When Kris is a kid, it never rains on Easter. Every first Sunday following the spring equinox dawns bright and clear, a perfect seventy degrees. His momma wakes him up and he happily climbs into his brand new suit before going to service, where they let all the little kids into the grown up service for the day. He spends the afternoon running around the park with barbecue sauce and frosting on his face and is asleep before they get home in the car.
The Easter when he's thirteen he doesn't want to get out of bed. Baseball practice ran long the day before, and he hurts all over. His mom tips him out of bed and points to the already-pressed suit on his desk chair. He is sullen in the rain under the gazebo, watching the football game tearing up the grass on the soggy field. His dad brings him some brisket and they watch Neil race by, grinning in the downpour.
When he's seventeen, he's a little hung over but he doesn't protest when his mother knocks on the door, shuffling into the bathroom to brush the smell out of his teeth. He feels gritty and a little gross, thinking about the boy he made out with the night before while the pastor preaches about salvation. He tells his mother it's raining too hard for him to enjoy the picnic, so they let him drive home instead. He puts on a Michael Jackson album and starts planning for the future.
At twenty, college is something he hates. He dutifully goes to the UCA campus of the New Life church and strums away on his guitar, but it's pure autopilot. The words to "The God of This City" taste like ash in his mouth and he is cold in his blue suit. He skips the dinner and begs off the afternoon with Katy. He wants alcohol, but knows his liver can't handle it after being sick, so he goes to his dorm to curl up under more blankets than an Arkansas April should require and shivers. Next Sunday, he tells himself, he'll skip service.
During American Idol, no one expects him to sing anything beside the theme of the week, and they probably wouldn't let him go to church even if he requested it; there's too much he has to do. He's coming back from recording "Falling Slowly" before he even remembers that it's Easter, his only clue being the full parking lots of all the LA mega churches they go past on the way back to the mansion. He gives his mother a duty call but she's not answering her phone, probably bonding with some of her friends over her coconut cake.
It's Adam who mentions it to him. Allison's mother went to an Easter vigil service the night before and she brought Allison a candle that she smuggled out in her purse. Adam looks interested in the prayers Allison is mumbling over the tiny flame and catches Kris's eye.
"Didn't you want to go?" He asks.
Kris shrugs, feeling a little ashamed and a little defiant.
Danny answers for him. "I asked, but they said we had studio time booked during the service of the church my pastor recommended." Kris remembers him complaining about something in the bus ride back, but when the driver offered to stop somewhere, Danny replied with an "I don't want to go there."
Kris can see Adam weighing this answer in his head, and knows he doesn't buy it. He expects it when Adam corners him later. It's freezing on the mansion patio, but he needs some alone time away from Danny's piety and Allison's quiet Salve Regina. He starts to babble out an excuse but Adam ignores him, thumbing through the contacts on his phone.
"Hey," Adam says into the phone. "Change of plans. Does that church you took me to last year still have evening services? Cool, see you then."
He puts the phone back in him pocket and looks at Kris. "C'mon, we're going out."
There is a car waiting for them at the curb when Adam sneaks them out through the hedges, and Kris wonders what their plans must have been. The driver, a short man Kris doesn't recognize but who is introduced as Jake, isn't any more glittery than Adam is on a daily basis, so Kris thinks they must not have been going to a club.
Adam strikes up a conversation with the man, but Kris tunes them out, going over his performance in the studio that day. It's cold in the car and he shivers, pulling his arms around himself. Adam turns the air conditioning off without turning around, his other hand illustrating whatever point he's making.
After twenty minutes or so they pull up in front of a small storefront church with a few cars scattered in front of it. It reminds Kris of a few times in Jacksonville going with the youth group to help out at some of the home mission churches. None of them had a rainbow mixed in with the logo, though.
"It was full this morning," Jake comments as they get out of the car. "You should have told me you guys wanted to come; it was great."
"We were busy this morning," Adam said breezily. "What with the being on TV and all."
Jake laughs. "Careful, or they might make you sing again."
"An atheist Jew like me? Never."
