“We are seeing you every weekend, at the moment,” Lucy said to Verloren.
“Yes I have made an ongoing arrangement with Farkas,” said Verloren. Maria’s ears picked up. She didn’t have a good feeling in her stomach. “I am doing a project with his garden and I am going to use it as a feature in one of our magazines. I come to Waldmeer every weekend now as there is a great deal to do and I have very big plans.”
“Well, that’s terrific for Farkas,” said Lucy. “He gets free gardening. Who wouldn’t want that?”
“Yes, it’s more than that,” said Verloren a little sheepishly, although, sheepish was not in Verloren’s nature. “We are paying him a considerable amount of money, as well, because otherwise he wouldn’t do it.” Returning to her confident, bouncy self, she added, “It’s all worth it, Lucy, because I want that particular garden and the result will be stunning.” The feeling in Maria’s stomach got worse.
That evening at dinner, Lucy told her husband about Verloren’s project in Farkas’s garden.
“Yeah, I already know,” said Lenny. “Farkas’s neighbour told me. I don’t understand it. Who would pay that much money to work in someone else’s garden? Does she fancy him or somethin’?”
“Lenny!” scolded Lucy. “Of course not. People like Verloren don’t ‘fancy’ people. They are all class.”
It only took a few months for Verloren and Farkas to establish a pattern which would remain constant their whole relationship. Verloren knew Farkas did not respect her. That caused her pain. She wanted respect and, even more, she wanted love. If the pain had been unrelenting and unchanging, it would have been easy. We leave situations that are constantly painful or we seriously change them. However, the Greyness is more deceptive than that. It prolongs its lifespan by throwing in occasional light. Those moments of light give us the illusion of hope; that we can eventually get what we want from the same scenario. The few moments of tenderness from Farkas fed Verloren. She, in turn, guarded the relationship jealously, believing those moments could become more. She, particularly, hated it if Maria was ever mentioned. She would brush off the conversation as being boring. If people could kill, without going to jail and, perhaps, without getting their own hands dirty, they often would. Human nature is like that.
Farkas told himself that it was all about the money. Maria could not help feeling that it was not good for Farkas to have Verloren as such a constant in his life, regardless of how much money it was. Farkas’s control of Verloren was less than he imagined. She would certainly work against, even if unconsciously, any real improvement in his life. One bit of light leads to another and it would have led him away from her. It was the opposite of a healing relationship.
One day in the cafe, Verloren walked past Maria briskly and the cups went flying. Verloren didn’t apologise or even seem to notice. Maria looked upset. Lucy was not a brave person, particularly, to someone with as much personal power as Verloren. However, Lucy’s mother-instinct came out.
“Are you alright, Maria?” Lucy asked pointedly. It was the first time Lucy had even vaguely challenged Verloren.
Verloren was quick to turn to Lucy, “I’m sure she’s fine. She is much tougher than she looks.” She softened her voice and smiled, “Poor Maria. You have had enough challenges, haven’t you, dear girl? Why only the other day someone said to me, ‘Maria has had such a marvellous recovery from her accident, although, she is quite different since the accident. Her parents must, sometimes, wonder if it’s even the same person!’” No one said that to Verloren. She wasn’t even sure where it came from, but it came, and she used it. It came with a purpose.
Lucy smiled weakly and said, “Yes, we are lucky.” For some reason, she didn’t feel lucky. Her words felt like water dripping through the cracks. The poisonous seed had been planted and it was already taking root.
Those few sentences had the power to change Maria and Lucy’s relationship. Lucy couldn’t seem to turn the tide. She kept thinking about it, repeating it in in her mind, ‘Her parents must wonder if it’s even the same person.’ The problem was that there was a little too much truth in it and it wasn’t a truth that Lucy could handle.
The unstated but obvious change in Maria’s relationship with her mother gave Maria the idea to move out of home. It was a good step and both spoke positively about it without ever mentioning the underlying reason for the idea. Maria quietly moved out on the arranged day and was now living with Charlie. Charlie was thrilled to have Maria. She had a shed which was occasionally used for visitors and that was now Maria’s home. Charlie’s house was small and, like most artists, cluttered, making it seem even smaller. It had her bedroom, a bedroom for Gabriel when he was there, and a bedroom which had become the art studio. Gabriel used an old machinery shed for his sculpting studio. That way, he wasn’t stuck in the house with Charlie for too long.
In return for cheaper rent, Maria looked after the garden and the animals. Maria couldn’t have been happier with this arrangement and was in her element. How special it is to have a space of one’s own when one is used to sharing a house with a family. It feels as luxurious as a palace, even if it is only a shed. The shed had a bed and a little kitchen, and there was an outside toilet that she shared with the spiders. She had to use the main house for a shower. Everything about it, Maria loved. She wanted her little home to be a healing space. Gabriel called it Maria’s Shed but Charlie called it Maria’s Shrine because of the candles, holy pictures, and the way it felt.
