ruth had to move to a different town for further studies. She didn’t want to go, but couldn’t tell her dad why. He just wouldn’t allow it. So they kept it under wraps.
A month of separation was too much to bear. Ken knew it was tearing Ruth apart. When she said she would die if she didn’t see him soon, Ken emptied all his savings to buy her a gold ring laced with diamonds and boarded an overnight flight to the city where she lived. He watched from a distance as she left her hostel and trudged to college with her head down the next morning. He hid behind a tree. To say Ruth was thrilled to bits when she saw Ken again would be an understatement. Seeing him jump out suddenly with his arms wide open simply knocked her socks off. She began crying and did not stop until he took her to the hotel he was staying in and made love to her. Then he slipped the ring he had got on her finger and held her in a long embrace.
Ruth’s voice brought him back. He could not breathe. He needed answers. He could hear Ruth crying on the other end.
“Who was it, Ruth? Who did you do it with?”
“It doesn’t matter, Ken,” Ruth cried. “It was stupid, it didn’t mean anything, and it is over now.”
“I want to know who it was,” Ken said, surprised that he was not angry.
“You know who it was, Ken.”
“Okay,” Ken said.
Sam was an old friend of Ruth. He lived in another town. He was 6’2 and muscular. Ken suspected his intentions from day one, but Ruth assured him that they were just friends. It’s probably just me, Ken thought. Maybe they really are just good friends. He knew how much Ruth loved him. It would take more than a muscular 6’2 guy to pull us apart. We are inseparable. It’s our destiny. He put his doubts behind him and eventually forgot all about it. When Sam married, Ken rested easier. That takes care of that, he thought. So when Ruth said she was going to meet Sam to seek help for a college project, Ken didn’t think twice. “Come back safely,” was all he said.
“It didn’t mean anything, Ken.”
“I know it didn’t mean anything, Ruth. I just don’t know what to say. When did this happen?”
“Two years ago.”
“How many times did you cheat on me?”
“Twice?! You mean you made a mistake and went back for more?!”
“Please tell me we are okay, Ken. I can’t live without you.”
“I love you, Ruth. I can’t live without you either.”
“Please forgive me. Let’s make a new start.”
“I forgive you, Ruth. Stop crying and go to bed. We’ll speak later”
“What am I to do about Sam?”
“Ask God. He will tell you what to do.”
“Okay, good night.”
Ken kept the phone down and just continued sitting where he was for more than hour. He remembered the only time he had met Sam three months ago. He seemed very uncomfortable. Now I know why, Ken thought. He felt a range of emotions sweep over him – anger, sadness, disappointment, despair. He was surprised how calm he had been on the phone. He decided to sleep. Then suddenly the gravity of what he had been told sunk in. He could not sleep. Images of Ruth and Sam entwined together flashed before his eyes. He started crying and did not stop until he fell asleep.
When he got up the next morning, he wished he had never been born. Tears blurred his vision as he drove to work. What have you done, Ruth? Why did you do it?
He called Ruth and asked to meet her in the evening. He had decided what he had to do. When they were finally alone, the tears started flowing again.
“Why did you do it, Ruth? Were you not happy with me?”
Seeing her beloved Ken in tears, Ruth started crying too.
“I dunno why, Ken.”
“Well, I know why. You love Sam. You always did.”
“That is not true.”
“Listen, I am going to make it really easy for you two. I am stepping out of your life. Convince Sam to divorce his wife and hook up with him. You’ll never hear from me again.”
“No, Ken. I don’t want to marry him. I want to marry you. I have always loved you and you alone.”
“I don’t believe you, Ruth. Your actions betray your words”
“It was a mistake, Ken. I am sorry.”
“Why did you do it?”
“I don’t know.”
“You ruined everything, Ruth. Can’t you see? Things will never be the same again.”
“Don’t say that, Ken.”
“I love you, Ruth. But you hurt me really bad. You were the strongest pillar in my life. How could you?”
“I am so sorry I messed up,” Ruth sobbed.
Ken was angry and hurt, but he still couldn’t bear to see Ruth cry.
“I gotta leave now, Ruth. I did not mean to make you cry. Maybe things will get better with time. For now though, I’ll be happy if you just gave me a hug.”
That was all Ruth needed to hear. She longed to be held by Ken. She longed to be told that everything would be alright. She longed for Ken to look at her the way he always did. Right now though all she could see in his eyes was sadness. She had broken the heart of the only man she really loved and she could not bear to see how badly he was hurting.
“I am so sorry, Ken. I promise, never again,” she said as she melted in his arms.
Ken looked into her eyes, wiped her tears away and said, “I trust you.”
On the way back home, Ken tried to find the answers Ruth seemed unable to give. Why? We were happy. I know Ruth loves me with all her heart. Then why? It has to be the fantasies.
It had started out of boredom. As the conversation dragged one night, Ken said, “The newspaper says sharing fantasies does wonders for your relationship, especially your sex life.”
“They say it helps to keep the spark alive.”
“Don’t know. There is only one way to find out.”
“What did you have in mind?”
“Do you ever get wild dreams?”
“Like you are in a threesome?”
“Um, no. I have had some really wild dreams, but it is always only with you, Ken.”
“How boring? Have you never wondered how things would be if you were with someone else?”
“Well, if you had, you could have told me and we could have laughed about it.”
“If that’s the case, I could always make something up.”
“Okay, tell me a fantasy you would have liked to come true if I wasn’t in your life.”
And so the train of fantasies began. It took on a life of its own—each time increasing in frivolity and graphic detail. Sometimes, it included Sam. With the sanctity of their relationship breached, they started drifting apart emotionally.
