The afternoon dragged on, but not because she was waiting for Blaise to return. Actually, she had a certain amount of dread in that regard. For as hard as she had fought to keep her feelings in check, they were now all over the place, and she didn’t know what to think. But time dragged because of a severe headache that descended just after her applesauce lunch. The neurologist assured her that what she was experiencing was perfectly normal and part of the healing process, given her injury; but the pain was incapacitating. As yet, the nurses had not been instructed to remove her morphine drip; and though, she had not required much medication the last couple of days, she certainly needed it now. The drugs diminished the pain but made her feel lightheaded and very sleepy. She didn’t get her scheduled bath or her chair time; instead, she drifted in and out of sleep all day, but mostly in.
Sometime in the middle of the night, she woke. She was unsure of the time, but it had to be after midnight. Lights were dimmed, and she heard occasional soft murmurs from the nurses’ station down the hall. The pain was gone, but the fogginess of drugs lingered, even though she had not had a dose since early evening. As her eyes focused, she saw Blaise’s tall form draped over one of the much too small padded, orange armchairs. He was asleep, but she couldn’t imagine that he was comfortable.
His long hair fell over his face, his breathing slow and even. As she watched his chest rise and fall, she wondered at the turn her life had taken since he walked through her shop door. It was not anything she had wanted. And she could not have foreseen the role he would play; but as days and weeks had gone by, she’d come to realize that he was becoming an important part of her life. Indispensable, really. She just couldn’t allow herself to believe it. No matter how hard she had resisted, she knew now that her affection for this man was real; and after his kiss, she dared to hope that he felt the same. It was scary for her because she had built over the years this impenetrable wall around her heart so as never to be vulnerable again—vulnerable to love, but more importantly, vulnerable to loss. “So, Lord, what in the world am I supposed to do?”
She had not meant to speak it out loud, but Blaise stirred in his chair at the sound of her voice. He opened his eyes and adjusted his frame in the chair. “Okay, was I drooling?”
“Just a little,” she lied. “You looked very uncomfortable. You should go home to your own bed. How long have you been there?”
“Well, how long have you been there?” And he smiled as he pointed to her hospital bed. “How are you feeling now? Rough day, huh?”
“Yeah, kinda; but it helped, I guess, to be doped up; though, I hate the feeling of being so out of control.”
“It would be nice right about now to have one of those healing formulas that we all seem to want. If I had it, know that you wouldn’t have to go through this—any of this.” He waved his arm around.
“Well, I know you have been faithful to pray because I have oil all over my forehead.”
He smiled sheepishly. “If one anointing doesn’t do the trick, I figure five or six or ten might.” He moved his chair closer to the bedside. “So, about that kiss.” He smiled like a little boy caught in the act.
“Are you asking forgiveness?” She smiled, but she genuinely was a little hesitant, wondering if he regretted his action.
“No, but I probably should, taking advantage of an invalid as I was. But . . . I would like to talk to you about it, but two in the morning is probably not the best time.”
“Normally, I would say that’s true; but there has not been anything normal about my life of late, so since I’m currently wide awake, I’m open to talk. Though I have to admit, I’m a bit nervous.” She smiled to keep it light, but she felt the weight of her own words. “So, let’s talk about that celibate thing.”
“Ah, yes. I did not intend to mislead you, if you thought that was still the commitment of my life. Shall I start at the beginning or jump to the end?”
“The beginning, please.”
Blaise took a breath and closed his eyes, looking as if he was locating a hidden file on his mental hard drive.
“After my wife and child died, as I’ve told you before, I was in a pretty bad way. Committing to life in the monastery was my rescue; I not only found real relationship with Christ there, but I also found purpose, clarity of thinking, and healthy discipline for a very willful young man. I needed the strict parameters of that life to see what is really important and to sow into my life an unwavering devotion to Christ. Celibacy was required by the brotherhood; but for me, it was also part of my faithful devotion. And I really did not chafe at it all. When I started feeling that I was being called to leave and minister somewhere else, I assumed that celibacy would still be part of my spiritual DNA. I felt no need to even think about looking for another life partner. Are you with me so far?”
“Yes, I am. I was a little fuzzy when I first woke up, but I’m tracking now.”
“Okay, well, fast forward to Shiloh. My heartfelt desire was as I told you—to start a fellowship and create vital community. I wanted God to use me and make a difference in lives; and for whatever reason, I felt like it was supposed to be here. When I left the monastery, the abbot told me I would be free of my commitment to celibacy, and he asked me how I felt about that. I remember telling him I had no intention to change in that regard. My devotion was singularly focused. He told me as I left that I should be open to whatever God brought my way—no matter what that might look like. Maybe he knew me better than I knew myself, but as far as I was concerned, singleness was my forever calling. When I told you about my commitment to celibacy, that was at the monastery; and to be honest, it was what I felt was for now, too; so, I wasn’t trying to mislead you in any way. I wasn’t on the prowl or anything. Honestly. But . . .”
A night nurse, having heard voices, came in to check on Harper. She took her vitals, smiled, and then retreated back to the station. “Do you want me to continue, or are you too tired?”
“No, I’m fine. It sounds like you’re getting to the good part.”
“Well, I hope it’s the good part. Who knows, you might think I’m weirder than you knew. I felt very comfortable becoming your close friend because I didn’t have anything to prove. You seemed to be very wounded, and my one desire was to have God perhaps use me in your life to help with that. I did not orchestrate our friendship, and I hope you feel the same way; but I felt like our friendship was organic—natural—and grew without manipulation by you or me. It felt—feels—very comfortable to me. Would you agree with that or am I off base?”
“No, I agree. My Spidey sense would have been up for any manipulation. I felt like I would never again . . . well, I mean. I only wanted friendship . . . and I didn’t even know I wanted that till ours started growing. I started trusting you . . . and I never thought I could do that again.”
“Right, that’s where I was, too. And for me, I trusted you—your honesty and purity—but I wasn’t sure I could ever trust myself. The problem was that the more time we spent together, and the more life we shared, the more attracted I became to you, not just as a spiritual sister . . . but as a woman. Just being honest here. I fought it and rebuked the feelings because I didn’t want to ruin the special friendship we were nurturing. But . . . when you got hurt, and there was a real risk that you weren’t going to survive, I had to admit to myself . . . that . . . okay, I’m going out on a limb here. I had to admit to myself and to God that I couldn’t lose you, that I loved you—not just friend love, but love love.” Blaise got up and sat on the side of Harper’s bed. He grabbed her hands in his and looked straight into her eyes. Harper caught her breath, her heart racing. “I don’t know if you feel the same, but . . .”
Harper leaned forward and kissed the words right out of his mouth. Blaise pulled her into his chest, wrapping his arms around her.
Harper spoke softly, “I’ve felt the same way. I was afraid if I gave in to the feelings that were growing for you, I would lose you—lose your friendship. And I knew that if I was off base in what my heart was telling me, I risked losing the best friend I’ve had in so many years.”
They sat together in embrace for some time. Blaise touched her hair and pulled it off her forehead, being careful not to disturb the still bandaged sections. “Harper, I don’t know where this will lead, and I don’t know if I can be the kind of man that will be God’s best for you; but if you are willing, would you give me a chance to learn to love you. I already love you with all I am.”
“I am willing. I do love you, too. I do. . . . and I am so glad my heart is not hooked up to the monitor right now or nurses would be rushing in.” They both laughed at that.