Sunday, August 29, 2010

Chapter Thirteen: We Go Somewhere "Closer to God"

By Gina Morrison

As the crow flies, it isn't that far from Xandra's home to her office in Menlo Park, but with the horrendous traffic, we go so slowly that I end up nodding off. When I wake up Xandra tells me that I've been snoring.

I shake my head and sit up. I realize that we have left the freeway and now we're driving on some back road that winds up through the golden hillsides.

I yawn. "This looks like the very long way around," I say.

Xandra smiles, and sips from her traveling cup, which contains green tea.

"I told you, Gina, I'm taking you to see my friend."

"Oh right, the therapist."

Xandra looks at me slyly and nods. Her dark eyes are full of mystery. "Trust me, Gina, this is like no therapist you have ever met before."

I shift in my seat. "You're making me nervous Xand."

"Oh, just relax, she's wonderful."

"Yeah, so, where does she live?"

"I would say she lives in a fairy ring, but then you would think I was joking."

"Yes I definitely would think that."

Xandra laughs. "I could also say she lives closer to God, but that might be hard for you to swallow too."

"Yup." I yawn, and rub my eyes. Two things are clear, my dear Xandra is taking me someplace beautiful. And she isn't going to tell me much about her friend in advance.

"She lives in the Santa Cruz mountains in a house that she built herself."

"Wow. That's cool."

I gaze out the window. The sun is just climbing over the golden hillsides. The sky is that brilliant California blue, and the hillsides are rounded and full of billowing live oaks. I yawn, and in that sleepy state, I am thinking, weird how familiar all this looks, and in that instant,

suddenly my head clears and IT HITS ME

I've been here before,

I've been here before. I've been here before.

I suck in my breath.

"Fuck," I whisper. I gaze out the car window

up into the branches of the live oak where I'm lying on the baked earth. Teresa and I escaped up here after chores at the convent.

We are on a blanket beneath our beloved live oak tree. A hot breeze is blowing. I so much want to take off my veil. I don't dare because there are times some of the other nuns walk up here and that would be the worst thing in the world for them to find me without my veil.

"Are you thirsty?" Teresa asks now.

I turn. She has buried in her basket beneath a towel a cool canteen of freshly squeezed lemonade.

"You are so kind," I say, and drink from the canteen.

After a few minutes of silence, Teresa asks again to read the pages I've tucked into my sleeve.

I'm scared to let her read them. What Antonie has written here on these thin pieces of white paper is clearly the work of an insane man. But I cannot keep them from Teresa any longer.

I hand her the piece he calls “Renata Dancing." She reads in silence. Then I let her read "Roseblade.”

When she finishes, those normally cheerful blue eyes of hers are muddied and solemn.

“Oh Renata.” She takes my hand. “He… he is… that devil who is your cousin is going to destroy you with these lies for sure.”

“Yes, I fear he will. But what am I to do?”

She gazes out to the golden hillside, where two large black birds land. She is still holding onto my hand. Slowly she shakes her head.

“I don’t know that there is anything that can possibly help. But one thing you must absolutely do.” The deep blue sky color sails back into her eyes. “Take precautions. And continue to record everything that happens. Write it all down in your diary. Leave out nothing, not a single detail.”

I nod. “God knows, I am writing in the diary every blessed day.”

“Yes, yes. You must continue. And one other thing you could do. Remember I told you to write the story of how things were when the two of you were growing up?”

“Yes. I remember. And I have considered it. But how is writing such a history going to help?”

“You will see for yourself, and show others too, how the past, your past with Antonie, has shaped things. You will see how things have come to be the way they are.”

I consider her face. Usually such a jolly soul, Teresa is wholly serious today.

“Yes, I suppose it can’t hurt,” I say.

“And now Renata, I’ve got to head back. Mother Yolla instructed me at lunch to attend to the henhouse today and I dare not show up to supper without having done it, or I will pay dearly.”

“Oh yes, of course, and I’ll come, I’ll help,” I stand too. But she stops me.

“NO.” She holds up one hand in commandment. “You my dear sister, you are going to sit down and write.”

“But it might wait, I could…”

“NO.” Another hand up. “You must write in the diary. Right now. I am leaving the canteen with you. Open straight to a clean page. And begin. Write about your cousin and you. In the old days, when you first came. Maybe buried in your words you will see if there were clues, already, back then.”

When she says that, I squirm. There are things about Antonie and me in the past that I would prefer not to recall.

I watch my dear Teresa retreat down the hillside. She holds the dark skirt of her habit wide, in two hands, and as she lopes down the hill, the hot air shimmers, and she presents a ghostly figure, there on the hill.

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