“Are Catholics Christians?” Dorothy asked.
Julius studied her for a moment not sure where her question was leading. “Why do ask?”
“My husband used to hit me, abuse me, lie to me and cheat on me. Each time I told him that he wasn’t behaving like a Christian he would say that he wasn’t a Christian, he was a Catholic. I’m a Christian and I thought that Catholics were Christians. I used to pray and pray to God to make him change, to make him love me the way I loved him but God didn’t change him . . . nothing changed him.”
“I’m a Christian and I was raised in the Catholic Church. Last time I checked, Catholics are Christians. My wife grew up in a Pentecostal Church. I find it more charismatic than the church I grew up in but they more or less preach the same thing. I believe it’s all about one God, one Word and one Love – it’s not about a denomination. People think a church is just a building what they don’t see is that the real church is the people inside the building and it doesn’t even end there, it’s also about the relationship those people have with God. We are supposed to do the right thing, not by force but because we want to. We all have free will and we get to make our own choices. It’s because of free will that God doesn’t force people to change. I believe that God creates situations for people to change but ultimately it’s down to the individual.”
“You asked me if I killed my husband, the truth is he killed me . . . he took my life and destroyed it.”
“Give me your hand.”
“My mom used to do this to me when I was younger and I used to think that things were hopeless. Come on, give me your hand and look at me.”
She reluctantly gave him her hand and looked into his eyes. He sat holding her hand and looking at her. Without breaking eye contact, he picked up his coffee cup and placed it on her hand. It took a few seconds for what he had done to register. He smiled when he saw her frown, snatch her hand away then jump back startled and rub her hand.
“Owww, what . . . why did you do that?”
“Do what? I thought you said you’re husband killed you. If you were dead you wouldn’t have felt that.”
“You burned me to show me that I’m still alive?”
“No, I burned you to show you that you’re not dead. Where there is life there is hope and where there is hope there is usually a long rope to use with faith and climb out of a situation. You said your husband abused you and hurt you and that you prayed and prayed for God to change him. Did it ever occur to you that God heard your prayers when you first prayed and that maybe God has changed something in your life, maybe He has changed you?”
Moments passed as she stared at him; his words brought clarity to her soul – tears glistened in her eyes. “I didn’t kill him,” she finally sobbed, “God knows I wanted too. I had the knife in my hand and I was ready to stick it into his heart but I thought about his mother and what it would do to her. How my using the knife might hurt her.”
“I don’t understand,” Julius frowned.
“I was standing above him when I looked at the knife. In the middle of all the madness in my head the knife seemed to have a bizarre calming effect on me. You see, it was part of a set his mother had given to me for Christmas some years ago. I really care about his mother; she has always been kind to me. I’m an orphan and his mother is the closest thing to a mother I ever had. She told me to leave him when he first started to hit me but I wouldn’t. I had this strange thought when I was looking at the knife – if I stabbed him and he died his mother would think that I hated her, not because I had killed her son but because I had used the knife she had given me. I didn’t want her feeling bad so I stabbed the pillow next to his head. I was about to leave when I thought I’d better move the knife away from his head in case he turned in his sleep and cut himself. I tried to get the knife out of the pillow and ended up cutting my hand and getting blood all over the pillow and bed sheets; there was so much blood everywhere. Then I had this idea. I knew that he was paranoid about being abducted by aliens. His mother told me once that when he was younger she had to work most nights and his father had to watch him, his brother and sister. Well, his father would bring women to the house when she was at work. Nigel used to get up some nights and wander around half asleep so his father told him that if he didn’t stay in his room aliens would get him. He would tell Nigel horror stories of how aliens had taken people away and experimented on them by eating their brains. His father was a mean man. I guess theirs is the case of like father like son. For some reason Nigel kept on wandering around in the middle of the night half asleep, so one night his irate father decided to teach him a lesson. He put foil paper all over the basement, draped some dummies with silver material and placed some flickering lights around the room then he carried a sleeping Nigel from his bed to the basement and put him on sheets stained with red ‘blood-like’ paint and locked him in there. Nigel woke up and thought that he had been abducted by aliens. He banged on the door for hours but his father refused to let him out. That night traumatized him. He never left his bed at night again. Now he hates the color silver and flickering colored lights and he can’t touch foil paper without hyperventilating-”
“Are you serious?”
