Chapter 4 : Lessons In Forgiveness
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I had always told Luna that you only get out of life what you put into it. I couldn’t help but wonder what I had put into to life to deserve this. I was wasting away my days in this empty holding cell. Having always been an all or nothing kind of person I found it hard to accept I was somewhere in between. How could I accept that I was neither dead nor alive? There was no doubt in my mind that I was dead, but I wanted it to be quick; why avoid the inevitable? The few glimpses I had of the living world were tortuous. I would never dwell amongst them again, and I was left with the resounding fear that I would be here forever.
I tried to return to the living. I walked until I could no longer see the orange tree spread out behind me and I didn’t stop until I found the whitest place in the white world. As I was dying, I looked into the light, as we were all told not to. It was an unspoken rule; don’t look into the light. It stood to reason, then, that the point of death occurred there in the light.
My eyes stung as the white glowed around me, illuminating my skin and my hair. I felt blinded but I could still see. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a dark shape.
However, when I turned to look at it it disappeared. I looked away and continued to watch it as it came closer. Only when it was a few feet away did I recognised her; it was Ariana, the lady who wasn’t death.
I was about to ask her my question, but she beat me to it.
“No,” she barked, and I caught a glimpse of her pearly white teeth. Why is it that white gives the impression of perfection? All I saw was a lack of colour. The exact thing the white world personified; a lack of life. “You cannot return.”
I stared at her face, feeling slightly numb. “Then please,” I begged. “Let me go on.”
The harshness that I had seen in Ariana’s body softened. “I cannot decide when you will move on. It is out of my hands.”
“Who does?” My eyes pleaded for some relief, for any indication of hope. “Where can I find them?”
Ariana gave me a small smile. “I understand your pain,” she said softly. “How many others do you think have asked me the same question? My answer is always the same.”
I scanned the old lady’s face; her oddly smooth skin and striking features gave nothing away. It looked as though it was used to guarding secrets. I sighed in frustration. Why did she talk in riddles all the time? “What is the answer?”
Ariana lifted a spindly hand and pointed at me. “Only you have that power.” She reached out for my shoulder but her elegant hand passed straight through me.
I stepped back, horrified. I wasn’t sure whether it was me or her that wasn’t solid but I knew I needed to get away. I was feeling very uneasy about her presence and goose bumps rose on my arms.
“I want to move on,” I whispered to where the old lady had begun to fade into nothing. “But I can’t.”
“The time will come.” Ariana’s voice echoed around me as if the old lady had simply diffused into the white world.
I frantically searched for the source of the voice, as if it could still answer my questions. I became frustrated when I could see nothing but white, again.
“What am I doing here?” I cried, my voice becoming louder. “What should I do?”
Inwardly I cursed Ariana; I cursed the white world and it’s lack of colour; I cursed all those who were content in this entrapment. Every moment I was forced to face the fact that I was dead and I was alone.
I never sought solitude; solitude usually found me. Admittedly it had never bothered me whilst I was alive, but now that I had no choice in the matter I could no longer stand my own company. I wasn’t strong enough to cope with the burden of being anymore. I missed skin on skin contact. I longed to feel the cool breeze or the warmth of the sun on my cheeks. I’d even welcome the cold drops of wet rain. Not a light drizzle that tickles your face, but the big drops that leave you soaking to the skin. It used to make me feel alive.
Closing my eyes, I could imagine the sound of heavy rain. Big, round drops hurtled themselves at the ground, exploding into smaller droplets. Rain symbolised to me a fresh star, as if it washed away any previous mistakes. Washing the slate clean. The heavy scent of after-the-rain was glorious; definitely the best smell in the world.
Of course I’d never been naïve enough to believe that mistakes could be washed away completely. There are some things one can never forget even if they have been forgiven. I wish my fears could be washed away as easily as the rain washes away. I’d never had any real fears during my life and I was proud that I was not afraid of many things. The white world had instilled a constant nagging terror; was I here forever?
Fear in itself scared me. Where was my strong inner self who had no fears and only relied on herself? I could trust no one if I couldn’t trust myself. I didn’t know the white world could twist my fears as easily as it twisted common sense.
Luna would have helped me overcome my fears as easily as I had banished hers. She would hold my hand, just as I had held hers, and let the fear just float away. That approach would work now; I could hold no more hands and my fears had nowhere to float to. They were trapped inside my head just as I was trapped in between of life and death.
Xenophilius had always been hopeless at comforting anybody. He meant well and had a compassionate heart but he often struggled to find the right things to stay. Tactfulness wasn’t his strong point; sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth.
I realised that I had no hopes for me. I had once hoped to become a successful inventor; I was never given the chance to fulfil my dream. I had hoped to be a successful wife and mother; I failed that when I gave my life up. Why had it not occurred to me to struggle against the white light that had swallowed me up? I could have chosen to look away from the light. I had hoped to make amends with my parents; I had no chance to say sorry for disobeying them now. All I had left was my hope that Luna would grow into a well-rounded and happy woman.
