Today is the day! Story two, “Penance” is posted below!
(Don’t forget to also read Story one, “Too Long” from yesterday).
For those of you just finding my blog, here is a brief explanation of what’s going on in the EZ community:
A local, independent bookstore is holding a writing competition for Flash Fiction pieces based on the theme “Confessions”. After writing several stories, I narrowed it down to my two favorites, but still can’t decide which piece to enter, so I have posted both stories here and I’m asking readers to help me decide!
I need your feedback – so leave your comments below. Tell me what you liked about the story, what you didn’t like and, most importantly, which story you liked best so I can choose which one to enter into the local competition!
Finally, please consider sharing this post on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram so even more people can help me decide.
By Elizabeth Zane
I remember when I was a kid going to confession with my parents on Saturday afternoons. Waiting impatiently for my turn to sit in the small, wooden box. I remember appreciating being separated from the only person who would ever know my sins by a screen or curtain (usually red, the color of blood, I remember noting). There was something about not being seen that made me believe that my identity was removed from my actions, but that very thing that comforted me inside the box, was also the thing that haunted me when I left it. I had always wondered if it was possible to truly separate who I was from the actions I took. Were the two not connected as closely as bone and marrow? Weren’t the actions I made the very things that defined who I was?
“So all I have to do is tell the priest my confession – all the bad things I’ve done – and he just forgives me?” I would ask my mom almost every week, struggling to wrap my mind around it.
“Yes,” she would start gently, “He will absolve you of all your sins,” she would say.
But then she would add, in a tone harsher than she began, “But there’s always a price to pay – a penance for your absolution.”
I wish I had remembered that part of the equation before tonight.
I fell in love.
I didn’t mean to; it just happened. My marriage had been falling apart and I was lonely and broken. I needed a friend, and I turned to the one person who knew me better than anyone. He and I had been engaged before I met my husband. We broke off the engagement because the timing wasn’t right – we were in two different places in our lives and we knew it wouldn’t work. Ironically, when we rekindled our relationship, we were still in two different places and our relationship still doomed to fail, but we did it anyway, and it felt good. Most days, it even felt right.
As time passed, I grew to be more faithful to him than to my husband, and though the timing wasn’t best, it no longer seemed wrong either. I was the version of myself with him that I longed to be with my husband. I struggled with the two versions of myself, wondering if my identity could really be separated from my actions – right or wrong. Wasn’t I just the sum of all of them? I craved the days when the wooden box would tell me otherwise — when someone else could set me free from myself.
And then the thought occurred to me: I needed to make a confession.
I greeted my husband at the door and told him I had something I needed to tell him.
He agreed to hear my confession and as we sat on the couch I longed for the screen that could separate me from my sin and his sight.
“I’m having an affair,” I blurted out carelessly.
I opened my mouth to say I was sorry, to say I didn’t mean for it to happen, but before I could, he got up and walked out.
I was finally going to be free — free from my sin, free to be who I wanted to be, free to be with someone else. I’d confessed and he’d have no choice but to absolve me. That’s how it worked.
But he came back and he was holding his gun.
“There’s always a price to pay.” I heard my mother’s words as the shot rang out.