“What are you going to do?” The dark eyed girl stared blankly out the window into the rain.
Aniko glanced at her friend and then shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know, Zsuzsi. What are you going to do?”
The gray sky faded into the dingy commie condos that surrounded the institution, making the colorless, damp, depression seem tangible. Life had never been happy for these girls. They were Hungarian. They were gypsy. And they were orphans. Now at age 18 they would be dumped out of the orphanage and into a cold, lonely world – with several thousand dollars in their pocket to give them a start.
“At least I have Tibor,” Zsuzsi said with an affectionate sigh. “I know he will take care of me.” The dark, charismatic young man knew how to spin a yarn and excite even orphan kids about their future. Tibor was a peddler of dreams. And Zsuzsi was a girl desperately in need of something to dream about.
In the months that followed, Zsuzsi joined Tibor in Budapest. Her life swirled with the excitement of the savvy, sophisticated city, despite the fact that they lived in a graffiti-covered eyesore of a building.
“Don’t worry, Zsuzsi, my dear,” Tibor said. “We won’t be stuck in this horrible flat for long. I just need to find a little more money to invest,” he stroked her arm affectionately, “and then we will be living in a fine apartment in the Buda Hills.”
Zsuzsi gazed into Tibor’s eyes and smiled. She felt so secure with him, so loved. His kindness felt like the finest, softest silk caressing skin that had previously only known the abrasiveness of sandpaper.
“But Tibor, I have some money,” the girl contemplated excitedly.
“Really?” Tibor feigned surprise.
“We get some money when we leave the orphanage,” she explained cuddling into his arms. “I can help you!”
Meanwhile, back at the orphanage, Aniko was packing up all her worldly possessions in one small box. There wasn’t much, but each tiny trinket represented a significant memory.
“So I hear you are moving out,” a friendly voice broke the contemplative silence.
Aniko looked up and saw Jancsi. She rolled her eyes. Jancsi and a few others from his church came to the orphanage every Saturday. They always talked about God, and she was not in the mood for it.
“Yeah, well, I am 18. And that’s what happens when you’re 18 around here,” she said coldly.
“I also heard you bought your own place,” Jancsi continued. “That’s exciting -- owning your own home.”
”Look, the place is a dump. No water inside. The only heat is the fireplace. And it is a 3 kilometer walk to the nearest bus stop to get anywhere,” Aniko glared at the young pastor. ”No it is not exciting. It is life for someone like me.” She grabbed the box and plowed through him to get out of the room. But he stopped her.
”Just remember, Aniko. You are not alone.”
She pushed him out of the way. ”Yeah, right.”
Months later, a girl in a short red skirt and long black boots leaned against a urine-stained building in Budapest. She veiled her face with her hair to hide her tears.
”You gotta pull it together, Zsuzsi,” a lanky blonde woman with excessive cosmetics scolded. ”He is gone. He is not coming back. Now come on, it promises to be a good night for business.” The woman unbuttoned the top of the girl’s blouse and pushed her onto the street corner.
Zsuzsi stumbled on the stilleto heeled boots, grabbing hold of a lamp post. She did not want to do this. She did not want to be this. But what choice did she have?
Two-hundred kilometers away, Aniko built the early morning fire in her fireplace after chopping wood in the frost. As her tiny primitive home began to warm up, she thought about her friend, Zsuzsi. She had alot time to think living there – time to think about things that never made sense before. Things that Jancsi had spoken of. She looked at her meager surroundings. Life was tough. Life had always been tough for her, but that did not necessarily mean God didn’t exist. She pondered the possibility. As she brought a bucket of water in from the well, the gongs of the village church faintly echoed through the trees. Aniko smiled when she heard it. Maybe it was true. Maybe she was not alone.
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