It started out as a question–Why would a college dropout want to dig up a Parisian grave?
I asked it over a year ago, when my Paris obsession began; it was never more than a question. I had so many projects on my plate, and answering it would mean a new one. I never even finished Sprite Duty (but plan on it doing it this year.)
Recently I began a periodical blog story, Raconteur, with no plot–except for a girl in Paris who wants to dig up a grave. Usually projects lose spark in two weeks. This time, the project made it past page five–a rarity for stories not associated with Dissonance.
I have been posting a chapter every Friday, here and on Wattpad. I have no idea where the story is going, but it took a creepy turn last night. I’m writing faster than I can post.
The project might appeal to fans of ghost stories. I grew up with them–it was bound to rub off at some point.
I felt eyes bear into me across the street. My insides went cold—he vanished when Matt came along, and didn’t wait to resume the chase.
The breeze wrapped around me, whispering phrases in French from centuries back. I had nowhere to run: The sidewalk was clear. There was not a living soul to hear me scream.
I didn’t look up, but knew he was there—the tall, burly figure, dark and foreboding, the dead man I fled from and pursued.
Everything I achieved in life was suddenly insignificant: I was a little girl scared to look down the hall.
He killed my grandmother, but hadn’t stopped there. I’d seen everyone die, and knew I was next.
“She wants to know who you are,” Matt told me, as I took a hesitant seat. I didn’t need to hear the woman say a word to know she had distaste for me. I didn’t blame her, either–I was a stranger living in her basement.
“I’m Lucy,” I mumbled, keeping my gaze on the table. “I’m nineteen. I’m here for a job.”
Matt smiled. “I think she wants more detail than that.”
How was I supposed to explain I’d come to dig up a century-old grave? I shook my head and decided to lie. “Came to visit my grandma. She’s buried here.” It wasn’t entirely dishonest. I did have to go to a cemetery, just not the one they would be thinking about now.
“You came alone to visit a cemetery?” Matt asked disbelievingly. “Without money or a suitcase or anything?”
I didn’t want to owe him an explanation, but I didn’t want dishonesty on my conscience. There was enough there to begin with. “I wasn’t broke without a suitcase when I got here,” I told him, and his mother listened from the corner as if she could understand. Perhaps she didn’t need to know word from word to understand I was trying to beat around the bush.
“Did someone steal from you?” he asked, helping his mother to set dishes on the table.
“Yeah,” I told him. It wasn’t the whole story, but whatever worked. “Can I help you with this, too?”
As if on cue, his mother handed me a couple of glasses and nodded to the table. It became clear that I wasn’t staying here for free. I gave her what I hoped was a respectful smile instead of a terrified one, and tried to remember the etiquette I’d read for setting tables in France.
Matt sighed. “Look, Lucy–my mom is really superstitious. She doesn’t want small talk and she insists that you brought a dead person with you.”
I nearly dropped one of the glasses. His words were an unexpected punch in the gut I wasn’t ready to handle. I should have thought it better before caving and staying in a person’s basement. I should have taken into my plan that I might run into someone who felt the same things I did. Just like I never foresaw having my luggage stolen, being shoved into the Seine. I came into Europe with everything mapped out in my head, and everything collapsed like a card castle.
I couldn’t escape the curse, not even in a stranger’s house. I couldn’t live my life with people who didn’t know me. There was no place for me to go without hurting myself and others. The ghost had followed me into this single mother’s house, and she had every right to dislike me. Slowly, I placed the glasses on the table and forced myself to look her in the eye. There was no way for me to explain and make this look any better. I hoped it was possible to see an apology, no matter what the language.
Her eyes were not cold or disdainful like I had expected. She looked at me with more kindness than I ever expected, going by the stereotypes I’d been fed. What was I supposed to say now that I’d been caught in the act? There was no point feigning a lie, because he’d scattered my wits with a sentence.
She spoke to Matt, her voice gentle and even concerned. Meanwhile I wanted to run out the door. I wanted to vanish into the night and leave this family at peace. Helplessly I listened and let the tears wait for later. She spoke to her son in a way I remembered my mother used to speak to me, and it never rang so clearly in my bleeding heart that I was orphaned and would probably die soon.
Not till I finished what I came for. It would not be until after I finished what I promised Mom I would do. I felt it, though, the dread in my stomach, the eerie premonition that I did not have two months left to live.
Swallowing hard, I took a step back, fixing my gaze on a window. I waited for the words so overdue–”You can’t stay here. Leave after dinner. We’re sorry, but we don’t need this.”
Instead, Matt cleared his throat. “She says you’re not allowed to leave until you’ve gotten rid of him.”
I thought I might laugh. It sounded ridiculous and impossible. All my life I’d been driven from place to place, seen as a bad luck charm with evil close wherever I went. “Look, if this is a prank–” I began, voice cracking.
Matt smiled. “Does my mother look like someone who would prank about this?”
“No,” I stuttered. “No, but I have no idea what she’s really saying to you–”
“Why would I prank about this?” he asked impatiently. “What purpose would I have?”
There was no place to run or hide. Technically I was safer than I’d been in days, but felt more threatened stuck here with two people who’d forced the story out of me when usually I couldn’t get people to believe it when I wanted them to. My arms hung limply at my sides and I didn’t know who to look at–Matt or his mother?
“Sit down,” he told me, voice gentle again. “Please. We’re your friends.”
“I don’t have any friends,” I whispered, not meeting his gaze.
“Well, now you do.” He drew a chair for me and waited. I took a moment to steady my breathing, finally swallowing my pride to sit across from his mother, who looked sympathetic like I never thought a French woman would.
