A seal upon your heart, p.33
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       A Seal Upon Your Heart, p.33
 

           Pepper Pace

  “Hi yourself. You sound perky.”

  “I am. Being back in Alabama is like returning home after an extended trip to another Country. It feels…so right.”

  “What are you doing? Did you get another job? The last time I talked to you, you were still looking for a place to live.”

  “Oh I found a nice condo right outside of the city. I even got a little puppy.” She chuckled. “I haven’t had a pet since I was a kid. I was always ripping and running with Aaron so it just seemed inconvenient to have one and to always leave it alone.” Claudia was quiet for moment. “I found a part time job at a flower shop—not for the money. I have a ton of cash, but just because I like the pace and the flowers and the manager lets me mess around with some arrangements. Martier, I’m loving my life in Alabama.”

  “It sounds like you’re happy Claudette.”

  “I am. What about you? How are things with you and Tim?”

  Martier hesitated because it wasn’t going badly…but she just knew that there was something missing.

  “Uh oh. What’s wrong?”

  Martier smiled and shook her head. She felt better for some reason even though she hadn’t even told her what was on her mind.

  “I’m in love with Tim and sometimes I think it clouds my judgment. I mean, one minute I’m perfectly content and the next I’m questioning it.”

  “Why, Martier? Tim is truly in love with you.”

  Martier smiled and sighed. “I thought when I…” she looked around to make sure no one was listening. “…when we made love that it would be like a marriage. But it’s not a partnership. Tim makes the decisions because generally he is being very giving with his wealth. I don’t have much of a say. When I say that I don’t want something then he hears, ‘I want it but I feel ashamed to ask you for it.’ But that is not what I mean. I mean exactly what I’m saying.”

  “Martier you make yourself very clear when you’re speaking. So…are you speaking? Really truly speaking?”

  “What?”

  Claudette sighed on the other end of the line, not in annoyance but as if she had resolved to speak on an unpleasant subject. “I loved Aaron but deep down I thought that he didn’t love me in the same way and because of that I gave him too much power over me and I didn’t live my own life the way that I wanted. I acted as if I was married but I wasn’t. I acted as if it was my privilege to be with him instead of the other way around.”

  “He misses you a great deal, Claudette.”

  “Oh I know he does, Sugar. He tells me all the time. He calls me fairly often and he has apologized, and professed his love and has even asked me to marry him.”

  “Wow.”

  “The funny thing is, I thought that I had always wanted that.”

  “You…don’t love him anymore?”

  “I’ll always love Aaron. But now I love him in a different way. Well that doesn’t matter,” Claudette concluded. “What matters is that I’m happy. And I only intend to do the things that make me happy here on out.”

  Martier’s office phone rang and she quickly said her goodbyes promising to call her in a few weeks. Wow, she thought again as she answered the business line. Aaron had proposed after professing that he didn’t need marriage—only it was too late.

  After her call she checked the time and saw that it was nearly time to meet Linda for lunch. She dashed to Tim’s private bathroom.

  “Yay!” The spot of red on the toilet paper was the most beautiful sight! Her period had arrived and she could have tap danced in joy. She wanted to have Tim’s babies…but not now and not like this. With relief she decided that instead of calling him and leaving a voicemail she would wait until she saw him this evening.

  Linda was waiting for her in the lobby. “Martier I love that coat. Is it real fur?”

  “It’s silver fox. It’s so warm.” Linda reached out and ran her hand over Martier’s fur clad arm and then scanned her form in appreciation.

  “You look like a model.”

  Martier blushed. “Why because I’m tall? Nah, some make-up and some nice clothes and—”

  “No. You’re gorgeous. Everybody thinks so.”

  “Thank you, sis. But you know that you are beautiful, too. We are representing Africa very well, don’t you think?”

  Linda chuckled and nodded. “And it’s only going to improve.”

  They talked and laughed as they walked briskly to a nearby restaurant. Martier got a text message over her blackberry while they waited for their order. She hated when Tim got messaged after-hours when they were supposed to be enjoying some time alone. But she saw that it was her salon confirming her appointment for later in the evening.

  She apologized to Linda that she had to call them back, explaining that she had to get into the salon before her trip. She then called them back to quickly confirm her waxing, mani-pedi and hair straightening. “I nearly forgot,” She apologized again. “I have to do this before my trip.”

  Linda was just smiling. “Martier you are so lucky! You mark my words, next year I’m going to be going to salons, and flying off on trips with my boyfriend. I already know which lawyer I want. Aaron Rangbo already had a black assistant so I know he likes black women. Everybody is fighting to be his new assistant but I know that I’m really the best typist there. Plus they’re all temps and I’m a perm—”

  Martier leaned forward with a frown. “What?”

