Ora Pro Nobis
When Katie wakes up, she finds the girl from the bar snuggled into her left side, one hand splayed over her stomach. The girl sleeps still, eyes closed against the sunlight that filters through the gap in the curtains and slants across her face. Colleen, she remembers. She’d laughed out her name into a drink topped with a jaunty umbrella that she later tucked behind her ear, exotic and gaudy all at once. Knowing that Patrick will be in any moment with a cup of tea before mass, Katie swears under her breath and tries to wriggle free without waking Sleeping Beauty, who merely mumbles something in her sleep and shifts closer. Resolute, she leans across to kiss Colleen’s forehead, as her brother opens the door, says, “Oh, fuck,” and, fumbling like a child, closes it again.
“Oh, fuck,” she repeats.
The girl flutters awake then, yawning and stretching like a cat. “Good morning,” she says, but a sort of confused frown worries her face as she studies the other woman in bed. “Did you just say, ‘Oh, fuck?’”
“Yeah, I did. Morning to you, too.” Leaning over for a quick kiss: “I have to go talk my brother out of having a coronary, so I’ll be back in a few, okay?”
“Okay, I’ll rest a little more.” She snuggles down into the sheets. Katie climbs out, wrapping a blue cotton bathrobe over her tank top and pajama shorts before heading downstairs.
She finds Patrick in the dining room; two mugs of Twining’s Earl Grey steam in the center of the dark green tablecloth and his head rests in his hands. When she sits down across from him, he looks up, studies her face like it is something entirely foreign to him. “Oh, Pat,” she says, reaching out to take the mug closer to her.
“Not that one.” He says automatically, rearranging the mugs so she can reach. “That one has three sugars, not four.” Silence claims him while she tastes it and nods her approval. “Katie Grace,” he begins, but the whispered words trail off and he returns his gaze to the patterned placemat in front of him.
“I know.” Reaching out, she covers his hand with her own, and attempts a smile. “Talk about a champion awkward moment, huh?”
Patrick jerks away, slamming both of his palms against the table. Tea splashes against the side of her mug, waves in a storm. “Katie, this isn’t— you had a woman in your bed.”
“This isn’t the first time I’ve had one there.” The first was Missy Crawford, her sophomore year of college. They’d motored their way through half a handle of Absolut together and tumbled into bed, sweating and groping each other like a couple of kids. “It’s just the first time you’ve seen me.” Caught me. “With someone, I mean.”
“Knowing about it is different than seeing it.” He glances up at her again, looking sick to his stomach. “It’s…a lot different.”
“Could you not look at me like that?”
“Like the sight of my face makes you want to vomit,” she says, eyes narrowing into slits. “I’ve been this way my whole life, Patrick Ryan. It’s not going to change anytime soon, okay? And I’m not going to stop bringing women home just because it makes you uncomfortable. Get used to it.”
“Christ Jesus, you don’t need to go biting my head off. It’s just a shock, is all. Put yourself in my place, okay?”
“I walked in on you fucking Marilee Henderson when you were a junior in high school.”
He lets out a startled laugh, wraps both hands around his own mug. “Oh yeah, you did.”
“Don’t look so damn pleased with yourself about that one.” She drums out a rhythm against the tabletop, watching her fingers move to the beat of a half-remembered tune from some ceili or another. “It’s not that different, Pat.”
“Not for you, maybe.”
“We weren’t even doing anything, and do you know how many guys would kill to see even that?”
“Yeah, but switch their sister in and they’d react the same as I did, I can all but promise you.” He shakes his head. “It’s a sin, you know. Being with another woman like that. A mortal sin.”
“You think I don’t know that?” The lines in the tablecloth suddenly fascinate her. “I should go get dressed.” Before he can say anything more, she abandons her tea, wrapping both arms around her stomach as she ascends the stairs.
She finds Colleen nestled in the large down comforter, lips slightly parted in slumber, and one hand curled beneath her chin. Smiling, she toys with a strand of her hair, the blonde a contrast to her own dark locks, before she shimmies into the dress hanging from her closet door. Though she doubts the girl will wake before she returns—they found sleep no earlier than four—she jots a quick note on a post-it, presses it against the lavender pillow by Colleen’s head, and slips out the door to go to mass.
The couple standing beside them in the pew stumbles over the words to the Apostles’ Creed as they read from the hymnal. Neither Katie nor her brother move to pick up the book. Standing by her side, Patrick kneels, stands, sits, and crosses himself, a mirror image of his baby sister. He reaches for her hand, squeezes it gently when the soloist rises to sing Ave Maria. After the service, they greet the scant few members devout enough to attend an eight AM mass, then Patrick leaves to light a candle for their father, while Katie makes her way to the confessional at the side of the sanctuary.
Her hand is reaching for the door when the priest slides the wood away from the screen. They linger a moment in silence; she closes her fingers around the handle of the door and thinks about running, running out of the box, running out of the church, running home and diving back into the bed with her lover. Then he says, “My child?” and she releases the handle, clasps her hands together, and bows her head.
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.”