A seal upon your heart, p.1
A Seal Upon Your Heart,
A SEAL UPON YOUR HEART
Copyright © 2013 by Pepper Pace. This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Pepper Pace. For information regarding permission contact; email@example.com
My good friend JG inspired this story and has become my unwitting muse. He is also the developmental editor—meaning, any grammatical or spelling mistakes made are completely my own.
I would like to acknowledge the contribution of my talented friend, Benroe, who rescued me with his contribution of three beautiful poems after discovering that I had spent six hours trying to write one mediocre one. Whoever said that a novelist can transition into a poet?
There are others that have rescued me when I was in need. JoAnne Henry is a long time reader on my blog and when I needed a title for this story, her college thesis title inspired my own.
Several years ago 800, 000 people were savagely murdered over a three month period of time. That number and the brutality suffered by the victims of the Rwanda genocide astounds me. I cannot begin to express my horror over the events surrounding that period in our recent history. While this story is a fictionalized account of one young survivors experience it is in no way meant to trivialize, romanticize or exploit those events.
This is, by far the most difficult story that I’ve ever written; genocide, religion, sex, death, love…and a man and woman’s journey to self. It has turned out to be that for me as well; a journey of self-discovery. For that reason A Seal Upon Your Heart is the most rewarding story that I’ve ever written.
January 16, 2013
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
They help you. They keep the rebels from raping and murdering you. They make sure your belly is full and there is a warm place to sleep. They teach you about God. And they tell you that your name is Jane and to forget that your dead mother and father had named you Martier Nufaika Besigye.
“Your father was imprisoned for crimes against humanity. That is not a last name that you should carry with you. And Martier sounds like a boy’s name. Jane. Do you like that name? You will be Jane Nufaika.”
They teach you everything that is important…except how to understand the world around you.
“I thought you might want to become an aspirant.” Sister Louise removed her small glasses and rubbed them with a worn tissue that lay crumpled on her desk. “There are many of us here that are willing to mentor you, Jane. When you went to school and studied theology…well,” the older woman smiled to herself, “I had hopes that you would join the sisterhood.”
Sister Louise seemed to forget that in order for the school to pay for your college education, you had to pursue some course or training in one of their prescribed curriculum. Well she didn’t want to be a nurse or secretary or even a bookkeeper. She had studied theology along with literature, and history as a means to understand the world around her. Theology was thrown in just so that Bartholoma would willingly pay for her further education.
But to become a nun…that was out of the question.
“Sister, I don’t believe I have the calling.”
“And you’ve prayed on it?”
No. “Yes, Sister.”
There was a short sigh. “Jane, I don’t want to see you leave. But you’ve graduated and received your degree…and you’re over eighteen, dear. This is a school for girls not women.”
She nodded quickly, feeling panic rise in her. “I understand Sister Louise…but I was hoping to be able to stay long enough to find a job…” Because the facts had been laid out before her; you either become a nun and stay or you go out into the world and good luck, goodbye and good riddance. She felt ashamed for her thoughts. The sisters had been good to her. They had prevented her from being raped, murdered, had provided her with food, a place to sleep, an education; and they had told her of this often enough.
Sister Louise had a Rolodex on her desk and she rifled through it once she’d replaced the glasses on the bridge of her nose. “Now that is something that I may be able to help you with.” She withdrew a card and examined it. “Tim Singleton, attorney at law. Mr. and Mrs. Singleton are one of our biggest supporters, even if it is just for the tax write-off,” the last she said mostly to herself.
Jane found that funny. Maybe Mr. Tim Singleton and his wife were humanitarians. There was no shortage of those among whites. They would say, ‘Oh my goodness. You survived genocide. You survived the refugee camp. Are you Tutsi or Hutu? Oh it doesn’t matter…it’s all the same in the end.’
She had been six years old; old enough to have memories—but there was only an empty hole there now. Still, she knew that they were wrong; it did matter. My name is Martier Nufaika Besigye. I am a child of Africa. I used to run in the sun with my brother and sisters-
Her eyes moved back to Sister Louise who had the phone covered. “Mr. Singleton said that you can begin on Monday. Is that good?”
Sister Louise sighed in practiced restraint. It was a sound that she was familiar with. “Jane, the job? Remember?”
“Yes.” She nodded quickly, feeling ashamed that she’d allowed herself to travel away from the present. It’s just that she had wanted to find her own job…one that she liked. Of course if she tossed away this opportunity, then Sister Louise would be very displeased and call her ungrateful.
“Yes. Monday is fine. Thank you.” The sister and the man over the phone continued to chat and Jane slipped out of the room, happy to be away from the scrutiny of the one person that she most loved and most despised.
