It was so hard to concentrate. She had no idea what to do. She had not seen Texas before, and she had no clue which road led where. It was midnight and the woods were dark and scary. Should she run? Should she scream for help? Should she hide? What if he finds her… all this struggle would finally end, but it would cost her her life. That was okay. What she was worried about was her little daughter, 8 months old, who that monster had tried to steal from her. If he had gotten to her, if he had taken Hope, she would’ve killed herself. No, she would’ve killed him. She would’ve hunted him down and killed him.
She looks at the tiny bundle of cloth in her hands, and inside, the little smile on the prettiest girl on the planet- fast asleep, as if none of these struggles mattered to her. Hope was born 3 months after Jack’s death, and 2 months after that devil had taken her away, as if she was his property, his toy. For 2 months Zane had suffered the worst days of her life. He would rape her regardless of her state, starve her to death if she refused and protested, and would beat her. Zane would stare blindly at the lonely moon every night while he did what he wanted. He wasn’t around when Hope was born, and she was so glad for that. She wouldn’t want that devil to lay his filthy eyes on her beautiful girl, whose birth gave her the motivation, the hope that one day all this suffering will end… and hence, the name she gave her daughter- Hope Jones, the names of two most loved people in her life put together.
If only Jack was here, she thought, he would’ve made everything alright. She had married Jack two years before, and had come to the States with him. They had the perfect plans- they would go all over the world, have their own little family. But who knew that the World War would destroy all their dreams. Racism, unrest, intolerance filled the country and Zane was the victim of all. One of Jack’s relative took the authority of giving away Zane to a friend of his, receiving a lot of bills in return. And then the torture began. For 11 months, she had been in the hands of evil and yesterday, when he laid eyes on Hope, she decided that she had to get away from this monster. So, she ran. Jack was always there, speaking in her head, “Zane, don’t you worry dear, everything is going to be okay”, the exact words he had told her that fine morning when he left for the war and never returned. The war killed him. It killed everything she had. She felt as if someone had pierced her heart and pulled it out of her body. Tears rolled down her face and before she knew it, she was crying out loud.
Hope woke up. Those beautiful little eyes looked at her and tried to console her. Hope hadn’t eaten anything since morning. Starvation lead to no milk. Zane got up, and aimlessly, she ran anywhere she could go. After running for an hour or so, she saw a house. Panting, she tried to see if someone was inside. Not hearing anything, she checked for the back window, which was open, and she tried to squeeze herself in. There was food, fresh food. This was good news and bad. She had to quickly take as much food with her as possible, and leave before anyone sees her. But as soon as she was done, she saw the door open. A man came in.
Zane rushed out, making all the food fall out of her grasp. He suddenly turned towards her in the dark and brought out his gun. “Who is it? I have a gun”
“No please don’t”, Zane said through her trembling voice. “I am not here to steal money; I just want food. My daughter has not eaten anything since last morning and I can’t feed her because I have been starving myself. Please, we will just take some food and go away.”
He walks forward and lights the nearby lamp. She sees his face. He’s a young man, maybe a bit older than Zane. He looks at her, and then at Hope. He examines them closely, and very cautiously says “Okay.” Zane bends down to gather the fruits. He sees the torn clothes she’s wearing, and Hope gives a slight cry. Holding her, Zane starts to walk out.
“What happened to you?” he asks. Zane looks at him wide eyed. She is surprised, and confused. Can she trust a stranger?
“I am Robert. I am a school teacher. You don’t look… well.”
Zane stared back at him.
“You can stay here if you want, for the night.”
“Uh no sir, it’s okay, thanks.”
“Where will you go now? Where do you live?”
“I can see that you’re in a lot of trouble. You can stay here, till things settle down. I hardly visit this place anyway.”
She stops, considering the offer. She needed a shelter desperately. If not her, Hope needed protection. “Are you sure? I think it would be too much trouble for you.”
“No it’s okay, you can stay here till everything is fine.”
As desperation gets the best of her, Zane accepts the offer and tells Robert her story. At first she was very hesitant, but after a while she got used to him, and to the place. She never left the house, and the curtains were always drawn. Robert would visit them sometimes during the vacation and would keep assuring her that she could stay there for as long as she liked. Slowly, they started bonding. Zane and Robert would talk for hours about their lives, and Zane noticed she was starting to trust him. He was so much like Jack. He constantly told her that everything would be okay; that she could take as long as she wanted to get things right so she could go back to Nigeria, her home town.
After about 6 months she confessed to Robert that she was in love with him, and he said he loved her too. Good days came by, and they lived happily, like a small family- happy and joyful. Everything in Zane’s life seemed to settle for once, and she was happy. She was careful not to give Rob too much of her time so Hope didn’t feel ignored, because somehow Rob would be different when Hope was around. But she never gave it much thought. Hope was her life, and Rob was the one who gave them shelter. Without him, they would still be wandering around, running from that devil.
A year went by. One fine day, Rob planned to come early and take a few days off so he could spend some quality time with Zane. They went out for dinner and Rob bought her new clothes and jewellery. Zane wondered where he got all the money from, for his salary was limited considering he was a school teacher, but she didn’t question him. They celebrated the special day grandly and went back to their “home.”
The following night, Zane woke up thinking she heard Hope cry. She walked towards her crib, only to see it empty. She searched all over the place but she could not find Hope. She started to panic, tears rolling down her eyes. This time, the lonely moon stared back at her. She went into the woods, and kept calling for Hope.
Robert, on the other hand, was sleeping peacefully. She was wrong- he wasn’t like Jack at all.