Posted on: January 7, 2013

Mallory stands with her arms folded over her chest, gazing out the window into the rain. Streaks of water blur the panes so that the lawn is just a rich green pond. She pulls both her lips between her teeth, biting them gently as her brow furrows and the fingers of her right hand stroke her chin. She is alone in the kitchen, her left hand resting on the back of a chair at the dining table. The only light shines from the copper oven hood, interrupting the blue-gray hue falling into the room through the windows. Raindrops on glass cast speckled shadows across the hardwood floors, her cable knit cardigan, and the table. Her breath is inaudible as well as infrequent, shallow and soft. When she releases her lips, they are swollen just slightly and she closes her eyes.

She has not been to church in two months. The questions posted on her wall prompted her to deactivate her Facebook account because she did not want to answer and did not know what to say. Mallory found it bitterly amusing that the only people asking questions were church members to whom she only smiled and said hello. The ones whose attention she actually wanted were silent, distant; this formed a disgusting film across her tongue. They were the ones to whom she poured out her soul, revealed her darkest secrets, and shared her doubting questions. Unfortunately, the devout turned out to be quite shallow, wishing only to receive the positive aspects of Jesus-following and wanting nothing to do with the deep challenges of discipleship.

The closer Mallory drew herself toward Christ, the more displaced she felt in the company of other people. Spiritual devotion was the root of her depression and made her feel utterly alone. Every morning she began with meditation and prayer, followed by a close reading of one of the gospels to analyze the attitude and actions of her savior. How did he treat the poor? Whom did he chastise most? What was the “good news” really? Whenever Mallory had the opportunity to interact with those affiliated with the Christian faith, she immediately blossomed and shared her most recent theological ponderings only to realize within moments how disinterested these Christians were. Why did she seem so strange to the only community in which she could possibly belong?
Mallory lies on the couch in the living room, her right hand resting across her face. Duchess, a shepherd mix, curls up across her master’s feet with her chin resting on the edge of the couch cushion and her face writ with what could be concern. Mallory begins to feel pathetic as the rain stops and sunlight filters into the room. “All right,” she says with a sigh and hops up, Duchess popping her head up and tilting her head to the side, wondering what’s to happen next. Mallory smiles, bends down to kiss Duchess atop her head, and makes her way for the front door.

After harness, leash, and rain boots are in place, Mallory and Duchess walk out onto the front porch. Everything is wet and shines with sun, prompting Mallory to take a deep breath as Duchess leads them down the steps and toward the sidewalk. It is a serene neighborhood with live oaks that create canopies over the streets, names engraved on mailboxes, and toys scattered across front yards. Mom did always say that depression is a luxury. Mallory recognizes how silly her grief must seem in light of the good that she does possess.

Duchess, fond of monkey grass, dips her head to let the strands caress her face as they walk by. Mallory pulls out her phone to check her horoscope. “Libra. Cosmic storms bring distress to the periphery of your life. But it soon will pass despite the heartache you’re currently experiencing.” Dead on, as usual. Mallory looks up and tightens her grip on the leash as Duchess tries to leap forward toward a cat sitting in a driveway, swishing its tail back and forth with annoyance. Mallory leads them on and Duchess groans, wanting to play with or murder the feline. Not clear which.

Mallory opens the mailbox and retrieves a few damp letters from within. A bill, a coupon for Bed, Bath and Beyond, and then some handwritten correspondences that upset her at first glance. Once inside, she removes the leash and Duchess trots away, leaving Mallory to stare at the first letter with apprehension. She tears it open, pulls out a card depicting an illustration of a blue bird sitting on a branch. Inside it reads:

Dear Mallory,

You are missed dearly at church. We hope that you are well and will return soon. Let us know if you require assistance or prayer.

Kind Regards,
Stacey Merit
Outreach Coordinator

Mallory blows through her nose and smirks with a slight shake of her head. Well good, my absence gave Stacey something to do. She drops the one, retrieves another. This time the card depicts an illustration of a floral arrangement reminiscent of Thomas Kinkade and unfortunately reminds Mallory of her father. THINKING OF YOU is typed inside followed by signatures of women in the church book club Mallory attended a couple of times. She can’t sneer at them, fond of those ladies that are mostly twenty years her senior.

The last letter turns out to be a tithe statement, indicating the amount of money she gave to the church over the past year. She folds it up and slides it into one of the pockets of her cardigan, stepping out of her boots and making her way to the master bedroom beyond the kitchen. Duchess gnaws happily on a bone at the foot of the bed, grinding her teeth against its nearly tattered surface. Mallory walks into the bathroom and recalls her errand prior to the rain, to arrange the line of irises lying across the vanity. Their yellow tongues make her laugh and her heart hurt.

Photograph by: Whitney Ott
Written by: Natasha Akery

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