I have always thought myself immune to women's tears,
But this obvious misery stops me in my tracks. Seeing
Her folding herself into a sorrowful ball of golden curls
And tear-stained silk, I find myself growing quieter.
"Ann. Talk to me. We're adults. Nothing can be this bad."
"But I'll never see you again. If I tell you the truth,
You won't want anything to do with me!" I look
Carefully into her eyes, lift her chin so that she has
To look at me. Quietly, I say, "I might surprise you.
Hmm?" "It's... him. The Reverend Ainsworth. I've been...
Indiscrete... He's had... intimate knowledge of me..."
And, at first, as the knowledge landed inside me, time
Seemed to slow. I thought: But she said she had often
Disliked thinking of men like that. I thought: I wondered
Where she learned to kiss like she does. I thought:
How could anyone take advantage of this sweet
Marmalade of a girl? Because there is no way on God's
Earth that this young woman wanted advances on her
From a married man. She sobs, "He said he was in love
With me, that she wouldn't live long, and I didn't know
How to say no. That's why when she died, I-- Because
I knew it wouldn't be five minutes... And I told him
I didn't want to, but he managed situations where he
Was alone with me, here or at their house... Anne,
Do you understand the problem?" Horrified, I sat
Beside her, taking it in. "Were you... connected?"
She nods, sniffling. "Once. Does that not put me
Under obligation to him?" I wipe tears away
With my thumbs. "He inflicted himself on you
In his house, while visiting his wife. You were under his
Protection! With his wife in the other room! No,
You are under no obligation to him!" "You're cross,
You're shouting." "I'm not cross at you, not shouting
At you. I'm glad you told me!" And as she continues
Crying, I gentle her, reassess my thinking, make a plan.