‘The wages of sin is death.’
Father Connell looks up at me as the words drip from his mouth. Just the briefest flick of his pebble eye, but the thin lips curl in distaste, his hand twitching as if eager to make the sign of the cross, to ward off my evil influence.
How self-important that toad of a man is, to believe I care what he thinks of me – of us. As he continues with the service, I stare at his shoes, the black leather mired, his trousers smeared brown, water soaking up towards his knees. The thought of his discomfort makes me smile, even though I am wet to the bone myself. It warms me after all this town has subjected us to. Bitter, petty pleasures, but I take them where I can.
There are three of us here, listening to the rain pelt the yews, watching it pour into your open grave. Myself, Father Connell and the gravedigger Percy Mullins who holds an umbrella over the order of service. Still the pages turn dark, clog together.
The moment comes – ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust’ – and Percy offers me the box of soil. Water has crept inside and turned it to clay, still I shed my glove, sink my hand inside. It feels cool and soft between my fingers, the grit catching on my skin. I look up to find Father Connell watching me with open disgust as if this sensuous act shows exactly what kind of woman I am – a slave to the physical, never quite as good as I should be.
I smile then – a broad warm smile – as some of the mud bangs hollow on your coffin, leaving the rest cloying to my fingers. This pantomime would make you laugh if you could see it – the superior priest and the fallen woman.
Then the service is over and Father Connell scurries away without a word. He slips once, hand flailing to a gravestone to support himself. Percy looks at me – an open, blank expression – then turns to filling the grave.
‘Goodbye, love,’ I say at last, though no one hears but you.
Perhaps I will stand here forever, looking over your grave, standing in the shadow of the black trees, my features worn smooth by wind and rain until I finally crumble to dust. But there are other towns, other lives to lead and I shall lead them. I force one soaked boot free of the mud, then the other.
I turn, walk steadily away, leaving behind the sound of the spade, of falling mud – and you.
Written for Stephanie at Words Adventures’ #tuesdayuseitinasentence. The word today is WAGE, which I’ve stretched to WAGES, though I think that’s allowable. See here to read the other stories and to join in.