Sunday, November 1, 2009

"Through the Open Window" by Anne Faye, Chapter 8 Part 1

Chapter 8

Mike drove me home. I was ticked off at him, though I knew I had no reason to be. He had never offered anything but friendship, and I had told him that I wasn't interested in anything other than that as well. Why was I trying to make it into something more? Maybe I was just setting myself up to get hurt again, but spending time with him made me feel alive. That was something I hadn't felt in quite a while.
The month was quickly rushing by. I was still working on my novel – every day but Saturday. It had become a ritual. The story was coming along. I was determined to hit that 50,000 word mark if it killed me. On some days, I was convinced that it just might. Some days the words just flowed and I was convinced that I was born to be a writer. Other days, every word was a painful struggle and the word count barely seemed to budge.

I knew I was one of the lucky ones in the sense that there was very little to distract me from writing. After all, I lived alone. I really only had to answer to Lady at home, Rachel at work, and my mother on the phone. Lady only asked that I feed her and walk her and let her sleep next to me. As long as I showed up for work when I was supposed to, Rachel didn't care what I did with my free time (although she was still sure something was going on between Mike and me.) My mother cared, but I hadn't told her about the novel project, or about Mike for that matter. I wasn't ready for disapproval on either front. I love my mom and we get along well, but, she is my mom and her opinion matters, especially when it is critical of me. I just didn't need that right now. She was still trying to get over the fact that I had picked up and moved 300 miles away. I was going home for Thanksgiving. Perhaps I would tell her then.

In the meantime, I kept myself busy, which not only helped the pages of my novel to take shape, but also helped to keep my mind off both Mike and Alan. Well, at least I was trying. There were still a lot of things I was attempting to sort out.


“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been two years since my last confession.” I knelt in the darkness of the confessional, ready to bare my soul. There was the option of going face-to-face, but I preferred the anonymity of being behind the grille. It didn't hurt that this priest had never seen me before, and wouldn't recognize my voice. I never enjoyed going to confession. It was always painful. It is tough to be honest with yourself – tougher to be honest with someone else, whether they are sitting in the place of God or not. It was totally humiliating, but the odd thing was, afterwards, I always felt better, like the weight of the world had been lifted off of my shoulders. There is something to be said for hearing the words, “I absolve you from all your sins.”

“Father, I need some help.”

“How can I help you?”

“I'm mad at God. I've tried not to be, but I just can't stop,” I reluctantly admitted.

“Anger can be healthy. God knows how we feel. We can't hide from Him, no matter how hard we try. What happened?”

I told him the condensed version of all that had happened.

“I think that your anger is normal,” Father said, “But you need to try to put it behind you. When you feel angry with God, tell him. Offer it up, but try not to dwell on it. Try to concentrate on the good that is in your life now. God will show you the path your life should take. You need to trust that He has your best interests at heart. I don't know why all this has happened to you, but there is nothing so bad that God can't bring some good out of it.”

I thought about his words as I prayed in the quiet of the church. I felt like a little girl again when my mother would take me to our local church to light a candle and pray. There was something so comforting about the candle's gentle glow in the darkness. My mother used to say it would burn all day, carrying our prayers up to heaven long after we left the church. I missed my faith. I suppose Mike was right, once a Catholic, always a Catholic. The priest was right, too, God hadn't left me, no matter how much I felt like He had. He was just an easy target for my anger, because the only other person to blame was dead and being angry at him didn't seem to do much good. If Mike had done nothing else for me, he had convinced me to come back to Church. It felt good to be back.

I went back to the children's mass Sunday morning, although this time I sat in the last pew. I could see Mike, Sara and the boys sitting in the front row. I wasn't there for them, though. I was there for me. Despite that fact, I caught myself staring at the back of Mike's head much more than I cared to admit. Why was it whenever he was near I could think of little else? He hadn't called or stopped by the library to see me all week. It bothered me, no matter how much I tried to pretend that it didn't. This had to stop. When mass was ended, I hurried out of the church before he could see me.

