Alistair and Meggie
Heart and Soul of the Matter
Please, just wait until I get home before letting loose, Meggie thought as she glanced upward. Puffy and gray cumulus clouds filled the sky, blotting out the day's earlier sunshine. At least when the storm did start, the three boxes of books would be safely tucked inside the Glen's future library.
Up ahead she spotted the tranquil mill where the Reverend Alistair lived. After parking the blue Jeep, Meggie hopped out and walked quickly up to the front door and knocked. She silently chided herself for not calling Alistair beforehand to make sure he was home, and if it would be okay to drop off some books for the new library.
Alistair opened the door, smiling when he saw who was standing there. "Why, Meggie, itís you! I'm so glad to see you. " Noting the slightly worried expression on her face, he added, "Is there something I can help you with, anything at all?"
"Oh, Reverend Alistair, hello! I was, I've been boxing up some books for the new Glen library and wanted to stop and drop them off. And get a chance to check out the building. I'm ready to get started and was hoping we could discuss a few things about the library. That is, if this is a good time for you. I meant to call first, but...between taking care of Jeffrey after the accident and helping him get ready to leave, I'm afraid my mind has been elsewhere." She smiled as if doing so would make the pain go away.
Alistair could read plainly in her eyes that she was disturbed about Jeffrey. "That's completely understandable, Meggie," he said kindly. "I'm glad you're ready to start on the library now. The community is growing so much I've been thinking it really needs one." He stepped out on the little porch, looking toward where she'd parked her car, noting the boxes in the back seat. "The mill's a little crowded, but I expect I can fit those atop my own boxes of books for the time being. " He chuckled. "We need to get this library up and running soon and since Ahnna is over at the Greenery, I'm perfectly free to accompany you now to the building. Just let me carry those inside for you first."
"Are you sure? I hate to crowd you out of your own home. I could just bring them back. Or," and she paused to glance in the direction of the building, "could they be stored inside the library?"
"It's all right, Meggie. It's only temporary and it's for something that's dear to my heart."
Ahnna came to the door, drying her hands on a dishtowel. "What's going on, darling?"
"Meggie's here with some books for the library."
Ahnna laughed. "A few more boxes won't even be noticeable. Bring them in!"
Meggie also laughed, feeling a bit more at ease. "If you're really sure. Ahnna," Meggie said as she leaned forward to hug her. "It's so good to see you again. Um, may I borrow your husband for a few moments?" she asked, smiling. She motioned to the car behind them. "I have some boxes of books I want to donate to the library, well, the soon-to-be Glen library."
Ahnna nodded. Alistair followed Meggie and waited for her to open the rear car door, then reached in and lifted out the top box with a slight oof of sound escaping his lips.
"Heavy," he grinned, turning with it in his arms and heading for the mill.
"I do believe that's the box containing Jeffrey's Japanese and Chemistry books," Meggie chuckled then picked up the second one and followed Alistair into the mill. She remembered the first time she had been inside his home, how warm and comforting it had felt, and how caring Alistair had been to her. That felt like a lifetime ago, when she and Jeffrey were struggling to find a way to make their relationship work. Funny, she thought, in a way we are much closer than that day, and yet, not completely there. Lost in thought, she didn't notice Alistair had already set his box down.
"Whoa, there!" Alistair called, catching her by the elbow and steering her away from the cobbler's bench that served as the mill's coffee table.
"Oh! Sorry about that," Meggie answered, embarrassed by her actions. She set her box down next to Alistair's, and with the back side of her left hand, wiped her forehead. "Just one more. I'll help you carry this one." She offered him a crooked smile before they headed back outside.
"You almost tripped there, Meggie. I can probably get the last box by myself. Can't have the librarian breaking a leg before the library's even open, now can we?" He'd noticed she seemed to be distracted by her thoughts and hoped everything was all right with her and Jeffrey.
