“What?” I asked though a congested sniff.
“I need the coatings files,” PJ asked.
I ignored the pleading in his dark eyes and shut the door. A moment later I cracked open the door, handed him the files, and shut it on his, “Thank you.”
“How is she?” Andy asked. They stood just outside the door.
“Her face is red and swollen,” PJ answered. “She’s crying.”
“What’s wrong with her?” Andy asked.
“She doesn’t say.” PJ sighed, “The war room is more than her office; we need access to the documents.”
“She gives us anything we request,” Andy replied.
“But we can’t work in there, not when she’s like this.”
“I don’t care,” I hissed. “Let them just try to find someone else who can understand these documents and reconstruct a nuclear power plant’s project manual. They need me.”
My lips and forehead pushed themselves out. A tear trickled from the inner corner of my right eye. I wiped it away before it reached my cheek.
“There’s nothing more to say,” I hissed. “It’s up to you.”
I returned my attention to locating valve coating specifications amidst documents detailing lavatories and parking lots. The image of Grandpère’s body flung against the wall. Blood oozed from the hole near his heart. I pushed it away.
“This is crap!” I hissed. “They’ve just dumped everything all willy-nilly!”
I turned my mind to sorting out case-relevant files. Blood obscured Ti Eduardo’s face as he lay in the hallway. Soldiers glared at Marmar and me as we walked to the flowery sitting room. I shook my head and pored over the pages on the screen.
My head lifted and I spoke aloud without thought, “”Why?!” My voice bounced off the table, the metal shelving and door. “Why did You let…”
I can’t say that, I thought. I know the answer.
“Why did You let me see that?” I amended. “Why? Free will is paramount, I get that. But no child should see that and You know it!”
Silence resounded in the room damping even the sound of my deep, snuffly breaths. The Voice broke through: “Your grandfather’s and uncle’s lives were worth no more to Me than the lives of those who killed them. Your parents’ lives were worth no more to Me than the lives of those who killed them. Your life is worth no more to Me than the lives of every other person I create.”
My head snapped up. I was in Grandpère’s study again, three years old and also an adult dressed in the same full black cotton skirt and green and white striped, linen shirt. I felt Marmar’s hand on my shoulder holding me back.
Grandpère said, “It needn’t be this way.”
The commander spoke; I could not hear his words.
The soldier tensed his finger on the trigger.
An infinity of seconds passed between Grandpère’s words and when the commander spoke. An infinity of seconds passed between the command and when the soldier applied pressure to the trigger. My mind flashed back to the command, to the soldier applying pressure. I looped back again. The smell of gun powder and blood filled my senses; I was caught in the loop.
My chest heaved. I took in a deep gulping breath, the breath I had so often taken after swimming the length of the pool under water. Fat tears rolled down my cheeks.
“It didn’t have to be that way,” I said aloud. “They could have made different choices.”
The loop replayed more slowly.
“They must have seen me,” I told my Friend. “They must have known a child was there. Didn’t they care?”
My brow furrowed. I tried to see inside first the commander’s thoughts then the soldier’s.
“Didn’t they realize what a horrible thing they were doing? Even if they thought Grandpère was a criminal, didn’t they realize what they were doing to a child?”
“Did either of them have a little girl? What would they have wanted for her?”
Silence suffused the space.
“Oh God! they were so wrong, so foolish. How could they not see the repercussions, the hurt? How did they not see that someone might do the same to them, could shred their children’s souls? In Latin America, that happened over and over.”
My words lay upon velvet silence. The loop began to unwind again across the screen of my heart.
I winced as the soldier tensed his finger. He was so young. The child lingered in his eyes, mouth, and chin. My voice asked, “Did they ever change? Did they ever regret what they had done? Did they ever repent?”
Great longing welled up inside my chest, spilled over into tears, “Please tell me they repented? Please?” I begged. “They can’t have spent the rest of their lives so cold and hard, so unfeeling. Please, let them have become human again. They were once little children too.”
Velvet silence responded.
“Please Lord,” I begged. “If it’s not too late, please let them repent. Please restore their humanity.”
How can you pray for them? the slick voice that had once taunted me at Mass intruded.
“I don’t care!” I cried out. “I must see them again!” The fathomless well within me burst. Tears washed words from my depths, “I must tell them that I forgive them. They must know. Oh God, please don’t let it be too late for them.”