Day 1

Sayer pressed further into the small alcove at the back of the church. The light was fading and the few people who had been milling around drifted off, in pairs and alone. An elderly couple stopped at the door to light a candle, the woman gripping the heavy iron lighter with a trembling hand as the man stood slack jawed, watching her. Sayer wondered what she prayed for, and watched the woman help the man down the steps as they left. The lights went out a few minutes later, leaving only the soft yellow glow from the candles near the entrance.She stuck her head out of the alcove and peered around, but no one was left. She stood and stretched, rubbing her sore back and legs, punching on either side of them like she’d seen the organist do after a long mass. She noticed that the hems of her pants seemed too short; she would not be able to wear them much longer.

They had offered a full breakfast for the coffee hour that day; eggs and bacon and greasy danishes wrapped in wax paper. She had watched greedily as Mary Louise Hatfeld had pulled them out of the white bakery box and placed them delicately on one of the long serving trays, stopping at the end to lick her fingers surreptitiously. Mary Louise Hatfeld’s hands were fascinating. She wore eight large gold rings with different sparkling gems in each: each of her pointer fingers was adorned with two; one on her left pinky; one on her right ring finger; and two on her left thumb.

Sayer crept down to the kitchen, pausing occasionally to make sure that Father Richards was not still in the building. He usually went home with the last visitor. Sayer knew he drank out of a flask he kept in his robes throughout the day, and by the evening he was noticeably tipsy.

Sayer reached the kitchen and felt around in the drawer where she knew the flashlight was kept. She couldn’t risk turning on the lights. Her hand closed around it and she pulled it out, aiming at the floor and clicked it on. The room lit up with an eerie green glow, casting shadows all around. Sayer shuddered, and moved quickly to find food.

She opened the refrigerator and tugged open the large silver tray of leftover bacon and eggs. They glistened with congealed fat, but she didn’t care. She began to shovel the eggs in her mouth, barely tasting their rubbery saltiness. She grabbed a carton of orange juice and pressed open the spout, leaned back and tilted it into her mouth. She replaced it, carefully re-wrapped the eggs and stepped back. She knew there would probably be bread in one of the cupboards. There wouldn’t be any peanut butter anymore though; one of the parishioner’s children had been diagnosed with a severe peanut allergy. It had been a blow for Sayer, who had relied on taking one tiny spoonful a night to savor, and stave off her hunger.

She opened the cupboard, bringing the flashlight up to peer into it and found, to her delight, the white bakery box. Less cautious now, she pulled it out hungrily, popping off the rubber bands criss-crossed around it. She pulled open the lid and was rewarded with three danishes. If there had only been one she couldn’t have risked it, but with three she might steal one and no one would know. She eyed them, trying to make up her mind what to pick. One appeared to be apricot, the second blueberry, and the third looked reddish in the dull glow of the flashlight. She carefully pulled the red one out, placed it on the counter, and replaced the box in the cupboard. She picked up the pastry and brushed the light trace of powdered sugar it had left off of the counter. She took a bite, and chewed as slowly as she possibly could. The extra sweet taste of the dough hit her first, and then the syrupy sugar of raspberry followed. She moaned softly, savoring each bite until it was all gone, too soon.

She wiped her hands on her pants, and picked up the flashlight. She turned to go, but stopped when she noticed the glint of something reflecting the flashlight on the floor. She dropped to the floor and shone the light under the counter. She reached out, and closed her hands around a small, hard object. She pulled herself up and sat cross legged, shining the light on her palm. In her hand lay one of Mary Louise Hatfeld’s rings. Specifically the second ring from her right pointer finger. It was a large gold band, as Mary Louise had large fingers, adorned with what appeared to be a sapphire surrounded by small pink stones that she didn’t know the name for. She turned it over as it warmed in her hand. She tried to slip it on her finger, but it was much too large for her, even for her thumb. She held it close to the light and saw that there was an inscription inside. “You are loved,” it said.

No one and nothing had ever said that to Sayer before. “You are loved.” Mary Louise Hatfeld had something on her hand to remind her everyday. Sayer suddenly had the urge to destroy the ring, to launch it into the furnace. But instead, she stood up and opened the refrigerator door and placed the ring carefully on top of the container of eggs, right in the middle so it couldn’t be missed. Then she replaced the flashlight, and made her way back to the organ loft for the night. She would leave tomorrow, she decided.

“You are loved,” she thought, as she fell asleep. Maybe not now. But someday.

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