Friday, October 30, 2009

"Through the Open Window" by Anne Faye, Chapter 7 Part 1

Chapter 7

Mike called me Saturday night. “Hi! I was just calling to see how you were doing.”

“I'm doing great. How was movie night?” I asked.

“It was fun. It's always fun to hang out with the kids eating popcorn. We watched a Star Wars movie and then we battled with light sabers.”

“Sounds like it was a good male bonding experience,” I laughed.

“Yes, it was. It would have been nice if you had been able to join us, though. Maybe you can come another time,” he said.

“Yes, I think I would like that.”

“There was another reason why I called,” he sounded serious.

“Oh, what's that?”

“You don't have to, of course, but I was wondering if you would like to come to Church with Sara and the boys and I tomorrow.”

“Uh . . . I don't know. It's been a while. . . ”

“I know, and I know you are mad at God, but you can't run away forever. I thought it might do you some good – help the healing process along. The priest won't know you and we have a real friendly congregation. We go to the children's mass. There are lots of kids and lively music. I think you'd enjoy it. I could pick you up or you could meet us there – whatever you want. We usually go out to eat after. You are welcome to join us for that as well.”

“It's very thoughtful, really . . . I'm just not sure. . .”

“Please come.” There was something in the way that he said it that made me agree.

“Alright, you've convinced me. Here, I’ll give you directions to my house.”


Sunday morning, I was so nervous. I hadn't set foot in a church in nearly a year and a half. I had always enjoyed going to mass before Alan died. I found the prayers and the music so soothing. I had always liked churches when they were empty – to just sit in the silence and be in the presence of God. Yes, I knew God was everywhere and I could be in his presence no matter where I was, but there was something special about being in a church. I had blamed God for everything, but deep-down I knew that it wasn't really His fault. Alan had chosen to cheat on me. If there was any blame – it lay with him, or perhaps, with me. Maybe I had taken my marriage for granted. Maybe we weren't meant to be together in the first place. And his death? Well, God may have been responsible for that, or it may have been that it was just Alan's time. He was meant to save those children. It was time for me to find someway to forgive – God, Alan, and me.

I was thankful when Mike finally pulled into the driveway. I rushed out to meet him.
“Good morning! How are you?” he asked as I stepped into the car, which, I noticed, had actually been cleaned.

“Terrified,” I answered honestly.

“Don’t be. You’ll be fine.”

“I hope so,” I whispered. The butterflies flying in formation in my stomach were not so sure.

We met Sara and the boys in the parking lot. They seemed to know everyone as we went in. They greeted so many people by name. It seemed strange to me to find such a sense of community in a city. It was a modern church, with pews on three sides of the altar, very different from the traditional church I had grown up going to. There were beautiful stained glass windows all around the church, each highlighting a different name of Jesus. We sat in the front row. “Do we have to sit up front?” I anxiously asked Mike.

“It'll be fine,” he said. “We always sit up front. The kids like it up here. They can see everything that is going on.” Sara sat between the boys. I sat next to Tommy and Mike sat on the outside. He said he had to sit there because he helped out passing the basket when it was time for the collection. Tommy was busy doing the puzzles on the kid's bulletin while I knelt down to pray before mass. I said a quick “Our Father” and “Hail Mary” and then sat down. The prayers helped calm my nerves. Mike smiled reassuringly at me. That helped, too. One nice thing about being Catholic is that no matter where you go, the mass is basically the same. Once mass began, the rhythm and beauty of the prayers and ritual quickly came back to me. Mike was right – the music was very uplifting and it was great to see the children going up to the altar for the homily. Tommy and Johnny scampered over me in their enthusiasm to get a good seat. I wished my parish up in Vermont had something similar. The homily was geared for children but it spoke to me as well. Sometimes things are better in simple terms. I found a true sense of calm being there. It was something I hadn't felt in a long time.

“So, did you survive?” Mike asked me as we left the church. “Yes, I did. I'm actually glad I came. You were right; it felt good to come back.”

“Oh, good, I'm glad. With the look you had on your face when we walked in, I was worried.”

“Just a few initial butterflies,” I admitted. “Once mass started, I was fine.”

“We usually go to Friendly’s for a late breakfast after mass. Would you like to join us?”

“Sure,” I nodded enthusiastically. “That would be great! I'm starving.”

Breakfast was good. As I savored my French toast, Tommy and Johnny maintained a running commentary. They told me all about school and Star Wars and Pokémon. It really was quite an informative conversation. When we left the restaurant, they ran ahead with Sara. “I should have warned you – they can talk up a storm,” Mike apologized.

“Don't worry about it! It was fun to listen to them. They certainly have a lot of energy!”

“Yes,” he agreed. “They are definitely little boys. So, what are your plans for today?”

