tales2apoint

…stories and poetry to touch, teach, & turn the heart toward truth.


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Story of Hope, Chapter 5 – part 2

The autumn winds were picking up across the now barren cornfields, as Jamin traveled anxiously atop his uncle’s lone riding horse, Cowboy.  It seemed his pulse quickened with each new chilling gust. He found himself wishing he wore more over his ears than his brimmed Sunday hat, but he didn’t regret getting all slicked up for this night. Dressed in his finest, he journeyed anxiously along the forty minute trail into town.

The harvest was finally over, and the first frost was expected tomorrow. He’d worked hard all summer for his uncle, never asking for any time off. What he’d wanted to do was leave the farm behind and run away with the girl of his dreams, but he’d remained. Now the time had arrived to tell her just how he felt. Regardless of the outcome of this night, he knew it was going to be a defining moment in his life.

He couldn’t remember the last time he’d taken a pleasure trip into town. A year had passed since his life had changed, and he knew he was still changing. Every day, he seemed to take one more step forward–toward hope. He could feel the ways God was shaping him, making him better. A year ago, he was entertaining thoughts of suicide. Today he was utterly smitten by life, by God’s love. It was nice to be doing something just because he desired to do it.

The wind carried Jamin and Cowboy along the dirt path, and the sight of the openness of the landscape surrounding him struck Jamin with a churning sense of awe he was unable to shirk. This world was inconceivably vast, yet he was allowed to experience only a small glimpse of it, and even that filled him with overwhelming awe. He was simultaneously lost in the love he’d been given, and reminded of how much he truly belonged in it.

As he approached a familiar tree-sheltered bend in the road, Jamin observed the steeple shooting up just above the tops of the trees. His heart warmed with the new memories he’d acquired in the one-room country church and school beneath that steeple. He’d attended with his mother each weekend since his life had changed.

The cool, shallow creek trickling beside the church was where he was baptized. It happened last May, when the chilling spring rains provided enough depth to allow a full-grown man to be submerged without having to lie flat on the pebbled creek bed. What an image it had painted in his mind of the way Jesus had washed away his sin on the day he’d given him his life.

Jamin’s niece, Bonnie, and two nephews, Joram and Clyne, attended school each week in this same building. One day, Jamin dreamed, he would walk down the center aisle arm in arm with Nina as husband and wife. He caught himself grinning then, and chided himself for being such a sap. It was all just a dream and he knew it.

Now, he remembered how slim his chances of success were tonight. He and Nina always found each other in the market, but they’d never spent enough time together to actually get to know one another. Nina wasn’t going to be expecting him, and he had no idea what her parents would think of a strange boy showing up at their doorstep. Had Nina told them about him?

Like a fly through a broken screen, a feeling of insecurity buzzed into his thoughts. He should just turn around now. Nina probably didn’t like him as much as he thought. Their attraction was probably all in his imagination. What if he showed up at the door–if he was even able to find where she lived–and she chased him away? Worse yet, what if her father got involved? Jamin didn’t know what he would do if a man tried to use force against him like his father used to do. He didn’t want to think about that.

Just as Jamin was about to give up and turn around, a loving reminder popped into his mind that brought him back to the present. With renewed peace, he remembered that he didn’t have to give in to his fears anymore. Whatever happened to him wouldn’t define him, because he was defined by the one who had saved him from himself. He could choose to say no to his fears and insecurities, and he did just that–this time.

With a prayer for continued strength, Jamin gave Cowboy a gentle nudge, and they moved forward at a slow gallop toward town. He was done wondering what was about to happen. It was time to experience it in real time.


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Story of Hope, Chapter 5 – part 1

Nina was growing. She was three inches taller than when she’d last hugged her father. Her mind was filled with truths that completely redefined her view of the world. Her heart was filled with emotions that she had never experienced in such extremes before. She was becoming familiar with emotions like hate and bitterness. The spite she held against her mother grew each day. At the same time, new emotions of attraction and desire were beginning to bud in her bosom about a boy, named Jamin, who was taking up more and more of her thoughts.

Nina was changing. She’d experienced more of life’s rugged truths in the last year, than in the rest of her life. It hurt.

Life had never felt so heavy, so sad, as it did right now. Her heart hurt. She was bearing a burden for her mother that she should never have been expected to bear. It wasn’t right. Her mother wasn’t right.

Nina wasn’t right. She was starting to wonder what right was these days.

