Annabelle lived alone until Jesus took residence in the used armchair she bought for cheap. He says He wants to help her get all she’s ever wanted.
Genre: Drama, Fiction
• • • • •
“Annabelle! Wake up, Annabelle! It’s almost time.”
“I’m sleeping,” the woman said, buried under the covers.
“The sun will be up soon. Don’t you wanna watch it with me? Who knows… it might be your last.”
She sighed. “You say that every morning. Let me sleep.”
“I love watching the sunrise with you. Please? For me?”
Annabelle knew He wouldn’t let her sleep, so she got up. The morning light was timid, barely making its way through the apartment’s sole window. A loft, it had said in the newspaper ad. Not much larger than a bedroom with a kitchenette, it barely had enough room for a twin bed. How she made a mini fridge, a bistro-sized table with two chairs, and an armchair also fit had been nothing short of a miracle.
“Come on! It’s about to start!”
His vivid enthusiasm didn’t make her move any quicker. She put on her ratty bathrobe and slippers, her mind set on having some coffee before thinking of doing anything else. She shuffled her feet toward the narrow counter, soothed by the sound of the slippers on the cracked linoleum. She started up the kettle and dropped two spoonfuls of instant coffee in a mug. She could feel Jesus getting impatient, yet He said nothing and waited.
She was getting fed up with being woken up before dawn, and she had seen enough sunrises. Still, every morning He’d be in that darn armchair, bent on making sure she didn’t miss it.
“It’s happening! Come!”
He wasn’t sitting anymore, His tall and slender silhouette set against the rising sun. She went to stand next to him, holding onto her coffee with both hands. Like every morning, He wrapped an arm around her shoulders, holding her against His body. She let herself get inebriated by His aroma, so peculiar, unique. To her, that’s what unconditional love smelled like.
The sun came up as it did every day; slowly bathing the room with golden light, warm like the mug in Annabelle’s hands. They watched in silence, taking in all the beauty this life had to offer. And like every morning, she came to appreciate having been pulled out of bed this early. What would happen if she didn’t see it rise? Would the day still come?
Once the sun had risen, He went back to sit in His chair. Annabelle let her gaze travel over Him. He wore the same thing as always; off-white cotton pants and a cable-knit sweater the color of fresh cream. It made His tanned skin look even darker, and she found Him beautiful, not bothered by His naked feet or hairless scalp. She loved to touch His head, so soft and smooth. The feeling of His skin under her fingertips reminded her how real He was.
“What did you dream about?”
Jesus’s question broke her out of her admiration. “Nothing.”
“You’re lying. I know you dreamed of something. I saw you thrashing around all night. What did you dream about?”
“I don’t remember.”
He huffed and shook His head. “You’re lying again, but that’s okay. I’ll tell you what you dreamed about.” He leaned forward, elbows resting on His thighs. “You dreamed of him. Again.”
He was right, but she didn’t deny nor confirmed. Why did He feel the need to ask questions if He knew the answers?
“Here’s what you dreamed about, dear Annabelle. You were with him, in his house, with his new wife. And just like when you two were married, he didn’t see you. But you, you could see them as they laughed, and cried, and loved each other. Your love for him is overbearing.”
“I don’t love him.”
“No need to deny it, Annabelle, I know that you do. You’d love to have him back, wouldn’t you?”
Bristled, Annabelle went to sit on the bed. “I wish I could hate him instead.”
“You know how hate and love are similar, don’t you? Are you feeling the urge to… kill him?”
She scowled at Him. “If I said I wanted to kill him, then You’d hate me. You are testing me, I know it. If I admitted to this, You’d leave me, and I’d never see You or the sunrise again.”
A soft smile appeared on His face. “I could never leave you, Annabelle. I love you far too much.”
Annabelle looked up at Him in awe. Jesus, infinitely good and just, didn’t appear to care if she said she wanted her husband dead. Not that did; she wouldn’t know how to do it anyway.
“I could help you, Annabelle. All I want is for you to be happy. Why do you think I’m here as much as I am? Every day and every night? It’s because I love you.”
“What about the others?”
“The others don’t mean a thing to me. You’re the only one I see.”
His words were comforting. He’d been the light of her life since that morning He appeared in the armchair. She instantly knew who He was even though He didn’t look the way He’d always been portrayed. It was Him, the son of God, Jesus Christ Himself.
