Chapter 13 Fran: Anger Exposed
Fran walked purposefully through the village hoping to learn some new gossip. She spotted Kelly and quickly approached her but was frustrated when Kelly disappeared into Imelda’s cabin. Not wanting to face Imelda, she walked on.
“Ah Kelly, welcome.” said Imelda in a slightly condescending tone as she drew near.
“Hello Imelda,” replied Kelly, shyly.
“You’ve never yet got yourself one of our items, have you?” said Imelda, her hands clasped together as she leant forward toward Kelly’s face.
“That’s because you’ve always sold out before I could afford anything,” replied Kelly, meekly.
“Well, look. Here you are, and all the new clothes are right in front of you. Why don’t you choose something, and I’m sure we can come to an arrangement?”
“That’s kind of you,” said Kelly, not wanting to draw Imelda’s ire too much by refusing. “Let’s see.”
Kelly walked around the shop floor admiring the hard work of Dawn’s stitching based on Imelda’s designs.
“How about this one?” suggested Kelly, holding up a pleated skirt.
“Ah yes, now I can see you in this around the village,” Imelda gushed with well-rehearsed enthusiasm. “So; what can you give me for it?”
Somewhere at the back of the shop Dawn cleared her throat. “What can you give us for it?” she said loudly.
“Oh, well… I think I have a box full of walnuts you can have?”
Imelda tilted her head back and cackled.
“Walnuts? My dear girl, I don’t want your walnuts. Try again?”
“I’ll make you a copy of my recipe book?”
Imelda looked at the floor and shook her head.
“No, that’s not it either. I want…”
She clicked her fingers and her eyes lit up.
“We want you to grow rose bushes from cuttings of your pink rose bush and then plant and tend them in each of our gardens.”
“To plant roses in two gardens?” winced Kelly. “No, Imelda, I can’t do all that.”
“Fine,” snapped Imelda and snatched the skirt back from Kelly.
Kelly turned and walked out of the shop and began walking down the main street of the village, her cheeks burning with embarrassment.
“That horrible bitch!” she thought to herself. “Why must my life be so unfair?”
Kelly had long believed that life was against her. After her divorce, in her mid-forties, Kelly had given her daughter Clare all her time and energy. Clare was only nineteen years old when she was killed by a drunk driver on a country road. The loss of her only child had torn a hole in Kelly’s soul. There was not a day in her life that she didn’t cry for Clare. The hatred she felt for the drunk driver was only dulled slightly by her addiction to painkillers. She had come to accept that life, God and the universe didn’t care about her and had eventually died of a stroke in her early 70s.
Kelly had been welcomed by Jesus on being raised three years earlier. However, much she wanted to like him, she still felt a lot of resentment toward God for allowing her life to be so full of pain and loss.
Now Kelly found herself wondering every day why she couldn’t be reunited with Clare. This only served to fuel her distrust of God and so she desperately tried to find ways to connect with the other women in her village, but consistently felt that none of them wanted to hear of her painful life. Everyone else was only interested in serving themselves.
Lost in her thoughts, she didn’t hear Sylvia greeting her from further down the path and so was annoyed to suddenly find Sylvia standing before her waving.
“How are you today, Kelly?” asked Sylvia in her usual genuine way.
Kelly clenched her teeth.
“Same as ever, Sylvia. I’m tired of being pissed off and I’m pissed off because I’m tired. My existence is one long fucking nightmare. I hate it here and I hate everyone here.”
Sylvia wasn’t surprised by Kelly’s outburst. Kelly was one of the few women in the village that really allowed themselves to be so bluntly honest.
“Come for a meal,” said Sylvia firmly. “Come tonight?”
Kelly agreed as it could be a chance to let Sylvia and Carlos have both barrels of her anger and resentment.
“Ok, but you don’t know what you’re asking!” she said.
“Come anyway,” responded Sylvia.
Kelly lingered outside the front door for a few minutes, trying to collect her thoughts. When she knocked, Sylvia opened the door with a warm greeting. Kelly reciprocated the greeting but didn’t mirror the warmth.
“Try this,” said Carlos handing her a glass. “Freshly squeezed apple juice,” he said.
Sylvia led the way into the garden area that was bursting with colour and fragrance. The three sat at a wooden table and each took a moment to take in the sights, smells and sounds of a garden that was truly humming with activity.
“Kelly, I’ve wondered for a while about how you’re doing?” began Sylvia, getting straight to the point.
Kelly folded her hands.
“It’s not what I hoped for,” she began. “I wanted to either not exist, be properly punished or go somewhere blissful. But this? This is worse than any of those.”