Ever since that night in the dingy shadows of a broken lamppost, she’d been different. How was she going to keep living like this? How would she survive? Even the things that she’d once loved to do seemed like a challenge. She couldn’t focus. She couldn’t function properly. Everything was too hard. Even eating was a chore.

Nina tossed the fresh apple she’d just bought to the ground. She chided herself for being so wasteful, but what was the use? Who would know? Who would care?

It was market day again, and Nina had left with two wrinkled potatoes, some rubbery, wilted cabbage, and a half-eaten apple. Jamin wasn’t at his stand this week, just his uncle, Nathan. Nina had been too distracted by herself to even notice Nathan watching her–between helping his customers–trying to catch her eye. He was a kind man, she knew, but she had little interest in talking to anyone this morning. She wasn’t even sure if Jamin could have cheered her up this morning.

That thought made her want to cry. What was wrong with her? Jamin was the sweetest, kindest person she’d ever met! If there was one person in this filthy world that could make her smile it would be him, but it didn’t matter anyway. He wasn’t there. She wouldn’t see him for at least another week, and even if he did come to the market next Saturday, he would be too busy to spend any time with her.

Nina had reached her home now, but didn’t want to go in. She left her basket inside the front gate, and kept on walking down the block. She didn’t care where she went, as long as it wasn’t back to that house.

“Nina?”

The voice jumped into her thoughts so suddenly, that it caused her body to jump too. She looked up with chills, into the eyes of her father.

“My gracious, child,” he exclaimed, holding his hands wide, “I hardly recognized you! You’re all grown up!” His arms were around her then, and she squeezed him back with all of her might.

He let go too quickly, but she stepped back anyway and looked up into his eyes. He seemed lower to the ground now than he used to, and she realized then just how much she really had grown. Her heart swelled up into her throat, and she could feel the tears coming back, but this time they were at least partly happy tears.

“Oh my, don’t cry, dear.” His eyes filled with concern, and he pulled her close again. She recognized the familiar smell of him, as she cried against his shoulder, and it filled her with such emotion that her quiet tears turned into sobs. He just held her then, and she was thankful that he didn’t ask her why she was crying or what was wrong with her. He was always so understanding.

“I am so glad you’re home, Daddy.” She whispered, and he squeezed her tighter.


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Story of Hope, Chapter 4

Monica could tell something wasn’t right as soon as her hand made contact with the door knob. She was walking home from returning some books to the library–reading had quickly become her new favorite pass time–when she found her front door unlocked. With two women living in the house by themselves, the front door was never unlocked. Something wasn’t right.

She opened the door quietly and peeked her head in to see if Nina’s cloak and hat were hanging in their place by the entryway. They were not. Monica began to feel a tightness in her chest. The door hadn’t been forced open, so maybe Nina had somehow forgotten to lock the door on her way out. It wasn’t likely, Monica knew, but she was doing her best to avoid panicking.

Straightening her shoulders, she moved noiselessly into the front room and inched cautiously toward the hallway leading into the kitchen at the back of the house. She had yet to hear any sounds to indicate the presence of an intruder, but she realized the silence could just mean someone was hiding in wait for her. That made her heart quicken even more, and her hands began to tremble.

As her eyes made their way slowly around the corner into the small kitchen, she noticed something that made her heart sink. The back door was wide open. It wasn’t her imagination anymore. Something really was wrong!

Feeling fairly sure that the intruder wasn’t in the kitchen, she rushed to the kitchen window and peeked into the backyard. The door to the small workshop was standing open as well. That brought her to a halt.

Could it be? It wasn’t time! Surely not.

A mixture of anxiety and dread started to churn in her stomach, as she stood at the window and tried to decide what to do. Finally, deciding to go on the offensive, she rushed to the backdoor and locked it shut in one sweeping motion. She then doubled back to the front door and did the same with it.

Feeling a bit safer, she walked with renewed composure back to the kitchen window and waited to see who came out of the workshop. She looked through the window, and the door was shut! She blinked and looked again, then heard the handle of the backdoor being wriggled back and forth.

The door had a small window in it, and she could now see the silhouette of the intruder through the ivory curtain that hung over it. Monica’s heart was pounding again, and she grabbed the biggest knife in her kitchen. She crept over to the window and jerked the curtain aside holding the knife out in front of her face.

