copyright 2018 Cindy Brandner
(A little extra information on the background of this scene. If you remember back to 'Mermaid' when Pamela and Jamie are at the monastery and Pamela loses the baby she is carrying. Brother Gilles was the monk who looked after her at the time. This monastery is where they've just had Kathleen christened).
After the christening, Brother Gilles showed her to a sitting room, where she could feed Kathleen by the comfort of a roaring fire. She sat in the chair closest to the fire with relief, taking off her shoes and wiggling her toes in the heat. The chapel had been chilly, and her feet felt like blocks of ice. Brother Gilles ducked out to give her privacy, but returned shortly thereafter, with a mug of hot broth for her.
“Tea is lovely, but broth heats the bones,” he said, which seemed to Pamela a very French and very accurate sort of observation.
“It is so wonderful to see you with a healthy baby in your arms,” Brother Gilles said, stretching his hands out to the fire, as he settled in across from her in an ancient leather armchair, and beamed at Kathleen, who sat forward in Pamela's lap, tiny chin tucked in the vee of Pamela's hand, while she rubbed the baby's back.
“She is my third healthy child,” Pamela said. “Oh, good girl,” she added as Kathleen let out a small belch. She tucked the baby back into the corner of her elbow, and gazed down at her face, feeling the melting love that one did with babies, as if their flesh was still one with your own. It was different for fathers, she supposed, for having never carried their child inside, they wouldn’t feel that insistent aching tug which came once a child was outside your body, and yet still entirely dependent upon you for sustenance and life.
“Your third? How wonderful! Children are God’s greatest blessing in this life. I am glad to see he has been abundant with you.”
“He has been indeed,” she said, thinking Brother Gilles had no idea just how abundant the universe had been of late with her blessings.
“The last time you were here, you were married, no? It was clear to me that you and Jamie had a great deal of love for one another, but that your heart belonged to a different man.”
“Well, that’s a rather long story,” she said, “but the situation is much the same now.”
Brother Gilles feathery eyebrows shot up. “I believe I have time for you to tell me, if you so wish.”
So, she told him, sketching it in briefly in some spots and filling things in more fully where she felt it was warranted—Casey’s amnesia, Jamie’s situation with Violet and why and how he’d married her. She touched carefully on her relationship with Jamie and just how far back it went. It fell short though, for there were never adequate words to explain how entwined this man was in her life, and how complicated it all felt now that they had Kathleen. And then, the miracle of Casey’s return, and how it all felt like it should be simple, and yet it was anything but.
Brother Gilles was silent for a moment once her story came to an end, his hands steepled in front of his face, hiding his expression so that she could not tell if he was shocked or dismayed by her recounting.
“Well, that is wonderful in many ways, and yet as you say, rather complicated. I see why you chose such a small and private christening.”
“Yes, well we did give Violet and Casey the option of coming, but they both, not surprisingly, declined.”
“Then you have been as fair as you can be in this situation. May I ask where James is in all of this?”
She sighed. Explaining her and Jamie’s situation was a bit like trying to give directions in an overgrown labyrinth which wasn't actually possessed of an exit. This man, however, had known Jamie since he was a child and loved him as well.
“You know what it means to him to have a child whom he can love without fear.” Even Kolya, blessed with the rude good health of a Russian peasant, didn’t come entirely without strings—as had been evidenced by Violet using him as a pawn to hold to her marriage with Jamie.
“I do,” Brother Gilles agreed.
“Suffice it to say that for now, we’re just happy being parents to this little girl,” Pamela said, kissing the top of Kathleen’s silky red head.
“And yet, I still see a great deal of love between the two of you.”
She looked up from the baby and knew that her face was transparent with a truth that was undeniable. “Of course, you do, has anyone ever stopped loving Jamie once they’ve started?”
“No, I think not. But he loves you as well. I have not previously witnessed such emotion in him, as I have today.”
She looked away and swallowed. The day was threatening to overwhelm her, and her throat tightened with the tears which had hovered throughout the christening. Tears of both joy and sorrow.
“You can speak of it, if you wish. I have been told,” he smiled, long nose twitching slightly, “that I am a good listener.”
“I feel like no matter what I do, I hurt someone. It’s like I can’t put a foot right in this matter. I love them both, and the laws of man and church say that’s wrong, and a sin.”
“I sense a question within that statement,” the monk said shrewdly.
“How do I reconcile the laws of man with those of my heart?”
Brother Gilles leaned forward, placing his elbows on his knees, a contemplative look in his brown eyes.
“Perhaps if I were a different sort of priest, you might get a more traditional answer but as I am not, I will simply tell you what I think and not quote doctrine at you.”
She nodded, shifting Kathleen so that the baby was over her shoulder.
“Love is what we all come to this life to experience. Love in all its many variations with its myriad faces and complexities. Love with all its beautiful complications. To love is not a sin, not if you do it with a full heart and good intent. The good Lord does not say, ‘love this one, but not that one’ does he? And so, should we say thusly? It seems to me that the two men whom you love, have come to a certain peace with this situation—if your husband could live with the knowledge of it before, can he not reconcile himself to it now? I realize that circumstances are somewhat different than those which he left behind when he disappeared, and yet might he not come to view this petit chou as a further blessing, and a being who will only enrich his life that much more?”
“I do not think he sees it in quite such a…” she hesitated, searching for an appropriate term, “shall we say—divine light, as you do.”
Brother Gilles laughed, and Kathleen burbled as if in agreement about the humor of her mother’s comment.
“It could be the Creator felt that after a lonely childhood, you deserved what love he could bring to you. Perhaps the love of both men was a pattern laid down in your being before you were even born. The Creator might occasionally make monsters, but he does not make mistakes.