Carlos sat forward. Sylvia nodded silently.
Kelly was irritated by the lack of verbal assurance.
“So, yeah, not great at all. I want to leave this stupid village, full of stuck-up cows!”
“You say you want ‘proper punishment’?” asked Sylvia.
“Yes, well. I think I probably belong somewhere a little hotter. I wasn’t exactly an angel. I hate God for the shitty life he gave me. I hate him for taking my daughter from me. I hate him for all the suffering that existed in the Previous Age. Tell me, what’s the point of it all? Why create us to suffer, die, and then find there’s even more suffering on the ‘other side’?”
Sylvia and Carlos sat quietly with Kelly.
“Oh, for crying out loud!” she exclaimed. “Have you really got nothing but silence for me?”
“Actually, we affirm your anger,” said Carlos.
Kelly was surprised and sat back, her mouth slightly open.
“Yes,” added Sylvia. “We bless your anger; it is sacred.”
“What do you mean?” said Kelly.
“Your anger comes from the instinct deep within you. An instinct that pain, loss and suffering aren’t the way existence should be,” said Carlos.
“Your anger tells you that there must be another way… a better way…,” said Sylvia.
“Maybe, but… why didn’t an ‘all-powerful’ God stop these bad things from happening?” protested Kelly.
“God doesn’t micromanage everything,” said Carlos.
“Life is not controlled by God. In that way God isn’t ‘all-powerful’. Choices are ours to make. Some we make are for good, and some for ill,” explained Sylvia. “This is because we truly have agency over what we do in our lives.”
“But I didn’t choose for some drunk bastard to drive into my daughter at 80 miles per hour! I didn’t choose to become addicted to pain-killers! These things happened to me!” Kelly was fraught with anger by now.
“I understand,” said Carlos. “But that man chose to drink and drive that night. The fault lies with him. Chaos exists, without a doubt it does! Bad choices create it. It’s in chaos that we can see how love invites us to create a new order.”
“But I couldn’t,” sobbed Kelly who by now was quivering as she wept. “I had no strength to choose anything. I was desperate. I was powerless.”
“That’s where we need help,” Sylvia said, compassionately. “And we all need help.”
“Who was there to help me?” croaked Kelly.
“You suffered terribly,” said Sylvia quietly.
“We are not here to tell you how you should feel or understand your Previous Age experiences,” said Carlos. “Only you can come to terms with what has happened, and you have all the time you need to get there.”
“That’s right,” agreed Sylvia. “It took Carlos and I centuries to get to a point where we could understand and respond to what we were learning. And we are here to walk alongside you as you grow in your understanding, too.”
“Pass me the salad,” said Kelly, changing the subject. She wiped her face with her sleeve and didn’t look at Sylvia or Carlos.
The conversation turned to gardens and what was growing where, and who had what coming through. Carlos sensitively supported the conversation, whilst picking up the practical things that needed attending to, leaving Sylvia to stay by Kelly’s side.
Kelly began to regret her outburst, and by the time she was leaving to go to her home, she had resolved to say something.
“Look, I hope I haven’t offended you with what I said.”
Sylvia waved her hands in the air. “No, not at all. This is a safe place. You need, we all need, to be heard and to be understood.”
Kelly smiled awkwardly, still unsure whether Sylvia was just being polite.
“We both needed many, many hours of being heard and understood. You are not alone. In fact, you never need to be alone here. We are always ready to listen and share our story with you,” Carlos added.
“Thank you,” said Kelly simply, and hurried out of the door.
“That was good,” sighed Sylvia to Carlos as they put the dinner plates away. “She needed to voice her true feelings. All of us need to do this.”
“It’s interesting how some people assume we will be offended on Papa’s behalf?”
“Yes,” replied Sylvia. “As if Papa needs defending. Papa has seen and understood our feelings before we’ve even worked out what they are.”
“It’s understanding who we truly are that sets us free,” said Carlos. “When we identify our true feelings and express them, a burden is lifted. When we realise Papa is never angry with us for what we feel and think, we can let it all out and process it.”
“I was so angry at men and at God for all the times I was abused,” reflected Sylvia. “Not that I realised I was angry at God. I thought I was angry at life and at my circumstance.”
“You had every reason to be angry,” said Carlos. “You knew what was happening to you was wrong, and that you didn’t deserve it. My problem was that I was numb and didn’t really feel anything for a long time.”
“You had to learn to feel again, and to allow emotion to flow. After the Great Suffering, so many of us who survived had become hardened and callous inside because of what we experienced.”
