Being in God's presence isn't something that Molly ever learned on her own. Half because she didn't believe in a God, and half because her parents were never the church going sort. Not that her mother hadn't tried to drag her to church with her; it was that she finally got tired of having to force Molly into dresses that itched and tired of Molly sitting down when everyone stood, and eventually, there were two little boys who behaved better for Karen. And for her own father? Ha. Church was just another place to grift and the thought of dragging some redheaded wildchild wasn't even in the cards.
That had been that for a long time on the subject of God. He was just someone that other people talked about in a collected delusion as far as molly was concerned, someone who's name was called out when she was buried between the thighs of a pretty girl or who she made men call for buried inside of her, or someone who seemed to have a stern hold over people's lives that she didn't quite understand and frankly, didn't want to.
And then Steve Fenwick was suddenly the father who she should have had. His picture in her hands, his picture in an envelope, his picture splattered across news articles, in clips on YouTube, seemingly everything she had ever wanted. His face was kind, his words seemed sweet enough, and yet, there was something in the gulf between them.
He spoke of a God that seemed loving, seemed real, and curled up in her bed, tired and wanting, Molly almost, almost believed in it. Almost. Most of her still couldn't exactly open up to the words and the point... where was the point in God when horrific things happened all the time? When getting what she wanted didn't seem like anything achievable?
And still, she devoured everything available. Everything that came her way, until she weaseled herself into another business trip to Boston. One she hardly paid any attention to, waiting for the moment where everything ceased and she could finally make an excuse to leave.
When she finally had the Sunday alone, when it finally came down to following the map on her phone to the doorsteps of the church, she hesitated. It didn't look like the churches she'd been used to seeing in movies and around Colorado. There didn't seem to be something ancient about this building, and it seemed... warmer, somehow. Welcoming.
Walking forward, into the chapel, she felt undressed in what she'd come in, a grey cardigan pulled over the white blouse, jeans and flats. Her hair was still blonde, loose around her face, not at all styled.
Her stomach turned as she slipped inside the quiet church, swallowing nervously. The brightly colored posters were supposed to lure one in; instead, it made her think of the poster and pamphlets admonishing her for even thinking of giving up a baby, or band posters advertising for some shitty job with little pay.
Neither were very comforting.
Still -- Molly wanted to see for herself. Wanted to experience her real father preaching.
Her heart pounded in her ears as she went to what she could only assume was an usher with her well done hair and uniform. She wrang her hands nervously, plastering a nervous smile on her face, "I-I, uhm -- This-- this is my first time... here?" God, she sounded so stupid. Fuck she probably wasn't supposed to think that in a church. "Wh-Where do I go?"
The woman smiles at her, handing her a pamphlet -- no, program. "The choir is about to sing. I can get you in the back."
"R-Right," Molly's smile feels so tense, so fake on her face. She lets the woman guide her through a side door, and she's not quite prepared for the amount of people in this church. This congregation -- flock? -- was so much bigger than what she remembered as a child.
Her stomach dropped so hard and so fast, Molly was afraid she'd throw up. Instead, she made her way hastily to the back pews, keeping her head down, not wanting to be recognized as "Lainey" again.
Indeed, the choir starts to sing. It's awkward for her to follow the cues no one seems to share, standing up to sing a song she doesn't know. It's easiest to keep her mouth shut, eyes focused up at the podium where Steve -- her father, her real father sits.
From here, watching him sing along and smile...
Molly can't see anything between them besides her red hair. He's taller than she, he's older. His smile seems so much more... peaceful? Real.
Eventually, she takes her seat again, as he comes to the podium, thanking the choir with a joke that's so dry and dad like that Molly groans with it. Her father wouldn't be caught dead saying that.
And strangely that's comforting. He's so different from the man she'd grown up, who'd yell at her for dinging his car, who'd expect for her to know her brother's birthday's when he refused to learn them, who didn't even call her when she'd been in the hospital grieving for a child.
It doesn't mean that she feels the touch of God, here and now. It only means that she watches his movements, looking for herself in the way he recites a psalm, in the way he walks across the stage, in the way he bows his head, hands clasped together.
She tries as hard as she can to imagine herself having someone like this as a father. Of being able to hold hands with him at a table, being able to confide him being able to be part of this family.
And she can't.
She can't find herself here, with him in the house of God. Not with these bowed heads, not with the calm he seemed to have as the sermon ended, not with the ease he seemed to have with others.
She turns to leave, but stops when she hears someone cry out, "Lainey!"
Startled, she turns, thinking it's her. Her heart leaps up to her throat, fake smile ready to go--
And sees her: taller by a hair, dressed in a way that would make Molly's mother smile with pleasure at how put together it is, hair pulled up, warm as she embraces Steven. She's every bit the perfect daughter, blending in with her real sister, and their real mother.
Steve hugs her back, and that's enough for Molly.
She pushes open the doors, past the usher who had helped so kindly before, and runs. Tears blind her as she puts her key in the ignition. The car comes to life, but she doesn't make any move to start it. Her hands clutch at her face as she tries to breathe, tries to get the image out of her head of all of them, pulled together like that, happy and real.
She fails. She longs, and longs for it, and can't make herself stop.