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Faith

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The first thing she saw when she woke up was the holy cross mounted on the left adjacent wall. The soft dawn light stretched the shadow of Christ across the yellow ochre wallpaper, leaving the terrible impression that He was leaning towards her. The smell of perfume and sweat lingered in the room and a nameless man laid still besides her, the only movements being the slow lifting and falling of the sheets as he snored in slumber.

Quietly, she slipped a gossamer robe around her shoulders and loosely tied the ribbon around her waist. She made for the antediluvian dresser on the opposite side of the room and sat down in front of the mirror. She redid a few stray curls on her mount of hair by wrapping them around her pointer finger and then dabbed her smeared lipstick with a handkerchief, an action so vain that it could only be an excuse for the shame hidden beneath her skin. She stopped with the cloth still on her lips and staring at herself and the man behind her through the mirror, she slid the handkerchief down to her jaw as a brilliant red streak marked its path. She kept staring at herself, her gaze passing across her flawless face, save the smeared lipstick. Her dark lashes darkened her already black brown eyes, leaving the illusion of a black hole that sucked in the admiration of any suitor, belittled the envy of any woman, and bored the secrets of any gossiper. A small mole sat on the side of her full lips, a sharp contrast to her light pink mouth.

A beauty mark, someone had told her. So that the world can know that you are, indeed, a beautiful woman. It was a foolish and out of context statement. But it had charmed her, no, thrilled her as a matter of fact, despite whether or not she believed it. Because to her, she wasn’t beautiful. To her, all she saw was ugliness and disgust. She wasn’t beautiful. Not today.

Keeping her gaze on herself, her hand mechanically opened a drawer, as it had done so many times prior. It found the sole inhabitant in the vast space and held it in front of her, the pads of her thumbs rubbing the surface. She reluctantly scanned the photograph in front of her, only to stare into another pair of eyes. The worn photo depicted that of a man in his twenties, who donned a military suit with a stiff collar that stretched up to his adam’s apple and a matching cap that hid most of his umber hair. He had pressed lips that drew an onlooker’s eyes and a deviously carved profile that described beauty in a man and mischief in a boy. His eyebrows were furrowed and his eyes distant, as if focusing on something just past the camera lens.

And then reluctantly, memories that she had spent unimaginably long amount of time forgetting burned her brain, its sparks and fire suffocating her heart until it hyperventilated. Her brain remembered and her heart suffered for it. To flush the memories out, she had to relive it in her mind.

She adumbrated a movie before her eyes, one that was overcome with tranquility and love. She was in an epitome of nature, surrounded only by a chill breeze in the air and an undisturbed field with overgrown grass underneath her feet. She was wearing a summer dress and a straw hat, one that she had to press to her head to keep the wind from taking. The man in the photo sat next to her, admiring the goodness of life offered to him. She stared at him and then at their home, a cabin that was easily depreciated by the environment it was built in. But to her and her husband, it held sentimental value.

She smiled, something that, despite the stream of memories flowing through her, she didn’t remember doing in a long time. She open her arms wide to catch more wind but her husband grasped her hand and pulled her down to him. She giggled and dramatically fell into his lap. He looked at her with love and happiness and began to say something. But nothing came out of his moving lips because she couldn’t recall what he had said. Still, she smiled back and kissed him, reacting in such a way that whatever he had said must have been true. Or at least at that time.

She returned to her yellow ochre room, the scent of perfume and sweat replaced the cool air in her memories. She bound the ribbon around her waist tighter and escaped the room, bursting out of the house into the bitter winter air. She welcomed the numbness in her skin as the cold overwhelmed her. She quickly made for the mailbox, anything to keep her moving with a purpose. She opened the metal latch and reached for the envelopes inside. She casually brushed past a few until a much smaller envelope caught her attention, one that was addressed, in meticulous pen strokes, to her. But she noticed the large red stamp on the side of the paper and a label that seemed too official to be personal. She dropped the other envelopes to hastily open the letter. She read it and when she was done, she began to cry, and laugh, and hate. Anything but love.





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