Hope slammed the front door shut and proceeded down the cement steps in a huff. Forgetting the last step was broken, her foot caught on the edge sending her forward into the dirt. She allowed the dust cloud to settle around her before angrily standing and kicking it all up again in an angry frenzy. For a moment the world had disappeared, and Hope found herself engulfed in a haze of dirt, dust, and other earthly materials.
Emerging from her cloud, Hope set off in any direction that was away from the house. The house was full of anger and spite, dirty words and pained feelings. Her feet kicked up the dust softly now, her attention focused on just getting away rather than releasing her inner turmoil. Everything in her life seemed to be a mess: a cluster-fuck, broken, damaged, tainted, hurting. Perhaps moving to the mid-west was a mistake; especially with a guy she had only been seeing for a few months.
When she had first met Fritz, he had been nothing short of the old-world gentleman type. He opened doors, dragged out chairs, smiled politely but never lustfully. He only held her hand when she offered it to him, and would only steal a kiss sparingly. She admired this gentile attitude, especially paired with his handsome features and easy-going nature. Fritz mentioned he had recently acquired a promotion that would lead him to the mid-west, and asked Hope if she would like to accompany him. Without hesitation, though to her mothers detest, Hope agreed and began packing that same night.
The house he had brought her to for them to live in, was not exactly what she had had in mind. She assumed they would be closer to the city where the jobs and employment were, but on the contrary. The old, gray house seemed to just be tossed in the middle of a dust bowl, and stood lonely against a clouded sky. The shutters on the outside of the house were in dire need of a new coat of paint, and the front door was cracked open due to a missing top hinge. Even the wrap-around porch seemed to be making its way down towards the ground. Hope tried not to let her face cringe at the sight of the poor house, but Fritz noticed her unease.
“I guess it does need a little work.. but I’m sure it’s not anything we can’t handle? Let’s try to keep a positive outlook, hmm?” he tried as he lightly squeezed her tensed shoulder.
“There.. is no front yard. It’s all dirt. Dirt and nasty, tall, yellowing grass. At least I thought I’d see some green.. can’t we live near the city?” she asked.
“It’s too expensive to live near the city just yet. Come on, I’ll bring your things inside,” he said, finishing off the conversation.
As Fritz began dragging their boxes and luggage inside, Hope sat on the edge of the slightly decaying porch. She was waiting for a sunset that would never come; the clouds made sure of that. Swinging her legs, she began running through the last week and how everything happened so suddenly. Her hand automatically clasped around the small, gold cross hanging around her neck.
‘Have I made the right choice, God?’ she wondered, her eyes locked on the sky which gave no answers.
As the weeks went on, she noticed Fritz began coming home later each evening. She decided not to press, since he was allowing her to stay with him without asking her to seek employment as long as she kept the house neat. Hope tried the “job” conversation multiple times, expressing how she disliked sitting around idle all day. In response to her job requests, Fritz would just bring home some wood or paint, and mentioned she could work on fixing up the house if she so wished. In defeat, Hope accepted since she really had no other choice.
Fritz also began having a much worse temper, his gentile facade slipping occasionally, then soon altogether. He was always red-faced and ugly, throwing words at Hope as she remained frozen against various places in the house: walls, counters, doorways, the bed. There was nowhere that Fritz had not yelled or beaten her down verbally yet. She began trying to stay outside as much as possible, finding places where the paint would be chipping in order to prolong her work. Inevitably, she would finally have to retire to her angry house, floating up the stairs emotionless to retire to bed.
“Eh, Hope. Hope. HOPE. Wake the HELL up you Goddamned USELESS woman! HOPE!” Fritz was yelling at a groggy Hope who lay beside him in their bed. Morning hadn’t even yet arrived, and he had already began his torment in the dark.
“Dammit all woman, GET out of bed and MAKE me something to eat. Damned if I’ll do it, that’s for sure,” he growled and smacked her lightly across the face. Sure she was up but just ignoring him, he gave her another small smack and crossed the room to the hallway, slamming the bathroom door as the shower came on.
Hope lay in the bed, her tear-stained face hidden from the world through her shield made of cotton and polyester. Her face still stung from where his hand had connected, but she knew enough it would soon fade. Fritz had never hit her hard enough to leave a marking, not as if anyone would see it anyway. Hope always kept the thought that perhaps Fritz could not bear to see Hope with a bruise across her face, and that’s why he kept the hits light. Perhaps he regretted being so cruel and demeaning to the girl he once told her loved profusely. Perhaps, he didn’t really care at all and just wanted his goddamned breakfast.
