The Charity Case/Glimmer #writephoto

distant-lights

Photo by Sue Vincent

 

Shanice sat on the summit overlooking the city.  This was her place.  It was where she could be alone with God and her thoughts.  She drew her knees up and wrapped her arms around them.  Her life had been a tough one.  She grew up in a rough neighborhood.  When she was seven, her father was killed in a drive by shooting.  Ten years later, her mother overdosed on crack.  She went to live with her uncle but ran away after he started sexually abusing her.  For several months she lived on the streets, rummaging through garbage bins for food because she refused to turn to prostitution.  She believed in God and that her body was a temple.

It was one Autumn morning when she met Neil Patterson, the city’s councilor.  He was a very popular man who had been doing a great job cleaning up the city.  She was standing outside of a café, watching the people inside having their hot coffees and chocolates along with donuts or bagels, her mouth watering when she sensed that someone was standing behind her.  She turned around at once and found herself looking up at a very tall and distinguished man dressed in an expensive black coat.  His sandy colored hair was neatly combed and she could tell that he didn’t belong in these parts.  He looked familiar too.  Then, she remembered where she had seen him.  He was on the cover of yesterday’s newspaper.  He was even more attractive in person and looked to be in his early forties.  He smiled now.  His eyes were an unusual shade of blue.  “Are you hungry?” he asked.

She nodded and wondered if he was going to give her money to buy something to eat.  To her surprise, he said, “Come, let’s go inside where it’s nice and warm.”  He opened the door and after a slight hesitation, she went inside.  He led her over to a table by the window as several gazes followed them.  People recognized him and greeted him.  They didn’t look at all surprised to see him with an African American teenager who looked like she hadn’t had a bath in years.  They were used to seeing him rubbing elbows with the dregs of society.  It was part of his appeal.

He seemed nice enough and she let him buy her a meal.  Hunger overpowered pride.  Besides, she didn’t know when again she would be treated to a free meal.  While she wolfed down the food, he talked.  He was a good talker and she could see why he was where he was.  He was charismatic and she found herself warming up to him.  And he was very attractive.  She always did have a thing for older men.  The guys her age were full of themselves and so immature.

He wasn’t married.  She didn’t see any ring on his finger but then, again, he might be one of those men who didn’t bother to wear one.  It was foolish sitting there thinking these things when she wasn’t going to see him again.  He was being kind to her and she was thankful for that.  After they left this café, they would go their separate ways and he would forget all about her.  She knew that she would never forget him.

He didn’t have anything to eat.  All he had was some hot chocolate.  He asked a lot of questions about her life which she was unwilling to answer but did anyway.  She left out the part about her uncle, though.  He asked her about going into a foster home and a homeless shelter but she made it clear that she didn’t want to be in either.  She had heard horror stories about those places and she wanted nothing to do with them.  She would rather take her changes on the streets until circumstances changed for her—until God intervened.  She didn’t mention God to him.  Most people were put off by religion.

She liked being in the café.  It was warm and friendly.  She wished she could stay there longer but she knew he was a busy man and had places to go and people to see so she didn’t want to keep him.  After she finished her hot chocolate and he paid the bill, she stood up.  Holding out her hand, she thanked him for his kindness and was about to walk away when, he said, “Instead of going back to the streets, why don’t you come and live with me?  I have large estate, with lots of room and staff.  You will have your own room.  You can come and go as you please.  I won’t put any restrictions on you.”

She stared at him.  “Why are you doing this?” she asked.

“I just want to help you.  I have a sister your age.  What do you say?”

“Well, I don’t want to be a freeloader,” she said.  “Is there a job I can do to pay for my keep?”

“What about college or university?” he asked.  “Aren’t you interested in furthering your education?”

“Of course, I am but my mother couldn’t afford to send me to college.  What little money we had she wasted on drugs.”

“Instead of working for me, you’ll go to the college or university of your choice.  What do you say?”

She stood there for a moment, considering all of this.  This was better than being homeless—living in the streets and struggling to survive.  Besides, the weather was getting colder and all she had was this beat up jacket which wasn’t keeping her warm at all.  She studied him.  He looked like someone she could trust.  And she didn’t hear any alarm bells going off in her head.  Shrugging, she said, “Sure.  Thanks again.  As soon as I graduate from university, I’ll be gone.”

