Paula sat alone on the cold stone, drinking in the first warmth of spring. It had been a long winter, perhaps the hardest time of her life. Her memories had flooded her like the swirling waters of a swollen river, somestimes bashing her with such violence and rushing that she was close to losing her mind. But she had clung resolvedly to the vow she had made and to the hope she had found.
It had started so many years ago, seven to be exact. Paula was in her third year of schooling at the university where she was studying to become a psycho-therapist. Young, intelligent, agile and good looking, Paula had no trouble managing herself, and she had her future perfectly planned. First, she would complete her schooling, then she would start her career, then after her career was on it's way, then she would marry and perhaps have a child with her practice developed to the point that she could function out of her home and continue being a career woman, wife, and mother. Paula was at that time of her life, confident of her abilities and her talents. Then, she met Sydney and he shook up her world.
She never intended to get involved with him, but somehow their paths would always cross as though they were destined for each other. Sydney was different than the other men Paula had known, he was older, more experienced, not the usual clumsy, green, loud university student. But he was silent alot, almost brooding and he could gain control over her without her even realizing what had happened. Before she knew it, Paula had grown to be horribly infatuated with Sydney and she would wait at the library where she seemed to meet him most often, her heart beating uncontrollably when she saw him coming. Paula did not like what was happening to her but what could she do, it was like they were destined for each other, or so it seemed at the time.
Well, Sydney, being the man that he was, like a wolf stalking his prey, saw Paula as the senseless bird she had become under his power, and he began to move in for the kill. To make a long story short, Paula, who had everything together began to lose control and she found herself coming under the control of Sydney to the degree that she could no longer think for herself, or make decisions or really do anything as she literally became obssessed with him. He became her life, her joy, her desire, her master. Paula, the capable became Paula the incapacitated as she gave him her car, and worked hard after school to pay for their dates which were most casual but unbelievably exotic! Finally, Sydney talked Paula into moving into his place which was so inexpensive and run down, but he told her it was better for her because it would put her more in touch with the realities of humanity and would further her understanding for her future work with people. Of course, Sydney was right. He was so perceptive, so interested in her career, in her future. Of course, Sydney mentioned ever so casually that Paula could pay the rent since she wouldn't have to worry with her own apartment and the outrageous rent she had been paying. Sydney was so apt at helping Paula manage her finances, in fact he just offered to take it over for her. She agreed to it, because she was so bogged down with working and school and of course, trying hard to please Sydney. Paula wondered what she had ever done before she had met him, he was so capable, so understanding, so intuitive, so perceptive. He was everything she had ever dreamed of, or so she thought!
Many times when Paula would come in from work, the apartment would be filthy, and Sydney would be gone. She would assume that perhaps he was at the library studying, but after a while, Paula had to face the reality that Sydney was not studying because he was only taking two classes, one was art and the other was yoga. She had to finally admit to herself that Sydney spent alot of time hanging around at different coffee corners, and yogurt shops in the university district. Of course, she knew he used marijuana and just occasionally cocaine, but of course, they were only recreational drugs. But, then as he told her, things would improve once she got into her career. Sydney never talked about his career nor did he act like it was Paula's affair to wonder about it either! Whenever she got out of line with him, he would change and talk to her of marriage and children and of what a beautiful mother she would be, appealing to the mother buried deep inside of the career-oriented university student.
Sydney knew how to handle Paula, as he told himself repeatedly that she was cooperative. Paula would sometimes wonder what had happened to her. But she didn't have much time to question because she was so busy with her job and her studies. She thought of dropping out of school because she was so tired, or of quitting work, but then again, who would support Sydney? She was trapped and she felt many times like a caged bird because of the stress she was under. Finally, she had reached her point, she came home and Sydney wasn't home and she was very tired and depressed. She lay down on the rumpled bed and the tears slipped slowly out of her eyes and down her face. Three weeks before, she had gotten an abortion at Sydney's insistence. He had said it would ruin her career and then wreck their chances for marriage. Because as he had so aptly explained, she wouldn't be able to keep working and going to school if she had a baby right now, and if she quit, how could they live, it was either them or the baby! The depression broke free of it's dam and flooded her over and over and the tears flowed like rivers. She could not do away with the horrifying feeling of emptiness of having her baby sucked out. But Sydney had told her it would accentuate her ability to have compassion on other women and would serve to further her career.
