. Everything had been going so well with her since her reunion with Stan after those five years of separation. And then, suddenly, it was as though her self-assurance dropped through a hole in the ground, and the pillar of faith collapsed into a sea of doubt. The past was about to repeat itself again.
We all wondered what a taxi was doing in the front yard outside the herregård. Without a word, Isabel, Stanisław, Jr. and Benoni were aboard with their luggage and were gone. She hadn't said a word to anyone. Where she had gotten the money for a trip back to Poland I do not know unless she had carefully been saving it up for a very long time. As the family treasurer she had complete access to all our business accounts. What was unbelievable for us was that she had not said a word to us about what she was about to do. Stan would return from Stockholm to find a "Dear John" letter on his desk.
Who can fathom the depths of the mind that does not even know itself - the mind that has retreated into the darkest caves of doubt - caves not fashioned from reason, but throw-ups from the deep and unknown hidden realms of the unredeemed soul?
Within twenty-four hours Isabel was back in her parents' home in Poland and our household was besides itself with grief, and no-one more so than Kasia who was deeply sad, irritated and angry that history should repeat itself for the fourth time. Once bitten, twice shy - yes - but four times? What was worse was being given no word. Yet this was characteristic of Isabel who would let a small problem grow and grow inside without ever sharing it with anyone and then, several months or even years later, suddenly pack up her bags and go. We didn't know whether she was just going to Poland for a "breather" and would return, or whether it was permanent, because she hadn't told anyone. But we had come to learn to fear the worst.
Ordinarily, we would have waited for Stan to get home to make the first contact but Kasia would not wait. She knew how depressed and sad he would be upon learning of his third wife's departure, and how he would blame himself as a failure, so the following morning Kasia was on the telephone to Dzierzoniów.
Isabel had not yet arrived and predictably her father, who took the telephone, was icy. This was obviously something that had been planned well in advance, as it had been on the previous occasion when her father had come and picked her and her possessions up by van. On that occasion Stan had been at work and had felt uneasy. He had felt impelled by the Spirit to 'phone home and had caught Isabel about half-an-hour before she made her flight. He had known something was wrong then and had wormed the truth out of her. She was emotionally a complete mess and reasoning with her was hopeless. It always is when a woman's feelings are flying in all directions - when fear, guilt, sadness and hopelessness all suddenly intermingle. But Isabel had grown up so much more, we had thought, for she had changed. She had been so much more at peace within herself.
It was only when she started withdrawing within herself so that she forgot others and thought only of herself that her world starting collapsing. It was a familiar pattern. And the question as far as the patient is concerned is how aware they are of the truth and how much will-power they have left to themselves to resist the merciless forces of feelings running rampant.
Suszana, Kryztina and Kasia knew the old Isabel like the palms of their hands, and Hanna had joined the 'team' to become the fourth who had drawn especially close to her. And through our close family interaction, the rest had come to know her pretty well also. I learned early on when, and when not, to try and get close, for she could be very touchy and feel a deep sense of insecurity, especially when there were many of us around. Group interaction was an enormous problem for her, even though we thought she had overcome so many of her earlier inhibitions. It only goes to show that sometimes, with the best of intentions, we create an artificial layer of personality on top of the real self and hope that in time the two will merge as one. But it doesn't always work. 'Putting on the clothes of righteousness', though a biblical principle, misfires only when working with the soul stops and the clothes take over. Then you get a formalism and, ultimately, hypocrisy, as the clothes and the reality grow further and further apart.
About an hour after her arrival in Dzierzoniów, Kasia got through to Isabel, though her mother, who had taken the 'phone on this occasion, had insisted that her daughter was too tired after her journey. But Kasia would have none of that, insisting that it was urgent that she speak with her daughter.
Isabel was predictably tight and reserved. She had made her plan and carried it out. She had crossed one river of decision and was not about to turn round and make the journey back. What we didn't know was whether she had burned the bridge or not.
Kasia was not one to be diplomatic and came straight to the point:
"Why, Isabel, why? What have we done do you this time??"
Isabel was shaking - she knew she couldn't play games with Kasia who was without doubt the right person for her to be talking to at that moment. Stan was always too soft and kind when he was hurt, and was reluctant to make things worse.
