I went and spoke to Father Keeler today. I didn’t know what else to do. Maddie still hasn’t shown up, and as far as I know there haven’t even been any leads. They can’t even find her cell phone.
I went to the church right after school today when I knew there wouldn’t be too much traffic. It isn’t a big church. Black Lake isn’t exactly a big town, and not everyone in it is catholic.
Father Keeler wasn’t there at first so I just went and sat in the front pews and stared up at the altar, waiting. The Christ, pinned to his crucifix, stared past my feet with his agonized, wooden expression.
I was still watching him when Father Keeler slid into the pew beside me.
He looked up at the crucifix too, and said, “An ugly son of a bitch isn’t he? I prefer a more serene Christ personally, but Father Patrick loved to suffer.” He shifted in his seat to look at me. “I suppose you’re here because of Madelyn?”
I used to come to church with the Sextons when Maddie and I was little, which I suppose is how he recognized me.
I must have looked more glass-eyed than I intended to, because he gave my shoulder a soft squeeze.
“You’re worried about her,” he said.
“Can I ask why you came here?”
He wanted me to be seeking comfort from the Lord, despite the fact that I’m agnostic only in the most generous sense. It made me wish I’d never come.
“The police think she ran away,” I said and Father Keeler frowned.
“What do you think?”
What I thought came out of my mouth before I had the opportunity to censor it: “I think they’re saying that because they haven’t found any real leads and they’re covering their lazy incompetent asses.”
Father Keeler smiled sadly at me. “The police are doing their best,” he said.
I wanted to spit on Christ’s stigmata-ed feet and storm out. I didn’t but it was a close call.
“Madelyn has always been a free spirit,” Father Keeler continued. “And though we may feel fear or rage, we must have faith that Madelyn is in the care of a —”
I interrupted him. “You think she ran away too!” There also may have been some expletives, I don’t remember.
“Is there a reason you don’t believe she ran away?”
His voice was very gentle. Problem is there’s like, a bowl of propane in my stomach and just by talking to me Father Keeler had dropped a match into it.
I could think of no rational reason to believe she was in danger other than this: “She would have told me.”
Father Keeler gave me a sad, sympathetic smile and said, “Madelyn kept her secrets. I think you know that.”
I had to look away and clench my jaw so I didn’t just break down in tears.
He said, “did you know, for example, that Madelyn believed that she was having prophetic dreams?”
Now look, it’s one thing for cops to tell you that your best friend is failing half her classes, gave up all her hobbies, and is doing a bunch of drugs, and entirely another for her priest to tell you she thinks she can see the future.
I must have asked for more details because he shifted uncomfortably.
“She dreamed that you —” he cleared his throat. “She dreamed that you were going to die.”
A current of ice flashed through me, and it must have been all over my face because he quickly added, “It was only a dream. She was seeing a psychiatrist, and she sought guidance from me and from God. She was doing much better.” He sighed. “But, sometimes when a person is dealing with that kind of mental torment they may behave erratically. Their class work might suffer, their interests might take a back burner. Or they might run away.”
I stared at Jesus’ feet some more. The blood running out of his wounds was really lovingly carved. The artist must have preferred their religion violent and masochistic.
“Isn’t that a thing that happens though?” I said. “You’re a God guy, aren’t you supposed to believe in that shit?”
“In premonitions?” Father Keeler said.
“Yeah, isn’t that what prophets are? Just like… people who see the future?”
Father Keeler’s expression was so sympathetic it took everything in me not to claw off his face.
“Do mean that you believe that you are going to die?” he asked and again, that strange lightning bolt of cold flashing through me. “I know that you’re frightened — we all are. But many girls become preoccupied with the supernatural, and very few of them experience any genuine supernatural occurrences. Don’t believe in her delusions Shiloh, not when she fights so hard not to believe in them herself.”
That’s as much as I could take. If I thanked him on my way out I don’t remember it. I might have just fled.
Here’s the thing: Madelyn and I WERE preoccupied with the supernatural. We already went through that phase. Don’t all 13 year old girls go through a phase where they’re pretty sure they’re witches and the world is full of ghosts?
But we already DID that. We haven’t talked about occult shit in years!!!!
I don’t know what else to say. I don’t know what to do. I check my phone like thirty times a day expecting her to have texted me. I pick up my phone to text her every time anything happens and every time it’s a jolt to realize she’s missing.
Plus, like… I don’t know the more I find out about what was happening to her, the more sense it makes that she would run away. How could a police officer come to that conclusion in a weekend when it took me, her best friend, all week?
I didn’t even know she was seeing a psychiatrist. How could she not tell me that? Literally last week I not only told her I was seeing a therapist, I told her everything we talked about.
I don’t know how to describe what I’m feeling. It’s like dread and embarrassment together. I feel betrayed. I feel guilty. Months ago, last spring maybe, she mentioned she was having weird dreams about me. Only last week she said she was having weird dreams again. I didn’t ask about them. Why didn’t I ask? Why didn’t she tell me? Why the fuck hasn’t she called me?