“Why the evil eyes, what’s the matter with you two?” a cheerful Mum asked her two sons.
“Keep smiling Mum, at least there is one lucky person, unbowed by grief. I haven’t seen Andy’s cheerful mug for weeks,” smirked Mart.
“I’m sick of the sight of you if you must know, Mr Perfect, ha, nothing goes wrong with your life?” said Andy.
“Big brother is not happy. I do not know what I’ve done to upset him?” said Mart, looking at his mother.
“You two, please settle down, let’s have dinner with no more arguments. It’s so nice to have you alone to myself,” said Gracie.
The mother shook her head. The boys continued glaring and grunting nothings. She stood, smoothing her frock as she started to the kitchen to collect the roast beef.
“Yeah right, so our wives don’t start too rucking too?” called Andy after her.
“Where are the ladies tonight?” asked Mum from the doorway.
“My wife is busy with church work. How about yours, Andy?” sneered Mart.
“Mind your own business. Forget the food, Mum, I’m off.”
Andy snatched his jacket from the back of his chair and stormed out.
“Now look what you’ve done,” she looked at Mart, her eyes boring into his skull.
Gracie slumped back down, head in hands.
“Oh Mum, you know what he’s like, he’ll be back when he realises his wife isn’t home,” Mart grinned.
“And how do you know she is not home?”
“Because she is with my wife, at the church.”
“What is this all about? You weren’t religious before, and neither was Peggy.”
“Let’s just say, we’ve seen a revelation. How about dinner? Come on, it will ruin.”
His mother returned with two plates piled high.
“I made enough for five, so eat up there’s plenty.”
“Lovely Mum thanks, Peggy is a superb cook, but she can’t match your roasts.”
“Don’t let her hear you say that. When are you two going to start a family?”
“No rush is there. We’ve all the time in the world,” smirked Mart.
“You don’t know that, look what happened to Andy and Ann,” said Gracie.
“I’m not like my brother and Peggy is not like his wife.”
She dished rhubarb crumble and custard as Mart’s phone chirped.
“Really? Okay on my way.”
Mart hunted his coat, “Sorry Mum, got to dash.”
“What about your pudding?”
The front door slammed, a sports car outside roared into life. Gracie left her dish untouched on the table as she flicked on her ageing computer.
“Now how do you do this Google thing?” she mumbled.
She tried all the names, the address and any details she could recall about ‘the church’ which seemed to break apart her family.
“Nothing? How come?”
Mart carefully locked his car, sneered at his brother’s van, and marched to the terraced house with the tiny logo on the door.
“What’s all this noise in the Lord’s house,” screamed from the hallway.
Peggy came running to her husband.
“He has gone mad. He thumped his wife. I couldn’t stop him,” panted Peggy.
“Is Ann okay?” as Mart marched towards his brother.
“Why do you care about her? Don’t tell me you fancy her?”
“Andy, you know me better than that,” tempers were rising, the fat fryer was bubbling.
“Why suddenly an interest in her then?” Andy’s face appeared ready to burst. He swept his hair out of his eyes, chin jutting.
“Let’s all calm down, shall we? Where is Ann?”
“I squared up to her, that’s all, and she ran up there,” he said pointing behind him.
“He hit her,” squealed Peggy.
“If Peggy goes and gets her, do you promise not to hit her again?” said Mart.
“I never hit her, it was more a push. I’ll never hit my wife,” broke Andy. Shoulders slumped, he sat on the floor.
Peggy moved past him. He remained motionless.
A tearful Ann joined the others.
“Are you okay?” asked Mart.
“Yeah, yeah, more of a shock. He has never raised a hand to me before,” said Ann.
“It’s all your fault,” Andy pointed at his brother.
Hands-on hips, Peggy stood up close and leaned across the sitting man, “We wanted to help you two have a baby, that’s all,” she hissed.
“You know damn well that’s impossible,” breathed Andy. “We’ve had all the tests, the lot. Our doctor said there was no chance, not now, never.”
Mart walked up, crouched, and hugged his brother. The girls were cuddling; they were all crying.
“Come on, all of us, let’s sit on the pews,” said Mart, as he handed around some prayer books.
“Andy, Ann, we know how stressful this has been for you both. That is why we wanted Ann to join us in worship at this church,” said Mart.
“Yes, and what good will that do?” asked Andy.
A chill blew down the quiet aisle. Only Andy seemed to feel it. He shivered. The subdued lighting seemed to dull, only Andy looked around.
“Our Lord can provide,” whispered Peggy.
Ann clutched her sister-in-law, they both had brilliant smiles lighting the gloom, Mart playfully slapped his brother’s thigh.
“Shall we pray?” he said.
Arms encircled shoulders, as the mumbling began, not the four family members, the sound bounced from the ceiling; the noise rumbled louder and louder, surrounding them.
“Oh Lord above, help us in this hour of need,” shouted Mart, as he prayed loudly for a new family member. A child he could worship as the Lord’s son.
The main door burst open, light from streetlights illuminated the bleak aisle, the overhead chanting quietened. Momentarily silence reigned, then a hissing sound as if from a giant snake whirled around their heads. Andy covered his ears and fell to the floor.
Mart, Peggy, and Ann turned to face the doorway light. Shielding their eyes.
“Out now, all of you,” bellowed, silhouetted Gracie as she stormed in.
A bed instantly transfixed Gracie, oddly positioned at front of the church. She ran forward and tipped the trestle on its side. A hard pillow bounced to an upside-down cross.
“Get out now, all of you,” she screamed again.
Red eyes, laser-sharp, beamed from the church’s darkest corner. The black-clad man stretched slowly forward and crushed her head with his bare hands.
“I only wanted a nephew,” said Mart as he dropped his keys outside the door.