He is given a choice: an easy life or a difficult one.
Not a hard choice to make,
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The party had been a disaster.
That was not the first time that particular thought had filtered through his still befuddled mind. Actually, the whole night had been an unmitigated disaster and it wasn't showing any signs of getting any better.
The party was the reason he was now trudging home wearing twenty pounds of black bombazine, chains and beads. And no, reader with the dirty mind, he wasn't decked out in some stereotypical sex slave in a dominance and submission video. Rather, he was dressed in a nun's habit, complete with rosary belt and painfully tight, very clunky and ugly shoes.
The annual Halloween costume party at his brokerage office had been planned with a medieval theme. He hadn't planned on attending so he hadn't voiced any opinion on the subject. Then his secretary had, at the very last damned moment, shamed him into attending the blasted thing. That she'd been able to change his mind on the subject was quite odd all by itself - he HATED costume parties - but she'd hammered home the point that this annual event was one of the few times his team came together for "fun" and she'd managed to "convince" him that it was his bossly duty to show up and join the "fun". In costume.
"Yeah, right. Sure had fun," he mumbled, only to find himself tripping when he scuffed the thick heel of one shoe on a curb. His arms went flailing in a hopeless attempt to catch himself but to no avail. His very next step caught in the hem of the habit's heavy skirt and he found himself fall twisting down onto the pavement.
"DAMN!" he swore as fought to straighten out the head piece that was now covering his eyes. Grimly, he started to stand and found that he had twisted his ankle badly during the fall.
It was the crowning indignity of the evening. Totally exhausted, his toes trying fruitlessly to curl against the painful grip of the shoes, he simply sat there on the ground, fuming. Resigned, he reviewed everything that had gone wrong about this party, starting with his "choice" of costume. "Choice," he muttered leaning back against a fire hydrant, "Like I'd really had a choice in the matter."
In a burst of honesty, he had to admit to himself that there actually had been a choice. His decision (Hah! - his secretary's decision was more like it) to attend had been made the day before the party - two days before Halloween itself. The costume pickings, and particularly the pickings that might remotely fit the party's "medieval" theme had been bloody slim. The lady who'd owned the costume shop had thought she could pull together a serf's costume from bits and pieces she had around the shop but the only other option she could offer had been a classic black nun's habit complete with under tunic and headwear.
It should have been a given - he'd go as the serf and leave the party just as soon as was even semi-polite to do so. Except, that he couldn't bring himself to consider that option further. Something about the nun's habit had called to him. . .had pulled at him. Perhaps, he mused, it had been the memories. He'd gone to a Catholic parochial school as a boy, and the nuns had made a lasting impression on him. Firm, yet kind, gentle yet strong. He'd tried, not always successfully, to model his own leadership style after them, particular Mother Superior Lucia Theresa. That's what had done it, he thought with a rueful smile, That memory of Mother Superior. She'd always worn a habit just like this one - even after the order had relaxed its dress code.
He'd wanted to try it on, if just to see if there was something of that holy woman in him . . . something that the habit might bring out. Besides, it might not have fit, and then he could tell his secretary, almost honestly, that there wasn't a suitable costume left. The sales woman had only thought she could put together a serf's costume, after all, and he had decided not to give her that chance.
Only problem was that the damned thing had fit him as if it had been cut and tailored just for him by a master seamstress. Damned, he thought with a half ironic laugh, Pretty strange word to apply to something fashioned after a holy woman's raiment.
Once he'd tried it on at the shop there'd been no other choice for him. He'd handed over his credit card without a word. The shopkeeper had even had the pair of plain black women's shoes and a rosary belt. He'd added a small black purse (the blasted thing didn't have any pockets) and had headed home wondering at his own foolishness.
"You had to find something... ANYthing other than a serf, didn't you?" he growled at himself, conveniently forgetting that it had been the pull of habit and not any real revulsion to the serf's costume that had actually decided him. He wondered, not for the first time, at where the almost irresistible urge to dress in feminine clothing had come from. He'd never had the slightest interest in doing anything even remotely like that before. Not for kicks - not for any other reason. Never. It was still very disconcerting. Weird.
If the time leading up to the party had been bad, the party itself had been excruciatingly awful. Everyone... literally every single one of his employees had made some snide comment about his costume.
"Sure aren't typecasting, are you, boss?"
"Turning over a new leaf?"
"Well, maybe if you say that rosary a few times a day you might be able to go to church like that without lightning striking."
"Gonna downsize the convent, Sister? Got those pink slips ready to hand out after services?"