And because of this, it only made sense to believe that she might want to kill Martin. Wasn’t it his fault that she had ended up in this minuscule apartment, on welfare and unable to find work because all she did for seventeen years was be his wife? He never wanted her to work, arguing they’d be having kids, and preferred that she stayed home to take care of them.
Except kids never came and Martin abandoned her to go have kids with someone else.
After seventeen years of not working nor procreating, Annabelle had been kicked to the curb. Martin gave her some money, but not enough. Which explained this crappy apartment and the second-hand furniture.
Still, there had been a silver lining; that old armchair, the one Jesus sat in, once belonged to a priest. It was a divine chair.
“It has nothing to do with the chair, Annabelle. I only waited for the right moment to come and see you.”
She smiled, loving when He read her mind; she saw it as another proof of His existence. At first, she believed she’d been going mad, but she had come to accept the truth; He was real. He’d been hanging around for three months now, something she would have never dared to ask for herself. She’d never really believed in God anyway, so there were no reasons to invent Him coming to her, was there?
“I have some news for you, Annabelle. Do you remember the last time you saw Martin?”
“I sat in that chair, looking over you. When you made love, I saw what happened within your body. When was that? A little over a month ago? You’re pregnant, Annabelle. What you’ve never been able to do as a wife, you did as a mistress.”
“I’m not his mistress, and I certainly don’t recall having sex with Martin a month ago.” She started chewing at her lower lip, worried. “Well, maybe we did, I can’t be sure, it’s all a bit fuzzy. And even if we did, there’s no way I could be pregnant.”
Jesus couldn’t be right about that, however powerful He was. If they hadn’t been able to conceive for seventeen years, why would it be happening now?
“God works in—”
“In mysterious ways, I know. If that’s the case, then how dare He be so cruel? Does He get off on making me suffer?”
Jesus’s smile didn’t falter. “You should call Martin.”
“He won’t come.”
“Call him, I say.”
“I lost his number.”
“Six, eight, three—”
“I’m not calling him!”
Jesus grabbed the phone from the window sill and stood from the chair. Instead of giving it to her, he dialed the number and held the device to her ear. It took three rings for Martin to pick up, his voice laden with sleep. Unable to speak, Annabelle started sobbing at the sound of his voice. Martin repeated “hello” a couple of times as she kept crying.
“Annabelle? Is this you?”
She couldn’t say if he sounded pissed or concerned. She tried to answer, yet no words passed her lips.
“Answer him, Annabelle,” Jesus said in a whisper. “If you don’t, he’ll hang up. You know he’s not a patient man.”
“Annabelle, I don’t feel like playing games. Not at seven on a Saturday morning.”
“Answer him, Annabelle! You’re carrying his child, he has to come back to you.”
The pressure from both Jesus and Martin becoming unbearable, she finally uttered her ex-husband’s name. Shaken to the core, she started sobbing again, repeating his name until it didn’t sound like anything anymore. She heard him swear on the line before he started talking in a soft voice. Saying how everything would be okay, that she should go back to bed, that a nap would do her good.
“I have to see you,” she managed to say through her tears. “Everything’s turning to shit, Martin. I’m scared of what I could do.”
Martin’s tone wasn’t as gentle when he spoke again. “Annabelle, you gotta stop this emotional blackmail crap. I’m getting real tired of you calling me at dawn to say you’re gonna kill yourself.”
“Please, Martin—I—I have to talk to you… about…”
“About what, Annabelle?”
She couldn’t answer, her sobbing getting more uncontrollable by the second. Until Martin huffed and said he’d be on his way before hanging up.
As she tried to calm herself down, Jesus shut off the device and sat back in His chair. He watched her, still with that all-knowing smile of His. Shivers ran along her spine as she thought of all the things Jesus could do to Martin.
“I won’t do anything to him, Annabelle. He’s yours, he just doesn’t remember it. Go and take a shower, make yourself pretty for when he comes. With your hair in knots and your old bathrobe, you’ll only scare him away. You wouldn’t want him to leave again, would you?”
She obeyed without a word, aborting from closing the bathroom door when He spoke again.
“Leave the bathroom door open, I’ll be watching over you.”
