Ra Lynn LoneWalker

"Believe what you like, reject what you must... ...embrace and love what touches your heart."

The Personification Of Love (previously published as Shades of Gray) Sample Chapter

CHAPTER THREE
Living in such a wonderful place, I soon became aware of the vitality inherent in the living things around my little home. I perceived every living thing with a new understanding and in greater light. The light was the energy emitted from the living things, independent yet connected to every other living thing. Each beam of light was vibrant as it flowed down the rays of sunshine and fell against the shadows of the thick woods. Within these beams of light I perceived the fabric and the patterns of life that created tiny rainbows of beauty. They were different in size and various in shape, not quite spherical. Watching the lights spiraling dance brought joy to me as I became aware that space was no longer empty but filled with sound, movement, and light. As an observer, I experienced the vitality of every change in my environment and recorded what I could with the camera that my father had given me. With every click of the shutter, I tried to express what my mind perceived. Each day wove me into the connection of the things around me. My yearnings for more connection increased. I was making direct contact with consciousness of the mineral, vegetable, and animal intellects. The energy of intelligence connected me to nature’s mind. The promise of all the mystical traditions of the world was there. My sacred quest was real, and I knew it, felt it, cherished it. I never wanted to go back to living a life inconsistent with that of the Goddess. I felt awake. This wasn’t an impression of any external movement flowing into my perception, but as though my life was being drawn out to nature. I had the sense of acting upon the various natural energies moving in and throughout my being. I felt synchronized with the rhythms of some larger life. I felt the trees, the flowers, even the boulders and began to study the nature of these things. Although my understanding at the time was vague, I was aware that I must follow my soul’s calling. I found friendship with everything around my little home. I always asked permission to take a photograph because I respected all that lived within nature. Just as I would say to another human being, “Pardon me, would you mind if I snapped a photo of you?” so did I also ask other subjects. I always received a response. The earth was new and fresh in those days when I honed my craft of photography. It was a day like any other day, a warm day to be walking along the river’s edge. I was out looking at the beauties of nature on my way to a favorite place for photography when I saw a tall figure moving swiftly among the trees. I could only distinguish the jeans and red plaid shirt, but the energy of this person’s lights was that of a very sad person. Curious, I strained to see better, but the vision had gone from me. I was sure it was a living person because the body was clearly visible, but having lost sight I continued on. I knelt in the same spot where I had knelt in prayer for many days. It was a spot where I allowed myself to sink into my thoughts, calm my confusion, loosen my grief, and pray for direction. Still kneeling there, I glimpsed the most beautiful hands I had ever seen, angelically fair, as if carved from pigmented marble by the most skillful carver. They shimmered with lights that communicated love. I continued to kneel, looking at them in silence. The face and head of the owner were hidden from my view, and the owner was unaware of me. I watched those eloquent but unmoving hands. They were in no way clasped in prayer, folded in patience, or closed tight in despair. They were as listless and motionless as the hands of a statue. I thought for a moment that I was having another visit from the Goddess, but in a fraction of a moment, I realized that this vision was mortal in every way. I considered snapping a quick shot, but even though they were magnificent hands I didn’t want to make a nuisance of myself. I could read the human lights, and they were desperately shouting to be left alone. I understood and respected this desire and gave way to the privacy each one deserves. Night was falling. It was time for me to go home. The sound of the rushing river hid the sounds of my soft footfalls as I made my exit. I wasn’t doing anything dishonorable. I only saw what came into my vision. I think that evening by the river a spell of sorts was laid upon me. I was captivated by what I saw. The vision inspired my soul. I was fascinated and yearned to photograph those perfect hands against the backdrop of nature. I craved to see the colors of love, which I had never seen before. In the days that followed I communed with nature, whose language I was still learning. I began to think I would never see those hands again. Some weeks later, I was again walking the river’s edge. It was a beautiful autumn day, and the trees were splendid. Lost in the foliage, I was looking for wild raspberries that ripen in October. They would, I thought, make great subjects to shoot as well as a sweet snack. I walked slowly, searching the bushes, and again I saw the same well-built creature. I stood still, and in a minute, I