Iris held out her hands, palms up, waiting, a challenge in her gaze. Finally Hope gave in and put her hands into her foster-mother's grip. When the older woman closed her eyes and bowed her head, Hope couldn't make herself follow suit. It was all she could do to hold still and stare at the top of Iris's silvery head until her eyes blurred with pending tears, and not yank her hands free and flee, sobbing.
Ricky's uncle always looked angry when he prayed in church, his arms spread and braced on the big, heavy podium. He always sounded like he was giving God orders. He had a talent for inserting criticism into his prayers, reminding God that the people needing help had brought their sorrows and troubles on themselves.
She used to love going to church with Iris and the other foster-children. Hope had come to Iris when she was twelve, but it had been like coming home for the first time. She had never attended church before, therefore didn't know what Sunday school was until that first Sunday when, dressed in her first new dress and shoes in her entire life, she had walked into the youth wing of Tabor Christian. Iris had hailed the Randolphs, and Max, a year her senior, had taken Hope under her wing from that day. They had been a team with Jeannette Marshall, in church and school and adventures in the Metroparks.
Learning to pray had been harder than memorizing all the facts and figures and Bible history for the games and contests played in Youth Group. Looking at her foster-mother's bowed head, Hope wondered if the problem was that she hadn't really prayed a real prayer in her entire life, other than versions of, "Help me, God!"
I really wish I could talk to God like Mama Iris does, and feel like He's real, and He's here.