Disclaimer: I do not own these characters.
Warning: Although this story will not explicitly describe the actual act of sexually abusing a child, it is strongly implied, and the subject and "grooming" behaviors of the pedophile in this story will be described in a manner that is highly discomforting for most. This could be a possible trigger for some people. This story is rated MATURE.
Author notes: The events of this story take place when Grace was a child; throughout the series, but particularly in the last episode of season one, Grace often refers to her sexual abuse as a child by Father Murphy. These are the events of her abuse, as seen through the child Grace's eyes. None of the events of the abuse itself in this story are of my own imagination; the adult Grace described them in the series, but the way they come about may be different in my story.
Grace Hanadarko squirmed in her seat as Sister Margaret droned on, making limp gestures with her hands to illustrate her lesson as she stood before her fourth grade catechism class, eyeing them dully through thick-rimmed glasses. It was almost one, time for the lesson to end for the day, and Grace squirmed impatiently, more than ready for the time to come. The under netting of her dress was itching her legs even through her tights, and she tugged at it subtly, making a face. Why did her mother insist they get dressed up for every catechism class when they weren't even held on Sundays, and were twice a week besides?
She glanced over at her best friend, Rhetta, and crossed her eyes, letting her mouth hang open and her tongue protrude. Rhetta giggled, trying to hide the noise between her hands, and Grace grinned, letting her mouth open wider, her tongue stick our further.
Just then she heard the noises of the other children around them, preparing to take up their belongings to leave, and Grace straightened up quickly, snatching up her Bible, pencil, and other possessions as she almost leapt to her feet. She could hear rain on the roof above her, pounding down with a steady drumming staccato, but even the prospect of walking home from the church in this downpour with five of her six siblings sloshing along with her, dumping water down her back and kicking mud onto her dress and tights, wasn't enough to deter her enthusiasm. She was more than ready to leave.
"See you later, alligator!" she called to Rhetta over her shoulder before taking off down the hallway, heading for the front door. Seeing her sister Mary Frances, Grace ran to catch up to her, but a voice calling her name from behind stopped her in her tracks so that both girls turned, looking to see who was calling.
Father Patrick Murphy was walking towards them, a warm smile on his face as he approached. He was their new priest, the one who took confessions and gave communion and taught the sermons on Sundays, and who taught John, Jimmy, Joe, and Leo, Grace's older brothers, how to serve as altar boys. He was even holier than Sister Margaret and the other nuns, and he was very nice too. He had often come to eat dinner at the Hanadarko house since he had joined the parish, and Grace always tried to sit next to him if she could, though she usually felt shy in his presence. She thought that Father Murphy was handsome enough to be in the movies, and he usually had something to say about what a pretty girl she was too. Of course, he said the same thing to Grace's sisters, Mary Frances and Paige, but still, he did say it. Grace liked him a lot, and she smiled back at him as he came closer.
"Yes, Father Murphy?" she asked, and he glanced over at Mary Frances before turning his smiling attention back to Grace.
"Grace, I can use your assistance with a matter this afternoon. Mary Frances, can you tell your brothers and your mother that Grace will be staying after with me, and I'll drive her home?"
As Mary Frances replied in the affirmative, Grace could feel her smile spreading, even as she bit her cheeks on the inside, trying to contain herself. Father Murphy wanted HER to help him…Father Murphy chose HER. He must like her best, better than her sisters, better than her brothers, better than Rhetta and any of the other kids, even the older ones who were smarter and stronger and knew more about the Bible than she did. He really must like her a LOT.
"Well, come along, Grace, why don't you follow me to my office," Father Murphy said, holding out his hand to her with a continued warmth in his smile, and Grace took it with pleasure but also shyness in the gesture.
His hand was warm and large, the palm softer than her father's, and she wandered with secret glee if Mary Frances was jealous. She had every intention to brag about this to her later, and Rhetta and Paige too, maybe even to her brothers. They would all be jealous, probably, that Father Murphy picked her, that he liked her best.
In his office Father Murphy motioned for her to sit in a chair near his desk, and when Grace obeyed, he stood, heading toward the door.
"I'll be right back, Grace, make yourself comfortable."
"Okay," she said, crossing her legs again and trying to sit up very straight, to ignore her itchy dress and to look very grown-up and well-behaved, like the sort of girl he would be happy to pick to help him. As Father Murphy exited Grace sat still, wondering what it was he needed her help with anyway. A secret surprise for someone? Some kind of work in his office, or in class? Did he want her to join the children's choir or to be in a play?
