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Book Jacket

140007021X
Trade Paperback
290 pages
May 2004
WaterBrook Press

Unveiling Mary Magdalene

by Liz Curtis Higgs

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt

Excerpt:

Chapter 1

Darkness Again
and a Silence

Only a look and a voice;
then darkness again and a silence.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Luna,” she whispered.

Jake leaned closer and nodded, wanting to encourage this stranger sprawled on the sidewalk before him, hoping his face didn’t mirror her confusion nor broadcast his.

Luna?

When she said it again, he heard the muffled tinkle of a tiny bell. She stuffed her other hand into her pocket, but not before he caught a glimpse of something bright and soft, like a child’s toy, still in its plastic packaging. His gaze followed hers, trained on the shop door behind them. Ah. A pet toy maybe.Was Luna the name of her cat?

Jake turned back toward her and smiled, then slipped his arm underneath hers, gently easing her to her feet. “So, is that a treat for Luna?”

She shoved the object deeper inside her coat, a wary expression crossing her troubled features. Whoever—or whatever—Luna was, Jake felt certain the package in the woman’s pocket wasn’t paid for. Hadn’t she come out of the pet shop in a mad dash?

Ignoring his offered handkerchief, the stranger wiped her nose on her scarf. She backed up as she did so, clearly eager to move on.

Jake eyed the busy flow of traffic on Clark Street. It was past five, nearly dark. Letting her stumble across the intersection on her own would be risky. Her too-big gray coat might camouflage her presence in the fading twilight. Maybe that’s the whole idea, Jake.

Three years of starting churches in urban neighborhoods had taught him something about dealing with street people and others on the edge. This woman was definitely edgy. He inclined his knitted ski cap toward the pavement.

“Pretty slippery tonight. Can I help you get somewhere?”

She shook her head, then turned and stumbled forward, her mismatched boots shuffling along the snow-banked sidewalk, heading north toward Tower Records. He caught up with her in two steps, being careful to give her some elbowroom, and shortened his long stride to match her halting one.

“I’m Pastor Jake Stauros from Calvary Fellowship.” Did she flinch at that, or was it simply the darkening skies obscuring his vision? Undaunted, he slipped a business card out of his pocket and pressed it into her hand. “Our church is right up the street across from Reebie Storage.” Not that Calvary looked anything like a church. The three-story brick eyesore had recently been resurrected, saved from the wrecker’s ball after months of lobbying by its Lincoln Park neighbors. “Do you live around here? Sure would love to have you visit us this Sunday.”

It was an invitation he extended everywhere he went. Some folks took him up on it. Most didn’t. “Church full of misfits,” a visitor once grunted on his way out the door. Jake chuckled, a mental picture of his congregation coming into focus. The guy wasn’t far off the mark. They were a ragtag bunch. Suzy with her two-tone orange hair. Bruce with his armful of tattoos. And four dozen more with their own stories to tell. This woman and her Goodwill wardrobe would fit right in.

He watched her struggle to keep her footing on the icy walk as a fresh wave of compassion flooded his chest, stinging his eyes. Father, protect her. Broken and desperate, she was the kind of person he’d come to Chicago to help.

When they reached the 7-Eleven at Belden Avenue, she darted across the street without a word. Her shapeless gray form never hesitated, oblivious to the angry honks and rude gestures from drivers impatient to get home and gulp down dinner in time to catch the Bulls on TBS.

Jake waved at her, knowing she wouldn’t see it. Maybe they’d get another chance to talk, another time. Fishing in his jeans pocket for change, he ducked in the corner store in search of a cold Dad’s Root Beer and a bag of chips. It wasn’t dinner, but it was close enough. She hadn’t meant to let him get that close.

Mary shivered under her moth-eaten coat, pausing long enough to watch him disappear through the door of the 7-Eleven before aiming her steps toward home.

To her right, a frozen fountain piled high with evergreens and twinkling lights served as a welcome signpost. Half a block more and she’d be hidden behind the thick walls of her brownstone, away from staring eyes and wagging tongues.

And preachers up to nothing but good.

What had he said his name was? Jake something. Too eager to help and not much to look at, that one.

Oh, and what are you, Mary Margaret Delaney?

Ugly as Medusa and scared spitless of him—that’s what she was.

She kept her head down as she quickened her wobbly steps, squeezing the toy in her pocket to keep her spirits up. Ha! A grim smile moved across her chapped lips. The spirits were up, all right, rising with the not-yet-visible moon. Winter nights came too quickly and lasted too long, especially this one.

