Tuesday, April 7, 2020

As We Know It - Chapter 40

Chapter 40

“I’ll give it up then.” said Sarah suddenly, “I’ll give it up. I don’t want it if it means losing you. I can’t do it. I can’t not have you.”

She was weeping openly, oblivious to the tears flooding down to her lips and into her mouth. Her face shone with desperation and her lips continued to move in silent bargaining long after she’d stopped making any sound. Fragile as the day she was born she stood in the turmoil of the broken peace and begged him with every aching nerve ending not to keep her life out of reach. 

Hamish stood before her, confused and broken, wanting to hold her forever.

“What do you mean Sarah?” asked Frank gravely. Sarah’s eyes didn’t leave Hamish’s as she spoke again, her voice an insistent rush of panic; higher than it should be and stubbornly unwilling to remain in key.

“I don’t want it. I don’t want the church, I don’t want God, I don’t want Jesus, I don’t want any of it if it means I can’t have you. I won’t have it. I don’t want it. Just please, please don’t leave me. Hamish? Hamish, please? Please. Please, please.”

“Sarah… I, I’d do anything to keep you. I love you so much I’m scared I’ll never be able to do anything except that again. I am so in love with you it caused the end of the world.”

Sarah laughed, through the snot and the frozen limbs, she laughed at him. He had always been able to make her laugh.

“Then let’s do it. Let’s make it work.”

“I can’t do it, my darling, I would do anything for you and if this were a case of doing something then you know it would be done. I’d learn to use coasters for you. But I can’t know a thing, and I can’t believe a thing. I don’t know how. I’m so sorry.”

“I can though.” She said, trying to pull his eyes back up to meet hers through sheer will power.

“Sarah…” came Frank’s voice again, “You can’t turn your back on the church now. Now you know it’s true. You can’t switch off the knowledge that it’s all true. You can’t stop belief.”

“I know I won’t stop knowing about God. But I don’t have to believe in him. I know Hitler was real but I don’t think he’s brilliant. I won’t go to church, I won’t pray, I won’t wear my cross, I won’t do anything except know. I won’t silently thank Him, I won’t ask for anything, I won’t have that identity, I won’t celebrate Christmas or Easter, or any of it. I don’t want it. Then, Hamish and I are the same? Aren’t we? We both know and we both choose not to. That must be reconciled? If my church keeps me away from Hamish then I don’t want it. I would make this choice even if the world carried on if I didn’t. I don’t want the world to carry on if we’re apart. Call me selfish. I don’t care. I want Hamish. Hamish, I just want you. I want to be old with you, I want to always come home to you… I don’t want to see your arms on someone else, I don’t want to pretend that anyone makes me feel the way you do. I don’t want to argue with someone else, I won’t care what they have to say. I don’t want to meet someone else’s family, or see someone else’s face in my first born. I don’t want to cook for someone else, I don’t want to hide my morning breath from someone who isn’t you. I won’t see any joy in a God that kept me from the only thing I want in my life. I don’t want the earth, I don’t want eternity in paradise, I want a lifetime with you. I want the boring bits, and the worrying about you and the dull Saturday afternoons where I still don’t understand the rugby. Everything else is just pointless. Please? Please. Please?”

Most of the village were in tears by the time Sarah finally drew breath. Iris Shoe imagined Colin’s arms holding her from behind as she watched the beautiful young couple before her. Iris wished with all her heart she were dead. Dead and with Colin. She smiled knowing it would happen one day, and smiled harder knowing old age had really heightened her immunity to the morbid.

Sarah wiped her face with the back of her hand and turned to Jesus. Her ears heard no sound as she leant in and kissed him on the cheek. She held his chin in her hand and stared deep into his eyes, “I don’t want anything to do with you, your Father, your guises, your teachings or your meddling. I am forced to believe you exist because I have faced you. I choose not to believe you are the saviour you say you are. I choose not to follow you. I reject you and I will burn for eternity rather than spend another day in your light. I will not be associated with something that almost destroyed the only thing I hold dear in my life. Do you understand?”

Jesus nodded.

“I am done.” said Sarah monotonously.

“Of course you are free to go.” said Jesus willingly. She let go of his face and turned her back immediately to face Hamish.

There was nothing Hamish could do but go to Sarah. He’d never had a choice in his loving her, and he had no choice but to hold her tiny, shaking body now. He buried her in his shoulder, holding on so tightly and whispering gentle reassurances into her ear. Sadly, his words were too quiet for this narrator to hear so they’ll have to stay between Sarah and Hamish. Be satisfied that they made her smile.

Nobody moved. Nobody spoke. Nobody could be quite sure what they had witnessed. The Devil stood agape in the middle of the courtyard. She spun on her perfect heel, looking from Hamish and Sarah, to Jesus, and on to the villagers.

“You’re back together.” she said, scarcely believing her eyes. “I can’t bloody believe it. Really? You’re really going to ‘work this out’?”

Sarah and Hamish didn’t react. They stood together. Perfectly together. Everything else was white noise. It seemed to be over. The danger had somehow passed. Subtly, and without fire and brimstone, the danger had passed. Quietly and quite at odds with any sort of persuasion campaign for film rights, the danger had passed. If it hadn’t felt so right it would have been a disappointment.

One by one the villagers began to realise that the entire scene had gone down on Staplegrovian soil and started to disperse. If this story was going to be retold then they would have to be a little elaborate with the truth as to the finer details of how and, more importantly where, the world was saved. They drifted away slowly home, wondering what they would be waiting for now. Sarah and Hamish remained together in the square, it looked almost like a first wedding dance as they stood together with just Sarah’s parents lingering nearby.

