Love on a High Horse

Rosaline giggled—a tiny thing, like the fluttering of a thrush’s wings—but she giggled, and Ophelia listened when the preacher man, his tie to tight, paused from reading the massive, gilded Bible before him. His eyes settling accusingly on Rosaline before beginning once more. The rest of the congregation, sweating from the hot risen sun already high, did not turn their gaze, but their mouths took a downturn and their eyes hardened before the words of the preacher lulled them back into something like a reverie.

Rosaline hid her mouth behind her hand, gloved in black lace, but Ophelia could see the lift of her lips over the edge of her thumbs, and knew she smiled though she stifled her laughter.

“Let us pray,” the preacher said, closing his eyes as the congregation bowed their heads. He intoned the Lord’s Prayer as Rosaline’s and Ophelia’s eyes met over the bent shoulders of the crowd between them. “Hallowed be thy name—“ and the preacher went on, and they gazed upon each other until he prayed the final Amen, just as Rosaline graced Ophelia with a single, shining smile.

Ophelia and her family skipped the after-sermon coffee, precursor to Sunday School for kids and adults, to walk home because they owned no car, and they would sweat in their fine Sunday things, fanning their faces with their Sunday pamphlets, creating the only breeze in the stillness.

Every Sunday Ophelia and Rosaline saw each other, morning and evening service, as their peers filed into the pews, filling them with people brushing shoulders, trading apologies and awkward laughter when they stepped on each others toes. Ophelia rested her feet, shoes dusted with red dirt, on the cushioned ledge of wood meant to bear the weight of their knees and the weight of their sins as they confessed and craved forgiveness.

Ophelia bent her head as the preacher asked them to kneel, her hands clasped beneath her chin, her eyes closed so no peeking Toms could tell on her to the preacher-man.

She remembered Rosaline’s giggle from a few weeks before, and a flush crept up her neck, but it was just from the heat of the day, and the broken air conditioner that the preacher kept promising to fix and never did, though they passed the empty wooden bowl for tithes, tithes for god, but nothing for them.

If she fainted, it would be on his head, and he would say that she had been overcome with the Spirit of God, most holies, and hosanna to the highest.

Her heart pounded an echo of Rosaline’s giggle through her throat, and she bit her tongue to bring her back to her aching knees and the knot twisting itself in the muscle of her shoulder, wedging its way against the blade of bone.

“Amen,” the preacher-man said. “And now we commune with God, but only partake if you know, that you know, that you know, that you know—“

They passed a plate of stale, bite-sized bread. Ophelia took a piece, holding it in her hand as she waited for the preacher to say, “Eat, for this is my body,” and then she ate, the dry flakes guttering up her throat with its stale flavor.

It needed salt.

She was thirsty, and she pressed her fist against her chest, and prayed that she would not choke in the middle of church.

“This is my blood, drink—“ and she drank that thimble sized plastic cup of grape juice down, and still she desired for something more to drive the desert from her mouth.

There was a water fountain in the hallway leading outdoors, and as the congregation filed past after their leave had been blessed, she pressed the button and let the water stream in a curving arc before putting her lips to it, letting its cold drink flood her mouth before swallowing it down, a thick cold burn down her esophagus and into her belly.

She wiped her mouth with her wrist, forgetting that she wore lipstick, and it stained her skin red. When she ducked into the restroom to wipe herself clean, she found that she was not alone. That Rosaline was there, and that she was taking a selfie with her phone.

Ophelia hid her own mouth with her hands, and nodded something that could be construed a hello before she turned the water on and waited for it to become luke-warm, which was the warmest it ever got, before she bent her head, cupped her hands with running water, and washed herself clean.

“Hey.” Rosaline’s voice was lazy and hoarse, like she was sick or getting over a cold or high from smoking weed.

Ophelia patted herself dry with the coarse paper towels they kept stocked. “Hey.”

Rosaline put her phone in her pocket. “Some sermon, huh?”

Ophelia blinked, and felt like she did when the college professors had once called on her when she wasn’t prepared or when she plain just didn’t know the answer. Her skin bristled. “It was fine,” she said.

Between the moment she realized she hadn’t remembered what the sermon had been about and the moment when she had opened her mouth to say something, anything, Rosaline had come towards her, was standing quite close to her, close enough that she could see the sloping wings of her eye liner, the way powder glimmered green on her eyes, still on despite the heat.

“I saw you sharing communion,” Rosaline said.