Charlie, often, found reasons to come to the Shrine because she said it felt so nice and she wanted to escape the clutter in her house and, perhaps, the clutter in her mind. It was not her who said it was ‘clutter in her mind’. That was Maria’s observation. Gabriel, occasionally, came to the door of the Shrine but he had never been inside. He acted like there was an invisible barrier at the door and while Charlie barged through it, he could not or would not.
Some months later, Charlie was swearing at the chooks. And the dogs. And anything that moved. Her girlfriend of the past year, Elizabeth, had cheated on her and had confessed to Charlie a few days ago.
“She is having one of her attacks,” Gabriel said quietly to Maria while rolling his eyes. “I have to go back to the city now. I will leave you with the crazy woman.” Maria waved him goodbye as he drove his car down the long dirt track to the front gate. These days, Maria missed Gabriel when he returned to the city.
“Come on, Charlie. It’s been three days. You are still acting like a lunatic,” said Maria trying to break the tension.
“You bet I am because that daughter of a bitch cheated on me,” said Charlie with double the amount of expletives as ordinary words.
“I will make you a nice cup of tea and you can relax in here for a while,” said Maria taking her hand and leading her into the Shrine. Charlie had not visited the Shrine for a few days, which was unusual for her. You can’t go into the Shrine and swear and fume without feeling a little ashamed, Charlie thought. So she didn’t go there. She was too angry.
Maria spoke to her soothingly, gave her a cup of tea, lit some candles, and let her talk. She talked alright. She talked for an hour nonstop. Maria listened. Over the hour, Charlie’s voice gradually became less loud, less furious, and less reckless. As she quietened, she became softer and more open. She started to cry. Then she howled. Maria let her cry for a good ten minutes without hugging her. She didn’t want to interrupt the process. As the crying died down, she hugged her.
“I know you will tell me not to,” said Charlie, “because you are such a goodie-two-shoes, but I hate Elizabeth. I can’t help it. I hate her.”
“No you don’t, Charlie. You love her. You are just hurt.”
When Charlie had had enough and was ready to go back into her own house, Maria said to her, “Trust that you will be okay, Charlie. I know you will be. The whole drama can vanish very quickly, if you let it. Talk to Elizabeth, without the hate, and try to understand what she is saying; why it happened. You and Elizabeth may be able to salvage the relationship. Mistakes are lessons. If you can’t work it out together, then let each other go freely. You loved her once. She is still that same person. Think of that person you once loved. She is that person whether you are together or not.”
Maria didn’t walk on the beaches as much nowadays because she had to drive to the back hills after work to get home. However, the beach was the place – vast, changing, and unchanging – where she heard Amira’s voice the most clearly. Today, she was walking.
“You sense that Farkas wishes you no harm and that Verloren does,” said Amira, “so you are willing to pray for Farkas but not for Verloren.” Amira was a gentle but direct corrector. “At this point, that is unacceptable.” Maria wondered who it was ‘unacceptable’ to and what ‘point’ she was at.
“I see,” said Maria who was not sure she really wanted to see it at all.
“You can turn every ugly and damaging drama into a genuine blessing by seeing it differently. No one is suffering on purpose. We learn to give up the pleasure we feel in self-righteously blaming others. Healing happens when we see things differently. The question is; do you want suffering or peace? It’s that simple.”
“Hmm,” said Maria. “That’s a fairly obvious choice but let me think about it some more!”
“As you wish,” said the ever patient Amira. “Remember, you are not trying to abide the darkness. You are choosing to sit where it is sunny and warm.”
Lucy had not spoken to Lenny about Maria’s leaving home or Verloren’s comments about Maria being a different person since the accident. Both were too raw and she didn’t want to give them any more power than they already had. This evening, it was time.
“Maria decided to walk on the beach after work today,” she told her husband casually.
“How is she going?” asked Lenny.
“She loves living at Charlie’s.”
“That’s good. We want her to be happy.”
The thought of Maria’s happiness opened the door for Lucy. “Verloren said that people wonder if Maria is the same person since the accident.” She felt silly saying it but it felt worse not saying it. “What if she isn’t really our daughter?”
Lenny stopped reading the paper. He looked up at the woman he married when he was seventeen and said without hesitating, “If we have a daughter with the angels and a daughter who lives near us, works happily with her mother every day, and loves us both then we are very lucky. We would then have two daughters, Lucy, not none.”
Lucy looked at her husband of thirty-five years. She felt very blessed; about everything.
The following weekend, Maria overheard her mother saying to Verloren as she was leaving, “My daughter decided, a while back, that she is too old to live at home anymore but daughters never really leave their mothers.” Verloren stopped walking and looked at Lucy. Lucy’s voice was even and forgiving. She didn’t hold anything against Verloren. She saw the whole thing as an opportunity for her own growth and she was genuinely happy with her own little victory over herself. “She will always be my daughter, no matter where she lives, because I will always love her and it is the love that makes her my daughter.”