Mary could already sense the full moon tugging at the tattered strings of her soul, unraveling her mind, undoing her tenuous hold on reality. How many days would she lose this time? How many hours of blackness would swallow her whole?

Her turn-of-the-century townhouse loomed before her. Despite its peeling black trim and decaying mansard roof, it was a welcome sight. Home. She stumbled up the concrete steps, then shoved the key in the lock, hands trembling. A minute later, both doors safely latched behind her, she took the first deep breath since her headlong collision with that homely young man, he of the gentle words and the sad brown eyes that saw entirely too much.

He knew she’d shoplifted the toy—that was obvious. But he hadn’t seen her bare arms. And he hadn’t followed her home. So he didn’t know the whole of it. He didn’t know about Luna. A furry tail flicked around the hem of her coat as a chorus of insistent meows echoed through the empty house. “Max!” she cooed, gathering up the striped feline at her feet, cradling it like a baby. One softly padded paw batted at her nose. “Mama brought something for you, boy-o.” She lowered him to the worn hardwood floor, then tore off the plastic wrapping and presented the cat with the stolen treasure.

Within seconds Max was joined by an orange tabby, then a black tom with one white leg, each one pouncing in turn on the jingling toy mouse.

“Good kitties,” she murmured as more cats appeared from various corners of the house, their cries of hunger plaintive and scolding.

When she straightened, Mary caught a glimpse of herself in the antique hall mirror. The bitter taste of bile rose in the back of her throat. How had it come to this? She peered more closely at the stranger with the unfocused eyes and the filthy face. Had she slept somewhere other than her own bed last night? Were these her clothes or someone else’s? Had she eaten today? yesterday?

Not remembering things—that was the worst part. No, the scars. Those were the very worst.

Shedding her coat, she moved through the dimly lit house, noticing how much furniture there was and how it begged to be dusted. Boxes were crammed in corners, stacked in haphazard piles that threatened to topple with the slightest nudge. The rooms smelled stale and acrid, like too many cats and not enough litter boxes. Such a depressing place to call home. Even the kitchen offered a bleak welcome. Empty metal cupboards, a refrigerator without food, dirty dishes littering the sink.

Mary put a pan of water on the stove to boil, grateful to find a few neglected teabags in a chipped porcelain canister. She washed her face with thawing fingers, then dropped into one of the straight-backed chairs that stood around her kitchen table like soldiers awaiting orders.

She had orders of her own to follow, barked by an unseen master. Orders she dare not ignore, even if she had the strength or the courage. Mary Margaret Delaney knew she had neither. Taking a deep breath, she pushed up the sleeves of an unfamiliar black sweater, then stretched out her arms on the table’s yellow Formica surface. Yes. These were the worst.

She touched one ragged fingernail to each of the scarlet slashes, which stood out starkly against her pale skin. Cut, cut, cut. How evenly they were spaced, marching along her forearms. Two. Three. Six. Seven. Not deep enough to kill. Just enough to make her bleed, enough to make her weep, enough to make her long for the sweet release that death promised but never delivered.

Luna had been much braver than she.

Mary turned her arms, exposing her blue-veined wrists.

Luna had cut here.

“Cut me some slack, Pete.”

Jake tucked the telephone receiver between his shoulder and ear, managing to scrawl his signature on a letter with one hand and wave his secretary into the room with the other. Friday afternoons at Calvary Fellowship were never dull.

“Look, I’ll be ready in half an hour, okay? Yeah, yeah, Ranalli’s is fine.”

Any pizza was fine with Jake, but Ranalli’s made the best in Lincoln Park.

“You’ll call the other guys, right? Tell ’em I’m running late? Good. See ya.” He hung up and tossed his pen onto a stack of papers, letting out a noisy sigh.

“Another week in paradise, eh, boss?” His volunteer secretary, Suzy, propped herself in the doorway, one slim hip jutted out at a provocative angle. Habit, nothing more. He’d found her in such a pose—wearing a decidedly less conservative outfit—outside an adults-only store on North Halsted last summer.

Jake had known what she really needed that hot August afternoon.

So he’d shared his Father’s forgiveness with her. Given her a whole new definition of love. Brought her to church and watched her blossom into the woman God created her to be. Pure ministry. It didn’t get any better than that.

