Christian Short Stories

Parting Thoughts
By Linda Ferri

Linda writes: "I was just about as far from Christ as anybody can be, but He had pity on me, and I was wonderfully saved, late in life. I was in my fifties, but better late than never! I was born in London but have lived most of my life in Italy, with my Italian family. I hope my stories can reach unsaved souls out there and make a difference to their lives. "

Kate could see two figures standing at the foot of her bed. They were huddled together in deep conversation and she knew they were talking about her. She wanted to know what they were saying, but only managed to focus on their faces, their voices were faint, distant. Why are they whispering?

She felt as though somebody was switching off the lights from a control panel inside her head. Through half closed eyes she recognized familiar faces. Jack of course, he was there. She noticed how grim and drawn his face was. He looked tired and somewhat older. He was bending over, listening intently to a shorter man. Yes, the other figure was Doctor Miller, his hand was on Jack’s shoulder. Doctor Miller shook his head and turned towards the open door.

“Hey, wait a minute, where are you guys going?” Panic and fear, gripped her heart. “Don’t leave me alone, please, Jack, Jack”. Too late. They had left the room. “Don’t go.” No sound left her mouth. What’s happening, why couldn’t they hear her?

She managed to raise herself and made it across the room. Face pressed against the glass, she could hear them still talking, right below the bedroom window. They were out of sight, though, must be standing at the front door. She called out to them. Then they moved into view, and stood facing each other on the steps.

Doctor Miller put his hand on Jack’s shoulder again, Jack stared at the ground. Then they shook hands and she thought she heard a ‘goodbye’. Jack opened Doctor Miller’s car door.

She screamed: “What’s going on, Jack, Jack?” They ignored her as if she weren’t there. How could they? The window was directly over the front entrance and they were no more than a few feet below.

The car pulled out onto the gravel drive towards the tall iron gates. She beat her fists on the glass. Jack didn’t look up. He was staring after the car. She couldn’t see the expression on his face, but he had straightened up, and she realized that he seemed to have been stooping before.

Slowly, he turned round towards the house. The tension had left his face and his body seemed to relax, leaning back against one of the stone columns which adorned the front of the house, he lit a cigarette and watched the smoke curl skywards. This was the tall handsome Jack she knew and loved. He looked up at the sky. Dark clouds were drawing in closer, it could rain any minute. The heavy iron gates clang shut in the distance. Jack moved away from the front entrance. He was out of sight, but she could hear his footsteps crunching the gravel, and guessed he was heading towards the garage.

“Jack, what are you doing?” She screamed louder than ever. Only the silly cartoon jingle of his mobile phone answered her cries. The irritating tune stopped, Jack’s voice was unexpectedly loud and clear, calm as ever. “Hello, yes, yes, it’s me.”

Tearfully, Kate turned away from the window, forcing the growing sensation of fear and panic aside, she moved across the room to the white marble fireplace. It was too warm for a fire, so the hearth would be filled with flowers, her favorite yellow roses. The local flower shop had a regular order of yellow roses for the bedroom fireplace.

The roses were there, but they were more dead than alive, bent over, limp, petals spilling onto the grate. Somebody should have thrown them out and replaced them. Instead, a dozen or so vases of flowers had been lined up in the fireplace in front of her lifeless yellow roses - there were vases of red carnations, pink tulips, and several colorful bouquets tied with ribbons with small unopened envelopes tucked in between the blooms.

A thought crossed her mind, she would put the vases on show around the house, where they could be seen, those tulips in the kitchen, on the welsh dresser in front of the blue and white Wedgwood collection and that enormous bouquet of Iris and Lilac would look magnificent in the dining hall.

She looked up to the white marble mantelpiece, eyes focusing on the collection of thirty- odd silver picture frames. Oval, round and square shaped, some decorated with intricate filigree. They had bought them in Florence. Cost a fortune. Kate smiled as she remembered how angry the tour guide was because they kept the whole bus load of tourists waiting while the shop loaded the coach with her precious purchases. How envious the other tourists had been. Not that they had said anything, of course, but you could tell.

The silver frames were filled with photos, sweet precious memories enclosed in red velvet borders. Jack twenty, twenty-five years ago, tall and good looking with a tennis trophy in his hands. He was still handsome and head and shoulders taller than most, still a winner in everything he did. Grandma Amelia at the piano. Kate remembered her playing and singing her favorite song, what was it called? Ah yes, ‘they can’t take that away from me,’ Henry’s graduation day, Henry’s wedding day, Kate looking splendid in an Armani original trouser suit. Jennie, Henry’s wife, plain and simple Jennie, why on earth did he marry her? The holiday photos, Kate holding skis in the Swiss Alps, Kate looking glamorous, waving from the first class deck of a cruise ship, what was its name? Can’t remember. Kate and Jack. Where are we here? When was this one taken? Can’t remember.