He smiled.  “Whatever works for you, Shanice.”

They left the café and her life on the streets behind.  That was four years ago.  She was in university now, studying Sociology.  Their relationship had started out platonic and then, this morning, when she went back to the estate after a night of partying at a friend’s house, he was waiting up for her.  She sneaked into the living room and paused until her eyes adjusted to the darkness when the room was flooded with light.  Blinking, she went over to the sofa and sat down, tugging off her strappy sandals.  Her black dress was short and hugged her body.  The skirt rode high, revealing her legs.  She watched as his gaze traveled over her and the color flood his cheeks before he demanded, “Where have you been?”

“I was at a friend’s birthday bash,” she explained.  “I tried to be very quiet so that I wouldn’t disturb you—“

“Do you have any idea what time it is?”

She glanced at her watch.  It was five minutes to three.  “I’m sorry,” she mumbled.  “I didn’t mean to stay out so late.”

He went further into the drawing-room, his hands shoved deep in the pockets of his silk robe.  His hair which was always neatly in place was slightly disheveled.  “I knew that I had told you that you were free to come and go as you please but, I still expect you to act responsibly.  For this infraction, you are forbidden to leave these premises unless accompanied by me for the rest of the summer.”

She jumped to her feet, aghast.  “That’s not fair,” she cried.  “This is the only time I’ve stayed out late.  You can’t hold this one time against me.”

“And another thing, I don’t want to see you dressed like that again.”  Anger flared in her at that moment.  “You’re not my father,” she retorted.

“No, but I am responsible for you and as long as you live under my roof, you have to abide by my rules.”

“Fine!” she said, grabbing her shoes and handbag.  “If that’s all, I’d like to go to bed.  I’m tired.” She was about to walk past him when he caught her by the arm.  She turned her head and looked up at him, the anger in her eyes dissipating when she saw the expression on his face.

“I care about you, Shanice,” he muttered urgently.  “I was out of my mind with worry when it was midnight and you hadn’t come home.  I had no idea where you were.  I tried calling you but your cell was turned off.  In future, you need to tell me where you are so that I don’t worry or in case I need to get in touch with you.”

“You’re right,” she acknowledged.  “I should have let you know where I was last night.  I’m sorry.”

“And I’ll do the same,” he said.  “I’ll let you know where I’ll be at all times, in case you need to reach me.”

The grip of his fingers on her arm was very distracting and he was staring directly into her eyes.  She suddenly had trouble breathing properly and her heart was pounding.  “Am-am I still forbidden to leave the premises?” she asked.

He shook his head.  “No, you’re not,” he said softly.  “You’re not a prisoner.”

“So, I can leave whenever I want?”

He nodded.  “Yes.”  He moved closer.  “You’re free to leave here as agreed four years ago but I hope you decide to stay.  This place and my life would not be the same without you.  They would be empty.”

That was the most beautiful thing anyone had ever said to her.  She was touched to the very depths of her being and she could feel her eyes water.  She loved it here.  It was the home and life she had always dreamed of.  And she loved being with him.  She realized that she had loved him since the first time they met but had convinced herself that she could never be more to him than a charity case.  But, the way he was looking at her and what he had just said proved her wrong.  Without thinking, she reached up and touched his face.  He turned his head and pressed his lips into the palm before he pulled her into his arms.

She smiled now as she remembered that first kiss.  It was out of this world.  It sent tingles all over her body and she could swear that she heard fireworks.  Scrambling to her feet, she watched as the sun finally disappeared over the horizon.  Tomorrow was the first day of her last year at university.

It was getting late.  It was time to head back.  She wanted to be there, waiting for him.

This is a response to the #writephoto Prompt – Glimmer curated over at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

Infatuation

skull

Photo by Sue Vincent

“With all the money this latest book is raking in, we’ll be able to go on an extended holiday in the South of France,” Roz Taylor remarked to Valentijn Liske after he signed the last copy.  He was book signing and having his picture taken with fans at Waterstones Piccadilly.  It had been a busy but very pleasant afternoon.

