Word Count 499
By Sharon Collins
With the matters of food for the body and food for the soul settled, and ruffled feathers smoothed, the girls sank into the noon-warmed grass. They shared a simple, travelers’ meal of bread, hard cheese, and sips of well-watered, red Languedoc wine. However, before a single bite was taken, they paused, waiting to recite the Lord’s Prayer as Père Jean had recently re-instructed them each girl saying her assigned portion. He started for them, his voice both reverent and encouraging, “Notre Père, Our Father, which art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name…”
“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done…” whispered quiet, little Giselle.
“On earth as it is in Heaven,” added Geneviève without hesitation.
“Give us this day our supersubstantial bread,” continued Marie-Claude with an elbowed nudge to her sister on the word bread.
“And remit our debts as we forgive our debtors…” added Lisette tentatively, seeking assurance from Père Jean’s nod of encouragement.
“And keep us from temptation, and free us from evil,” finished Hèléne with a flourish and a return nudge to her sister on the word temptation.
“Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen,” they all chimed together.
“Très bien, mes colombes,” praised Père Jean as he broke apart the crusty loaf and shared it round. “But remember, from this day forward, you must say the last part only to yourselves. Where we are headed, those words are forbidden. To speak aloud them is dangerous and deadly,” he cautioned. “Promise me you will say them only in your hearts.”
Chewing in silence, every one of his Doves wondered why Père Jean had assigned her only a portion of the prayer reserved for the Parfaits. They had often discussed this odd practice, but never within Père Jean’s hearing. Geneviève had given the mystery considerable reflection and believed she might have an explanation. In their final lesson together, Grand-mère had tutored her in the meaning of the six-petaled rose at the center of the labyrinth paved into the central courtyard of Montségur. “Each of the six petals represents a portion of the Lord’s Prayer and offers a space to meditate on its meaning,” she said. “Empty your mind while you walk the circuits, Geneviève, so that when you enter each petal of the center rose, you will be open to the Prayer’s wisdom.” Père Jean’s six-part division of the Notre Père seemed too similar to be happenstance. What did not make total sense however, was that there were only five of them. Without Père Jean to start them, the prayer could not be completed. Bothered as she was by this inconsistency, Geneviève decided she would think more on it later. For, at the moment, she needed to find a private place to attend to nature’s call. Kilting up her patch-work skirt, off toward the hedgerow she dashed followed by four, gray cloaks flapping in the breeze. Listening to their high-pitched giggles, Père Jean smiled at his doves flying free.