Meggie looked up into his blue-green eyes brimming with concern and gentleness. The last time I was here, I...I really was a mess. Perhaps later, yes, later I could talk about it, she thought quietly to herself. "Well, I could try hopping around on the one good leg, operating at 50 percent librarian capacity. Like this." She demonstrated briefly, stopping before she crashed into any other furniture. "Ta-dah!" she exclaimed, holding her arms out and then taking a bow. "I always knew they needed to teach a 'Emergency Library Management For Dummies' course in grad school."
"Meggie...," he smiled, shaking his head affectionately. "Come on, let's get that last box. You can guide me into harbor like a tugboat captain."
Nodding her head, Meggie followed Alistair to the Jeep for the last box to help him carry it back inside. "Thank you, Alistair, for the help. Jeffrey tried to help me load them into the car earlier, but I didn't want him to risk injuring his back again. So, I threatened to hide his golf clubs, which seemed to work. Golf," she then paused before chuckling and shaking her head, "is his hobby and life."
Alistair paused before reaching in for the box. "I imagine it's been a source of stress relief as well as pleasure for him. It's good he has something like that to enjoy. He's had a hard time of it from what I've heard." He looked at Meggie a long moment. "You're a good idea, too."
"Me?" Meggie blushed. "He's been through quite a bit. He plans on returning to the States to visit his girls soon. Stay about a month and...well, explain more of about what's going on." She bit her lip, fighting back the tears. "His daughters don't understand why their daddy is gone. Liane tells them stories...oh, Alistair." Meggie wiped her eyes. She reached inside the closest box and pulled out a Chemistry book, lovingly tracing the letters on the cover. "I don't want those girls to feel they've 'lost' their father. And I don't want Jeffrey to feel like he has to 'choose.' That's the last thing I want him to feel."
"I doubt he has any thought, Meggie, that you are making him choose. He's had a lot of loss in his life and from personal experience I know what that can do to the heart. For me, it was the going toward Ahnna that filled me again. If Jeffrey has a sense of going toward you, more than anything else that will serve to make him feel whole again. Ultimately, it lies with him. Your part is simply to be you, be who you are, and if it's what you want, too, that he come to you, then you will have done nothing wrong. Going toward love ourselves, being there as love for another to come to, that's what it's all about, Meggie. And if his heart is whole again, that is the best thing he can do for his children. I understand their mother isn't very open to his being with them. She's thinking of him in old ways, in ways that made her turn from him. Perhaps if she sees him in a new and different light, she might even permit him to bring the children to Australia for visits. Love is always opening doors to more than we can imagine." He smiled warmly and looked briefly back at the mill, where Ahnna was standing in the doorway, her eyes on him.
Meggie didn't miss the loving look and wordless expression of 'I love you' between the Reverend and his wife. She knew Ahnna had suffered a great loss with the death of her sister, while Alistair was still recovering from past painful events in his life. I should excuse myself now as I'm sure they want to be alone. And then his last few sentences caused her to wince in pain. She shut the car door and turned back to face Alistair. "I can only hope that happens for Jeffrey and his girls. But, after the ugly accusations..." she stopped, torn between continuing or simply helping Alistair to get the final box inside the mill and then head for home. After a brief moment, she made a decision. "Here, let me help you with this. It's another heavy one; this one, I believe, is filled with lots of history books."
Alistair had been getting to know Meggie and he'd seen the sudden struggle in her face and was glad she'd decided to carry on with what they were doing. "I think we'll have a fine start for the library," he said as they hauled the box inside the mill, Ahnna holding the door open for them. The box finally settled in its place, Ahnna looked from one to the other of them. "Lemonade? I hear it's quite popular with stevedores these days."
"What do you think, Meggie? Personally, this stevedore could really use a tall lemonade right about now."
"That sounds great, Ahnna." Meggie smiled as she firmly decided to focus more on the future than the past. "And I can promise that's the last of the 'cargo' I have," she laughed before continuing, "for now. Next, I need to figure out ways to help the library's collection grow. Perhaps applying for a small, personal loan from the bank or something."
"You could try that, Meggie, but we have a number of wealthy citizens here at the Glen who will be using the library and I wouldn't be at all surprised if at least some of them would make financial donations or endowments. It's worth checking on. I'll be glad, for instance, to ask Maximus Meridius about it. I don't want you getting yourself into debt over this."