saw the long ebony hair that hid the face of this person. The elegant hands were folded and supporting the drooping head. I watched in silence. I would have given the world to have had the courage to approach, but I thought it best that I not intrude, and so, not wanting to be seen, I hurried into a patch of thick pines. Concealed I focused the lens of my camera and snapped a shot. It would be my first photo without asking the subjects permission. I felt guilty. As I stood among the trees, I heard moaning … moaning that vibrated in hopeless tones, moaning that disturbed my heart. I turned to go, wanting to assist this sad, broken creature, but the moaning grew louder and deeper in a tone warning me not to approach. Its echo brought me thoughts of misery, yet the voice had an undertone of sweetness as well as sadness. For days after my last glimpse that haunted my mind, I wandered lonely with my camera on the banks of the river. At times I also carried the cumbersome tripod. As suggested by the property manager, I had set up a darkroom in the main house, and after consulting many how-to books I began to develop my photos. This remote location was a brilliant place to learn my craft. Of course, my first pictures were underdeveloped or overdeveloped, but I acquired the skill quickly, and soon I had some photographs that I felt were worth keeping.  Mother Nature communicated with me, and I felt her calling me toward photography. With every photo, I began to feel a purpose in my life. My favorite photo was of the moaning figure whose tones reverberated the length of my spine. I studied this photo, feeling moved by the sight of such an elegant creature but also entranced by the sadness that enveloped the figure. Even on paper, this creature spoke to my heart. My solitude extended through October as the beautiful figure I had seen continued to elude me every day I ventured out. With great disappointment, I worked my craft and moved forward in my skills. The first week of November went by as uneventfully as the previous weeks. Then, when the snow covered the ground, I imagined I saw someone walking through the pines. I envisioned a tall, well-grounded figure finding a seat or leaning against an old fir, still hiding its face from me. I soon realized I wasn’t imagining this. I was seeing the residual energy of a moment just past. I worked to forget what I saw however, and returned to my photography and communing with nature. My routine became predictable. I did the housework of the main property, then brought wood into my little home where I stoked the cook fire and prepared my dinner. Once I had completed my obligations, and while the sun was still up, I walked along the river looking for subjects to photograph. I did this in a state of prayer, which for me was stretching my awareness and embracing the vitality of nature. One day early in the winter I went for a walk first thing in the morning. I didn’t usually go out that early, but for some reason I felt a strong urge to go out before setting to work. I walked the usual route along the river. The air smelled delightful and fresh, and the sounds of rippling waters were magnified by the stillness of the morning. The tall, snow-frosted pines pointed toward the heavens as the rich energy from the blue spruce and the willow all seemed to take the chill away. The nature of the world was exposed. I sat on a rock near the water’s edge, feeling my passion for nature rise up in me and looking for a direction to point my camera. Above the surging waters, I heard the faint sound of moaning. I listened carefully, hearing the cries of pain and discomfort, then stood up and looked around. It was difficult to tell where the moaning was coming from. Strapping my camera over my shoulder, I walked into the thickest wooded area, and in the distance I saw what appeared to be a heap of clothes piled on the rocky ground. I ran toward it, my heart beating wildly, and soon came upon the beautiful hands clutching a bulky, water-soaked winter coat. I stood quite still for a second. What should I do? I decided to go to her. Her graceful figure was bent as if in deadly pain. Her lights confirmed her condition, as well. Her face was turned from me, and sunk toward the ground. I knelt down by her side, gently touching her. Her pathetic moan changed to a startled cry that caused me to jump back in surprise. “Are you hurt?” I asked. To my bewilderment, she didn’t say a word. She turned away from me. “I don’t mean to distress you further,” I said, “but common humanity doesn’t have allowances for me to leave you here.” Still she said nothing, nor did she move. I felt something was inhibiting her, keeping her silent. I cannot describe the feeling, but I knew that I had to intrude on her private moment. I reached over and raised her head and saw that she had taken leave of her consciousness. When I tilted her head back, brushing the wet hair from her face, I was compelled to cry out loud as I beheld that face. She was bruised heavily about her eyes, the right side of her face was especially damaged, purple around the temple and forehead. Her nose was swollen and bleeding, her lips split and inflamed. When I touched her, I expected her to awaken, but she didn’t respond. Behind the damage, she must have been