“Everybody shares communion.” Everybody knew that they knew, or knew that if they did not they were the lost sheep. Ophelia could not remember if Rosaline had, if she had eaten from the same plate of stale bread and not enough grape juice.

Rosaline giggled then, that same giggle from before, the one that still echoed in Ophelia’s ears. “Do you know, that you know, that you know—“ and her finger wagged in time with the words, just like the preacher’s.

Ophelia felt faint again even as she giggled nervously, and she found that she was pressed up against the bathroom wall, her hand clutching the counter, her other palm wedged against the paper towel dispenser as Rosaline stood almost between her knees, the lace from the hem of her dress fluttering against her shins. “What?”

“Do you know?” Rosaline said again, her voice deep as the pastors, “that you know?”

Ophelia scoffed. Her shirt was running up her back and the wall was cold against her damp skin. “Of course I know.”

“Know what?” Rosaline said.

She was supposed to say that she knew that she was saved. That she knew she was saved by the grace of god. That she knew she was a sinner, that they were all sinners, and it was only because of god’s sacrifice, of Jesus Christ and his mercy, that they were saved. “That I’m sick,” she said, those words coming out instead, and she bit her lips between her teeth and raised her eyes to heaven, the litany of forgive me forgive me already tumbling through her like half-remembered psalms.

Finally, Rosaline stepped away. “Me too, but I’m better now.” She smiled then, a smile that showed her teeth stained purple from the communion grape juice. She ran her tongue over her teeth as she turned away, and Ophelia slid down the bathroom wall until she sat on the floor, shirt riding up to her shoulders and skirt running up her thighs as her legs splayed open. Her mouth ran dry as deserts as she swallowed her own to spit to make the thirst go away.

She did become sick, a cold in the middle of the summer, temperatures reaching up over 100 like the heat outside, and she shivered with chills, body wracked with a fever and a cough that barked up green shit, leaving her miserable and aching.

She skipped church, but still her tongue tasted the stale bread and the warm grape juice and she rolled onto her back as the doorbell rang twice.

“Go away,” she croaked, clutching the mattress. “Nobody’s home who’s interested in whatever you’re selling.” Because who else could it be on a Sunday afternoon in their small town when everyone was supposed to be congregating at church, partaking in the monthly potluck minus the crab salad because that’s what she was supposed to bring, what she had brought for the last four years.

But the door pushed open and, for a moment, Ophelia was afraid because who would come, who would not go away, but then her heart eased when she saw that it was only Rosaline, not dressed in her Sunday things, but dressed in overalls and a ratty white tee and holding a crockpot, lid sweating on the inside, in her hands. “I heard you were sick,” she said.

It was chicken soup. Made at home instead of from a can. Ophelia knew that it would be the best thing she had ever tasted even though she couldn’t taste anything right now that wasn’t the taste of sick.

As she sipped the broth, Rosaline kneeled beside her and reached for her, so that her knuckles brushed against her forehead. “You have a fever.”

“I’m burning up,” Ophelia mumbled, her eyes fluttering closed as Rosaline took the bowl from her.

“Everybody misses you,” Rosaline said, as she straightened the covers that Ophelia kept clutching to her and then kicking off a little while later.

“They don’t.” Ophelia turned toward Rosaline, her hand limply looking for hers that she might hold it. “You’re the only one who’s come.” She closed her eyes. “You should go before my parents come home.” Because she lived with her parents still, even though she was in her twenties, because she worked at the local diner and she didn’t know how to leave this backwater town even with a degree in her back pocket that was supposed to have been her passport to something better.

“Okay.” Rosaline stood to her feet, her hands plunged deep in her overalls. “Be well.”

“Thank you, for the soup,” Ophelia said as her eyes fell closed and she was asleep before she even heard the door shut.

Her parents asked her where she got the soup, and she said that Rosaline had left it on the porch of the steps with a note, and they tasted it, and they said that it was good. “I know,” Ophelia said, as she wished that they would leave her alone.

When she was better, Ophelia washed the crock pot and she walked to where she had learned that Rosaline lived, down the road, hang a left at the gas station, and then walk until she came to the run down apartments with the too long grass and the straggling weeds.

Once, there would have been flowers—but they were gone like the water, dried up with the drought.

She knocked on Rosaline’s door, who opened it though her skin was still wet from the shower, wearing only a towel wrapped around her body, and Ophelia’s eyes skittered to the right and to the left, above and below, as she held the cleaned crock pock out like an offering and said, “Here. The soup was great. I feel much better now.”

