John put the last handful of red roses into the last vase. He set the vase in front of the St. Joseph statue on the right side of the altar and sighed with tired relief.
And we are done.
Father Landover came over to him and patted his back. “Good job.” he said in a softened voice.
“I did have you and Carolyn—I mean, Clarice—helping.” John glanced around the church. “Where is Clarice?”
“She was tired. I sent her into the rectory to get some sleep.”
“Oh.” John muffled a yawn.
Father Landover smiled. “Looks like you need to get some sleep too.”
“Wha? No, I’m. I’m.”
The priest patted his back again. “Come on. I’ll find you a place to catch some zzz’s.”
They left the sanctuary.
John stopped and looked back at the altar. He smiled at the massive mess of red roses flooding the sanctuary and posted in front of each statue.
We did a very good job.
They entered the rectory.
Father Landover waited in the doorway to the living room as John checked on Clarice.
She was all curled up on the couch. A plaid flannel blanket covered her from neck to feet.
John crouched beside Clarice and watched her in silence.
Her hands were tucked under the side of her face and her expression was calm.
There’s so much I want to say, but I don’t even know where to start.
“Thank you, Clarice.”
Thank you for your advice. Thank you for your help. Thank you for being here. Thank you for wanting to be here with me. Thank you for seeing me that very first day, for noticing me. Thank you for taking a chance on me. Thank you for thinking I’m worth it.
He kissed the side of her forehead and returned to Father Landover. “Okay. Lead on.”
Much to John’s surprise, Father Landover opened the door to his bedroom. “You can sleep in here.”
“What? What about you?”
“Oh, I have to check my voice messages, answer any urgent calls, read my breviary, and say my morning prayers. More or less in that order.” He smiled kindly. “Don’t worry. I’ll be fine.”
“Are you sure?”
John wanted to object further, but a long yawn escaped him.
“Come on.” Father Landover led him into the tidy, sparse bedroom.
John didn’t resist. He sat down on the bed and pulled his shoes off.
If I were at home, I wouldn’t bother about removing my shoes, but that seems disrespectful to do here.
He set his them near the bed and pulled back the blanket. He laid down, covered up, and closed his eyes.
It was on the tip of his tongue to thank the priest for his kindness, but John fell asleep before he could say a word.