She nodded. He wanted her to know that He’d always be there with her. He wasn’t interested in her body, instead moved by her fragile nudity… or so He’d said.
After her shower, she put on her baby blue dress, the sole vestige of her married life. Martin loved her so much in that dress, he would tell her all the time. She glanced at Jesus; He was still there, looking at her with a pleased grin.
“You’re so beautiful, Annabelle. He’s gonna die when he sees you, he just has to.”
“You won’t hurt him, will You?”
He didn’t answer, letting His gaze wash over her. She tied her hair in a bun, put on a bit of makeup, then came to sit at His feet. They were so beautiful and smooth that she felt tempted to kiss them like Mary Magdalene did before her. She also thought about how she would love to sit on His lap, making herself small against Him as he rocked and cajoled her.
She stayed on the floor.
“I love you,” He said, carding a hand in her hair, pulling a couple of strands from her loose bun.
Again, she didn’t respond, instead looking up at him. She knew her love shone through her eyes. She shivered as His hand traveled from the top of her head to the back of her neck. They didn’t speak, both lost in each other’s gaze, with Annabelle in so deep that she didn’t hear the knocks on the door. Only when Martin called her name did she emerge from her contemplative state. She got up and adjusted her dress as she went to answer the door.
Her ex-husband stood on the other side, sweaty and wearing that jogging suit she hated. He glared at her, both fists on his hips.
“What’s the problem this time?” he said, not even trying to hide his annoyance. “Sophia is really pissed at me that I’d come here again this morning. So whatever you gotta say, you got two minutes, then I’m gone. My patience is running thin, Annabelle.”
“It’s not like he ever had much,” Jesus said in a huff.
When Annabelle started crying again, Martin rolled his eyes before entering the apartment and closing the door on them. Knowing that she wasn’t about to calm down, he took her in his arms.
“Why do you keep hurting yourself this way, Annabelle?” he said in her ear, his hands drawing soft circles on her back. “You’re still young, you have a whole lot to live for. I know it’s hard, but they let you out. That means they know you can do it. They believe in you… we all do.”
“Annabelle! Tell him! Tell him about the baby!”
The shake of her head was furious, desperate, against her ex-husband’s chest. “I’m not telling him!” she said, her voice hoarse from crying.
“Who won’t you tell what?” Martin asked, confused.
“You… I won’t tell you.”
“What are you talking about?”
Annabelle chose to stay silent, tightening her hold over her ex-husband in the hopes that Jesus’s voice wouldn’t reach her anymore. If He wanted Martin to know so bad, then He could just go ahead and tell him Himself.
“I can’t tell him, Annabelle… he doesn’t see me. You’re the only one I let see me.”
“Then show Yourself,” she screamed, evading Martin’s arms. “I know that if You want to, You can do it. Come on, show Yourself.
Martin took a couple of steps back, his concern morphing into fear. Maybe they shouldn’t have let her out, after all, she might not have been ready. Which meant she’d probably have to be committed again. He hated the idea, but if she had started hallucinating—
“He thinks you’re crazy. Don’t let him leave or he’ll never come back. Just take a deep breath, offer him some coffee and have a chat. He’ll listen to you.”
Annabelle knew Jesus to be right. He always was. She closed her eyes and took a couple of deep cleansing breaths, then turned to face Martin.
“I’m sorry… I’m just a bit tired, I think. Please, take a seat.”
Although a bit wary, Martin complied, his eyes never leaving Annabelle. He silently wondered if she had been taking her meds or if they just didn’t work anymore. She gave him a coffee with two spoonfuls of sugar and no milk.
He took a sip, making sure not to grimace at the sweetness; he didn’t see the point of telling her he hadn’t been adding sugar to his coffee for over a year now. She joined him with her own mug and gave him a forced smile. Maybe she’s just lonely and needs a bit of company, Martin thought, promising himself that he wouldn’t be staying long.
“I have something to tell you, Martin, but it’s difficult,” she said after a little while.
She stopped speaking again, and Martin took a second to look around the apartment. If she had always been great at keeping their home clean and organized, she now didn’t even seem to make the slightest effort. There were moldy dishes in the sink, the kitchen table felt sticky, dust bunnies could be seen everywhere, and the bedding looked like it hasn’t been washed in far too long. It made him only half tempted to go and see if the bathroom looked just as bad.
