She was running. She was always running away. How typical. People never really changed, now, did they? She rounded another corner into a dark, dirty alleyway, not really caring about where she was. She had stopped counting turns and remembering her steps. Maybe she didn't want to be found this time. After all, love could only redeem so much, right?

She slowed down, fighting to catch her breath. The fire of guilt consumed her, burning away at her heart. She couldn't take the pressure any longer. Finally, after running so long, she finally let her guard down. Lowering herself to the ground, she wrapped her arms around her knees, holding herself together while the emotions threatened to tear her apart.

How could she have done such a thing? His love made her feel like nothing else. With him, she was beautiful, captivating, strong, powerful, desired, and loved. But now, she felt no better than any other person walking the streets. She was no better than any of them. They all had this in common. Deep down, in her heart of hearts, she was a murderer, a thief, a liar.

She sobbed. How clear it all was to her now. It was like that saying, that hindsight is 20/20. She deserved nothing better than what she had now. This was where she belonged, sitting alone in a dark, dank and oppressive alley. She deserved nothing. She deserved to die for this monster that consumed her heart. She would always be fighting this darkness within, this constant desire to be evil, this sin. How could anybody ever want to love her?

Her sobs stopped abruptly as she heard the sound of footsteps. No, it couldn't be him. Every single time after hurting him, he still forgave her. Forgiveness had to run out sometime. He couldn't possibly be looking for her. Not now.

That's when she heard him calling her name. No, not him. Not now. He couldn't see her like this. She was a wreck, a wretched mess writhing in the filth of the alley and the filth of her own heart. He wouldn't be able to love her if he saw her like this. He probably already hated her for what she'd done. She was ugly. She was filthy. She was fallen. How could he possibly want her?

He heard her call her name. The tone took her by surprise. It wasn't angry or harsh. It was gentle, kind, albeit sad. She couldn't bear to look at him. He didn't belong here among the filth. Slowly, he knelt beside her, taking her face in his hands and raising it so he could see the face that had captivated him. How he loved her. She could see it in his gaze. He was hurt, deeply, by what had happened. Still, she could find no trace of anger or hostility. Only love.

She couldn't comprehend what was going on. He shouldn't be here, among the dirt and darkness, coming down to her level. He should be furious with her, walking away forever, leaving her here in her misery. Why wasn't he mad? More importantly, why had he come after her?

"Why are you here?" she asked.

"Nothing could keep me from you," he responded quietly. "Not death or life, not height or depth, or anything in this world could keep me from loving you."

"I don't understand," she whispered, shaking her head. She couldn't bear to look at him, as she diverted her gaze.

"I don't want you to," he said. "I just want to know if you love me in return."

"You know everything about me," she said. "You have searched me and you know me. I can't go anywhere and not be found by you. You must know how much I love you."

It was quiet for a moment. Then, he spoke again.

"My love, if you truly love me, then you'll rise again and come with me."

She couldn't understand. If she loved him, then she'd get up? She'd keep going? If she loved him, she'd be forgiven again?

"Love, come enjoy your life with me," he said, extending his hand.

"This can't be," she said. "I deserve to die. I don't deserve forgiveness. There's a price that must be paid."

He kept his arm extended, palm open. She saw the marks, the scars left on his hands. She had put them there. It was all her fault that he had suffered so much. But, he had only chosen to suffer because of his deep love for her.

"The beauty of grace is that it makes life unfair," he said. "This is my gift to you; my blood poured out for you. The price has been paid. Turn away from this dark alley and enjoy life with me."

"But what if I stumble again?" she asked. He smiled.

"I am strong enough to save you; brave enough to take a chance on you. You'll never know a day without my love and forgiveness," he said. She took his hand, rising from the dirt. His arms wrapped around her and for the first time in her life, she felt a feeling of security and completeness.

"You're everything," she whispered. "Everything. I don't know why you love me. But Jesus, I'm so very glad that you do."

As they walked away from the alley, hand in hand, the first rays of light began to pierce the darkness of night…

Author's Note: Going through my laptop in preparation for a new hard drive, and I found this little piece. I know it's not my usual style, and there's likely to be some clunkers here and there, but thought it was worth posting. Wrote this during my sophomore year of college when I was feeling particularly down in the dumps – hopefully, it can lift someone else up as well. Reviews are appreciated, thanks. To God be the glory.