Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Ruby Christmas Chapter Eight

UPDATE: A Ruby Christmas is FREE on Kindle 
Friday, December 13 through Monday, December 16. 

Read Chapter One here.
Read Chapter Two here.
Read Chapter Three here.
Read Chapter Four here.
Read Chapter Five here. 
Read Chapter Six here.
Read Chapter Seven here.

A Ruby Christmas
Chapter Eight
by Debbie Roome

“Ruby Joy Buckner!”

Ruby turned her head, tracking the sound of a deep female voice with a guttural accent. The airport was a cultural milieu with skins ranging from deep chocolate to nut brown to toasted gold to smooth cream. “Wow!” She pushed her trolley toward the voice. “This place is like a box of assorted chocolates.”

A woman emerged from the crowd, stout but athletic and probably in her forties. Blonde hair lay loosely around her shoulders and her jeans and chiffon top were well cut. “Ellie Van Niekerk.” She stretched out a hand.

Ruby angled the trolley toward her, securing her suitcase and Yippee’s travel box. She’d read up on South African history. This culture was more formal than she was used to in Texas.

“It’s so good to meet you, Mrs. Van Niekerk.” She shook her hand.

“Ellie will do.” A warm smile lit the woman’s face. “It’s so good to finally meet you, too, darling.”

Realizing she was the only one wearing a winter jacket, Ruby slipped hers off, longing to put on shorts. “I never knew Momma had so many friends in far flung places.”

The woman relieved her of the cumbersome jacket. “I suppose we are a long way from Texas.” She dragged the word Texas into a drawl.

Ruby laughed. A sense of humor was a good start.

“So this is Yippee.” Ellie bent next to his travel box and let him sniff her fingers. “Poor dear will be glad to get out of that cage. We have a couple of Jack Russell’s on the farm as well as a few working dogs. Let’s get you to the bakkie.”

“The what-ee?”

Ten minutes later, she helped load her stuff into a double cab pickup—the bakkie. Yippee perched on her knees.

“Sure is good of you to have us to stay.” She scratched the dog’s ears. “I s’pose Daddy’s given you some background to my trip.”

“He has, darling. I’ve made some arrangements, and we’ll spend a couple of days on the farm, and then we’ll move into our townhome for the balance of your stay.”

“You have two homes?”

“Yes. It makes life simpler.”

Ruby reached up to pull a braid that was no longer there and fluffed her hair instead. “Sounds real strange to me. I’ve always lived on the ranch.”

“My husband, Michael, is away in Johannesburg at the moment.” Ellie turned onto a main road. “We come and go from the farm all the time, but the lifestyle suits us.”

Ruby nodded, trying to get her mind around this. Daddy might say she’s two sandwiches short of a picnic, but I like her. “Y’all have children?”

“One daughter who’s living in London at the moment.” Ellie pressed on the horn as a bunch of ragged children ran across the road. “Street children. They can be a real problem. If the windows are down or there’s goods in the back, they may try and grab stuff.”

Ruby shuddered. How could little children be criminals?

“This is the best view you’ll get of Table Mountain.” Ellie pulled off the road and onto the shoulder. “We’ll be going up there when we stay in town.”

The mountain rising steeply from the flat cityscape was far more impressive than its photographs.

“It has its tablecloth on.” Ellie flicked her hand at the windshield. “That’s what we call the layer of cloud that often rests across the top.”

“It’s wider than the state of Texas!” The poofy white wave begged Ruby to take a picture, but her camera was buried. “I was thinking more of a hillock with a flat top.”

Conversation slowed to a trickle as jetlag tugged on Ruby’s eyes. Long tar roads, acres of leafy vineyards, and hordes of brown-skinned workers blurred into a kaleidoscope of color … until she finally fell asleep, touching the part of her cheek Jonathan had touched.


“We’re here, darling.”

