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TITLE: Forgiven
By Karin Butts
11/11/09
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FORGIVEN

Grace knew exactly what had brought her to the brink, to that moment when everything that had been before, no longer existed. And she didn’t care, though flashes of the past two years skidded through her mind unrelenting, demanding that she reconsider leaving. Every thought that sprung up, she struck through with one word, “forgiven”. As she walked down her street for the last time in her flimsy, revealing dress, she saw those hungry, empty eyes of the men she passed. She knew what they thought. She had always known from the first frozen, numbing encounter in a dark alley on a day just like this. They had dragged her off half-dead and sold her to a pimp.

Johnny was good to her while she was bruised and broken, until she forgot her past and clung only to him. He bought her fancy things, tight, skimpy skirts, long boots and fur-lined jackets. He changed her hair to red and gave her rings and bracelets. He named her Scarlet and showed her off, driving her in his fancy car.

Johnny brought a girl home late one night. She was a whore. By morning Scarlet understood who Johnny was. The bruises of that horrid night were this time left untended as her years of slavery began. To hide from her ugliness, her thoughts escaped to a patch of white daisies blooming on a sloping hill, not far from her childhood home. Birds nesting there in a willow tree sang for her; sometimes she would hear their songs breathed softly through her lips.

The old beggar woman on her street, shoveling along, her gnarled hands pushing a half-filled grocery-cart, had caught Johnny’ eyes and made him mad. Scarlet had tried to warn her to take another route to the mission, but she grinned, “I’ll be back.“

Scarlet didn’t see her for a few days. On a drizzling afternoon she stole away and searched the surrounding alleys close to the mission. An open hand stuck out from under a large piece of cardboard near a dumpster. Scarlet dared not move closer to look at her, she knew the old woman’s gnarled hand.

Terror gripped her at the thought of Johnny, now she knew he would kill.

Frightened, she ran to the first alley door and knocked, unaware it was the back door of the mission. An older man with kindly eyes let her in.

Days later, after Johnny’s arrest and confession, Scarlet took her first, freeing breaths. Max, the man who’d opened the door that day, had stood by her through the investigation. He had offered her a simple dress to look respectable and help her testimony.

Scarlet sat alone at dinner in the mission dining-room when Max passed by. She called to him, “Come sit by me.”

“I will Scarlet, just let me fill my plate.”

“Don’t call me Scarlet, Max, my name is Grace Crane.” He smiled and nodded his head.

“Tomorrow is Sunday, Grace, feel like going to services?”

Grace's hand trembled when she laid her fork next to her plate. “Sure Max, I will, if you’ll go with me.”

When Sunday services ended and sinners walked the aisle, it was as if an unseen hand took hold of hers and led her to follow. After her heart-felt, repentant prayer, her wildly beating heart stilled. She suddenly knew she was born again, all things were new.

That was when she knew in a flash, that all things that had been before, were forgiven.

When Max arrived at the mission the next morning, he was given a package containing the dress he’d bought Scarlet and a note of thanks, “Dear Max, keep the dress for the next girl that knocks on your door. I’m going home just as I am. Forever, Grace.”
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