It was as I was thinking such thoughts that I stumbled across a part of the Orchard I had never been to before. I barely noticed the change until the twisted branches of the orange trees, which had sneakily risen from the ground, had been replace with the soft pink of cherry blossom. It seemed obvious to me that these trees blossomed all year round through all the seasons. The trees emitted a pink glow which radiated down from the high canopy above me. Although nothing would ever be able to reach the sky-scraping blossom, it was glowing enough to light the area around me. I had no doubt the trees were ancient and had limitless wisdom. It lifted my spirits to be around such awe-inspiring beauty. I closed my eyes and drank in the pink aura. There was no fruity smell here; it was light and floral as if the scents were dancing on tip-toes around the trees, just waiting for the next chord to play. The scent in itself seemed to please me more than the citrus smell of oranges; my fears seemed calmed.
When I opened my eyes again I found myself at Hogwarts. The grounds looked so beautiful, so silent, that it brought tears to my eyes; at the same time it made me want to yell as loud as I could in order to create noise. I needed sound to fill my neglected ears.
As I became accustomed to my surroundings I noticed the birdsong; something I hadn’t heard since before I died. The presence of living organisms nearby made me feel alive again. I could almost feel my blood pulsating around my body, almost feel my lungs inflate as I took a breath. However the thought was tainted by the fact that I knew my heart would never beat again and I would never breather again.
I wondered if any of this was real; I didn’t think I was imagining my visions of the present in the living world but even I, who believed in many obscure thing, like love, couldn’t deny that life after death just wasn’t possible. Anything is possible with magic, I suppose, but we never touched upon the subject of the afterlife when I was at school.
Snapping twigs attracted my attention towards the Forbidden Forest. The late morning sunshine would never see every part of the forest floor, making it mysterious even to forces of nature which seemed unstoppable. The slim figure of a young girl was illuminated by the rays of light. No further inspection was needed for I recognised Luna from the way she stood. She couldn’t have been anyone else. I wouldn’t say her posture was perfect, but she stood in such a way that seemed to warn off any threat. In fact, I identified that stature as my own and I shifted uneasily on my feet. My steely expression and closed body language scared people away; most of all, I wanted my daughter to have the friends I never had. She deserves that at least.
I would always feel guilty for leaving her in the living world. She was at the mercy of those who took pity on her. If it was one thing I hated it was pity. I had always been perfectly happy in solitude; until now, that is.
As I watched Luna she seemed to sense that she was being watched. She nervously tucked her hair behind her ears and stood up straight, alert like a rabbit caught in headlights. She looked behind herself, then looked right at where I was standing watching her. My heart rose to my throat; had she seen me? Cautiously, I waved a couple of fingers at her to see if she would react. Luna’s blue eyes narrowed. She raised a delicate hand and for one insane moment I was completely sure that she was going to wave back; then she tucked the hair that had fallen forward back behind her ear.
Disappointment raged inside me. How could I ever have thought that she would see me? I had already acknowledged the fact I was never going to walk amongst the living again, so why was I putting up my hopes every time when I knew they were going to be dashed? It had to stop. There was no point in causing myself anymore misery; being dead was enough. I should take advantage of the position I was in.
I watched as Luna strolled back up to the castle by herself. Independence should be admired, but I was worried that she was too alone. We all need friends by our sides for the good times and the bad.
I sat idly in the orange tree, not expecting to see anything at all. I let the smell of oranges swirl around me like gusts of wind, not really bothering to eat the orange in my hand. The dimpled skin tickled my palm and I felt more light-hearted than I had in a long time. If it was inevitable that I was going to stay here until the time came for me to move on then I could at least make myself useful. Two people formed in my mind, and the white world began to swirl and blur. They were two people I had no intention of ever seeing again.
I stepped down from the orange tree into my home. It wasn’t the home I had made with Xenophilius, but the home I had been born into. I knew every nook and cranny, and knew the stories that the walls hid. It lived and breathed my parents.
They weren’t in, luckily, so I didn’t feel that I was intruding. I hadn’t spoken to them since the day Luna was born. When I married Xeno they disowned me and after I told them I’d had a daughter, their grandchild, they refused to see her. I don’t even know why they objected to Xenophilius so much. He was a pure-blood, so that wasn’t the problem. No doubt my parents had someone else lined up for me. But I only ever loved Xenophilius and I didn’t listen to them. How glad I was of that.
So now I was in their house, tracing the wallpaper with my wraithlike fingers. I couldn’t feel it beneath them, but I knew it so well. I could imagine the feel of the bump where accidentally blasted the wall with my wand. So many unhappy memories. My parents and I had never really gelled. They were posh and uptight, whereas I was free and indifferent. They couldn’t wait to get rid of me. Maybe that was the problem they had with Xeno; he wasn’t taking me away fast enough.
I had forgiven them a long time ago for their behaviour; they were my family and I loved them.
I paused my wall-tracing. I had forgiven them…I loved them. That was something I never acknowledged. I had never thought about them in a fond way. But I had forgiven them and I did still love them… why had it taken me this long to realise that?
I shivered and climbed the staircase, my feet gliding over the threadbare carpet. I entered my bedroom for the first time in twenty years. To my shock I saw it was exactly the way I had left it; my mother had obviously cleaned it since then, but in essence it was the same. I was so touched that I could only stare at my full bookshelf. All my favourite books were still there, all my notepads. Even my old cauldron was still sat on the desk.
I closed my eyes and waited until I could feel the safe branches of the orange tree beneath me, holding me secure in its stiff embrace. Did this mean my parents had forgiven me after all this time? One good thing had come out of my death, then; we had forgiven each other.
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