Written by Courtney Mahon.
She wakes up, enclosed in white. All she can feel is the pain shooting through her thighs, the constant beeping causing the pounding in her mind to get worse and worse. Fragments of a time past plays through her mind:
Everything her parents have said to her about living the life they expect, repeats inside her mind with every beep that comes from that machine. She tries to relax, focus her breathing: in, out, in, out, in, out. She closes her eyes to focus on the rising and falling of her chest. It works for a minute or two, before the beeping penetrates the deepest reaches of her mind. Her muscles begin to ache, after what feels like weeks without movement. The pain shoots through her thighs; she collapses.
Opening her eyes, she is welcomed with the familiar view of white. The beeping is still present, but faint. A slight tingling goes through her legs, and she manoeuvres them so they dangle over the edge. She notices her parents have been; a wooden cross and a Bible have been placed behind the water jug. Finding the strength to move, she steadies herself, and, when ready, speeds out of her room.
A rainbow streams across her face, the stained-glass panels attempt to fill her mind with the happy thoughts that have long been forgotten. The silence confirms just how isolated she feels. Only a few of the candles have been lit. She sits on the first brown chair, and stares at the cross in front of her. She closes her eyes, allowing the quiet to fill her head. Her breathing slows to a calming pace. She feels a presence behind her.
‘Dear child, what is worrying you?’
‘Father, am I to believe that everything that happens in life, God wants to happen? That every single moment of my life has been preordained by a higher power?’
‘Everything happens for a reason.’
She goes silent.
‘That’s not good enough.’ The mutter escapes her lips.
‘Everything will be ok, my child. God will protect you from your pain, and lead you into the future he has planned.’
She stands, fists clenched, in and out. She goes back to her room.
When she is finally discharged, her parents escort her home, the car ride long and silent. She heads straight to her room and slams the door, her bed the only comfort that won’t judge her pain. Deciding that it is time for a change, she removes the cross from the wall, putting it in the furthest reaches of her closet. Yet, she still clutches her silver cross necklace, not wanting to believe that something that has filled her life with joy, happiness, and a close family, can really be the reason for her deepest scars.
When she finally has the courage to step back out into the world, she heads to the one place that can possibly give her the answers: one of the local churches. She decides to go to the one furthest from her house, the walk doing her good.
‘For me’, she mutters as she lights a candle. After a moment of silence, she heads straight to the booth. It is time to ask the truth.
‘Forgive me, Father, it has been a while since my last confession.’
‘What is on your mind?’
‘Forgive my bluntness, but do you believe that God has preordained our lives?’
‘Our decisions make our path in life true and meaningful. The actions of our mind, soul, and body, help to show God our way, helping him to create our path.’
She goes silent. The Father sits and waits.
‘And what if that path leads to darkness?’
He pauses. ‘If your path has led you into darkness, it is so you can change. Everything happens in life for a reason. All are made to better the soul.’
‘That doesn’t seem right to me.’
‘My child, why—’
She leaves the booth and hastily walks down the aisle in order to avoid having to speak to the priest. Her decision has been made.
The path outside is busy with suits and mothers all hustling to get to lunch, as if life will stop if they fail to make it. Compared to these people, she feels like a mouse, scurrying around and away from the hustle of everyday life. Every gaze is enough to send her over the edge.
They all know.
They penetrate the secrets.
They all judge.
The cross no longer hangs around her neck.