Valentijn didn’t reply.  He stood up, stretched and donned his jacket.  He was ready to escape to his home in Yorkshire.  After thanking and having a few words with the organizers of the event, he left the bookshop.

“I think this is your best novel, so far,” Roz said when they were in the car.  She glanced down at a copy that was on her lap.   “I can see it being made into a film like the others.  Can you imagine how much money will roll in?  We can use some of it to buy and develop the land which is featured here on the cover.  You’ve always entertained the idea of owning a home in Queensland.”

Valentijn turned to her, “You keep saying ‘we’,” he muttered.

Her head shot up and snapped to the left, her eyes wide as they met his.   “What do you mean?” she asked.  “This book was a collaboration.”

I wrote it,” he informed her coldly.

“Yes, but the idea for the cover was mine.  You wanted to have a dead body with a smoking gun next to it but I suggested that you have a skull lying in a field to add mystery to it.”

“And for that suggestion you think you’re entitled to everything?  You’re beginning to sound like my greedy ex-wife.”

She swallowed hard.  “I thought we were in this together.  I thought I was more than your agent.  I thought we had something…”

“Well, you thought wrong,” he snapped.  “From now it will be strictly business between us.”

“But, why?”

“I’ve grown bored with you, Roz, it’s that simple.”

Color flooded her pale cheeks and her eyes flashed at him.  “It’s that little tart I’ve  seen hanging around you lately, isn’t it?”

“I presume you’re referring to Alina?”

“Yes!  I notice the way she’s been throwing herself at you and you encourage her.”

“She’s full of spirit which I rather like.”

“Have you and she…?”

“Slept together?  No, not as yet.  But I promise you it wouldn’t be long before we do–” He was interrupted by a hard slap across the face.  He rubbed his smarting skin, his gaze narrowing.

“You disgust me,” Roz cried as hot, angry tears spilled down her cheeks.  They were stopped at a traffic light.  “Find yourself another agent.  I’m through with you!”  She tossed the book at him, grabbed her bag and pushed open the door, slamming it hard behind her.

Valentijn watched her go, shrugged and then, tapping the glass partition, he said to the driver, “Turn right at the next intersection.  I’d like to stop by the florist.”

“Very well, Sir.”

Valentijn settled back in his seat, smiling slightly as he looked out of the window.  He could just picture Alina’s face when she saw the lavender gladioli.  Lavender was her favorite color and the gladioli symbolized his infatuation for her, a girl almost half his age.  And the girl who had cost him the best agent he ever had.  He hoped she was worth the trouble.

Infatuation is the most fragile kind of love – C.S. Lewis

This was written for the #writephoto Prompt – Bone at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

Danny

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Photo Credit: Susan Spaulding

I stood before the shed where they found my friend, Danny.

We used to hang out every day, daydreaming about how we were going to change the world.  He wanted to be a lawyer for the poor and disadvantaged while I dreamed of being a social worker.

Danny was more than a friend to me.  He was the older brother I wish I had.  I am the youngest of three girls.  My sisters didn’t have much time for me.  They were too busy with their friends and social engagements but, I didn’t mind because I had Danny.

He and I were thick as thieves.  We were inseparable.  That’s why his sudden change in behavior was a shock for me.  The sweet, easygoing guy I loved so dearly had become a stranger to me.  He had mood swings, was hyperactive and seemed to have trouble concentrating or staying on topic.  He became withdrawn and spent most of his time in this shed.  I learned later, that he was taking Crystal Meth.  It claimed his life and his dreams.

This morning, I wanted to stop by on my way to the Centre where I run a Crystal Meth Addiction Treatment Program.

199 Words.

This story was inspired by a program I watched last night on CNN about a mothers addicted to Crystal Meth.  The story that really touched me was that of a young man whose mother was taking it.  On the wall of their home hung framed photos of him as a boy and as a promising football player.  All those dreams of a bright future were dashed when he became addicted to Meth and if convicted of selling it, he faces life imprisonment.  What a waste of a young life.

