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Christ! Why is she so cold, Claire thought. And why do I still allow her to hurt me? “Well it’s time I damn well just deal with it,” she said out loud to no one. She paced the floor impatiently while the priest and Emily talked behind the glass. She imagined the litany of petty sins being offered up for forgiveness. Don’t forget to mention how cruelly you’ve treated your daughter, Claire smirked. She saw a movement from the corner of her eye. Father Birney was motioning for Claire to come in.
“I’ve heard her confession but as she was trying to tell me something else, she drifted off. Please stay with her in case she comes back. I need to get some coffee. Would you like some?”
“No, thanks,” Claire muttered walking towards the dark window.
Her mother’s eyes suddenly blinked open again. “Father, Father — there is something more I need to confess. Don’t go!”
Claire stood in the shadows by the window, unseen.
“I lied a long time ago, about Claire’s father.” Emily was clearly agitated. “I lied to them both. He wasn’t dead like I told Claire and everyone else, but I wished he was when I found out I was pregnant. I even considered an abortion, God help me. I wanted to do it but I couldn’t. Will our Lord ever forgive me for having an illegitimate child? I told him I had a miscarriage. So many lies...” She groaned in pain or release, the priest couldn’t tell. Her eyes slowly closed and didn’t open again.
The priest looked sadly at Claire. He made the sign of the cross over the prostrate form and thought that the Lord would indeed forgive her but her daughter might not. Claire stood there like a statue with her mouth gaping.
After the funeral and the sale of Emily’s house, Claire found herself at loose ends. She had taken a leave of absence from the studio where she worked as a freelance photographer. But she went back to the studio to visit Nadia, a graphic designer Claire had collaborated with on a number of jobs and they had become best friends.
“How are you coping sweetie?” Nadia wrapped Claire in a huge bear hug. “It’s so good to see you. Let’s go grab a coffee. You look too thin. You need a chocolate croissant. Come!”
“And the worst thing,” said Claire, once they were in the coffee shop, “the worst thing is that she wanted to kill me. Can you imagine, Nadia? You would now be having this conversation with — with no one because I would be aborted. And then she says the stuff about my father being alive and quietly drifts off and...gone. I’m still reeling. You know, I could never tell anyone else about all this. When I think of how she lied to me, I get so freaking angry, I could explode. Why didn’t she tell me the truth about my father? Who is he? Where is he? Before I put her house on the market, I went through everything. Every piece of paper, every file and I found nothing about him, not one damned thing.”