“She believes she’s psychic,” Matt explained, and I heard in his voice that he didn’t entirely respect his mother’s claim. I could smell a skeptic from miles away, and he was just a foot from me. “She says she can help you. I had nothing to do with this, Lucy–I’m just the translator.”
“Nothing she can do will help me,” I mumbled, but my eyes locked on hers again. I was struck by the honest concern in her gaze. Matt didn’t believe her, so perhaps she found in me a place of solace, even if we could not understand one another.
His mother smiled and spoke in broken English. “My name is Leonie.”
Before you read this blog post, watch the Blimey Cow video. It is part of the inspiration that drove me to write on the subject.
We have a problem with love, and it’s this: There’s only one word in the English language for love. When a person says love, they could mean many different things. The result is confusion and a narrow view of the action of loving a person. There’s more to love than romance and Nicholas Sparks novels, but in a language where there’s only one word for love, not many people will catch that.
The Greek language has four main words for love: Agape, Eros, Storge, and Philia. The English language just has love. It poses a problem when we begin to fear saying those three words, I love you. It becomes an issue when humans thrive off the knowledge that they are loved, even in not a romantic way.
It becomes an issue when apparently the only type of love that counts for anything is romantic love.
For weeks I’ve been thinking on the subject, making connections and having epiphanies. I hoped to get my thoughts together by Valentine’s Day because it’s relevant then–but it wasn’t ready by February 14, and when you come to think of it, the message you are loved is relevant all year long. Now I’ve more or less gathered my ideas into decent bites and I’m excited to know your input.
God is love, and you definitely cannot fit Him into four categories–much less only one. When I really stopped to think about it, I realized love is not a word–it’s an action. God is always on the move–love is always on the move. We shouldn’t dwell so much on the words, but the action behind them.
Yet this society communicates in words, so it’s something that should be addressed, and deserves light shed on it.
Feel free to comment. I by no means consider myself the authority on this. I just have a lot I want to say, and feel needs to get out there. Thank you for joining me!
Find the challenge here!
God is everything. There may be times I feel I can get by on my own, but feelings are deceptive. I always need my God—we all do.
I wrote about God the teacher in a blog post about purity of intention:
Even if they do have experience in art, nobody but the Creator of the Universe has mastered it. Only His critique will do me any good. This critique will come through other people, but I’ve got to remember that they’re only human. We’ve all got to listen for His word if we want to improve at all.
Lent is a wonderful way to savor that fact.
Spending time with Him in prayer is never a waste of time: He prepares us for life. We might succeed or fail–He prepares us to deal with each outcome. The LORD teaches us to handle failure with grace and success with humility. It’s no better to be a sore winner than a sore loser. Both situations require guidance; we cannot handle them without Heaven.
Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him dumb, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”
Exodus 4:11, 12
“I’m too busy for prayer!” That’s one of satan’s favorite lies.
Time with God will prepare us for anything. Pray before a test–when we take pencil to paper, we’ll know we aren’t alone—because of the moment sat in His presence to meditate.
With knowledge of God’s love, we can handle hard questions and painful decisions. Most of all, in His presence we learn to deal with the easy matters–at least, those which appear easy on the surface. Morally they can be more complicated than we think.
Life presents us with different schools. Secular minds hear the word lesson and think of math equations–things that can be written on paper with a pencil, things we can see with the naked eye.
Spiritually, we’re in a school we won’t graduate from in this life. We’re learning to be holy, following the footsteps of saints that came before us. St. Therese is one saint who teaches me all the time.
If we focus only on calculations that can be written as formula, characters that form words, we are only keeping up with earthly school. This blows life out of proportion, because the one real sadness is to not be a Saint.
Falling behind on the spiritual school of the Lord has a fatal effect on our lives. This Lent, I’m dedicating 40 days to try and learn what He is teaching me as well. That’s what Lent is about, and it has so many graces at the end of the fast.
Pray for me, and I’ll pray for you too.
Make me to know thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.
It gives me hope to find other people who understand the real meaning of Lent, and the graces that come with it!
Originally posted on The Lauren Chronicles:
“What are you giving up for Lent?”
Those seven words have brought me many mixed emotions growing up. Being raised Catholic, Lent has been a regularly celebrated season in my household. I always thought I understood exactly what it was. We pick something to give up for the 40 week days in between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday and we suffer through it. Right?
WRONG. So wrong.
“I’m giving up chocolate for Lent!”
Okay, so maybe some people would actually miss chocolate during Lent. That’s fine–I don’t know you well enough to comment. I can only comment on myself.
This year I’m not giving anything up. Instead I’m going to use Lent and try to develop better habits. I have a reading list of spiritual books I’m going to devour. I want the friendship with God I had two years ago when life was simpler. I know He has been very absent from my life these past few months, out of my own fault.
I feel Lent should be seen as an opportunity to pick things up instead of throwing silly things out temporarily. Those 40 days Christ spent in the desert, He gave up everything, and came back stronger than ever to serve the Lord and parry satan’s nagging with Scripture.
If you want to take Lent seriously, do a challenge that’ll take effort. Pick something that will change you as a person.
I’ve never wanted to give up chocolate because it just feels like a mockery. Lent is so much bigger than that. Lent is for spiritual renewal, and whatever you do for Lent should be challenging because that’s the whole point.
This Lent I’m blogging every day, with my friend Monique. It can be a picture or a doodle but I’m holding myself accountable for recovering the beautiful relationship with God I remember having.
Need a blogging challenge? There are plenty on Pinterest.
Lent is a time of finding direction, and that’s what I’m going to do this year. I want to join Jesus on his 40 day trek through the desert. We have a lot to catch up on–and that’s what Lent is about.
But if you feel it would benefit you, give up chocolate too. You’ll get something sweeter in return–the love of Christ.