Hank watched in a panic as Maryanne wept soundlessly while the pastor preached about the little children that went to Jesus. Silently he cursed the pastor for his choice of sermons and then feared that he might have given some evidence of his odious thoughts when the pastor called him over after the last hymn was respectfully sung.
“Hello Hank,” the pastor greeted with concern discernible in his watery grey eyes.
“Pastor Linley” Hank replied, feeling slightly uncomfortable under the holy man’s scrutiny.
“I just wanted to enquire how Maryanne is faring. I saw her crying earlier and I realised how hard it must be on her.” The pastor laid a sympathetic hand on Hank’s shoulder. “I pray for you and your wife every night.” He murmured, making it sound like he was bestowing an unusual benevolence on them. “They say it is even harder on the mother when she loses the baby so close to term.”
“Thank you, pastor,” Hank murmured, feeling contrite about his unkind thoughts of earlier. He made to turn away, ready to join Maryanne where she was praying fervently for God only knew what.
“I did think it might be good for her to join some of the women’s groups.” The pastor interjected. Hank stopped and looked at the pastor, frowning.
“What I mean is, it might be good if she joined some of the activity groups or prayer circles, to help keep her occupied and take her mind off the loss.” He smiled at Hank again, a flash of something in his eyes. “There are some leaflets on the bulletin board.” He finished and walked away to speak to another of his flock.
Hank stared after the old pastor, trying to pinpoint what it was he’d seen in the old man’s eyes. It disturbed him, yet what it was that caused him the unease evaded his groping mind.
After a moment or two he shrugged the ominous feeling off and walked towards Maryanne who was still kneeling in the pew, her lips moving fervently as she swayed gently to and fro. As he passed one of the bulletin boards, a red leaflet caught his eye. It stood out like a sore thumb between the bland white slips flapping in the light breeze from the open church door. The words ‘pain’ and ‘healing’ jumped out at him and without reading it further he pulled it loose and stuffed it in his pocket.
The first week Hank bribed Maryanne into going to the group. She did not seem at all in the mood for an outing, yet he felt a glimmer of hope when he finally coerced her into attending the support group, even more so when she actually dressed in something other than a baggy tee-shirt and loose sweat pants.
She returned from Astrid Roth’s group looking alive for the first time since the miscarriage.
“She spoke so much sense. She made me see that I’ve been going about this all wrong.” She explained that night in bed, before reaching out for Hank and pulling him close.
The second week it was quite easy to get Maryanne ready to go. She returned again smiling, looking like one who had just had a revelation.
That night in bed she even wanted sex. Astrid had apparently said that being intimate was good for the healing process, and that by denying one’s husband one only brought the wrath of God onto one’s home. “And we do not want that, now do we?” she’d asked nonchalantly, but Hank could have sworn her words were laced with derision.
Another two meetings went by and as the fifth came and went Hank was very much aware that Maryanne was a completely new person. She had cut her hair, and bought a new dress, she wore makeup, which she had never done, even before the miscarriage. To all appearances she did not seem to even recall her depression. Hank thought that she was doing so well that she did not need the group any longer, but when he suggested this to Maryanne she protested vehemently.
“Astrid has so much to teach us! She has really opened my eyes to so many fallacies we grew up believing,” she leaned forward, as if about to impart a national secret to him “Did you know that the reason why God did not kill Adam and Eve after they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was because Eve was better favoured by God than Adam?