She screamed, “Get out of here, you…”

In the place of a stranger’s face, which she was expecting to see, she found a pair of bright, very surprised blue eyes and a familiar red beard. She could feel the blush of embarrassment on her cheeks almost before she realized who her mysterious intruder was.

“Olly! What are you doing home?!”

Monica’s husband looked back at her through the square window pane and his surprise slowly turned into a roaring laugh.

“Mind putting your weapon down and lettin’ a man into his own house?” He asked light-heartedly. He always managed to make everything better with his warm, contagious laugh.

Monica threw the knife aside and swung the door open wide. She stepped back to let Olly through, but he covered the space between them while she was still mid-step and completely enveloped her in his arms. She was taken aback, but found herself returning his embrace with complete abandon. She hadn’t been hugged like this in so long! In fact, she hadn’t had any human contact since the last time she…

The hug ended abruptly as Monica stiffened into an upright position, and pushed hastily away from Olly. She saw the confused pain of rejection cross his eyes, but pretended that all was normal, as she smoothed her hair back into place and put on a polite, plastic smile.

“How are you home already? We weren’t expecting you for another month.”

She was not ready. She hadn’t finished preparing her emotions for this. She hadn’t even begun clearing things up with Nina. How was she going to handle this? What would she say? Would Nina come in and reveal the truth before she had a chance to sort things out in her own mind?

She felt his eyes on her, but looked out the kitchen window into the backyard. “What were you doing in the workshop? Are you already planning to leave again?” Despite herself, she could only hope as much.

Monica knew she was being unduly harsh with her aloofness, but at the moment it was her only guard against coming completely undone right there on the spot.  She managed to bring her eyes up to meet Olly’s, but knew instantly it had been a bad idea. She wanted to cry desperately, but she remained quiet and turned to face the kitchen.

“Can I get you something to eat? You must be hungry…” She reached for the bread drawer.

His reply came slow and steady. “Monica, I came home to stay.”

Her hand stopped, and she turned slowly to look at him. “What?”

“I’m home to stay. I’m done. I won’t be leaving you and Nina anymore. I’m…retired.”

“Retired?”

She felt sick, and her voice started to rise. “Retired? Have you gone mad! How do you expect to retire when we’re broke? Are you dumb? We’re broke! Why would you quit your job when we don’t have any money? What really happened? Did you get fired?”

She was ranting now. “You can tell me, Olly. I can handle it. God knows I can pretty much take whatever you throw at me these days. Just say the word, and I’ll be fine, but don’t you dare lie to me one more time, Oliver Swarth! That is one thing I cannot handle! I can take being left alone like a widow for years. I can take raising a child with just enough money to keep us from freezing in the wintertime. I can even handle knowing that you travel all over the world throwing away what money you could have brought home on who knows what or WHOM. But what I cannot take is one more lie!”

Now the tears came and they somehow felt comforting. She buried her face in her palms and wept openly, alone.

Until she felt strong arms pull her close. She tried to push away, but Olly wasn’t letting go, and part of her didn’t want him to.

“Monica, I want you to listen to me,” his voice was tight with emotion. “You are right. I haven’t been completely honest with you over the years, and I am so sorry that I have hurt you as a result. I have been an idiot.”

Where is he going with this? she thought to herself.

“I wish you would have told me how tight things have been for the two of you. You always seemed to be doing well enough when I was home and you never told me you were struggling.”

She pulled away, slowly this time, and looked up a him. “You were never here long enough to listen! Besides, it’s not like you’ve ever had a lot of money to spare. I guess I just knew that if that’s how much you gave me, that’s how much there was. You never asked if we needed more, Olly.”

He nodded–just nodded. All of the bitterness she’d build against him was slowly beginning to rise to the surface. Was he really this blind to himself? Did he really not understand what he’d done to her–to them? Calling himself an idiot was an understatement!

“It wasn’t supposed to happen like this,” he finally said, shaking his head.

“What wasn’t supposed to happen like this?”

“Mon, we’re not broke.”


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Story of Hope, Chapter 3 – part 2

Jamin hadn’t known what to expect when he’d sat down on the bench by the fireplace and looked at his hands. His mind flew back to the night those hands had clenched onto his father’s soiled shirt collar, shoving him toward the doorway of their old shack. He’d remembered the look in his father’s eyes when Jamin shoved him so hard that the man went stumbling backward into the street, landing hard on his back. With the impact, the shock that had been there was replaced by a flash of anger, and Jamin knew that if he didn’t follow through he would regret it.