Jesus sat quietly, slightly away from the happy couple, watching the sun set and the shadows grow longer across the stones. The Devil moved towards him and stood behind his left shoulder in the dwindling evening light.

“I guess you win after all.” the Devil was surprisingly unmoved by the turn of events. She seemed accepting, still puzzling over how it had slipped away from her so suddenly.


“The bet. I didn’t see that coming. Didn’t see it going that way.”

“Oh yes, the bet.” said Jesus, turning to face the Devil.

“You really didn’t know? I made a bet, with your “father” and It didn’t tell you. You seem to have done it. Without even knowing there was a bet. You really didn’t know?”

“I didn’t know there was a bet. It makes no difference, I’m delighted for Sarah and Hamish.” Jesus’ voice was plain.

“You know, I was allowed to keep the earth if you’d lost…”

“Right.” His listlessness remained despite the Devil’s provocation.

“Doesn’t it make you cross? Sorry, poor choice of word. Doesn’t it make you angry?”

“No. Why would it?”

“It was willing to sacrifice everything based on a bet. If you’d lost, just…” she snapped her fingers, “... all gone.”

“If I hadn’t been able to fix it, it would have been all over anyway. Nothing any of us could have done about it. If I hadn’t been able to mend them, then we’d failed anyway. There would have been no great switch off, it just would have been over. No more. No point to them.”

“There’s no point to them anyway….” The Devil started.

“Did you want something?” Jesus interrupted harshly.

“You don’t seem very pleased? Only children are always so hard to please.”

“It’s better…” Jesus spoke slowly, thinking carefully, sounding each word out with precision before setting its intonation. “... because I have been removed. It’s working between them because she’s walked away from me. I’ve won because I’ve lost. I must have had it wrong. Where did I go so wrong?”

The Devil rolled her eyes and ran out of interest in Jesus. If he wasn’t going to argue then she had better things to do.

“No idea!” She said sharply and clapped a hand heavily on Jesus’ shoulder making him buckle, “Still, at least you get to go home now. Miserable things; human bodies. Next time I’m coming back the way they want me to be. I think I’d suit a tail. Until next time!”

Her words filtered through Jesus’ haze of miserable thought just in time for him to say “Please don’t come back.” just as she was vanishing into the darkening night. Jesus rubbed his hands across his face to wake himself up a little.

“You look down.”

It was the Vicar. He sat down beside Jesus and stared into the middle distance, hoping he looked like cowboys do in films when they use a lack of eye contact to facilitate a manly chat.

“Hello.” said Jesus, rinsed entirely by the heavy weight on his shoulders. He felt stretched out, dry and weak, but he thought if anyone would understand it would be the Vicar. It would be Ben. “Yes, yes I suppose I am a bit down. It’s ever so disappointing to have failed.”

“But you haven’t failed,” The Vicar coaxed, looking over to the newly reunited happy couple, “Sarah and Hamish look magnificent. You have bonded them fiercely.”

“You could say they have a magnetic attraction.” Jesus said, “They are pulled together by forces unseen and so long as you don’t put a big, stupid lump of ideas in between them they can’t be separated.” He pulled his knees in and rested his elbows on top of them; slumping his chin into his hands.

“Don’t sulk.” Chided the Vicar, “I’m not sure you saw what I saw.”

“What do you mean?” Asked Jesus, looking up at the Vicar. The Vicar looked back, hoping he was right about the turn of events he felt he’d witnessed.

“I mean what Sarah did for you. I feel like it may not be the first time it’s had to happen. Seems to happen to you a lot…”

“What does?” A confused Jesus’ eyes searched the Vicar’s face for comfort.

“Betrayed in the line of duty.”

Jesus’ eyes opened wide. His head whipped round to Sarah; he watched her intently wondering if the Vicar was right. He scanned her movements, calculating and wishing she could speak to him telepathically.

“You think she…” Jesus didn’t have the words to finish.

“I think she did. I think she did what he did; what you needed her to do. What you needed him to do. Although, she won’t be remembered the way he was. Good thing.”

“I should ask her…” Jesus began but The Vicar put a hand on his forearm to interrupt him. It felt odd, guiding Jesus, and The Vicar hoped passionately that he was not wrong. He didn’t feel like he was wrong.

“You can’t. She can’t tell you, can she? What she’s done, she has done wholeheartedly or it wouldn’t have worked. Her heart is Hamish’s.”

“Right.” Jesus looked down at his shoes.

“It will have to be about faith.” The Vicar said gently. Nudging Jesus’ leg with his own knee.

Jesus burst into a smile. Then laughed out loud. He faced the Vicar and smiled so brightly that the Vicar thought his heart would boil with pride. Jesus hugged him tightly.

“Ben, you are an extremely brilliant man. Thank you. How would you like to be a Bishop? No! An Arch-Bishop? I can do it you know!”

The vicar laughed out loud and shook his head, “No thank you,” he said, still laughing through the words, “I’m happy where I am for now.”

Jesus looked around at the Staplegrove square, “I wouldn’t let any of your flock hear you saying that here.” He wrinkled his nose to show distaste. The Vicar laughed again.

“You’d make a wonderful resident if you decided to stay.”

Jesus stopped smiling, “Yes, wouldn’t that be something. Sadly it is not to be; one more sunset… then home.”

“Mind if I join you?” asked The Vicar.

“Be my honoured guest. You have shown me more than I could have hoped for in these last few minutes. I couldn’t be more grateful.”

“I am ever your servant.” said the Vicar; proud to have the best job in the world.

“And I yours.” said Jesus. Then, silence.

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