And then, there was that other Presence. The one she’d seen in the church basement. It wasn‘t
visible now, but she knew it was there. She remembered something else from her childhood, from Grandma’s church. The
words wrote themselves across the dark space behind her eyes: Lo, I am with you always. Even to the end of the world.
had stopped to eat her hamburger. She finished, wadded up the paper and sat back, sipping on her pop.
are some guys in the church. They have a website. Bother Soudo says they’re heroes of the faith. He even let them post
his private office number. He fields calls for them. That night, after the protests...after that man…they went to another
clinic, too. I felt funny about it but—”
know they killed a little girl.”
stopped drinking and looked away from Macie. “I know. Brother Soudo was sorry for the child. But he said it was better that one would die for the
sins of the many.”
Wake up. Does it seem that Brother Soudo is sorry? I can accept that you weren’t thinking straight. But even then, you
had to know, in your heart, that killing to stop killing is insane. At some point, you have to see things as they are. These
aren’t saints, Paige. They’re gangsters.”
began to cry. Instinctively, Macie reached out to her. “Look, I’m sorry. But you people terrorized me for months. And for what? If I understand your
friend Mary Conley, if you’re
really sorry, God doesn’t hold your past against you. Surely she must have told you that.”
doesn’t understand what I’ve done.”
don’t know about that. She said something about having walked where the girls who come to her walked. She told me something about a Prodigal son.”
not going to start that , are you? I mean, preaching at me? I’ve had enough of that…I’ve had a belly full
it made sense to me when she told me about it. I mean, that stuff about God being like a father to us.”
you like your father?”
course. I mean...of course I like my father.”
still alive then.” Paige fingered a bruise on her leg.
committed suicide ten years ago.”
Paige. I’m so sorry.”
be. It was better than living the way he did. Only thing is, the way I understand it, he’s in hell now. That’s
what my mom told me. For killing himself, you know, ‘cause you can’t repent or something.”
don’t know about that. I guess you’d have to be God to know for sure.”
well while he was alive, he thought he was God. I got pregnant and had an abortion. That made me tarnished merchandise. He
decided to unload me as soon as he could. He forced me to marry Ron.”
didn’t love Ron?”
would I know? I was seventeen when we got married. I had my diploma in one hand and a marriage license in the other. Don’t
get the wrong idea. I do love my husband. It’s just that when we got married, we were only kids.”
was okay with you aborting the baby?”
cleared her throat, uncrossed her legs and crossed them again. “It wasn’t Ron’s.”
see.” Macie leaned down, retrieving an empty paper cup from the carpet. In the silence between them, they could hear
the men in the back offices arguing about something. The tone was tense, but the words unintelligible. “I kind of relate
to the Prodigal,” she said.
So did that kid Mary’s been working with. I guess it makes a difference what kind of old man you had.”
“Maybe, but I don’t think Bethany has a dream family. No, I just mean that I haven’t been a real Christian in my life. My family
went to church sometimes. I went when I wasn’t too tired Sunday mornings. It just didn’t mean a lot. Mom was more
into the malls on Sunday after brunch. Dad stretched out in his recliner, handed her the checkbook and spent the morning on
the Sunday paper. I didn’t know what a real Christian looked like.”
an excuse. You knew. You probably made fun of the really religious ones. I know we did. The little old lady that showed up
on our step passing out tracts and inviting us to church? She became a family joke. You know, her hose rolled just below her
knee and those funny black shoes old ladies wear. We didn’t laugh at her to her face, but she was good for ten minutes
of stand-up comedy at dinner for weeks.”
That’s just it. We didn’t understand what it meant. I think the Prodigal wasn’t a horrible person, either.
He was just...young. He didn’t see all the years ahead of him. He just saw the moment, and it looked so exciting.”
of us pay a lifetime for a moment’s excitement.” Paige’s voice was hard.
The silence again.
tell me what you see in this Prodigal story that relates to you.”
hesitated. “I think it’s that he went away and lived his life the way he wanted to, the way all his friends were,
pretending it was “normal”. Then, when it didn’t work out, he wasn’t sure where to turn, but he was
desperate so he gave home a shot. Because they’d take care of him. He didn’t think he could live his own life...he’d
messed things up so badly.
the doctor’s office, a piece of glass hit the wall and shattered on the floor. The women listened. There was silence,
then scraping. Someone was sweeping up the shards. The men mumbled and the tone was tense, but the word were garbled. After
a moment, Mary talked again.
Paige, I think all along I knew it was wrong to work at the clinic. I knew it was wrong to help young women rid themselves
of their unwanted children. I’m still not sure about the cases where the mother’s life is at stake, but those
people usually wind up in a hospital, not a neighborhood clinic. Anyway, I knew. But my parents were fine with it. My mother
was more concerned about clothes than conscience. So I just pretended it was okay.”
can’t blame your mother. She doesn’t make your decisions for you anymore.”
sighed deeply. “When I got pregnant, and understood what it was that was growing inside me, I thought God would probably
send me to hell for what I’d done. That’s why what Mrs. Conley said to me affected me the way it did. I was desperate,
so I gave God a shot.”
chair slammed against the wall in the other room, and George Doman cursed loudly. Soudo’s voice came, soft but menacing.
Paige stood to massage her legs and Macie stopped, sucking in her breath. She was...what was the term her grandmother had
used...witnessing. But to do that, you had to be a Christian...
was nodding. “I know all that. In my mind. But it just doesn’t make sense to my heart. And Mary made up for it.
She became a nurse. She saved a lot of other babies. Anyway, it doesn’t make much difference now. Barring a miracle,
I won’t have time to make up for anything I’ve done. You either. I guess it’s true: you really do reap what