Encouraged by Ken to share her wildest fantasies, Ruth actually began thinking about the things that would interest him. Before long, she was caught in the web herself. She became increasingly frivolous, despite her deep love for Ken. She was falling deeper and deeper. It didn’t help that her friends at college were frisky too.
At fashion school one day, the students were asked to meditate to help them unlock new ideas. Then they were asked to write what they saw. This is what Ruth wrote:
“I saw a little ballerina practicing in a room. Suddenly, all she wants to do is get out. She starts running down the long corridors, turning from one dark passage to another. She is desperate to find the exit. Every time she sees a door, she runs towards it thinking she is nearing freedom. But all of them are dead-ends—all of them, except one. And after a long struggle, she finally finds that door. She can see the bright light shining on the other side through the thin gaps around the doorframe. She knows she has finally found what she was looking for. This is it! The little ballerina turns back one last time and sadly looks at the darkness behind her, the darkness she will never come back to. Then, she opens the door and walks into the light.”
Later, when she was all alone, Ruth thought about her ways and realized it was not getting her anywhere. She loved Ken but had cheated on him so many times, she was afraid she would lose him forever if he ever found out. She promised to amend her ways, but carry her secrets with her to the grave. He didn’t have to know. But the guilt gnawed at her, especially when Ken showered her with love.
“Why are you so good to me?” she asked him one day.
“Because I love you, Ruth. I wanted to tell you the fantasies don’t mean anything. There will never be anyone else for me besides you. And although we discuss them, I could never bear to see you with another man.”
“Me too,” Ruth said and turned away. Her heart was exploding. Oh! What have I done.
She rushed home in tears and met her mom at the doorway.
“Where are you going, mum?”
“To a prayer meeting. You want to come?”
Ruth didn’t remember the last time she had prayed. It was a long, long time ago. But she suddenly wanted to. She needed to. She needed help to get out of the mess she had gotten herself into. She said “Yes.”
The first meeting was followed by another, then another, until she became a regular. Late night calls to Ken continued, but the train of fantasies died down.
“So what do you want to discuss tonight” Ken asked excitedly one night. He had no idea about the changes Ruth was going through.
“Um, lets not discuss anything tonight, Ken. Let’s just talk about us. I want to marry you soon. When will you be ready?”
“Uh! Soon. December may be a good time.”
“That’s seven months, Ken. You’ve already kept me waiting too long.”
“Look, I’ve got things to take care of. Don’t rush me. I am tired. I got to sleep.”
“Okay. I won’t be meeting you this weekend.”
“I am attending a two-day retreat with mum.”
“Weekends are the only time we get to spend together, Ruth.”
“Can’t you understand? I need to be with you every weekend. It helps me get through the week. I want to spend all my free time with you.”
“Attend the retreat with me then.”
“Come with me, Ken”
“I can’t. I work hard all week. The weekends are my time to do as I please. I don’t want to waste my time at a retreat.”
“Fine. I am going anyways.”
And so she did. The retreats did a world of good to her. It calmed her. It helped her to get her focus back on the things that really mattered. For the first time in her life she was also entering a deep understanding of God. She bought a Bible.
When she turned her cell phone on after the retreat ended, she realized Ken had been trying to reach her. She called him.
“Hi. You called?”
“Yes. I have been trying to reach you all day. Why is your phone off?”
“They don’t allow us to keep it on during the retreat. Keeping it off helps to avoid distraction.”
“Oh! So how was it?”
“It was good, Ken. You should have been there.”
“Well, someday. Since you don’t want to spend time with me anymore, I guess I don’t have a choice.”
“Well, you don’t. I have registered your name for the next retreat.”
“You did?! You know how busy I am.”
“I don’t care. This is important to me and if you really love me, you’ll go.”
“Well, I do love you, and if it matters so much to you, I’ll come…but just this once, okay?”
“Okay. I love you, Ken.”
Two weeks later, Ken and Ruth attended their first retreat together. He didn’t like it though. This is not how we pray in church. We don’t clap. We don’t dance. He didn’t want to dance. “Why can’t I just sit here and listen?” But as the hours ticked by, something inside him began to stir. He became more attentive. He found himself tapping his feet to the beat of the music. He found himself praying, reluctantly at first, and then with all his heart. Something was happening. He felt different. Nothing bothered him, not even the traffic when he drove Ruth home. He was at peace with himself and the world around him. Until Ruth called.
“Ken…there is something I have to tell you. I just prayed to God. I prayed for you. I prayed that He would give you the strength to hear what I am about to say.”
“What is it, sweetheart? What’s the matter, baby? Why are you crying?”
“Ken…I was a prostitute.”
That night, everything came crashing down. Life lost its meaning. If someone I loved so deeply could betray me, who then is worthy of trust, Ken wondered. He would get the answer to that and other questions very soon. He just didn’t know it yet.
They say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Ken and Ruth took the first step towards a new life the day they attended that first retreat together. They felt God’s touch and committed their lives to Him. Although the wound in Ken’s heart took months to heal, he did receive the grace and strength to gather the broken pieces of his life together, rise again, and make a new beginning. As a first step in that direction, he forgave Ruth and himself completely. He also forgave Sam.
It’s been almost five years since that day Ken attended the call that would change his life forever. He married Ruth eleven months later. When he looked into her eyes during the nuptial and promised to love and honor her, and faithfully stand by her in good times and bad, sickness and health for as long as he lived, Ruth could not stop crying. She had waited an eternity for this day, for this moment.
She turned one last time to look back at the life she was leaving behind—the darkness she would never come back to. Then she turned to look at Ken and with tears in her eyes, she pledged her life to him. The little ballerina had finally found what she was searching for her entire life. She smiled as Ken held her by the hand and walked into the Light.