It was like they all thought he was some kind of blackhearted, beyond-redemption sinner. Just because he was wealthy and their boss? So what if he had made money easily? He had done it honestly. So what if had high expectations of his people? He certainly paid them very well for their efforts and not one of them could say he was anything but scrupulously fair in his dealings with them.
The downsizing crack had been particularly unfair. Yes, he'd had to terminate some overhead personnel - four of them, in fact. The competition was just getting too stiff and he'd had to cut back expenses to remain competitive. He hadn't any other choice - either reduce costs or eventually go under and cost almost two dozen people their jobs. It was one of those situations where the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few.
And hadn't he taken care of the folks he'd been forced to let go? Every blessed one of them had started work at one of his clients the very next week, except for Martha. He'd given her an extra large severance and had arranged for her to get a scholarship at a local business school. She was well on her way to getting the skills that ensure her next job paid enough to take care of her fatherless kids. But no one but him knew about that aspect of the downsizing. Not even Martha because he hadn't wanted to further injure her pride by offering what she'd see as charity. As a result, his pride had taken a beating.
More than that, he'd been hurt by their remarks, actually hurt. He'd never would have believed that they'd thought so. . . so negatively of him. He'd always assumed he had their respect, perhaps even a bit of affection - like a child has for a teacher or parent who asks for nothing less than the child's best - like the way he had always felt about Mother Lucia Theresa - but that was obviously a grave misconception on his part. Only one or two of their comments could have been construed as teasing or intended just for fun. The rest had been just a shade above nasty or even cruel.
Unfortunately, the party had included an open bar, and he'd begun drinking - not heavily - not that his relative restraint had done him any good. The booze had affected him the way booze always did - it went straight to his head. Actually, that precipitated the only positive memory he had of the whole abysmal evening. His secretary (resplendent in a "lady of the manor" dress - obviously she'd had no trouble finding a gown in keeping with her personality) had seen him moving unsteadily and had hurried over to him. "Are you all right?" she'd demanded as soon as she'd had him cornered.
"A couple too many drinks." he had answered, enunciating carefully to avoid sounding drunk.
"I'm sorry for dragging you here. Let me drive you home. I'll just be a minute." she'd said as she started to turn around towards the door.
"No!. . ." he realized he'd shouted and blushed, "I mean, don't bother. You'll miss the party. I'll just go lay down on my office sofa for a while and then go home when I am more steady."
"You're sure? I mean, it's no trouble and I won't miss very much of the party?" she'd hesitated and that had convinced him. He'd seen her having a good time, chatting and dancing the night away.
He'd almost taken her up on it, but the obvious sacrifice she was willing to make for him had convinced him otherwise. "No, you enjoy the party and I will go lay down. If I still feel rocky when you are ready to leave, I will gladly accept a ride then."
He'd gone to sleep within moments of laying down, only to reawaken hours later in a dark, silent and empty office, the party long since finished and cleared away. He'd briefly considered sleeping off the booze in his office, but had decided against that - the stiff bombazine was starting to poke at him and make him itch in places he'd rather not itch. He really wanted to get out of the habit and even more than he wanted that, he wanted into his own bed.
That's when he discovered his purse was missing - along with his money and his car keys. Where the hell did I put it? he'd thought, only to recall that, along with the other "ladies", he'd checked his purse at the door of the party. Someone had locked them away in a secure place until it was time to go home.
A fruitless search of the office turned up no obvious clues to his purse's whereabouts. Besides, the key to his desk, which was where he locked his office master keys was in the purse he couldn't find.
He'd again considered sleeping away the remainder of the night at the office and calling someone in to drive him home the next day, but didn't. His penthouse condo was only a few city blocks away and the night desk person would be able to let him into his home. The call of his bed, the warmth and emotional safety of his own home was just too strong for his injured soul.
Which was how he'd come to be sitting there on the sidewalk in the middle of the city nursing a twisted ankle in a dress. It could have been worse, he thought, trying to brighten his outlook, *At least its Halloween so no one had looked at me too strangely for wandering around in women's clothing. Oh well, time to get going again if I want to be asleep before dawn.*
Sighing, he steeled himself against the pain of his injured ankle, and forced himself to stand. The few blocks left to his home loomed huge, but he had no money for a cab, and he was now closer to his home than to his office. Putting his head down against the pain, he started limping toward his home.
By the time he was at the last corner, all that mattered was the pain - moving with the pain and controlling the pain. God, it hurts, he thought over and over again as he made his way into that final crosswalk.
"Sister!! Look out!!" A voice screamed just before something slammed into his back - hard - and the world went black.