She didn't know how long she lay there, then finally she heard Sydney at the door, he sounded confused, and like there was someone with him. She looked up, unable to focus clearly because she had cried so much. Sydney quickly introduced her to Susanna, the girl he had brought home and then he went on to explain that Susanna didn't have a place to live so he had offered his place, knowing fully well that Paul would love to share!
Paula muttered a few words, the slipped into the bathroom and brushed her teeth and crawled back into the rumpled heap of bed, aching inside, wanting Sydney to hold her. But he was too busy chattering with Susanna. Half dozing off, she over-heard him talking to Susanna and it sounded strangely like the way that he used to talk to her. Oh well, she was too tired from crying to listen and she dozed off into a restless sleep. The next morning, Paula found Sydney sprawled over the one chair and Susanna in the bed! Now, that was going too far, she blew her stack and started yelling at Sydney, who calmly told Paula to get out because he wasn't going to let Susanna wander the streets, homeless! Of course, Paula didn't have any money because Sydney had been managing her finances, so she was so embarassed, so humiliated, so hurt. She had been so capable, so together, now her whole world had crumpled before her eyes and she was destitute.
When she got to the Women's Center, the women there were an odd assortment, some of them seemed like street people, others were runawys, a few were battered wives. She felt like a total fool, that is until she talked to Mica who was the director. Mica was the most understanding woman that Paula had ever met and as Paula sobbingly told her story, Mica understood and comforted her showing kindness and love. Soon, Paula and Mica were fast friends and the affection between them grew quickly. Then, Mica invited Paula to move into her apartment which she said they could share. Mica's kindness and understanding helped Paula's wounded heart to heal and everytime she would remember Sydney and the bitterness would well up inside of her, Mica would offer her a kind word, or a loving stroke on her hair, or just a soft squeeze of her hand. After Paula moved in with Mica, she found she loved it. Instead of the filthy, unkempt condition she had known with Sydney, Mica was the perfect housekeeper and a good cook. The women drew closer and closer as time passed and soon their friendship began to take on new dimensions.
One day when Paula came in, Mica seemed very nervous which wasn't like her normal behaviour. When Paula asked her what was wrong, it took a few minutes for Mica to clear her head to talk to Paula about what was in her heart. She softly explained to Paula that she was in love with her and that she could not refrain from telling her. At first, Paula felt sick inside but the longer that Mica talked and looked at her with pleading eyes, the more Paula could feel herself softening within. Perhaps she would accept this new kind of love, which Mica was offering her, maybe she would find with Mica what she had missed out on with Sydney. Was it possible, that Mica would really love her, and be true to their relationship, and not take advantage of her?
Paula told Mica she would have to think about all of this then they could talk some more. Paula found herself shaking, maybe the love between the sisterhood was not really wrong, maybe she should give it a try, after all her affair with Sydney had been so bitter, so empty, so desolate, at least she wouldn't have to worry about getting pregnant then having to destroy her own babies. Mica was so supportive and loving, surrendering, Paula finally agreed to love in return and they settled into their relationship. Sometimes, Paula would feel sick inside but she would tell herself that she would overcome and that she was happy with Mica. In the night, however, the tears would come and slip silently down her cheeks, she was trapped, like a bird in a cage, but she had no way out. She had committed herself to Mica and she couldn't bear to hurt her, even though something insde of her yearned for a way out, she would settle herself down with the conclusion that she must remain with Mica. After these nights, she would always awake with a headache, then Mica would be so understanding and she would massage her head and give her herbal tea, then they would joke around and her spirits would be uplifted.
