I have published this story as a whole on its own page but I thought it would be good to post it in two parts – more manageable chunks. If you wish to carry on reading you can find the full version in the main menu under ‘fictional stories’. Or you can wait for part 2 to be published as a post.
The room looks like an Edwardian office belonging to an upper-class gentleman. It screams professionalism and taste, maturity and knowledge. When I first entered I was utterly intimidated by it.
He looks slightly younger than I expected but otherwise, every bit the professional who should occupy this room, a room laced with his qualifications and wealth. The scent of leather and sandalwood enhances this and I notice the diffuser tucked in the corner of an impressive bookshelf. This guy has thought of everything.
“I just don’t know if I can ever forgive him.”
“Tell me what you think.”
So, I think. For a minute or two and as I do I look around the office again. I wonder if I’m paying for his skills or his mahogany furniture. It’s probably both.
“I think I should because it’s right. The right thing to do.” I say.
“Let’s explore that.” He speaks softly and with warmth. For a moment, I feel as though he really cares. He wants to help me. I breathe out and allow some of the tension to release from my shoulders.
“What do you mean by right, by whose definition?” He asks.
“I don’t know. I’m not religious, it’s a feeling, it feels right. He hurt people. He made a huge, unchangeable mistake. I know this but still, my brain tells me it’s not helping me to hold on to this anger.” I pause.
So by right I guess I mean, the best for me and it is me that defines it that way.” I don’t understand why I sound so lucid and self-aware.
“So actually, you want to forgive and not for him or anyone else, for yourself?”
“Yes.” A wave of doubt strikes me as I watch him note this down.
“I think you understand yourself better than you realise. It is a common occurrence for a person to know the correct path and experience a battle within themselves to walk that path. I wouldn’t tell you what you ought to do, but studies have proven that holding on to bitterness and anger has a negative impact on mental and physical well-being. So I think you’re right, forgiveness is the right thing, for you”.
I detect a slight pause before those final words. The warmth is still present in his voice as he delivers this spiel, holding eye contact. Yet, I sense a rehearsed air about him, is it… boredom, I detect? My shoulders tense again. Perhaps I took some pride in seeing myself as a complex case but he’s heard it all before.
“You know the facts, but could you do it?” I blurt out, surprising myself. He is still writing and appears unaffected by my pointed question. He places the pen down and looks at me. Something blazes in his eyes very briefly, I’m not even sure it was really there as almost immediately he radiates that calming confidence.
“I expect I could yes, knowing it to be the best course. Would I find it easy? I doubt it. No one does.” He uncrosses long, thin legs and shifts to a more upright position before changing the focus back to me.
“Let’s talk about the events that lead to you making this appointment.” I take a deep breath and my stomach knots.
“Tell me what happened.” He picks up his pen.
“I was angry.”
“Do you know why?”
“No.” There is an edge to my voice and I feel a flutter of the same feeling as I recall the event. A phone is ringing in the next room.
“Alright. So what happened?” He sounds ever so slightly impatient and my throat tightens. After a long pause, he looks directly at me and lifts an eyebrow a fraction.
“You’re safe here. I’m not going to judge you.”
He has misunderstood my hesitation.
“I threw bottles of alcohol on the floor of the shop. One nearly hit someone.” A throb of guilt, pulsing. I still didn’t understand where that rush of pure rage came from.
I have never done anything like that before. Never… felt like that before. I’m a normal guy. From a normal family. Well, I was.” I look at my thumb, which has been absently rubbing a smooth patch of leather on the arm of my chair.
“What triggered it?” He asks, gently.
“I saw an old family friend. We used to live next door to her.”
“I’ve had the worst two years of my life. I’ve had a breakdown. I lost the life I loved. And she said, those poor people, and their families… I just, exploded.” He nods and notes something down. I wonder if it is part of their training to always appear calm and as if they understand everything that is said no matter how weird. Nothing I say makes any sense. I haven’t told him how my father died yet.
“Did she provoke anger that you feel towards your father?” He ventures. I stop for a moment, focusing on the short-pile rug in the middle of the floor. I was angry at him. I am angry at him, but why would that make me angry at her?
“I… I don’t think so. That’s sort of what I’ve assumed but now that I think about it. No, I don’t think so.” I suddenly remember what I’d been thinking the moment I bumped into her. A pack of French lager had caught my eye and I was instantly transported to our family holidays at a resort in France.
It was the same place each year; a place I loved. We all loved it. We swam, hired bikes, ran about with new-found friends, returned to our tent amidst the fragrance of barbequing meat and seafood. My father truly shrugged off the stress and pressure of his business during those holidays and gave us a glimpse of the trouble-free version of himself. I loved him but this version made me most happy and most sad. Sad that this was not the Dad I knew 50 weeks of the year.
“I was thinking of our family holidays when she spoke to me.”
“Was that a good memory or a bad one?”
“A good one. A very good one. My childhood was mostly happy. It’s just… My Dad was not.”
“No, he was not happy.”
“Do you know why?”
I pause and close my eyes. He asked me a question I have asked myself for most of my life. I still hadn’t found the answer.
“No, I don’t know why. Perhaps I should have asked. It was hard to talk to him though, in the last couple of years. Alcoholics aren’t great conversationalists.”
“I see. Is that what made you angry in the store, the alcohol?” He seems thoroughly intrigued now, like I was a puzzle to piece together.
“No, I wasn’t thinking about that. As I said I was thinking about our holidays. I think I was missing him.” Something I had not allowed myself to do.
He scans over his notes.
“You said, she commented on those poor families. Why did that make you angry?”
I missed him, I realise. I do miss him. He was my dad. He was a good man. He made mistakes but I should be allowed to miss him. To love him still. I notice a tear splash onto my jeans, a dark circle, a blot on the otherwise clean fabric. This was how I had seen my father’s presence in my life. Something to be erased. I had even changed my name.
I hadn’t realised that my anger toward him had worn itself out and now, I was angry at myself for disowning him so readily. I reach for a tissue out of the polished wooden holder.
“I was angry because no one ever says, I’m sorry for your loss.”
“I see.” I wish he’d stop saying that.
You want to be able to grieve for your father. That is understandable and it is important that you allow yourself to. When we don’t allow ourselves to grieve properly it tends to fester and produces other emotional problems that are hard to deal with.” He explains.
“So, how do I do it? How can I forgive him?”
End of part 1 – would love to hear your thoughts so far in the comments.