The disappearing sunlight filtered through the swaying corpse of trees, causing the shadows to move on the ground.
Michael glanced about nervously, having no idea if she would even show. He found out where she lived and left a message with her flat mate. The chill wind of regret tore through him. “Remember Mick, you’re forgiven now.” He said, desperate to believe.
The Rangers closed this campsite years ago. He had all sorts of trouble getting his Harley through the scrub. He remembered the place swept clean. Parrots swooped down, sat on shoulders, and ate seed out of hand. Kangaroos hopped around, bounding along, teasing little Stacy, who gleefully chased them, hoping to catch one to pet. She always loved this place and this time of year.
The silver leaves lie undisturbed now. The Rainbow Lorikeets and Red Kangaroos left years ago once their food source disappeared. Yellow and green moss covered the rocks. Vines strangled the brush.
A twig snapped, pulling him out of his better-sweet memories. She stood a few feet away, leaning against the trunk of an ancient eucalyptus.
She looked like her mother: short, brown eyes, mousy hair. A desire to embrace his little girl almost overcame him.
She wore a black overcoat coat that swallowed up her tiny frame, dark eye shadow, and deep red lipstick.
“How you going Stace?” He said, forcing his lips into a uncomfortable smile.
“What do you want?” She replied, her voice cold, emotionless, like the first winter winds creeping up slowly.
“Do you remember this place? When you were five, you jumped out of the car, stripped off, and had your swimmers on before I could even get out. Mick glanced at the cold lagoon. White-tipped ripples driven by an invisible hand danced and mist rose.
“I’m not that little girl anymore.” She lowered her eyes.
Mick swept the leaves and picked up dead branches. It would be a cold tonight. He wanted them both comfortable. He built a healthy fire. Being an x-outlaw motorcycle gang member had certain advantages.
The tension built like a cold rain that soaked his heart. Stacy just sat silent on a log, staring into the fire for about an hour.
“Want some roasted marshmallows? I picked them up on the way.”
Her piercing eyes stared at him. A tear meandered down her white cheek.
“Why‘d you leave? Do you have any idea what you’ve done?”
Mick feared nothing; not guns, fights, nor police. But this one simple question petrified him.
She continued, her voice thick with pain and regret, “When you left, Mum started taking heroine and getting drunk. At twelve, I had to work the street so we could eat.”
He couldn’t look at her anymore. Shame and fear and self-loathing swamped him.
‘Oh God,’ he silently prayed, ‘you sure this was a good idea?’
A little voice inside stilled the emotional cyclone, noise, and clamor. It filled him with hope.
‘Fear not. What is impossible with man is easy for me. I love both of you more than either of you could ever imagine. You are both mine. Watch me bring death to life.’
For the first time in his life, Mick wept. Through the sobs he answered, “I don’t know why I left. I won’t waste your time with excuses, but I’ve changed. I’m so sorry. I searched hard for you and brought you here only because I want your forgiveness.”
Stacy sat stunned. Mick continued.
“Stace. God found me. Stopped me in my tracks and showed me he loves me. Turned my whole world upside down. He’s so good. Stace, he forgave every single thing I’ve ever done. I know he wants to forgive you, too”
“But you don’t understand. I’m not the church girl type. I’m a hooker. Guys use me and then pay. No one would find me acceptable, least of all God.”
“You’re wrong. He’s already accepted you. Stacy, he loves you more than you could ever imagine. His son died a horrible death so that you could live. It’s your decision Stace. Please make the right one.”
The fear fled from Mick like a crow escaping the cold. Confidence and excitement grew. As the last of summer’s sunlight disappeare; the love, mercy, and grace of God filtered through the gloomy trees.
Mick rejoiced as on another cold autumn night, once again he witnessed the birth of his daughter, and together they praised their heavenly father for second chances.
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