Lily fled hearing only her own footsteps. “I will be maligned,” she thought. Her pulse thrashed within her eardrums in ridicule. “They will mock me.” She hoped to evade Donald or any other deacons in Beulah’s foyer who might still be welcoming congregants. She thrust one of Beulah’s front doors open. The morning sun blinded her for several steps as she pressed towards her small car. When she entered, she realized she had left her iPhone on the chair inside.
Moments later her apartment came in view. She opened her door, dropped her purse and keys on the kitchen table, and collapsed onto her Queen Anne chair. Alice’s book about hearing from God lay upon the kitchen tabletop. Powerless, she bent forward over her knees and wept into her hands. Several minutes passed. She went to her bathroom and cleared her nose. She stared at her swollen eyes in her mirror. She crossed her apartment again and lay upon her bed and stared at the books upon her nightstand. She longed to be on the moors with Catherine and Heathcliff rather than in Glim with Beth Aims and Desiree Dramal. If Michael saw me now, he would say I look like Miss Havisham, she thought. She was surrounded by literary ghosts, she believed, visible only to her.
“Ms. Rood? May I come in?” Nathanael spoke firmly but calmly from outside her front door.
Lily shook and leapt from her bed and dashed towards her mirror.
“Yes. You forgot your phone. May I come in?”
“How did you know where I lived?”
“Ms. Rood. I’m the headmaster. May I come in, please?”
When Lily opened her apartment door, Nathanael looked at her with complete solicitude. “Thank you. Your phone.”
“Thank you. Come in. I…am sorry, Nathanael. I don’t know—“
Nathanael took a couple of steps into the small foyer where he could see into Lily’s kitchen and into the living room. Books lined the walls. Surrounded by thousands of pages of words, yet she could not speak.
“It is alright. I am not here to pry. You have your reasons. Now you have your phone. I will return to Beulah.”
He turned to Lily’s front door. “I’m glad you’re at Covenant. We are better because of your presence. I remember my English teacher when I was your students’ age. Mr. Winthrop used to read Faulkner’s acceptance speech. He’d read those words about how ‘ . . . the basest of all things is to be afraid . . .'” and Nathanael ceased and turned to leave. Lily had read the same words to her students. Alice’s book lay upon her kitchen table like an oracle. Bronte, Woolf, and the Bard lay upon her nightstand, and Nathanael had come and was now departing, smiling solicitously at her. Already she bore the gravity of his absence.