Old Mill Grist
Olivia didn’t wake up in the best of moods, and there was a brief moment she wished she wouldn’t wake up at all. Betrayal didn’t sting any less in the morning light, and her heart felt so fractured she wasn’t sure it could mend. There are things that are better never known, and Olivia learned one of those dreadful secrets the night before.
Lissa and Olivia had been friends since fifth grade. Years apart at rival colleges, busy careers, and Lissa’s divorce hadn’t broken the bond. Olivia was devastated two years ago when Lissa had been killed in a freak highway accident. The weeks and months following the funeral were a haze of jumbled memories, but one little detail that Olivia had shoved back after the accident was suddenly foremost in her mind. For a short while before the accident, Lissa had become distant in little ways that Olivia could sense, but not specifically name, and she never got the chance to talk to her about it. Now, Olivia fully understood.
Barely a year after Lissa’s death Olivia’s husband of seven years filed for legal separation. Bob had taken Lissa’s death pretty hard, but he had been a rock for Olivia during those months of adjusting to life without her best friend. It wasn’t a big shock to Olivia when Bob presented her with the papers; their marriage had lacked passion for years, and while it wasn’t what she wanted, she adjusted well to the divorce.
After Lissa’s marriage failed, her husband, Phil, moved back to his hometown over two hundred miles away, and Olivia hadn’t seen him since…until last night. He didn’t even come back for Lissa’s funeral. It had been good to see him, and when he suggested a cup of coffee, Olivia agreed. Over the course of catching up, Olivia mentioned her divorce. Phil wasn’t surprised, and matter-of-factly said he was shocked that she stuck with Bob after the affair. He couldn’t even stay in the same city after finding out what Lissa and Bob had done. Even now, he said, it was hard to come back.
How she remained in her chair, she was not sure. It was as if everything abruptly stopped; people stopped shopping, cashiers stopped scanning, the world stopped turning, and Olivia was certain she had quit breathing. She never said a word, but Phil quickly realized she hadn’t known. He wished he could take the hurt back, but the knife was already in her heart, and anything further he said would only twist it. He wanted to drive her home, but she made a hasty departure, and Phil decided to leave it alone.
Staring out of the kitchen window in the morning light, Olivia wasn’t sure how she made it home. She hoped the same strength that got her home last night would take her to her mountain hideaway where she planned to spend days in solitude until her mind stopped reeling. Making the necessary phone calls to her parents and her boss, Olivia threw her bag in the trunk and she was gone. She didn’t mention that she may never come back.
Adrenalin kicked in and Olivia made it to the mountains without stopping. After checking in, she made a quick trip to the shopping center for food and supplies before finally settling in by late afternoon. Sitting in the silence as the shadows filled the chalet, Olivia began to cry. The hurt would not let her finish the sentence that her husband and her best friend…no, the thought could not be completed! Olivia wept until the full moon lit the night, and she fell asleep staring out the window at the starry sky through tear-filled eyes.
She awoke to streaming sunlight and the hint of a beautiful day. She had intended to stay inside the chalet for days, but the sunshine and the mountains beckoned her, and she gave in to the inviting sound of the highland breeze. As anticipated, a day of visiting the gorgeous peaks and pinnacles calmed her thoughts. By the time she made it back to the chalet, the sun was setting over the ridges. Olivia sat on her little balcony watching the brilliant display of pinks and purples, and she whispered, “Amazing!”
The whispered word seemed to echo over and over in her mind, and a distant memory began to form of a song from long ago when she was a child at church. She hadn’t given church or God much thought since college, but unexpectedly, she could remember every word of the song, and she began to softly sing,
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I’m found;
Was blind, but now I see.
Olivia couldn’t explain it, but with the cooling of the mountain air, she felt peace embracing her. She was able to let her mind grasp that her husband and her best friend had so deeply hurt her. Oddly, she recognized that Lissa’s betrayal had wounded her more than her husband’s. She wanted to talk to Lissa; she had always talked to Lissa when she was upset, almost forgetting that she was responsible for her pain.
She wasn’t able to show Lissa her hurt or her rage, there was no opportunity to ask her why, or to demand of her how she could do this terrible thing to their friendship; yet Olivia was unable to hate her. Perhaps she was too hurt to hate. One day, she might ask Bob those questions, but the answers wouldn’t matter, because answers wouldn’t change anything, and no answer could bring Lissa back. From nowhere, or maybe from above, the thought came to Olivia that if Lissa were still alive, she would forgive her.
Later that night, Olivia lay in bed staring at the stars thinking about the unbidden thoughts of forgiveness earlier. Forgiving Lissa if she were living meant that she could forgive her even though she was gone. Olivia fell asleep with those thoughts of forgiveness. She dreamed of telling Lissa goodbye; closure that had been denied the friends when Lissa died so unexpectedly.
When the morning sun touched Olivia’s face, she awoke to a new hope; a spark of life that she hadn’t felt in over two years. Her friend was gone, her husband was gone; Olivia needed someone. As she put her bag in the trunk and headed home, she knew that, someday, there would be someone. Until then, she would have amazing grace, and grace will always see her through.