"It's nothing to do with you or the others, Kasia," insisted Isabel, her voice quivvering. "It's Stan."
Kasia was angry now.
"You know that's not true, Isabel! That was the excuse you made last time, and all the times before that. You know that's a lie. Stan has always loved you ..."
"I don't know, I'm not sure ..." came the panicking voice of Isabel down the line.
"Yes you do know - you know it very well - we've been through all of his hundreds of times in the past, and you saw through all the fantasies," said Kasia who was now crying.
"I have to do what's right," said Isabel, momentarily pulling herself together to try and salvage some authority for the fateful decision she had taken and which had now unfolded in a way that would only bring sorrow to everyone.
Kasia would have none of it.
"Why are you lying to yourself, Israel? What has 'right' to do with it? ..."
But Isabel interrupted her before Kasia could finish her sentence.
"I know we've been through all this before, but I am a free woman and I have to make decisions which I feel are right ..." said Isabel, who was fast losing her composure again. "I also have to do what's best for Stanisław, Jr. and Benoni."
Kasia was almost besides herself with anger and the stupidity of her sister-wife's words and only stopped herself from exploding when she realised that Isabel could hang-up whenever she wanted to, leaving their last shared words in a bitter and angry spirit.
"Isabel, you know as well as I do, and everyone else here - as God is my witness and all the hosts of heaven - that you have rejected the Word and are now using your own mind and feelings as the arbiter of truth. Since when did a human being ever define what was 'right' correctly? You know that only God is righteous, and that any righteousness we have is derived from the righteousness of Christ through trust and obedience. And you also know that you aren't 'free' either - you are free either to follow Christ or the devil. When you married Stan you put yourself under his headship - you gave your freedom to him in Christ, because that is Christ's will in marriage, because that's the only way to happiness. You know that's true because you've taught it time and time again yourself."
Isabel was shaking again.
"Maybe I was wrong ... "
"Were you wrong in marrying Stan?" said Kasia.
Isabel didn't answer.
"You know that it was right for you to marry Stan because you've said so hundreds of times before," said Kasia calmly now. "I've seen you say it with the Holy Spirit burning deep within you, and I've seen the joy on your face. And you've had the Holy Spirit testify to you hundreds of times.
Isabel was crying. Kasia heard her mother speaking in Polish to her in the distance telling her to put the telephone down.
"Don't listen to your mother, you know she's not a believer, and all she wants to do is break up your marriage ...", pled Kasia.
Isabel was still crying and sniffing.
"Everytime you have rejected the Word of God and let your feelings take over it has led to disaster," continued Kasia, who was also crying now. "Not only has it meant years of separation for you and Stan, but it has made Stanisław, Jr. fatherless. Are you now going to do the same thing to little Benoni? What sort of an upbringing are they going to get in Poland around Catholics and unbelievers? You know what happened last time to Stanisław, Jr. when you were away. And then you try to tell me that this is 'right'?? You know only too well that is it utterly and completely wrong and that it's not just you who will suffer, but your sons, Stan and everyone else here too."
Isabel was now getting very worked up.
"I just can't manage - I CAN'T! It's too much!" she insisted, as the words from her mother, joined in now and then by her father, became more insistent.
Kasia stamped her foot in frustration on the floor, wishing with all her heart that Isabel was standing there in front of her, so that she could shake her with her bare hands until she saw sense.
"Yes, you can manage - you have managed for the last few years perfectly all right. The only time you can't manage is when you start getting absorbed in yourself. None of this is new - we've seen it time and time again. You start listening to Satan's whisperings and then you believe him. Then you start getting all sorts of inner conflicts as you first start by blaming your sister-wives and then Stan and then, if you're humble enough, yourself. It always ends up by your making Stan out to be a monster. Always. You build up this enormous fantasy picture which no-one here recognises as being remotely connected to reality, and you believe it. Why, in God's Name, why??"
The voices in the background were getting angry.
"I know I'm a coward," said Isabel, sniffing, "but I just can't help myself ... ".
