(first part)Mature

This was originally one short story without story breaks, but for the sake of the reader, I've broken it up into bite-sized chunks. Keep in mind, if you will, that this is meant to be one whole story, and that there is no break in time between "chapters."

“I wonder if Jesus really was skeletal.”

She said it so dead-pan, so emotionally detachedly, that I half-wondered if she was joking. I watched her slender fingers claw desperately at her sweater, hands poised above her breast, as though she were trying to reach something inside herself. Chipped black nail polish coated parts of her fingernails, and her knuckles were scraped raw and pink, almost to the point of bleeding. Her delicate shoulders were hunched inward, as though protecting the world from the darkness she contained. Her hands stopped moving, stopped clawing, only rested above her breast now. I didn’t know whether to reach for those hands, or if I should even try to acknowledge her pain.

Instead, I allowed my eyes to drift over to the bronze Jesus hanging on the wall, above the altar. I saw what Ava was talking about; his ribs protruded, almost grotesquely, from his chest, causing him to look severely anorexic. Something about those ribs punctuated his pain, but even though there were little bronze nails piercing his wrists and feet, and even though a crooked halo of roseless thorns surrounding his head, the look on his face was serene. His eyes were lifted to heaven, and his mouth was not gasping in agony, but rather, almost smiling in its tranquility.

“I don’t know,” I finally responded to Ava’s musing.

Neither of us spoke for several tensely heartbeated moments, but sometime during the silence, Ava’s hands slid down from her chest into her lap, where she clasped them firmly. Her head followed, tilted downward as she studied her hands with exaggerated interest. Her rich red locks tumbled over her shoulders and obscured my vision of her face.

The End

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