The Dark Divine Page 10

"I'll help," Charity said from behind us. She'd come in from outside with an armload of library books. "I can sing with you, Grace. It could be a duet." Charity gave me an eager smile. She loved to sing when she thought no one was around, but I knew her timid voice couldn't carry a whole solo in a crowded church.

"Thanks. I'd like that," I said to her.

Dad clapped his hands. "Charity never faileth," he said, and hugged the two of us together.


I ended up sitting next to Don Mooney on the temporary choir benches behind the altar. Charity sat on the other side of me, wringing a bulletin in her hands. Don bellowed out "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" about two octaves lower than the rest of the choir. He sang with such exuberance and clumsiness that I found myself almost warming to him for the first time.

"It's a shame about them windows," Don whispered to me while Principal Conway delivered his biannual address. Don looked up at the clear glass windows above the crowded balcony, where the beautiful depiction of Christ knocking on a door used to be.

When a fire, a little over three years ago, gutted most of the balcony but left the stained-glass windows intact, they were celebrated as a miracle. However, we all mourned their loss when Dad reported that a misplaced ladder during reconstruction had shattered the windows. And since they had been crafted over a hundred and fifty years ago, there was no way to replace the stained glass on our budget.

"I dreamed I had a time machine and went back and stopped the fire," Don whispered. "That way they'd still be there."

Principal Conway glanced back at us. Don's whispers were more like a low shout. I held my finger to my lips. Don blushed and slumped on the bench.

"As I was saying," the principal said, "Holy Trinity Academy can offer hope and guidance to all teens from every walk of life. However, it is up to us to help less fortunate students to succeed. So I ask each and every one of you to ponder this question: what can you do, how much can you give, to bring grace and salvation unto even one soul?" Principal Conway patted his handkerchief to his lips and took his seat next to my father.

The organ keyed up, and I sat there wondering if someone's salvation could really be linked to getting an education from HTA.

Charity pulled on my sleeve. "It's our turn," she croaked.

We stood at the podium, and even though we'd rehearsed for over three hours yesterday, my hands started to sweat. I looked out to the audience. Mom, Jude, and James sat in the front row, smiling at us. Pete Bradshaw had come in late but was now sitting with his mother a few rows back. He gave me a big thumbs-up.

My vision darted to the windows above the balcony and stayed there while Charity and I sang. I imagined the stained-glass windows there, with Christ standing outside an old hardwood door.

"Ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you," my father had once told Don Mooney, and it had driven the giant man to tears. I remembered finding Daniel alone in the chapel shortly after Don's first arrival at the parish. He'd looked up at the stained-glass windows and asked the same question I had only days before--why my father had forgiven Don even though he had hurt him.

"Shouldn't he have told somebody or called the cops?" Daniel asked. I tried to repeat what my father had told me, but I was still so confused I'm sure it came out all wrong. "Dad says we have to forgive everybody. No matter how bad someone is or how much they hurt you. He says people do bad things because they're desperate." Daniel screwed up his eyes and wiped his nose on his sleeve. I thought he was about to cry, but then he punched me in the arm. "You Divines never make any sense." He shoved his hands into his pockets and limped up the aisle. At least his injured leg was getting better. It seemed like he could barely walk only a few hours ago when we picked him up for church. Daniel said he'd fallen out of the walnut tree the previous morning. But I knew he was lying. Yd been out front all day planting petunias with my mother, and I knew he hadn't come out of his house. I wished he'd ask for help.

My voice faltered as we sang the line, "Bless them, guide them, save them." A thought hit me like a slash of paint on canvas. What if Daniel, in his own sideways manner, had been asking for help the other night? Asking for my help?

When the song was over, I sat down in my seat with renewed resolve. It was too late to scrape the idea away.

I knew what I had to do.


"I'm sorry, Grace, but there's nothing I can do." Mr. Barlow stroked his mustache. I couldn't believe how unreasonable he was being. My entire plan hinged on this factor. If I was going to help Daniel get his life back, I would have to get him back in school first. Then I'd find a way to make things right between him and my brother. "The decision is yours, Mr. Barlow. Daniel needs this class."

"What that boy needs is respect." Barlow shuffled a stack of papers on his desk. "Kids like that think they can waltz in here and screw around. This is AP art, not an easy-A course."

"I know, sir. Nobody takes this class lightly. In fact, I think it's an honor just to be in here--"

"Exactly. That's why your friend will not be joining this class. This is a place for serious artists. Speaking of which"--Barlow opened his desk drawer and pulled out a long slip of drawing paper--"I want to discuss your last project." He laid the paper on the desk. It was my shoddy teddy bear drawing.

I sank down in my chair. So much for fighting for Daniel's spot in the class; it was my own standing that was on the line now.

"I must say, I was quite disappointed when I saw this." Barlow waved his hand over the drawing.

"But then I realized what you were up to. Quite a brilliant idea." I sat up taller. "What?"

"Tell me if I'm wrong, because I would hate to make an improper interpretation. I asked the class to draw something that reminded them of their childhood, but I love your take on the assignment. This is plainly an example of your talent and skill level as a child. I'm impressed with your artistic vision."

I nodded, then wondered if i was doomed to hell for doing so.

"You should have turned in both of your assignments together. I almost gave you a failing grade before I saw this one." Barlow pulled a second drawing out of his drawer and laid it on the table. It was the charcoal sketch of the walnut tree.

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