Kris trails after them into the building. It's a lot larger than he had thought on the outside, and the sanctuary area is closed off, with a circle of chairs and a piano in the foyer. Everyone smiles and waves, and a couple of people come over to talk to Jake, but they are more or less left alone.
Eventually, a short black woman in a Roman collar comes out and introduces herself as Reverend Parrish, one of the assistant pastors. There is more smiling and waving, then she gestures for the man at the piano to begin playing.
They go through a hymn and a couple of contemporary songs that Kris is ashamed to realize that he can barely remember learning mechanically for New Life, but Adam makes no show of already knowing them, following the songs on the handout and stumbling along after the melody. A few people sing confidently and Kris remembers pretending to be that person but it just makes him want to hide under his chair like when he was six and the sermons scared him.
Reverend Parrish takes a few prayer requests next and they sit down while she leads them through a formal prayer and The Lord's Prayer. Another woman with short hair gets up to pass around more sheets of paper with a few scriptural passages on them before she reads them aloud.
They are verses from different parts of the bible, some from Isaiah, and some from the Christmas story. They are verses about the promises of the messiah and salvation and their fulfillment, concluding with the angels' question: "Why do you seek the living among the dead?" She crosses herself and sits down while they contemplate the passages. A few other people cross themselves too, but most don't.
Then the assistant pastor begins to speak. She talks about going to the church picnic that afternoon after service, and how they had a run in with another church group. The church hadn't been happy about all the gays from the church near their children, despite all the families with children in their group. She talks about the scene before the crucifixion, with Jesus's lesson to turn the other cheek, and his prayer that the Father forgive them. She tells them that Jesus died for everyone, loved everyone, and that just because some of his followers today have forgotten that, doesn't make it any less true.
Kris is almost squirming in his seat by the time she finishes, hot tears pricking in his eyes. Adam is sitting quietly beside him, listening intently, an interested expression on his face, but Kris can barely sit still. He wants to wash his hands and hide in the bathroom like he used to spend so many sermons before he had just stopped going to church. This is different, though. It's not the false conviction he'd been made to feel during messages about how he was supposed to live his life. It's an afraid little hopefulness in his chest that maybe this time it's real and not a trick, that it's about love and no one is trying to fix him.
Reverend Parrish finishes and moves off into another room while he sits there and wrestles with himself, and by the time he notices there is a line of all the attendees waiting outside. They go in one by one or in pairs. Adam stands up while Kris is still struggling with his fight or flight reflex.
"C'mon," he says, putting a hand on Kris's shoulder. "They're giving communion."
Kris wants to pull away; he's heard too many sermons about taking communion while not being right with God to even want to think about it now, when he hasn't prayed in almost four years. Adam looks at him with such expectancy though that Kris gives in and lets himself be led to the back of the line. The steady pressure of Adam's hand helps bleed out some of the tension before they step into the room.
The pastor smiles and greets Adam by name, telling him how nice it is to see him. Adam smiles at her, returning her greeting, but he gestures at Kris.
"You guys have an open communion, right?"
She nods and picks up a wafer and a goblet gently, dipping the bread into the wine. Adam presses Kris forward until they are standing directly in front of her, and she repeats Christ's words from the Last Supper before telling him, "The Eucharist is a constant reminder of God's love for us. He gave himself for us and for our sin, and taking communion in the spirit of faith remits that sin, bringing us closer to God and to each other."
She holds out the bread and he takes it with a nod when she says "The body and blood of Christ."
Kris slowly brings it to his mouth and swallows. He is shaking, fear and emotion he's ignored for so long physically moving him, but she smiles, making the sign of the cross before him. "Go in peace, thy sins have been forgiven thee."
A sob rips itself from his throat then, and Adam catches him when his knees start to give. "It's okay, it's okay, let it out," he murmurs and maneuvers them over to a set of chairs while Kris buries his face in his neck. He can hear the Reverend shut the door quietly behind her, leaving them alone in the small room.
Kris closes his eyes and slowly relaxes. He thinks, thank you thank you thank you. When Adam finally lets him go he is warm and he thinks he can believe again.