by Katelynn Jasper

Abigail looks at the bandaged spot on her hand clasped in prayer with the other. For a brief moment, it had looked like that of the unsullied cloth wrapped around the waist of the church’s Crucifixion of Jesus. Now it is a deep red, stiff with dried blood.
      She is grateful for the silence of the church. Perhaps God will actually hear her prayers without the interruption of her children’s screams or the resounding knocks of the landlord on her front door asking for rent; he is always asking for rent. Here, held by the sturdiness of the pew, she doesn’t feel the pain anymore and sighs, letting her back become flesh with the dark wood. With no more prayer upon her lips, she lets her hands fall heavy to her side. One rubs her pocket, making sure the offering is still there. Her sacrifice, her tithe.
      Abigail shuts her eyes, remembering the morning service yesterday, when Reverend Jacob called for everyone to give. For the first time, she had nothing to put in the tithe box. She can still feel the heat that threatened to burn through her cheeks when her daughter, only three and innocent in her thoughts, screamed, “Momma, you forgot to put something in.” Her tiny hands, still dimpled at the knuckles, had reached for the box as Abigail tried desperately to pass it along.
      “God’s feelings will be hurt, Momma,” her son interjected.
      Abigail had tried to shush the kids’ admissions, placing her hands over their mouths as the reverend continued his lesson. But they had cried, staining her hands with their tears. She fled with them to the parking lot, unable to stand the eyes of the other church members bearing down on her, witnessing her failure to the gifts God had given her. Those same eyes had never bore down on her husband, who was supposed to be by her side in sickness and in health.
      The squeaking hinges of a door pull her from the memory. She turns to see Reverend Jacob, his face washed in surprise at her presence. “Mrs. Thorne,” he says, approaching her slowly, as if toward a skittish animal, “it’s not often we have visitors so soon after Sunday service, but it is just as lovely to have you back.”
      Abigail fixes her pants, smoothing out the wrinkles, and pulls down the sleeve of her shirt to hide the bandaged hand. “I needed a moment of silence to reflect on the sacrifices of our Lord and Savior, Reverend. It’s rare these days to have a moment to truly speak with Him, but Mrs. Bradley agreed to watch the kids this evening, so here I am.”
      “Ah, Mrs. Bradley, yes.” Reverend Jacob nods. “She told me she’s been helping you out quite a bit. We are so lucky to have her as a part of our family here, aren’t we?”
      “Yes, Reverend,” Abigail answers, hanging her head.
      Reverend Jacob lowers himself to sit beside her. “I can sense the hardship that has been put upon you by your husband’s departure.”
      “I never thought I’d find myself here,” she confesses, “alone with kids, with bills, with life and all its responsibilities.”
      “None of us know what God has planned for us. Your husband may have been led astray, but it is your job as his God-given wife to lead him back, through your actions and, most importantly, your prayers.”
      She turns away from the reverend and meets the sad, carved eyes of Jesus. “I’m trying my hardest.” He grabs Abigail’s hands, igniting a pain that makes her grit her teeth. She tries not to pull away, her unseen wound throbbing. “It will get better my dear. Trust that He will send you what you need.” Reverend Jacob smiles before standing up. Abigail tries to reciprocate with one of her own, softening her face and hoping it seems genuine.
      “I’d stay to talk longer, but there is a young reverend in training waiting for me. I’ll see you and the kids on Sunday?”
      “We wouldn’t miss it,” Abigail says. The reverend leaves her once again in the still silence of the church. She checks her phone and realizes it’s getting close to dinner and she should get back to the kids before they start begging Mrs. Bradley for something to eat.
      Her legs shake as she walks to the front of the church. She keeps her bandaged hand close to her pocket, praying what is inside will be enough to prove to God that she is willing to give her all to him. The tithe box stands beside the church’s front door, sizing her up. She will not fail this test.
      Her heart ticks faster as she pulls a cloth-wrapped bundle from her pocket. She must see it again, must prove that her devotion is still there. The bundle’s exterior folds back like the gentle pages of her Bible at home. There, cradled in the cloth, is her finger. One of ten.
      Abigail had faith that it was God that led her hand to the butcher knife before the kids woke up this morning. But now she wants to weep as she conceals the finger in the cloth once more. Staring any longer at the flesh she has promised to Him would be vain.
      She lets the tithe slide from her palm and hears it land among the generosity of others. For a moment, Abigail lays her hands on the box before pushing through the doors and into the awakened night. Like a tongue running across newly brushed teeth, her mind goes over yesterday’s prayer.

Give, and it will be given to you. Give, and it will be given to you. Give, and it will be given to you.

Katelynn Jasper is a queer writer who works in publishing while pursuing her dreams of sharing her
writing with the world. She is a fan of all things spooky and spine-tingling. She received her MA in
Publishing and Writing from Emerson College in 2020, and this is her first flash fiction publication. She resides in Portland, Oregon with her little ghost-white cat, Freya.