The Gift (Day Fifteen)

The service closes with an offer of prayer for anyone who has been “challenged by anything in tonight’s service”. There will be people available at the side of the church, they say, for anyone interested. Alana looks at Peter, asking with her eyes if they should go forward. Peter hesitates, but Alana nods reassuringly and takes his hand, and soon they are walking to the side, where a small group of people are already gathering, sitting in pairs or groups of three, heads bowed, mouths whispering. Peter looks around him. There are two people, the girl who read the Bible and a man about the same age as her, sitting to the side. They smile at Peter and Alana as they approach.

The room feels warm to Peter. It is a muggy night and he is sweating. The building does not appear to have any fans and the open windows do not seem to make much difference. His skin prickles a little. They sit down.

“How can we pray for you?” asks the girl.

Peter looks at Alana. What can they say, he wonders? They have never met these people before. Why would he tell these strangers what he has not even told his closest friends? What even is there to tell?

“Well,” says Alana, eyes looking into his, then away. “We’ve been married for six years, and we’re trying…”

Peter swallows. His head feels dense and thick, as though enclosed. Alana’s mouth keeps moving, her lips somehow opening and closing without sound – at least, not enough sound to push through the wall, a strange, dull membrane pressing over his ears, over his skull, his forehead, his eyes. The girl and boy both smile at them; eyes smile above mouths, and mouths continue to pray, hands assisting the motion of wind around them; and always the membrane presses down, thick with silence, heavy with sweat. Lord, we ask…Snatches of words, of sentences escape, through the membrane, into ears, like a frog absorbing water, and then out they push, in the circularity of the room. Lord we ask…lift up to you…ask in your name…hear our prayer…Alana looks up and smiles. Somewhere, on a face nearby, Peter smiles too, lips mutely, squarely following commands that his brain somehow knows, in spite of himself, to give.

And then they go home, Peter only vaguely aware of the steps they take out of the church and into the car, mind only half conscious of the road he is driving on, processing only the sensations of headlights sliding through the night sky around them and the hum of the car engine and the pregnant silence of Alana beside him.

Go to Day Sixteen

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