Fiction Friendship Christian

"Forgive me Father, for I have sinned." The words echoed around my head like a squash ball ricocheting off the walls.

"Forgive me Father, for I have sinned."

"Forgive me Father, for I have sinned."

"Jacqui? Jacqui?" A gentle shake to my shoulder.

"Forgive me Father, for I have sinned."

"Jacqui?" more insistent this time.

The rosary beads threaded between my fingers and the candles cast gentle shadows around the church.

"Forgive me Father, for I have sinned."


"You shouldn't shout in church," I rebuked the person behind me, who, for some reason was demanding my attention.

"Forgive me Father, for I have sinned."

"Jacqui!" a wrench on my shoulder that forced my face away from the altar to the pew behind me. A distorted face that I wasn't sure I recognised, but the voice was familiar somehow.

"Forgive me Father, for I have sinned." The church seemed to be falling away somehow. I turned around and clutched at the pew for support, but its edges were soft, how could its edges be soft?"

"Jacqui?" a softer plea this time.

"Forgive me Father, for I have sinned." A whisper.

"Come on Jacqui, come back."

I was on my knees, by a bedside, my bedside? A tall white candle flickered on the nightstand and a bible lay open on the bed.

"Forgive me Father, for I have sinned." Barely audible against the fog.

"Jacqui?" I reached out for the hand that was calling my name, in my confusion I didn’t really care who it was, I squeezed the hand and they returned the pressure.

"It's okay honey, you're in your room, it's just me - Anna, here with you, you're safe." She stroked my back, like you might do a colicky baby.

"It's okay honey, you're in your room, it's just me - Anna, here with you, you're safe." Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. I mirrored the action and stroked the bed cover, sweeping the room with my eyes.

"Tell me what you can see."

My bed. My bible. My rosary beads. The candle I had lit earlier.

"Use your words Jacqui, tell me what you can see."

"My bed. My bible. The clock grandma gave me. The flower painting I had brought from the gallery." The cramp in my knees forced me to shift position and I twisted so I was sat on the floor, leaning against the bed. Anna moved so she was next to me.

"Keep going," she said.

"The angel ornaments on the book shelf, the window, the wine stain on the carpet, you," I laughed feebly. Back.

"I'm sorry lovely."

We had done this so many times now that I was past shame, embarrassment or pain.

We stayed sitting for a while. It helped me re-orientate, reminding myself who I was, where I was, what I could see, hear and smell. 5,4,3,2,1, they called it. 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can taste or smell and 1 deep breath. And I’d added a mantra of my own. I am Jacqui, I am twenty-five, I am in my house.

“Tea?” Anna offered, standing up and giving me her hand to pull me up.

“Always,” I responded. I allowed her to pull me up and followed her downstairs. I put my head round the door of the lounge to find Kenan happily ensconced in front of some awful cartoon, blaring out unnecessarily loudly.

“Turn it down honey,” I said, carefully shutting the door and joining Anna in the kitchen.

I rummaged in the cupboards for biscuits. Lately I’d taken to hiding them as Kenan had been raiding the cupboards. Laughing, I produced a biscuit tin from the bottom oven cupboard, and with the air of a conjurer, tipped some custard creams onto a plate.

“He found the last hiding place then?” Anna commented.

“Cheeky boy put a stool on the chair and got them down from the top cupboard,” I grinned at the memory, “only sadly for him, he couldn’t fix them back up there again.” Anna laughed. “He tried to get Dan to help him,” I continued, “but Dan ratted him out of course.”

“How is the lovely Dan?” she teased.

“Lovely,” I blushed.

Dan was my new boyfriend, although the term boyfriend made it sound like we were both in high school. I had met him at church a couple of months ago. He was taller than me with dusty brown hair, light stubble and a cast on his leg from a motorbike accident.

