To Have and To Hold

SCENE 1

(A little old country church on a summer's day. A wedding party emerging, talking and laughing. Julia is about twenty-five, smiling, wearing a beautiful blue dress and a wedding ring, with a couple of floral tattoos on her bare arms. Jeanette is older, in her early thirties, wearing a pastel dress.)

JEANETTE: So you didn't join in with the blessings, then?

JULIA: Oh, don't start.

JEANETTE: I'm not "starting", I'm not a door-knocker. I was just wondering, if you… don't believe in all this, what is it (gestures around) that you come for?

(The wedding party is milling around in the beautiful church garden, a lawn with trees, and gravestones under the trees. In the background, the bridal party are taking photos.)

JULIA: (Caught between amusement and annoyance) Are you serious? I came for Stacy's wedding.

JEANETTE: What do you have against God, Julia?

JULIA: It's not a question of "having against", I don't believe-

JEANETTE: Well, whatever you want to call it.

JULIA: (Sighs and stares into the distance) Because… I've never seen any reason to suppose that there's any reason for anyone up there, or… wherever this guy is… who loves me, who's taking care of me, my… father, or whatever He is. I… I don't believe that.

JEANETTE: You can't know that.

JULIA: (Firmly) Oh, I do. I do. I asked Him. I have every reason to know that. (Quietly) You remember when Jack got into that fight? He'd broken three ribs, punctured lung…

(FLASHBACK: A hospital waiting room somewhere. Julia in a wedding ring and a little silky dress of the kind worn to go out to parties, enters the room, escorted by a nurse. The two doctors in the room give her kind-bad-news-doctor smiles. Julia is utterly expressionless, like a stunned little girl.)

JULIA:…punctured lung, they didn't think he'd last the night. (Fighting back the tears) I prayed. Never before, never since, but then… I… prayed. The whole Religious Russian Roulette.

(FLASHBACK: Hospital ward at night. Rain lashes the dark window panes. Jack is lying on a bed, his arm full of IVs, machines beeping. Julia kneels at the foot of the bed, her head buried in the sheet. She folds her hands together. Then she sits back on her heels and turns her tear-stained face to the dark window.)

JULIA: I offered Him everything. I'd love Him forever. Go to church every day. Become a nun. Anything. And then I just begged. You know how that feels? When you'd give anything, but you've nothing left to offer. I went down on my knees and I pleaded. And He ignored me. No angels, no flashes of light, no voice within. He left me on the floor in that hospital crying myself blind. And they call that God the Father.

JEANETTE: But… Jack drowned in a lake two years ago. On holiday in Saskatchewan.

JULIA: (Quietly, dry-eyed) God isn't the only being out there who cuts deals.

JEANETTE: (Realization, quiet horror) No… oh, no…

JULIA: (Quietly) Oh, yes.

(FLASHBACK: Julia, now completely dry-eyed with a bewilderedly shell-shocked expression, is drawing a pentagram on the floor. She kneels in the middle of it, bows her head and folds her hands.

JULIA: (Quietly) Please, sir, I'll do anything.

A pause. She looks at Jack. His hand moves slightly. Julia smiles hugely. A sleepy night-nurse walks in, sees the pentagram, says nothing.)

JEANETTE: (Quietly) Julia… how could you?

JULIA: How could I not?

JEANETTE: But… but… have you any idea what that means?

JULIA: The fires of Hell, you mean? Sure, I know.

JEANETTE: (Anxious) But… you don't really believe…?

JULIA: What do you believe?

JEANETTE: (Slowly) I believe in the Devil.

JULIA: And in selling your soul?

JEANETTE: Don't… well… you know how wonderful modern medicine is. It was more likely…

JULIA: Good.

JEANETTE: Good?

JULIA: Unlike people who find God in a crisis, people who find Satan are usually only too happy to doubt.

(The wedding party has left, now, but neither of them notice. The day is fading to twilight.)

JEANETTE: Well, then. I'm glad that you take such a sensible attitude. And, I do think, Julia, that you had better join a church…

JULIA: Why?

JEANETTE: Well, after a… a brush with Satan…

JULIA: (Amused) I thought you were all for the wonders of modern medicine?

JEANETTE: I am. But… one can never be sure…

JULIA: I suppose not. But I still can't join a church.

JEANETTE: It's your soul at stake!

JULIA: I haven't already lost it, then?

JEANETTE: God forgives. God will take you back. God seeks to redeem his flock until the moment we depart from this world.

JULIA: But that means that the Devil saved my husband.

JEANETTE: Your husband is dead.

JULIA: Well, if I'd already sold my soul the first time, I had nothing to offer him the second time! He's a businessman, not a philanthropist. I'd have tried something, of course, but I didn't hear about it until it was too late.

JEANETTE: If the Devil did save Jack—which I'm sceptical about—then you've nothing to lose by turning to God, now.

JULIA: If the Devil did save Jack—which I'm sceptical about, too, then what kind of louse would I be to back out of a fair deal in good faith?

JEANETTE: A fair deal…? Julia… think of your soul…

JULIA: I am thinking of it. I'm also thinking about my husband, whom God wouldn't save but Satan did.

JEANETTE: Is it worth it?

JULIA: (Outraged) I'm his wife. How can you say that?

JEANETTE: But he's dead.

JULIA: Yes, I know. But I can't… I can't just turn around and walk away. I owe him two years. The best two years of my life. And if in return he wants my soul, he can have it.

JEANETTE: You're crazy.

JULIA: (Shrugs) Maybe. But I'm grateful.

(Jeanette is speechless.)

JULIA: Come on, let's go to the hotel, before they eat all the cake.

SCENE 2

(A rolling open plain under a wide sky, which is perhaps just starting to turn pink in the west. Julia is sitting on a stool on the grass in front of a caravan. There are no other buildings in sight. She's older, perhaps fifty, and her face is worn and weather-beaten. She has bare feet, a rock 'n' roll T-shirt and a hippie patterned skirt and is still wearing her wedding ring. A half-empty vodka bottle is standing at her feet. She is staring quietly, contentedly, into the distance. She notices something out of frame and smiles gently.)

Julia: (Quietly) You already? I've been expecting you.

(She hauls herself out of her chair and begins walking towards something off-screen which the audience cannot see.)

FADE TO BLACK