Searing pain. White light. Flesh gives way beneath his fist. Blood spurts from my nose, filling my mouth--coppery-tasting slime. The alley spins. I hit pavement. His boot slams my stomach. Warmth spreads down my crotch and I gasp. No air. God, please, I don't wanna be another dead hooker in an alley.
Air. My chest rises and falls. Numbness and tingling invade my body. My hand moves when I try.
"You're moving? Cathy? Can you speak?"
Where am I?
"Cathy? Say something." The voice says, closer now. "I'm worried. This time he beat you bad."
Someone strokes my hair.
Sister Christina, the only person who's been kind to me. I grab her hand and sob.
"It's okay. Shhh. I'm here." Christina pats my arm.
"It hurts." I say through tears.
"Tell me who did this. Stop protecting him. Let's call the police. Remember, God helps the willing."
Dim light surrounds Christina's wrinkled face. Is she my angel? Father said I had to serve God first. I did. I prayed and served, but the emptiness never left. I exist to be used. I'm disposable. I squeeze my eyes shut. Death would be better. Why had I wanted to live?
"Cathy, you can do this. Turn him in." She drapes my forehead with something cool. "A man who beats you, sells your body? You've spent so much time at the church. Have you learned nothing?"
"What's the point?" I am beyond salvation.
Sister Christina shakes her head, and presses her necklace into my palm. "It's St. Catherine. She fought against an evil man, and refused to denounce the truth in spite of his persecution and anger. Through truth, you can start living a good life."
I take a deep breath. Pain shoots across my body as blood rushes to my face. Her medal, cool and smooth, comforts me. It fills my hand.
"You share her name. Follow her example." Her eyes seem to search mine.
"Father Michael beat me."
"NO!" Her eyes widen as she leaps back. "It can't be."
"He said to pay for my sins I had to serve him. Last night I refused." I reach out to Christina.
She won't look at me. "So all those times . . ."
"Yes." The burning ache makes me drop my arm. The medal falls. I can't reach it. Christina stares toward where it fell. Without a word, she leaves.
First published: November, 2006
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