The day we met he hadn’t caught me at my best. It had been one of those Sunday mornings where I’d had to bundle a mutinous Kenan into the car and was made to feel like the world’s worst mother because I’d refused to let him bring his action figures to church. I decided not to fight the battle over his sneakers that morning. He moaned all the way to church that he was the only one not allowed toys, that I was mean, he hated me, and he didn’t see why he had to go to church anyway. I had tried to point out, that at six years old, he couldn’t possibly stay home on his own. He had told me he didn’t care and wasn’t going to get out of the car when we got there. Thankfully, Seth’s family had parked at the same time as we did so he got out willingly enough. I saw the eye roll from Seth’s mum over the sneakers but decided to ignore it. Dan had arrived at the same time as us, and Seth and Kenan had barrelled into him as they ran up the path. Mortified, I’d tried to apologise and it had gone from there.

“Have you and Dan talked yet?” Anna asked.

“No,” I sighed.

“Someone will if you don’t,” Anna warned.

I knew she was right. Before long someone was sure to mention Rhia to him, that was the way our small town worked. Sometimes I loved our town, small communities that baked casserole or pie when you were ill, the kids could roam fairly freely and someone’s dad was always starting a baseball game on the field, we sold cookies to raise money for the soccer team and helped each other shovel snow off the driveways in winter. But the downside was everyone knew, and if they didn’t, someone was sure to tell.

“I don’t know what to tell him?” I curled my fingers tightly round the mug in front of me.

“I know I need to tell him about the ‘episodes’ I sighed, making quotation marks with my fingers in the air, “but I don’t know how I do that without telling him about Rhia. I’m just not sure how.”

“If something happens when Dan’s here, he needs to know what to do,” Anna warned. “Kenan knows he can come and get me, but Dan’s here more and more now...” Anna trailed off.

Anna had lived next door to us since forever. I had never left home, always having lived with my parents. After Rhia, died, they had moved out of state and, for now, Kenan and I had the house. Anna stayed living with her parents too, but was marrying Jim in the Fall and they were looking for a place together. When Rhia died, Anna was there for Kenan and I. She made sure we ate, made sure Kenan got to school and brought me back when I had one of my ‘episodes.’ Disassociation, they called it. The brain’s way of processing trauma that it finds too difficult to compute. One doctor told me it was liking trying to file a document in a filing cabinet that there was no section or space for. The file would never be in the right place and could therefore often surface anywhere. What the doctor didn’t tell me was that the file had a life of its own, and had no regard for mine. Kenan was old enough now to know that sometimes he simply could not get through to me. I had told him, that if I didn’t seem right he should go next door and get Anna or call her cell. We had practised together and taped her number to the back of my cell phone. I had told him that mummy’s brain sometimes didn’t work properly and when it went wrong she needed someone to help her.

The doorbell rang and a voice called,


“Dan!” Kenan shouted excitedly and scampered to the door.

“You have to watch TV with me,” he said seriously. “Mummy’s brains not working properly today so Anna’s come to help her.”

Anna and I looked at each other.

“Looks like your having the conversation now then,” she said ruefully. “Do you want me to take Kenan out for ice-cream?”

I smiled gratefully, “yes please.”

“Fancy chocolate ice-cream K?” called Anna, enticingly from the kitchen.

“Yeah!” responded Kenan, running in, looking at me, “but is mummy’s brain back to normal now?” My face felt like it was on fire.

“I’m fine honey,” I reassured him. “Dan and I are just gonna have a chat.”

I smiled my thanks at Anna as she caught Kenan’s hand, turned off the TV and helped him put on his sneakers.

“Can I have sprinkles?” I heard Kenan call as he jumped off the doorstep.

“He won’t sleep tonight for all the sugar,” I chuckled, as the sound of their voices faded.

Dan kissed me hello and I stayed in his arms for a while, enjoying how safe he made me feel.

“There’s something I need to tell you,” I said. We sat down on the kitchen bar stools, I took a deep breath and faced him. Not sure where to start.

“It’s okay Jacqui.” He looked at me, “whatever it is, we can work it out.”

I pulled a well-loved photo out of my wallet and placed it on the table. Two smiling, chubby cheeked, blonde haired toddlers. They were dressed in matching outfits.

Dan held the picture in his hands.

“Kenan and Rhia,” I told him.

I steadied my voice. “Kenan had a twin, Rhia. Rhia died.” My beautiful little girl. Two years and six months old. “And it was my fault.”

