Lunchtime found her sitting at the table with a group of work associates. The conversation was light and playful. Said one, "I read in a magazine article that if you've had sex with more than seven partners it means you're a slut." Laughter rang out all around.
"Seven, can you imagine?"said Sharon, "My husband was my first and my last, and I wouldn't have it any other way."
"That's just because you don't know what you've missed", chided Mary, her best friend who loved to harass her about her naivete.
Sharon blushed, then retorted, "Well, you've been married a couple times, so I guess we can safely say that you've had a little more experience." Everyone chortled in agreement, including Mary.
The truth was that most of the middle-aged women at the table were in long-term relationships, with the exception of a two who were divorcees, including Anastasia. One of these had been single for what seemed like forever, and swore that she would never have another man in her bed or her life. Yet deep down she wished for a secret lover. No matter how long it had been, one never forgets those pleasures.
Only Anastasia remained quiet, mostly staring at her plate. "What about you, Anastasia?" teased Mary, "Have you got a scorecard or are you a single-hitter?"
Anastasia forced a smile and replied in the most casual voice she could muster, "Oh, I guess I've had two or three along the way." Everyone nodded in acknowledgement, and gradually... mercifully... the conversation moved on to other topics. Deep inside Anastasia burned with shame.
What would they think of her if they knew about her past? She was grateful that they didn't, but it didn't make her feel any better about the secrets that she carried. She knew that it was unlikely she would ever have a friend who would understand. Seven? How about seven times seven... ten times seven... and even more. She could envision the shock that would register on their faces and the gossip that would travel quickly in the halls if they knew the truth.
But Anastasia didn't live that way anymore, that was buried in her past. There was a time long ago when she lived by a different set of values. There was a time when she had little sense of her own worth, or an understanding of her spiritual center which was being damaged by this self-abuse. "If it feels good - do it" was the motto of the time, and "do it" she did. It helped take away the pain... at least for a little while.
These days the people who are acquainted with Anastasia, have no idea of her past or the life she once lived. The changes in her occurred slowly, but were dramatic. Now, if you were to ask those who knew her, they would say that she was a "good person, kind and giving, always putting others before herself."
"Saint Anastasia" they sometimes teased her, as she was always the one who was seeking donations for the poor, writing letters to prisoners, and organizing drives to gather blankets for the homeless in the winter. She would laugh along with them and assure them she was no saint. But inside the words burned like a brand of fire. Saint? Hardly!
Anastasia had turned her life around and discovered in the process that she felt far happier when living in harmony with her spirit. What she didn't tell them was, that along with the acts of kindness she was also performing acts of atonement for a darker past than they could ever imagine. God is good... God forgives... and with time Anastasia had learned to forgive herself.