When Jennifer went back to church on Wednesday, she expected that she’d have to explain, to apologise, to reassure. Instead, there was a brief moment of silence and then a babble of voices asking how she was.
Looking into their faces and seeing the concern there, she realised that she had been a fool.
All this time, all those days, consigned to the loneliness of her thoughts, the shame and anger of her memories, the singleness she had shielded herself with deliberately when all along there were people who might have understood. But she had never given them a chance. Had never agreed to attend any of their private get- togethers. So many years in the same church and no one had been told where she lived.
She met the eyes of Brother Daniel. And decided to let them in, just a little.
So when he repeated the question, when he asked again how she was, she took a deep breath and spilled a drop from the well gushing inside her.
“The girl who was screaming the other day, that’s my twin sister”
He looked at her in shock.
She had not called her that in his presence for years, not caring that they looked exactly alike.
And now she was her sister?
“Jessica…”, he started
She raised a hand.
“Jessica…”, he repeated.
“I’m the one on this bed. I’m the one you betrayed. I’m the one who was warned about you. I believe that earns me the right to speak?”, she asked, the question seeming like a challenge.
He sighed, defeated.
She sat up.
The man stood at the entrance to the room, hesitant, unwilling to chance moving, or alerting the girls to his presence.
A passing nurse brushed by him leading him to shift, causing two eyes to meet his. Jennifer.
“How are you?”, he asked.
She kept staring.
“How are you?” he repeated, uncomfortable with the continued stare.
“Were you planning to stay in the doorway forever?”, she asked in turn.
“I was afraid…” he started
“I called you here didn’t I? She needs to see you. I don’t. Not really”
He sighed again.
“I know this is entirely the wrong thing to say, so forgive me in advance. But, when will you forgive me Jennifer?”
“When you stop being a coward. When you apologize. When you look me in the eye. Take your pick”
“I love her…”, he started again, still not looking her in the eye.
“… and that is why I called you in the first place”, she finished for him.
Then she walked away, hissing loudly as she went by him, still standing in the doorway.
The voice startled him. He turned to the figure on the bed. He’d thought she was sleeping soundly.
Staring fixatedly at him, she repeated, “My sister, she’s right in one way. You are a coward”
The water looked murky thought the red shoed girl. What did she expect, she thought to herself. It was water under a bridge, that metaphorical bridge where people threw in people and problems. That probably also explained the stench.
She stepped off the elevation and went back to the car that was currently being fixed. The girl, the usher looked frustrated and ready to start screaming. She knew that feeling intimately. It had only been 3 hours after all.
With that thought in mind, she went over to the rear left of the car and put a reassuring hand on a shaky shoulder. The girl removed the tire completely and made a gesture as though she planned to hold the hand in place. She went back to contemplating the bridge and the waters below.
The same nightmare woke Jennifer up. The monotony of it had become exceedingly tiring. It was a strange thing to ask but could she at least have a different one?
Her wish was granted.
She was 6 years old, playing in the garden while her mother lovingly planted flowers and fruit. Suddenly what had to be a huge man came behind her mother, blocking out the sunlight, creating darkness in the morning. He seemed uninterested in the smiling woman on her knees, reaching instead for the now-silent girl.
She woke up.
The couch was hard.
She didn’t have a couch in her apartment.
The walls were white. The smell of antiseptic reached her. The floor was sparkling and there was an underlying smell
of chalky medicine.
This was a hospital.
Why was she here?
1 2 Buckle my shoe
3 4 Knock at the door
5 6 Why is that man staring at me?
Jennifer sat up, groggily wiping sleep from her eyes. The screen of her laptop had gone dark and the laptop seemed to be sleepy. Great, she thought. It had hibernated. She checked her phone for the time. 3:45AM. She rolled her neck in a variety of positions. Then she scanned the checklist she had made for the project she had to complete. Only one item was left. Her entire body hurt. The project was due by 11PM the next day. She went to bed.
After what seemed like 5 minutes, she heard a noise at the front door. She ignored it. It couldn’t be. She heard another noise, a knock this time. She ignored it. Then a more persistent one came and she threw off her duvet angrily, preparing to go outside and scream the person away.
She opened the door. There was nobody there.
As she prepared to go back to her room, the knock came again. With the anger of one who has been awake a little too long, she almost yanked the door off its hinges.
She woke up.
8:00AM- After waking up properly, Jennifer had rushed to the bathroom and then after business was concluded, she knelt beside her bed and laid her forehead on her bed. She was tired. So tired. The only thing she could think and hope that God was hearing was this plea for help- “Dear Lord, please grace me through this day. Please Lord, Please”.
8:30AM- Getting up from her knees, she wiped her eyes and walked to the sitting room. Looking again at her checklist, she quickly completed the project and sent it by e-mail.
Checking her phone, she saw that she had 3 messages.
The first one made her smile.
The second wiped the smile from her eyes.
The third caused her to faint.
7 8 Lay them straight
9 10 A big fat hen
11 12 What is happening to me?
First Baptist Church was solemn today. The name was deceptive or so she thought when she had first stepped into the church. She’d been raised Baptist so when she had an opportunity to choose her own church, she stuck to what she knew (with no interference) and went for a Baptist Church. This church however, was Baptist it seemed, in name only. The praise and worship was almost purely pentecostal in nature. The prayer sessions rivalled those of Mountain of Fire Ministries and the people were very friendly. It was a testament to her admiration for the church that she had never slept inside it.
She was a part of the workforce now and though her entire body was rebelling, she would follow through on the promise she had made when she had joined the workforce.
But when she opened her mouth to sing; a scream, not unlike the ones heard in horror movies, came out instead. The congregation paused. Concerned faces turned to watch her. She made a gesture meant to reassure them and continued to sing.
When the service was near over and the congregation was saying grace, a heartbroken sob rent the air. The person to whom the voice belonged ran out to the toilets. Jennifer followed.
In the toilet, screams of outrage, pain and a tinge of a madness waiting to be unleashed combined. Worse, the owner of the voice had locked herself in a toilet stall. Soon the female bathroom was overrun with practically everyone in the pastorate, male and female.
The situation was similar to the hostage situations she watched on television.
Someone had to stop this. Someone.
“Everybody, file out now” she commanded.
No one moved.
She repeated it in a louder voice. They shifted but did not move.
“I said, GET OUT!”. They startled. The voice in the stall ceased to wail so plaintively. But no one moved.
So she located the most senior pastor.
“Forgive me sir, for what I’m about to do”
And then she shoved him out of the bathroom. Everyone else filed out meekly.
Soon she was alone, except for the red shoed girl in the toilet stall. They looked familiar for some reason.
She started talking to the girl, trying to reassure her. Soon however, her
voice started to break and she started crying profusely. The voice in the stall ceased it’s caterwauling and soon began to chuckle. A roll of tissue was handed to her from the crevice between the toilet stall door and the floor.
She blew her nose very loudly, prompting another round of laughter, this time full blown. She had a rich laugh, Jennifer thought irritably. Just like a child who begins to laugh just when you begin to cry. And the feet she was staring at most definitely did not belong to a child.
The door creaked. The lock was disengaged. Jennifer had slid to the floor.
The girl stepped out. She looked like, she looked and dressed exactly like her. Down to her favourite red shoes.