He looked at me, like he had never seen me before, a quick flash across his face, but I saw.

“I’m sure it wasn’t,” he replied, placing the photo gently down on the counter-top and taking my hands in his.

“It was Dan.”

“Forgive me Father, for I have sinned.”

“No, not now, please, please not now.”

“It was my fault Dan. I wish it wasn’t. But it was. I killed my baby girl. I let her die.”

“Forgive me Father, for I have sinned.”

My fingers threaded imaginary rosary beads. The floor pulled me to my knees. Not now, please not now.”

“It was an accident Dan, I didn’t mean it.” I grabbed for his hands.

“Forgive me Father, for I have sinned.” And I was crying, sobbing on my kitchen floor.

“Jacqui? Jacqui? You’re scaring me.”

“Forgive me Father, for I have sinned.” The stain glass windows sparkled sea blue, blood red.

“I’m going to phone Anna, you must have her number in your phone, where’s your phone?”

“Grab Rhia, don’t you understand, some-one needs to grab Rhia!”

“Forgive me Father, for I have sinned.”

“Anna, Anna, it’s Dan, I’m not sure what to do…”

“Grab Rhia, I told you grab Rhia.”

“Forgive me Father, for I have sinned.”

“Don’t take that boat out Jacqui, it’s not safe.”

“Relax Dad, you did it plenty of times with us when we were kids,”

“Well now I’m old and wise, at least if you’re going to go rowing, wait for a day when we can come with you.”

“The sun’s shining now, it’ll be cooler on the lake.”

Singing, row, row, row your boat. My life vest cuts into my arms so I cast casually aside. Bobbing gently in our little dingy in the middle of the lake. Five little ducks on the river one day. Kenan sees a fish and reaches over to snatch it, falling into the water, somehow he tears his lifejacket off as he tumbles in. Instinctively I go after him, diving down, chasing him deeper, the water I always thought was clear is murky. I see him, I grab him, I pull us to the surface. “Mama,” Rhia calls, scared. The dingy drifts away. She is pulling of her life jacket, ready to jump in and follow us. “Stay where you are,” confused she lurches to one side then she tumbles in and I swim for her too, pulling Kenan with me. He is heavy. I grab for her. For a second, I have them both. We are all sinking now. I can’t hold them both. I can only manage one. As I desperately pull them to me, we drown, all of us. They are dead weight in my arms. I have to choose. Choose one.

“Forgive me Father, for I have sinned.”

Kenan is crying. “Rhia, where Rhia?”

“Forgive me Father, for I have sinned.”

Rhia is dead.

5 4 3 2 1

I am Jacqui. I am twenty-five. I am in my house.

"It's okay honey, you're in your kitchen, it's just me - Anna, here with you, you're safe." She stroked my back, like you might do a colicky baby.

"It's okay honey, you're in your kitchen, it's just me - Anna, here with you, you're safe." Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. I tap my fingers on the laminate floor and sweep the room with my eyes.

"Tell me what you can see."

A sink. Some cupboards. A plate with toast crumbs. The floor is brown laminate.

"Use your words Jacqui, tell me what you can see."

"My taps are silver. My dishwasher. The fridge with Kenan’s picture on. The fruit bowl is empty." I sat on the floor, leaning against the pan cupboard door. Anna sat next to me.

"Keep going," she said.

"The pans on the rack, our tea mugs that need washing, the new cafetière, you," I laughed feebly. Back.

"I'm sorry lovely."

We had done this so many times now that I was past shame, embarrassment or pain.

Kenan is crying. His face is covered with chocolate ice-cream.

“Dan – where’s Dan?”

“Forgive me Father, for I have sinned.”

“I’m sorry Jacqui, he’s gone,” she said.

November 29, 2020 20:38

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Maddy Faggioli
20:13 Dec 07, 2020

Eerie, but still themes of family throughout it. It's definitely going to keep me thinking throughout the day, so thank you for that. Great writing!


Joey Snell
18:10 Dec 08, 2020

Thank you for your comment, it has really encouraged me.


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