Licked on the chin, Ruby straightened out a kink in her back and stretched, nearly toppling Yippee who had his paws on the window. “I’m sorry ’bout that. Didn’t know how tired I was.”

The modern farmhouse had a wraparound veranda and cool shade trees. Thick lawns extended in all directions and a fountain cascaded near the front door. Ruby’s idea of a relaxing resort.

She skimmed her gaze out to a row of stables in the distance. “You keep horses, Ellie?”

“We’ve got five. Do you ride like your momma used to?”

“You betcha. I was born in a saddle.” She closed her eyes, imagining she was back on the ranch, saddling up Jester. “Do you ride?”

“I sure do. That’s how your momma and I got to know each other. We both volunteered at a camp for children with problem backgrounds. Taught them to ride and care for the horses. Spent time with the kids, loved them, and let them vent on us. I reckon it was the horses that did the work though. After a few days, the walls of self-defense and fear crumbled, and they were open to hearing that God loved them and how He could make a difference.”

Ruby faced the woman. “Was that here or in the USA?”

“In Texas.” Ellie’s eyes sparkled. “The temps were so high I was hot as a billy goat in a pepper patch during the two months I was there.”

You understand me. You understand where I’m from. Ruby relaxed into the assurance she was with a friend.
“We can head out for a ride later if you’d like.” Ellie cut the engine.

Swarmed by joy, Ruby swung open her door. “I know exactly where my boots are.”

The next couple of days unfurled in a haze of pleasure, punctuated with the smell of hay, fresh manure, and warm horses. The only thing that could’ve made it better was if Daddy’s data plan included the southern hemisphere. No exchange of texts with Jonathan, but the trip was winding down, and they’d soon be reunited.

“This is the closest I’ve felt to home in weeks.” Ruby cantered alongside Ellie. “Being able to talk about Momma to someone who knew her. The wide-open spaces. The horses.”

“It’s lovely.” Ellie reined to the right.

Yippee was enjoying himself, too, and one evening, Ruby gave an impromptu show for the farm staff. A row of dark skinned workers in overalls, and maids dressed in crisp pink uniforms sat on blankets on the veranda while Yippee walked on his back legs pushing a little trolley ahead of him. They guffawed when he rolled over and played dead and shrieked as he carried his little suitcase in his mouth.


A clear sky and sunshine warmed Ruby through the truck window. Riding in the bakkie, she eyed Table Mountain. No tablecloth today. The cable car glistened like a pearl on a silken strand, but as they drove closer, its size worried her.

She wiped her clammy hands on her shorts. “I’m not sure I want to ride that.”

“Nonsense.” Ellie jammed on brakes, honking at jaywalking street kids that disappeared into an alley. “It’s completely safe. Shuts down for a major overhaul each year and has never given problems.”

“Must be something else we can do.” Ruby searched for a tame, grounded attraction and found none.
“You’ll be fine, darling.” Her firm tone made this ride non-negotiable. “You can’t come all the way to Cape Town and not visit Table Mountain.”

Up close, the cable car was even bigger. With growing dismay, Ruby read aloud the brochure Ellie pressed in her hands. “It holds sixty-five people? And rotates as it ascends? Top speed of ten metres per second.”
She inched along in the loading line. “How long is a metre anyway?”

Ellie took her arm and squeezed her into the cable car with at least sixty other people. “Just watch.”

The doors slid closed.

Ruby found a spot by the window and grasped the thin handrail. “I still don’t think it’s fair that dogs aren’t allowed up here.”

She considered closing her eyes, but the panoramic view mesmerized her. Sheer rock faces, jagged and scarred, passed the window, and the base station and streets shrank. The ocean, navy with turquoise fringes, glistened in the sun, reminding Ruby of Jonathan. He’d probably love surfing here.

The five-minute ride passed too quickly.

At the top, Ruby stepped out and reached toward Ellie. “I’m sorry for acting like a kid. That really was amazing.”

“Let’s go for a walk, and then we’ll have a coffee.” The woman guided her with a hand on her back.

