Becca went back to work, trying to lose herself in other people’s problems. She worked on the oncology floor where sadness prevailed. She was good at sadness, she understood it. It was part of who she was. As long as she was busy she managed to hold it together. Her coworkers gave her a wide berth and even her normally demanding nurse manager was overly kind. It seemed everyone knew of her affair with the priest, but no one said anything. She was thankful for that.
It was the nights that found her destroyed. Her love for Ian never had disappated. The pain of her heart sat in her chest and threatened to emerge. Most nights she struggle with sleep, her dreams elusive. Then two weeks after their break up Becca dreamt of Jannie, she was standing in the huge vibrant meadow with a little girl holding her hand. Jannie smiled and told Becca not to worry and that everything would work itself out. The little girl had dark wavy hair and a familiar grin wearing a lavender dress and no shoes, she waved at Becca and laughed with joy. Becca tried to ask Jannie about Molly, but the vision faded. She awoke remembering the little face that had smiled at her.
Becca felt sick that morning, probably something she had picked up at the hospital. She tried to drink her coffee but the nausea left her sense swimming until she ran to the bathroom and vomited, she hated to call out of work, she had missed so much and knew she was on thin ice. She took her temperature but it was normal. She figured maybe it was something she had ate in the hospital cafeteria. She took a shower and felt somewhat better, threw her scrubs on and went off to work.
During break her nurse manager, Lisa took her aside, “Becca, are you okay? You look awfully pale.”
“Yeah, I was a little rough this morning, but I am feeling better, thanks.”
“Well, you’ve been through some rough stuff, take care of yourself. I hate to see my nurses as my patients,” she said half jokingly.
Becca spent the rest of the day dashing in and out of the bathroom and nursing a ginger ale. By the time she got home she was duly exhausted. She managed a few crackers and fell into bed. She was asleep within minutes.
The next day wasn’t much better; it went on for a week before Becca dragged herself to her doctor. She explained her symptoms and Dr. Crouse nodded his head dutifully. He took her blood pressure, checked her lymph nodes and then asked the question that Becca herself had forgotten to ask. “When was your last period, Becca?”
The blood drained from her face as she realized her last time was well before Molly’s funeral. In her grief and subsequent other activities she had missed it and had thought nothing of it, nothing until now.
“Oh, a few weeks ago,” she lied.
“Well, perhaps we should do a pregnancy test?” he offered.
“No, no, I don’t think that’s it. I mean I am really feeling better,” she struggled with the idea.
“Look, Becca, better to know than not to know. And as a health professional you realize I won’t say anything either way,” he tried to reassure her.
She nodded her head, “Okay, I guess,” and the tears started to spill over her cheeks.
“Hey, now, it’s not all bad. Come on, let’s just do this and we’ll know in a few days for sure. You will be able to relax.”
Two days were an eternity; Becca knew what being in purgatory must feel like. Finally the phone rang and the Dr. Crouse was on the line, “Becca, would you like me to tell you over the phone or would you rather come here in person?” he offered.
“Now! I can’t wait any longer,” she blurted out.
“Okay, then. The pregnancy test is positive. You will need to schedule prenatal care. I know an excellent obstetrician if you don’t have one in mind,” his voice trailed off as Becca’s world crashed once again. She hung up the phone and curled up in a ball on the floor rocking herself back and forth, moaning.
Her mind was numb; she was now in the very same position that had brought Molly’s world crashing down on her. How could life be so cruel? How could God be so cruel? How could she have been so stupid? It had all happened so fast, the first time she hadn’t used protection, and that was all it had taken. Ian had made his stance known, he had chosen God over her and now not only had he abandoned her but now their child.
The phone rang, she let it. Her machine picked up, “Hey Becca, it’s Mom. We haven’t heard from you lately. Hoping you are doing okay. Your Aunt sends her love, too. Okay then, call me back. Thanks. Love you.” The line went dead.