He noticed Annabelle sending annoyed glances toward the threadbare armchair sitting in the corner of the room. She must have bought it sometime after his last visit as he’d never seen it before. And he probably wouldn’t have noticed if it hadn’t been for the clothes draped over it. Not just any clothes; his own pants and sweater, the ones he believed he had lost a lifetime ago. They were spread on the chair in a peculiar fashion as if someone had been sitting there and poofed out of them.
He couldn’t ignore the signs anymore; his ex-wife was sick again. He had to leave this place and call her sister as soon as possible; she was the only one who could reach out to the hospital on behalf of Annabelle. He gulped the last of his coffee.
“He’s leaving, Annabelle. Don’t let him go! Give him some more coffee. Quick!”
“Martin, you can’t leave already!” Annabelle pleaded. “I didn’t even tell you the reason I called.”
“Go on, Annabelle! Tell him before he abandons you again,” Jesus all but screamed.
Martin noticed how she seemed to be having a conversation with the creepy chair. As she grabbed the kettle, Martin decided he’d let her serve him some more coffee, but he wouldn’t sit at the table. He’d stay by the door and drink it as fast as he could.
When he got up, Annabelle approached him, frowning and shaking her head. Martin grabbed onto the door handle and swallowed. Although somewhat prepared, Martin still didn’t expect the kettle to be flung at his head. He lost his footing and fell to the floor.
“You can’t leave before I tell you what I have to tell you, Martin!” She smiled as if oblivious to the fact that she’d just cracked his skull open. “I’m pregnant, honey. I’m finally pregnant.”
“Bravo, Annabelle! I’m so proud of you,” Jesus said, cheerful. “You’re not done yet, you still need to convince him to stay. You need a knife!”
Still seeing stars, Martin could only watch as Annabelle grabbed a knife from the counter. He tried to get up, the room spinning around him. When he tried again to hold onto the door handle, she waved the knife in front of his face to discourage him.
“I don’t think he heard you, Annabelle. He still doesn’t know.”
“Martin, we’re having a baby. We can be a family again, you hear me?”
He’d heard her, but he knew it couldn’t be true. The doctors said so, she could never have children. Except she had a knife and he feared the things she could do with it. Playing along seemed like the best option at that moment.
“For real? We’re finally having a kid? But… how?”
“It happened the last time we were together, Honey. Remember?”
He remembered, but that was years ago. There was no way she could be pregnant with his child. Or anyone’s child for that matter. He didn’t think reminding her would be a good idea and instead, he tried to smile.
“He doesn’t believe you, Annabelle. You can see that, right? He’s only telling you what you wanna hear because he’s scared. If you take his heart, he’ll never be able to leave you.” Jesus got up and walked to join her. “Take the knife and plunge it in his chest, cut his heart out. It does belong to you after all, you have to get it back.”
“Won’t that kill him?”
“Of course not, sweetie. I infused this blade with the power of my infinite love, it couldn’t kill anyone. It’s only so he remembers that he loves you and not that other slut. Go on, do it!”
The peaceful look on Jesus’s face and the warm hand He wrapped over hers was enough to convince Annabelle. She looked back at her husband, her eyes shining with love. Of course, Jesus would never let her kill Martin, He knew she loved him with all her heart. Jesus was her friend, and He only wanted to help.
As she buried her blade in Martin’s chest, she rejoiced in the Holy Man’s praises, laughing. With his heart in her hand, she evaded Jesus’s hold to drop to the floor and hug her husband. She closed her eyes and spoke to him, telling him how much she loved him. They’d be happy together and the child to come. Jesus’s voice soon boomed in her ears.
“You did such a good job, Annabelle. Martin will love you forever, he’s yours once more. Kiss him.”
Again, she obeyed, her lips soft on Martin’s. His lips were warm and dry. She pushed her tongue inside his mouth, but he didn’t react. She slid a bloody hand down to his crotch; again, there were no reactions. When she opened her eyes again, she was shocked by the emptiness she saw in her husband’s gaze. Her heart skipped a beat.
She turned to the chair, only to be hit by a flash of lucidity. All she saw on the armchair were her ex-husband’s old clothes. Jesus wasn’t her friend, and He didn’t inhabit that musty piece of furniture.
She remembered the hospital, the meds, the restraints on her bed…
And she screamed.