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An Online Petition to Save the Redwoods

Part Three

Continuing to pore through Charlotte’s blog leads to some strange revelations, surprising moves, and a conclusion, of sorts.

God’s plan, and Charlotte’s attempts and frustrations about trying to decipher or understand or come to terms with God’s plan, was a common theme in her writing. Why had God wanted her to marry Kelly, if he wasn’t going to be more devoted to the church? Was her mission to get him more involved in the church? Because she wasn’t able to do that, so why had God given her such a frustrating mission? There was also a lot of debate (both between her and Kelly, and her and God) about whether or not they should move. Kelly felt strongly that they should move to be closer to his family, especially if they were going to seriously consider having children. Charlotte could see the reasoning behind this; she wanted kids eventually and knew that having family nearby would be helpful. She’d visited the area where Kelly’s family lived and liked it. For some reason she never mentioned this place by name on her blog. I got the sense that it was far away from where we currently lived, but I had no clue in which direction, or how far. But Charlotte really liked her church, felt really supported by the people there, and liked all the people she’d met there, so she was afraid and hesitant to just throw all that away. Would she be able to do the same thing in this new town? Why would God give her this relationship with this church, which was so central to her life, and then threaten to take her away from it?

I didn’t really understand this Kelly guy, or what his story was. It seemed to me that if he just went to church more, it would have solved a lot of their problems. If he showed more willingness to be in that part of her life, then they could work out some of the other issues, and they’d both feel a lot better about whether to move or not. I mean, I can understand not wanting to go to church, but he must have known what he was getting into before they got married. Going to church would have strengthened their relationship, so he should have been on board with that.

On the other hand, I didn’t really understand Charlotte, either. It seemed like if she’d been a little more willing to skip church once in a while and stick around for breakfast in bed with Kelly on Sunday mornings, that might also have solved a lot of problems. I mean God is important to her, but still. She’d have to be present in both relationships, or something.

Bad scene. It was really bad. Her writing was like screaming. Charlotte would go on like that about God’s plans and what they meant and what to do about them for days at a stretch. She was clearly pretty worked up about it all. I didn’t know how seriously they were considering moving. She hadn’t mentioned it to anyone at work, that I knew of. She felt certain that God was testing her, but she had no clue what he was testing her about. This confusion was compounded and made infinitely worse one night when she got a phone call from her father.

Clearly, he had done something very bad to her, although she never specifically said exactly what it was. It had to be that he abused her, physically or sexually. Maybe both? She was really shaken up and angry at him. They hadn’t spoken in a few years, and he called one night, totally out the blue, to chat with her. I guess the upshot of the conversation was that he was calling to try to re-establish a relationship with her, but he was doing it in the context of saying that he forgave her for all the bad things she’d said about him, and for causing all the negativity in their relationship, and that he was willing to overlook all of that, because she was so important to him. He wasn’t taking ownership or admitting in any way that he’d ever done anything to her, just blaming her for everything. Bad scene. It was really bad. Her writing was like screaming.

Afterward, she was crying and shaking and extremely upset, just pacing around the apartment with her heart racing, not sure what to do. She called Kelly and he hurried home from work right away to be with her. The fact that he did that meant a lot to her and she was sorry she’d had so many doubts about her relationship recently.

Charlotte and I were in a meeting together the next morning. Debbie was working on a special project for one of the directors, which involved her having to pull all kinds of random data from a bunch of obscure sources. Which meant that Charlotte and I would be doing most of the menial data-pulling so Debbie could get the report ready within the ridiculously short time period the director had given her to get this done. I sat directly across the table from Charlotte for an hour, and I didn’t really notice anything that indicated she’d had such an emotionally turbulent weekend. She didn’t look like she’d been crying, she didn’t look like she hadn’t been sleeping. She wasn’t distracted or unfocused. She took notes and asked good questions and piped in with helpful ideas and suggestions. She was probably more on point than I was, staring at her the whole time.

I wanted to do something nice for her, but I wasn’t sure what, exactly. Often on her blog she’d posted images or links to articles about redwood trees. I’m not sure what the deal was, but redwood trees made her really happy for some reason. So I knew she liked redwood trees, but I couldn’t do anything with that information. You can’t just send a person a picture of a redwood tree to cheer them up. It raises too many questions.

And then before I’d figured out something to do for her, I read on her blog that she was moving, that she and Kelly had finally decided to leave and move closer to his family. The next day, late in the afternoon, Elaine called me into her office and informed me that Charlotte would be leaving and that I might be called upon to help fill in at the front desk while they searched for a replacement. I said I was sorry to hear that she was leaving, and asked Elaine if she knew why Charlotte had decided to leave, or where she was going. Elaine said she wasn’t sure if she could tell me that or not and would have to ask HR. I said never mind, it wasn’t important.

You can’t just send a person a picture of a redwood tree to cheer them up. It raises too many questions. Did anything change between Charlotte and me those last two weeks before she left? Did she become more social and chatty, so relaxed and filled with relief that she’d finally made her decision? Or did she somehow manage to become even more withdrawn and distant, unwilling to risk making a human connection that would cause her to regret her decision? No, none of that happened. It was just the same.

“I heard Charlotte’s leaving,” Andrea said at lunch.

“Yeah, that is the deal.”

“So maybe there is a God. Joke! See what a good mood I’m in? Are you going to have to train the new person?”

“Probably.”

“Are you going to be on the interview committee?”

“I don’t know. Maybe, I guess? I don’t know.”

“Can you make sure they don’t hire anyone who’s going to freak me out?”

“Is there a kind of person who won’t freak you out? And I can’t ask people about their religion in an interview.”

“Just be on the lookout for the tell-tale signs.”

“What are the tell-tale signs?”

“I’ll write down a list for you. Although I really shouldn’t have to.”

Charlotte’s two weeks ended and she left. I didn’t even try talking about it with her; I knew all the details from her blog, anyway. She was still in town for another week after her last day here, but I didn’t run into her at the park or the grocery store or anything.

That was six months ago. I still read Charlotte’s blog. It doesn’t sound like things have markedly improved for her. She and Kelly still have problems. She’s not convinced Kelly’s mother really likes her. She found a job doing admin stuff; it’s boring but the people are nice enough. Kelly still isn’t going to church much, which bothers her, but not as much as it used to, because she hasn’t found a church there that she likes as much as her old one. She talks a lot about how much she misses the church she attended here, and the people, and how supportive and helpful they all were. She doesn’t talk about having worked here at all. She posts questions on her blog directly to people from the church here, asking how they are and what’s new in their lives, and sometimes they answer in the comments.

Over time it became clear what town and state she’d moved to. It’s on the other side of the country. I’ve never been there.