Not long after she’d arrived, Jake discovered the truth about Suzy: Before she’d been forced to peddle her wares on Halsted, she’d worked as a first-rate secretary at one of the big firms on Van Buren. Her organizational skills were the best thing that had ever happened to Calvary Fellowship. Who cared if her hair was a color not found in nature? The woman was a godsend, plain and simple, working nine to three at a neighborhood bank, then offering her talents to the church for the rest of the afternoon—no charge.

“It’s almost six,” she informed him, tapping her watch. “Time for all good pastors to call it a day.”

He couldn’t resist a playful wink. “Don’t you know the best ministry happens after the sun goes down?”

“Sez you.” Suzy grinned back at him and pushed away from the doorframe.

“Have fun with the fellas tonight. See ya Sunday.”

Jake flapped one hand in farewell as the phone rang again. Propping his feet on the desk, he grabbed the receiver and leaned back in his chair, untangling the cord, preparing for a long conversation. It was, after all, Friday—a day when too-small paychecks, too-long happy hours, weekend custody visits, and a hundred other stressors pushed people toward the brink. Jake wanted to be there if they fell.

“Calvary Fellowship. Pastor Stauros speaking.”

The caller was in tears.

“Take your time, ma’am. I’m not in any hurry.” And he wasn’t. Pizza could wait. Pain could not.

His gaze wandered to the first-floor window facing the alley, the glass as black as the night sky. The elders had recommended putting bars outside the windows, although Jake loathed such measures. What was the point of keeping people out of church when they were all working so hard to bring them in?

His caller had finally calmed down enough to share her situation with him. Another marriage in trouble. Few things grieved Jake more. After an impromptu counseling session, he made an appointment to meet with both parties in his office, then stretched forward to drop the receiver in place—and promptly dropped it on the floor.

A face stared at him through the window.

He shrank back in his chair, heart pounding.

Mere feet away, the stranger’s nose barely touched the glass, tiny circles of steam heating the icy surface. The eyes were vacant, the mouth slack. A woman, he decided. Long dark hair, wax-white skin, strong brows. His own eyebrows lifted in recognition. Not any woman—that woman. The one he had run into outside the pet store Tuesday evening. Definitely. She was wearing the same gray coat, the same striped scarf, the same haunted expression. Jake exhaled, letting his heart rate slow down, then smiled in welcome, waving her in. “C’mon.” He raised his voice as he stood, realizing she probably still couldn’t hear him. “Hang on. I’ll open the back door.”

Before he could take a step, her eyes widened—in horror or surprise, he couldn’t tell which—and she backed away from the glass, disappearing like a disembodied head floating off into the dark night.

Jake felt his stomach tighten and his hands grow cold.

“Get a grip, Stauros.” His laugh had a hollow sound. No question, her unexpected appearance had unnerved him. The piercing beep of an unhooked phone brought him back to reality. “She’s just lost and confused,”

he reminded himself, grabbing the dangling receiver and putting it back where it belonged, then easing into his chair.

He went through the motions of straightening his desk, giving his nervous system a chance to regroup, when a sudden knock at the back door launched him to his feet as if he’d been shot out of a cannon. “Who is it?”

“Who else?” a familiar male voice barked back.

Pete.

Jake’s laugh was genuine this time as he unlocked the door outside his office and ushered in a noisy foursome—Nick, Joe, Little John, and Pete—all members of his congregation and the closest thing Jake had to a ministry-support team. When it came time for him to move on, they’d be the ones to carry the ball and run with it.

“What’s keepin’ you, bro?” Pete slapped him on the back as he stepped inside. “We hung out at Ranalli’s for a while, then figured we’d better haul you outta here.”

Joe rubbed his ungloved hands together, then plunged them into his pockets. “Bundle up. We nearly froze our parkas off walkin’ over here.”

“Sorry, fellas. Long story.” Jake grabbed his coat off a nearby chair. “I’ll tell ya over pizza.”

A mountain of a man they called Little John flashed a gap-toothed grin.

“Tell us now, Jake, or you’re buyin’.”

“Always hungry for a story, aren’t you, John?” Jake chuckled at his friend’s enthusiasm. As he dug around in his coat pockets searching for gloves, he explained about his counseling call and then described the woman who’d appeared at his window.

Nick exchanged nods with the others. “We’ve seen her around too.”

Glancing toward the alley, he added, “She’s a neighborhood fixture. Mary Margaret somebody.”

