Roland didn't stop being a Christian when he fell out of that tree. Nor did he stop believing when he woke up in the hospital and they told him he'd never walk again. That would have been too easy, clichéd, an angry child's response to an uncaring world. No, it was more gradual, more complicated than that. And it wasn't just God he stopped believing in, it was everything.
It began when his parents no longer looked him in the eyes, and used his full name instead of endearments. It was the fact that their smiles were no longer warm and genuinely affectionate, but strained and overly cheerful, like too sweet candy that makes your teeth ache. It was because they sent his beloved little sister to fat camp, and she never came back, replaced by a beautiful, self-righteous bitch who no longer saw him as a person, as her brother, but as a tool to prove her godliness, her superiority, in the face of 'adversity'.
It was the way people no longer talked to him, but at him, or over him. It was when he realized that he wasn't a boy anymore, but the elephant in the room – the awkward, moving, talking, guilt-inducing social stigma, that no one knew quite what to do with.
So he stopped being a Christian, stopped everything. Stopped believing, stopped trying, stopped living. He drifted through every day in a state of apathetic amusement, an observer not an actor, never involving himself in anything beyond the occasional sarcastic commentary.
And then he began to watch Cassandra, to talk to Cassandra, and it was kind of like learning to walk again. Because Cassandra, who might have just been more cynical than he was, lived with a vindictive, gleeful vengeance, and it was kind of amazing. She was kind of amazing, and because of her, he started to live again.
He remembered how to laugh, genuine laughter, not just mocking amusement. He had fun, actual fun, the kind involving people, and places he chose to go to, not places his sister dragged him. He got to see Mary become more than she was, saw others grow more or less mature as a result, and in the process gained an actual friend.
And, most importantly of all, he finally did what he'd always known he could do but never actually tried, and proved that he could live independently. Proved that he didn't need Hilary Faye, or anyone else, to push him through the rest of his life, proved that he was more than capable of pushing himself anywhere he wanted to go, and with anyone he wanted, by his side.
He believed again. Not in religion, or God, or whatever, it was simpler than that, more vital than that. He believed in humanity, its selfishness and selflessness, he believed in Cassandra, and he believed in himself.
He thought all that might be worth not walking, and he thought that Hilary Faye might have been partially right all those years ago. Maybe falling out of that tree had been a miracle of sorts.