Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Write CONTEMPORARY FICTION (10/30/14)
TITLE: Footprints of Hope
By Jeanette Morris
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At the municipal cemetery gate, several bundled-up people passed by her, leaving as she entered. She sympathized with their red-rimmed eyes, the black dirt and grass stains on their pant legs, and the sorrow in their plodding steps. Remembering the dead always brought pain. Svetlana wondered who would tend Vladimir’s grave after she died. And hers. Would her daughter, Irina? Or did her missing teenager even live in Samara anymore? Would she ever kneel at the resting places of her mama and papa to clip the long grass and wash the stones with her tears? Not likely. Irina wouldn’t know where to begin looking for the graves. Even if she wanted to.
"Oh, God. Forgive me for my sins—for my horrible parenting. For my foolish choices. Irina deserved better. Please protect her, wherever she is. Bring someone kind to her. Someone who understands loss and loneliness. Someone who will care."
Gusts of frigid wind sent remnants of golden and bronze leaves across the path in front of her. The bare branches of the birch trees bent over the fenced family plots like the spines of broken umbrellas. Her chest muscles tightened into a spasm. Svetlana stopped and coughed, then quickened her steps, racing the setting sun. The bus to Pestravka would leave at seven, and she had to make it back to the rehab center tonight.
She switched her small bag of clothing to her other shoulder and turned into the section where her husband’s grave waited. She needed to see it one last time …
What is this? Svetlana squinted in the dimming light. Had she made a mistake? No. The grave was the right one. The name. The dates. It was his. But the stone was freshly washed. The tall grass trimmed and the fallen leaves swept away. Who had come? And when? Vlad, who has visited you? One of your orchestra colleagues? Your cousin from Saint Pete’s?
She opened the gate to the plot and looked closely at the ground. Sure enough. Fresh footprints. Perhaps more than one person, as some impressions were deeper than others. She scratched an itchy spot under the brim of her beanie. So odd.
Baffled, but grateful, Svetlana knelt beside the grave. “Dear Lord, have mercy on my Vladimir. He never heard about you. Not the truth. I know he would have read your Word and understood that it is genuine, if only someone could have given him a Bible. If only…”
Svetlana let the breeze take her words. Fatigue had drained her of the strength to speak. She needed to get moving right now in order to make the bus. Thank God, the depot was close by. She pushed herself up from the ground and bent over to kiss the portrait engraved on the headstone.
“Good-bye, dear husband. I am so deeply sorry. Please forgive me.”
Svetlana glanced again at the trampled ground around Vladimir’s grave. A shiver of apprehension crawled up her spine. Pulling her hat down lower, she turned her back on the plot and the ghosts of her shameful past, which seemed to linger around her husband’s murdered body. What had Jesus said to the man who wanted to follow Him? Let the dead bury the dead. The words had sounded harsh in Svetlana’s mind when she first read them. Now, she understood the meaning—that the past with its shame and sin must be buried with Jesus. He died so that God would see her as a new creation, and Svetlana so desperately wanted to be new.
And to find Irina.
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