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by Melissa Martin  
10/28/2011 / Short Stories

"I'm not dead!" Rose screamed as the morning light filtered through the tattered window blinds. She grabbed the empty pill bottle and hurled it against the stained motel wall. "I'm a loser. I can't even kill myself!" Self-pity bubbled up inside of her again.

As she stumbled to the edge of the water, the ominous sky mocked her. Cutting her wrist would be too messy but drowning might work. She slumped down into the whirling waves. The frigid ocean water engulfed her. "God, where are you?" she shouted up to the cosmos. Rose desperately wanted to believe in something. "Am I so bad that you can't even love me?" Tears gushed down her face. The pain of her past life flashed into her mind. Shame flowed through her veins. Guilt fed her emotions. Demons haunted her soul. She was hungry, homeless, and penniless. Self-hatred ran as deep as the Pacific Ocean.

Rose thought about the God of her childhood; angry, distant, and unkind. The preacher shouted the message of hell and brimstone Sunday after Sunday. Movies, roller-skating, make-up, and fun were taboo. Her fostercare family attended church every time the doors opened and children were to be seen and not heard. Their rules were unbearable; no pants for women, no cutting your hair, no talking to boys, no music, and no laughter at the dinner table. Rose grew tired of cooking, cleaning, picking vegetables, and taking care of the younger children. She received the rod consistently for not memorizing scripture verses. "You're such a disappointment!" Anne, the fostercare mother, would shake her head and point her bony finger in the air. High school proved to be a nightmare. The kids ridiculed her long dresses and homely appearance. "Cinderella, where's your prince," they chanted daily. The farm animals were her only friends.

"You're a harlot!" Mother Anne shouted when Rose became pregnant. Rose's baby, whisked away at birth, went to an adoption agency. Rose felt alone. Her biological mother died of a drug overdose when Rose was a toddler and her father was serving life without parole in prison.

The state department stopped the monthly financial support for orphans at age eighteen. Mother Anne packed Rose's suitcase and put her on a bus to California on her eighteenth birthday. No cake. No fruity punch. No gifts. No multicolored balloons. No party.

At age twenty-five, Rose felt used up. The men she dated were abusive. She grew tired of cocktail lounges and cheap wine. Her only girlfriend died after a backroom abortion. Suicide seemed like the only solution. Life was just too hard.

As her hands dug into the wet sand, she picked up seashells and threw them back into their watery grave. The frigid ocean would soon be her casket. One colorful shell caught her attention. A red rose was painted on the top. Turning the shell over, she found a telephone number. A drop of hope crept into her soul. "God, is this a sign?" Her heart raced as she sprinted to the motel room. Roaches scurried as she frantically grabbed the telephone. With trembling fingers, Rose dialed the number on the seashell. "Hello," the voice sounded kind. "My name is Rose. I found your number on a seashell," she exclaimed and held her breath. "My name is Glenda and I know God has a purpose for your life." Glenda made arrangements to pick her up at the motel that afternoon.

Rose began weekly counseling with a therapist and attended a support group for abused women at the local domestic violence shelter. For the first time, Rose felt accepted. The shelter staff moved her into a small apartment, stocked the refrigerator with food, and bought her new clothes. Stephanie, the shelter secretary, taught her how to type and file. "You'll find a job soon!" she commented with encouragement. Rose still experienced random days of depression and frequent nights of sleeplessness but she held on tightly to her new faith and her new life.

One year later, Rose sat at Glenda's kitchen table. They chatted as they painted seashells. Both survivors carried their buckets of seashells to the beach every Saturday morning. Prayers were whispered for the women who would find the shells. Rose scattered the precious treasures as she sauntered into the warm salty water. She felt like a newly painted seashell, shiny and clean.

Melissa writes about the God and human connection and condition.

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