Peace of Mind
Liana and Alistair
Looking around at the grass and trees surrounding the small white chapel, Liana Wade was already beginning to feel the same peaceful feeling she'd had the first time she'd come here. Inside, she had sat in a back pew and talked with Alistair Harris about her life and her relationship with Ben. About fate. His insights, his words, had given her a new perspective on things. Had made her see that she and Ben were meant to be together. That their relationship was God's doing, not hers or Ben's.
She looked forward to talking with him again now. Now that he had seen something of the darker side of Ben's nature on the day of the picnic. It wasn't necessarily that she was looking for advice. Liana's mind had been made up for awhile now. Her life was with Ben and she'd stay with him no matter what. She wasn't really sure what she was looking for from Alistair right now.
Maybe just that peaceful feeling, she thought to herself. The recent murder in the Glen had frightened her. What frightened her even more, though, was the Sheriff and his deputy. They had revealed an interest in Ben. Suspicions about him. Not for the murder, but seeming to stem from the Wades' contribution to the Park Fund. To Ben's financial background. Both Ben and Dan assured her that there was nothing to worry about. That there was nothing about Ben's finances that could condemn him.
Still, Liana worried. Not about losing the money. Having it was nice, but she didn't care about it in the long run. But, if she were to lose Ben... That, she didn't think she could bear. She began to realize that, in the few short months since she had met him and married him, he had become the most important thing in her life.
Opening the door of the church quietly, Liana entered and sat in the back pew. Exactly where she'd sat on her first trip here.
"Oh, hello, Liana," Alistair smiled, coming in through a back door. "It's always good to see you.
Anything I can help you with?"
"Hello, Pastor." Liana returned his smile. "I'm not sure you can actually do anything. Maybe it's just more that I'm looking for some- some peace and quiet maybe. There have been some frightening things going on in the Glen lately. The murder and..."
She trailed off, not mentioning the picnic or any of her fears about the Sheriff.
After all, she still had no right to tell him anything about Ben. Sometimes she thought that was the hardest part about life with Ben. The fear of losing him.
"The murder was a terrible thing, Liana, I can understand why it's got you upset. I'm hoping they catch the man soon. I don't like having him still on the loose in the area. In fact, I think I'd feel better if when you leave, you permit me to drive behind you on the way. I don't like women alone in the Glen right now."
"That's nice of you, Pastor." She smiled at him. "But I really don't think it's necessary. I'll be in the car, and I would never stop for anyone I didn't know. I don't want to put you to any trouble."
Still smiling, she continued, "Ben would be worried if he knew I was out, too. He told me I shouldn't go anywhere without him. Not even just outside in the yard, until the murderer is caught."
"I'd feel better, Liana, if you let me follow you. There are ways people have of stopping cars, you know. Now, what else is going on in your life?"
Not really sure what to say, she stumbled a little. "I- I-" Then, screwing up her courage, she burst out, "I haven't talked to you since the picnic. I'm really just wondering how you felt about...what happened. How you feel about Ben."
Alistair sat in the pew beside her, clasped his hands in his lap and looked down at them a moment. "I find him," he raised his head, looking now directly at Liana, "a very complicated man. Please don't think I don't like him. From what I've been able to discern when I'm around him, he's been through a lot in his life and he has his defenses up and well locked into place. This is why I think you're good for him. What I witnessed there by the corral of his response to you completely reassured me about that. He's got a lot of anger pent up inside him, probably a lot of hurt, too, and a certain bravado has been made by him, likely very carefully made, his defining characteristic...or at least that's what he wants people to think. Most times he seems like he's got a tight rein on himself, keeping himself under control just as though his insides were some unbroken stallion that needed that sort of thing. But when he loses that, as he did there in the corral, he can be very dangerous. I think perhaps he's quite skilled at being dangerous. But you," he smiled at her, "you went right up to him in the midst of that and you handed him back the reins he'd dropped. I doubt there's another person in the world who could have done what you did. And the simple fact that he let you do it...Liana, he LET you do it...says to me that he truly does love you."