In a moment of pure adrenaline, Jamin had rushed at the prostrate figure and started kicking him with wild fury. His fists had pounded into his father’s face until blood came rushing from his nose and mouth. By the time Jamin had regained anything resembling composure, his father was clawing at the street trying to escape Jamin’s assailing rage. The last words Jamin had spoken to his father as the drunken fool hobbled into the darkness was that he would kill him if he ever returned.

The guilt and bitterness came flooding back to Jamin as he’d sat safely in their safe, new home and tried to imagine how God could forgive him for what he’d done. Almost as severe as Jamin’s spite for his father was his guilt over what he’d done in return. What son could assault his father so mercilessly and not feel this way? Jamin had realized for the first time that he was afraid that his father would never forgive him either. Even if Jamin could forgive his father, how would he ever be able to overcome the guilt of what he’d done to the man who had given him life? Somehow, even amid the brokenness of his childhood, Jamin had always known that he and his father were supposed to be friends. Other boys that Jamin had known as a child looked up to their fathers as heroes. Jamin had threatened to kill his.

He couldn’t go on like this.

Too many years of warring emotions and conflicting allegiances had brought Jamin to a breaking point. He knew now that what his mother had told him was true. He needed someone much stronger than himself to help him deal with life, or he would be trapped in a prison of hopelessness until the day he died.

Quietly in that little farm house, Jamin had prayed for the first time since he was a young child. He’d asked God to forgive him, because he believed He could. Jamin had asked God to give him the strength to forgive his father and for his father to one day forgive him. After he’d prayed, the silence of the room had returned and he felt a chill of relief rush through him. He’d looked up to see his mother standing at the door with tears pouring down from her eyes, over her cheeks, and curving around the happiest smile he’d ever seen.

For the first time in years, Jamin had felt hope. It was hope that brought him day by day thereafter to a morning in early fall, when a girl in the city market turned his world upside down all over again.

Hope.

The morning was young when Nina sneaked out of the house with basket in hand, and made her way to the Saturday morning market. She loved to feel the freshness of a fall morning as the sleeping city roared to life. She loved the brightness of the fresh fruits and vegetables that lined the streets of the marketplace. She loved to listen to the banter of patrons heckling with the vendors for an acceptable price. She loved to find the most perfect piece of fruit in the whole market and munch on its juicy freshness as she bartered and shopped for the week’s goods just the way her mother…

Why did she have to keep thinking of that woman? The bitter hurt she continuously tried to swallow down kept swelling back up her throat and, once more, tears tried to fight their way to the surface, clouding her vision. She wiped them quickly and looked around for something to distract her.

Her eyes found their target, and the world seemed to stop.

She’d sought a distraction, but found an obsession. The morning sunlight caught in his rusty brown hair and glistened in his shining brown eyes. He was perfect.

Her feet moved before her mind was full engaged, and before she knew it she was approaching the produce stand behind which he was waiting. His face turned toward her, their eyes connected, and she looked into a world of mystery and wonder. Because she was speechless–and he seemed to be the same–she smiled the most winning smile she could muster and walked away, dazed. What just happened?


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Story of Hope, Chapter 3 – part 1

Jamin smiled with a confidence even he didn’t expect. Before today–about twenty minutes ago in fact–it would have been more confidence than he had, but things had changed. It was her. She’d changed everything, and hadn’t even spoken a word to him. Her eyes still pierced him, even in her absence. The things she had said about him with one fleeting, eternal glance spoke more about who he could be than he’d ever dreamed. From today forward he was going to be someone new. He knew it. It was like he’d met the real him for the first time!

*

Since the day he’d taken his father into his own hands and thrown him out of the house, Jamin had been untouchable. He knew he’d only been able to do it because of the dizzying effect his father’s drunkenness had caused, but it had still been a defining moment in his life. He’d finally learned his lesson about trust. No one could be trusted; no one deserved anything from him. His role in life became to protect his mother and himself from that man–and anyone else who thought they could taken advantage of what was his.

Despite the turmoil Jamin had known as a boy, growing up under the wrath of an alcoholic father, he’d always been a much clearer reflection of his mother’s gentleness than his father’s volatility. Enough was enough, though, and the boy became a man at the age of fifteen. Now Jamin was seventeen, and had learned more about life than most knew by thirty.

