Carmen, her brother (not child, as some assumed), and a small backpack of clothes were kicked out of the rectory Monday morning. For the second time in two weeks Helen had found $20 missing from the Offerings for the Poor lockbox. That was #7, just ahead of bearing false witness. Anyway, Carmen had only asked for a week’s lodging at the outset.
Tuesday night, Helen had a friend over and they drank and watched guilty pleasure reality TV.
“You have to just wake up every morning and move forward. That’s how I try to think about it.”
“Should have let them stay?”
“More in general, I meant. You can’t let people take advantage.”
Wednesday morning, the 23rd, Father Pollock asked Helen what she’d done with the nativity’s baby doll. “Nothing.” Her mind was elsewhere then, but later returned to the doll. Helen had seen Carmen (maybe not real name, even?) playing with her brother and baby Jesus in the front pew. She’d smiled at the time. Stupid! You can’t let people take advantage.
“Airbnb is closed up, I see,” Father Pollock joked on Thursday. “Five stars, you think?”
“Can’t imagine,” Helen said. She changed her expression to feign light-heartedness.
“Maybe we should invest in a breakfast buffet.”
The doll turned up that afternoon, just a few hours before Christmas Eve service. It was accompanied by a confession from an altar boy, who had impressed his friends with the heist. “Oops,” Father said. Confessions were typically confidential.
On the 31st Helen’s friend came over again.
“Where’d they go?”
“I don’t know. Probably impossible to look up.”
Shrug, pause. “You had to make a decision. She learned a moral lesson, you can bet.” People on TV schemed to prevent one another from falling in love. “Father trusts you.”
Midnight passed anticlimactically. Helen’s friend asked, “Mind if I sleep there tonight, since it’s empty?” Helen shook her head, she didn’t mind.
As they retreated to bed, Helen made herself smile and said, “Well, happy 2021. Just wake up in the morning and move forward.” She’d said it quietly, and her friend didn’t hear.