His grip tightened upon my shoulder.
“Wait, Esme. Look, I’m sorry if I startled you.”
“I just didn’t realise that you are attached.”
“I mean, you didn’t mention it.”
“I just thought maybe you might have mentioned it before now.”
I looked up at the man I knew only as Michael.
A man with whom I had happened upon for the first time two Sundays ago.
Cheek over jowl in the pew.
New to the area.
A man with whom I felt obliged to stand and drink stewed tea out of a polystyrene cup after the service.
To offer local information to.
As a Christian gesture.
The man with whom I bumped into on my street twice this week.
A man with glassy eyes.
A brown suit.
Now a familiar stranger.
Outside, the burst gutter was overflowing Trevi style into the courtyard’s sanctum.
“I was actually just on my way to the Ladies, Michael. Would you mind… shall I just see you back in the hall in two?”
“Sure, Esme. Go right ahead.”
His hand lifted and he took a step backwards.
Collecting myself, I smarted the best smile I could muster and turned towards the facilities.
Could he tell?
I sat clutching my bag on the cold porcelain pan, lid down.
To my surprise, Michael was gone from the corridor when I emerged.
I made my way back towards the musty hall, hoping to sneak past the tea urns undetected and out.
The hall now deserted.
Pushing through the double doors and towards the gate.
Fumbling for my phone.
A welcome laser beam of sunshine burnt through the heavy black sky.
Turning the corner into the graveyard.
The road within striking distance.
When a heavy hand landed once more.
“Esme. You’re really not doing anything to reassure me. I made you tea” the voice whispered.
“Milk and two sugars, just the way you like it.”
He stroked my neck with gloved fingers.
Breathed in my hair.
A buckle clinked.
I started to pray, screaming out the Lords words. Spitting, scratching.
I was silenced.
Being dragged backwards towards the woods with practiced ease.
Lost souls lay near, powerless to help.
As heels trace parallel lines through the gravel.
And then, my phone sang out.
“All things bright and beautiful.”
Michael stopped dead in his tracks.
“All creatures great and small.”
Sirens on the breeze.
“All things wise and wonderful.”
The Lord God loves them all.
“You bitch. You fucking bitch.”
He dropped the knife.