This was written for Sunday Photo Fiction hosted by Susan Spaulding. For more details, visit Here.  To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Source:  Serenity Acres

Nisha/Wave #writephoto

sea-mist

Photo courtesy of Sue Vincent

Her sister, Nisha was dead and she felt nothing.  As she stared at the sea her mind traveled back to what happened to her ten years ago.  She was 13 at the time.  She left her home with Nisha and her husband, thinking that they were going to Delhi but instead, they ended up in a remote village.  She was sold into marriage to a man old enough to be her father.

Hatred toward her sister and her brother-in-law welled inside her.  They had betrayed her.  She trusted them and they betrayed her.  They made her believe that they were going to Delhi but instead they took her to a village where strange men were coming into the room where she was kept and looking at her as if she were a piece of merchandise and offering money.  All the while Nisha stood outside, knowing what what was going to happen to her and not having a change of heart.  She kept hoping that her sister would rush in and try to stop what was happening but she didn’t.  Fortune meant more to Nisha than her sister did.

She managed to escape and was rescued by an anti-trafficking charity.  She was sent back to her parents.  She was among the lucky girls.  Many of them are lost to their families and trapped in a world of sex and domestic slavery.  Several days later, word got back to the family that police busted a human trafficking ring.  Nisha and her husband were part of the ring responsible for selling girls to men in the same village where they had taken her.

Now ten years later, she was working for the charity which rescued her.  She was determined to fight people like Nisha and her husband and all the evil forces to protect other girls from going through the horrors she did.  Nisha was dead now but there were others like her out there who preyed on young girls for profit.  She was going to fight them.  And more traffickers were going to end up in prison like her brother-in-law.  She hoped he was rotting in there.

One thing she learned from this whole experience was that the face of evil didn’t have to belong to a stranger–it could very well belong to someone very close to you.  She felt no sorrow over Nisha’s death–only peace.  It was one less evil person to fight against.

To remain silent in the face of evil is itself a form of evil – Sue Monk Kidd

Do not accept an evil you can change – E. Lockhart, We Were Liars

This was inspired by a true story of a teenager who was sold into marriage by her sister and brother-in-law.  It was written in response to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Waves at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.  For more details click here.

 

Sources:  The Guardian; Washington Post

The Mistake/Beginnings #writephoto

dawn

Photo by Sue Vincent

He was in the foyer removing his hat and gloves when Flora walked.  He put them on the table.

“Here are the pen and paper you asked for, Sir,” she said handing them to him.  She was dressed in her coat and hat.

“Thank you, Flora,” he said, taking them from her.  “Are you going out?”

“Yes, Sir.  It’s my evening off.”

“Oh, yes.  Any plans for the evening?”

“Yes, Sir.  I’m going to the pictures with my friend.  I’m meeting her there.  Afterwards, we will have supper at her Mom’s place.”

“It sounds like you have a pleasant evening ahead.  Do you mind waiting until I write this note and then deliver it to Miss Bennett for me?”

“Not at all, Sir.”

He smiled and then turned away to write his the note.   “Do you have money for a cab?” he asked.

When she didn’t answer, he raised his eyes to the mirror and saw her staring at his hand.  He glanced down and realized that he was holding the pen in his left hand.  Deftly, he switched it to the right and wrote the note.  He folded the sheet of paper, took his seal out of the drawer and pressed it on the paper.  When he turned to face her, a smile masked the anger that seethed in him.  He had picked the pen up with his left hand.  Philip was a right hander.  Flora, being a left hander herself, noticed the mistake.

He held the note out to her.  She hesitated for a moment and then took it, her eyes avoiding his.  “Goodnight, Flora.”

“Goodnight, Sir,” she said and quickly walked to the door and let herself out.

He stood there for a few minutes, his mind whirling.  What was he going to do?  Then an expression of unnatural calmness came over his face and taking up his hat and gloves, he left the house.

Flora hurried quickly down the cobbled streets, jumping at every unexpected sound she heard.  In her mind the words of the newspaper played over and over.  “Based on the angle of the stab wounds, our killer is left handed.”

