*An assignment for school. I do not have a cover yet, but I am hoping to post one on here soon.*
The cruel, cold wind beats my red face relentlessly, but I keep on going, leaning on my walking stick for support. The snow stings and my feet feel as if they cannot take another step, but I grimace and continue my walk. Even though it is only four o’clock, it is already darker than dusk. Deep, gray clouds hover over my path, dumping more snow on my light blonde hair. The pine trees look ominous against the dark skies and shadows creep up behind me. I shiver involuntarily; there is something I do not like about the woods at dark, but it can not be helped. I had to get out of the house, away from my father. My mother died five years ago. I was only eleven years old. She and my father were some of the first Puritan settlers to come to Massachusetts Bay Colony. She was a pure, pious soul and my father was as well as long as she was alive. However, her death seemed to have destroyed his very soul. Ever since then we have lived as outcasts of the colony; our reputation forever crumpled by my father’s drunkenness. I know my mother would have been heart-broken and I hated to leave the church. It was about the only place I felt that I truly belonged. Even though my father no longer cares about Scripture, I come by myself every Sabbath to sit outside the church doors. They will not let me in, being an outcast, but I can still hear Reverend Wilson’s messages. Sometimes, his sermons on Jesus’ love moves me to tears. The beautiful, yet simple Puritan hymns make my heart soar. I want to sing with them so badly, but hold it in for my solitary walk back home. I do not want their pompous, condescending mixture of sympathy and scorn. I feel that it is better for them to not know I am there at all.
I am close to the town now, but the outlines of buildings are as dark as the woods. All lights are extinguished in the homes. I know this is because everyone is in the church house. My walk becomes a little easier because I can vaguely make out a path now. I round one more corner and I have to squint at the sudden burst of light. The whole church is a large beacon of golden light. Its fingers stretch forward across the nearby cemetery, seeming to warm the freezing corpses that have been asleep for so long. The light breaks off a few feet away from my feet, as if to make a point. I can imagine the light as the reverend, shaking his solemn head at me, condemning me to a life apart from the rest of the congregation. I pass my mother’s grave and stare at it for a moment in reverence. Every time I pass it, my heart stops for a moment, almost as if it went with her. I smile with nostalgic memories, but tear myself away. I hasten to the church, not wanting to be late to hear the message.
I can see everyone inside the building clearly. Puritans are against stained glass windows, as they are relics of the Catholic Church. I move to my spot directly in front of the church and prop my walking stick up on the wall. I press my ear to the door and try to listen through the wailing wind. The sermon today is on forgiveness. It seems a little ironic to me and maybe even a bit hypocritical. There they are inside, enjoying the flickering, dancing warmth from the coal stove while I am outside freezing. Could they find it possible within their strict rules to let the daughter of a drunkard inside? I breath on my stiff, bare fingers and hope I will not freeze. The cold hurts, but I have learned to deal with it. The wind begins to beat harder. I take it as a temptation from the devil and continue to listen.
Bump! The wind throws my walking stick against the hollow wooden door, creating a loud knock. My heart catches in my throat and I stand there for a moment in fright. Could anyone have heard that? Before I can react, the door creaks open. The light from inside rushes out to meet me and I try in vain to shield my face. I want to melt in the snow, hide myself away from the world. I sink to my knees, knowing that the church’s response to me might be angry. Instead, I feel the warm light disappear and the door shuts.
“Get up, my sister,” a voice says. I look up to see a young man standing outside the door. His green eyes are soft and gentle, yet I can perceive hurt inside them.
“I am sorry, sir, I know I am not welcome,” I say humbly, looking down again. “I do not ask for your sympathy and wish not to hear your rebuke. If you will let me be, I would be grateful.”
“You are quaking from the cold,” the youth says. “Warm up before you go.”
“No!” I cry impulsively, standing up. “My father is a drunkard. We have been evicted from the church. Do not get yourself in trouble for welcoming me inside the church.”
“Well, then, if you refuse, at least take my gloves.” The young man yanks his mittens off his fingers and hands them to me. My cold fingers meet his, but mine are so numb that I can hardly tell a difference.
“Thank you,” I say. “I do not know why you would be kind to me. Everyone else treats me like I am the Anti-Christ.”
“You are welcome. It is not fair that you are kept in hiding for your father’s sin. You seem like a young woman of virtue and deserve better. I am sorry that I cannot do more for you,” he says.
“You have done more than most venture. What is your name?” I ask.
“Tyler Ast. What is your name?” Tyler asks.
“Charlotte,” I answer.
“Nice to meet you, Charlotte. Maybe I will see you again,” Tyler smiles.
“I hope you do not have that misfortune,” I groan. “Most people lose their status when they are around my family. Go back inside! They will look for you.”
“God will judge me in the end, not the church leaders,” Tyler said gently. “One day, I hope to help you more, but for now, just know that you and your father are welcome in my home at any time. It is next to the governor’s house.”
“Thank you. I really must be going. Get back inside before they find you,” I implore.
“As you wish,” Tyler nods and retreats back inside. I scurry away into the woods, running away like an animal that is scared from a hunt. Breathing heavily, I look through the trees at the church. The building is silent from where I stand and no one pursues me. With a thoughtful heart, I walk back home. What could Tyler mean for my future? One day, could I be brave enough to hope,- would I be able to return to church? For the first time since my mother’s death, I feel hope.