The unstated, but obvious, change in Maria’s relationship with her mother gave Maria the idea to move out of home. It was a good step and both spoke positively about it without ever mentioning the underlying reason for the idea. Maria quietly moved out on the arranged day and was now living with Charlie. Charlie was thrilled to have Maria. She had a shed which was occasionally used for visitors and that was now Maria’s home. Charlie’s house was small and, like most artists, cluttered, making it seem even smaller. It had her bedroom, a bedroom for Gabriel when he was there, and a bedroom which had become the art studio. Gabriel used an old machinery shed for his sculpting studio. That way, he wasn’t stuck in the house with Charlie for too long.
In return for cheaper rent, Maria looked after the garden and the animals. Maria couldn’t have been happier with this arrangement and was in her element. How special it is to have a space of one’s own when one is used to sharing a house with a family. It feels as luxurious as a palace, even if it is only a shed. The shed had a bed and a little kitchen, and there was an outside toilet that she shared with the spiders. She had to use the main house for a shower. Everything about it, Maria loved. She wanted her little home to be a healing space. Gabriel called it Maria’s Shed but Charlie called it Maria’s Shrine because of the candles, holy pictures, and the way it felt.
Charlie, often, found reasons to come to the Shrine because she said it felt so nice and she wanted to escape the clutter in her house and, perhaps, the clutter in her mind. It was not her who said it was ‘clutter in her mind’. That was Maria’s observation. Gabriel, occasionally, came to the door of the Shrine but he had never been inside. He acted like there was an invisible barrier at the door and while Charlie barged through it, he could not or would not.
Some months later, Charlie was swearing at the chooks. And the dogs. And anything that moved. Her girlfriend of the past year, Elizabeth, had cheated on her and had confessed to Charlie a few days ago.
“She is having one of her attacks,” Gabriel said quietly to Maria while rolling his eyes. “I have to go back to the city now. I will leave you with the crazy woman.” Maria waved him goodbye as he drove his car down the long dirt track to the front gate. These days, Maria missed Gabriel when he returned to the city.
“Come on, Charlie. It’s been three days. You are still acting like a lunatic,” said Maria trying to break the tension.
“You bet I am because that daughter of a bitch cheated on me,” said Charlie with double the amount of expletives as ordinary words.
“I will make you a nice cup of tea and you can relax in here for a while,” said Maria taking her hand and leading her into the Shrine. Charlie had not visited the Shrine for a few days, which was unusual for her. You can’t go into the Shrine and swear and fume without feeling a little ashamed, Charlie thought. So she didn’t go there. She was too angry.
Maria spoke to her soothingly, gave her a cup of tea, lit some candles, and let her talk. She talked alright. She talked for an hour nonstop. Maria listened. Over the hour, Charlie’s voice gradually became less loud, less furious, and less reckless. As she quietened, she became softer and more open. She started to cry. Then she howled. Maria let her cry for a good ten minutes without hugging her. She didn’t want to interrupt the process. As the crying died down, she hugged her.
“I know you will tell me not to,” said Charlie, “because you are such a goodie-two-shoes, but I hate Elizabeth. I can’t help it. I hate her.”
“No you don’t, Charlie. You love her. You are just hurt.”
When Charlie had had enough and was ready to go back into her own house, Maria said to her, “Trust that you will be okay, Charlie. I know you will be. The whole drama can vanish very quickly, if you let it. Talk to Elizabeth, without the hate, and try to understand what she is saying; why it happened. You and Elizabeth may be able to salvage the relationship. Mistakes are lessons. If you can’t work it out together, then let each other go freely. You loved her once. She is still that same person. Think of that person you once loved. She is that person whether you are together or not.”