Becca started to run through all the scenarios, child, no child, man in her life, no man in her life, single parent working, it was all so very over whelming. ‘The smartest thing to do was not to have it’, she thought. ‘He would never have to know, and I wouldn’t even see him in the afterlife- because I will be in HELL!’ She laughed bitterly out loud. He could go pretending to be God’s dutiful servant while she committed a huge sin, maybe God would blame him too, who knows. Her mind rambled on and on and didn’t stop until her stomach made her get up and vomit again.
She fell into bed defeated. There was no one she felt she could confide in, not with the gossip about her and Ian still fresh, it would certainly get back to him. It was all so unfair. She lay there drifting in her misery when she saw the face of the little girl in her dream. Her face was so familiar and now she understood why, she was part her and part Ian. She had his coloring, his wavy black hair and her smile. What had Jannie said in that dream? Oh, yeah, ‘not to worry’, fat chance!
Worry was Becca’s new best friend. It went everywhere with her, was in every thought, every moment, it greeted her in the morning and went to sleep with her every night. Kallie offered some comfort, sleeping next to her bed and guarding her even in her sleep. Somehow the dog knew something was different, that Becca felt more vulnerable.
Sunday came and went, Becca kept a low profile knowing she had become the talk of the town, she didn’t want to add gasoline to the fire of gossip. She waited for her courage to return, she had decided to at the very least tell Ian, he deserved to know. Monday came and went, and she found a million other things to do besides that, but Tuesday was a different story. She woke up feeling better, lighter, and she couldn’t explain it. Her heart had hope rekindled in it, where it came from she couldn’t say but she knew if she didn’t go and speak with Ian today she may never have the courage to do so later.
It was cold out, autumn had made its self known, the leaves released their desperate hold of the trees and swirled in whirlwinds in the street. The coldness refreshed her and she walked the seven blocks to the church with a renewed vigor.
She found herself inside the empty church. She remembered the first time she had been inside. It seemed sacred, almost tomb like, not warm and loving, but rather almost forbidden. She looked at the figure of Jesus hanging on the cross, still tormented and sorrowful. She would have liked to have met him; perhaps he could shed some light on her complicated situation. He seemed kinder than the Catholic Church; even he had had a woman in his life. Lost in her reverie she didn’t hear him approach.
“Becca?” a hoarse whisper escaped his lips. She turned to see Father Ian, pale and drawn wavering not four feet from her. Her presences had surprised him.
“Father Ian,” she said formally, “We need to speak privately. Can we do that? Is that allowed?” bitterness crept into her voice. Bitterness was her shield from feeling all the longing his eyes provoked in her. She was here to tell him and then to leave, she had promised herself she would be strong.
“Certainly, we can speak privately in my office.” He stiffly led the way, struggling with all the emotions she brought out in him. He looked unhappy because he was unhappy. Everyone had noticed it; his once warm and caring demeanor had become cool and aloof.
“Please sit, what can I do for you?” he asked trying to maintain formality.
Becca burst out laughing, it was an icy cutting laugh, “Do for me? Seriously Ian? I mean Father Ian,” she corrected herself. “What you can do for me is listen. Just listen. I need to tell you something,” she began again.
“Go on,” he encouraged, hoping beyond hope she would tell him she had forgiven him, and yes would always love him and that she accepted his choice of priesthood over her, but he knew it wasn’t true. He thought miserably, ‘she can’t forgive me’.
“Ian, I’m pregnant,” Becca blurted it out, there was no delicate way to say this, no need to cushion the blow, there was no blow to cushion, he had made his choice already.
He looked stunned, his pale face drained what was left of the blood and he stared at her disbelieving. “No, no this can’t be true,” he stuttered.
“Are you calling me a liar?” Becca bristled.
“No, no, no, of course not. I just mean, oh God, Becca are you sure?”
“You stupid ass! Of course I am certain, I’m a Goddam nurse!” her temper was getting the better of her.
“Please, Becca, try to remain calm,” Father Ian didn’t want a scene in his office. He was beginning to feel sick to his stomach; he looked out the window at nothing at all.
“Well, I just wanted to tell you, that’s all,” Becca got up and walked purposefully out of the church, never looking back. ‘Don’t worry, yeah, right Jannie. So I told him,’ she thought as she made her way back to her apartment. She grabbed Kallie’s leash and headed for the woods, she needed some solace, nature would shield her for a while from the harsh realities of her life.