As she thought she snuck glances around his office, taking in the rather ordinary bookshelves, papers, lamp, desk, and the crucifix and painting of a solemn Jesus on his walls. Her eyes repeatedly returned to the narrow door of the closet near his desk. Maybe the surprise was in there. Maybe it was for her.
It seemed to take forever for Father Murphy to return, and Grace was unable to hold her perfect pose for long. She squirmed and shifted and adjusted her skirt, pushed strands of blonde hair back from her face, and sighed. She could no longer hear children's voices or the sounds of footsteps running past and supposed they had all gone home. Were all the nuns gone too? Father Murphy hadn't gone, had he? Had he forgotten her?
She listened to the rain on the roof, trying not to worry, and finally the office door opened.
"I'm sorry to keep you waiting so long, Grace," Father Murphy said apologetically as he entered the room, shutting the door behind him. "I have been looking all over for some important papers of mine that I'll need later, and I just now realized I left them in my car."
He laughed lightly, shook his head, and went to sit at his desk, exhaling. "I guess I'll just get them later. It's raining so hard now, and I've kept you waiting long enough…"
"I'll get them for you," Grace said quickly, anxious to be helpful, to not give him any cause to decide to simply take her home, or to be too distracted by his wishing for his papers to tell her what he wanted her to help with. "I don't mind getting wet. I'll do it, Father Murphy."
"Would you? That would be very kind of you, Grace, but you don't have to-"
"No, I don't mind, I'll do it," Grace insisted, standing hurriedly. "Where are your keys, Father Murphy? Where are the papers inside your car?"
"I believe they're in the glovebox…and I have the keys right here," he replied, fishing them out of his pocket and handing them to her with a bright smile, his eyes twinkling with a pleasure and approval that made Grace flush, warm and happy inside at his appreciation. "Thank you very much, Grace."
Grace almost ran outside, eager to retrieve the papers and return to Father Murphy, to once more have his attention and approval focused upon her, to be told of the special project or help he needed her for. He had never before been alone with her, or even spoken to her without her parents or siblings there too, and as little as their actual contact had been so far, she was very much enjoying it. With six brothers and sisters, it was very rare that she received special attention or acknowledgement from any adult, and in her opinion, it was time someone realized she was a good girl to give it to.
The downpour outside was torrential, and by the time Grace had reached the car and struggled to open it, she was completely drenched, soaked through even to her underwear. She stuffed the papers into a plastic bag on the floorboard in an attempt to protect them from the rain and ran as fast as she could back towards the church, almost falling as she burst into the hallway through the side door, her Mary Janes slicking on the wet tile surface. Her dress dripped steadily as she walked towards Father Murphy's office, leaving pools of water in her wake, and as she clutched the bag- protected papers in one hand, Grace's hair tangled, sodden and heavy, down her back and into her eyes.
In Father Murphy's doorway to his office, she paused, suddenly self-conscious to burst into his nice, clean, dry office so messily, getting mud and water everywhere. She would ruin his chair sitting in it, and her hair must look awful. What should she do?
Nervously Grace combed her fingers through her snarled hair, trying to tame it, and to wring out her skirt; she was still trying in vain to fix herself when Father Murphy opened the door, looking down at her with concern creasing his brow.
"Why, Grace, you're shivering. You'll catch pneumonia in those wet clothes. Here, quickly, take them off and give them to me, I'll put them somewhere to dry and get you a blanket," he said quickly, and he opened up his closet door, emerging with a blue wool spread in his arms. Grace looked towards the closet curiously, seeing that a large mirror was bolted to the inside of the door, but other than that there seemed to be only black robes like he wore most of the time when she saw him.
When Father Murphy began to dry her hair with the blanket, Grace stood very still, enjoying his gentle touch and the care he took to not hurt her or further entangle it. He knelt behind her, standing very close, and she half closed her eyes, shivering when his breath warmed the back of her neck.
"You need to get out of those wet clothes, Grace," he repeated, taking the blankets from her hair, to Grace's disappointment, and slowly standing, though still remaining very close to her. "We wouldn't want you to get sick, would we?"
