Wandering on the karst plain of County Clare, Frankie encountered someone else's God.
They'd travelled to Ireland on the Church's dollar. In an act that seemed contradictory to Frankie but made Andrew's mouth twist in a cynical smile, they received a stipend from the Church. Not a lot, but enough to pack up and travel to places dictated by whatever had seized Frankie's mind in Pittsburgh.
"It's hush money," said Andrew, when they were in Bali. "A long-standing Church tradition."
Frankie tucked a flower behind his ear and kissed him. "It still spends," she said. "And I'm okay with taking their money and using it to understand this thing.
Andrew had still been excommunicated. They'd probably done the same for Frankie, even though she'd never been in the club to begin with. Better safe than sorry, she guessed.
They'd been travelling for long enough that the patch of pale skin at Andrew's throat had begun to tan, though Ireland's gentle sunlight had done little of that. Frankie liked to trace her fingers over the place where the collar used to sit, as the line slowly blurred.
"Do you miss it?" she asked, one night in a hostel in Dublin. They lay in a tangle of limbs on the narrow bed, and Andrew had wriggled one arm free to hold a book up over her shoulder. Her head fitted comfortably into the space under his chin, and she could feel warmth all through her as his chest rose and fell.
He kissed the top of her head. "Not as much as I feared," he said. "Sometimes I forget that it's gone. I think, perhaps, my faith needs the symbolism of it less than I realised."
Frankie fell asleep to the slow sound of pages turning and the far-off crash of waves.
Andrew was astonishingly, endearingly bashful about Ireland. Frankie loved him more every time he waxed nostalgic then caught himself with a wry smile. His accent had thickened five minutes after landing in Dublin, and sometimes she had to look at him to see if he was smiling or if it was just the lilt in his voice.
In a busy café, Andrew unfolded a map and flattened it on the table, trying to figure out where Frankie's visions pointed. Frankie had seen only brief snapshots and felt a vague inner pull towards the west. Things were much gentler now, since she and the spirit channelled by Father Alameida had found a peaceful way to interact – Andrew was a big part of that – but that meant the messages were even more opaque. Sometimes she wondered if learning Aramaic would have been easier than interpreting visions but Andrew enjoyed the challenge.
She stood behind him, leaning against his back so she could spread her hands over the table, feeling the creases in the paper under her fingertips. "It's somewhere kinda flat but there's hills nearby. Little round hills," she said, closing her eyes. Suddenly she was there again: coarse and short grass under her feet, nibbled down to stone by skinny, scrawny goats and ridiculously huge bug-eyed rabbits.
"Can you see the ocean?" Andrew asked. His finger traced the coastline past Galway Bay.
"No, but I kind of feel it's nearby, you know? A taste on the wind, or the colour of the sky." In her mind, Frankie spun slowly, looking for road signs or a landmark of any sort. "The fences are made of stones, all piled up on each other."
"Drystone walling," said Andrew, and moved his finger inland on the map.
Frankie's foot caught on the uneven stone. "Hey, the ground's weird here, like someone dragged a giant fork through it. There's all grass and stuff growing in the cracks. And flowers – oh, they're so blue!" She reached out her hand as if she could brush the petals.
Andrew kissed her hand where it waved in front of him. "Five petals with a white spot in the centre? Spring gentian – that and the furrows in the stone, you could be in the Burren. We can drive there in a couple of hours, if the weather holds."
Frankie wrapped her arms around his chest and rested her head on his back. In her vision, clouds hung low over the limestone floor but the stones were dry. "It's going to hold," she said.
On the Burren, the grass was a thin carpet over stone worn round-edged with time. The wind was brisk, straight off the Atlantic, and despite the sun, Andrew turned up the collar of his coat as he walked. Frankie shrugged deeper into the oversized sweater she'd filched from Andrew's luggage and stomped over the stones, watching the horizon slowly shift towards a recognisable angle.
"Somewhere here," she said, pausing on a flat plain of stone. She felt a heaviness in her feet, roots pushing out of her heels, strong enough to crack the stone foundation beneath her. Behind her, Andrew spoke, but the words whipped away on the wind, and when she glanced back, he was gone.
"It's okay," she told herself. "You know what this is, you know it's not going to hurt." Her heart still raced, despite the practice she'd done, meditating and breathing and all that hippy stuff. "Let it happen, Frankie. Just let the message through."
She heard a rustle of cloth, rough and coarsely woven, and suddenly she felt it on her hands. Someone's hands took hers, someone with skin soft and papery, the wrists tiny in sleeves of clean but well-worn linen. She opened her eyes and looked into the face of an old woman. A year ago this face would have terrified her, she would have deemed it hag-like: framed with long strands of white hair, and eyes gone milky with age. Now, with practice and a better understanding of the gifts she'd been given, she saw the creases of kindness about the eyelids and the generous mouth.
"Hi," she said, shyly. "I'm ready to listen."
The woman tucked a gnarled finger under Frankie's chin and tipped her head to the side. She saw the plain lined with rows of huts, thin threads of smoke twining into the sky. She smelled cooking and the sour tang of fermenting grain. Children ran about and through her, clutching toys made of rags and sticks, screaming their excitement.
The old woman was invisible to the people of the village, but she stood watch over them all, ferocious and unstoppable. Some of them would die, but many of them would live, and all the while, she watched them and knew them and loved them. It should have been alien or frightening, but Frankie was overwhelmed with familiarity. Even here, there was the same spirit of creation and strength that had seized her body in Pittsburgh.
The vision blinked out in silence, and she heard Andrew's voice carrying on the conversation they'd been having before it started.
"The tombs are dated to 3000 BC," he said. "They've found stone tools, some bodies…" he stopped talking when he saw her face. "Did I miss something?"
She stepped up close to him and pressed her face into his shoulder. "BC is like, before Christ, right?"
"It is," he said. "More or less. Archaeology is not exact." He opened his arm and she tucked in beside him, inside his coat. "Did you receive a message, Frankie?"
She slipped her arm to the small of his back, where his shirt was warm against his skin. "She tried to tell me it's all the same. All the same energy. All the same love." As soon as the words had left her, she felt the rightness of it.
Andrew took a deep breath, a satisfied sigh. "Perhaps it has always been there. It was just waiting for us to realise it."