She went back to the small room that she shared with Sister Callista. She had long ago moved out of the dormitory and was no longer considered a student of St Bartholoma International School for Girls. But she willingly helped out with the girls or in the kitchen or wherever else she was needed.
Jane dug into her drawer for the bundle of letters that she kept hidden beneath her bras and panties. It wasn’t that she couldn’t have letters. It’s just that Sister Nicolette and some of the others didn’t approve of Dhakiya. She smiled at the memory of her old friend. Jane used to love listening to her voice; her mutterings is what sometimes lulled her to sleep. It reminded her of home and she had felt an instant kinship to Dhakiya long before she had gained the courage to befriend the older girl.
Everyone said that she was a troublemaker and crazy, but because of this no one dared to mess with her. Jane had been at the school for two years before Dhakiya had joined them. The older girl was nearly eleven and had done something that Jane had never seen anyone else do; she had yelled at a sister. “My name is not Betty! My name is Dhakiya and I’m a child of Africa!”
“You are a child of God, first!” Sister Nicolette spat back angrily.
“You say!” Sister Nicolette smacked her hard and all of the smaller children had become nearly hysterical. But Dhakiya had just glared back. Later sister Nicolette had been reprimanded in front of everyone and was assigned to the older students, never to work with the young ones again. Dhakiya had been given double chores but barely seemed to care.
Later that night, Dhakiya lay in bed muttering while Jane fell asleep to the soothing words that no one else could make out. She was speak
“Mwaramutse, Jane.” Dhakiya had said one morning. Jane had flinched and looked away. The older girl slipped from her bed and placed her face inches from Jane’s.
“Don’t you dare forget. I am Tutsi and you are Hutu, but here we are just Africans. They took away your name but don’t let them take your history. “Mwaramutse!”
“Mwaramutse.” Jane whispered back.
“And I want you to say that to me each morning, little one; good morning in our own language.” Jane had nodded shyly at the bigger and tougher girl’s words.
Jane pulled the last letter from the envelope. It had been written three years ago. She looked at the address and telephone number, an invitation for her when she left St Bartholoma. Except Jane had never left and now she was 23 and didn’t know how to move forward.
Dhakiya had left on her eighteenth birthday and Jane had never again set eyes on her sister-friend. Even still, they had exchanged letters and the older woman had offered to help her when the time came. And now Jane hoped Dhakiya would help her find a place…just a place. She loved the sisters, but she also hated every second of her life with them.
She slipped the letter into the pocket of her dress and quickly replaced the others. Then she left the large building and walked into town. When she attended the all girl’s college there was a bus that collected her. But she rather enjoyed the long walk into town. It was the only time that she really got to see the world around her. Oh there was television and books. But the sister’s frowned on anything that was not considered educational.
Once they had watched a movie about faith and the husband and wife had kissed. Jane had felt a strange sensation at the sight of it. But Sister Nicolette said that those feelings were bad and needed to be suppressed. You weren’t allowed to touch yourself because doing so would only make you act on those bad feelings.
Later Dhakiya had said that Sister Nicolette was s stupid cow. “Jane it is your body to do with as you please. Who are they to say it is wrong to find pleasure in touching or even imagining?” She knew that her friend was right, but the sister’s were so convincing when they taught that those feelings were bad. And therefore you didn’t associate with things that brought those feelings to light. Yet she still could not completely forget that kiss. Her heart would race and her ears would ring and her eyes would imagine a man that wanted to place his lips on hers.
Why should that be bad? It wasn’t coupling. It was just her body becoming joyous—and not just over the idea of being married to God.
After an hour of brisk walking she finally reached town. She went straight for the public library because it was the only other place that she felt familiar with; it was almost like home, a place to study, to enjoy time away from the sisters, to read about things that didn’t have scripture in it. The library was more of a home to her than the school.
But her purpose for being there was to use the public phone. She slipped in the necessary coins and dialed the number that was on the letter that she nervously clutched. Maybe Dhakiya wouldn’t want to hear from her after all this time. Maybe she would be disappointed that she had chosen to stay so long when Dhakiya could barely wait to escape.
“Hello, Dhakiya? I can’t believe it’s really you!” Any hesitation immediately left her at the familiar sound of her best friend’s voice.
“Ah! Martier? My God, little one, I never thought I’d hear from you.” Her rich voice caused Jane to smile. The accent was still present even though Jane had pretty much lost hers. “Where are you? Are you still at the school?”
“Please tell me that you haven’t become a nun?!”
“Thank God! We have to get caught up! Can we get together?” Her friend was speaking rapidly and Jane couldn’t help but to laugh out loud.