  “Aaron Rangbo! At first I wanted a handsome boyfriend who was young. Some of the lawyers have been checking me out. But everyone says that getting with a partner is the best, only they are never really available. Once an assistant gets with a partner they dig their heels in. With Mr. Singleton his assistant passed away and then you slipped right in. Jakob Marx’s secretary quit but he hired a male assistant. Aaron Rangbo is the only one without one…although he’s really old and not very good looking. Mr. Marx is far more handsome.”

  Martier felt her stomach turning at Linda’s words. “No, Linda! Are you saying that you want to be…some man’s mistress?”

  “Well…Mr. Rangbo isn’t married.” Her brow moved upward. “It would be like how it is with you and Tim…uh Mr. Singleton.” Martier stiffened and Linda quickly clarified. “I’m not saying that you are his mistress! Oh this is a mess. I’m sorry Martier. I’m not trying to insinuate anything.”

  Martier leaned back in her seat, her eyes wide. “I don’t know what to say. Linda, I know that everyone is fighting for a position as an assistant but mostly because the pay is good and it really is a great job. But those few women that are doing it simply to ‘snag’ an attorney are pretty much used and then discarded afterwards. I know. I’ve seen it.” She was thinking of Jakob Marx.

  “That’s not what happened with you. Mr. Singleton didn’t discard you. That’s why I’m not thinking about the attorneys. They look at you as if you are an item on a buffet. I want what you have with Mr. Singleton. I want to be lavished with gifts and to fly off on vacations. I want to live in a pretty house like your cottage and I want to get my nail and hair done at the spa instead of sitting at sister Callista’s kitchen table!”

  “But I actually love Tim. That is a huge distinction, Linda. We’re in love with each other.” Linda nodded quickly in acceptance. “Don’t you want to be in love with the man that you chose as yours?”

  “Yes. I would like to be in love.” She looked at her peeling nail polish. “We didn’t have much in the convent. We were deprived of love and simple necessities. We couldn’t even have perfume!” She looked at Martier. “I could fall in love with Mr. Rangbo. When I said that I want what you have I also meant that I want to be loved and taken care of. And in return I’m going to love and take care of him.”

  Their food arrived before Martier could respond. Linda continued after the waitress had left. “At least my focus is on Mr. Rangbo who is not married. I could have set my sights on Jakob Marx but he’s married and is locked down by his wife now even though everyone said that he was the biggest manwhore around. H
e even has a kid with a previous secretary.”

  Martier blinked, everything that she was getting ready to say got lost in that revelation. “What? Jakob has a child?”

  “Yes. His wife has no idea. Someone from payroll said that he has a separate account set up that pays this other woman and their child.” Linda reached out and touched Martier’s hand.

  “No one talks badly about Tim or Aaron. They are good guys and no one is even trying to compete with you because of the way you look. But, Martier it is very cut throat. Everyone is scrambling to work for an attorney so that they can get perks.”

  “My God…I didn’t realize.”

  Linda stabbed a fork into her salad making sure to spear a piece of grilled chicken. “Mr. Rangbo just sends his work down to us and you should see everyone fighting for it.” She raised pretty dark eyes to Martier.

  “One day he came down and he looked at all of the girls but his eyes lingered on me.” She had a secret smile. “I think he’s going to chose me.”

  Chapter 39

  Martier knew that she was driving faster than she should but this time it wasn’t that she was running from something but to it. She was running to St Bartholoma.

  Why did it take seeing herself through someone else’s eyes to make her realize what she had been trying to avoid; Africa, the church, the principals that had been instilled in her. As understanding and a deeper meaning began to bloom inside of her, Martier cancelled her appointment at the spa and cut out of work early right after her lunch with Linda.

  She recalled how Linda had politely listened to all of Martier’s concerns and advice but she knew that it had been discarded. She had felt responsible for the girl’s moral corruption and then she realized something; she had no room to preach right from wrong. Dear God…she was all the things that she was trying to help Linda avoid. Earlier that day she had thought she might be pregnant. She had just skated away from being an unwed, pregnant 23 year old who was sleeping with her boss—a man who kept her dressed in finery that she claimed not to want but accepted.

  As she drove she recalled what Sister Louise had said to her a year ago; there are rules put into place for a reason regardless of whether you rationalize that you’ve not done anything wrong. She had argued that her books and music weren’t bad, just as she had argued that Tim was all that she wanted so it was okay to have sex with him.

  But what she had failed to realize is that the books of poetry and the beautiful music wasn’t bad; but it was worldly and life in a convent was without worldly influences. And that wasn’t to say that the world was filled with only the bad. There was quite a lot of beauty—but those things had to be explored when she took responsibility for her own life, just like the rules that were set into place for how to live your life. Had she waited for marriage before embarking on a sexual relationship then she wouldn’t be worried about whether Tim wanted a life with her instead of being content in just sharing her bed. She wouldn’t need to wonder how he would accept an unexpected pregnancy and she wouldn’t have to ask him to set her as a seal upon his heart…

  By the time that she reached the school, tears were streaming down her cheeks. She got it. It finally made sense. She had existed within the rules, couldn’t wait to make her own and now she understood why they should never have been broken.

