Angelique OutsidePosted on May 25, 2017 in Story of the Week
Welcome back to Story of the Week!
One of my favorite short fiction pieces I’ve written is Angelique Outside, inspired by my real-life experiences on a mission trip to Nancy, France in 2007. We met and ministered with many precious people during our two weeks there. The image at the top of the story shows three people with whom I and my team had spent most every day.
The original version of Angelique Outside was a featured selection in FaithWriters.com’s Front Page Showcase. I’ve revised it several times since then, and now use it in one of my writing workshops as an example of how to portray meaningful character transformation in short fiction of under 1,000 words.
I hope it inspires you!
Angelique secured the front door of her cramped row house and stepped into a morning drizzle. She meandered to the place she’d spent her last two days—a concrete bench beneath a triangle of trees in La Place Maginot. She’d been drawn there, as if against her will. So, she returned—her choice this time—to better understand what she’d seen and felt. She’d lived in her neighborhood for forty years and had never even passed by. Why would she walk fifteen blocks to sit in a concrete park and watch people carry bags of treasures she’d never have?
At half past nine the drizzle stopped and the group of black, white, and yellow people returned. They set up their instruments and played songs in English and French. She’d never heard them, and guessed they were unfamiliar to all who passed. All day, the band played two or three songs, and then a handsome man would step up to a microphone and talk about Jesus.
She’d heard about him long ago.
Before her calamity.
What she’d heard then, and was being spoken now, hadn’t visited her. Jesus hadn’t stopped the intruder. Each time, he entered in the middle of the night. No pattern of days. Every night she crawled into bed fearing the worst.
At first, she’d turned on herself. She must have done something to deserve his visits.
Afterward, she would ask Jesus why he hadn’t protected her when that was his job.
No answer. Nothing made sense.
One day she cleansed her body as she always did afterward and skipped the ask.
Her soul dissolved over months, then years, as the intruder took and took and took some more. She endured each time, unable to resist, and kept a loose grip on hope that it would be the last.
Another day, it stopped.
She received silence from her mother, brothers, uncles, aunts. Her priest.
Days later Angelique asked her mother again. She answered with lowered eyes and a turned shoulder.
Closure eluded her, so she turned inward to subdue the madness. Why had everyone protected him? Was he now dead? Had God ended it? Or had she merely become unfit to satisfy his lust?
After a time she’d gathered her tattered soul and built it a hiding place. There she stored anger and bitterness and self hatred in separate lockers so they could not torment her again.
Sealed in a vault behind a bronze door was the shame that had wormed its way in as she’d found flashes of distorted pleasure in her encounters with the intruder that had soothed her anguish.
Her days marked the time until the agony would be no more. She kept one small window of her hiding place accessible so her survival needs might be met.
Angelique gazed at one of the singers. A soft voice tapped her window.
“Are you all right?”
The accent was foreign. She turned and made brief eye contact.
“My name is Jia. May I sit?”
Angelique nodded. Surely her eyes betrayed her emptiness.
Jia sat on the concrete bench. She kept a safe distance, for which Angelique was grateful.
“I’ve seen you here the last two days,” Jia said. “Are you enjoying the music?”
“The black man. His voice is beautiful.”
Jia slid closer. Angelique scooted to her right.
“I’m sorry. May I stay?”
Jia stared at the ground for a moment, then looked up. “I’m with the group who’s singing.”
Angelique squirmed. “Why are you here?”
Her new acquaintance smiled. “To share Jesus’ love.”
Angelique bolted up and stumbled from the bench.
“Please.” Jia said. “Don’t leave.”
Angelique stopped. She kept her back turned. Why should she trust this stranger who’d invaded her space?
“What is your name?” Jia said.
“Where are you going?”
Angelique stared at her shoes and swayed left and right. Then she spun around and looked at Jia. “Jesus. Ha! He doesn’t love me. I asked him, begged him to make it stop.” Her eyes flooded. “He didn’t.” She dropped to her knees. Jia came along side with a hug, and Angelique leaned into her arms.
This kind stranger’s embrace loosened something. One of her lockers popped open.
“Who hurt you?” Jia said.
“Someone you knew?”
Angelique nodded, with hesitation. “Someone who was supposed to love me and protect me.” She settled into Jia’s embrace.
After a time Jia trembled and cried softly. “I know.”
Angelique pulled back and gazed into her red and teary eyes. “You look so happy. How is that possible?”
Jia pointed at the man speaking to the crowd. “What he says is real.” She took Angelique’s hands. “And I want you to have it.”
Angelique pulled away. “No.” She spun and stomped a foot. “It’s too late.”
Jia moved close. “It’s not. All you need do is let him in.”
It made no sense.
Yet Angelique could not deny Jia’s peace.
She squeezed her eyelids. Her insides roiled. She resisted, but could not restrain the tidal wave and fell into Jia’s arms and wailed, groaned, until there was no more.
What was left to lose, but everything?
The doors to her hiding place exploded open. Angelique opened her window.
And gave him her keys.