"Whatever you do," begged Kasia, "don't stay in Poland. Make it a short holiday and come back. If you don't, it'll just be sorrow for everyone, and especially for you and the two boys. Don't you know how Stan's going to feel when he gets home tomorrow??"
"He won't miss me - he's got ten of you and plenty of other children. He won't miss us ... and he won't want me back after doing this again ..."
"Again, Isabel, you know that is Satan's lie. Why do you listen to that deceiver? When has it ever led to the truth and to happiness? I don't need to answer what you just said because you know deep down in your soul it's stupid. Now for goodness' sake forget yourself for one moment and ask yourself how you would feel if someone said that you wouldn't miss Benoni because you already had Stanisław, Jr.? You're not stupid, Isabel, but you will forget if you stay in Poland. And then it'll be that long, uphill struggle all over again, and Stanisław, Jr. will miss another goodness-knows-how-many-years without his father ... You know this is wrong, wrong, wrong! What is Stanisław, Jr. going to think? Do you think he'll be happy losing his father, and now all his bothers and sisters? Do you? Tell me the truth. And don't say he'll get used to being in Poland. You know that we can all get used to anything, but it doesn't mean it is right or that it's the best thing for us."
Isabel started crying again, there was shouting from her father, some scuffling, and then a resounding 'click' as the receiver was put down at the Polish end. We were all crowded around Kasia, listening to the speaker which she has turned on so we could all follow the conversation. Most of us were in tears, hardly able to believe what we were hearing. In a matter of minutes Paradise had collapsed around us. Elisa seemed to be in shock.
"I'm sure it's my fault for coming into the family," said Elisa groping for an explanation. "It can't be an accident that she has left only a few days before Salme and I are to be married to Stan ... and all the other betrothals that are going to take place at the Nilssons, Åkerstedts and Engströms ... "
The words were brave but not true.
"If only she had stayed," sighed Andreea. "I am sure we could have talked it out. But nobody knew what was going on, did we?"
Everyone shook their heads.
"If she had stayed," spoke up Suszana, "she would have been made to confront herself, and that's what she didn't want to do."
We all looked up at her.
"Isabel has been running away from herself all her life," continued Suszana, "and plural marriage has forced her to stop doing that. That's why she has run away so often. She's afraid to find something inside that she knows is wrong which will finally and completely break down the last vestiges if her self-esteem."
"I don't quite follow, Suszana dear," I said.
"She has the same problem that we all have - everyone of us. She's afraid that if she completely surrenders to Stan, as marriage requires, that she will lose all self-respect. The lie is coming from Pride which tells her she can't do without him for her self-worth to exist. So pride tells her to blame others, especially those who love her the most. Pride tells her to go where she will be pampered - to her parents.
"Each time she has gone home she has unburdened herself on her unbelieving parents who have re-enforced her pride and in that way made her feel 'better'. And she always has ... for a while. And then the emptiness sets in - and it's going to be ten times worse for her this time, if she stays away. Then she'll want Stan to come and visit, after a good long while, and they'll make-up like they did the last time she ran away. They'll lay plans for her to come home but she'll keep delaying, because Pride has established herself in her new lifestyle. One minute she'll want to come home, and the next she'll be plagued with doubt. And the longer she delays, the more Doubt will win, and Pride will get stronger. And the longer she waits, the more settled her children will be in their new lives in Poland, creating conflicts of loyalty in them - one part of them will want to go home to father, brothers and sisters, and the other will want to remain where new friends have been made, and where new routines have become settled. She will then use as an excuse for not coming home the chaos that uprooting Stanisław, Jr. will create. Pride will tell her that she owes it to Stanisław, Jr. - and now to Benoni too - not to disturb them ... to leave them where they are."
"But that's monstrous!" cried Sarah-Jane. "How can it not be right to come home? How can it not be right for Stan's children to come back to him and his family? The only justification for a wife leaving home is adultery by the husband or extreme cruelty!"