The photos seemed to be fading, along with her memories, the events they represented, were light years away. The polished contours of the ornate silver frames shone through the darkness. She hadn’t noticed before how dark it was getting. The black clouds outside seemed to have penetrated the bedroom. She moved towards the dressing room. Kate took in the familiar perfumes, the smell of expensive new leather, perfumes from the bottles lined up alongside the mirrors still hung in the air - she reached out to a pile of sweaters, airy and soft, cashmere and silk mix, this was her very favorite part of the house, the hours she had spent here!

She could make out in the dark the familiar rows of carefully organized cupboards full of shoes and clothes, the pink velvet settee, magazines piled up on the carpet. Jack. Jack, why aren’t you here? Where are you?

Kate hadn’t noticed before how hot she felt. Did she have a fever? No, the heat was in the room, the radiators must be turned up high. Somehow in the darkness she made it back to the bed. Kate had no idea how much time had passed, she just seemed to be drifting in and out among shadows. Had she been sleeping, dreaming?

She had never experienced anything like this before. Awareness of her inner self was foremost on her mind, while everything else was fading. The room seemed to be retreating into the background as if it were not a part of her reality anymore. Thoughts and feelings seemed sharper than ever, but the room had become distant and blurred.

All she could see and feel was herself. She began to realize that she was aware only of her own innermost thoughts. Heart and soul were surfacing and she felt uneasy. Strangely under scrutiny. Kate had always smothered thoughts about inner self, successfully ignoring scruples and conscience, by finding something fun to do; she loved keeping busy, a shopping spree, comforting trips to her psychiatrist, making a gossipy phone call to her friends. She always had valuable advice for everybody, always knew what was best for her friends and where they went wrong.

No, Jack didn’t understand her good intents. He said she was a busybody, no, he didn’t understand, it was just that she loved helping out, some people simply don’t know what’s best for them. Kate had the solution to everyone else’s problems, ‘Stand up for yourself, don’t let him get away with it,’ advice which inevitably pushed her friends into defensive corners, ‘ it’s for their own good, Jack.’ When she got loud and insistent with her friends, Jack would wander off to his study. No, she wasn’t interfering, just a bit more caring and knowledgeable than most people, that’s all. They needed her advice. Some women will put up with anything. She thought about her friends, pushing Jane and Freddy to divorce, encouraging Martha to get revenge, for their own good. Or was it? Did she, did she really have their best interests at heart?

Why on earth are these thoughts coming to mind right now? And why did they have to have that silly row over her firing old Tom? He wasn’t much good as a gardener, but didn’t Jack say he really needed the job or something? Wife sick, and how they had to pay back rent? Well, maybe Jack was right, better call him up tomorrow, or maybe next week, give him another chance.

Thoughts about words, people, crowded her head jostling for attention. No, this won’t do. Push unpleasant thoughts out of your mind Kate. Get a grip on yourself. No regrets . ‘Enjoy your life Katherine’, was her mother’s constant advice. Kate forced herself not to linger on what she had said to people. After all, she had never questioned her motivations before, why start now? Kate pushed aside conscience and tried to focus on more comforting matters, like her beautiful home, the things she loved. She recalled the colorful vases of flowers in the fireplace, and concentrated on where to place them round the house. One bouquet in particular, Iris and Lilac, blues, white and soft purple, with an enormous white satin ribbon, Kate seemed to recollect an envelope placed in front of the vase, was it her birthday? Can’t remember. Never mind, what a beautiful bouquet! Wasted in the bedroom. Arranged in the big crystal vase on the dining room table, just perfect next to those heavy silk blue curtains.

Kate tried in vain to glean some comfort from these thoughts, but impending doom had taken over her mind. Oh Jack, where are you? The room had become pitch black and unbearably hot. She wanted to cry out but couldn’t. For the first time she was totally alone with herself. Panic and fear in the utter darkness.

Jack had always been there. Doctor Miller had always been there, her mother, her financial adviser, her psychiatrist, her friends had always been a phone call away, there had always been somebody near, always something to do, something to buy, something to say, now, suddenly, she was alone. Alone with herself. She was being pulled away, sucked into a vacuum and there was nothing anyone could do about it. Inevitability, dread, fear, sorrow had taken control over her mind. What was happening, finally sunk in. Her time was over and she knew she had to face accountability.

No. No. This cannot be. She was educated, intelligent, her whole family was intelligent and educated. They didn’t believe in the afterlife. Who said, ‘religion was opium for the poor?’ Hell doesn’t exist anyway, it’s all old fashioned fear mongering, "Christianity is for the ignorant and superstitious," Jack always said.

All this is not happening because I don’t believe in it. Sooner or later I will wake up from this nightmare. Get back to my life. Unseen hands were pulling at her. Dragging her away into the pitch-blackness. The heat was unbearable. Finally she could hear her own voice, trembling words spilled out.

“I…I’ve been a good wife, a good mother, a good friend. No, I don’t believe in this. It’s just a bad dream. I, I’ve lived a good life. Hell is for thieves and murderers. Isn’t it?”

(© 2012 Linda Ferri – All rights reserved. Written material may not be duplicated without permission.)

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