It was quiet. There must have been hundreds of people there, but it was quiet. Each one moved as quietly as they could, whispering reverently if they spoke at all, gazing in silence at their surroundings.
It was the quietest crowd she had ever seen, and it felt oppressive. She want to shout, wanted to scream out and stamp her feet. She restrained herself, but the feeling of intense discomfort stayed with her.
She looked around at the cathedral. She could admire the architecture, the artistry in the great stained glass window, the grandeur of the arches, but she didn’t feel the reverence most of this crowd did. That wasn’t why she was here.
She sighed, a little too audibly, and flinched as people nearby looked around at her with frowns. She had always hated places like this. She felt like she had a big neon sign over her head. Non-believer. Heathen. Trespasser. If it wasn’t for her mother, she would have stopped outside to take a few souvenir snaps and moved on. But no, she had to go inside and move slowly with the crowds to that warm glow.
She finally reached the candles. She glanced around her, watched other people lighting their candles with belief etched all across their faces. She felt like a liar as she lit her candle. It doesn’t matter, she told herself, it doesn’t matter that you don’t believe what they believe. Mum does, and it’s her candle. She closed her eyes and concentrated on why she was here.
From my mother, a candle for my grandmother. May she rest in peace.
It still felt like a lie, but it was done. The candle was lit and set in place amongst hundreds, perhaps even thousands of others. She saw somebody to her right take out a digital camera and point it at the candles. Of course, she thought, I need proof for Mum. She pulled her own camera out of her pocket, switched it to Manner mode to ensure it had no flash and no sound, and quickly took a picture of her mother’s candle amongst the others in the low light.
A weight seemed to lift from her shoulders as she moved quickly past the crowd and into the souvenir shop. This was familiar ground, a little more secular, a little more comfortable. She bought some souvenirs- a teaspoon, a mug and a tea towel, the kind of things she knew her mother would like, and stepped out once more into the sun.
© Kari Fay
(Author’s Note- I hadn’t done a picture story for a while, so I went to stock image site www.sxc.hu and hit the randomizer. I was going to skip over this because like the viewpoint character I’m not Christian, and there are obvious religious connotations, but it is a beautiful image so I went with it.)