He’d become the main provider for his home the day after he’d showed his father the door. He and his mother had moved to the country, where he now worked for a farmer in exchange for rent and a small wage. The farmer was a childhood friend of his mother and had taken them in as family, but Jamin’s heart was in such turmoil that he was unable to speak to anyone but his mother for over a year. The depression that had plagued him was more than any could bear alone, and he was drowned by it daily. Even still, his mother’s prayers floated up to his ears each night as he drifted to sleep in the small loft of their shanty, and it was those words of love that first sparked a flame of hope in his heart.

Twenty days before Jamin’s seventeenth birthday, he’d worked up the nerve to ask his mother how she lived with such peace and hope. Tears flooded her eyes as she told him about a word he would never forget–forgiveness. It was more than a word. Until then, it was a concept he couldn’t bring himself to consider, but after a year and a half of listening to his mother pray with love for the man who had harmed her indefinably, Jamin knew he would have to change. He admitted to himself that the longer he hated his father the more of his father he saw in himself. That was the last thing he wanted.

Quietly, Jamin’s mother explained to him that forgiveness is bigger than human heartache–that it is stronger than hate. “Forgiveness is love in action,” she’d explained, “and love is the most powerful thing in the universe.”

It hadn’t come to him instantly. The thought of loving his father was more than he could stomach. It wasn’t until he’d come back a week later that she explained to him how love was possible. “Love comes from God,” she continued with a glow in her eyes. “We cannot love on our own. That’s why you don’t understand how I can love your father. What I’ve never told you is that I hated your father for more years than I loved him. I wasn’t able to forgive your father for what he’d done until I realized, like you have, that my hate was destroying me. I knew God when I was a girl, but I left Him when I fell in love with your father. That was my biggest mistake. I made your father more important to me than anyone, and–as I should have expected–he disappointed me more than I knew was possible.”

Jamin’s eyes had clouded over with anger when she’d said that. He would never understand how his father could hurt this woman. He still wanted to see his father pay for what he’d done to them. His absence wasn’t justice enough.

“I know what you’re thinking, son.” His mother drew him in with her eyes. “No one can excuse what he’s done and that’s true. Your father will need to come a long way before he can see himself though God’s eyes, but there is hope even for him, if he should ever choose to accept it. That is between him and his Maker. It’s a choice we must all make, and it’s a choice that is standing right in front of you, too.”

Jamin wasn’t used to his mother speaking this forwardly, but he loved to hear the confidence in her voice.

“I haven’t ever been the mother I wanted to be for you, but I hope you know that I love you more than I can ever express.” Both of their eyes were filled with tears, and Jamin had felt the bitterness inside him begin to melt as he’d felt his mother’s love wash over him.

“I know that,” he’d replied, as a sob escaped his throat, surging up from his heart. “I know.”

They’d stayed there, clinging to each other as the hurt of so many years washed over them, then slowly drifted off into the air.

After a time, his mother finally broke the stillness. She’d stood him up to face her with both hands around his arms. “Jamin, you will never be able to forgive your father until you ask the Lord to forgive you. That is as simple as I can put it.” Her eyes were searching his, as she’d continued. “God is more powerful than either of us can know, and if anyone can forgive your father, it’s Him. You will never know any peace in life until you choose to make things right with God and ask Him to give you the power to forgive your father and start living the life you were made for. I don’t want this life for you, and I know you don’t either. You have too much life to live to be moping around this farm lost in your hurt and pain. If I could take it away I would, but the only way you will know hope, my child, is if you find it in God–plain and simple.”

With that, Jamin’s mother had hugged him and told him she was taking a walk so he could have some time alone with God. The impending confrontation had terrified him.


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Story of Hope, Chapter 2

Monica Swarth wiped the tears once more from her brown eyes. She had to stop crying if she wanted anyone to notice her! Well she was being noticed, she realized, but not in the way she sought. What could be less appealing than a crying whore? Before the thought completed its journey through her mind, she knew the answer–one like her. One who lied to everyone she knew, cheated on her husband, and didn’t have the spine to face up to the truth and seek reckoning when her own daughter discovered her filthy secret.

She was truly at the lowest place she could imagine.

It was no wonder she hadn’t had a single encounter in almost a week. Who wanted a mess like her for even a few short minutes, let alone on a regular basis? And a regular basis was the only way she’d ever get to the financial position she sought.