Gray, lichen-covered boulders tumbled across the summit, and little creatures that looked like rabbits with no ears hopped around.

Ruby raised her camera. “What in the world are those?”

“They’re dassies.” Ellie stopped near a stone outcropping. “Also known as rock rabbits.”

Ruby and Ellie walked slowly across the flat top of the mountain, stopping at different viewing points. Ruby straddled the stone barrier to soak up the scenery and capture memories on film.

“You’ll want a picture of that.” Ellie nodded toward a mound in the sea. “It’s Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for eighteen of the twenty-seven years he spent in prison. You should read the book.”

Ruby threw the woman a curious glance. “You throw a man in jail for decades and then invite him to run the country.”

“If you read his book, you’ll see that those years in jail made him into a good leader. The hardships and shame could have turned him either way, but he chose to forgive and grow through it.”

Ruby took a shot of the flat splotch of an island, imagining how she might survive on such an isolated speck. A forever view of real people living but never able to reach them. Stretching her gaze across the sea, she met the horizon, like a hope calling her on to something better. “I may have to get myself that book.”

Later that day, they transferred to the townhouse where she spent the night.

The next morning Ruby stretched in the twin bed and patted Yippee. “Show time.”

He jumped up, tail wagging like a fan.

Someone knocked on the door, and Agnes, the maid, entered with a tray of coffee, toast, bacon, and egg.
Breakfast in bed? Deciding it best to go with the flow, Ruby plumped up the pillows behind her back. “This looks delicious.”

Ellie’s townhouse, a smart three bedroom bungalow in a nice area, offered Ruby a sea view. Agnes, who lived on the property, kept it ready for visitors.

Ruby prepared for the day then joined Ellie on a stroll along the waterfront, which was a conglomeration of shops, cafes, and restaurants set along the harbor’s edge. The sky was blue and sunbaked. Yippee pranced along, ears pricked, eager for action.

“So where are we going to do our show?”

“Where those street performers are over there. Each of them is donating a performance to charity today, and the money collected will go to the Nelson Mandela’s Children’s Fund. Come have a look at the photo display.”

Perusing the images of children made Ruby’s eyes well. Some bore burns on their bodies. Others were emaciated. In one picture, a huddle of street children gazed down at her. “Their eyes seem so … vacant.”

“Because they huff glue.”

“It’s so sad.” Ruby wiped dry her eyes and followed Ellie into a café.

Those pictures made swallowing a spicy lunch of boerwors, a traditional South African sausage, difficult. The salad went down easier.


“Let’s do it, Yippee.” She set out props.

He correctly identified each colored toy, adding a little dance in between, which Ruby hadn’t commanded. As long as the crowd kept laughing, she didn’t care. He packed his suitcase then strutted across the stage, sending the audience into loud applause.

Ellie took the hat around several times.

Life is so much bigger than Texas. Ruby’s heart expanded at the sight of notes and coins overflowing the hat’s rim. God had a plan for her, and Cape Town was just another steppingstone.

Ellie embraced her at the end of the performance. “I’m going to miss you when you go, darling. Yippee, too.”

The terrier whined, his rear happily wagging.

Ruby’s throat tightened at the thought of leaving.

The woman kept a hand on her arm. “I guess it’s time to point you in the direction of that giant shed.”

A large, corrugated iron structure stood slightly apart from the main shopping area. Big white letters painted on the side read THE TIN SHED.

“You’ll find what you’re looking for in there. I’ll look after Yippee for you.”

Ruby stepped through the doorway and instantly immersed herself in a world of color. Creativity exploded. Farm scenes in three-dimensional art form, textured and layered. Mud huts and fences stood out in relief. Flamboyant costume jewelry combined bright gold with fire red stones. Carved giraffes taller than herself lined the walls.

Raw Africa.