Father Ian sat stunned in his office. He felt like he was in a dream but he knew with certainty Becca had been there, her scent still lingered. He was frozen in time, his awareness consumed by what she had said, how could that be? What a stupid question, of course it could be. Had he even thought of being responsible? He just unleashed his passion without thought of consequence in the flesh or the spirit. God forgive me, he thought. Now what? His mind reeled, ‘What sin was worse, a priest leaving the priesthood for a woman who he had impregnated or a priest who did nothing, allowed this woman, the woman he loved no less, to have his baby without him or worse, not have his baby?’ he thought.
He didn’t know how long he had sat there. Suddenly, he heard the voice again, the very same voice that had spoken to him the first night he went to Becca. “Go to her,” was all it said. He slowly shook his head, ‘No, no, not yet’ he thought. He fell to his knees and clasped his hands and began to pray feverantly. He begged for forgiveness, he begged for understanding, he begged for a sign that would make it all make sense. Nothing came, nothing but his own tears of shame and frustration and longing.
Father Ian’s life had been blown apart by his own primal desires, his own humanness. He was suppose to be the one who guided and guarded the souls of his parish, led the way into righteousness and goodness and he was the one who had walked head long into sin and despair.
Mrs. Costa was wrong about one thing, he was not brave, he was a coward. He could face everyone else’s demons but not his own. He had placed himself on a pedestal, far about the crowd, above his parishioners having forgotten he too was a mere fragile human.
He stumbled out of his office and fell before the alter staring up at the crucified Jesus, whose soulful eyes drew him into their depths. Jesus had died for his sins, he had died thousands of years ago so that Father Ian would be free, and yet he felt imprisoned by his own beliefs. Jesus was not Catholic, he was Christian, no, he had been Jewish in the beginning. Jesus had had a woman in his life; he did not exclude love in any form from his life or teachings. The Catholic Church did, and Father Ian had ascribed to it, believed that it made him holier than he truly was. He was just a man, first a man and then a man of God, and he had denied his needs and desires to serve his God. Jesus had never asked that of him, only the Church had done that.
Father Ian sobbed. His heart broken open and all the anguish of the past few weeks poured out. It poured out of him in waves that came crashing into the very fiber of the church, echoing off the stone walls and reverberating into a crescendo of agony. The sound of his own pain startled him; the fear of being discovered quieted him. He wiped his face with his cuff and staggered out of the church, blindly staggering in the direction of his heart.
He pounded on her door with his fists, “Becca! Please! Please!” he gulped the air between his words. The door remained closed. He pounded harder, again, “Becca! Please! Please!” silence was the only response. He turned his back to the door and slouched to the ground. He was completely undone. He sat in his grief and whimpered, “God, God why have you forsaken me? I only wanted to be your servant, but I love her…” his voice trailed off with a harsh whisper.
It hadn’t occurred to him that she wasn’t there. He thought she was just punishing him for not being there for her when she had needed him most. He pulled himself up and wandered back to his office.
Moments later Kallie broke away from Becca and ran to the front door dragging her leash behind her. She sniffed and sniffed the front step. Becca tilted her head, “What is it, girl?” Kallie whined and scratched the welcome mat. Becca saw nothing out of the ordinary, shrugged her shoulders, unlocked the door and went inside.
‘Don’t worry’ was her mantra. She decided to say it over and over again, and found that it calmed her down. She actually felt better since she had seen Ian; it was if the burden had been passed to him. She had time, time to think and time to decide what she wanted to do. ‘Don’t worry,’ that was what Jannie had said. She had to put her faith in that. She didn’t want to end up like Molly. It made her sad to think that she and Molly could have had babies together, instead, Molly was dead and Becca was faced with a huge decision.
Becca made herself a light dinner, fed the dog and curled up on the couch. She tried to pray, but her heart wasn’t in it. Instead she fantasized Ian had come for her, held her, made love to her and stayed. She drifted off to sleep thinking of him.