“I honestly didn't have any. I figured I'd probably work some more on my story. It seems like a good day for writing,” I said as we walked back to his car.
“Could I possibly interest you in doing something else?” he asked. “There is someplace I'd love to show you.”

“For the head of this writing group, you certainly have been keeping me from writing!” I teased.

“Yes, I know. It's really all part of a sinister plan on my part to keep you from getting to 50,000 words. I can't have you reach your goal and me not. It would make me look bad!”


“No,” he assured me. “But there is someplace I would like to take you. Are you up for it?”

I took a deep breath and looked around. “Why not?”

“OK. Just let me tell Sara we’re taking off.” We walked over to Sara's car and said goodbye to her and the boys.

“No getting into trouble, you two,” she admonished as we walked away. “Don't do anything I wouldn't do!”

“Does she think something's going on between us?” I asked once we were out of her earshot.

“Yeah – I keep telling her we are just friends, but she doesn't believe me. She's another one always trying to fix me up. Even with her failed marriage, she is still trying to marry me off! I'm convinced it is a conspiracy on the part of all the women in my life.”

“Well, I promise I won't try to fix you up with anyone,” I told him. After all, even if he had no interest in me and I wasn’t really ready for a relationship with him, I still wasn't going to push him in some other woman's direction.

“So, where are we off to,” I asked as I buckled my seat belt.

“I thought I'd surprise you.”

“OK,” I said uncertainly. “You're not going to take me anywhere frightening, are you?”

“No. I promise. You'll like it. I know that you haven't seen much of Springfield. I'm just expanding your knowledge – showing you all the city has to offer.”
Within a few minutes of driving through downtown streets, we arrived at a parking lot surrounded by a wrought-iron gate. “What is this place?” I asked as he pulled into a parking spot.

“This is the Quadrangle – it's four museums – two art, one science, one history, and the library. It's the place where I told you I went to art classes when I was young and one of the places I teach now. I wanted to show it to you. We can stop by the library, too. It's beautiful – you'll love it. There are lots of old books to sniff,” he said as he smiled at me. “Besides, all the museums are free when you live in Springfield. How can you beat that?”

We got out of the car and began walking toward the museums. “Look, it's the Cat in the Hat!” I pointed to a metal sculpture in the middle of a manicured green.

“Yes, it is. That's the Dr. Suess memorial. Did you know he was from Springfield? He grew up just a few streets from where I live.”

“Yeah, now that you mention it, I think that I did read that somewhere. I love his books. They are great for story times with the kids!”

“A lot of his stories were set right here in Springfield,” he added. “Mulberry Street is only a couple of streets from here. Of course, it doesn't look anything like it did back when he was describing it. No horses and carts have gone down it in quite a while! His father worked at Forest Park.”

“You are just a font of information. I'm amazed by how much you know!” I complimented him. “Oh, look – it's Horton!” I pulled a camera out of my purse. “Will you take a picture of me with him?”

“Sure. Smile!” He took the photo, then handed me back the camera. “Over there is the full text of Oh the Places You'll Go.” He pointed to a large metal book. “Have you ever read the book?”

“Yes, I have. It's very encouraging, isn't it?”

“My mom gave it to me as a graduation present when I graduated from high school,” he said. “I think she expected great things from me.”

“And you have delivered, haven't you?”

“Well, she was always supportive of my art, but I don't think she would've objected if I had become a doctor or lawyer or something. I don't think my being an artist was her first choice.”

“Yeah, my parents used to lecture me about my 'lack of direction' as well, but they figured I would get married and have kids and take care of them, so if I didn't have a great career, it wasn't that big a deal. They thought I could always help out with the farm if nothing better came along.”

“Wasn't there anything you ever wanted to be?” he asked. “I mean, I know that you like working at the library and all, but was there anything else? - something you loved when you were a kid?”

“When I was kid, I wanted to be a ballerina.”

“Do you dance?” he asked.

“Not a bit! In fact, I have been told I have no natural grace at all.”

“I don't believe that!” he said.

“Spend more time with me. I'm sure you'll discover it for yourself!”

“OK, so dancing was out of the question. Was there anything else you liked to do?”

“I loved writing. I would make up all sorts of stories.”

“So, this novel project must be right up your alley.”

“Not really.” I shook my head. “It's been a long time since I've written anything. My novel isn't very good, but I'm trying to take your advice and ignore that. It does feel good to be writing again, though.”

“I'm glad to hear it. It always feels good to do something that you love, and I'm sure it isn't as bad as you think. In fact, I'd be willing to bet mine is worse!”
“Well, maybe we could have a contest – writer of the worst novel wins?” I suggested.

“Of course, that would mean you would have to let me read yours!”

“Are you going to let me read yours?” he countered.

“Not in a million years!”

“I guess we have a problem, then. We'll have to just call it a draw,” he laughed.

Visit Anne Faye's blog at

No comments:

Post a Comment