The Gift (Day Twelve)

One day he had come into the living room to find Alana crying. She had been on the phone to her mother and something had been said to shake her equilibrium, words said perhaps with the best of intentions but with the worst of consequences. At first Peter had tried, as he so often did, to fix what he saw as misaligned, only remembering too late that this was never the best way to handle things.

When they had quietened down and were no longer shouting, no longer defending their own positions, he had looked at Alana and said something he remembered once her asking him to say when she was upset.

“It will be okay,” he said, not quite knowing what he meant by that.

She had paused for a moment and then said, “Will we?”

At first Peter was shocked by the change from talking about it to us. There was a vague churning inside his stomach.

“What do you mean?” he had asked, his voice choking slightly.

“You know what I mean,” Alana had replied, with a strange coyness that he did not quite understand. “We’re…okay, aren’t we?”

“Of course,” he said, then hesitated for a moment. It was hard, this tiptoeing around the topic, naming things with it and we, always in the shadows, never in the open. Then he looked at her and said, “It takes time.”

For a moment Alana had not responded, looking at him uncertainly, as if he had changed the topic or else surprised her by locating precisely what she had meant. He could not tell from her eyes which it was. Then her eyes had become fixed again, their two trains of conversation realigned, and she had said, “Does it?”, adding, “It doesn’t for everyone. It didn’t for Sarah and Greg. And we’ve been trying. I just don’t want to think…”

He had paused. “Just give it time,” he had said once again. And then their eyes had met and he had lightly smoothed over her fringe with his hand. “Okay?”

And she had nodded slowly, saying, “Yeah, it’s okay.”

But it had not been okay. The next morning she had woken with an emptiness in her stomach and had lain in bed looking at Peter, not knowing what to think or to feel.

The feeling had passed, as it often did. They had had a better day, and not long after that she had spoken to her mother and the hurt of the conversation had, for that time, dissipated. But it had a habit, that feeling, of coming back, and when it did Alana felt that she was washed out to sea, without a compass, without a map.

~

When they get up, they eat breakfast in the back garden and talk about the heat that is in the air and how they need to water the garden to keep it from wilting too much. After breakfast Alana sits in the living room reading the children’s Bible. He cannot read the look on her face. He does not join her but stands for a while watching as she keeps reading, unaware of his presence.

~

Later that morning, when he is watering the plants, she comes out to him and stands with him for a time, asking about the garden and the state of the trees. Then she asks, “Do you feel like going to church tonight?”

“Maybe,” he says slowly. “What made you think of that?” It has been some time since they have been to church.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I guess it’s just Advent and I’ve been reading my old children’s Bible. It seemed like it might be a good thing to do.”

“We can go,” he says. “We can go tonight.”

“Good,” she says, “I’d like that.”

He continues to water the plants while she pulls out some weeds. Later, she goes inside and puts away the toiletries she had bought the day before. She picks up the packet of tampons, taken out yesterday and now sitting unopened in the bathroom, and puts them away in the cupboard, pausing for a moment and staring vacantly at the mirror.

End of the Second Candle. Go to the Third Candle.

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