TO SAY GRACE

Her little sister had giggled once; when she was five and the whole family was saying "Grace." The pun entertained her, and the fifteen year old Meg Manning had winced. The rest of the family continued to eat their dinner as if they had heard nothing, but when they finished Grace had been locked in the closet in her room (each sister had a cupboard in their room) for hours. Meg had wanted to stop it; but she had always known she wasn't that powerful, wasn't that good.


Meg once asked Lizzie for something – neither of them were entirely sure what. It was in regards to their parents; maybe it was help, or just comfort. Some sort of validation for her angst.

Lizzie wasn't been capable of that, however. "Yeah, they're nuts. Since when is that news?" she fluttered over-mascaraed eyelashes at her older sister, and Meg thought of who Lizzie was to their parents. They had tried again and again to break the girl's rebellious, wild habits; they called her a slut and devil-child, but Lizzie had simply called out "I'd rather go to hell than be anywhere near your heaven!" Lizzie had always been good at denying their God; she had managed not to care at all when their parents gave up, declared her beyond saving. Meg almost envied her little sister; or maybe just pitied her.

"It... I don't know," she whimpered pathetically. "It hurts," she couldn't remember have previously said that in her life, it had seemed too obvious. She wasn't sure what was motivating this talk now, but she guessed it didn't matter.

Something in Lizzie's face bristled, but she just shrugged it off. "Yeah, well, you let it, Big Sis. The day you stop playing the perfect daughter, stop caring what they think of you? You'll be letting go of a lot of pain."

Meg wondered how on Earth she was meant to do that, then.


She knew she'd never forgive the purity test; even if not a single person would see her rage (no-one ever saw her rage). Meg was always good at hiding her anger, her disgust – she had to be, to survive her family. She knew it wasn't as bad as it felt in her mind; that rumors were rumors and everyone, deep down, did know she would never do those things – but calling her a whore was more fun.

Yet things were different and she was different; they were different. They hadn't known that she was innocent at heart; what use did they have for those they could not judge? Her father had searched her room and found the letters from Andreas; God she was petrified then. She had done nothing wrong, but it was easier to judge her.

The closet was like it always was; dark and enclosed. They left the letters in there with her, a reminder of her "sin", even though it was far too dark to read. She brought her knees toward her chin and felt like she had been judged – judged, and found guilty.


She once asked a preacher for help. It had been confession; and she had given Him one last chance. She looked for absolution where she was meant to, but somehow, it went just like she expected. The priest had quoted a passage at her – holier than thou, how fitting – and it had meant nothing at all. She had confessed her vengeful, hurtful thoughts and the word of God still bounced right off that. She thanked the priest and left by her family's side; father clenching his jaw, terrified of what sin his oldest daughter might have to confess – he managed to follow the Good Book's instruction; to make her confession stay hers.

There was never any comfort in God for her. She thinks there might have been; in another world where she wasn't the daughter of Rose and Stewart Manning. God is Love and Love is Strength; but somehow none of it was ever for her; somehow they had washed all that off with the water they christened her with, leaving pain and fear.

In the evening, while her parents had gone to their church group, she had gone to Duncan's and sinned. She had asked him to love her; make love to her and he had. It was slow and tender and everything she always wanted to be, and while she lied beneath him she was thinking of a world where this was what was meant for her.


Lucky unsettled her beyond belief. He turned his head up to heaven with her parents; and that was more than enough reason to hate him in Meg's mind. However, it was made worse by the knowledge it was at heart a lie; it felt like a lie. Meg saw him by beer for guys like Dick and Logan, getting involved in their high school wars, yet somehow that felt like a lie too. There never seemed to be anything real in him except for some undefined pain; Meg never liked seeing things through a looking glass. Maybe that was why her parents wanted Lucky for her; maybe that was why she was so unnerved by him – their matching negative charges repelled one another, but somehow it meant nothing to those who saw them.

She had sobbed one night he had come to dinner. She had excused herself as politely as she could and cried quietly, another straw upon the camel's back. Lucky had found her, and looked, curious.

"I am the sword of righteousness," he began, and she was uncertain. Was that a bible passage, another one of His oppressive words? She couldn't be sure. "I smite down those who sin the worst; those that sin and claim it holy."

She shivered. "What's that? I don't remember that passage."

Lucky shook his head. "Not a passage. A message. I am God, Meg."

"Liar." She still hated him, after all.


The child seemed born of pain and fear and Him; wrapped in her flesh. She thought of the Madonna as she stared at the pale blue lines; would there be innocence left for her? Could she have been born free of original sin, to hold that last hope for heaven?

She remembered it was Mary who was the immaculate conception, not Jesus. Her parent had drilled that into her mind, but stating it to her peers had only gotten raised eyebrows and "Who cares?"

She waited. Life went on and the baby grew strong inside her; Strength is Love and Love is God, and again she was His pawn, their pawn. Her youngest sister grew further and further into the dark, and Meg finally chose to save them. An email and a letter set her plans in motion, and on a good day the love felt real.


The bus was just a vehicle; the bomb just a weapon; the crash just death. She heard a bang and tires skidding; yet it still wouldn't feel true. She and her classmates screamed at their fate; the ocean currents mixing with blood made her think of the Lord; how the Roman soldier had pierced his side, drawn blood and water.

Was that who she was? The savior, who died for everyone else's sins? If she was, then why was saving them so very, very ugly for her, why was she never thanked? Did she have the right, to ask for that?

The water thrashed around and when her head finally smashed against the cliff surface, she felt she had found some peace.


White ceilings burned her eyes upon her awakening, and she knew she was alone. Her stomach had swelled due to the pregnancy; how long was she unconscious?

Meg thought. She had never had a death wish, but there was nothing good or strong in waking up in a hospital bed alone. She asked questions; why had she been unlucky? Why had she not survived her parents? Why had she become a teen mother? Why, if she was free of original sin, had the price for that been the holy spirit? Why, why, why, why, why, she asked, but He had never been there to answer.

Her parents screamed and judged; Duncan and Veronica tried to help. None of it mattered, even when the thought of her child being hurt killed her. Then there was blood and water again; her chest throbbed and her vagina was worse. She was surrounded by doctors and nurses; drugs and tables. She looked sideways to see her father praying for her; the irony hurt so bad she sobbed. She pushed the baby out as hard as she could, somehow getting shit all over the doctors' hands. It was ugly and brutal and it hurt; was there not meant to be beauty in this? Why was there never any beauty in her story?

She turned her face to God and accepted the void she was shown; the screaming, wriggling baby crawled out of her. She forgot to care if it was a boy or girl. Meg's eyes shut fast and her chest stung; she died in a harsh white room on a bed stained with blood and shit. There was no grace at all in it, not for her.