Rosaline’s hands covered hers for an instant when she took the pot, and Ophelia raised her eyes just as Rosaline turned away, her long legs seeming even longer under the short edge of the white towel as she put the pot on the counter. “You wanna come in?” she said.

“Okay.” Ophelia let the screen door with the rips in the net shut behind her and closed the front door with a soft click. She noticed that the peep hole was inches above her, and she wondered if Rosaline had to stand on tip-toes to peer through it to see the one who knocked on the other side.

When she turned around, she saw that Rosaline had disappeared, and she heard the sound of cloth being moved like she was rummaging in her closet for something to wear that wasn’t a towel, and Ophelia’s cheeks flushed all over again as she stared at the empty crockpot, at the way it had gleamed when she had washed it after they had eaten all the soup.

“You didn’t have to bring it back,” Rosaline said. She wore a faded flannel robe that looked as if it had once been printed with pale, pink roses, and she was tying it closed with a square knot. Her feet were bare, toenails painted lime green to match the neon orange of her fingernails, and gold bangles rested against the jutting edge of her ankle.

“It would have been rude not to though,” Ophelia said. “It was very good. Thank you so much.”

Rosaline shrugged. “I wouldn’t have minded.”

They stood for a moment, together, in a shaft of sun that slanted through the blinds, striping their bodies with light and shadow. Rosaline wasn’t much taller than Ophelia, and for a moment, Ophelia imagined how much taller she would be if she wore strappy summer sandals.

Awkwardness settled between them, and Ophelia shifted her weight between her feet. “I should go. I didn’t mean to interrupt you—“ the image of her in her towel flitted through her eyes and her words stumbled against her teeth.

Rosaline smiled and said, “I wouldn’t have answered the door if I had minded.”

And as she turned, with one more awkward wave to usher her from Rosaline’s home, Ophelia wondered if Rosaline minded anything.

Ophelia kneeled at the foot of her bed, her head against the wooden frame that supported the mattress. And when she prayed that night, the cold floor beams hard against her bare toes, she thought of Rosaline, of her long legs, of the soup she had made, and the slow sickening of her heart as she crawled back under her covers without a last amen, eyes closed though she felt no sleep come to her.

When Sunday came again, she dressed in her finest clothes, pulled her stockings on so they came above the knee, and let her skirts fall over them as she slipped her feet into her mother’s pumps, the ones she had never cared for and so she had given them to her. She slid her earrings into her ears, silver hoops, and put mascara on her lashes, and she went to church under a grey sky.

They sang the hymns she had learned growing up, the ones she knew without looking at the words in the hymnal. They sang without the piano because the only one who knew how to play was sick, had caught the cold that had caught Ophelia, and chords rasped against each other, their voices off tune and sick and bitter, and Ophelia pressed the book to her chest, to put pressure on the wound, so that it would stop breathing and beating and bleeding as she caught sight of Rosaline in the corner of her eye, nail polish scrubbed off.

“Do you know, that you know, that you know,” the preacher intoned.

When the sermon finished, when the congregation flocked outside on the faded lawns, the sky covered by scudding grey clouds, a chill edge to the air even though it was still hot, Rosaline came, flanked by Ophelia’s parents, and Ophelia almost choked, her mouth still barren from the bread she had swallowed and the grape juice she had drunk, as her parents told them that they had invited Rosaline over for dinner, to repay the soup she had made.

Rosaline smiled, bright as halos in the stained glasses that ordained the windows of the real churches. “I’ll be by at six p.m. on the dot,” she said.

“That’s perfect,” they assured her even though they never ate that time because they never ate as a family, ever since Ophelia had come home, tail between her legs, because she may have graduated college but she still couldn’t find a job to support herself in the big city, and they ate on their own, in their own time, a family in the morning as they clustered around their mr. coffee, waiting for it to brew their morning cup, waiting in line and pushing each other to be at the front so they wouldn’t be the one with the last cup, the one with all the grounds in it.

So they went home, and Ophelia tried to make sure their rooms were cleaned, that there was nothing gross on the floor, and she scrubbed the bathroom with something that smelled a little bit like lemon, and she picked up the bras that she had left up to air dry days ago, and she bunched up her clean clothes into dresser drawers.

She pressed her palms together like she was praying and put the hard edge of her thumbs against her lips.