"That's what happens when you let your feelings rule you," continued Suszana. "Sin always brings pain and suffering, not only to yourself but to those you love. Stanisław, Jr. and Benoni are going to suffer anyway because of what she's done - that can't be escaped. But Pride is using an old excuse, by comparing the strong though short-lived suffering caused by suddenly pulling up roots with the gradual drifting away and infinitely greater loss to their souls by being away from the Christian environment they need and their whole family - Stan and all the rest of us. Isabel knows what she's been called into but she keeps on letting Pride manipulate her feelings. And slowly Pride will kill her, and her children."
There was a heaviness in the room. Everyone was still standing. Nobody much wanted to sit down, let alone be comfortable. Some of the elder children were watching the smaller ones as we had all suddenly forgotten about them in our grief.
"Then what's to be done?" asked Anna, her eyes still red from crying. Though she and Isabel were so very different in temprement and age, she was keenly feeling her absence.
"I think we have to wait for Stan," said Kryztina. "He'll know what to do."
"He'll be so depressed," said Anna sadly, and then, working herself up into annoyance: "It's so unfair. She knew Stan was getting married to Elisa and Salme in a few days - now that's going to spoil everything."
She then realised she had been tactless when she saw the panic in Elisa's and Salme's faces.
"We could maybe postpone the marriage until this has all settled?" suggested Salme. "I don't know what you feel like, Elisa, but I ...."
Salme began to cry. She had been working herself up to full marriage for so long. She had been willing to sacrifice it by postponing for Stan's sake, and then suddenly felt the keen sense of loss. Elisa held her close and some of the others put her arms around her.
"I don't think Stan will postpone," said Hanna. "I think he is able to handle this and feel the joy of new marriage. I'm not going to let Isabel's weakness spoil everything. Of course we're very sad for Isabel, just like we've been sad on other occasions, but I think it would be wrong to postpone."
Elisa smiled at her gratefully. And though she could well manage postponing a little longer to let Stan find his balance again, she knew it would be tough on someone as young as Salme.
"Maybe Isabel wouldn't have left if Stan hadn't gone to Stockholm," said Kryztina, and then kicked herself for saying something so silly. Isabel would just have found another time when Stan was away. That was what she had usually done in the past. She always chose the worst times - once it had been during a General Conference in Warsaw and she had just driven off with Stanisław, Jr. when he was a baby in their car. On that occasion she had only been away for a few weeks and Stan had gone back to Dzierzoniów to pick her up and drive her home. But that was all before she had let on to her parents the kind of lifestyle she had been living.
This was the second time she had returned home with her parents' full knowledge of what was going on. Getting away the first time had been hard enough but now she was living abroad in Sweden would make it much harder. Stan was now vulnerable - one of his wives was now back in Poland where he had many enemies who could now hit him where it hurt the most. And he could not be there to protect them. Not only could Stan probably never enter Poland again for his own safety but Isabel's parents and relatives wouldn't let him get anywhere near them. She had no job in Poland - though in time she would probably find one - and for now was entirely dependent on her parents economically. She had also left all her things behind in Kadesh-Naphtali and would have to start from scratch again.
It was the impending marriage of Elisa and Salme that had, in truth, unsettled her. Seeing woman after woman almost effortlessly slip into the the patriarchal way of life had started the old inner warfare off again. Why was it so hard for her? Yes, Hanna had had her struggle, but that had been for entirely different reasons. Sarah-Jane and Anna had had their Gettysburghs with Stan but they had stood their ground and not fled. She knew they had triumphed whereas she had fled. And so, instead of trying to figure out where the problem lay in her own soul, she merely descended into self-pity and then sought to rationalise her mistakes by blaming others or the patriarchal lifestyle.
The family eventually settled down for lunch, the morning's activities having been completely disrupted by the new crisis. The Engströms had dropped by to console and lend what support they could and had returned home afterwards. Everybody wanted to do something but felt helpless because of the geographical distance between them and Isabel. Satan had done his job well, for he knows that physical isolation gives him the advantage. As usual, all we could do was pray - not just for Isabel and the two boys, but also for Stan, Elisa and Salme. Władysław would also be very sad for he felt a special affection for Isabel who had been his step-mother for so many years whilst Suszana was away. He had looked upon Isabel as his mother more than Suszana for a good long time. And though he was a grown man with many 'sister-mothers' who cared for him, the loss would still be hard. April was also his special month too, for he was to be betrothed to Karin Åkerstedt, and he had wanted Isabel to be there.
