Éamonn waits for me in the last pew. The scent of Marlboros clings to his black leather jacket.
His green eyes plead a promise he can’t make.
I’ll go straight to hell if I so much as kiss you, Éamonn. Have you forgotten your seminary vows?
Hell’s not so bad, Éamonn says, pulling me into his arms. St. Pat looks down from the altar. His painted face shows no mercy.
That night, I wash the blood from my panties in the basement when everyone else is dead to the world.
I’m three months gone. We agree to meet at our special place. Éamonn’s jacket is in the last pew. My fingers find the promised pills in the inside pocket. I swallow them whole. Suddenly, there’s a commotion in the choir loft. A swarm of medics races up the stairs. Comes down with a body hidden under a white sheet. A policeman asks if I’m waiting for someone.
At the morgue I give him one last kiss.
They say you’re going to hell, Éamonn. A judgment on us both.
That night, I wake with blood between my legs. While everyone else is dead to the world, I flush the clotted mess down the basement toilet.
Any other sins, the priest asks. I think of how it’s legal now. How old he or she would be. What color eyes.
The priest’s gnarled fingers make the sign of the cross.
I kneel in the pew and recite the penitent’s prayer. Hell’s not so bad, Éamonn says, pulling me into his arms. I rest my head on his shoulder. You’re not real, I whisper. St. Pat looks down from the altar. His painted face shows no mercy.
Outside is a mist of light rain. I unlock my VW. A jacket is draped across the empty passenger seat. I press its leather against my face. Search for the Marlboro smell of him. And inhale.
Roberta Beary grew up in Queens, New York and identifies as gender-fluid. Honors: 1st Prize (Poetry) 2022 Bridport Prize, Best Microfiction 2019 & 2021, Best Small Fictions 2020 & 2022. Their work is featured in The New York Times, Rattle Magazine, Atticus Review and other publications. A trauma survivor, they divide their time between USA and Ireland.