The smell of bitter coffee and the chatter of voices greet her as she steps through the double glass doors.
“Glad you’ve come!” A man with cropped, gray hair reaches out to shake her hand.
She smiles sadly and nods. She continues to walk quietly through the lobby. She grabs a disposable cup of coffee and hurries towards the sound of instruments and loud singing. A teen hands her a bulletin as she steps through another set of doors and sits down in a pew at the very back of the room.
The music plays a little longer and finally a man steps to the platform. He smiles at the people and says, “Welcome everyone! Let’s all turn and greet one another.”
There is a sudden buzz of activity as people clamber to find friends and exchange pleasant greetings. She stands alone, staring down at her feet and fiddling with the ends of her long hair.
I hate this time.
“How are you?” A voice startles her from her revelry. Glancing up, she sees an older woman smiling at her.
“Well…you know, this is a hard –”
“Glad to hear that!” The woman flashes another smile in the direction of the lonely girl and turns to greet another person.
She sighs and drops into her seat. She hangs her head and pretends to be praying. The hot tears that slip down her disheartened face are unseen by anyone.
The man returns to the platform and he speaks of how everyone should love each other and carry one another’s burdens. He finishes by saying, “And this week, today, as we leave this building, let’s find someone and let’s carry their burdens. This is what Jesus did for us. We can do this for our fellow sojourners.”
She sighs and, with her head down, walks slowly out of the building. All around her, people are chatting and laughing together. No one even turns in her direction. As she walks through the glass doors, she hears a voice behind her.
“Hope to see you next week!”
She steps through the doors into the rain that pours down outside, soaking her to the bone.
“I’m never going back again.” She whispers as thunder clashes above her. “Five years is long enough.”
Tears mingle with the icy rain that washes down her face. Turning her back on the cold building for the last time, she hurries home. She picks up a bottle and alone attempts to numb her pain and to forget the ache she feels in the deepest, most broken part of her heart.