Master Philip was right handed, she was sure of it and yet, tonight, she saw him take up the pen in his left hand.  I must go to the police and report this, she thought.  Instead of heading in the direction of the residence, she continued straight ahead.

It was becoming cold and she drew her coat closer about her.  Her footsteps rang loudly on the street as she walked as fast as she could through the alleyways, wishing she had taken a cab with the pocket money she had.  She didn’t like walking about the streets in the night.   There were all sorts of characters lurking about.  And she kept thinking that someone was following her.  She thought she heard footsteps behind her but every time she turned around, there wasn’t anyone there.  You’re imagining things, she chided herself.  You’ll feel safe once you’re in Scotland Yard and talking to the kindly Chief Inspector.

With a start, she realized that she had made a wrong turn and was at a dead-end.  She turned to head back to where she had come from when a dark figure suddenly appeared and was walking toward her.  Panicking, she looked around her but there was no escape.  She would have to go past him.   Perhaps he was lost too.  Perhaps he was a harmless derelict.  She went towards him, heart pounding in fear and apprehension.  I can’t let fear prevent me from going to the police and telling them what I know. I will just walk past him as if he isn’t there.

As she drew closer, she saw that he was no derelict but a gentleman who looked out of place.  There was something familiar about him.  And then she realized who it was.   She tried to run but it was too late.  He had her cornered like a trapped animal.  She saw the tie in his hands and the maniacal look in his eyes.   “Master Raymond,” she gasped and she fought him wildly but it was no use.  Everything went black.

It was near dawn when he finally got back to the estate.  Instead of going directly to the house, he walked unsteadily up the hill overlooking the grounds and leaned heavily against the tree, his breath harsh and unsteady.  His raven dark hair was tousled, his clothes slightly disheveled, beads of perspiration formed on his wide brow and his face was deadly white.  Images Flora’s face as he pulled the tie tighter and tighter around her throat flashed across his mind.  It was the same look of terror he had seen on Estelle’s face when she realized that she was going to die.

Flora had fought him like a wildcat to the end, clawing at him.  He put his hand against the side of his neck where she had scratched him.  There was blood on his fingers.  He would have to clean the scratches as best as he could and hide them.  He felt in his pocket for the note which he had the presence of mind to remove from her purse.  He was going to burn it.  What he wrote in it, he could say to Constance in person.  And the tie.  He would have to dispose of it.

He hadn’t wanted to do Flora in.  She was a pretty little thing and he had even entertained the idea of getting involved with her but decided that it would be foolhardy to do so.  If she hadn’t noticed his mistake and been on her way to Scotland Yard, she would still be alive.  He had to be very careful.  No one could ever find out that he was Raymond.  They had to believe that he was Philip, the heir of Cherry Grove Estate.

As he moved away from the tree, the sun made its slow ascent in the sky.  Another day.  Another beginning.

Later that morning, they found Flora’s body.  As the Chief Inspector examined her, he thought, she looks familiar.  Her purse lay discarded at her feet.  Money was still in it.  This was no robbery.  And there was bruising around her neck.  This poor girl whoever she was had been strangled.  He raised her right hand and saw what looked like blood and skin under her fingernails.  She had fought her attacker and whoever he was, he had scratches, possibly on his face, neck or hand.  All they had to do was find out who this girl was and then they would find her killer.

 

This sequel to The Attic is in a response to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Beginnings found at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

The Christian Walk

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Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand‘ – Isaiah 41:10

For most of us, our Christian walk is inchoate made up of baby steps as we shed the habits and lifestyles that kept us from having the kind of relationship we ought to with have with God.  Many times we will fall or veer off course but like a loving parent, God is there to pick us up or guide us back in the right direction.  We hear a word behind us, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” Whenever you turn to the right hand Or whenever you turn to the left.

However, we have Satan, our enemy who will thwart our efforts to please God by how we live and will go to any lengths to do so.  He bombards us with doubts, fears, insecurities and distractions.  He uses the things of the world to draw us away from God.  He did it in the Garden of Eden using wisdom as a lure for Eve.  He told her that if she were to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, she would be wise like God.  He was basically encouraging her to disobey God in order to be like God.