“Yes. I was hoping you’d say that-”
“Where are you? I can come get you.” Jane couldn’t stop smiling at her friend’s enthusiasm and it was almost as if they hadn’t last seen each other seven long years ago. Jane told her where she was and waited for Dhakiya to come and get her.
Tim hung up the phone with a scowl. Sister-whatever-her-name-is had wrangled a favor out of him. He’d promised some girl a job, and not just any girl but one from a convent! The firm only hired through a temp service. It just made it much simpler to get rid of them.
Working closely with an assistant, a secretary, a paralegal was all very personal. Whether or not a girl stayed around for any amount of time should have been based on their knowledge and skill, but looks factored in just as importantly. Some even looked for the pretty ones. Tim knew this from experience. Once upon a time, hadn’t he done the same? An attorney involved in an interoffice affair was par for the course. Not that he had been married at the time, but close proximity and long hours just made things happen. However, he had never been tempted to cheat on Corrine, of that he was proud.
With a sigh, he grabbed his briefcase and left the office.
“Good night Mr. Singleton.” The temp said. He didn’t even try to think of her name. She was the third one that he’d had in the last six months. It had been a bad year…
He muttered some type of response and left, thinking about what he’d do with the girl from the school. He’d dump her into the clerical pool, or maybe the mailroom. There was no way that she could mess anything up down there.
Corrine had been very fond of her causes; one of which had been little orphaned children. He barely knew which charity his checks went to. His dear Corrine had been the one to keep up with that. But now…Tim shook the thought out of his head and stepped into the elevator. Joan, from records, gave him a soft smile. She was the only other person in the elevator.
“Tim. How are you?” He bit back his scowl. He despised that sound in people’s voices; pity or sympathy or-god forbid warmth. Warmth was the last thing he needed. If he stayed cold then he didn’t have to feel anything.
“Fine and yourself?” He responded dispassionately.
“I’m fine.” Tim didn’t look at her but he already knew the expression he’d see on her face; her eyes would be liquid and her brow gathered with a look of concern. “If you ever need to talk or anything…”
He glanced at her and saw that instead of the liquid pools of concern, her eyes held an expression of interest. Well for fucks sake! Corrine’s only been dead a year. How dare she look at him like he was available, on the market, single, not still married to the ghost of his dead wife.
The elevator door opened and he allowed his face to show a bit of the disgust that he felt.
“Thank you, Joan. But I’m fine.” He swept out of the lift angrily, knowing that he was being an ass and taking his frustrations out on her, but not completely sure how to reign in his temper. He was just happy that once he left the office there would be no one to focus that anger on.
Tim drove the forty-five minute trip to the house that he’d had built for his wife nearly 15 years before. It was much too large for just the two of them. It was meant for all of the children that Corrine had wanted to have—but couldn’t.
Tim pulled the car into the garage and went into the house through the kitchen. There were dishes in the sink, which he ignored. He’d get to them this weekend sometime. He slipped off his suit jacket and hung it on the back of the barstool then searched the refrigerator for something to eat. He settled on cold cuts and made a quick sandwich. He washed it down with a beer without even bothering to sit, then went into his office to work on a case until he had an excuse to go up stairs and climb into his solitary bed.
He thought about the nun and wondered why he would even consider helping her. He hadn’t had a personal relationship with God even before Corrine had lost her battle with breast cancer. All it had taken for him to become a disbeliever was the sight of her wilting body, the loss of her strawberry blonde hair. She
Tim closed his eyes. He knew the reason he was helping. It’s because Corrine would have wanted it.
Dhakiya drove up in a little car. It was kind of beat up but a beat up car was better than no car at all. They hugged forever. The changes in her friend were astounding. Like Jane, she was tall but unlike Jane she had filled out in all the right places. Jane was too thin and gangly; like a giraffe. But Dhakiya’s mocha skin shone and her hair lay in gorgeous twists that reached her shoulders. She was dressed comfortably in a pair of jeans and a colorful sweater. She wore many bangles on her wrists; which Jane knew was just as much cultural as it was decorative.
“Martier…” Her friend placed her hands on her cheeks. “You haven’t changed one bit.” She placed a kiss on her lips then hugged her again. Jane had a dark mahogany brown complexion and ebony black hair that curled into silky locks. Unlike most that she saw with similar dark coloring, Jane had sharp features that made her seem more European than the African Americans here in the states. Jane wore her long hair twisted and pinned to the back of her neck. At nearly six feet tall she was always the center of attention, though she didn’t realize that it had less to do with her height and more to do with her striking beauty.