Thursday, April 2, 2020
As We Know It - Chapter 35
Jesus scratched the back of his neck, feeling uncomfortable. He wasn't sure why he felt uncomfortable - the sofa was good, the tea was lovely and the biscuit was welcome despite its staleness.
"It's Hamish." Sarah appeared in the doorway to the living room looking white, paler than Jesus had seen a human look for a very long time. The last time he had seen a human look that pale, it had been a very good friend - forced to do something extremely unpleasant for the good of mankind. Jesus looked up at Sarah, his stomach cooling rapidly and compressing further back towards his spine.
"He's gone." She continued flatly. Her voice sounded empty, tired, other worldly; her thoughts high above her ashen skin.
"Gone where?" Said Frank, his feet shuffling uncomfortably - unsure whether they should be carrying him to her for comfort or staying flatly where he was.
"He's just gone.”
Jesus tried to think as quickly and coherently as he could, which was difficult given the human brain's insistence on chastising itself for not being clairvoyant at times of distress. Where would Hamish have gone? Why would he have gone? The chilled knot at the centre of his digestive system was rinsing and coiling, threatening answers he didn't want. Something was evading him, something he wasn't considering. Something? Or someone. Jesus froze. The treacherous terrain of his bowels turned to instant lava.
"Oh dear." He said simply. Everyone looked at him.
Hamish was sitting in bright sunshine in the square at the centre of Staplegrove. The place was deserted but he could feel something strange, like the presence of people without their being any physical clues as to their whereabouts. He wasn't sure how it all worked officially, but he supposed on a different plane of reality the Staplegrovians were all going about their business in the same space. All spiritually anaesthatised by the Peace.
He toyed with a pebble under his trainer and squinted at the walls of Staplegrove's church. He'd had to get away from Norton Fitzwarren. Had to get away from Sarah and from her parents, and from Jesus. He'd felt suffocated and uncomfortable, listening to earnest conversations about his relationship as though it were something removed from his own control.
There'd been an awful moment, sitting there in the living room, where he'd experienced a moment of truly desperate clarity, and had no choice but to slip quietly away. He'd walked. Walked and walked and walked and ended up in Staplegrove, where no one would think to look for him.
"You look glum?" said a voice behind him, causing his heart to ricochet off his throat and his head to flick round on a whipcrack.
"Sorry!" Said the voice, coming towards Hamish with the sun beaming behind it, "I didn't mean to startle you. "Are you alright?"
"Yes, yes I'm fine." said Hamish, trying to get his heart rate back under control and shuffling up on the bench to let the figure sit down.
"You look glum. You here by yourself?"
"Yes, just fancied a walk and some air. What about you? Are you from Staplegrove?"
"No, I'm not from round here at all. Just here on a little visit."
Hamish eyed the stranger keenly, she looked familiar and comforting; Hamish guessed she was early 50s. She was plump, wearing a woollen skirt to her knees and a pale pink angora turtle neck jumper. She had a short blonde bob and a kind face; something of the "Mary Berry's less career driven sister" about her.
"Oh." Hamish was confused. "Do you know about the...?"
"The apocalypse?" She interrupted.
"Yes." Said Hamish.
"Oh, yes... yes I know what's going on there. It's always nice to have a visit when it's quiet. Who goes to Disneyland during half term?"
"Good point." Said Hamish, feeling increasingly uncertain he would ever be able to say 'good point' without feeling completely out of his depth ever again. "So, are you... from up there?" He pointed limply at the sky, wondering why he was reverting the behaviour of a 4 year old in the presence of this woman.
"Yes. I am, originally." Said the lady, smiling kindly. He got the feeling she was keeping something back from him, but he didn't want to push - she seemed modest and he liked that. Far too many people nowadays can't wait to tell you how superb they are. Hamish was not a fan of blowing one's own trumpet.
"An angel?" he asked.
"Yes." she said simply and looked at her watch, which seemed to be working fine. Hamish took this as conclusive proof that she was telling the truth about being celestial, or that it was some kind of indestructible Baby G from the 90s, he decided to trust her.
"Are you my guardian angel?" He hoped she didn't mind this impromptu 20 questions, but having her around was really making him feel better about the previous day's contents.
"Not exactly," she said, "I mean, I could be, if you wanted. But, mostly I have a much bigger remit than that - I keep an eye out over everybody generally and just get stuck in with specifics where I think I can help."
"You've had a pretty tough couple of weeks?" She soothed.
"Yeah, I suppose I have." he conceded, "It should have been so easy..."
"Yes. Being with Sarah, loving Sarah, marrying Sarah. It should have been so easy. I feel gutted - I feel like I've been gutted." He felt very free to talk in the presence of this woman, she was really listening to him.
"And it's not been, since you proposed?"
"Why do you think that is?"
Hamish stopped for a moment to think about what he wanted to say and what he felt he ought to say in front of the angel. He didn't want to be offensive, but what was bubbling through his mind was hardly something you wanted to get off your chest to the second in command of the winged army. Like trying to admit to Kate Middleton you weren't a Royalist.
"I've spent the last 24 hours discussing, debating and analysing my love for Sarah. Going over and over how and why it should and shouldn't work; whether there was any merit in it at all. Whether or not we could be together, and..." he stopped.
"And..." she prompted, gently in a low voice.
"And it's not a conversation I would ever have had to have had they not been Christians." There, he'd said it. It felt good. "How can you profess to be part of a religion peddling peace, love and understanding and then not see that without religion, we wouldn't be in this pickle at all? My family didn't have a word to say about us getting married - so long as we were happy, it was fine. But Sarah's parents... I just don't understand it. If you're believing in something that comes between love... good love, too, not anything that would have burnt out or been bad for Sarah... if you believe that there's an example of good love being a bad thing... well, how can you believe that that is right?"
He ran out of steam and they sat in silence on the bench together; the angel sitting very still, Hamish going back to playing with the pebble beneath his foot. They sat like that for what would have been a very long time, had time not been stopped.