Today, he comes with temptations that seem reasonable, logical and attractive but the bottom line, is that we would be disobeying God if we give in.  Eve wanted to be wise like God so she disobeyed Him and the consequences are still with us.  Like Eve, he uses our nature to turn us away from God and His Word.

It’s not easy living in a world that is “under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19) and many of us struggle with temptations and addictions.  There are many people out there who are living in spiritual darkness, trying to satisfy their the emptiness they feel inside with money, drugs, sex and other things the world offers.  Others are tricked into believing that they are too far gone for God to help them.  The devil has convinced them that they are too sinful to go to God for forgiveness.  Many have planned to commit suicide because they believed that there was no hope for them but then they hear a sermon on the radio or on television which save their lives.  God thwarted Satan’s plans for those people and He can do the same for us.

Our Christian walk is not without its rough paths but we have the road map that would help us along the way–God’s Word.  It is our light and protection against the forces that would try to lead us astray.  The more we read God’s Word, the more we get to know Him and the more we fortify ourselves.  Yes, the devil knows the Word too.  He quoted Psalm 91 to Jesus but Jesus used the Word to oppose him.  God’s Word is our weapon against the devil’s attacks.

However, knowing the Word isn’t enough.  James tells us that we must submit ourselves to God (James 4:7).  This is the only way we can resist the devil.  When he tried to tempt Jesus, Jesus used the Word of God to counter each temptation and after a while the devil had to leave.  Jesus was fully submitted to the Father.

Being a Christian is a challenge.  We are in the midst of a spiritual war.  The forces of good and evil are vying for our allegiance.  Daily, we have to make sure that we are on the winning side but there are times when the devil will use situations and people, even our loved ones to get to us and we end up doing or saying something we regret.

There are times when we feel overwhelmed because we have to deal with Satan, our nature and the world but thankfully, we have this assurance, “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6)

For now, we are called to walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory (1 Thessalonians 2:12).

Madira’s Healing

This story is similar to the woman with the issue of blood.  She had suffered for twelve years and the doctors couldn’t help her although she had spent her money on them. Finally, she had sought out the only One who could.  In faith, she touched the hem of His garment and was healed.  Madira was suffering from an unknown sickness.  The doctors could not ease her pain so she turned to witch doctors whose prescribed methods failed to work.  After six years elapsed, they gave up and for years, Madira continued to suffer.

Then, one day in the midst of her pain, Madira remembered the gift her brother had given her sixteen years ago.  It was a Bible.  It was the last resort.  She and her family had tried everything possible to end her suffering, but so far, nothing had worked.

She pulled her son aside and asked him to bring the Bible and read it to her.  As he read to her from it, something miraculous happened.  The pain left Madira’s body and she was able to sleep through the night.  It was possible now for her to move without the struggle and discomfort.  The words filled her with a peace she had never experienced before and brought healing to her tired body.  This stirred within her a desire to know who Jesus was.

One day they met Seth, a Gospel for Asia supporter serving their area with whom they explained their problems to.  He told them about Jesus’ love and how He was the great Healer and Restorer.  He promised them that if they believe in the name of Jesus Christ, Madira would be healed.  However, after years of discouragement and treatments that didn’t work, they were not hopeful.  Seth encouraged them not to worry because God does the impossible for all who believe in His name.

The family decided that since there was no hope anywhere else they would go to church and learn about God’s love.  There they met pastors and believers who prayed regularly for Madira.  Within a few weeks, God healed her completely.  He had answered their prayers.

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers – 1 Peter 3:12a

Through the fervent prayers of His people, God healed Madira.  This all came about when Madira remembered the Bible which contained the living, breathing Word of God. She discovered its great value and in its pages, the God who wanted to reveal His love to her.  It was able to do what the doctors and the witch doctors were unable to do–bring relief and peace from her pain.

God’s Word is powerful and it still impacts the lives of those who are in possession of it. Help Gospel for Asia to put the Word of God in the hands of more families in Asia so that like Madira and her family, their lives can be impacted too.

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Sources:  Gospel for Asia; Bible Gateway