an attractive woman, strong yet delicate in every way a woman could be. Whoever had harmed her must have had hate running wild through them because they hadn’t hit her just once, but had beaten her severely. I looked around, hoping to find her assailant, but there was no one in sight, and I saw no residual energy anywhere. I ran to the river and dipped my scarf in the cold water, then returned to her and placed the wet cloth on her head. She opened her eyes and looked at me, her pure green eyes hollow and inconsolable. I was immediately lost in those eyes, hypnotized by the loving energy she radiated, energy I had perceived weeks earlier. I had to shake myself to focus on the situation at hand. “Was I near death?” she asked me in an odd kind of whisper. “No, I don’t think so, but I’m sure you are seriously injured,” I replied, not knowing what else to say. “Help me get to the river,” she said. “Lay me face down in the water and let me float away. Death is the cure for my injuries.” “I will not!” Was it a coincidence that she, too, thought of the river as death’s calling? “Who are you?” she asked. “Me? Well, I’m Maggie,” I replied. “Maggie Fitzgerald at your service … but not at the service to help you die today. And you, dear friend, who might you be?” She lay still for a moment, not saying anything. I could see she was collecting her wits. She sat up, holding her head in her hands. “My name is Connie McCarthy.” She spoke with an Irish accent. With a hateful look, she added, “Go away. I can’t be helped.” “Connie,” I said, “you have no need to worry about me. I’m not important. I only have concern for you. Have you hurt yourself more than your head?” I could see by her lights that she had multiple injuries, more than she was perhaps aware of. I studied her. It seemed as if she all at once woke to full consciousness of where she was and what had happened to her. “Yes,” she said, “my arm.” “Will you let me see it?” With the strength of an ox, she tried to push me away, and she said foul words, but I refused to leave her. I could see the pain in her arm becoming unbearable. “You shouldn’t trouble yourself with me,” she said in a gruff voice. “Don’t fear me,” I repeated. “I can’t leave you here in this condition. I live not far from here. Would you allow me to help you to my home? I can take better care of you there.” By that time it was getting dark and the snow was starting to fall again. A winter storm was on the way. The temperature dropped suddenly, and I could see that Connie understood the gravity of her situation. She was soaked to the bone and already shivering. “Let me do all that is in my power to help you,” I suggested, “and when I can do no more to assist you, then we can be strangers again if you so choose.” “You don’t know me,” she protested. “You don’t know my situation.” “I don’t need to know anything in order to help you. Just come home with me before we both end up frozen out here.” I still didn’t know if someone might be in pursuit. Strong winds picked up, blowing around us and through us, giving me a solution to motivate my hesitant stranger. “I only want to help you,” I said. “I can’t take a look at your arm out here in these conditions.” “So, you are Maggie?” She seemed to be irritated by my persistence. “I’ve watched you walking in these woods, taking pictures. I often wondered what you might be like and why you were always alone.” As she spoke, I could see that she was having trouble forming words with her bruised lips that were leaking blood. I could also see the pain in her eyes. “You wander around in these woods as if you were a widow being chased by the ghost of her husband,” she added sarcastically. Her words hurt my soul, and I had to turn from her in an attempt to hide my emotion. “Oh, I see my jest has failed. You are a widow.” Holding back my tears, I nodded. “Yes, I have buried a husband. I walk along the river and think of his dim grave, but here by the river I look at the wonderful sights around me and find comfort. Now, Connie, let me have a look at your arm in the light of my home.” She reluctantly agreed, and I helped her walk to my small home, where I stoked the fire in the stove to warm us. Connie came into the kitchen and sat under the electric light. Her poor face was morbid looking in the brighter light, and her clothes were soaked with river water and blood. The amount of blood alarmed me. I feared she had open wounds yet to be discovered. She allowed me to wash the blood from her nose and lips. I cleaned her face the best I could, but as soon as I removed the blood, her bruises became more apparent. Her eyes were beginning to turn a darker purple and close down into slits. She was in a wretched condition, but I found her compliant. I put my camera on the shelf. “Now let’s see your arm.” I said, not waiting for protest. But Connie was strong willed. “I can’t move it! It doesn’t need your help. I can get along just fine.” “Oh, I see.” I turned away and gestured for her to leave my home. I could see the pride in her face, but finally it let go and she spoke quietly. “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt for us to look at it under the electric light.” As I helped her pull off her wet, heavy coat, I feared she would faint again from the pain. I took her arm in my hands