It was easy to get angry. For the whole winter we had been looking forward to all the marriages and betrothals that were to take place in the spring and summer. We had come to look upon this year as a kind of "grand consummation", a time for great festivities. And now Isabel had gone off the deep-end and spoiled it all, creating anxiety for us when we wanted to celebrate. How can you celebrate when you are mourning?
Stan returned the next day, elated with all the successes of the Stockholm trip, and bringing with him Lars' and Björn's new wives from Estonia. The downcast look on his wives' faces made his heart sink as he braced himself bad news.
"Oh no," he groaned, when Suszana broke the news of Isabel's departure. He had come home anticipating the joy of telling everyone how well things had gone in Stockholm and how the elder Högström was now more open to our beliefs. But all that was now forgotten. Signild would in any case be brought up-to-date by Karl.
The look of sadness in Władysław's eyes was enough to break anyone's heart. He went up to his room and we did not see him for a couple of hours. He was the silent type in so many ways and that was perhaps why he and Isabel had gotten on so famously, for they shared much in common in that respect. Though much of the relationship had suffered during her previous absence, and he had redistributed his affections amongst his father's other wives, it had picked up again upon her return. He was especially fond of Stanisław, Jr. and was to feel the loss of his half-brother even more accutely the second time round.
Stan sank into his favourite chair in the living room and sighed again. Several of us gathered around him to stroke his hair and touch him to show our love and concern. After a couple of minutes he got up, and went over to Salme and Elisa to kiss and embrace them, for he knew how much they had been awaiting his return.
"Silvia and Hilda are waiting to see you two," he said. "They're at the Engströms' home with the Åkerstedts."
The two hugged him and went out to greet their compatriots.
"There's a letter from Isabel on your study desk," I said to him.
He asked me to fetch it and opened it while we were all gathered, minus the Estonians. It was not a long letter - Isabel never liked writing much - and none of the contents seemed to surprise him.
"I had hoped she had made more progress, but I see now how wrong I was," he said, with deep regret in his voice. "She says that she's going away to 'think things out' again but says nothing about coming back. I believe this will be her final confrontation with herself that will either make or break her."
We did not like what he said.
"Are you saying that she only has a fifty-fifty chance, darling?" asked Suszana, deeply concerned.
"I think you know, my dear," said Stan somberly. "This will be her last visit to Poland. Either she will die there or come home and never visit her homeland again."
We liked that even less.
"And what happens to the boys if she loses the battle?" asked Sarah-Jane. "We can't let them stay in Poland!"
Stan was silent for a moment.
"That is in the Lord's hands. We can do no more than pray. I doubt any mail will reach her for her parents will intercept that. And they certainly won't let her take the 'phone again. There will be no contact until she herself makes the first move."
Whatever Isabel was, she was not happy. Neither were Stanisław, Jr. and Benoni. And though the youngest had little perception of what was going on because of his age, he was very restless nonetheless. He would wake several times during the night crying and would not sleep for more than a couple of hours. By the end of the third week Isabel was weak from exhaustion.
Her parents were all over young Stanisław, spoiling him and giving him lots of attention. They took him out and introduced him to new playmates, and it was not long before he was back in a Polish school. But he yearned for his father, and especially Władysław, Dorcas and Tytus, his best friends. Isabel's parents, who were both retired, filled Stanisław's life up with games, parties, outings and entertainment, both to help Isabel cope with Benoni and to find a job, as well as for their own reasons.
Dzierzoniów is a heavy industrial and manufacturing town up in the mountains of Lower Silesia and unemployment was high. Isabel did not much feel like working but was forced to find a job by her parents who were slowly taking over the running of the children's lives. Her father was a chain-smoker and she began to notice how young Stanisław's health was suffering. He had cold after cold and became more weakly. Benoni would not settle down. When Isabel found work as a postwoman, she relied on her parents to babysit Benoni by day, take Stanisław to, and collect him from, school, and to help her out by night. Delivering mail on a bicycle began to drain her of her energy as well. The income wasn't too good either. The family house was small and cramped, and after the spaciousness of Kadesh-Naphtali she began to feel chlostrophobic. Next her health gave way. One day, whilst cycling up a hill, she passed out and received a small concussion to her head. It was the end of her delivery job in the Post Office.