Carlos and Sylvia sat down, both feeling deeply for the people around them.
“One day, we will all be so free,” smiled Sylvia. “Everyone will know the truth of who they are and who God really is, and everyone will be able to love their neighbour.”
“We mustn’t forget that the process is happening,” agreed Carlos. “Little by little, every day, people are learning, and growing, and moving towards more freedom.”
Kelly tried to avoid Imelda. She and Dawn seemed so fulfilled in their clothing enterprise. She had also tried to stay away from Fran, whose garden produce was clearly doing much better than hers. Fran, however, made a beeline for Kelly whenever she had seen her around. She was trying to convince Kelly to let her help cultivate the strawberry plants in her garden in return for a healthy share of the crop.
“Come on, Kelly,” called Fran. “Stop being so wasteful! You know that you have the only strawberry plants in the whole village. In the whole world for all we know! Let me come and help you get the best out of them?”
“I don’t care,” snapped Kelly. “They’re mine and besides, I am no gardener – never have been!”
“That’s why I am offering; I just want to help!” retorted Fran, her frustration rising at Kelly’s obstinance.
“Fran! Mind your own business!” Kelly had nearly reached the end of the path they were both walking and was now close to her cottage.
“Ok, as you like,” called Fran as she watched Kelly scurry away.
“Arsehole!” muttered Kelly, slamming her front door shut. She made her way to the kitchen and looked out of her back window. A handful of juicy strawberries hung on their plants, looking shiny in the bright daylight. Kelly immediately went outside and without hesitation stamped on them till a jammy pulp was left mingled with the dark earth.
“There you go, Fran,” she whispered.
Kelly looked down at the crushed plants. Something about the sight of them broke through her anger and filled her with a deep sadness. After she lost her daughter, owning her actions was something Kelly avoided. A recklessness had taken her over and she had used her grief and anger to excuse her reactive traits.
It was a familiar cycle. Anger leading to sadness and then a defiant justification of her behaviour, all done within herself in a matter of moments. This time the sadness lingered all day. That evening, Kelly came to a painful realisation that she was feeling regret. For now, her regret centred on the destruction of the strawberries but, much to her irritation, it was beginning to link to her interaction with Fran as well.
“I know what she’s doing,” complained Kelly, once again at the dinner table with Sylvia and Carlos. “She’s trying to get her hands on a cutting so she can plant strawberries in her own garden. She’s a scheming little snake!”
“Ok, but can I ask you something?” said Sylvia.
Kelly rolled her eyes. “Oh here we go. Here comes the holy suggestion.”
“I’m not telling you to do anything, you know that’s not how this works. What I want to ask though, is – what would happen if you gave her a cutting?”
“Well then I’d play right into her hands!”
“And what is the worst that can happen?”
Kelly gathered her ammunition.
“She would always have one over on me! She’d be the one to bring the strawberries to the market and she would get all the glory for them!”
“Ok,” said Carlos. “We hear your concern. I guess we would gently say that you already have the capability to grow the strawberries and bring them to the market, but you’re choosing not to?”
Kelly stared at her plate for a moment and then looked back up at Carlos.
“But I can’t grow anything. I was never a gardener.”
“Maybe in the Previous Age you weren’t. But here on the New Earth, produce grows very easily and doesn’t need nearly as much work to yield healthy and tasty crops. You could pick them and swap them, but something seems to be stopping you. Are you sure it’s just that you don’t feel you have ‘green fingers’?”
Kelly groaned. “Why do I keep coming here?”
“Maybe you enjoy it, really” smiled Sylvia.
Kelly cracked a reluctant smirk. “Hmmm.”
Kelly was by now grinning a rueful grin. There was a strange pleasure she felt in being challenged. Secretly, this was why she kept coming back. There was something about their mealtimes that made her feel like she was making some sort of progress. When she had spent time with Jesus after being raised, she had initially felt buoyed up by his interest and clear care for her. She had felt full of a desire to grow and embrace her new life on the New Earth. This had soon been quelled by being placed in a community with other women who seemed to only want to antagonise each other. But here she was with a feeling of confidence returning slowly. A feeling that she could grow and change and that maybe her experience of life right now was not going to be forever.
Sylvia sensed it was a good moment to encourage Kelly.
“You’re doing well to keep coming back here. I know it’s not comfortable to be challenged, but you are listening and open to what we have to say. This is the way the seeds of change are planted.”
Kelly grinned broadly at the chance to make a pun.
“Speaking of seeds. I think I will be planting some soon.”