Rosaline probably wouldn’t even be able to come into her room. It wasn’t as if she was bringing her own parents with her because Rosaline lived alone. She didn’t have another set of parents to quietly distract each other while their kids went off and played, spared for a moment, from the watchful gaze of their parents.

Rosaline showed up on time, and Ophelia stood to the left of her parents as they invited her in. They ate the food her parents had prepared—lasagna with six kinds of cheeses that Ophelia couldn’t name even if she had tried. It was juicy and slopped into their plates and they had to be careful not to splatter their fronts with the tomato juice, and her father just tucked his napkin into the collar of his shirt even though her mother glared at him not to, and Rosaline offered Ophelia a smug, small smile, the kind that didn’t show any teeth, the kind that could have been a smirk if it wasn’t so coy, and her stomach hollowed out and she put a forkful of something in her mouth and chewed before swallowing it down with dry wine that made her mouth water like an oasis.

They volunteered to do the dishes, Rosaline and Ophelia, so that her parents might rest. Father smoked on the porch and mother rested in her armchair, feet up, hands clasped over her belly, eyes closed.

When they were finished, Rosaline politely said her goodbyes and Ophelia, seeing her chance, said, “Let me walk you home, at least part of the way.” And Rosaline did that small little smile again, and said, okay whatever like it didn’t matter, and maybe it didn’t as they walked side by side. It was still hot even though the sun had gone down.

“Hey,” Rosaline said after they had gone a little ways, and Ophelia lifted her face into Rosaline’s guiding palms as she cupped her cheeks and kissed her lips.

“Hey,” Ophelia returned, breathless, Rosaline’s warm hands still on her face, her thumbs riding along the high rises of her cheeks. She thought she could barely breathe, not that she needed to, her body no longer one of flesh but something lighter, something flimsier, something that could be blown away with a single puff of air, light and feathery and gone as dandelion puff-balls.

“I’ve been wanting to do that for ages,” Rosaline said, drawing her in even closer, putting their foreheads together, her eyes closed and she was so beautiful that Ophelia could not close her own, could not deny herself this sight “Why don’t you walk me all the way home?”

“I can’t,” Ophelia said, her chest tight and weak, caving in on itself, feeling the familiar sickness flooding through her as she turned away, her hand to her mouth where Rosaline had kissed her, as if she would trap that butterfly fragile thing of memory there in the palm of her hand.

Rosaline tipped her head back, her dark curls coming loose as they slipped down her neck, shiny even though it was night, as she laughed. “Okay, Ophelia. I get it. Come see me tomorrow.”

Ophelia nodded and watched from the middle as the road as Rosaline went home, a swagger in her step and a sway in her hip, and she could not look away, even when she had rounded the corner and the streets were empty except for the stray cats scavenging in the garbage, or scraping their pink tongues against empty tin bottomed cans, looking for the last scrap of something there to satisfy their hungry bellies as Ophelia turned, her steps heavy, her heart heavier, her stomach churning as she returned to the place she called home.

But Rosaline did not answer the door the next day when Ophelia knocked, hesitantly, the wood rough against her knuckles. She looked at the morning sun, high enough to be late morning but not so high that it was afternoon. She glanced at her wrist, even though she had forgotten her watch. She had come too early. Rosaline had meant nighttime not morning because what were they going to do, honestly?

Share coffee with each other?

Go to the movies?

And then, with a sickening realization, Ophelia realized that she wasn’t even too sure why Rosaline had invited her over today or why she wasn’t opening the door.

Sweat that wasn’t from the heat, already thick in the air, cloyed to her skin, and she rubbed them against her blue jeans, patched with pink at the knees, and she forced herself to rap, once more, lightly on the door, like she was Poe’s goddamn raven, and when the door remained shut she backed down the stairs leading to the apartment and walked briskly back down the path.

This was stupid, she had been stupid, she never should have come.

“Why didn’t you come like I asked you to,” Rosaline said when they ran into each other in the bathroom after the Sunday sermon. She was leaned close to the mirror, fixing her mascara, and Ophelia had almost turned right back around when she saw that she was there but then she had lost that fleeting moment to leave when Rosaline looked at her through the mirror.

“I did. You weren’t there,” Ophelia said, resentment grating through her voice like something small and childish and so third grade.

“When did you come?” Rosaline said. “I was home all day.”

“In the morning. Like ten maybe. I don’t know.”