The next day, I was sick as a dog. That's a strange expression, isn't it? After all, as far as I could tell, Lady almost never got sick. In any case, I could barely get out of bed. My head pounded, my throat was burning, and every muscle in my body was sore. I wanted my mommy! This was one thing that stunk about living alone. There was no one to take care of me when I was sick. Alan had always taken good care of me when I was ill. He would read to me while I lay in bed, and make me chicken soup, and even take care of the laundry. As badly as things ended for us, I had actually enjoyed being married, and I had loved Alan. I had loved him more than I had ever loved anyone else. I didn't like being alone. Lady was great, but she couldn't take the place of a real live person.

The following day, when I had actually managed to move to the couch, wrapped in my tattered flannel bathrobe, my doorbell rang.

“Go away!” I hollered. Well, hollered might be an exaggeration, seeing that I could barely talk. The doorbell rang again and again. It wouldn't stop. Lady was barking like a wild banshee. Apparently, whoever it was just wasn't going to go away. I dragged myself off of the couch, picked up Lady and answered the door. Mike was standing there, holding a bouquet of flowers and a small box.

“What are you doing here?” I whispered.

“I went by the library to see you. Rachel told me that you were sick.”

“Come on in. I need to go sit down before I fall down.” He followed me into the living room.

“This is a nice place that you have here.”

“Yeah, it's no Victorian mansion, but its home.” I fell back onto the couch. He stood awkwardly over me. “Sit down. You're making me nervous.” He sat in a chair across from me.

“Man, you look awful.”


“No, I didn't mean that way. I mean, you look really sick, that's all.”

“What are you doing here, anyway? Aren't you afraid you're going to catch it?”

“Nah, I got my flu shot.”

“Yeah, I'll have to remember to do that next year.”

“These are for you.” He held out the flowers.

“They're lovely. Thanks. Unfortunately, I can't smell them at the moment. Do you want to put them in some water for me? I have a vase in the kitchen.”

“Sure. I'll go do that.” He got up, leaving the box on the chair.

“What's in the box?” I asked when he returned. He handed it to me. “Here, take a look.”

“It's my bowl! Thanks for bringing it to me.”

“Didn't it come out great? I love the blue color. What are you going to use it for?”
“Umm – I'm not sure. I'll have to give it some thought. Could you put it up on the shelf for me?” I requested, pointing in the general direction of the bookcase. He took the bowl, and I wrapped my blanket closer around me.

“Are these your parents?” he asked, holding up a photo he found on the shelf.

“Uh- huh,” I nodded.

“And who is this?” He held up another photo.

“That's my brother and his wife.”

“Is this you as a little girl?”

“Yeah. I had just learned how to ride that bicycle. I wasn't very coordinated. It took me a long time to learn. My Dad wanted to preserve the moment forever.”

“You were adorable! I love the pigtails.”

“Thanks. I wasn't dying of the flu then.”

“You do look awful. Is there anything I can get you – maybe some hot tea or something?”

“Would you be willing to make me some chicken soup? I've been wanting some, but I haven't had the energy to actually get up and make it. I have some cans in the cupboard. You can make yourself a bowl, too, if you'd like.”

“That sounds good.” I must have fallen asleep, because the next thing I remember was Mike setting up a tray near me and putting the soup on it. “I'll help prop you up.” He grabbed some extra pillows and put them behind me.

“Thank you. You are being very kind. You really don't need to be here.”

“I know. I wanted to be. I knew you lived alone. I figured that you could use the help.”

I nodded weakly. “I'm not very good company today.”

“That's OK. You don't need to be.” He smiled as he tucked the blankets around me. “Where's Lady's leash? She looks like she could use a walk.”

“I'm sure she could. I've been barely able to put her outside. Her leash is over on the counter.” Lady jumped up happily as Mike put on his jacket and picked up her leash. She was ready to go. “Come on, Lady. You can show me the neighborhood. We'll let Lucy get some sleep.”

I finished my soup and then lay back. It felt good to get some food in my stomach. It was so kind of Mike to come. So kind . . .

When I woke up, it was three hours later. Mike was sitting in the chair, reading a book. Lady was curled up next to him. “You're still here?” I said groggily. “I didn't even hear you come back in.”

“You were sound asleep. I didn't want to wake you.”

“You don't need to stay. I'm sure that there are a million things you could be doing. I'll be fine.”