He sounded concerned, casual, but Grace could feel his eyes carefully on her even while not facing him, and she hesitated. She understood that he didn't want her to get sick…but to take off her clothes in front of him? In front of Father Murphy? She didn't even take off her clothes in front of her dad or brothers. Men weren't supposed to see her without her clothes on.
But Father Murphy wasn't a normal man. He was a priest, a holy man, so it must be okay. Besides, Grace couldn't say no to a priest. What would God think of that?
Still, she was embarrassed as she slowly took off her shoes and began to slide off her torn tights, as much because Father Murphy was someone she liked and admired as because he was a man. She didn't know what he'd think about her skinny legs and scraped knees, her mosquito-bitten ankles and how she, unlike Mary Frances, didn't even have the beginnings of breasts yet. He'd probably think she was ugly, even if he didn't say so.
She hesitated when she had removed her dress and stood shivering, self-conscious, in her panties, as Father Murphy carefully folded her soaked clothes into the bag that had held his papers, but heedless of her blushing and averted eyes, he urged her to remove those as well.
"Underthings too, Grace, they all need to dry. I'll give you other clothes to wear home if those aren't dry in time."
With slightly shaking hands Grace slipped them off and handed them to him, cheeks stained bright red, heart pounding. She quickly crossed her arms over her chest, holding her legs pressed tightly together, and did not meet Father Murphy's eyes, trying to make herself smaller and less visible before him. She hoped her clothes would dry soon. Did they have a clothes dryer at church?
But Father Murphy simply took her clothes and folded them with great precision and care, even her underwear, and placed them in the bag that she had put his papers in. Setting the papers on his desk and thanking her with a smile, his brow creased and his smile disappeared when Grace did not meet his eyes.
"Why Grace, are you embarrassed?"
When Grace's blush deepened and she could form no answers, mortified to have his attention directed at not only her unclad body but also her humiliation at his seeing it, Father Murphy took a step closer, continuing to frown.
"Well this is just not right to feel that way, Grace. There is no reason for it…no reason at all. No one should be ashamed about the body God gave them, or embarrassed either. The body is a gift, an amazing gift that you should take pride in," he said quietly.
Grace licked her lips unconsciously, her eyes darting to meet his. She meant to speak, but when she opened her mouth, no words would come.
Watching her, Father Murphy smiled gently, then reached out to lightly take her hand into his. "Come here, Grace. Let me show you."
As Grace slid her hand into his, letting him lead her with continued bashfulness, he opened his closet door, displaying again the mirror on its inside door. Gently maneuvering her to stand before it, he lifted her chin with one finger, making her look at herself. His other hand rested lightly on her shoulder, its fingers caressing its skin. Grace shivered; his touch felt good, if strange, and she looked at herself in the mirror, even as the knots in her stomach bunched tighter, her heart not slowing in its beats.
"Look at yourself, Grace," he said softly, as one hand stroked over her shoulder, down her back, and up her side. "You are beautiful. Your body is a gift, a gift from God to you…and to others. You are a gift to me, did you know that?"
A gift? Grace stared at herself, trying to understand, trying to see. She didn't look any different than usual…no prettier, no smarter, no more special. What sort of gift…was she really that special, did Father Murphy really think she was that special?
"You are special," he murmured, echoing her thoughts, and he was breathing faster now, standing closer. "This is why I want you to start seeing me, Grace. To learn about your specialness, about your gifts that God has given you."
He kissed her cheek, his beard scratchy against Grace's smooth skin…and then, he kissed her lips. It was quick, a firm peck more than anything, but Grace's mind swam with confusion all the same. She liked the thought of being special and beautiful, of being someone's gift, Father Murphy's gift. But even so, even though her embarrassment was fading, she wasn't sure she liked being naked, she wasn't sure she liked being kissed.
Plus, she was cold.
She said so as Father Murphy's face moved close to hers again, as though he were prepared to kiss her for a second time. His face stiffened, a strange startled look coming into his eyes for a moment that made Grace guilty, worried that he might be angry, that he might think her rude. But instead he dried her off with the same blanket he had used to dry her hair, retrieving some clothes from another room about her size for her to wear home.
The entire time she was redressing herself, Grace was aware not only of the eyes of Father Murphy on her, but also those of Jesus, from the pictures hanging on the wall. Though they were just paintings, he seemed to be frowning down at her, judging her in a way she could not understand.
(to be continued)