as gently as I could and tried to hold it still so we could get the coat off. It was broken and badly bruised. Once the heavy coat was off, I saw just above the collar of her shirt the most terrifying mark. It was the mark of a human hand that had gripped her so hard it left a discolored print around her neck. I acted as if I hadn’t seen it and turned, tending to her arm. “Connie, I fear it’s broken. You’ll need more help than I can provide. How long were you out there in the woods in this condition?” “I don’t know. Since before the sun came up.” “Why didn’t you call out for help?” “Call out for help? I would never do such a thing. It would have been better for me to lie there and die quietly.” A sudden hot flush came over her face. “I can’t believe the words I’m hearing,” I said. “Proud words is what they are! There is no disgrace in calling out for help when you’re hurt.” “I would rather crawl away and die alone!” she snapped back. “I don’t take kindly to pity. Pity is for the weak. I could endure anything over being pitied.” “Connie, the sweetness of pity from those that love us is soothing.” She seemed disgusted with me, but I was more trying to distract her from her injuries than engage in a debate. “Did you like the people that pitied you when your husband died?” she asked. “Did you like to hear, ‘Oh you poor thing, I’m sorry for your loss, it must be so very terrible’? Did you enjoy them hanging their heads low on your behalf? Did it make you feel good when they called you a poor widow … did it?” “You have a cruel mouth,” I replied. “You are a pathetic soul, aren’t you Maggie. Not a brave bone in your body.” I laughed aloud at the seething stubbornness she displayed. I couldn’t help it. She didn’t offend me, she tickled me. “I know of a very brave and proud woman,” I said, “but we won’t dare speak of her right now. Let’s leave that for another day, shall we? Your arm is badly bruised and broken … so, what is the best thing to be done for it?” “Well, if I must live, then I suppose we should do what we ought to.” “Perhaps I could get you in my car and take you to the hospital,” I offered. “If we hurry, we can get through the storm.” She looked doubtful. “You have no idea where the nearest hospital is, do you?” she barked at me. “Besides, I have no money for a hospital. And I doubt that my arm is broken.” “You’re right, I have no idea where the hospital is,” I confessed. “What can I do for you?” She touched me softly with her uninjured arm. When her beautiful hand caressed me, I felt a chill travel through my body. “Why are you so kind to me?” she asked. “I really want to hate the world right now. You are making it so very hard for me to hate everything and everyone. Don’t you see me as poison? Rid yourself of me. You’ll be better off.” “I will do no such thing! I will help you to the extent of my abilities, and after that if you want to return to being strangers, that will be your choice, and I will honor it.” “I’m all right,” she said again, but I could see the pain was beyond her control. “Let me be.” I wanted to obey her wishes, so I left her in my little house and ventured through the wind to the main house. I recalled seeing a cabinet full of medicines when I had cleaned the master bath. I went right to the bathroom and gathered some bottles of medicine and other supplies to treat her arm. When I returned, I found her still sitting on the chair, sunk into exhaustion. “Does your arm hurt much worse?” I asked her. “No, it’s not bad.” I could tell by the lights around her face that she was hot with fever and nearly fainting from the pain. “I believe you are too proud to recognize the pain you are in,” I said. “I found some supplies that I think will help. Let me know if you need anything else that I haven’t thought of.” She just nodded at me. Never once did her proud spirit yield to the moaning I had heard in the woods, though I could see her dazed expression and knew the throbbing throughout her body caused it. She took a deep breath and looked at me. I knew she couldn’t wait to leave me once I was done. “I’m very grateful to you, Maggie, for your soft ways,” she said. “You have been too kind. Thank you.” She spoke almost indignantly. “Is that some kind of dismissal? Is it your hope to leave as soon as I have doctored your arm? I would invite you to stay until you have healed more completely. ” “I will not impose upon you further.” “I intend to take care of you. When you’re well, you can leave my home and I will forget you … anything you like, but I refuse completely and decidedly to let you leave in your condition in this weather.” I spoke firmly to her because I could see that her lights were dimming. Embarrassed and confused, Connie looked at me. “Let’s pretend I’m no stranger to you.” I drew closer to her. “Think of me as someone who is your friend. I respect you and your situation, whatever it may be. Take a moment before we begin and prepare your mind.” Most women would have reacted in an outburst of tears, but not Connie. She concealed her emotions and her pain. Pretending that her discomfort had completely disappeared, she looked squarely at me. “You are too kind. Because of your hospitality, it would be rude of me not to be grateful.” Connie now had a strange look of peace on her face. She let go of