They handed out flags and ribbons on sticks at the back of the church hall, so when the music was playing the kids could dance around and wave them while the adults sang. Rae took her little sister over to the plastic tub and the lady standing behind it gave her a purple ribbon.
“Do you want one, dear?”
“No thanks,” Rae said. Now her sister was dancing with the ribbon she went to the back of the hall, to where they kept hot coffee in metal vats on tables, ready for the end of the service.
“Be thou my vision,” sang the congregation, “Oh Lord of my heart.”
Rae slipped under the table cloth and under the table. The lights from the hall created a silhouette, shadows of ribbons and flags and children dancing on the cloth. The singing became muffled but it was still there.
Angie was waiting for her. Her parents gave her a lollipop every Sunday to shut her up during the service and she was sucking it and it was making her lips purple. She was sitting with her head against the wall, her curls sprayed there, legs tucked up to her chest so she could fit.
“Hey,” she said, taking the lollipop out her mouth.
Naught be all else to me, save that thou art.
Angie and Rae had been practising kissing.
Thou be my best thought by day or by night.
“Ready?” Angie said and tossed her long hair over her shoulder.
“Yes,” Rae said. Angie leant over and pressed her lips against Rae’s. They tasted like blackcurrant. They broke apart and then kissed again. They never kissed properly, like Rae had seen people on TV do it, with their tongues touching and their mouths moving. Maybe they would do that one day, when they were older. For now this was it. When Rae’s mother asked her last week how church was for her, Rae said, “Fuzzy,” and her mother said “Ah,” and smiled like Rae had said the right answer.
Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.
“Last one,” Angie said.
Angie leaned over and gave her a hard kiss, one that last for a while and got harder and harder until it started to hurt and Angie’s face pressed closer and closer up to hers and then with a small smacking noise only they could hear she let go. Angie had her hand around Rae’s wrist and she squeezed it tight. Rae wondered if she meant to.
“Let’s go,” Angie said, sticking the lolly back in her mouth and lifting the table cloth up, the brightness of the lights making Rae have to close her eyes, and blink to refocus. When she did, Angie had already gone and the tablecloth had fallen again. Rae lay down on her stomach and looked through the gap between the tablecloth and the floor, out at the church hall, but she couldn’t see Angie in the crowd so she stayed where she was until her Mum came to find her for Sunday School, pressing her hand up to her lips every so often, and kissing the lines on her palms, imagining blackcurrant and lemon and lime and orange and cola.
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall.
Still be my vision, oh ruler of all.
Heather Cripps is from Derby, England, and holds an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Kent. She has previously been published in Forge Literary Magazine, Wax Paper Prose, The Drum, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Ellipsis and Turnpike. She is currently looking for a home for her first novel.