Fiction

Desolation

By: Ashlea Massie

It was a simple ladies’ meeting- a small gathering of women in the evening at the church for a Bible study. Anna was vacillating about going as the anxiety was getting to her. Lines that never marred her face were now visible. New place. New faces. But she had to put herself out there. Meet new people. Do new things.

When she arrived, only one person was there waiting for the meeting to begin, an elderly woman Anna had never seen before. She took a seat across from the woman and sat there. More women arrived. Young and old. Some looked at her and moved on. Others acted as if they didn’t see her. Some said “Hello” and awkwardly moved along after a few sentences with Anna in conversation. A young woman around Anna’s age introduced herself and began a conversation with her, which gradually turned direction to the baby bouncing on her lap.

“I just love my daughter. She has been such a blessing in my life. When you have kids . . . I mean, if you have kids someday . . . .” the woman slipped, and her voice faded into the background until she was brought back to reality by another voice.

“Ladies, it’s about that time. Please take a seat and settle in,” said the leader, Talis.

The women promptly assumed their seats as the study began.

“Our first order of the meeting is to discuss announcements. As to the annunciation of new arrivals, Jane is having a girl in October, and Elizabeth is having her girl in August.” Gasps and shouts of joy filled the room. Anna sheepishly smiled and looked around the circle, not knowing who either woman was or if they were present at all.

After a few moments of sheer delight and congratulations at apparently one of the pregnant women in the room, Talis continued on, “We also want to congratulate Sarah on her recent engagement last week!” This time knowing nods of approval and bursts of “Congratulations” were shouted aloud at a very young woman, no older than twenty-one, sitting beside the leader. She blushed and grinned widely, revealing a large and beautiful smile. Once again, Anna feigned a smile, not knowing if she was smiling wide enough or too much for someone she didn’t know.

“And now, for our other announcements. We are in need of men to help with the building project we have been working on. Ladies,” Talis glanced over each woman in the room, “we need your spouses,” and then she turned to the newly engaged girl, Sarah, “and your fiancé,” she grinned, “to volunteer to help out with this project.” Anna looked down briefly at her left hand. No ring. She quickly glanced around the room and realized that every adult woman in the room was married. The leader’s announcement must have been an oversight. After all, Anna had just turned thirty; a woman of her age should be expected to be married. As Anna ruminated on these things, the leader had already moved on to the prayer requests and had begun to pray for them once Anna came to.

“Dear Lord, we thank you for bringing these women here today . . . . Please be with these prayer requests mention and each one of us as we go about our daily lives ministering to our husbands and families . . . .”

Anna did not have a family. She was a nurse practitioner who spent most of her days at the hospital nearby and came home to her cat, Missy, everyday. Truly she had no one to tend to but herself.

Prayer came and went. The study came and went.

Anna was lost in her thoughts as she drove home. She thought back to all of the events of that evening, pondering the statements made by Talis: “Ask your husband to help out.” But what if I don’t have one? Anna questioned . . . . Bless us . . . as we go back to our families. I have none Anna thought.

In that moment, Anna contemplated all of her failed relationships, a total she had lost track of. Not to mention all of the flat out refusals she had given throughout her years. And for those she had said “yes” to, none of them lasted more than six months. It was the same rigamarole. By outward appearances he seemed kind and good and all of those wonderful things, but by the time a couple of months rolled around his true self would come out. In the end, she had broken off every relationship, with the exception of one. But it didn’t matter. Here she was, living out her dreams, on her own living in a condo and thoroughly enjoying her dream job, a childhood goal of hers come true. But yet she was now sorely reminded of her marital status and had never once taken that into consideration until now.

Anna arrived home and absentmindedly reached for the door to get out of her car.

Anna turned around to face the bare parking lot, bare of people that is. Full of cars though. Empty silence surrounded her. She slowly walked to her condo and lifted her head up to the long corridor of stairs leading up to it, lit up by the orange outside light, and begrudgingly began the ascent up the stairs. As others were headed home, they would arrive to their children and to their husbands. And Anna would open the door to nobody, as she always had done.

Categories: Fiction

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