“Holy belt buckles. This is amazing.” She stopped and admired painted wall hangings and cloths, bright and vibrant. African drums stood stacked in a corner and wildlife paintings combined a naïve quality with talent.
Momma woulda loved this. Sorrow crept in amid the fullness in her heart.

“Good afternoon.” A young woman approached her from one of the small shops. “Is there anything I can help you with?”

“I’m looking for pieces for a Nativity set.”

“Ah, you’ll need to see Elias.” The woman pulled out a colored brochure that showed a floor plan of the building. “He’s across the other side.” She pointed out the area.

Ruby thanked her and moved on, enjoying the aroma of wood shavings and earth.

The shop was easy to pick out, being the only one that sold Nativity pieces. Some were china and glass but most were carved from various types of wood.

A black man of indeterminate age, grizzled and dark with penetrating eyes, laid down his tools. “You’re looking for a set or a particular piece?”

Must be Elias. “Baby Jesus. He’s to fit in with a set that I’ve been collecting from places around the world.”

The old man folded his arms and rocked backward and forward. “That must be the most unusual request I’ve had in many years.” He rubbed his chin. “Wood, glass, bone, china, bamboo, or resin?”

“Wood, please.”

“Light or dark?”

“I’ll know what’s right when I see it.” She fingered a beautifully carved crèche. “Can you show me what you’ve got?”

Elias moved toward a display at the back of his store. He returned with a number of wooden babies displayed on a felt-lined tray and presented them to Ruby. All were carved with varying amounts of detail and showed the touch of a master craftsman.

Ruby picked up one. “Why is it three different colors?”

“Dark on one side, brown on another, white on the other.” Elias’s smile reached his eyes. “Could be the way that Jesus is seen by the world.”

She rolled the piece around in her hand. “Interesting.”

The old man locked gazes with her. “Well, we all see Jesus in different ways. History has it he was dark skinned. Not black like me or white like you. But somewhere in between. This piece will fit in to several different color sets depending on the way you position it.”

Cradling the baby in her palm, she moved the carving around, examining the different nuances of light. “Amazing.”

Elias bowed his head. “The Christ child is amazing.”

As he wrapped the carving in tissue paper, Ruby breathed in deeply the fragrance of freshly carved wood and resin.

Her trip was nearing its end, but the joy, peace, and understanding that layered her journey would stay with her forever. 

Check back tomorrow for Chapter Nine of A Ruby Christmas.

Our authors are blogging all sorts of fun posts, interviews, articles, devotions and more during the next couple of weeks too, so we'll try to keep an updated list so you can visit. Most of them are changing posts as often as we are, so if you see their names listed more than once, check out all the links, because it's a different post.

Wednesday, December 11

For the Pinterest contest, visit Chapter Eight's Pinterest image and Debbie Roome's blog
MARJI LAINE Chapter 8 Devotionon Faith~Driven Fiction
FAY LAMB hosts Tracy Ruckman who shares the family Christmas Divinity recipe

From Tuesday, December 10

For the Pinterest contest, visit Chapter Seven's Pinterest image and Marji Laine's blog
PHEE PARADISE hosts MARJI LAINE for guest devotional on Delighted Meditations

From Monday, December 9

From Friday, December 6

For the Pinterest contest, visit Chapter Five's Pinterest image and Jerusha Agen's blog
MARJI LAINE Chapter 5 Devotionon Faith~Driven Fiction
MARJI LAINE Devotional about Light on A Woman Like Me Blog
PHEE PARADISE on Delighted Meditations

From Thursday, December 5

For the Pinterest contest, visit Chapter Four's Pinterest image and Ruth O'Neil's blog
MARJI LAINE Chapter 4 Devotion on Faith-Driven Fiction
PHEE PARADISE hosts Tracy Ruckman at Delighted Meditations

From Wednesday, December 4

For the Pinterest contest, visit Chapter Three's Pinterest image and Fay Lamb's blog
MARJI LAINE Chapter 3 Devotionon Faith~Driven Fiction
FAY LAMB guest devotional at Phee Paradise's Delighted Meditations