Reluctantly, Hope rose and shuffled down the creaky steps into the kitchen. She began searching the cupboards and found some bread with which to make toast, and also gathered some eggs from the noisy refrigerator. The refrigerator must have been nearly as old as the house, big and white with a large crack running down the front. It noisily tried to keep itself busy, minding all the perishables Hope had placed within it. The small humming noise was somewhat of a comfort. So was the trickling water that indicated the shower was still on.
While the eggs simmered and bubbled in the pan, she quickly rinsed off a plate and placed it neatly on their small table. The flowers Fritz had brought home for her weeks ago were long past dead, but Hope didn’t have the heart to remove them. She saw them as a sign that his kindness did at one point exist. Her hand moved towards her cross, and she closed her eyes lightly, bowing her head. “God. I do not know if this is a test, or a trial. But please bring the old Fritz back. Alleviate this cursed temper, and restore his heart with kindness and affection. I place my trust in thee, heavenly Father.” she whispered quietly, and almost missed the heavy footsteps on the stairwell. Her eyes flew open as she grabbed for the eggs, forgetting to place an oven mitt around her naked hand.
Hope let out a somewhat muffled cry as Fritz walked into the room. He was her scorching red hand, the dropped pan, and his breakfast all over the floor. Saying nothing, he crossed the room towards her and stopped just an inch away from her face. Swinging his arm back, he connected his hand to her face, mostly landing in the lower jaw area and she slumped to the ground in a wrecked heap. Hope could not hold back her hot tears, try as she might. She felt him standing over her, lurking. The shadow then disappeared, and she thought it was safe to open her eyes.
“You damned woman. You Goddamned, woman. Clean your fucking mess up. I’ll be back sometime tomorrow. This house better be damned spotless, or you’ll have more than a pretty bruise to gawk at in the mirror, HEAR me?” he was crouched in front of her, his hand grabbing her face tightly. He jerked his hand away which yanked her head hard to one side, and stormed out of the house. He was gone, she felt safe, and she remained on the floor crying.
Hope had never travelled much farther than the house. When they had first moved in, Fritz had taken walks with her before the sun would set, and they talked about their future together. She had never paid attention, because Fritz was always there to guide her home. Now, she was out on her own, her feet guiding her into the safety of the unknown.
Her cross felt heavy around her neck today, and she grabbed for her dirty package of cigarettes she had hidden away in her pocket. Every once in a while, she would steal a cigarette or two from Fritz when she knew he wouldn’t miss it. Now she had a small collection of about eight or nine, and took one out along with a single match she had found in the house. Hope had never been a smoker, and only started recently when she found herself too much to bear. She struck the match and inhaled deeply, the smoke searing down her dry throat as it filled her young lungs. Looking skywards, she sought some sort of answer, but she knew one would not come. God, hadn’t been listening to her.
‘ Why would he care about me. He has much more important things to deal with. Sinners. The sky. Heaven. Other things. Why bother with me. Why answer my prays. What am I saying? ‘ she thought to herself, holding loosely to the cross she once clutched in good faith.
Hope finally fell back to reality, and noticed the grass around her was no longer up to her waist. Peering around, it seemed as if something had burned the grass away, but only for about a two mile radius at her guess. A bulk of something lie off to the right, and so she made her way towards it. Darkness was approaching fast, and soon she would only be able to see the red from the end of her cigarette.
As she approached, she realized the form was a dead body. Kneeling down, she blew the smoke out of her lungs and watched it curl up into the sky, flying away from everything. She tucked a rouge piece of hair behind her ear, and reached her hand out. Normally, she would have screeched and cried and made a scene at the sight of a dead body. This, however, was different.
As Hope looked down towards the chest area, she noticed the body had been cut. Kneeling in the middle of the dark, burned field, Hope had discovered God lying dead with the words “Save Them” carved into his chest. She didn’t know how she knew it was God, but she had always known if she had seen Him, she would just know. There was no way to describe Him, for even in death He was still so different, so beautiful, so unreal. Hope moved to his side, staring at the words “Save Them” etched in blood. A message so powerful, so innocent, with a direct order from Him meant for her to find. She took a long drag before extinguishing the rest of the cigarette on the ground beside her, and released the last of the smoke in a heavy sigh. She now felt night upon her, a sort of looming darkness that would never really leave her.
Hope ripped the cross from around her neck, and tossed it onto the body lying on the Earth. She hung her head and began towards that angry house, with a heavy heart and a sense of betrayal; of lost faith, desolation, anger, and sadness lining her soul.
Hope now felt as if she were truly alone, and left to Fate’s hands, with no help from God any longer. Perhaps she would need to find the strength within herself, or fall victim to the new Godless world she had been place in.