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The Prayer Seeker

along the days and weeks, the months and years since his conversion, he’d begun to limit
the time spent in such a way. He’d stepped out of the ocean and had started to walk along
the shore, only dipping his foot into the vast and teeming waters every now and again,
and only briefly. What had changed? He wasn’t sure he wanted to think about that.
Now he only understood one fact. He couldn’t do this alone. He needed help, and
from a source he’d never dreamed of asking for reasons he couldn’t fully name.
Michael parked his car in the open courtyard and switched off the engine. The
silence came sweeping in. But only for a moment or two, as another car drove past
behind him on the main road through the village, the low growl of it breaking the
temporary peace. He opened the door and heard birdsong, perhaps a blackbird, although
he couldn’t see it. For another few seconds, he treasured the pause between actions and
then he stepped out into sunlight. It was 2pm that afternoon.
Around him, the good-sized courtyard area was surrounded by hedges and bedding
plants. They were beautifully cared for. Sadly he had no idea what most of the plants
were, although he recognised yew. Gardening wasn’t his strong point and he did the bare
minimum to get by without his neighbours complaining. That didn’t mean he couldn’t
appreciate the sense of quietness that this garden engendered in him.
He walked across the concrete, stood in the open-plan porch and knocked at the old-
fashioned wooden door. It was carved into panels like something from the Victorian age.
When he glanced around, however, he saw a bell with a cord nested on the right and
wondered if he should have pulled that instead. But he could sense movement on the
other side of the panels, a shifting of the light and shadows across the door pane, so he
simply waited.
The man who opened the door was tall, grey-haired and with an easy smile. He was
clutching a pair of spectacles, as if he’d been disturbed at reading and had had no time to
put them away. He swung the door wide and gestured to Michael to enter.
“Hello, hello. Lovely to see you, Michael. Come through to the study.”
He stepped into a kind of musty darkness. He’d never been here before. The hallway
was as spacious as the courtyard, but panelled throughout and with a couple of
freestanding bookcases. On the window sill, an azalea all but tumbled its deep pink
blooms out of a too-small pot and he smiled to think he recognised it after all. A miracle
that was surely Ruth’s doing.
The two men walked into the house’s small study. Once again it was lined with
books. Michael peered at them but the light from the two lamps wasn’t enough for him to
decipher the titles. Two soft chairs took centre stage in the room, each of them with a
pale throw. O ne a light green and the other lemon yellow. Michael chose the green one,
the one nearest the door. If this turned out to be a bad idea and he needed to leave, then
he wanted to make sure nobody could stop him.
“Coffee?” the vicar said, when Michael was comfortable.
“Please. A dash of milk, no sugar. Thank you.”
After John, the vicar, left to fulfil the order, Michael gazed round at those books
again. Unable to resist, he rose and padded over to the shelf with the most interesting
shapes. Angling the nearest lamp, he hunkered down and ran his fingers over two or three