From Tuesday, December 3

For the Pinterest contest, visit Chapter Two's Pinterest image and Dianne E. Butts' blog
MARJI LAINE Chapter 2 Devotion on Faith~Driven Fiction
DIANNE E. BUTTS guest article about Christmas at Embattled Spirits
DIANNE E. BUTTS guest devotional at Phee Paradise's Delighted Meditations

From Monday, December 2

For the Pinterest contest, visit Chapter One's Pinterest image and J.A.'s blog to compare photos
Marji Laine hosts Sheryl Holmes
Dianne Butts
Fay Lamb
Marji Laine - Chapter 1 Devotional
Phee Paradise

About Debbie Roome

Debbie Roome was born and raised in Africa and moved to New Zealand in 2006. Writing has been her passion since she was six years old, and she now works at it full time. Her first novel, Embracing Change, was released in 2010. Her latest novel, Contagious Hope, was released earlier this year by Write Integrity Press and was named a finalist for the Australasian CALEB award. Her second book in the series, Fragrant Hope, releases soon.

Recent nonfiction books include Cyber-Bullying is Never Alright: Dealing with the Pain of Cyber-Abuse and Magnitude 7.1 and 6.3. She also has stories in a number of anthologies and over 500 articles on various websites. In the last few years, Debbie has received a number of awards for her writing as well as placing in many competitions.

One final adventure could cost her everything ... Savannah James, a young New Zealand therapist, volunteers for a six-week mission trip to South Africa. During her journey, she is confronted with AIDS, prostitution, murder, and even a midnight escape to a safe house. Her new friends have struggles of their own, and one may lead them into even more danger. Will Savannah, Blake, and Pumzile ever be safe again? Will they ever be able to make a difference in the lives of those around them or will their final destination put an end to it all?

Available on Kindle

Contributing Author to The Christmas Tree Treasure Hunt
** Amazon Best Seller **

Grace takes delivery of a package and her life is turned upside down by nine sealed mystery envelopes from her late grandmother. Grammie’s instructions require Grace to take the journey of her lifetime, not only to far off places, but also into the deepest parts of her heart. As she follows the trail laid out for her and uncovers her family’s darkest secrets, Grace is forced to confront the loss and betrayal that has scarred her past and seek the greatest Christmas Treasure of all.

Mind Games

A murder on New Regent Street in Christchurch throws Lindsay’s life into disarray. Things disintegrate even further when evidence in the form of a board game implicates her in the killing. With the help of her game collector friend, Sheridan, Lindsay sets out to solve this heinous crime and uncover the truth behind it. Set in post-earthquake Christchurch, the story highlights the charming aspects of life in New Zealand and also keeps the reader guessing until the end.

Available on Kindle

A Dozen Apologies
Coming Valentine's Day

Mara Adkins, a promising fashion designer, has fallen off the ladder of success, and she can’t seem to get up.

In college, Mara and her sorority sisters played an ugly game, and Mara was usually the winner. She’d date men she considered geeks, win their confidence, and then she’d dump them publicly. When Mara begins work for a prestigious clothing designer in New York, she gets her comeuppance. Her boyfriend steals her designs and wins a coveted position. He fires her, and she returns in shame to her home in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where life for others has changed for the better.

Mara’s parents, always seemingly one step from a divorce, have rediscovered their love for each other, but more importantly they have placed Christ in the center of that love. The changes Mara sees in their lives cause her to seek Christ. Mara’s heart is pierced by her actions toward the twelve men she’d wronged in college, and she sets out to apologize to each of them. A girl with that many amends to make, though, needs money for travel, and Mara finds more ways to lose a job that she ever thought possible.

Mara stumbles, bumbles, and humbles her way toward employment and toward possible reconciliation with the twelve men she humiliated to find that God truly does look upon the heart, and that He has chosen the heart of one of the men for her to have and to hold.

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