Jophi’s Journey: Chapter 1 [Fiction]

A tear fell from Jophi’s cheek and made a small splotch on the note in her hand, blurring the words. She wished she could ignore them. “…pay rent as set forth below or in the alternative vacate the premises…” She blinked, and another tear landed beside the first. To her right lay a bill listing numerous overdue medical expenses. Others spelled out how much she owed the electric and phone companies.

Jophi set the page down, wiping the wetness from her face. What would she do? How was she going to pay for these?

A chilly autumn breeze filtered through the screened window beside her, drying her tears and ruffling her short hair. She looked out the window as the sun began its descent below the tops of the surrounding buildings, shrouding the city in darkness. Leaning her head against the screen, she breathed a heavy sigh. “I wish Mom was here.”

Jophi lifted the silver locket hanging from her neck and gently opened it to reveal two photos. The one on the left was her mother, from the day her parents married. The photo on the right was of Jophi and her father, taken just two years ago on a post-graduation camping trip. She smiled, remembering how she had fallen into the mud. When her father tried to help, he fell in, too. Her mother, an excellent photographer, caught a great shot of them laughing, covered in dark, gooey mud.

Jophi’s smile faded as she stroked her father’s image. That was the last time they were happy. About a month later Jophi’s mom became ill and passed away. Not long after, her father got sick as well and was no longer able to work. Since then it had been up to her.

She closed the locket, returning her attention to the pile of papers demanding money she didn’t have. She’d tried to pay them, pawning nearly everything they owned and working any job she could find. It just wasn’t enough. As her father’s health declined, she had to quit working to take care of him. Her concern for her father grew as fast as their debt, and any hope that Jophi once had was all but gone. She needed a miracle.

“Jophi.” Her father’s weak voice called from behind her. She stood, wrapping her sweater tight around her, and went to her father’s bedside. She gazed down at his thin frame. How was he even still alive? He hadn’t eaten for days and his pulse was so weak it was almost impossible to detect. The illness should’ve killed him weeks ago, but here he was, still hanging on somehow.

Her chin trembled as she took his thin hand in her own and sat beside him on the bed. “I’m here, Daddy.”

He opened his eyes and when he met her gaze, his brow wrinkled. “You’ve been crying.”

She sniffed, caressing the back of his hand with her thumb. “I’m just worried.”

“About me?”

Jophi pressed her lips together, her throat tightening as she nodded.

“Oh, honey. Don’t worry about me.”

She looked away, and her bottom lip shook as she spoke. “But I do…and the money…I can’t–” His hand tightened around hers. She looked at him again and gasped. His eyes shone brighter than she had ever seen before, and somehow he looked younger as he smiled.

“Jophi, do not despair. God will take care of everything.” His youthful countenance faded with his words, and his grip on Jophi’s hand became limp.

“Daddy?” Jophi checked his vitals. Nothing. She laid a hand against his cheek and looked into his unseeing eyes. “Oh, Daddy….” With trembling fingers she pressed his eyelids closed. Gripping her father’s lifeless hand in hers, Jophi laid her head on his chest and wept.

She cried until she had no tears left. As her sobs eased and her breathing slowed, Jophi drifted off to sleep, and into a dream.

Her father stood before her, healthy and young, dressed all in white. He reached his arms out to her and she ran into his embrace. “Oh Daddy! I’m going to miss you so much!” She felt his hand press her head against his chest as her tears soaked into his shirt.

“I know, my love.” He leaned back and placed a finger under her chin, drawing it towards him. She drank in the sight of his smiling face, unable to hold back a smile of her own. He seemed so happy. “That’s more like it.” He cupped the side of her face with his hand, caressing her cheek with his thumb. “You’ll do just fine without me, Jophi.”

She shook her head. “No, I won’t. I have no job … no skills. And now I have no family. I’m all alone.”

Her father embraced her once more, but said nothing. He pulled away, taking a few steps back. He began to disappear and with each step back grew more faint.

Jophi reached desperately for him. “Please don’t leave!”

“Don’t be afraid, Jophi. You will not be alone.”

He vanished completely, his final words echoing. In his place she saw what appeared to be a storefront. The writing above the door was blurred, but a wooden rocking horse and stacks of blocks were on display in the window. Behind the toys stood a shadowy figure. She stepped closer to get a better look, but everything went dark and she woke up in her apartment, still lying on the bed beside her father’s dead body.

Jophi stood beside her father’s grave–just her, the minister, and a few church members as the only witnesses to his final rest. With no money for a coffin, her father’s body lay in the earth wrapped in clean bed sheets. The church, feeling bad for Jophi’s situation, had offered the use of their cemetery at no charge. She hoped one day she could repay them for their kindness.

Caretakers tossed dirt onto her father’s body until she could no longer see the white sheets. The few people surrounding the grave began to sing the sweet words of “Amazing Grace”. More tears fell, blurring Jophi’s view of her father’s grave. She knew he was happy and no longer in pain. But her heart ached without him.

Jophi looked up at the sky. The sun shone down through the trees, and a soft voice whispered in her ear. “Do not be sad, Jophi. Your father is with the angels, and he prays for you every day. You are not alone.”

Jophi smiled through her tears as the sun warmed her face and the last note of “Amazing Grace” died away. The others started to leave, each laying a hand on her shoulder as they passed by. Finally the minister did the same, but he paused beside her. “I am deeply sorry for your loss. Your father was a good man.”

She turned to face him. “Yes, he was. Thank you.”

“Do you need a place to stay for a while?”

She shook her head. “No. My landlord said he’ll let me stay in the apartment as long as I find a job.”

He nodded. “Okay. But if you need to, the church’s doors are always open.” He extended his hand to her, holding a small wad of cash. “It isn’t much, but hopefully it’ll help you on your journey.”

She took the money and squeezed the minister’s hand. “Thank you, sir. I appreciate that.”

Without another word, he turned and walked away. After he left Jophi knelt beside her father’s grave and placed her hand where his head would be, as though she were really touching him. “Goodbye, Daddy,” she said. “I will make you proud of me. And one day, I will see you again.” She kissed her fingers and touched them to the grave. “I love you.”

If you liked the first chapter, stay tuned for news of the entire story coming out in novelette form. Tentative plans have it being published and up for sale sometime in 2020.

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