A brilliant, white light that should have been painful in its brightness paved his way back to awareness. His first thought was that he must be in an emergency room, or on an operating table. That made sense because he didn't hurt anymore.
**You are not in a hospital** a voice seemed to ring in his head. Without knowing quite why, he knew that the voice originated in the light.
"Where am I then? What happened to me?"
**You are between. This is a place that is not a place, a time that is not a time, and you will remain here until you make your choice. As to what happened, look below you. . .**
The light shifted, and illuminated a scene beneath him. Police and ambulances now surrounded the intersection. A black pickup truck was there in the middle of the intersection, but it was what was in front of the truck that caught his attention.
What looked to be the bodies of two women lay supine on the pavement - one dressed in the classical black habit of a nun. It was him! Or at least, the body sort of looked like him. . .only it didn't . . .not quite. Somehow, what he could see of the face was older looking, and at the same time, less masculine. Was that how someone looked after they'd died. . . or gone between or whatever he'd done?
Then, his gaze shifted to the other body. This woman was garbed in a simple grey dress with a white blouse beneath the jacket. Not unlike what a secretary or working woman in some entry-level position might wear. Except for one small, but very significant difference. The woman also wore one of the modern, short white veils. The other woman was also a nun . . or rather, she was a real nun.
Thoughts of Mother Lucia Theresa washed over him and all thought of himself or his fate instantly fled. "Where is the woman? The sister? Is she here, in this place? This between? Or is she still alive down there?" he asked the light.
**She is not between. She has passed over. She has been made welcome for her faith is true and unwavering. Still, her passing is a sad thing, too, for she had much that she wanted to accomplish yet. Much that others needed her to accomplish. The world has lost a saint who would have alleviated a great deal of suffering in this world.** That last was said with a great deal of regret. **Enough of that, however. We must decide what to do with you.**
"I am afraid I don't understand."
**Because this is the Eve of All Hallows, the Eve of the Feast of All Souls, you may still return to the world of the living. Unfortunately, your body was badly damaged in the accident, but it was not your time. You may, however, return in the body of the Sister. Her life will be adjusted to your preferences since this was not supposed to be your destiny.**
"But you said she was . . . passed over. . doesn't that mean dead? Why is her body able to support life and not mine?"
**She tried to save you. She did not take a direct blow, but it was enough to produce serious shock which aggravated a heart condition she has been living with for several years. The shock stopped her heart and she passed over, but in point of truth, her body is still viable, it is just . . . empty. Yours, however, took a direct hit from the vehicle and is no longer capable of supporting a soul.**
"Can't you just take me and let her go back and do the things you said she was destined to do? All of that good?"
**No. She has passed over already, and you have much yet to learn before you are ready - things that you can only learn in life. Therefore, you must choose. Since this was not to be your time, some options are open to you. Her life will be adjusted so that you will have every earthly advantage - youth, beauty, good health. Additionally, as you personally have not made the Vows that bound her, you will not be bound by those Vows and may live within the secular world. You may even have your wealth back as that was all fairly and justly earned in your previous life. Merely think it, and her body will become what you were in all things but gender. Your life, your company, everything will be as it was, and whatever else you wish. Now, you must choose.**
He thought about the pain of the evening, and more, of the emptiness of a life he had not appreciated until this night. It was wrong that this woman who had so much to offer the world, who was destined to help the world, to alleviate suffering was gone forever. What did he have to offer the world? Money making? Pretty poor trade. It was too bad he couldn't take her place, but he couldn't. She was probably a nurse or a wonderful teacher like Mother Superior Lucia Theresa, and he didn't know anything about that stuff.
**What you need to know in your new life, you will know.** the voice said in a new, gentler tone. ** Along with whatever you currently know.**
"I would know what I would need to carry out her destiny? To help those people she would have helped?"
**Yes.** The voice said with quiet certainty. **And now, you must choose. . . **
Closing whatever it was that passed for eyes in this between place, he nodded his understanding. "I choose . . ."
A hand shook gently at his shoulder and once again, he came awake. "Are ya all right, Sister?" a big, gruff voice asked.
His eyes opened and he found himself looking up at a very large cop with a grim-looking, flushed face. Sister? He brought his hand up toward his suddenly aching head and stopped it just above his eyes. His hand was so. . so small.
And on the ring finger was a simple gold band with a cross.
He WAS the nun!
"Do you remember what happened, Sister? The driver is too drunk to do us any good. Can you tell me your name?"
The question ignited something inside his. . .her head, and she suddenly knew "her" name. "I am Sister Theresa Maria. The other Sister . . how. . "
"I'm sorry, Sister, but you weren't able to get her far enough out of the way and she took the blow square on. It. . .well, it was quick and she didn't suffer."
