Alynn’s eyes refused to stay open.
She wanted to pay attention to the sermon. She wanted to prove to everyone in this strange new church that she was a proper, respectful, reverent girl. But she hadn’t eaten since yesterday’s breakfast, and St. Patrick’s Church was wonderfully dry and warm, and the rain pattering on the slate roof was so calming that she kept dozing off.
Fortunately, Mass was designed to keep people awake. Stand for the hymn. Kneel for the prayer. Sit for the Scripture reading. Stand, kneel, sit, over and over again.
This priest was long-winded when he prayed, and so Alynn fell asleep on her knees. Her father Rowan apparently noticed, because she woke up sitting on the bench. Her little brother Tarin sat next to her, but Rowan was nowhere to be found. Alynn finally saw him at the front of the now-empty church, talking to the priest. Probably asking if they could spend the night.
“I’m hungry,” Tarin said.
“We’re all hungry,” Alynn said. Her voice was unusually tired, and it made Tarin look up at her. His eyes were round and almost frightened. Alynn made herself smile at him. “You know, perchance if we had some good luck, we’d get a decent dinner tonight. Where can we find ourselves some good luck?”
Tarin beamed. “Right here! Right here!” he said, grabbing at his red hair. Everyone in Ireland knew it was good luck to rub a redhead’s hair, and nowhere in Ireland could be found hair redder than Tarin’s.
Alynn ruffled his hair. “There we go. Now let’s pray, just for good measure.”
Tarin knelt on the church’s dirt floor. “Dear Saint Mary, please pray that we’d get a good yummy dinner tonight. I want soup and bread and cheese and ham, but no seaweed, because ‘tis yucky. And then I want a good glass of milk, just like Mum used to make. Amen.”
“Amen,” Alynn agreed through the lump in her throat. It had been almost a year since the Viking had taken her mother Caitriona. Since then, the tasks of raising Tarin and keeping house had belonged to Alynn. She did what she could, but she knew that, at just nine years old, she couldn’t be doing a very good job.
Before Alynn could stop him, Tarin was up and running down the aisle towards his father. “Da,” he cried, “Da, I prayed that we’d have a good dinner tonight.”
“Good job, lad.” Rowan smiled, though he didn’t mean it. He never smiled like he meant it anymore. “There’s two weeks to Christmas. Perchance we could go wassailing soon. Would you like that? What do you think, Lynder?”
“He can go. I won’t.”
The priest gave a compassionate smile. “My child, wouldn’t you enjoy spreading the joy of Christmas with others?” he asked.
“I just want to go home and sleep.”
“’Tis because she’s hungry,” Tarin said. “She always gets tired when she’s fierce hungry.”
“We can’t have that,” said the priest. “Suppose you dine with me tonight, daughter—you and your family—and we’ll see if you aren’t ready to go wassailing tomorrow.”
“It worked!” shouted Tarin. “Praying worked!”
Alynn smiled. Her prayers usually went unheard, and perhaps this was a coincidence. But miracle or not, she was grateful.
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.