She lay in bed for several weeks as she recovered from her head-injury. Three months had passed and not a word from Stan. She comforted herself in the assurance that this was a sign that he did not love her and that she had made the right decision in coming back to Poland. It didn't seem to occur to her that Stan's letters or telephone calls would never get through. But she was lonely. Her parents lived in a different spiritual world from her and she had no friends in Dzierzoniów.
After four months Benoni began to settle at nights but then she learned that Stanisław, Jr. was being bullied at school because he spoke openly against the Catholic Church. The nightmare for both him and his mother started when he returned home with a black eye. His grandmother had tried to keep him away from Isabel so as not to stress her during her convalescence, and had made him promise not to tell her anything about it until she was better. His grandfather had gone to the school to resolve the matter but once he had learned that the issue was one of Catholicism, he had taken the assailant's side. From now on he would force the boy to attend Mass on Sundays even against his mother's will
Then the pep-talks began for the boy and he was put under increasing pressure to accept Catholicism. But young Stanisław had too much of his father in him to yield to bullying, whether from his class-mates or from his grandfather.
One evening he crept into his mother's room and started weeping while she slept. She had woken up, turned the bedside lamp on, and Stanisław had poured out his woes to her. This, coupled with the fact that little Benoni seemed now to prefer his grandmother to his mother, was the last straw that broke the camel's back for Isabel. When the unhappy Stanisław left to go back to his room, Isabel just broke down into heavy sobbing.
Then she remembered her younger son's name. Stan had never explained why he had called him Benoni. She had wanted to call her second son Benjamin and the two had come to an agreement that this was what it would be. But at his birth, Stan had anounced that the boy was to be called Benoni, for this is what the Lord had told him.
She knew that Benoni had been the name Rachel had given to her second-born son, and that it meant 'child of my sorrow' for she had died giving birth to him. Only subsequently did Jacob rename him Benjamin. And now she began to understand why - it was a prophecy of this terrible time that she was going through now. Though she was not dying physically, she knew that she was dying spiritually, and that she was losing her youngest son to her parents, and her oldest one to the merciless and bullying Catholic Church. Stanisław was no longer his former happy self. He had always been shy, but now he was not happy either. More and more he was withdrawing into himself. And she could see it all too plainly. He was growing up in her own image, full of her insecurities. The Stan in him was being slowly but surely drowned.
She thought about moving house, perhaps to Warsaw, to try and get a job there. But she knew if she did that she would not be able to look after her children, and that Stanisław would probably meet the same kind of bullying wherever he went. He was not only not Catholic but he was not strong physically, an easy prey for the bullies. But how would she find a place to live? All her friends had moved away, and the rest were married to Stan.
After the concussion, she found a desk job in the local Post Office sorting mail and dealing with customer enquiries, a job she did not like because she did not like talking to strange people. And it also paid less. But it was better than destroying her health with all the cycling, especially as the winter would soon be approaching. She had let her weight get out of control again, trying to find refuge in eating, and knew she needed to start slimming, or possibly run the risk of getting a heart condition later (or maybe sooner) in life.
With the small income from the Post Office, she began to save so that when she felt ready she would go home to Sweden. She was too proud to ask Stan or one of the others to come and collect her, and didn't in any case want to risk his life what with the Satanists and right-wing Catholics after him. She knew how well networked the secret Catholic organisations were and began to fear that something might "happen" to Stanisław. It was hard saving money - her father expected the bulk of her income to go to him, hoping by this means to keep his daughter firmly under his control.
Autumn3 came and she began for the first time to think about all that she had missed back home - she had particularly wanted to be at Władysław's betrothal. For all she knew, he would probably be fully married now. And she felt guilty for having betrayed him yet again. She feared what Maria would say about her, for Maria had always been her greatest critic, never forgiving her for abandoning her the previous time she had fled. For all she knew, Stan might have found another wife, or maybe even more, and she would then have to return to a completely different household again, something she didn't want - it had been hard enough coming back the last time. She felt that she was losing more and more of her grip on things. Each time the changes back home had been greater and there was ever more "catching up" to do, again increasing her insecurity.