"Sarge? Let us through, please." another, younger voice said. "We need to get her to the hospital and checked out."
"I am not hurt, young man," she said quietly. "I am a nurse and I know what I feel."
"And as a nurse, Ma'am, you know that we still need to be sure. Now let us do our job or we'll sic the Mother Superior on you."
"Oh, all right," Sister Theresa Maria replied with a gentle smile as she heard the clock in the nearby church steeple chime midnight. It has really happened. I started the night as a fake nun, and I start the Feast of All Saints living the life that should have belonged to a real nun - the Light called her a saint. Well, I may never be the woman she was, but I will do everything I can to honor her memory and help the people she would have helped. So help me!
The voice in the light chuckled in evident satisfaction. **You did well, Lady. She will be as she should have been, now, and much human suffering will be prevented through her efforts.**
"So, Sister Theresa Maria will still be a saint?" the soul that had been both the proprietress of the costume shop and Theresa Maria who asked.
**She will, though all who pass over into Paradise are sainted as you well know. But, this was the only way that would have happened for this one. It was sad that he couldn't find his way to faith in his old life, but the opposition conspired to make his way too difficult. He wasn't an evil person, but something was missing in that life for him. Now, by his own choice, those other conflicts have been dealt away. He could have been a wealthy woman with all the earthly advantages, but instead chose poverty, chastity, obedience, and most of all, faith. Yes, she will now achieve sainthood.**
"Wouldn't I have been a saint?" the other soul asked with a smile in her voice.
**Ah, but you already are one. Tonight's little drama adds one more to the ranks. With this life, that soul will complete the path to what the Buddha called Nirvana and others call sainthood.**
"Aren't you mixing your theologies a bit?"
**Whatever works,** the voice was complacently content. And the light smiled.
"Still, wasn't this all a little complicated? If being a nun was what he needed, surely you could have just made him into one? Why the grand conspiracy?" The soul was curious and the light seemed disposed towards revealing a few mysteries.
**It was a cusp for this soul, and ultimately had to be his own free choice, as it has been since Eden.** the voice said reflectively. **When he allowed himself to be convinced to go to the party, it signaled a possibility - an openness to the needs of others - a beginning that could help him find his way. When he was so entranced by the habit at the shop, by the memories of his teachers in whom he saw and recognized something that he lacked - that signaled it was time to move.**
"But what if he had adamantly refused both costumes?" the soul asked. "It was obvious that he found the serf concept repugnant and most males in that society are taught from birth that wearing feminine attire is demeaning or perverted. He might have used that as an excuse not to attend at the last moment and you just said that going to the party was a step in the right direction."
**In that case,** the light rumbled with an amused chuckle, **You'd have miraculously discovered another costume - a minstrel perhaps, or a merchant. A very minor miracle to accomplish, to be sure, but fortunately, he didn't need it. The habit called to him in neither a perverse nor titillating manner, nor did he find it in anyway lowering. Quite the contrary, since it reminded him so strongly of our well loved Mother Superior Lucia Theresa.**
"She'll be so pleased," the other soul said before adding mischievously, "But no prince costumes if the nun-idea had fallen flat, eh?"
**No, tonight it was vital that he not be isolated in any way from his fellow party-goers by his everyday leadership position. Therefore, his costume had to be something that did not reflect secular authority. All in all, his willingness to accept the nun's habit was the best outcome.**
"I thought the commentary by his various employees was a little harsh. At least twice he almost bolted in tears, and another time the thought of firing the person who was acting as your mouthpiece was very vivid in his mind."
"If he'd, as you describe it, bolted, or begun to fire one of his employees, then the exercise would have ended. He'd have found himself home in bed, and would have awoken the next morning with only the memory of having attended the party as the minstrel, and the memory of the nun experience as a dream. It would have served the purpose to make him think and reflect, and thus kept him on the path to enlightenment. I do have a few eternities of experience at dealing with such souls as this, daughter.** the voice added with mild reproof.
"Sorry." the soul said with that mischievous sparkle still twinkling.
**No you're not, because there was nothing to be sorry for, minx,** the Light said jovially. **Now, don't you have some guardian angel duties you need to be about? It is All Souls Day.** At her nod, the light twinkled. **Then scoot. I have some more of my, what was it you called them? Conspiracies? Yes, that is it - I have some more of my conspiracies to hatch. The competition has been getting just a little too feisty lately and I have a few billion others who will need a gentle push or two.**
End of Eve of All Hallows-Treats, Tricks and Choices © 1999,2013 Tigger
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