I put on the "Sunday Frock" as my mother called it. I knew not which dress she was referring to when she said it. I assumed it was something coming from a figment of her imagination, or more accurately, a trick of the devil in her mind. I put on the white of the only two dresses that had made it into my closet. The zip was resistant, and I left the last centimeter or so of it unzipped out of frustration.
The Church we'd heard of was only a fifteen minutes' walk away, further into the suburbs. I expected to see C (this was how I referred to him, not knowing his precise name) and his family, for they had kindly introduced the place to us. I can't say I was grateful for the precise directions and hand-drawn map of the way there that his father gave us.
Church was becoming tedious and a more and more futile business. It seemed almost a selfish thing to do - to go to church. Leastways for my mother who went their to ask God to pay specific attention to her, for having taken Eileen away. It was a way of seeking unnecessary succor for oneself, ignoring others of even more distress, whilst disguising this greedy act with the untarnished name of God and the heavens.
I looked at myself in the full-size mirror which was attached to the inside of the closet, on the right door. It wasn't a clear view, what with the water drop marks and finger prints, but I looked... pretty. The white dress with light blue embroidery was just tight enough at the waist, and the stitching at the bottom finished it off with a nice clean cut. Had it not been for the stubborn zipper, it would have been perfect.
I got rid of the braids which I'd done in the middle of the night. The feel of my hair was like a natural sleeping pill for me. The constancy of one rope of hair over the other, and then through the next - that process over and over, was calming.
"Philippa! Let's have a look at you!" My mother called for me.
I quickly put my hair into a bun, piercing the bobby pins through my hair to keep it in place. I gave it a quick pat detecting no obvious bumps, and picked up the blue clutch sitting on the 'Pippa's Room' box.
The door shut behind me, and I did a small curtsy at my mother who beamed at me. She was always in a good mood on Sunday mornings before mass commenced, and after -- after, she would be melancholy again for not having heard His answer. That doleful state of mind prevailed throughout the rest of the week.
"Like raspberries, Philippa."
Raspberries, she thought, were the most beautiful fruit. I begged to differ, for the little hairs bothered me so, as did the circular droplets of red that made one up; they looked like giant pimples glued together in a raspberry shape instead.
"Now where are those keys?" She looked around in search for them. It amazed me how she could look around through all the clutters without moving her angle or position at all.
"Can we look for it later? I've got mine with me," I suggested and she nodded.
We exited the "antique" apartment, having turned off all the lights and locked the door. I was reserved about leaving the house without any occupants; it would not be the hardest of things to bust one of those debilitated locks.
It seemed we were either earlier or later than the Aberdeens, as we could not see them following nor ahead. Then again, they might've owned a car. It was a ten o'clock mass, and there seemed to be more cars on the road than what I'd seen of for the past couple days. I figured they were all heading for church; there was no mall, famous brunch nook, or such in the particular direction.
There was no pedestrian who walked hurriedly with a Starbucks take-out coffee in their hands, and constantly checking their cell phones. The relaxed manner, I presumed, was due to the isolation and certain emptiness of the neighborhood. Everything seemed to be in slow motion, and it made the fifteen minutes to walk to church feel like almost an hour.
It was a two-story building, of a relatively small size. It didn't have the stone walls, vines and heavy red doors as the one that stood proudly in Philly. Double tinted glass doors, cement walls and glass stairs; modern and... cold. I thought of the shawl that matched perfectly with my dress, and regretted not having brought it. But it made me realize how much less of a church it felt like. It wasn't hovering over me, pulling at me to come to confession, or atone my sins. It just let me be, and I appreciated it.
The first floor was for the infants and children, reading simplified and slightly more entertaining versions of the major Biblical events. I hardly remembered being one of them, as I saw them scuttling around through the window. Their "gathering" had not yet started.
Upstairs was the mass hall. People had already arrived, and the Reverend was there, socializing with his patrons. He noticed our entrance, and walked over after having ended his conversation politely.
"You must be Mrs. Ryce," he said ever so warmly.
"Ms. Ryce, but please call me Olivia," my mother replied.
"Of course. And you are Pippa, I presume? Or is that Philippa?" He looked at me sunnily, as though I were one of those infants downstairs.
"It's Philippa," a voice that was not mine had answered him. It's Pippa.
"Hello," I greeted, hoping bitterness did not seep into my voice.
"The same to you. Well, it's wonderful meeting you and I give my warmest welcome. If there's anything I can do for you, please let me know. But for now, I'm afraid I must prepare to commence. Very sorry, but we shall talk later?" He said courteously, as expected by standard.
"Most definitely. Please, don't let us keep you."
My mother liked to play pretend. She enjoyed conducting herself with the social mannerisms of which she was not brought up with; merely something she picked up from exposure. She knew not why the words came out the way they did, and the expression she wore as she said them. Her fake laughs carried more joviality than ten times her real one. A conformist might be one word to describe her.
It works to her advantage in society that she can learn quickly. I wonder why being a mother was so difficult for her to learn. Is. Or maybe she did, nor does not, wish to learn it at all.
People took their seats, my mother leading me to the third to the front row. We sat next to one another in close proximity, and she took my hand and placed it on her lap as she always did in church. Her hand was on mine, and despite the sweat that was sprinkling my left palm, it stayed there - on her purple dress.