The Gift (Day Sixteen)

“Can I tell you a story?” asks Alana, when they are in bed.

He is lying down and Alana, seated upright, is looking down at him as she often does on the occasions that he is sick and she is caring for him. But tonight Alana’s expression is different; it looks more silent, more pensive, like she has run ahead in a race and is now waiting for him to catch up. Only he is sinking into the bed, no energy to run, no consciousness of the race.

“What’s the story?” he asks, slowly.

“I read it yesterday,” she says. “It’s from the gospel of Luke – the story of Elizabeth. John the Baptist’s mother.”

Peter pauses. “Why do you want to tell me that story?” he asks.

Alana shrugs. “It was a nice story. I thought it might encourage us.”

“I’m a bit tired, Lani,” he says. “I might just go to bed.”

She frowns. “Okay…”

“Don’t be upset,” he says. “I just…I’m not in the mood for stories tonight.”

She looks away.

“Lani,” he says.

“Just go to sleep,” she says.

For a while they lie in bed, neither sleeping nor saying anything, until Alana feels that the silence is about to explode and finally breaks it.

“I know you don’t understand it,” she says.

“Understand?” he asks. “Understand what?”

“Going to church. And reading the Bible. You think it’s stupid.”

“I didn’t say that,” he begins.

“You didn’t need to,” she says. “I just…need some hope. You want me to sit back and believe that it’ll be okay. Why should I believe that? What can I trust in to tell me it’s okay? Us? You?”

“Lani…”

She has sat up and turned on the lamp. Peter sits up too.

“No,” she says. “I hate it when you say my name like that – like it’s a complaint. Not when we’re fighting. Not like that. Don’t patronise me. And don’t apologise,” she adds, when she sees Peter go to speak. “I want you to hear me before you apologise.”

“Okay,” he says. “I’m listening.”

Alana is silent.

“What is it?” he asks. “I’m listening.”

Alana shakes her head. “No, you’re not,” she says.

She turns off the lamp and lies down on her side, her back to Peter.

After a time of not sleeping, he gets up and goes into the living room. When he wakes up, having fallen asleep to the TV, he returns slowly to bed. Alana mumbles; he tells her to sleep. They do not speak again until morning.

Go to Day Seventeen

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