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Holy Cross’ chapel was small, austere and empty save for a young couple that slept in adjoining pews in the back of the room. Bill led the way in, whispering in Gabrielle’s ear, “Did you want to go to the altar to pray?”

“I think I’d just like to be in the room. To get a feel for it. Been a long time since I’ve been in a church.”

“Yeah. I go with Doug and Gina and the grands every once in a while but when Caroline died my occasional visits pretty much came to an end. It’s nice seeing Cody and Lianne at church at Christmas, you know, new beginnings and baby Jesus and all that, but I just don’t find much solace in it anymore.”

Gabrielle nodded. “I was baptized Catholic and did the First Holy Communion thing but when my brother Will was killed in Afghanistan that was just around the time I would have been Confirmed so that blew that all to hell, no pun intended. What’s this room like?”

“Smallish. Eight pews, each maybe six feet long. Four rows, two to a row with a center aisle. Kinda dark wood paneling all around. The pews are wood but they added long thin cushions. Probably wanted to make the seats comfortable but not too comfortable, if you know what I mean.”

“Do the pews have those pop-up, padded kneelers?”

He tucked his head between two and said, “Yeah. How’d you know?”

“The room just smells old and that’s what I remember from when I was a little girl. I’d stand on the kneeler and then tell Will that I was as tall as he was. I wasn’t of course. I mean, obviously I was the same height but even with me standing on the kneeler Will had at least half a foot on me: Eight year age difference and I’m the only midget in the family.”

Bill walked her around the room and Gabrielle slid her hands along the pews until they arrived at the low railing that segregated the small altar from the rest of the chapel. “There’s no kneelers along this bannister,” Gabrielle said. “I bet they used to have those too, for Communion? My grandma told me about how you couldn’t eat before Communion when she was little and how people kneeled along the railing until they got the body of Christ. I thought she was maybe pulling my leg but when I was in high school I took a world religion course as a social studies elective. Damned if she wasn’t just telling it like it was back in the day.”

They stood at the front of the chapel. Both of them exhausted, neither knowing what to say. “Does the altar have a cross or a crucifix?” Gabrielle asked.

“What’s the difference?”

“A crucifix will have Jesus’ body nailed to it while a cross doesn’t. Some of the old churches have some pretty gory crucifixes.”

“Oh. Well it’s a crucifix, but it’s not gory. Pretty stylized.”

“Makes sense. Catholic hospital or not I guess the chapel serves all comers. Do they have a row of votive candles?”

“Of what? I’m not Catholic, you know.”

“Candles in jars? Probably a row or two of them?”

“No. I don’t see anything like that. Can we sit? I’m done in.”

“Yeah,” she responded, “I was just going to suggest that.”

They made their way back one row from the front and sat side by side. The silence that accompanied them was strained but not unbearable. They didn’t have to endure it long for both of them were soon asleep, leaning against one another in exhausted, uncertain companionship.

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