Devotion

I confide in Sister Sarah before I fully understand. We are scrubbing charred olive oil and lemons off the Pyrex dish, leveraging the stuck rinds off the surface with the spatula. The water in the sink is mostly brownish oil, soft and bubbly with fat from our meal. Sister Sarah dries a plate and whispers near my shoulder: “I understand.” From then on, Sister Sarah knows my secret.

Father Eli comes to visit and we prepare a lovely supper from our garden. We give him the head of the table and the ripest squash I tried to hide among the leaves. He invites us to bow together in prayer. Dear God, who art in heaven, hallow be thy name, etc. I only mouth the words. He toasts us, his faithful sisters, for our hard work and devotion. He meets my eyes when he says “May your faith inspire devotion in others.” I look away.

Father Eli holds the sermon in the morning. I tuck up my habit in an effort to cool down. My thighs feel like lemon rinds, seared to the pew as I bake in the heat. Sweat leaves halos on the bench. Sister Sarah invites me for a walk before lunch. We slip behind the trees and she asks how long I’ve known. About two weeks, I say. It could come back, she says, for both of us. Devotion.

But I’m not so sure. We walk between the trees and a figure in black enters the woods, calling my name. Father Eli meets us under a spruce. No matter where women gather, a man is close nearby.

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