“. . . And so in those Times of Trouble, we learned that–”
“Momma, what does the Reverend mean by Times of Trouble?”
“Shush, Cynthia. I’ll explain later.”
Alice brushes her daughter’s hair back over her head to let her know she’s not angry as the Reverend’s sonorous voice echoes through the church. She tries her best to not let the frustration and dread in her mind make its way to her voice when she speaks to Cynthia but she knows some of it must come through. She always knew a time would come when she would have to explain certain things and in her heart she knows the luck that made it wait for this day.
“. . . And so is written in the fifteenth Verse of the second Chapter of the Book of William in the Third Testament,
They that had caused the upheaval have been punished, but those that might cause it again must be punished again so that the innocent may not suffer. This is the way and the light for us at the end of that dark tunnel and it shall serve as reminder to all that the world is no long the wondrous place that the Lord had given us, but instead is a test before salvation, and by our own hand.
So that we remember, and we save those young from Salvation, we must then prevent them from finding the evil within their hearts and bringing it down to live in ours.”
“Stop it, Cynthia. Quiet!”
Her voice slices from the side her lips in a violent whisper as her hand slips over the five year old’s mouth. When she speaks this time she hopes that the girl can forgive her later but now is not the time, not on her first Day of Reminding.
“. . . That we may be gracious in this day and bear the suffering it brings knowing that it is a price we have brought upon ourselves. A price which we pay in our hearts every day and with our bodies only rarely. . .”
Cynthia begins to shake a little under her hands as the Reverend goes on and Alice can nearly recite every word by rote, she’s heard this sermon so many times over the years. Thinking back her first Day of Reminding she remembers the terror and feels it again now as she sees that the Reverend’s eyes are locked on Cynthia. Benign eyes, but determined none the less, they are same ones that were locked on her twenty years ago.
“. . . On this day the child Cynthia McCormick has been brought for her first Day of Reminding before you all. Alice McCormick, if you might bring the child forward.”
The pews of the church are full of expecting eyes, all trained on her and Cynthia as she pulls her up and wills her to be silent, her hand slipping from her mouth. What seems a million women’s faces looking towards them, some maliciously, some sympathetic, some excited. They all stare though and those that she knows well try to make eye contact with her, try to show their camaraderie, their sympathy, but it makes the walk no less difficult.
And then, seemingly in an instant she is at the pulpit with Cynthia and the Reverend is talking again, and the knife is out. Alice remembers this day and she can feel herself shaking and the tears running down her neck. She knows that Cynthia will be fine after the screaming and it will heal but she knows too what this can do to her, to a child. She knows as well that tonight she will be expected to explain those questions Cynthia asked earlier, with the Reverend looking on. She knows that Cynthia’s childhood is over.
“Beautiful child, she is.” The Reverend’s voice is soft and caring, not strong with authority like a moment before as she whispers now to Alice, above the head of her daughter. “This will be over shortly and she will be none the worse. You have been lucky.” The Reverend smiles then, and the words he speaks tear Alice apart more than the day’s events. They remind her the real reason she’s been so scared for this day, or for another like it.
“Let us only pray that the child you carry now is a daughter as well.”