Jake’s eyebrows shot up. Mary. His mother’s name.

“Folks call her Mad Mary,” Pete added, his features reflecting Jake’s own discomfort. “Looks the part, doesn’t she?”

Jake couldn’t argue with that. But could he do something for her? The question haunted him all evening, as did the stark memory of her grief-lined face.

Mary Margaret Delaney faced the icy gravestone, touching it with trembling fingers, her knees barely denting the frozen grass. She’d agonized all week, longing to be here in the moonlight, knowing the gates of Graceland Cemetery were locked at sundown.

They were open now. On this melancholy afternoon there was neither moon nor sun that she could see. Only tombs. It felt like her second home. Eternal Silence.

That was the name the sculptor had given the gruesome creation looming before her, which guarded the remains of Dexter Graves. The hooded statue stood in front of a slab of black granite, its robes reduced to weathered bronze. Mary lifted her gaze, stopping short of the figure’s dark countenance. Hidden in the folds of the robe, masked by one perpetually raised arm, was a face black as midnight.

Don’t look, Mary. Don’t look!

According to local legend, to stare into the face of the “Statue of Death”—the name familiar to Chicagoans—was to risk catching an unwelcome glimpse of one’s own death.

She laughed then, a laugh that sounded strange even to her frozen ears.

The maniacal sound crackled through the wintry air like glass shattering on a marble floor. Foolish woman! Death posed little threat. Let it come, and soon. No, remaining alive when the one she loved most was dead—that was the feared thing, the dreaded reality.

“Luna,” Mary whispered, rising unsteadily to her feet. She’d chosen the name in happier times when she’d considered a full moon lovely and romantic, not frightening and overpowering. Mary passed Graceland Chapel, ignoring its silent invitation. There was no grace there, not for her. Not for Luna.

Tears blurred her vision, stinging her cheeks as the wind off Lake Michigan turned them to ice. Step by step Mary drew closer to the one grave that held her heart and would not let go.

Your fault, the voices chided her. All your fault.

Mary stared at the pink granite, her tears falling in earnest. Who was to say it wasn’t her fault? She’d failed Luna somehow. Just as Mick had failed her as a husband. Just as she had failed him as a wife.

Failure, failure, the voices taunted, and she nodded in weary agreement.

Out of the corner of her eye, Mary saw a young man walking along the row of mausoleums pushing a wheelbarrow full of dead poinsettias, his drab uniform soiled with dirt. When he turned toward her, she ducked her head. Leave this place! The voices were louder now, more insistent. Mary scurried toward the gate and away from the whistling young man, wondering how she’d gotten there and how she was going to get home. She’d managed before, of course. Wiping away the last of her tears with the tail of her scarf, she glanced down and realized she’d smeared a fresh layer of dirt on her face.

The last thing Jake expected when he unlocked Calvary’s front door Sunday morning was to see her face, still grim and tormented even in the light of day. Mary—no matter how jumbled her mind was, he couldn’t bring himself to call her “Mad”—stood across the street, huddled outside Walgreens as though waiting for permission to go inside. She wore shoes this time, not boots. A fur-trimmed hat that’d seen better days. The same sorry wool coat.

The same look of utter desolation.

He called out, waving as he did. “Mary. Ma-ary!” No use. His words were swallowed by the stiff morning wind. If he wanted to get her attention, he’d have to cross the street.

After checking his watch, Jake pulled the door shut behind him and sprinted toward her, then waited patiently at the curb while a CTA bus lumbered past, belching exhaust fumes. When the bus was gone, so was Mary. Her spot on the sidewalk was vacant, as though she’d never been there. Had she slipped inside Walgreens? If he followed her there, would she feel hounded? Trapped, even?

Jake perched on the curb, hands shoved into his pockets. As much as he longed to make visitors feel welcome, flagging them down in drugstores might be overdoing it a tad. People came to church when they were ready.

“Taken to preaching on street corners, Pastor Stauros?”

He turned to find sour-faced Charles Farris, one of Calvary’s few senior members, standing on the front steps of the church, thumping his cane on the concrete in a staccato rhythm that marked his displeasure. “Ought to be inside the church, greeting those who want to hear you, eh, Pastor?”

Jake bit his tongue, suppressing the snappy comeback he longed to let fly. What purpose would it serve except to ease his ego? And blow your morning message to bits, Jake.