Any half-wit could testify to her natural attractiveness. It came from her mother, just as Monica had passed it on to her own daughter, Nina. Some women used their beauty to make a place for themselves. Monica often found her features to be nothing more than a nuisance. When she’d started this line of work, Monica had hoped she would find one wealthy man to visit once or twice a week, and that would be the worst things got. Three months in, she was not so blessed and had no promising prospects.

In Monica’s life, she had reaped only pain and disappointment from the potential wiles of her beauty. Now, at the darkest point she had yet known, her cursed beauty was still letting her down. What was she thinking?

Fed up with herself for the final time, Monica Swarth lifted her cloak from the street bench beside her and walked off into the darkness. She was going home. This time, she really was done.

They did not live in the poorest part of the city. In fact, their modest home was quite attractive on its quaint lot along a shaded, quiet street. It was trimmed with black shutters and crisp white fences. Every time Monica paused long enough to take in its character, she returned to the almost-distant memory of her husband.

Captain Oliver Swarth was a rough man in appearance. What sea captain wasn’t? He was home only three or four weeks out of each year, and whatever money he saw fit to bring with him was the entire allotment with which Monica had to budget for the next year. It had been ten months since he’d been back, and his last visit was so brief she’d hardly felt like he’d been there at all. He was home for a day or two, then left for the country to work on his brother’s farm.

When he was home, he never stopped talking about his dreams of a new life. Monica knew too well that they would never happen–not with the lifestyle he lived on that boat.

During his brief visits home, Olly–as he was better known–,ensured that his property was left in the best of shape, “his girls” were well-clothed and cared for, and his debts were in proper reimbursement. They had never gone hungry, and for that Monica was thankful, but there was no missing the fact that her husband brought home less for them to live off each year.

She could never bring herself to admit it aloud, but inside she knew what he was doing with their money. She knew enough about men to know that he wasn’t traveling around the world for a year at a time and not partaking in whatever liberties he desired. He was swindling a larger portion of his earnings each year before he made it home, and yet he still held blindly to an irrational dream of adventure and the illusion that his family would be together again. His audacity made her sick. Even with her own secrets, she could not bring herself to move beyond, or even fully face, what he was surely doing with their money.

She couldn’t say she blamed him. Their continuous separation was the same excuse she’d used to justify her recent attempts to acquire extra income. She’d felt the ways they had grown apart over the six years they’d lived this way. Nina had just turned ten when Oliver came home in chagrin after he’d lost his management job at the factory. When he had found work with the trading company on one of their ships, the promise of money was strong enough for them to accept the cost of his absence.

Six years later, Monica wallowed in the knowledge that life could have been so much better if he’d found work near home. Even after he’d departed on his first eleven-month voyage, she’d harbored the fleeting hope that he would return ready to leave the sea behind. Instead, he’d returned each time more infatuated with the seas. It hadn’t taken him long to become second to the captain, then captain himself, and he’d signed on for the long run.

When home, he was known by all to be a tender and nurturing man. With his faded Irish accent and warm blue eyes hidden behind a progressively fuller brown-red beard, he’d always had a lovable personality and a low pretense. These were the reasons Monica had fallen for him in their youth, yet each year they’d grown a bit older, a bit  more tired, and a little further apart.

Monica knew that this separation of their hearts was as much her fault as his. Looking back, she could see how she’d built the walls around her heart higher each time the loneliness returned. She could feel the blocks in her mind that she’d built as strong as a brick wall. Regardless, she could not build the walls strong enough to keep him from hurting her with his absence. She could not think away the many, many ways she hated her life.

As she became more and more convinced of his unfaithfulness to his family–to her–she became more calloused. Whether he was spending his money on women, drink, gambling, or even some other family he may have somewhere, Monica found herself caring less with each passing year whether or not he even returned. Her heart and mind were in endless turmoil, cycling between heartbreak and hate.

There was much about her life she knew was irreconcilable. It was all too much to process. She’d just spent the past four months as a…she couldn’t say the “p” word. She knew that most of her troubles were her own fault, but she still managed to always bring it back to Oliver’s leaving. If he hadn’t left, nothing would be as it was.

He should have known–or at least guessed after so many years–that she was not meant to be alone. His absence and their slow descent into near poverty were enough to cause her increasing instability. She couldn’t know where life would go from here, but for her own sanity she could blame no one but him. The outcome was no longer important, getting through today was all that mattered.

Monica walked inside the house, leaving her cloak by the door, and started supper for two. Then she remembered that she hadn’t eaten with Nina in almost three weeks. She had some serious catching up to do.


