Niamh stared at the bullet spinning through emptiness, slowly . . . slowly . . . stopping. The frozen moment of time gave her soul the needed instant to bite through its jesses and walk freely through a door that suddenly appeared.
She recognized the face of her father, alcoholic red, and smelled the fumes steaming from his pores. He hit her mother, and her mother disappeared. He hit her sister, and she faded, reaching for a father she couldn't seem to please. Niamh swallowed the infamy, pressing down hurt until she could almost explode from the pain that kept pushing back as he damaged the people she loved, then reached for her to fill his own needs.
She turned to go, aching, wishing he would die just so the hurting would stop. As if answering her thoughts, he grabbed a rifle hidden under the sink, ready to die rather than face her loathing. But she couldn't let him do it. Softly, she pulled his hand away from the rifle; they sat holding each other with tears in their eyes. She rejected the anger eating her heart and found an abiding calm there instead as God made her able to love him, even if he never changed. The light kindled in his eyes was the last thing she saw before his image faded, replaced by the presence of another doorway.
Here a weight pressed down upon her, hasty kisses tasting the tears raining down her face onto scratchy bedsheets.
She said it quietly, but the beer-tinged breath whispered back that she didn't mean it. She froze, locked inside an ice cube of indifference and selfishness he constructed around her.
"I thought he liked me. Why won't he stop?"
It was inconceivable that he didn't care that she was crying, didn't care that he was stealing from her something she'd saved for someone special. He didn't care.
She opened her eyes, finding herself still in that room's neverending moment. Another mouth kissed hers, tears pouring down her face as she couldn't escape from the prison of that moment. At night, she woke up alone in terror. But he was there during the day, wearing satan's face, whispering satan's lies as he told her it was better to give her love away than to have it taken--that men would never want her unless they could have her body, too.
She grew. She found a man to love her apart from the touch of bare skin. She lived beyond the cruel face, learning to call the lie by name: date rape.
"I am no longer bound by the weight of an act lived through by a foolish young girl. I accept the grace of the Lord who loves me beyond all comprehension. satan, lower-cased nothing, I reject your lies and the weight of your secrecy."
A deep calm settled on her as satan's visage exploded into oblivion. Niamh stepped through the next door.
Her heart drained along with the blood leaking from her. She walked a maze between cubicles, nodding and laughing on cue. She stumbled through tasks, hoping she didn't muddle them beyond recognition. Only days before, the doctor had told her something was wrong with the baby she was carryingthat it was dead within herand she could have a D&C or let nature take its course. She'd chosen the latter, unwilling to have the tiny fetus removed and discarded.
Weeks passed in that frozen moment as she felt the life-breath squeezed slowly from her heart. Months passed. A new baby filled her womb, yet she feared to let joy blossom. Grief dogged her even as she prepared to bring her new son home, poems of pain attempting to release the darkness.
More months passed. The baby grew, laughed, walkedand ran, chasing bubbles through the living room as neighbors pounded corn for tortillas in the apartment above. Jesus cradled Niamh's pain in His arms, carrying her through the loss of child, then loss of home . . . When He put her down at the end of the long path, she was healed, light shining from what had been jagged scars. A peace that passed understanding filled her as she faced the last door.
She opened it, not surprised to find it led back to that frozen moment of terror. The calmness in her eyes startled the gunman as she reached to embrace the people beside her, no longer fearing the moment.
Lisa Holloway is a Christian freelance writer, as well as a copy editor and writer for Inspiration Networks. She has served with the U.S. Navy and USAID/OFDA, and has studied in India. She recently wrote four stories for the compilation "Can My Marriage Be Saved?"
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