He walked toward the older man, hand outstretched. “Welcome, Charles. You’re looking well.”

“Harrumph.” The man turned abruptly and stalked inside.

Jake followed close behind him, smiling. Nothing felt better than doing the right thing, no matter what it cost him.

They entered through a small, windowless foyer that new light fixtures failed to brighten, then stepped into the main space—a former living room and dining area now converted into a sanctuary of sorts. The old house creaked and groaned beneath the feet of its latest tenants, its scarred wooden floors covered with serviceable brown carpeting, its white plaster walls freshly painted. They’d been there only a few months, but it was beginning to feel like home.

Jake checked his watch again, encouraged by the turnout. Fifteen minutes until the opening song, and already the folding chairs were filling up. He took his time moving down the aisle, making eye contact with his flock one by one, shaking hands when he could reach them, feeling his shoulders bend slightly under the weight of their myriad problems.

JoAnn, Calvary Fellowship’s bookkeeper—a volunteer, like Suzy—sat by herself near the back, the corners of her mouth turned down with disappointment. Another Sunday without her husband, Cash, by her side. The man was too busy trying to please his boss to bother pleasing God. Too busy making money to make time for his quiet, undemanding wife.

Though JoAnn insisted her pronounced limp was nothing more than arthritis, Jake suspected Cash and his volatile temper might have had something to do with it. A jolt of righteous anger skittered down Jake’s spine as he watched her shift in her seat, wincing at the effort. JoAnn was one of Calvary’s most faithful supporters. Time, money, talent—the woman was the definition of sacrificial service.

His mother, Mary, sat a few chairs down. A seat carefully chosen so she could keep an eye on JoAnn, he suspected. The woman really was a saint, always looking out for those who were hurting or needy. She winked at him now, her face shining with maternal pride. Streaks of silver shot through her auburn hair and fine wrinkles gathered around her eyes and mouth, but she was still young in spirit.

Mary Stauros had been his biggest supporter from day one. A widow not yet fifty, she’d followed him to the Near West Side, then on to Lincoln Park, leaving behind their hometown of Naperville to make herself useful around the small, urban churches Jake had planted. When she wasn’t busy filling communion cups or straightening chairs, she was sneaking into his apartment to take care of his laundry or to slip a casserole into his empty freezer.

Encouraged as always by her faithful presence, he smiled broadly and mouthed, Thanks, Mom. Jake had a feeling he’d be saying that until the day he died.

Moving forward, he noticed a young skinhead named Bruce slouched in a nearby chair, feigning indifference to his surroundings. Pierced and tattooed, with a defiant expression to match the angry images on his skin, Bruce was new at Calvary, a silent visitor who’d stumbled in the door a few Sundays back. Jake nodded at him, saying what he could with his eyes. No pressure, Bruce. We’re here for you.

He squeezed the broad shoulder of Carter Johnson, nodding at the man’s wife and two daughters beside him, then shook hands with Mike and Patty, a newlywed couple visiting the fellowship for their third week in a row. Bind them together, Lord.

As he neared the front, Jake focused his prayers in the direction of a wheelchair parked in the aisle. Gary’s twisted body was propped at an angle inside its metal confines, but his young face was joy itself. Jake couldn’t help but smile as he patted Gary’s back in passing. “Glad you’re here, buddy.”

Pete and Little John were working their way around the high-ceilinged room, handing out hymnals and general goodwill, as Jake took his seat behind the music stand that served as a pulpit. All he needed was a place to rest his white leather Bible. The morning message would come straight from his heart.

After a few hymns and contemporary praise choruses led by Marijane—not a trained choral director, just the most musical among them—Jake stepped forward and rested his hands on the black metal stand. “Our storytoday comes from the tenth chapter of Luke’s gospel,” he began, flipping open to the text, then training his eyes on the fifty or so souls sitting before him.

Teach us, Father.

“A man once asked Jesus, ‘Who is my neighbor?’” Jake let the familiar parable sink in as he shared a dozen verses that told of a man who fell into the hands of some thugs who robbed him, stripped him, beat him, then left him for dead. “According to the story, the pastor did nothing for the poor man, the head of the deacons did nothing, but a stranger took pity on him, bandaged the man’s wounds, took him to a hotel, and paid for his care out of his own pocket.”

Jake paused before posing the critical question that Jesus asked: “Of these three, which one do you think acted like a real neighbor to the poor guy who got mugged?”

