Not too much… really just wrapping up Gary’s day I started awhile ago. The ‘problem’ is what I saw next: just as I feared, I’m sorely tempted to start talking about the Hartmann’s and how life has changed in Knoxville over the past ten years.
Deep breaths: let’s try to stay focused on our happy couple…
Gary opened his eyes. He was on his twin bed in his room. He glanced at the clock next to him. 2158.
I am so fond of you, Henge.
He arose and made his way past Faustina’s room to his parents’. It was likely his father had been the one to carry him; the last time his mother tried there had been an odd sound from her back and she couldn’t walk for two days. Perhaps that is a marker of being a man: that an adult female no longer supports you.
He knocked once on his parent’s partly open door and entered. Had it been shut, he would have waited until summoned. But, he knew, that was only when they were having sex.
Gary’s mother and sister were already kneeling at the foot of the bed in prayer. Father had just finished brushing his teeth and was coming out of their bathroom. He gave Gary a wink, as if he already knew what went on with Henge.
And, perhaps, he does. Gary thought. Henge’s family is talkative.
He knelt to his little sister’s left, taking her hand with his. For a moment Gary’s left palm was open and up. He partly closed and lowered it, his mother saw.
“Is she here?” Callie asked softly.
She watched an odd play of his fingers.
“She was not, until you asked.” He replied. “Now? Yes.”
“HAIL Mary! Full of grace…!” Faustina began with an exasperated tone.
I need attention, too!
“… pray for us sinners…”
He just slightly tightened his right hand onto his sister’s left.
“Now!…” She shot him a blue-green flash out of the corner of her eyes, “…and at the hour of our death.”
But, he saw, with a smile, too.
Though his hooded eyelids he saw his father holding mother’s hand. His right resting on the bed. Father said he was Christian, but Gary doubted that. He knew father was uncomfortable at mother’s rediscovered Catholic faith, from ten years ago, when she’d been unexpectedly reunited with her sister in Huntsville. As a result of that his little sister had been raised Catholic. He, though…
Like father, I knew nothing of the transcendent. While I didn’t see any difference between this world and that of Machine Civilization as a child, I knew that there was more than one kind of reality. It was meeting Henge and… and…
“… be to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As it was…”
The fingers of his left hand partly closed.
It had been love at first sight between them. Years older now, Gary knew what clichéd stupidity that was. He also knew it was true. It had was only a few months after they met that Henge – surprising everyone in all families – announced she was a follower of The Way and wanted to be baptized.
The years following that were much like the time with father, now. She never pushed. When he wondered about her silences she admitted she was praying for him. She answered all of his questions about faith and the Church.
Yet… yet… even with her neutral expression, she was always so happy….
Just after his ninth birthday he, Henge, and Pavel were finishing swim practice in Pavel’s place. Breathing hard, he’d looked from his lane right to hers. She’d just pushed her goggles up onto her cap.
“I want to be happy. To be joyous; like you.”
She stared at him.
“There is only one Way.”
“To love the Lord God with your whole heart, mind, and strength.”
Her eyes flashed burnt orange at him. The little girl ducked under the lane line and surfaced in the little boy’s arms.
“Good. That’s a start!” He felt her small but strong arms about him. “Will you pray with me, Gary?”
“Amen!” His sister and mother said. He and his father echoed the same a moment later.
Faustina gave another knowing squeeze to his hand before standing.
“G’night!” She said, leaving.
His mother began to stand, but stopped.
He put his face into his hands.
“Will you, please, give me, us, a moment?”
She said nothing, but knelt back down.
“Of course, Gary. Y’all take your time!”
He’d expected a sigh from his tired father but was surprised to see his shoulders shake in silent laughter. There was a dynamic here I am too young to understand.
But you want to! Henge spoke into his mind. That yearning for understanding is why I loved you the moment I saw you.
Callie didn’t know, entirely, to whom her son was muttering to – Jesus, Henge, both? – but what she could see of his face around his hands was scarlet right now.
Mother Mary, she prayed, thank you for this still-unfolding miracle!