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THE NINTH STEP
by Gabriel Cohen

Genre: Procedural

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“Forgiveness is an interesting beast,” said Tenzin Pemo. “It’s not really something we can do in hopes of a certain result. What would happen if you forgave her, but she refused to admit any wrongdoing? Or if she told you that she was still in love with that other man?”

Jack’s face tightened.

“Would your forgiveness be a failure then?”

He didn’t answer. The conversation wasn’t going the way he’d hoped.

“Here’s a thought:  what if you forgave her, but didn’t tell her?”

Jack squinted. “What good would that do?”

Tenzin Pemo shrugged. “It might help you. We tend to think of forgiveness as something we do for someone else. But you’re the one who’s been carrying around the burden of what happened between the two of you. Wouldn’t it feel good to set it down?”

“What about you?” Jack said. “Did you forgive your husband? I mean, that was pretty awful, what he did.”

“I forgave him,” she said simply. “He was just a human being, not thinking very carefully about what he was doing. And things ended up for the better, anyhow. We had a not very interesting marriage, and I had a not very interesting life, and now I do. I get to meet all sorts of intriguing people, including even the occasional homicide detective. I was a big fan of Agatha Christie, you know.”

Jack smiled. He couldn’t really see the nun as a big reader of mystery novels. But then, he hadn’t seen her as a former wife, either.

A couple of blond teens on skateboards came click-clacking into the park, swooping in and out of the circles of light cast by its streetlamps. Jack watched them round the bend of a hill. Finally, still looking away from the nun, he said in a small, tight voice, “I’m not really sure I want to forgive her.”

“Do you think that forgiveness means that you would have to excuse what she did? That you’d be giving up your right to say that it was wrong? Because it doesn’t, you know. It just means that you acknowledge that she’s a human being, and you can forgive her for her mistakes. Maybe you could let go of a bit of your anger about what happened.”

He thought about that. Because he was still angry. Sometimes, anyhow. When he wasn’t just sad, or mooning over what he and Michelle had had together.

“It’s a funny thing, anger,” the nun said. “Someone once said that it’s like a poison we drink, believing it will cause someone else to suffer.”

They had walked all the way around the little park and were almost back out on the street.

Jack stopped. “Well — do you think I should try calling her? I mean, do you think that would be a mistake?”

Tenzin Pemo shrugged. “What do you have to lose?”

More pain, if she blows me off again.

He pulled his car keys from his pocket. “I’ll think about it.”