Pete, never one to hold back, forgot himself for a moment and hollered out, “Well, duh! The Samaritan, who else?”

Jake chuckled along with everybody else. “You got it, Pete. Jesus called him ‘the one who had mercy.’ So what are we supposed to learn from this story, brothers and sisters?”

The room grew silent. Fidgeting and page turning ceased. Throats were cleared with muffled coughs. Finally Little John spoke, holding up his Bible as he read aloud, “‘Go and do likewise.’ Least, that’s what it says here.”

“Good. So how can we ‘go and do’ as a church?” Jake stepped away from the makeshift pulpit and moved down the center aisle, noting how many at Calvary Fellowship that morning carefully avoided his penetrating gaze. “Is there a neighbor here in Lincoln Park who needs our help? Someone who might—”

Jake looked up and stopped abruptly, the words stuck in his throat. Mary.

The madwoman emerged from the dim foyer into the quiet sanctuary, her gaze darting from one corner to the other before it settled on him. No one saw or heard her enter. Except Jake.

He swallowed any apprehension with a single gulp, then offered his warmest smile and stretched his hand toward her. “Folks, I’d like you to—”

As quickly as she’d appeared, Mary was gone. If the door hadn’t banged softly behind her, Jake might have decided she was a ghostly apparition. Had she been hiding in the foyer the entire service? Watching through the crack between the door and the jamb? Listening to his sermon?

Several church members turned around to follow his gaze while others merely waited, their attention fixed on their pastor, who was speechless for the first time in many a Sunday.

Jake brushed away his bewilderment with a wave of his hand. “As I was saying, I’d like you to think of somebody this week you might help. Someone who lives nearby, who shops where you do, who takes the same bus, who…”

He pressed on, encouraging them to put the words of Jesus into action, even as the still, small voice in his heart spoke so loudly Jake feared the others might hear.

Help Mary.

Stunned, Jake dropped to his seat as Marijane led the group in a closing hymn. How could he help Mary when he didn’t know her last name, didn’t know where she lived, and didn’t know what her problem was? Make that plural—problems.

Minutes later he stood at the front door of the church, shaking hands, sending his sheep out to ice-covered pastures. “Good sermon, Pastor.” Little John slapped his shoulder blade with a meaty hand. “Think I’ll help the older lady who lives upstairs. Buy her groceries or somethin’.” He studied Jake, listening with his eyes. “So, d’ya know who you’re gonna help this week?”

Jake’s words felt like a vow. “Yes, I do.” A dark-haired, gray-swathed woman tugged at his conscience. “If she crosses my path again, I’ll be ready.”

Mary had crossed the threshold of Calvary Fellowship without thinking, drawn there—no, pushed there—by a force stronger than any she’d ever known.

She’d trembled at the young man’s words, especially when he’d read from that…that book. The words frightened her. Disgusted her. Her stomach had threatened to retch them onto the foyer floor like so much tainted food. Restless, she’d swayed back and forth without making a sound, torn between listening and pressing her hands against her ears, between stepping inside the room where she could be seen and running where she could never be found.

One finger had absently picked at the angry red scars on her forearms. Deep inside her mind, dark thoughts had streaked across black, moonless skies and stumbled through fog-shrouded graveyards, where death lurked behind every tomb. Especially in that room, that room with the people and the man speaking those terrible words.

After many agonizing minutes, Mary had heard him ask a question about their neighborhood, about Lincoln Park. About helping someone. Help me!

It was a different voice, her voice, close to her heart. It had cried out so loudly she knew, she knew he’d heard it.

He was going to speak her name. She’d known that, too.

So she’d stepped into the room. And he’d stopped speaking. Then she’d stopped breathing when she saw mercy shining like sunlight on his face.

Run, run, run!

When the voices gave orders, she was powerless to ignore them. Mary ran, ran, ran all the way to her house, all the way to her third-floor bed, shaking off a blanket covered with cats to burrow beneath its polyester darkness.

“Luna!” she sobbed, rattling the bed with her shivering, the preacher’s kind expression already forgotten. When Luna was alive, life had made sense.

It made no sense now. If she wanted to be with Luna again, she would have to be brave and do exactly what Luna had done. It’d happened on a Wednesday—of that, Mary Margaret Delaney was utterly certain—at four in the afternoon on the windy, grassy expanse of Lincoln Park, one block north.

She would gather the necessary things and wait then. Wait for Wednesday.