  She parked and dashed into the school. The kids would be in class. They didn’t have a traditional winter break and had some form of schooling year round. She dashed into the sanctuary and saw that it was empty. Martier dug through her purse for her rosary beads, they were at the bottom cluttered among some lose change and a receipt.

  Clutching them she closed her eyes briefly and then knelt before the statue of Mary. She held onto the crucifix with closed eyes and then made the sign of the cross.

  “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried…” Martier recited the familiar words in a rapidly whispered voice, barely taking a breath. Her body settled into a familiar position and her knees didn’t feel the hard carpet as her mind sought the meditation of reciting the words that she had spoken time and time again.

  Martier didn’t hear when other voices joined her, when other bodies knelt beside her. After a very long time someone placed a hand around her shoulders and a ragged sob escaped her lips. Sister Louise placed her lips against her temple.

  “It’s okay, I’m here. I’m right here.” Martier buried her face against Sister Louise’s shoulder and she cried out every bit of anguish and pain that she had buried in the last year while the sister rocked her as if she was just six years old.

  ~***~

  Martier sniffed and wrung at the damp tissue buried in her hand. Sister Louise handed her a mug of hot tea and she accepted it gratefully. She wasn’t thirsty but the hot liquid would soothe her.

  They were in her office and she was in the same chair that she used to sit in when she was a little girl. Somehow that comforted her. The sister looked at her with concern.

  “What’s wrong?”

  “Everything.” She responded honestly. “Everything you taught me I ignored.”

  Sister Louise was shaking her head, a serious expression on her face. “You came to God when you needed help. You knew what to do, just like I taught you.”

  Martier felt herself smile. “Yes.” She put down the tea and gripped the older woman’s hands. She looked deeply into her eyes.

  “I’m sorry Sister Louise. I was so angry with you when I left. I blamed you for not understanding me but it was me that didn’t understand you. You did take care of me, you educated me and kept me fed and clothed. You also loved me.”

  Sister Louise’s eyes watered and she looked away.

  “You made a fine mother. I never told you that. You are every bit my mother and I do love you.”

  Tears dropped from the older woman’s eyes and she released Martier’s hand so that she could grab tissues and blow her nose. After she had collected herself she took Martier’s hand again.

  “I know that I made mistakes. I’m not too old to learn from them. I love the girls and I want the best for them but I don’t know enough about what’s out there to prepare them. I need to listen and to learn. But I’m working on that. What I want to know is what happened? Are you okay?”

  Martier stared at her and then began from the beginning, telling her everything that had transpired over the last year. When she got to her memories about her family’s brutal slaying Sister Louise said a quiet prayer. When she explained about missing her period the sister didn’t even flinch and then she explained that she had gotten her period earlier today she still didn’t flinch. She talked about Linda who she felt was spiraling downhill and the sister closed her eyes momentarily. When the story ended she gave Martier a hug.

  “Martier, you know that I wasn’t born a nun, right?”

  Martier chuckled. “I’m sorry, I guess I just thought that you always wanted to be a nun.”

  “It’s okay, I’ve known the love of a man. I was a girl just like you.” She nodded when Martier gave her a surprised look. “I didn’t always have this calling. Once upon a time I dreamed of a little house, a white picket fence, children and a husband. But then one day I knew that I wanted a relationship with God more than I wanted those things.”

  Martier looked down. “I want a relationship with God and I want a husband, children, and a home.”

  “The beautiful thing is that you can have both. But a wish for that is like a wish for anything else; you have to make it happen. Now you can do it the way that you began and you might luck up and find the right person or you can follow God’s plan for you. Now, I won’t tell you which way to go.”

  “You won’t?”

  She smiled. “Because I watched you pray for three hours and I know you already have the answer. You just have to believe what’s in your heart
.”

  Martier sighed and felt her spirit lift. She looked at Sister Louise. “I need time alone. I need to think without Tim’s influence. Sister, he’s not bad. It wasn’t him that wanted a sexual relationship. I promised him that it would be okay—and then it wasn’t. I mean, I don’t want you to think that he coerced me-”

  “I’m not thinking about him at all.”

  “Okay. It’s late. I guess I should go home.”

  “Will you call me?”

  “Yes. I will. And I’ll see you at church.” They hugged and Martier drove home wondering how she was going to tell Tim that she had made a mistake—a very bad mistake.

  Chapter 40

  Tim stared at the cell phone and frowned. He had already called Martier five times over the course of the afternoon and evening with no response. What the fuck?! Where was she? He had called the office but no one had seen her since lunch. It was not like her to just leave work without telling him. Even if he wasn’t in the office, she would at least leave him a message stating where she was going.

 
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