“What the heck is that?”
‘That’ was a flat brown packet curled around the spout of my favourite teapot. I was treating Vere’s pottery collection to a much-overdue clean, as the dim-witted objects insist on gathering dust for the winter rather as squirrels gather nuts. It’s a tradition, they tell me, though I have begged countless times for them to consider me in their calculations. Evidently they fear the wrath of their immortal ancestors more than they fear the wrath of their very-wrathful-indeed owner.
Excuse my senseless personification of vases and jars and their little foibles. I must continue, or else I’ll never get any sort of action in. Ramblings are all very well, but previously I have been concentrating very much upon emotion, and to banish a little of that in favour of a balance is proving inspirational to ridicule. Please excuse me! Balances are so difficult to find…
I poked the brown paper packet from the spout, and it relaxed in my palm to reveal an extraordinarily dusty square envelope, curled so long that the relief from that confining spout was almost too good to be true.
I turned the envelope in my fingers, caressing its semi-smooth surface and reading the words printed on the flap:
Birchwicke &. Sons,
Jewellers since 1893
Curious, I slit the envelope open with the bread-knife with which I had buttered my toast that morning, careful not to damage any long-forgotten relic that might reside beneath the brown cover.
It was the work of a moment to tip the packet on its end, and I watched as something fell from the opening into the centre of my hand with a pleasant slap: a golden cross.
The tiny chain cascaded out after it, but my eyes were transfixed on the weightless object that had just emerged from Vere’s old teapot, and my favourite of her collection.
And the world shrank to that beautiful cross in my warm hand; it became everything, the scintillating melodies of dawn and birdsong, the peaceful violence of stormclouds in an austere and dignified sky, the ribbed clouds falling away in perfect symmetry from a verdant hill from whence everything revolved. And there was a tear-tended voice narrating gently on the periphery of my fascination, the contoured undertones of a soft-toned storyteller.
“Over to your right you can see a green hill a few miles away. And on top of that hill you can see a wooden cross to mark the top of the hill…or to make a death there.
"I like to imagine that was the place where a man was once crucified. The man’s father loved his people, and his kingdom, and the man’s son loved them too. So he was killed on that cross, spat on, jeered at, stabbed in the side, wearing a crown of thorns that pricked his head. But he bore it all, because of his love.
"And he suffered and died – who knows how much – and now we only have to ask for our sins to be forgiven. We only have to ask for a clean start, a fresh beginning, and all our wrongs are erased. All the suffering is done, and if only we ask, and have no regrets, and truly mean it, we have nothing more to be afraid of.”
Trembling fingers unhinged the tiny clasp, and fastened the golden chain about a bent neck.
I was wearing the cross of Christianity, eyes full of tears for the man who died for me; but the tears did not fall. I did not wholly understand.
“Forgive me, Lord, for all of my sins,” I whispered.
But I could not complete it. Still, I could not say those life-changing words, “and I promise to try to do better.” I had regrets; I would not truly mean the words. Renouncing sin was too much. Always, it seemed, I was just short of the Truth. Always I still have to fear.
Though I have worn Vere’s cross every day and night since I found it in the spout of her teapot, in the hopeless hope that it might help me to find what I seek, it has meant nothing but blind and unwholesome dedication. I was a aspirant for faith, a wannabe believer in a sea of selfish mortals and avid evangelists. I was so lost, and no one understood.