Catherine Lefler’s eyes darted around the pink room room with a Winne the Pooh border. A faint impression of the word FAITH, the baby her friend Sandy had lost at twenty weeks, still showed on the wall next to her. Her twin bed pressed against one wall, took up three quarters of the eight by ten room. A small two drawer dresser that needed a fresh coat of paint, or possibly a sledge hammer, was tucked in the far corner across from the bed. The bulk of the few clothes she had were stored in a plastic container under the bed. With so little space, she had to tilt it up to drag it out far enough to get it open. She didn’t mind though. Better than living on the streets.
Besides her, one other thing seemed out of place in the room.
The large canvas had appeared only a few weeks back. A women, her long hair dangling in the dirt, lay prostrate, one hand reaching toward Jesus’ feet, while men surrounding them knelt to pick up rocks to stone her. Had Sandy somehow figured out she’d been lying about her past? She leaned forward, stared into the eyes of the man portrayed in the painting. Those eyes, loving, gentle, yet full of great power, drilled into her soul.
Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?
A tear rolled down her cheek. If only she could believe Jesus’ words were meant for her too. The picture meant to show her God’s forgiveness, only managed to remind her of the past, and add to her guilt.
Sandy certainly had good intentions when she put the painting up, but Catherine hated how spooky real the people in it seemed. At times they seemed to come alive and speak to her like the ghosts in a Harry Potter movie.
She stared at the painting and the Lord’s words leapt from the painting and into her mind.
Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?
A head peaked in her door. “Happy Birthday, Catie.”
Catherine gasped and slipped her diary behind her back and under her pillow.
Sandy’s smile was so huge it seemed to blot out the rest of her face. “Twenty-one, right?”
“Here.” Sandy moved her hands from behind her back and pushed a box wrapped in paper with twenty-one stamped all over it toward her.
Catherine’s lips moved into their proper place, but her smile was fake. May sixth wasn’t a day she ever looked forward to and if she could sleep it away, she would. Her right hand went to the silver cross necklace she always wore and she massaged it between her fingers. It should be around her mom’s neck, not hers. Her father probably still had no clue she stole it.
Sandy moved another step toward her.
As Catherine reached for the box, Sandy’s gaudy smile increased to Cheshire Cat proportions. Catherine stared at the twenty-ones. Two years ago she lived on the street and had wandered into Steve and Sandy’s church for warmth. They took pity on her and offered her a place to stay. Their love had given her a new lease on life. Today, however, tore open old festering wounds.
Her friend bounced on her toes. “Open it!”
Catherine hesitated for a moment before her fingers tore into the paper exposing a Nike shoe box. She opened it and pulled out a pair of brand new running shoes. Catherine’s mouth fell open. “These are expensive.”
Sandy clicked her tongue. “Pish, posh. Put em on. I want to make sure they fit.”
She dropped her feet over the bed, slipped them on, and stood. Her feet felt like they were standing on a cushion of air. “They’re perfect, but you shouldn’t have. I don’t deser—.”
“Shush. Those raggedy things you’ve been wearing are about to fall apart.”
Catherine reached her arms toward her friend and Sandy bent down low to receive her hug. “Thank you, so much.”
Sandy stepped back and admired the new shoes for a second. The shirt she wore stretched tight around a distinct baby bump. She’d been having some morning sickness too. Why was she keeping it a secret though? Did Sandy dread telling her she had to find another place to live soon? What if she ended up homeless again? Or worse, be forced back to her former life. She’d never survive it this time. She didn’t think Sandy and Steve would let her live on the street again, but if the baby got her room, what would be left for her? The couch?
Sandy took another step back. “Got pancakes waiting when you’re ready.
“Nah. Not feeling that hungry.”
Sandy’s face turned serious. “Listen young lady.” She sighed and her stern look softened. The women didn’t have a mean bone in her body. “Skipping a meal won’t kill you, but that chocolate bar I bought for you is still in the fridge. It’s been calling my name, but I don’t need it.” She chuckled and patted her rump. Her eyes narrowed and she took Catherine’s hand. “You feeling okay, hon?” Sandy put the back of her hand to Catherine’s forehead. “Hm. No fever.”
Twenty-nine and eight years her senior, her friend was like the big sister she never had, and if at some point she were given the ability to proclaim sainthood, Sandy would be at the top of her list. If anyone deserved to be mad a God though, it was her. She and her husband Steve served God faithfully, but she’d been through four miscarriages and wanted desperately to have a baby. She’d lost her last child, a girl they named Faith, three years ago. Sandy, the half-full optimist, never complained, or blamed God in any way. In secret though, Catherine had heard her sobbing, crying out in her prayers for the blessing of a child. Were her prayers about to be answered this time?