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Story of Hope, Chapter 1

The year is 1907.
An aging woman, worn and tired, sits smiling out a cracked and clouded window. She is humming a song of love–a song of true love.

There were no birds to be heard singing in that neighborhood. Not one bird, but a scraggly pigeon or two, had been spied there in years.

The night was dark, and evil was present. It was dark, because old, ramshackle buildings hovered over the narrow streets. Evil was present, because worn and filthy bodies scampered and slummed about, inviting its company. They invited it readily with every breath of foul and rancid air that passed through their grime-stained lips. From these lips also could be heard the shouting and whining of the most depraved of profanities.

In short, evil was present, because it was welcomed.

A young lady, between child and woman, thought to herself that if the night was any more fear-inflicting there would be no purpose for a Hell. At least in Hell, she thought, no one could do anything about the miserable conditions. Here nobody tried. They wanted it this way, and only evil itself could explain why.

The girl, lovely in physique and demeanor, had her eyes only minimally focused on these streets. Most of her attention, which is what brought her so bravely to this place, was narrowed on a moving form, just recently uncloaked. Nina was following a woman who, to her own mystification, kept walking farther and farther into the darkness. It was as if the woman felt a sense of belonging here. None but Nina truly knew just how little this woman belonged here; for the woman, carrying a cloak and wearing a prostitute’s garb, was Nina’s own mother.

Seeing her mother in this place, dressed as she was, filled Nina with a greater dread than she ever before had known. Her mother was not an evil woman. Nina did, however, know her as a foolish woman a times. That knowledge alone allowed for what Nina saw next to make a much smaller immediate impression than it should have.

The woman walked under a lone street light where a fat, gnarly man waited. With no spoken greeting, she followed him to an upstairs apartment. Nina wanted profusely to vomit. She wanted to cry even more. Most of all, though, she wanted to walk into that room, with its dim light bleeding through faded red curtains, and kill someone.

What she did instead would produce wonder and surprise in any person containing any respect for what is decent.

She just stood there.

She stood there and waited in the shadows for nearly two hours, until the same woman let herself out of the apartment. Covered again with the cloak, Nina’s mother, Monica, began to tread hastily past her daighter’s hiding place.

After her mother passed, Nina stepped out from the shadows and began to follow her. She’d gone only a short distance, caring little about being heard, when Monica spun around and waved a silvery object in the darkness.

“Get away from me, you filthy wretch, or I’ll rip your intestines from your stomach and leave you to the starving rats!”

For a second time that night Nina found herself in a state of utter disbelief. She felt the knife of sick deceit much more sharply than she feared any attack from this foolish excuse for a mother.

“Witch, it’s me!” She spat hatefully, then walked on by as if nothing more could be said.

Weeks had passed before Nina spoke to her mother again. Avoidance was a cinch, though, considering that her mother  had made sure that they never came into contact. They lived in the same small house, and they saw each other not even once.

In Nina’s mind, the way a mother shows love to her child is by being there. A good mother would face up to her mistakes, even when it meant humiliation and rejection from the child she had wronged. With each day of avoidance, though, Nina became more and more convinced of one thing. Her mother had moved beyond foolish to truly heartless and completely hateful.

The old woman stands from her small chair by the window and walks to the table that stands in the middle of the room. It is a small kitchen, dark and full of sad memories. The woman’s face shows evidence of none of them. She reaches to the center of the table, where next to a glowing candle lies a worn book. She opens it and begins to read the words she wrote so long ago. The words tell the stories from her life she hopes never to forget.

Like a memory, she reads of when her precious baby boy was born. She remembers the moment when he was placed into her arms, captivating her heart in a way no one had done before. She had named him Jamin Promise Opalinksi, for she knew his birth was a promise from God. One day her little boy would free her descendants from the tyranny of evil into which he had been born.

Jamin’s father had been an evil man, given wholeheartedly to the violence born in him by the contents of his brown bottles. He had struck her body with more blows than she could have tied to count, just as his father had done to his own mother. The time came, though, when Jamin chose to stand up to the evil that had plagued his ancestors.

At the age of fifteen, Jamin had commanded his father to rise in anger against them no more. He’d followed his words through by throwing the reeling drunkard out of the tiny house he did nothing to support.

That day, her son became a man. Jamin had learned that nothing in his life was more worthwhile than working out good for the ones he loved. He would not give in to the evil desires of his diseased heart. This was just the beginning.