Liana smiled a little at his reference to an unbroken stallion. When she'd first met Ben, they hadn't been around horses but, since coming here, seeing him with them, she'd formed the same impression herself. In some ways, he was wild--life his way by his rules--and that attracted her, excited her. Loving him was dangerous, and she'd always played it safe in life until Ben.
"It's strange how you seem to always say something that I need to hear. Something that comforts me, puts me at peace," she told Alistair, sincerely. "After talking with you, I know that I'm doing the right thing."
Choosing her words very carefully, she went on. "It's that dangerous side of Ben that scares me. Oh, I'm not scared of him," she said quickly, seeing the questioning look on Alistair's face. "It's- It's more- I'm going to trust you with this, because I have to talk to someone."
Liana reached out one hand and laid it on Alistair's arm. "There are things in Ben's past--things that dangerous side has done--that could cause a lot of trouble for him. What I'm afraid of is that all that could catch up to him. To us. That I could lose him because of it." Her gaze at Alistair was almost pleading. That was what she needed reassurance and peace with right now. That she wouldn't lose Ben.
It was very obvious to Alistair what Liana wanted him to say, but he had to say the truth of the matter, not just what she wanted to hear. "Liana, I don't know what Ben may or may not have done and so I have no right to speak to the issue of whether it will, as you say, catch up to him. That all depends on just what he's done and how easily he might be made accountable for it. I wish I could say something more reassuring than that, I really do, but I simply do not know nor do I have any way of knowing." He shook his head. "If he is still engaging in these...activities...it would possibly be easier for him to end up in trouble. Things done long ago and back in the United States might be too far removed from his situation today. But if he is still...." His eyes met hers, serious and quiet.
Standing up quickly, Liana blurted, "I'm sorry. I've said too much already. These things are Ben's to share, not mine. I'm his wife. He trusts me to keep his secrets." Her face had acquired a reserved look, similar to one Ben himself might have worn.
Turning toward the door, she said, "I apologize for bothering you."
Alistair stood, too, his eyes still kind in the face of her sudden reserve. "Liana, you never have to worry about anything you might tell me. Nothing ever, ever gets repeated. And you haven't bothered me, not in the least. Please know that, all right. And it's best if you can remain who you are and not close yourself in like he does. He needs you to be who you are. That will, believe me it will, prove of vastly more benefit to him, to both of you, in the long run. You are a lovely, open, giving young woman. He needs that from you. You need that from you." He looked in her eyes, waiting to see if she were able to understand what he was trying to convey.
The thought that Ben needed her calmed Liana, steadied her. "Sometimes it's so hard not to close in. Sometimes it seems as though there's so much to bear up under. So much that is uncertain and might change at any moment."
"I understand," he said softly. "I really do. We like to keep things as they are, keep them
familiar. Life becomes more comfortable. But that is simply not the way of life. Change...," his eyes went far away for a moment, back to a day in England when nearly everything in his life had changed in a single instant. He blinked, then looked at her again. "I have found, Liana, in my own experience of such matters that the way I get through is to remember there is a Bearer who has been given to us. If the weight becomes too heavy and my shoulders ache under it, then I am bearing alone. It is then I must stop, must take stock of what I am attempting to do, and then let go. It takes practice, as do all things that really matter, but it's available to us if we care to let it be. Don't lose sight of that, Liana, no matter what life brings your way. You are in the midst of loving even when it might not always be so easy. You are strong inside yourself. and there is One who is willing to be strong with you, for you, in you. Don't forget that. No matter what, don't forget that." He smiled again. "I'm glad you came today. I always enjoy our talks. I hope you'll come again."
"Thank you." She smiled mistily at him, through a haze of tears. "I will. It helps to have someone to talk with about these things."
Alistair drove just behind Liana back to the ranch. When she had parked in their driveway, he waved and headed back toward the church. She appreciated his kindness and was beginning to realize that she had much work to do on the attitude with which she faced the world.
She must stop worrying and being afraid of losing Ben. She had to cherish every moment they had together. Be strong for Ben and allow him to be strong for her.
Besides, there was always what Alistair had told her about Ben's feelings. That he truly did love her. Ben had never said so. There were times when she was sure she saw it in her eyes, felt it in the way he touched her. But it was very different from hearing it. Even hearing it from someone else was better than not hearing it at all.