This piece is part of our 2021 Community Flash series, showcasing new writing by the Wandsworth Carers Centre Writers Group. You can read more about the background to this project in our introduction to this series, find out more about Wandsworth Carers Centre on their website, and find them on Twitter @CarerWandeworth.
A Misguided Decision
It was sultry, it was steamy, it was mid-afternoon and she had to get away. He was hounding her. He was following her every move.
She knew she was not appropriately dressed for the place she was about to enter, she was appropriately dressed for the climate. As she ran, her blue, cotton strappy dress gave her body and bare shoulders some light relief.
She was running to get away from him and find refuge, anywhere her feet and frightened body would take her and this was the best place she could find.
She entered the church. It was cool, dark and cavernous; the sudden contrast in temperature was an immediate comfort. She sat down on one of the pews and gently wept to herself. She needed some time to think and to feel safe. While she prayed for guidance and a miracle she heard the chatter behind her. She was too weary to look round but she was aware that there was a group of women a few benches behind her, their voices augmenting. They seemed to be complaining about something.
It started to feel uncomfortable, the female voices were truly unhappy. It was not her language and she struggled to grasp fully their angry whispers. She had an eerie feeling it was all about her.
The priest came and sat next to her. He was young, younger than her. She turned to face him.
“Signorina” He said. “Is this the way you come to church?”
She wasn’t sure she was hearing it right. She sat there motionless, her eyes damp, her cheeks streaked, her head full of fluids.
“Do you think you are dressed in the right way to come to church?” He continued.
Unable to speak she thought for a moment about what was in her heart, and she felt pain, she felt pain and disappointment. A solitary tear trickled down her face and rested on the breast of her sundress.
Suddenly, he felt moved.
“Do you think God really cares how I am dressed?” She asked him, in a composed voice. “I came here because I needed refuge, I needed to come here.... where else is there to go? If this offends you and your congregation, I am sorry.”
She got up and walked out. He followed her.
“Please Signorina, stop, come back.” She could have kept going, fled one more time but she stopped and faced him, anger now taking over her sadness.
“I am the sorry one” He said. “Please come back in, you are right, God does not care how you are dressed, it does not matter.” He looked distraught and she could feel his compassion.
“What about them?” She motioned.
“Don’t worry about them.” He said.
She followed him back inside and he guided her to a pew. He gave her space and time and then he asked her if he could call the senior priest to come and support her.