her consciousness again and began to fall from the chair. I caught her in my arms and whispered soothing words to her, stroking her forehead and gently laying her on the floor of my little home. Her eyes opened again. “Your hands,” she said, “your low voice and your soft hands relax me, Maggie. Don’t take them off of me yet.” Her eyes rolled up into her head and she fell away from reality again. I was frantically wondering what I could do for her, as it appeared I was capable of nothing more other than holding and reassuring her. I held her with one hand and tried to bathe her face with a wet rag with my other hand. There was still dried blood in her nose and her poor lips continued to bleed. I pulled my arm from under her so I could gather the materials I needed to wrap her arm. But even that slight movement woke her and she looked up at me, filled with fear again. “Don’t hurt me anymore!” she pled, not recognizing me. “Connie,” I said, “It’s me. Maggie. I’m not here to harm you. Don’t be frightened, dear. Let me do this work without a fuss. You’ll be all right.” I’m sure she wanted to make some protest, but I started to work on her arm with determination. I had no medical training and was baffled as to what to do. As I looked at the light around her, I had an intuition about what should be done, and I acted. Connie returned to her oblivion, and I examined her arm. I located the fracture. Instinct poured through my mind, and I knew not only what must be done, but also how it must be done. Poor Connie, I thought as I worked. She had suffered so much. I thought I was gaining her trust, but now I feared the pain of my working on her arm would cause her not to trust me. I used my knee and both hands to reset her arm with a loud snap. Connie woke up instantly, combating me or some unseen evil. It wasn’t easy for me to keep working on her injury while she resisted me and spoke words that didn’t make any sense, rambling, crying, screaming. She didn’t recognize her surroundings, or me, for that matter. I wrestled with her for a long time, finally getting her to take the morphine I had found in the main house. I wish I could have persuaded her to take the pills earlier. It was cruel to set the arm without them. Eventually I was able to finish her arm. I examined her further. I wanted to find the source of the blood on her clothes, but after investigating I found no puncture wounds. However, I suspected that she had some broken ribs, nothing life-threatening, but very painful. I was thankful that I had come across the bottles of medicine in the main house. The morphine was a blessing. As she lay there with eyes shut tight, I took a long hard look at her. Her neck was a dreadful sight, covered with large handprints, a man’s hands. I realized that someone had tried to kill her. I was fearful that whoever wanted her dead might learn that she had survived. Did he want to finish his work? I thought about putting her in my car and driving her to the Prince of Wales Hotel and asking them to give her safe quarters. Already, in her stubborn, cantankerous manner, Connie had found her way into the depths of my heart. I could in no good conscience surrender her to anyone and chance never seeing her again. I knew I was no doctor, but I had been a mother and had cared for my daughter when she was ill. I also had healed other family members when needed. I decided, given the location, the perils of the storm, and my previous ability to heal, that I was fully qualified to look after her. I got her to my bed with some difficulty and eventually I was able to get her comfortable and warm under the covers. While Connie was resting, I quickly ran back to the main house, where I opened the gun cabinet and loaded a Winchester 30-30 rifle and a Colt .45 pistol. I brought them back to my home with a box of extra ammunition for each weapon. I was resolved to protect Connie from the man who wanted her dead. I placed the rifle by the stove and kept the pistol with me in my skirt pocket. Connie’s ill health was not life threatening, I could plainly see, but the pain had brought on fever to the point of delirium. If I had learned to adore her when I first spotted her in the woods, my affection for her during this time became intense. Her large dark green eyes pursued me through the long, stormy day. She shook in pain, screaming at people not in the room, suddenly sitting up in bed and crying words that I have never heard before or since. But somehow I soothed her when I touched her or spoke to her. The storm continued into the night. It was that night that has woven itself into my memory and created memories that have lasted through the length of my life. During the long, strange night, a weird hush filled my house more fully than the light from the dim oil lamp. Connie’s voice sounded like nothing on this earth. It sounded like a faint, sweet song, like sad music with words concerning death and farewell. She spoke of leaving, never to return to this world again. And sometimes she spoke of sunshine and flowers. “Good-bye,” she moaned. The words died off in a sweet intonation, only to come again through her cracked and swollen lips. It was easy enough to imagine that some threatening cloud or shadow was tormenting her. She was being pursued, but by whom? And