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This was written for a prompt by the Midwest Writing Center. The prompt was radical hospitality with a 500 word limit.

Seven years gone. Not in a flash, that would have been a blessing. The years had lingered and festered. Started when she was twenty-three. Now she is thirty. Her twenties had slipped through her grasp like she was trying to grip water.

Vanessa sat in her cell. Hands wringing. Foot tapping. She was impatient. This day had been the only thing that had kept her going. But freedom wasn’t what she was thinking about. Only one thing was on her mind.


Why had she done something so stupid? Why risk her entire future for a few bucks? She knew why. Desperation. That’s what put most of these women in this horrendous, life-draining dump.

What could she do now? Vanessa wanted to feel hopeful for her future. But she didn’t have one anymore. Eight years ago, she graduated thinking a bright future was ahead of her. In under a year, her life was burned down and she had no one to blame but herself.

What now?

A terse voice called her name. Vanessa looked up, seeing the guard. For all her moping, she quickly jumped to her feet, grabbing her few belongings before bolting through the open bars.

Outside, the breeze of freedom brushed against her face. She couldn’t do anything but stand there, finally realizing. She had survived! The suffering was over.

A figure rushing across the parking lot caught her attention. She didn’t recognize the teenager at first. He had been a boy when she went in.

“Brian!” She screamed, running towards him.

“Aunt Van!” He yelled, embracing her. “I’ve missed you!”

“I missed you too buddy! Look at how tall you’ve grown!” Vanessa said, holding him tightly. Her eyes stung with tears of joy. She was embraced by two others. Cathy and Damien. She had missed them so much.

“We prepared the barn for you,” Cathy said when they were in the car, her head twisting around the seat to look at Vanessa in the back. Brian was sitting beside her.

Vanessa made a face, “You’re sticking me with the cows.”

Damien laughed, “They’re in the new barn. We fixed up the old barn for you. Made an apartment upstairs.” A weight lifted off Vanessa’s shoulders. It was almost impossible for an ex-con to find a place.

“Thank you guys!” Vanessa said.

“That’s not all. Remember Julie?” Cathy asked, “She owns that bridal shop downtown. I talked to her. When you’re ready, she has a job for you. You can use my car to get into town.” Vanessa was speechless. She didn’t know if she deserved this kindness. Not after messing up her life so horribly.

“I don’t know what to say.” Vanessa said, “I don’t know what I would do without you.” Words couldn’t express her gratitude.

“When we had no one else, we had you.” Damien said, “Don’t worry. We got you.”

Brian leaned over and gave her another hug. Vanessa was full of joy. She did have a future after all.