“You don't look fine. And besides, this gives me a good excuse to procrastinate on my novel.”

“Ugh . . I haven't worked on mine at all the past two days. I'm going to be way behind in word count.”

“You're right. You should be working on your story. Suffering from the flu should be no deterrent to writing! I once wrote half of a novel when I was sicker than you are right now.”

“Are you serious?”

“No, I'm just giving you a hard time. Of course you shouldn't be writing! You're sick. You need to take care of yourself.”

“OK. I think I'm going to fall back to sleep now.”

“OK. I'm just going to sit here.”

“OK,” I murmured as I drifted back into my fever-induced sleep.

I awoke to the feeling of a cold compress on my head and the morning light streaming through the window. I could smell coffee brewing in the kitchen. “You've been here all night? You must be exhausted.”

“I rested in the chair. Anyway, I wanted to make sure you were OK. You had me scared there for a while. You kept tossing and turning and talking in your sleep.”

“Oh, geez, I don't remember what I was dreaming about. Did I say anything embarrassing?”

“No, I couldn't really make out what you were trying to say – just that they were supposed to be words.”

“That's good. I can't have you knowing all my secrets!”

“So, how are you feeling this morning?” he asked. “You're looking a little better – you have a little more color in your cheeks.”

I reached up and pulled off the cold compress. “I do feel better. I'm starting to feel human again.”

“I already called Rachel and told her that you wouldn't be at work today.”

“She must be so mad at me.”

“No, she understands. She doesn't want you to come in and share all your germs.”

“Maybe I'll be able to go in tomorrow.”

“Let's see how you get through today.” he responded.

“You sound like my mother.”

“Speaking of which, she called last night. She left a message on your machine.”

“I'm surprised you didn't answer it.”

“No, I figured you'd have a hard time explaining what a man was doing answering your phone at that time of night.”

“Yeah, you're right. She would've had a fit. Thank you for your restraint.”

“No problem. I have parents, too.”

“Do you think we'll ever turn into our parents?”

“No, it's just not possible.”

“I bet that's what everyone says, and then it happens anyway.”

“You might be right about that.”

“I think I'm going to try to get up. I'm feeling ambitious.”

“Here, let me help you.” He came over and supported my arm as I stood up. “How are you doing?”

“My legs feel a little shaky, but I think I'll be OK. I'm just going to go to the bathroom. I'll be right back.” I successfully navigated my way there. When I looked in the mirror, I scared myself. I hadn't showered in over three days. My hair was greasy. I was pale. I looked like walking death. I was surprised Mike hadn't run from the room screaming.

“Man, I do look bad.” I said as I shuffled my way back to the couch.

“Yes, you do.”

“I need a shower.”


“You don't always need to agree with me.”

“I don't. Only when you are right!” I threw one of my pillows at him. It hit him in the head.

“You must be feeling better! Do you think you'll be all right if I go home for a little while? I'd like to take a shower myself and change my clothes.”

“Sure, I'll be fine.”

“OK. I'll get going then. I'll come back later to check on you and take Lady out for another walk.”

“She's going to love you forever.”

“Good. Somebody needs to,” he said as he patted her head. He directed his attention back at me. “I know you're feeling better but don't try to overdo it. I'll be back later.”

“OK, thanks,” I said as he headed out the door.

I was feeling better and decided to take advantage of the time he was gone to make myself look somewhat presentable. It took some effort, but I did shower and get dressed. Then, worn out from that activity, I took another nap. I woke up to the phone ringing. It was late afternoon.


“Hi, it's Mike. You answered the phone. I'll take that as a sign you are up and functioning.”

“Well, I'm up. Functioning is another matter.”

“How are you feeling? Do you want some company?”

“Sure. Lady has been waiting for you to come back.”

“Great! Do you want me to bring over something to eat? I could grab some take-out on the way.” I briefly considered making him dinner, but decided he probably didn't want my germs all over his food.

“That would be great.”

“Anything in particular?”

“No, I probably won't eat that much, so anything you want is fine.”

“Is pizza OK?”

“Sounds good”

“Alright, I'll be by in about an hour.”

"Through the Open Window" is available at
Visit Anne Faye's blog at

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