The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
Jessica had been repeating the 23rd Psalm of the Lord for so long that she no longer had to think about it; the words just seemed to be a part of her consciousness now. It must have been hours ago that they'd taken her and stuffed her into the trunk of that big old car that had been sitting at the end of the street. She'd snuck out her bedroom window, run through the back yard, and then past the Andersons' house to wait for Stephanie and Lisa to pick her up. There wasn't anything unusual about that car other than that it was dirty, and a lot older than any of the cars their neighbors normally drove.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.
She tried to open her eyes only to realize that they were already open; the darkness that surrounded her was so absolute it was a physical pressure on her skin. The musty air, what little there seemed to be, was just as heavy. It was hard to breathe, but with monumental effort, fueled by growing fear, she managed a deep breath and screamed, "Help me! Please! Somebody!" As with the dozen times previous, her only answer was the wordless howl of some unholy beast, waiting on the other side of the darkness. She pounded her fists on the bare metal of the trunk lid in frustration and tried not to cry.
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
All she'd wanted was to go to Ashley's party. It was just a simple celebration of her best friend's birthday. There was no reason for Daddy to forbid her to attend, but forbid her he had and Mama never went against him once his decision was made. A birthday party was a secular observance, Daddy claimed, and no fit place for his God-fearing little girl.
He restoreth my soul.
Her prison danced for a moment, its weak suspension unable to completely compensate for the added weight of whoever opened the door and slid into the driver's seat. Another moment and the engine rattled to life, the vibration pushing Jessica to another panicked attempt at escape. She pounded frantically on any and every surface she could reach, twisting and turning, becoming more desperate as her prison began to move.
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
The rocking motion stopped first, soon followed by the vibration as the engine was shut off. Having maneuvered to a face-down position, Jessica pushed upward with all her might, praying for some miracle that might open her dark cell and allow her to spill out into the light, to breathe fresh air, to fly back to the security of her parents' home, stifling though it may be. She'd be good. She'd never disobey her Daddy again, if only Jesus would help her get home.
Yea, though I walk through the shadow of the Valley of Death,
And suddenly, she was free. She burst from the car's trunk so unexpectedly that she fell stumbling to the ground. Somehow she caught herself. She ran; the direction didn't matter, only that she get away. But she was surrounded by unfriendly, hungry faces. Crying now, unable to stop, she begged the strangers hemming her in for help, begged them to let her go; her terror only served to make them more avid, for what she didn't know. A woman pushed her to her knees; her hand between Jessica's shoulders was cold as ice.
I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.
Lying in the dust and dirt, Jessica prayed, desperate that it all be a dream. She heard the voices of two men as they spoke above her. One man sat on a chair on top of a car, his suit like the one her father wore for important business meetings. The other man pleaded with him to put him in the coffin instead. Oh, sweet Jesus. Are they going to bury me alive? Blindly, she scrabbled in the dirt, pulling herself bodily toward the seated man, the man in charge, babbling anything she could think of to make him help her: Ashley's party, youth choir, promising not to tell Mama and Daddy if only they'd let her go home.
Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
His only response was terrifying. "Meet your Maker," he said, smiling as he pointed toward the other man, the one who'd spoken of the coffin. Realizing that she would receive no help there, Jessica tried to crawl away, but someone broke from the circle and dragged her back to the center, dropping her at the feet of the man who stood there.
Something inside her broke and the terror receded. She lay there and let their words wash over her without touching her as she traced circles in the dirt.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.
The dark-haired man crouched down before her and took her hand in his. She looked up at him and still she felt no fear, not anymore. "Are you a Christian?" she asked.
"I was," he told her.
She smiled at him, a tentative thing. "I'm a good girl. Jesus will take me home to Heaven." His eyes were so beautiful; she couldn't look away.
Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
"What is your name?"
"You're safe now. Look in my eyes." Gently, he stroked her cheek. "Everything will be fine."
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.