“I don’t wake up till after noon at least, if I’m lucky.” Rosaline turned from the mirror, slipping her tube of mascara into her purse as she went up to Ophelia, her hands settling to her waist. She swayed a little bit, like they could dance if they were in a ballroom instead of a bathroom, if there was music except for the sounds of water travelling through the pipes in the walls. “We should exchange phone numbers,” she said, biting her lips a little as Ophelia felt her pull her own phone from her back pocket because she was wearing slacks today (so college, the older ladies had said, as if that was the most polite thing they could say) and then Rosaline stepped away, and pressed her numbers into the phone before tossing it back to Ophelia.

“See you later, alligator,” Rosaline said as she stepped around Ophelia, who was still blocking the doorway.

Ophelia glanced down at the phone in her hand, at the new entry under her contact lists, Rose, and her phone number.

Her hands trembled and she put the phone to her chest, tried to breathe and count to ten, and then finished her business in the bathroom as she put her elbows on her knees, her eyes closed, and just tried to focus on something other than her shuddering her breaths and her fluttering heart and her nauseous stomach.

They met at the movies, a dilapidated affair still playing film instead of digital. They went to watch a movie that’d been out for months already. It was about space and stars and that should be enough, Ophelia thought, that should be enough. The cashier asked if Rosaline and her friend wanted to join their rewards program. Another person who tore their tickets told them to have a good time, and to come please come again.

In the dark, Ophelia stared sidewise towards Rosaline, who ate her buttered popcorn from the grace of her fingertips, flicking them into her mouth with a kitten slip of her tongue.

She tipped the bucket toward Ophelia. “Want some?”

And Ophelia had to say no, had to shake her head. No, no thanks. I’m fine.

I don’t want anything.

Rosaline shrugged, and sipped her coke already getting flat, already bleached to bad dye and stale bubbles by too much ice. She made a face as she released the chewed up end of her straw.

“That’s what I want,” Rosaline said as they walked out when the credits were still rolling.

“What?”

“The big stories. The big romantic gestures.” Rosaline was so close that their knuckles grazed against each other, and Ophelia closed her eyes. Rosaline shook her head, her long hair coming loose from its pins and clips. “Love’s not dead. It’s not something sold by card companies. I want a love story like that.”

Ophelia nodded, it was all she could do, all she wanted to do.

She wanted to be alone with Rosaline. She wanted to come in with Rosaline even though Rosaline paused at the walk towards her house and said that she would see Ophelia later, and Ophelia said sure and she walked back to her parents’ house, alone, and she spread herself on top of her bed, empty of blanket and quilts because it was so damn hot, and she was alone and she thought about Rosaline and she thought about her alone in her apartment. She rolled over on her side, knees brought to her belly, sticky arms wrapped around her slick shins, and she thought about Rosaline, buttered popcorn poised against her mouth, a tart red slip of lip sipping on the fringe of a ragged straw, and Rosaline.

A few days later, she went to Rosaline’s apartment and knocked on her door, texting that she was here and that they should do something, they should hang, they should hang out in a coffee shop or something, yeah?

And she sent the text, and she waited for an answer, phone in hand, and she waited and she waited, though when she looked up she could see Rosaline’s shadow, a silhouette against the half slitted blinds, and she wondered why she would do this thing, why she would ignore her phone, why she would give her her number and not call and not text and she could imagine Rosaline now, dumping the used up coffee grounds in the sink, refilling the maker, and waiting for it to perk. How she would pace in her socks, half slipping off the heel, worn in holes at the toe, and before she even quite knew it, Ophelia bent at the waist, her hand aiming for the pebble in the dirt, the kind that probably could have skipped across water like god’s own son, and she threw it towards the window where it clinked with a small tinkle, hello hello please play attention to this girl outside.

It didn’t take long for Rosaline to pull up the blinds and wrestle with the glass, to lean on the pane with her elbows, the flannel sleeves of her robe falling down her arms, chin propped in her fists, and it was easy to imagine Rosaline leaning over the sink for this pose, the hard jut of the counter against her soft, bare belly, legs not quite long enough to reach the floor.

Ophelia fell to her knees in the brown, prickly grass and cried, her hand held out towards Rosaline, “What light through yonder window breaks!”

Rosaline laughed and clapped her hands, and Ophelia knew she kicked her legs too, though she could not see.

Then Rosaline disappeared, and Ophelia sprang up the stairs leading to her apartment two at a time, and the door opened and Rosaline held two glasses of coffee, ice cold and pale with milk. “Good morning, sunshine,” she said, and it was.