Meggie shuddered as she sat down, thinking of one wealthy Glen resident in particular. "Thank you for the offer, Alistair. I appreciate the support and would be happy to get the other residents involved in this project. Except," and she paused as she shifted her gaze from him to the cobbler's bench, "asking a particular one will certainly prove to be interesting." She looked up and caught the confused expression on his face before explaining. "Sid, um, Sidney Harbor. I'm afraid he'll want something in recognition of his support...like a life-size statue of himself or something gargantuan in shape." She then remembered the birthday party at his home, or rather, the glass abode. Though she tried to contain herself, a small laugh escaped from her mouth. "I'm sorry. You see Jeffrey...Jeffrey doesn't trust or like him very much and has this tendency to refer to him as a 'rat', well, that being the least offensive thing I can say."
"Have you met his brother, Bar, yet?" Alistair asked. "He seems a decent sort, not much like his brother. Possibly a little confused, though. As for Sid, some day I'd like to find out just why it is that he's like he is. There's usually a reason for anti-social behavior. Even Maximus and Joimus seem to have an intense dislike for the man, though I have no idea why. I believe they knew him before they moved to the Glen. Probably some unpleasant past history there."
She shook her head. "I've heard the name, but no, I have never met his brother. Just Sid and his wife, Kate. She's very nice, and I hear they have new baby. Actually, quite a few of our Glen residents have new little ones or are expecting them." This made her think of Jeffrey and his daughters. Then Liane and all the ugly and bitter comments and rumors, along with how it nearly destroyed Jeffrey's ability to trust and love. Her expression turned solemn.
"What's bothering you, Meggie? I'd like to help if I could."
Meggie leaned forward in the chair with her arms wrapped around herself, rocking slightly back and forth. She closed her eyes tightly, then opened them and looked deeply into Alistair's eyes. "It's...talking to Jeffrey." She briefly explained Brown & Williamson's smear campaign, the 500-page dossier filled with accusations ranging from convicted shoplifting, traffic tickets, and failure to pay child support for a sick daughter from his first marriage, to Liane's spousal abuse charges.
"After we began seeing each other I didn't want to mention any of that, knowing the great amount of pain and loss it caused him, actually, still causes him. They publicly ruined his life and his credibility, labeling him mentally unstable, violent, and a pathological liar." She stopped for a moment when she heard Ahnna moving around in the kitchen. "But his girls, they also were subjected to this...and when their own mother said Jeffrey abused her, my God, those girls were bombarded by headlines and public condemnation such as 'Wigand Beats His Wife' and 'Jeffrey Wigand, the Crazy Whistleblower.'"
Meggie paused, biting her lower lip as she decided to continue. "Jeffrey's lawyer, Scruggs, denied the spousal abuse, but did admit Jeffrey and Liane had fought, which after words, caused him to enter into anger-control counseling and psychotherapy. I want to talk about this, all of it, with him, but I'm afraid to. Mostly because I'm afraid he'll think l I don't trust or love him, which is why we, we haven't..." Meggie blushed, letting the sentence hang there for the Reverend to finish.
Tears stung her eyes and flowed down her cheek. "I love him, God knows I do, with my entire heart and soul. But I know he's not perfect, no one is. He shuts down when he feels threatened or hurt, drinks too much at times, and I don't want him to keep these fears and doubts to himself. How do I help him overcome his fears when I struggle with my own? I don't want him to hurt anymore, but I'm afraid in the end, I will let him down and he'll climb inside that dark Wigand hole of his."
"He would be aware, wouldn't he, that you know at least most of these things?"
