Fast Hands

Nearly Midnight, St. Stephens Church

Sara looked down past the gold plated Bible and jeweled candlesticks on the table inside the door. Her attention was on the brocade and bead cord and she noted the intricate pattern formed along it, and silken tassels dangling at either end. She picked it up, surprised at the heaviness. “It’s beautiful,” she offered quietly to the man standing next to her in the narthex.

“Very much so,” he agreed in a soft voice, his gaze moving from the mosaics along the walls of the church to her hands, and the ribbon in it. “Whatever else they were, are and can be, churches do hold much worth admiring.”

She made a soft sound of agreement, and sighed; the robbery had taken place in the adjoining offices, and the perpetrators hadn’t touched any of the valuables here in the main structure of St. Stephen. Sara held up the cord and a memory came back from years earlier; vestiges of her cousin Michael’s formal Greek Orthodox wedding during her last year at Berkeley . . . something about the cord . . .

A figure in dark robes slowly approached them; an old priest, solemn and earnest. He looked at Sara, then at Grissom, waiting for a moment.

Sara’s grip on the cord tightened for just a second, a clutch as recognition and realization flashed through her and she looked at Grissom, meeting his eyes in a meaningful stare.

“Yes, may I help you?” the while-bearded priest asked courteously; clearly he hadn’t seen them working the scene in the offices. Torn, Grissom wanted to acknowledge the man, but Sara’s gaze held his.

Then, with delicate boldness, she took his hand, her fingers interlacing with his.

“Yes, Father,” she murmured, and held out the cord.

Grissom glanced down at their hands, then at the cord, and he blinked, caught by surprise for a second.

A long, dizzy second.

Then, firmly and strongly he echoed Sara’s word. “Yes.”

The priest smiled, his dark eyes bright as he studied them both. “I can see by your clear and mutual devotion that you both are united in this decision. By the Grace of God . . . “

Moving gently, he took the jeweled cord and reverently wrapped it around their intertwined palms, murmuring his prayers softly as he did so. The cord twinkled in the light of the candles, and when he was done, he made the sign of the Cross over it.

Sara felt light-headed and giggly; astounded at how easy it had been; the wordless way Grissom had understood precisely what she was asking him.

The priest smiled at them both, and cupped their entwined hands in his. “Betrothed you are in the eyes of God and each other, my children. And thank you for allowing me to perform this Rite . . . it’s been a long time since I had the honor and pleasure.”

“Both are ours, along with great joy,” Grissom responded respectfully. The priest nodded, pleased with the reply.

Carefully he began to unwind the cord, speaking softly. “Betrothal is a great and glad responsibility my children; a time of coming together and learning, of sharing and growing in love. Not enough couples take it seriously these days, but I sense that the two of you are more than prepared for your futures.”

Lightly he draped the cord over his shoulder and stretched out his hands, placing one on Grissom’s forehead and the other on Sara’s. Murmuring a blessing, he bowed once to them and turned, moving to the bank of votives along the far side of the church.

Sara took a deep breath and turned to look at Grissom, feeling tender and a tiny bit afraid. She held up her hand. “Feels sort of tingly.”

“It’s bare—come on, let’s go home and I can put something very special on that third finger,” Grissom told her huskily.

Sara blinked, the quick tears darkening her lashes. “Traditionalist—“ she accused.

Grissom smiled. “Yes.”


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