Friday, 21 September 2012

The Rosary

The Rosary
By Andrew Hamilton

Oliver is buried in the back garden.

Sharon walks to the sink, fills the electric kettle almost to overflowing and places it gently in its cradle. She peers through the window. The early September darkness has already infiltrated the garden, capturing shrub and flowers and half the wooden shed. She feels a chill down her spine as the first of the evening stars reveal themselves in the half-light. “Don’t worry,” she says, “they will be here soon.”
She plunges her hands into the warm, bubbly water and begins to slowly wash four China cups and four China saucers. The dishes, unused since last week’s rosary, are much too delicate for the dishwasher. They came from Lourdes, from the parish trip in ‘84, and now they spend all their waking days on the high shelf overlooking the sink – watching in displeasure as the kitchen, the hallway and the sitting room fall deeper into disrepute. Everything has changed since he left. Sharon’s washes and rewashes the cups.
… The glass of the windowpane is impregnable… The steam has made it so… The condensation… The power of hot and cold… The darkness can have the outside… The inside is mine… The whistle of the boiling kettle shakes Sharon from her thoughts - the cups, the tea, the kettle, the rosary. She empties the kettle into the still bubbly water, refills it from the cold tap and returns it to its cradle to boil again.
MaryAnn lingers at the open front door, shaking droplets of water from her half-folded umbrella. A rush of cold air enters the house and explores the hallway, before it makes its way up the leg of Sharon’s dress. She places her hand on her hip, a grimace of pain rolls over her face. “Come in,” she says to her sister, “where are the other two?”
“Hail Mary. Full of grace. The Lord is with thee…”
Sharon and MaryAnn kneel before the kitchen table. In the centre of the table stands a ceramic statuette of a woman dressed all in blue, perched on two small wooden block, each embossed with the words ‘Our Lady of MeÄ‘ugorje’.
“Holy Mary. Mother of God. Pray for us…”
Sharon looks to her sister – eyes closed and head bowed, ready to lead the next prayer. “She’s not so perfect,” Sharon tells herself. “A happy husband doesn’t make her better than me. It doesn’t make you holier.”
“Hail Mary. Full of grace. The Lord is with thee…”
MaryAnn leads the virgin’s prayer slowly, anointing every word. Nothing is rushed, no sentence is completed with any less relish than the one that went before.
“Why haven’t they come?” Sharon asks herself. “Where are Teresa and Martina? Why have they abandoned me?”
“Holy Mary. Mother of God. Pray for us…”
“She’s going to leave too,” she says to herself. “First him, then Teresa and Martina, and now her. I’ll be alone. I’ll be alone with his sin.”
“Sharon,” whispers MaryAnn, her eyes looking to her sister. “Sharon, I thought we might just finish early tonight. I though we might just say the Fatima Prayer, and leave it at that. Maybe have a cup of tea or something? What do you think?”
Sharon is silent. She looks at her sister – ready to cry or to scream – but instead she says nothing. Long, silent nothing.
“Sharon? Sharon, it’s okay. We’ll finish it, same as always. I just thought, you know, because it’s just you and me now, maybe we could do something differently. But it doesn’t matter. Lets start again.”
Sharon’s eyes leave her sister and turn to the sink and to the kitchen window. Through it she sees stars and shadows. She can even see a portion of the waning crescent moon.
“Hail Mary. Full of grace. The Lord…”
“Stop it! Stop it! Stop it MaryAnn, just stop it! I can’t anymore.”
Sharon begins to cry.
“I miss him. I miss him so much. Why did he go? Why did he leave me like this? Why Mary, why?”
MaryAnn stands and walks to her sister, arms outstretched. She helps Sharon to her feet.
“Don’t worry,” she says, “it’s all going to be fine now. Trust me.”
She walks to the sink, fills the kettle with water, and places it in on the cradle.
The kitchen window begins to cloud with steam.