"Yes...and no. Most of the events occurred while I was an undergraduate student. I kept my nose inside books and lost myself studying. Years later, after I began working as a high school librarian, the principal decided to invite a guest speaker to talk about the dangers of smoking. By nature, I'm curious and did my research on the speaker, Doctor Jeffrey Wigand. I did find out some of what I've mentioned, but it wasn't until a month later, when...," she sighed, "after we began seeing each other, when a colleague at work asked me if I really knew the man I was seeing, the wife-beater? There's an article where Jeffrey told his side of everything, including his anger issues and that night of supposed abuse. He said Liane became angry one night when she discovered he had lost another job and hit him with a wooden hanger. He chased her upstairs and then called the police. But the reporter also interviewed Liane who said he...Jeffrey had been drinking heavily and...and he smashed her nose with his hand. Jeffrey did admit to the reporter he entered into an anger treatment program after this incident, but by then, Liane had taken the girls and left, filing for divorce. But I still love him, despite...everything." Meggie searched Alistair's eyes carefully for a response.
"Is it possible you love him...because of everything?"
"Yes. Oh God, I love him so much." Wiping the tears from her face, she smiled. "I guess that makes me crazy, huh? We need to talk, talk about everything from our past that haunts us now in the present. I've struggled trying to find the 'right' moment to talk with Jeffrey about this and...," she paused briefly, "about my skeletons in the closet. I'm just afraid that between the two of us, the weight of the 'baggage' will suffocate our love. Can love really be enough, Alistair, enough to heal deep scars and mend the broken bridge?"
Alistair turned just enough to catch sight of Ahnna. He smiled a long inward smile, then looked back at Meggie. "Meggie, if love were not enough to heal, God would never have given us Christmas and Easter. Those are the two greatest acts of love in this universe and beyond, and the purpose of them was to heal the deepest scars and mend the most utterly broken bridge. Never lose sight of that, of the simple truth of that, when you are relating to Jeffrey. Both Ahnna and I had scars, broken bridges, in our lives but together, in our love and in His, mending has come into being. Never forget that there is One who bears the weight of the heaviest baggage for us and if we find our arms borne down, it is because we are trying to carry it on our own. I don't say this to you, Meggie, merely because I am your pastor, but because I know it from personal experience."
She nodded her head then glanced toward Ahnna in the other room. "You two are very lucky and blessed to have each other to love and cling to. Alistair, would you mind when I come next time, I bring Jeffrey, so you can talk and get to know him better? I'm afraid Jeffrey lost his faith in God quite some time ago, and I struggle with my own, but perhaps you and Ahnna could sit down and talk about...everything. I don't mean for you or Ahnna to relive your painful pasts, but, sorta be a spiritual guide?" Meggie leaned forward and placed her small hand gently on Alistair's knee. With a warm smile, she looked up into his eyes as her own radiated with hope.
"I'd be very pleased, Meggie, if Jeffrey wished to accompany you. Just be sure that it's what he wants to do, all right?"
"I will. Oh!" she quickly reached inside her pocket, pulling out her cell phone. "Alistair, I apologize, but it's Jeffrey. Would you excuse me for a moment?" She flipped the cell open with anticipation and worry mingled inside. "Jeffrey? Is everything okay? No, I'm with Reverend Alistair at the mill, talking about the Glen Library." Meggie's smiled then faded. "Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. No, no, I understand. Okay. Love you." Standing up, she moved towards Alistair. "Jeffrey is flying out later tonight, instead of next week. His daughter, Deborah...her asthma is really bad."
"It's good he's going then, good for her, good for him." He looked at her carefully but kindly. "And you, Meggie? How are you about it?"
"He needs to go, both for himself and for Deborah. But I won't lie, I was hoping to have another week with him. To talk about what we were discussing just now." She smiled despite the thought of being alone and without Jeffrey for an entire month. At the front door, she turned around and extended her hand to Alistair. "Thank you, Alistair, for helping with the boxes, for listening, and...the other matters," she quietly added. Then just as quickly, she wrapped her arms around him, giving him a hug. "I know what I need to do now, tonight, before Jeffrey leaves. Thank you, again, and please tell Ahnna I said goodbye and look forward to when all of us can sit down and talk as good friends. "
"I'm glad you came, Meggie, really glad." As he watched the young woman walk out to her car, he knew he was more glad that she'd talked with him then that she'd brought boxes of books.