Simon heard rhythmic tapping next door and felt his mouth beginning to smile. It was a good place to stop anyway, as translating thirty pages out of Spanish on accounting irregularities was mind-bendingly tedious. He leapt out of his chair and popped over to the office next door, where Cristina was indeed banging her head on her desk.

Despite two years next door to her office, the plethora of crosses in all shapes and sizes on the walls still hit him as if it were the first time. Cristina had told him that, since it was her only Catholic superstition, she indulged it to the hilt. And she never, ever took her crucifix off in case it invited disaster. She was Catholic by her own definition, since she wasn’t sure the Catholic Church would agree with her: she believed in God, redemption, and life after death, but couldn’t really make herself believe in the Pope, hell and damnation.

Trying not to laugh, he asked:

“So what outrageous thing did you say at coffee today?”

Cristina stopped banging her head on the desk and looked despondently through her hair at him. Shoving it with absolutely no grace out of her eyes, she sighed as she replied:

“I never mean to be outrageous! Or offensive to anyone’s sensibilities…it’s just that when someone asks me a question, I answer it without asking myself if they actually want to know the answer.”

Simon was very familiar with Cristina’s “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” approach to conversation. It had a certain kamikaze beauty to it, like watching a train crash in slow motion and glorious technicolour.

“Marie asked me why, since I am so religious, I’m so negative about Easter. And I said I wasn’t, that there wasn’t anything wrong with Easter in itself, just that it tended to be a bad time for me. So she asked me why and I told her. How my first serious boyfriend ended our relationship one Easter and, even though he was Orthodox Jewish, asked me how I was one year later in an Easter card covered in Christian imagery. How I’m still ashamed of the very vitriolic anti-Easter card I sent him in return because he didn’t actually care how I was, he just wanted to not feel like a bad person. So many “dumpers” want the “dumpee” to absolve them of guilt…”

“Okay, you’ve been translating too many contracts, but that doesn’t sound too terrible.”

“Well, then I’d got the ball rolling, hadn’t I, and I said Easter was also when my father started to go really downhill with the cancer and that, however angry you might be with someone, your worst enemy doesn’t deserve to literally dissolve from the inside out in terror that the pain will make them lose all dignity. Luckily, his kidneys failed before the morphine stopped working.”

“That was maybe a bit harsh, but still not that bad.”

“Easter was also when my brother tried to kill himself. He tried to commit hara-kiri with a kitchen knife, and he still has a 25-centimetre scar from that on his stomach. He’s physically very strong, which might have something to do with his Asperger’s, and didn’t lose consciousness, so he stabbed himself in the wrists and neck to try to end things faster. But he did survive it all after a major operation because he’d punctured his colon. And the saddest thing was that he told me he talked to the cat when he was doing it, but the cat couldn’t talk back to him to tell him to stop.”

“Um, yeah, okay, that was perhaps too much information.”

“I just can’t seem to do that tennis thing you told me to do with conversations; you know, give a short and careful answer and then wait to see if the other side shows they want to know more by asking questions.”

“I’m sure Marie will survive. And your forthrightness can be very helpful sometimes.”

“It can?”

“Yes, I have considered you my friend since Phil dumped me and you dragged me to see Bent at the theatre because, as you told me, watching a play set in a concentration camp where everyone dies is just right when you’re heartbroken. And then you bought me cocktails when I couldn’t stop crying after. It was very cathartic.”

“Oh God, I’ve got the sensitivity of a sledgehammer, don’t I?”

Simon pulled up a chair, sat in front of Cristina, and gently took hold of her hands.

“I didn’t need sensitivity, I needed someone who saw and acknowledged my pain, which you did in your own inimitable way.”

“Um, glad I could help?”

“You really did, and not just with that damn fine play and terrible gut-churning cocktails. I like that I always know where I stand with you. You never lie to others because you don’t know how to lie to yourself. You’re the person people come to see when they come undone.”

“Yeah, but I’m still the kid no one invites to their party because I take socially awkward to a whole new level…you’re still holding my hands…I’m starting to feel really odd.”

“Good! I’ve been despairing of you ever noticing how I feel about you.”

“But…you’re gay.”

“No, bi. Really, more people should be made to watch films like Bedrooms and Hallways, despite the terrible title. It’s about falling in love with an individual, not their gender. Lots of stories about someone discovering they are bi just seems like an excuse for same-sex porn. Not that I mind porn of any flavour, but bi means I’m attracted to both, either or, one or t’other, however you want to put it grammatically. More importantly, one after the other, since I’m monogamous.”

“But why? I’m almost ten years older than you and really not that interesting.”

“You are the only person I know who wears lime-green trainers with a jumper that is a jumble of six bright colours, none of which match lime green. You put your foot in it all the time in conversations, but you’re never malicious, and you’re unfailingly kind. If someone asks you for help and you can humanly do it, you do. You have no vanity and no idea of how beautiful you are when you laugh. You explode my preconceptions on a regular basis, and you keep me on my toes, as I literally never know what you’ll say next.”

“Okay, you’ve just exploded a couple of my preconceptions too. I’ve always thought you were wonderful, every which way wonderful, but I’m not really sexy ‘cougar’ material, you know.”

“I think you’re plenty sexy enough and I wanted to suggest a happier Easter for you this year.”

“What did you have in mind?”

“Well, since we are the last two squares left on this planet who’ve never been to Amsterdam, I got us tickets to Amsterdam for Easter weekend, and I may have accidentally-on-purpose booked a room with only one bed in it. I thought we could go to art galleries, smoke pot, and have lots of sex.”

“But I always go to mass on Easter Sunday.”

“I’m sure we can do art galleries, pot, sex, and mass on Sunday? And I got you something!”

Releasing Cristina’s hands, Simon rushed out and came back carrying a paper bag which he thrust into her hands, before stepping back and bouncing nervously on his feet. Inside the bag were fifteen postcards.

“You went back to that church I dragged you into a couple of weeks ago?”

“You were so fascinated by the Stations of the Cross, especially that they had added a fifteenth Station that focused on the resurrection and not just the crucifixion, but they didn’t have any postcards left when we were there. I wanted to remind you of that. That Easter can be a time of new beginnings and joy, not just endings or a time for carrying heavy crosses.”

“That’s the most romantic thing anyone’s ever done for me…okay, yes, I want the full package in Amsterdam with you.”

“Do you think we’ll be breaking any unspoken office rules if I kiss you now?”

“I don’t care, come here and show me exactly what I’m thanking God for this Easter.”


“After Golgotha” was a runner-up in Terror House’s Easter Submission Contest. To read the winning stories, click here.