After a while Mica began to ask Paula to have a baby. Now of course, Paula did not like the subject after the abortion with Sydney's baby, but finally she listened to Mica. After all, Mica was quite a bit older, she was forty three and she desperately wanted to experience parenthood. The more that Mica talked about it, the more that Paula became persuaded to consider the proposal that Mica was making. Mica assured her that she would insert the sperm and that they would have a child that was a reflection of their beautiful, committed love. The world would see that sisters could bring forth beauty and raise a child in complete happiness. Of course Mica told Paula that she never had wanted another woman to share a child with and that this was a special love. So, Paula, persuaded by Mica, agreed and they purchased their sperm. Again Paula felt sick inside but she told herself that she was enlightened and that she would be a good mother to their child. The womb began to blossom with the growing fetus, both women were excited, they would spend their time shopping, discussing the names. Although both were hoping for a girl, because they knew that boys grew up to be men and all men are rotten, they still agreed to love a boy if he came and to raise him up to be very unsexist and to be an example of the perfection of enlightened parenting. Still, sometimes at night, the tears would steal down Paula's cheeks and the sickness inside of her would seem like it was going to engulf her.
As the months hasted away, Paula began to notice a change in Mica, she seemed to be staying away from their cozy apartment home more and more, coming home with the smell of liquor on her breath and getting very abusive towards Paula when she would question her. Paula told herself that once the baby came, that things would be different. After all, they would be parents and Mica would be proud of their child. Towards the eighth month, the midwife started getting a bit jumpy whenever she would check Paula, sometimes she would shake her head when she would listen to the baby's heartbeat. But Paula just let it slide by, she had enough to worry about because Mica was acting just too strange and it was all her idea to be parents.
Towards the end of the pregnancy, Paula would think about her father who was dead now, and she would cry as she remembered how he used to hold her on his lap and sing to her when she was a young girl. Her heart would swell up with love for him, but then she couldn't get too excited because he was dead and all men were rotten. Besides, Mica would play the alternative role in the parenting of their child. Finally the pains came and midwife insisted she go to the hospital because it looked as though there would be complications. Mica was gone, Paula didn't know where, and she would be angry with Paula for going along, but she had to go. Paula went alone to the alienated atmosphere of cold steel and hard voices, so sterile, so distant. But it was too late, the midwife was very troubled. Finally after hours, the baby came, but as Paula strained to hear the nurses and the doctor, they voices were very hushed and strained and they rushed it away from her.
Hours later, they came to tell her that her baby was dead, born with a hole in it's heart and deformed limbs, it had only lived a few hours. Mica was there with her when the doctor broke the news, and she glared at him, despising him in his maleness and she started screaming and cussing at him that she was going to sue him because he had killed her baby. The baby had been a girl just like they had wanted, her name was Doreen. All of the beautiful clothes, and her furnishings were to gather dust because she was dead! Mica left the hospital still threatening to sue the doctor, Paula lay a crumpled heap in the rumpled bed and wept bitterly. She tried several times in the evening to call but the phone only rang and rang. Over the next three days, she kept trying but no one answered. Finally she was discharged, and she rode home alone, torn up and bitter, sorrowful over her second baby -- dead.
Where was Mica now when she needed her to talk to, to cry with, to laugh with? When she got into the apartment, a hideous cold chill ran over her. She called out for Mica but no answer came, she went to bathroom and there she found her body, hanging, bloated, dead and cold for three days. Mica had written her a note, to her despair, she had found she was dying of AIDS, she went on to confess that she had many lovers, Paula was not the first, the only, or the last. At the end, Mica commanded Paula to remain true to the sisterhood. Paula passed out as she tried to make it to the bed, how long she laid there she didn't know. She remembers calling the police and after that, she only remembers waking up in the hospital again, but this time in another ward. As Paula's thoughts rushed back together and the horror of her life filled her, the tears began again in the night, in the lonely room in the cold steel of the hospital. As Paula cried out, a voice came to her and spoke clearly, I AM THE WAY OUT, GIVE YOURSELF TO ME AND YOU WILL BE LOVED FOR I WILL LOVE YOU. I AM YOUR WAY OUT! Uncontrollably, Paula cried out to Jesus and gave herself to Him in abandonment and trust.
The memories still try to win, but He wins for He loves her through the tragedy. The wounds in her heart left by Sydney, Mica, and even baby Doreen, have been healed, but the scars ache when it gets cold. Paula lives with other people now who have found the same lover of their souls and she is serving in joy. She loves especially to help with the babies and children and she has a constant companion who is with her at all times. She tries not to dwell too much on the sorrows she has known, but rather give thanks to Him who provided her such a wonderful family of brothers and sisters and gave her a new life, a new hope, a new love and most of all, a WAY OUT!
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