Part 1: A Life In Pieces (click here) Part 2 Another Life In Pieces, part 3 A Life in Anguished Pieces, Part 4 A Life in Mobile Words, Part 5 A Life in Coffee Part 6 A Life in Loneliness, Part 7 A Life In Rags and Part 8, A Life in Confusion
A LIFE IN FAMILIES
Isabel, with a streak of something that might have been yesterday's mascara (if she used it) running down her face like a grubby river stood in the doorway to Saphie's front room, as naked as the day she'd been born and totally unashamed, with a pool of bath towel at her feet.
Saphie was about to say something along the lines of Isabel, there's a man here, my guest, cover yourself up, but he beat her to it.
“What in the name of Goodness … is that you Isabel … what are you doing here?” he asked, sounding and looking shocked.
The apparition in the doorway looked at him, gave a little scream, the sort a person arriving in an unexpected place at the wrong time might make, and pulled the bath towel up to her chin.
“Rusty...?” she asked, timorously. “Is that really Rusty?”
Saphie's mouth opened, then closed, then opened again. “You know each other?” she asked. “How come?”
Rusty shook his head slowly. “I can't believe it,” he said quietly. “Standing there in front of me as bold as brass and dressed in a towel! I thought you were in that nunnery...”
He turned to Saphie. “I've known Izzy all my life,” he said. “I don't know how you met her, but she's my little sister...”
“Your … sister?” It was getting to be confusing again, and Saphie liked life to be simple.
“I'm sorry, Rusty,” muttered Isabel. “Let me get dressed.” And she fled from the room, pulling the towel with her and making sure the door was shut behind her. They could both hear the sound of her sobbing on the stairs as she slowly climbed up to the bathroom and the clothes Saphie had left for her.
“This is a turn up for the books,” sighed Saphie. “So Isabel's your … sister?”
He shook his head slowly. His face was pale, and that seemed to tell a lot of story in itself.
“Poor Izzy,” he sighed. “I'd best fill you in before she gets back.”
“That might not be such a bad idea...”
“As I said, she's my sister. There wasn't a sweeter lass on the planet, but she found life … difficult. She had a problem... relationships were never easy... she wasn't the daughter our parents wanted...”
“You mean, she preferred girls?” asked Saphie.
He nodded, and remained silent for a moment.
“I know that much about her,” said Saphie, deciding there and then to be honest with Rusty. “I had a … thing … with her in the convent. There were no men there … I think I've mentioned this to you already … and we found ourselves driven together. I'll tell you now, Rusty, there wasn't a sweeter or more innocent woman in the whole place, and she was as devout as her … personality … would let her be.”
“You and Izzy?”
Saphie nodded. “I don't know what you'd have been like when you were younger if you'd joined the Priesthood and become a monk in a closed order of monks,” she said, “but in my experience most men, if put in those circumstances, would either find a close friend or spend a great deal of private time doing things to themselves. You know what I mean... surely? And us girls have very similar needs.”
“In your experience?” he asked, and she saw the humorous light in his eyes. “Tell me about that!”
“Now you're teasing!” she said, and she smiled as well. “Put it like this, Isabel – she was Sister Isabel back then and didn't need a bath like she did when she knocked my door an hour ago – and I were friends and sometimes our friendship became … close. We did nothing wrong, not in my eyes and not in hers, but there were some dragons in charge who thought the things they caught us doing were very wrong... certainly not appropriate for a bride of Christ!”
“I don't know...” He closed his eyes for a moment, and thought. “Izzy always was like that,” he said at last, “she always seemed to have that sort of need … my father never understood her and it made him see red! You've got to put your mind to what things were like back then, when she was a teenager. Differences were less tolerated, and homosexuality had been a crime until quite recently!”
The door opened, and Isabel reappeared, fully dressed, and clean.
“You look lovely, Izzy,” whispered Rusty.
“Thanks for the loan of the clothes, Saphie. I'll have them cleaned and get them back to you.” muttered Isabel.
“What do you mean?” The meaning had been quite clear, combined with a goodbye, see you later kind of body language.
“I don't want to be a gooseberry,” she said. “I didn't know you and Rusty … he's my brother, you know … my big brother … but he'll have told you.”
“I didn't even know he had a sister, Isabel.”
“Izzy. Call me Izzy. Isabel was for that horrible nunnery.”
“Alright. Izzy. He's just a man who I met in the street and got talking to. We had coffee at a café and he found my mobile...”
Izzy interrupted her. “He'll have told you about me and the way my parents rejected me,” she said. “They made me so miserable … I even considered suicide … I felt wrong, evil, as if God had made a mistake when he created me...”
“They were the wrong ones, Izzy,” said Rusty quietly. “I could see that back then...”
“And dad punished me. He said he'd beat the sin out of me...”
“I stopped him!”
“I know you did, Rusty. Thanks. But I had to get away. I was only seventeen but I just had to find a place in the world where I could be myself … where I could love who my soul told me I had to love … and I ended up, after years of searching, in the nunnery. I was happy there until they cast me out as well.”
“Poor little Izzy,” sighed, Rusty, and he put one arm around her.
“What are you going to do now?” asked Saphie, practically.
“I don't know. Go back to the hostel I suppose.”
“You can stay here,” decided Saphie on the spur of the moment. “You don't mind Rusty, do you?” she asked.
“I've no right to mind or not mind,” he told her. “Anyway, I've got news too.”
“Agatha?” It was almost as if Saphie knew.
“She came round from the coma. Today. Her eyes were open when I visited. She never said anything – I don't know if she could - and I told them I want nothing to do with her, but I can't leave it like that, can I?”
“Oh dear.” Saphie's face creased in concentration and Rusty briefly explained to his sister who Agatha was and the events that had led up to her accident.
“I didn't know Connie was dead. I'm sorry,” she said when he had finished. “I didn't really know her, but what I saw of her when you got married … I liked her.”
There was a sudden silence as the three of them absorbed what they had been told about each other. But the fulcrum had shifted. After all, Rusty had been hoping that Saphie would be open to friendship if not more, Saphie had been confused by her own feelings in which she saw Rusty as more than a stranger on the street. Now Rusty had a woman he hated with a true vengeance and who would probably be returned to him any day now because his home was her last address before the accident, Saphie had a female lover who had been at least as close to her as any man had been since Colin, and Izzy had a long lost brother and crazy memories of the only true love of her life.
And the three of them sat there, lost in thought.
©Peter Rogerson 15.03.14