Alice sat in silence on the bench as she waited for the bus. Her time at the hospital hadn’t been pleasant. She never could adapt to the all the moans and shouts that penetrated the thin walls of her room. The noise was merely an itch compared to the glares and scowls that attacked her among every corridor. She questioned if it was worth having that nurse fired as she stared at a group of teenagers skate around the parking lot of the Pentecostal church across the wide road, but quickly aborted the thought. The nurse knew the rules. Alice was the victim. How could nobody see that? Even own family offered her no sympathy. She was the real victim in the entire controversy! Satisfied and smug, she amused herself by watching SUVs and sedans drive down Coffee Road. A woman pushing an empty stroller walked by. She reminded Alice of her own mother. A tall slender dark-haired man took a seat beside her. She never met him but felt at ease with him as though she could share her darkest secrets with him.
“Aren’t you that woman who got a nurse fired because she offered to pray you?” he asked once he recognized her. Before she could grunt a reply, he continued, “I can’t believe how vicious everybody has been against you!”
“Uh, thank you,” she stammered, unfamiliar with such kindness after weeks of scorn. “I just did what I thought was right. It didn’t offend me, but it might have offended others.”
“You did the right thing. She should have been more thoughtful than to assume that everybody is like her. If somebody offends another, they should suffer the consequences.”
“Exactly.” The bus arrived then. She walked inside vindicated and triumphant for once. The man remained on the bench and watched the bus drive away.
“Exactly,” he said.
Two months passed peacefully since her time at the hospital. She was at the door of her new neighbors with an apple pie to welcome them to the apartments. Everybody always praised her gift of baking. An older willowy woman opened the door.
“Hello neighbor,” Alice said. “I live right next to you and wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood with this apple pie I made.”
“Apple?” the woman said feebly.
“Yes, apples from my son’s farm.”
“Daniel!” the elderly woman shrieked. A tall muscular youth with tattoos clothing his entire arms appeared behind her. “This woman is trying to kill me!”
“What? No, I-” Alice stuttered.
“You bitch!” Daniel shouted. “Don’t you know my mom is allergic to apples? You’re going to pay!” Before Alice could protest further, Daniel shoved his fist right into her face. When she woke up, her eyes were so swollen that she could barely see, but she could see that she was in the back of a police car in handcuffs. The absurdity of it caused her to faint again.
The jury needed no deliberation in convicting her guilty of attempted murder. The judge sought to make an example of her with a life sentence in solitary confinement. The entire affair happened so quickly that she expected to wake up as they led her into the cell. Months later, she lost faith in the idea that it was just a terrible nightmare. Yet, she still couldn’t understand how her simple gesture could be taken so offensively. She cried most days, but her tears stopped when the door opened and the beautiful man she met at the bus stop earlier that year entered the room.
“It’s you!” she shouted with joy. She ran up to him and hugged him. “Thank God you’re here!”
“It’s going to be okay.” He patted her on the shoulder. “I haven’t properly introduced myself yet. My name is Karma.”
“I’m-” He hushed her before she could say anything.
“Please don’t tell me your name. It’s easier if I don’t know.” She was confused yet obeyed.
“Please get me out of here! I want to go home!” She fell to her knees in tears. He smiled at her.
“Isn’t this where you want to be?”
“How could I want to be here? This is Hell!”
“You said it yourself. Those who offend others must suffer the consequences.”
“I didn’t do anything to that woman!” she yelled. He slapped her so hard she fell to the floor.
“Don’t you dare raise your voice to me!” he shouted. “That’s very offensive,” he softly said with a smirk. She stood up and glared right at him.
“Let me go!”
“Wait. Look.” He pulled a mirror out of his pocket and showed her her reflection. She barely recognized the woman she saw, but remembered her from forty years ago. Gold silken waterfalls of hair poured where gray bundles of straw once grew. Her pink face out-shined marble. Not one wrinkle or blemish tarnished the image. No makeup could improve her visage. She never looked so beautiful. “I restored your youth.” She was too dumbfounded to respond, so he continued. “I like you. I know you had a hard life dealing with wretched people like that nurse. Maybe that’s why you tried to kill that neighbor of yours. Therefore, I’m going to give you back your youth. Nobody’s going to offend you this time. I’ll make sure of that. Don’t worry. You don’t have to say anything. Your expression says all.” He smiled at her and kissed her on the forehead. Then he walked out the cell, locked it, and never returned. Alice remained there for the next sixty years sustained by morsels of bread and her own tears. Not one person ever spoke to her again. She lived the rest of her life blissfully free from the offense of others.
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