She nodded, “Guess how I found out?”
“One day in the early days of our marriage, this is going back a few years, I made him a sandwich and wrapped it in foil paper to keep it fresh. I left it on a dish by the window because he was having a nap. It must have been about thirty or so minutes later when I heard him screaming and shouting. I ran upstairs to see what was going on and found him cowering on the floor next to our bed. Somehow, the sun and a mirror on the wall were reflecting light off the foil paper and different colored lights were flickering on the wall. When I managed to calm him down he told me he thought the aliens had come to get him again then he cried like a baby and insisted I get rid of the foil alien on the dish. To keep him calm I played along and made a big effort of putting on some rubber gloves, un-wrapping the sandwich and holding the foil at a distance as I took it out of the room. I called his mom afterwards and she explained what his dad had done when he was a boy. That’s why I did what I did today.”
“What did you do?”
“I capitalized on his fear. I had a stash of foil paper which I scattered around the room. I put some on the pillow next to him and left the knife lying in the blood on the sheets. I figured that his drug-induced mind would take care of the rest. He was always using drugs. He would spike Indian hemp with LSD or heroin. I used to think that the drugs made him mean but I think that he was just born that way. When you marry someone you never expect they’ll end up hating you.” She paused as she struggled to control her emotions, “I used to be so scared of the thought that ‘he hated me’ that I buried my head in the sand. I was desperate for love and affection, I did everything he asked me to do but he still hated me.” She froze when she realized that she was being held gently in strong arms.
“You’re free,” Julius told her. “Hate has no power over you as long as you don’t hate in return. I learned that lesson years ago. His hate has nothing to do with you and everything to do with him. You could have killed him but you didn’t; you made the choice not to – despite his hate. He can’t hurt you any more, Dorothy.”
“Nigel said I was a reject because I grew up in an orphanage. He said that I was useless and no one would ever love me. He said that I was a dumb hill-billy. He said-”
“Shhhh, shhhh, forget about what he said about you. What do you say? What do you see when you look in the mirror?”
“I don’t understand.”
“When you look in the mirror do you see the person he says you are or do you see you?”
“Do you want to know what I see?”
Again she shrugged.
“I see you. I see a strong, attractive and very smart woman. You’re compassionate and loveable. My wife has nothing but good things to say about you and I trust and respect her judgment. I say you’ve been through the worst, now, you deserve the best. You just have to see and believe that things can and will get better for you, Dorothy.”
“How . . . how do I do that?”
“Start by thinking of his words as poison and detox your mind of them, get rid of all the negative hurtful things he said and did to you – then take one new day at a time.”
She looked at him, desperate and confused, “I want that so badly, I just don’t know how to do that.” Silent tears coursed down her face.
Julius studied her for a few moments, “When I was seven years old my maternal grandfather told me something that I have never forgotten. He said thousands of years ago there was a man who was really old and he didn’t have any children but he had great faith in God. One night God took this man outside and told him to look up at the sky and try to count the stars in the sky. Even though this man was old and his wife was also old and past child-bearing age, God told him that he would give him as many descendants as there were stars in the sky. My grandfather said when the man looked up at the sky that night because of his faith he could see how many descendants he was going to have, they were like lights shining in the sky, but not only that – he could see me. My grandfather said I was one of those stars and I had to believe that I was created to be a light and help others. You were one of those stars, Dorothy, and you have to believe you were created to be a light and help others. Darkness and negativity can’t survive in the light – so let go of all the things that have caused you so much pain and embrace the happiness you deserve. With the happiness comes love and the need to help others, I can see it in you, you just have to see it as well.”
“I don’t understand?”
“With all that you’ve been through, you took the time to help my wife and son Dorothy. I can see the goodness in you and I will do whatever it takes to make you see it as well, whatever it takes.”
Unbeknown to Dorothy, Julius had just spoken words that laid the foundation for a change in the course of her life.
Dorothy felt an unfamiliar feeling take over her – people who knew her, like her mother-in-law and Juanita, had told her similar things in the past but she had thought that they were just being kind. This stranger had nothing to gain and didn’t have to be kind. He didn’t have to hold her in his arms until she stopped shaking. He didn’t have to comfort her as she cried. He didn’t have to say things to her that made her believe her life could change . . . but he did. “Now I know why Cara married you,” she said after a while.