The back door opened, and hurried footsteps sounded throughout the building. Alynn smiled as a brown-clad monk rounded the corner, praying under his breath and forgetting to shut the door. “Good evening, Lukas,” Caitriona said.
The monk pulled off his hood to reveal a halo of cropped, white hair. “Evening,” he murmured, hurrying past with hardly more than a glance. He and his Latin musings disappeared up the stairwell.
“You don’t have time for a hug?” Alynn called up after him. “Lukas?”
“Don’t pester him, Lynder, he’s a busy man,” Caitriona said. “Knowing him, he’s probably half-starved, too. Change yer clothes, will you? You’ll catch cold.”
Alynn stared up at the stairwell. She couldn’t remember all the times she’d watched Lukas’s mind drift back to earth after a round of silent prayers. It was as if life sprang back into his clear blue eyes, a silent gleam hiding in their depths. When she couldn’t pry a smile out of them, something was wrong.
It was nearly an hour before footsteps once again sounded down the stairs, but this time, they were unrushed and placid. Lukas peered at the boiling salt cod, stole a leaf from the watercress salad, and left to draw some water from the well. “Everything smells delicious,” he said.
“Thank you.” Alynn tried to fish the cod out of the kettle, but she splashed boiling water on the plain oat-colored dress she’d ripped during sword fighting practice earlier that day. Her frock covered most of the damage, but she prayed Lukas wouldn’t notice her leg peeping from the rip in the skirt.
“I’ll get that,” Caitriona ordered, taking the platter out of Alynn’s hands. “Sit down before he comes back.”
Alynn hid in a chair just as the back door opened and shut. She took the opportunity to heap her plate with skyr—a Norse cheese so soft it was eaten with a spoon. Lukas sat down and helped himself to the watercress.
“How was yer day, Lukas?” Alynn asked.
“Not bad,” he said, which was the highest he spoke of anything. “Sigmund’s returned from his missionary trip.”
“He has?” Caitriona asked, snatching a serving spoon from the cupboard. “How did it go?”
Lukas gave a halfway twitch of a smile, but he meant it with his eyes and his heart. “He said that it was very much a success.” He took Alynn’s hand, waited for Caitriona to sit, and took hers. “Lord, we thank Ye fer this day, and the chance to spend it wi’ friends and family. We thank Ye fer the miracles Ye wrought wi’ Sigmund on Hrafney, and I pray that many others would come to see Yer light.”
Alynn and Caitriona repeated the rest of the prayer with him— “Bless us, O Lord, and these, Yer gifts, we are about to receive, from Yer bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
For a while, no one spoke. Caitriona’s food was too delicious for that.
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.