CHAPTER TWO: Sunday
It is Sunday. The Nickleby family is getting ready to go to Mass. Lizzie is twirling around and around in her new Mass dress. Her pink skirt is flying out. She is starting to get a dizzy feeling in her head. She imagines she is a ballerina.
Annie is running around with bare feet. No-one can find her shoes. Dad looks at the clock and shouts, "Everyone into the van!" Mum grabs Annie's gumboots and shoves them on Annie's feet.
Everyone runs out to the van: Edward, Kate, Joe, Celeste and Lizzie. Mum follows with Annie who is squirming in her arms and Dad slams the front door.
Dad parks the van at the church and everyone tumbles out. One, two, three, four, five, six: Dad is counting heads. No-one has been left behind! With a sign of relief, he hurries to catch up. Everyone is jostling for a position at the holy water font. They make the Sign of the Cross. Annie thrusts her fingers into the water and touches her forehead. Water drips down her face and off the tip of her nose.
Now Annie clomps down towards the altar in her boots. She smiles sweetly at everyone she passes. She hopes all the people notice her shiny yellow boots. She genuflects towards Dad who is following close behind. Dad reminds Annie that Jesus is in the opposite direction. Together they genuflect and say hello to Jesus who is in the tabernacle behind the altar.
All the children slide into the pew except Edward and Joe who are altar boys. They go off to the sacristy to put on their albs and get ready for Mass. Kate and Celeste kneel down and start their prayers but Lizzie looks around at the people behind.
"Say your prayers, Lizzie," reminds Mum.
"But I don't know what to say," sighs Lizzie.
"Ask God to bless you," suggests Mum.
Lizzie falls to her knees, puts her hands together and shuts her eyes. A moment later, she bounces back up again.
"Pray for your Godparents," says Mum, and Lizzie drops back onto her knees again. Before Mum has said even one prayer, Lizzie is up on her feet again.
"Tell Jesus what you did yesterday," whispers Mum as she tries to hang on to Annie who is escaping into the next pew.
Lizzie starts to tell Jesus about her trip to the playground. Before she gets to the exciting bit - where she fell off the swing - the organ starts playing. All the people stand up.
Father Brown processes down the aisle with the altar boys. Edward is carrying the crucifix. He is trying not to let it wobble. Behind him comes Joe. He sees Celeste and gives her a big grin. Mum sees his grin and tries to look stern. Joe suddenly looks very angelic.
Annie is trying to climb over the back of the pew again. Kate hangs onto her boots to prevent her disappearing. Annie hits her chin on the pew. She screws up her eyes very tightly and opens her mouth very wide. Dad knows she is going to scream very loudly, very soon.
Dad scoops Annie up and hurries along the aisle, past all the people, towards the door. Just as he gets to the back of the church, Annie lets out an enormous howl. Huge teardrops fall from her eyes. No-one can hear what Father Brown is saying. And then suddenly all is quiet. Annie and Dad have disappeared outside.
A few minutes later, Dad reappears. He is looking a bit tired but Annie is looking much happier. Dad is tickling her chin with a flower he found in Father Brown's garden.
Lizzie is trying to sit very still and listen carefully. She smoothes out her pretty dress and sits up as straight as a princess. But then she notices her dress has more than one layer. She bends over as she counts the layers. There are three! Mum notices that Lizzie's knees are appearing from under her dress. She nudges Lizzie and tries to look stern.
Edward and Joe are up on the altar. They are also trying to sit still and listen. But it is very difficult. Joe has spied a mouse running up the wall. He digs Edward in the side and Edward looks too. The mouse scurries up the wall and then across a rafter over their heads. Joe holds his breath hoping the mouse does not fall onto his head. Then the mouse is gone. It has disappeared down a crack in the wall. Joe sighs with relief and then he and Edward feel like giggling. They make some funny, spluttery noises and then they notice Dad's horrified face. All at once the giggles are gone.
The organ is playing again and everyone is singing. Celeste loves to sing and she raises her voice as loud as she can. Kate does not approve and gives her sister a stern look just like Mum's. Celeste ignores her and bellows out the words, making up the ones she doesn't know.
"Do you think Father Brown heard my singing?" she asks Dad when they finish the hymn.
"Most certainly, "replies Dad, trying not to smile.
Now it is time for the collection. Lizzie has a gold coin to throw in the basket. She drops her coin and it falls on top of all the other coins. Clink! Clink! It makes a wonderful jingly sound.
Annie also has a gold coin but she doesn't want to drop it into the basket. She wants to keep it. She clutches it tightly in her hand. Mum smiles apologetically at the lady who is waiting for the basket. Then she pries Annie's little fist open and the coin drops: Clink! Annie's lower lip wobbles. She looks like she is going to cry so Kate pulls a funny face and Annie smiles instead.
Everyone is kneeling down. Mum asks Lizzie if she can see the altar. Lizzie knows this is the most important part of the Mass: Jesus is coming down from Heaven! She can see Joe ready to ring the bell. She listens carefully for the special words. Father Brown is saying, "This is my Body..." and Lizzie whispers "Jesus is here!" She knows that the host Father Brown is holding is no longer bread but the Body of Jesus. She whispers, "I love You, Jesus!"
Joe is ringing the bell. Dong! Dong! Dong! Annie knows it is time to give Jesus a kiss. She puts her chubby little fingers up to her puckered lips and makes a squelchy, kissy sound. Then very, very gently she blows the kiss all the way across the church to Jesus. Dad smiles and says that will make Jesus very happy.
And then all of a sudden there is perfect silence. Just for a moment no-one moves or makes a sound. Joe has put the bell down quietly on the floor. Edward is thinking how lucky he is to be up on the altar so close to Jesus. Kate is imagining all the angels who are bowing down before Jesus. Celeste is asking Jesus to make her just a little bit bigger so she can receive Him at Communion time. Mum is thanking Jesus for her beautiful family. Annie is trying to decide whether she should send Jesus another kiss. Dad is asking Jesus to look after them all and make them all saints. And Lizzie is just thinking, "I love you, Jesus!"
And then the moment is over. Lizzie starts to squirm and Annie decides she would rather sit in the pew in front. Celeste gets her foot caught in the hem of her dress and Kate tries to catch her as she threatens to topple over. Edward pokes Joe who is yawning and Joe pokes Edward back.
When Mass is over, Dad gathers up all the hymn books which have become strewn about the pew. Mum picks up the soggy parish bulletin that Annie has been sucking and everyone slides along the pew to leave. Lizzie is the last to go. She genuflects carefully just like Dad taught her. Then she stops. She has one more thing to say to Jesus. "I love Sundays, Jesus and I love You!"
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