Stan was, she was sure, angry with her for once again being a coward. Perhaps he would treat her as King David had treated Michal4. And she couldn't live with the thought that he might reject her in any way. It would be too much. Finally, she knew that she would return as the twelfth wife, or maybe thirteenth or fourteenth, and not the fourth, which was just too humiliating. Once she had been second wife, then fourth. Now it felt as though she would find herself right at the bottom of the pile again. Where could she find self-worth in that?
The long nights she would lie in her bed trying to imagine all the possible scenarios, how Stan would react, how the others would treat her. Always there were two contrary natures at work, the one saying one thing, and the other saying the complete opposite. She knew the theory well enough - Stan had taught her well. Even when she had been in her self-imposed exile the previous time, he had diligently sent her copies of all his sermons by post each week. In some ways it would have been better if he hadn't, for then the stimulated light of conscience would not have arisen to condemn her time and time again.
She knew that Stan would never accept any of her excuses again. The self-worth ploys had latterly just washed straight off his back when she had tried them on him. Even Kasia, her best friend in the family, and usually so patient with her, had stood up to her and would not let her run off down her escape routes. That was humiliating in itself, for Kasia was nearly twenty years her junior, and yet she was already towering above her spiritually. How could that be? What was it that had allowed Kasia to grow so fast while she seemed to forever be standing in a stagnant pool? Everyone seemed to be overtaking her - what were they doing that she wasn't?
She knew what Stan would have told her - just surrender herself completely to him, to obey him in love unconditionally, and to trust in his love for her. But that was the problem. Part of her adored him and the other lived in total dread of him. Kasia had been shocked when once Isabel had told her that she was just as happy in Kasia's company as her own husband's, and in many respects, felt safer with Kasia! She had often used Kasia as an intermediary instead of going straight to her husband, because she was afraid of him. But why was she afraid? What on earth did she imagine that Stan might do to her that was so terrifying? And why didn't any of his other wives ever feel that way? Why were they so open and natural with him all the time? Were they all blinded by love? Was she the only one who could truly see things as they really were?
The more she analysed her feelings the more she came to the conclusion that she did not trust him to do what was right for her. And as she realised that, the more she realised that she did not trust his love for her either. She was Doubt on legs, and those legs usually carried her in the wrong direction. She trusted no-one, and so she relied on herself. And where had that gotten her? Here she was, in abject misery, losing her children who were also miserable. She was losing everything. The desire to pray and read scriptures had gone again. There were no other like-minded Christians about. It was impossible to observe the Sabbath in her parents' home for she was expected to help with the shopping on Saturdays. She had tried to befriend some Jehovah's Witnesses passing through but the old-times were long dead. She had moved on and beyond their social and doctrinal circle. There was a Lutheran Church amongst the many Catholic ones, and one Ukrainian Orthodox, but she felt an alien in all of them.
Isabel Towianska Królewieca was in a coffin of her own making and she knew that ultimately she would be buried. She was reaching her nemesis5. Either she would have to end her days in this obscure little Polish town as her health worsened, losing her sons to the world and goodness knows what else, or she would have to return to Sweden like a Prodigal Daughter. And in some respects, the latter was the worst of the two options for her, because it would demand nothing less than the complete death of her pride. It would mean complete and total surrender first, to the Lord, and then, to Stan, without reservations. It meant making herself 100% vulnerable and that, for her, was the worst nightmare imaginable. She shook physically every time she thought about it. Isabel was finally in the hell she had so long dreaded and in her confused state could find no way out of it. There she would remain until someone or something kicked her out of it.
One who is attracted to dead bodies for sex.
Reichenbach (Eulengebierge, Lower Silesia)
1 Samuel 14:49; 18:20-19:17; 25:44; 2 Samuel 3:13ff; 6:16ff.; 1 Chronicles 15:29
The Greek goddess of retribution and vengeance, meaning downfall or lowest point in life.
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