why? I sat in a rocking chair with the rifle across my lap and the pistol in my hand all night. I sat near Connie while she wandered through the secret places in her mind. Occasionally she awoke in fear and I tried to sooth her. When the wind blew against the house, I thought it was someone trying to get in and I sat up straighter, at the ready. I was worried about Connie and her condition. At the same time I worried that whoever wanted her dead was coming for her. It was a long night. And yet no one came looking for Connie. As far as I could tell, she was safe with me. But her injuries refused to heal. I didn’t know what to expect, but I soon realized what an awful struggle she was engaged in. She rambled in her delirium, calling for help and telling a sad story of torture. She cried out not to be harmed anymore. She implored her captor to release her. Except for her words, my little home was so quiet I could hear the river flowing, and the sound of it soothed my soul. The river was my reassurance that everything was going to be all right. I could feel the presence of the Goddess. She was near and helping me to understand my role in healing Connie. But Connie’s words filled the air with distress and fear. She screamed, “No, don’t!” over and over again, then talked about a man wearing dirty boots. I rushed to her side and took her hand. “Let it all out, my dear,” I said. “Whatever I hear, I will attempt to forget. Your story will never be known beyond these walls. Your words are safe with me.” I doubt she heard me, but I talked to her anyway, as if my words could penetrate her dark and distant mind. She lay on my bed in my nightclothes. The muddy, blood- stained clothes I had found her in lay in a heap on the floor. The next day, she began to regain consciousness. “My head hurts.” “I know, dear. You have been through an awful situation. You are safe here with me. I have some pain pills. Would you like one?” She nodded and I brought her another pill and a glass of water. Poor thing, she was a pitiful mess. “Connie,” I said a little later, “I’m going to bathe you. You still have mud and blood and dirt on you. I think a sponge bath might help you to feel better. I’ll take these filthy clothes and give them a good washing, too.” I touched her lightly on the shoulder to make sure she heard me. “You are too kind to me,” she replied in a weak voice. “Thank you.” I did the best I could at scrubbing her clothes, but the blood was set unrelentingly and had deeply stained the cloth. When her clothes were as clean as they were going to be, I hung them by the stove to dry. Then I turned my attention back to Connie. I wanted to wash away her bruises, to wash away her pain. After heating some water on the stove, I made a washbasin out of a large mixing bowl and brought in fresh towels. There was no curious prying on my part, but when I turned the covers down, I saw something I hadn’t seen before. Her whole body was bruised and had scabbed-over wounds in random areas. I was suddenly seeing the dreadful reality of a terrible tragedy. I was weak, perhaps, or even foolish, but I stood there, my eyes blinded by hot tears. Her battered body told me the story of the man who was determined to get inside Connie after she refused him. It was a sight that would have touched any woman’s heart. It was as if I were in the presence of the dead. Connie wasn’t moving now. The pills had taken affect by that time, and she lay still, barely breathing. Her knees were bruised, and when I turned her over to wash her back, I saw the unmistakable print of a boot. She had knuckle prints on her ribs, and I saw the signs of force that marked her inner thighs. The light that surrounded her was flickering and dim, but within the dimness I could read a shimmer of love colored in burgundy. What awful story was her body trying to tell me? What man was capable of doing such damage, of this violent passion? Whoever it was, I hated him for his trespasses. I had a sympathetic mind and considered myself a forgiving person, but I couldn’t forgive what I saw there, what I read in the faint flickers of Connie’s light. It occurred to me that my eyes had taken in what Connie wouldn’t want me to see, and now I knew the dreadful thing she didn’t want me to know. I felt like someone who had been summoned to examine the sudden movement of a hand that drew back a white sheet from a dead face and left it exposed for witnesses to view. I hastened to complete my task of washing Connie while she slept, but I could never forget what I had seen. I ached for her as my hands washed her limp body. I wanted so much to wash away the pain and ugliness. I wished that my hands held the power to release her from the ugliness of mankind. I wished she could forget what had happened to her. Even though I hadn’t known Connie for very long, I remembered my first impression of her while walking by the river. That impression was of a sweet woman lost in sadness. Her crying by the river had spoken to my heart of her condition. Love was something I hardly admitted to yet, even as Connie held her place in my mind and in my heart. Now, seeing her battered state, I wanted to love her all the more. I can’t explain the attraction. It was divinely orchestrated.
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