They met as was their habit at the refreshment table after the sermon was over. Ophelia’s ears rang, dizzy and distant, the preacher’s words a tolling bell against the thick walls of her skull. Her hand shook as she tore open pink slips of fake sugar.

Rosaline slipped beside her, taking Ophelia’s styrofoam cup and filling it with coffee before handing it back to her. “Do you know what I know?” she whispered, and it was so hard to hear her over the current of talk surrounding them, a chit-chat pitch overwhelming everything.

“What?” Ophelia said, turning toward Rosaline so she could hear, so she could watch her mouth shape the words like they were of God.

Rosaline winked at her, but was pulled aside by the ladies in their white gloves as they asked her how the job search was going, and Ophelia hadn’t even known she was looking for one as she watched them circle around her. She put the cup to her lips and swallowed nervously, and lukewarm coffee flooded her mouth with bitterness because none of them knew how to make it right.

“Don’t be mad,” Rosaline said. They were on the bed, Ophelia sitting on its edge and hands loose in her lap. Pressing close behind her, kneeling practically, Rosaline looped her arm over Ophelia’s shoulder so that she could find her hand and hold it.

“I thought we were—“ Ophelia closed her eyes – “friends. That we told each other things.”

“Why does it bother you that you didn’t know? Do you need to pay my bills? Do you need to explain to my parents that hey, I might need to move back in with you?” Rosaline slipped away and stepped off the bed. She stood in front of Ophelia, her body blocking the red of the setting sun, casting her in shadow.

Ophelia raised her head. “I would have told you something big like that.”

Rosaline giggled the same giggle that Ophelia still heard even when she was alone, even when she slept. “Get off your high horse. Just because you would doesn’t mean I would or that I should.”

“I could help you,” Ophelia said.

“What, get a job at the diner?” Rosaline tilted her head back. Scoffed. “I don’t want that kind of help.”

Ophelia flinched.

“I didn’t mean it like that,” Rosaline said, and she was all softness as she kneeled beside Ophelia, her hands a warm weight on her knees. “I didn’t mean it like that—“ picking up her folded hands and pressing soft kisses against her knuckles. “I just want more than that. You know that—I know you know that about me.”

Ophelia sighed as she let herself fall back against the bed, felt the hurt and stretch of it in her back as her feet shuffling idly against the floor. Her shirt pulled up against her stomach. “I know,” she said. “It’s not like I want to work there either, you know.” Her feet hurt every day. Her brain too numb to think about anything except her soft bed, except for Rosaline.

Rosaline stretched beside her, and Ophelia turned towards her.

“We should go to evening service before they wonder where we’ve gone and politely ask us where we were next Sunday, and they say it’s a sin to lie,” Rosaline said, bopping Ophelia lightly on the nose. “I’m sure we’ll find something to laugh about.”

“Sure we will,” Ophelia said. But she wasn’t like Rosaline who was always laughing or giggling or barely managing to hide an insufferable smile behind her hymnal.

They separated when they entered the doors together—Ophelia went to her family and Rosaline went to her spot in the pew, a few benches back, close to the door for a quick getaway.

They sang their hymns and the piano needed to be tuned. Ophelia wondered what they would find in that wooden box that housed its strings.

Last time, they had found the toy of a child who had died some years ago, whose parents had already left the church for a new start someplace else.

The preacher-man stood up. He said they sang like angels, and when Ophelia turned her head she saw Rosaline smiling beatifically upon them, even though she was the very worst of them all—always off key, always flat and deadpan even in song.

The preacher’s words rushed over her, like the noise of water in her ears as she sank below its surface as once in baptism, as always in the bath.

“Do you know that you know that you know that you know” – it came from a long way, like distant thunder, the warning of a storm not yet above the horizon.

She looked back at Rosaline, who was doodling in a scrapbook hidden in the pages of her open bible.

Rosaline did not meet her eyes. Her teeth worried at her lips, her pen following a corkscrew pattern of spirals that Ophelia always found in the margins of her grocery list stuck to the fridge with magnets.

If she knew only one thing—it was this. No one would celebrate them. There would be no angelic chorus bestowing golden halos upon them.

But they would meet after this was over. They would crawl into bed beside each other, their legs entwining as Rosaline kicked off the covers because she always got hot. And sometime, during the early morning when it was still grey, one of them would leave to return to their own house.

This Ophelia knew, and also, that she loved Rosaline.

The preacher raised his arms in benediction. “Amen.”

Note: I heard Neon Jungle’s cover of Take Me to Church and felt instantly inspired to write this.

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