Judith sat on her armchair in the living room, staring blankly at the splinters of her table. There was a knock at the door, and she jolted, anxiety suddenly with her. A knock didn’t mean the bombs were falling. But it did mean she might have to talk to someone.
Hopefully it wasn’t the Doctor, at least. She might destroy more of her belongings, or try to teach her a valuable lesson.
She drew up the steel inside herself as she opened the door—
—but it was only Yaz, clutching a small paper bag. It was going see-through on the bottom. Pooling grease.
Though she might be difficult to talk to as well, of course.
“Don’t start shouting at me,” Judith said. “I’m not in the mood.”
Yaz shook her head, her body language open.
“No,” said Yaz. “It’s”—
“I bought you clove rock,” she said, holding up the bag.
“Thank you,” said Judith. “I do like a bit of that,” she added, which wasn’t true.
There was an awkward silence.
“I didn’t just come to give you sweets,” said Yaz. “I thought you might want someone around.”
“Is it that obvious?” she said.
“I do have training,” Yaz said. “But anyone would want company, right? On a night like this.”
Judith slumped into herself, too tired to argue.
“You can come in,” she said. “But it’s a dreadful state. Your friend was here,” she added, as an explanation.
“I’ve seen some things as a police officer,” said Yaz, “And as her friend.”
Judith braced herself as she took Yaz into her living room. The mess the Doctor had left sat in front of them like a metaphor. She scanned Yaz’s face for a look of disgust, or disdain. But Yaz was looking back at her, instead, seeming thoughtful.
“You’re not that bothered about it,” she said, a statement rather than a question.
Judith waved her hand.
“It’s only a table,” she said.
Yaz nodded. There really was no judgement in her face. It made Judith think of how much judgement she had, tucked up in herself with the endless guilt and fear.
“I told your friend, and I should tell you as well,” she said. “I’m sorry. About what I said earlier.”
Yaz sighed. Judith saw her tense slightly. And there something sterner did seem to have entered her face.
“I know everything’s a lot,” Yaz said. “But really, my worry? It’s that it’s not the only thing you’re going to judge me for.”
She clenched her jaw.
“You’ve probably guessed,” she said. “I’m a Muslim. A heathen as well as a sinner, I bet you reckon.”
Judith shook her head.
“It’s the same God,” she said.
“But you’re the one who knows just what He’s thinking,” said Yaz, suddenly and snappily. She looked shocked at herself afterwards, like she was surprised that she’d even said it.
“Sorry,” she said. “I’ve not really slept.”
Judith wasn’t offended, she realised inside herself. Or angry. She just felt very tired indeed.
“That’s not it,” she said. “Yaz, it’s”—
“There isn’t any hope for me,” she said, trying to hold back the tears.
Yaz looked like she was about to say something, but Judith cut her off before she could.
“I don’t know what He’s thinking,” she said. “But He knows everything I’ve thought. The things that I’ve wanted to do. I’ve been at war against Him, Yaz. Against myself.”
Yaz looked at her with understanding and with fear. There had been a distance to her before, and it had fallen away.
“No one’s judgement’s like His,” said Judith. “Not even your friend’s. “And it’s close, now, the real fire. Hotter than anything from a bomb.”
Yaz’s expression was very hard to read. So many emotions and thoughts seemed to be battling in it at once. Judith had no idea what she might be about to say.
“You’ll think I’m mad,” Yaz said. “But I’ve been to the sea where God lives.”
Judith stared at her.
“What?” she said.
“It’s at the start of the Bible. And I’ve been there, like I said. There wasn’t any fire. Just… more than I ever thought there was.”
“Did you see Him?” Judith asked, very softly.
Yaz shook her head.
“I don’t know if I ever have,” she said.
She took a deep breath.
“But if it’s worth anything?” she added. “I never saw how love could be something to be judged, however it happens. Whoever the people who love each other are. And that sea?”
She frowned to herself, struggling to express what she had seen.
“It didn’t seem like a place of suffering. Or a place that would reject us. It felt like it could contain everything we are. Maybe even how you’re feeling now.”
She looked back at Judith, and smiled weakly.
“I’ve only just met you,” she said. “But you’re trying to be a good person. Right?”
“Not nearly enough,” said Judith. “Nobody is. That’s what it all says, when it comes down to it. That none of us deserve to be saved.”
“Maybe,” said Yaz. “But that doesn’t mean that we won’t be.”
She took Judith’s hand, and squeezed it gently.
“Somewhere it was okay,” she said “It worked out alright, where I’m from. And not because of God.”
“Because of your friend,” said Judith flatly.
“Yeah,” said Yaz. “It’s not really that reassuring.”
“You really believe she’s going to stop this?” said Judith.
“No,” said Yaz. She was smiling, and Judith had no idea why.
She started to speak. “Then why”—
“Because she still might,” said Yaz. “Right?”
Judith now smiled too, despite herself.
“Sometimes that’s how I think about prayer,” she said.
“It’s not like idolatry,” said Yaz. “It’s like a firefighter, or something. They might stop your house burning down.”
Judith could feel something within her fighting. The need for the truth, and the need to protect the woman in front of her. God’s judgment was terrible, for those who sinned. But sometimes you’d be a sinner whatever you would choose to do.
“She loves you, you know,” she said to Yaz.
Yaz stared at her. She suddenly looked even more anxious, somehow, if that was even possible in the circumstances.
“Why would you think that?” she whispered.
“Because she told me,” Judith said.
Yaz stared at her.
“She wouldn’t do that!” she said.
“She didn’t say it out loud,” said Judith. “But it was obvious.”
“If you think we’re going to Hell for what we are,” she said, “then why would you”—
“You’re not keeping secrets,” said Judith. “I appreciate that. And you’re not talking down to me, either.”
Yaz hesitated, and Judith could see it again. A woman wrestling with herself, in that way she was far too familiar with.
“Judith,” said Yaz. “If this is really the end. And we’re being honest with each other. D’you ever think”—
“That He isn’t real? Allah, or whatever you would call Him. Our God. Because I’ve felt so much out there; I couldn’t describe it. But I’ve never felt Him. And I’ve tried, Judith. Really.”
“So judgement’s probably coming for me too, right?” she said. “Whoever it is I might love.”
Judith was silent, after that. She knew her expression would be just like what Yaz’s had been: conflicted, unsure whether it was possible to be too honest. But she’d have to account for all of it soon, of course, to someone far greater than a policewoman.
“I’ve never told anyone this before,” she said, then hesitated. She looked around at the brownish walls, imagining them burning, evaporating. Soon, she thought. I’ll be saying this again, so very soon.
“No,” she said in a quiet voice. “I’ve never doubted that. Nature’s so vast and complicated. So beautiful. Of course our Creator is real. But— but if I’m being honest”—
She stared down at the splinters on the floor.
“Sometimes I still hope He might not be,” she said.