I was aware of my mother's presence at my door, but I continued to kneel at the side of my bed, my eyes closed and my hands clasped in front of me. I continued to whisper my Night Prayer under my breath, ending in an Amen. "You do realise," my mother said, stepping into my room once she'd heard I'd finished, "that God is in Heaven. He can't hear you if you mumble."
"Yes, mother," I said, moving to sit on my bed.
"Who did you pray for?" she asked. I hated when she asked me about my prayers. They were personal, but she always insisted that a discussion of what we pray for can justify it for God.
"Everyone," I said honestly. "And Kevin, and you and father."
"And what did you pray for?" she asked. I knew the answer she wanted and I happily gave it.
"Forgiveness," I said and she nodded. She firmly believed that everyone committed a sin every day, whether they knew it or not, and so had always told me to ask forgiveness.
"Read your bible," she said. "But not for too long."
"Goodnight, mother," I said.
"Goodnight, Elijah," she smiled, pressing a light kiss to my forehead before leaving my room, pulling my door closed behind her.
As quick as I could, I turned on my laptop. I was only meant to use it for school work and my mother frequently checked my internet history and my saved documents. But I had a secret folder saved in a different drive where I knew she wouldn't think to look. Despite checking up on my computer use, she wasn't really all that tech-savvy. I quickly opened the folder and opened up my most recent photo. I'd taken it at school, where I wasn't under such tight observations about when and why I was using my camera. It had been at lunch as well, when there were next to no teachers around. The photo was of a girl sitting at a lunch table alone, her back slouched as he bent over a book. My best friend said I had a knack for capturing the mundane and making it look beautiful. I thought I had a knack for capturing the lonely and making them seem lonelier. I guess it's open to interpretation. I preferred doing photography of single targets. They were quieter; more emotional. I wouldn't know what to do if I had a photo of a group of 20 kids running around, laughing and talking. But I guess that's just me. I like to take photos of things that I find relatable.
Though sometimes I do wonder why I find pictures with only one, or maybe two, individuals relatable. I wasn't lonely. I had my mother and father. My father worked as in pre-sales for a software company, so was forced to travel quite a lot to present to other companies that they needed my father's software. He wasn't always around growing up, but I didn't resent him for that, because he provided for me and my mother. My mother was a housewife, as many Catholic wives are. She does the cleaning and the cooking and when I was younger, she looked after me. She also does a lot of volunteer work with the local old people's home. Even though my dad travelled and they didn't see each other sometimes for weeks at a time, they were happily married and had been for twenty odd years. The possibility of being with someone for 20 and still being happy seemed close to impossible for me. Despite the fact that I had Daniela, my girlfriend of almost a year. My mother introduced us at the annual church fair, the previous Christmas. We'd been pushed into spending time together and then it had just been rude for me not to ask her out, especially once my mother told me that Daniela was expecting me to. So I'd asked her out. She was a nice enough girl. She was really short, at about 5'3", had long brown hair and brown eyes. I guess she was kind of pretty but I didn't really look at her like that. I told her she was, obviously, because I knew what a good boyfriend was supposed to say, but I'd never really been bothered by her appearance. We had our first kiss about a month after I asked her out. Kevin constantly got at me for waiting so long, but I just enjoyed hanging out with Daniela; why did I need to turn things sexual? But I had had to; I'd known that all along. My mother expected me and Daniela to become a couple and we did.
And then there was Kevin. He was my rock, really. We'd known each other since we were about 3, since we went to crèche and then Sunday School together. He was a couple of months older than me, though sometimes he seemed a lot more childish. His parents weren't quite as dedicated to Catholicism as my parents, especially my mother. I liked going over to his house. It was one of the places my mother gave me permission to go. She knew Mr and Mrs Ashcroft – Kevin's parents – were practicing Catholics, though they very rarely prayed like we did at home. They said Grace before eating, but I don't think Kevin had even said a Night Prayer before bed. My mother's favourite quote always popped into my head when I was at Kevin's house – "the family that prays together, stays together." I sometimes worried for Kevin, about what would happen if his parents separated. My mother always told me that prayer brought people together. I guess I was thankful that at least the Ashcrofts prayed together at meal times. But very occasionally, I envied him. Then I would remember that was one of the seven deadly sins and quickly ask God's forgiveness. I loved my parents, I truly did, and I knew they only wanted the best for me. Sometimes it might be hard to see, but their intentions were good.
I edited my newest photo for a while, wishing I could buy some proper photo editing software instead of having to constantly use free-trials that I downloaded on a monthly basis. But I couldn't. I'd managed, somehow, to convince my mother that all students at school had to be part of a club, and I'd joined the photography club (the school didn't, in fact, have a photography club). So that gave me justification for having a camera and taking it almost everywhere – my mother would never want me to get a bad grade or report. But I knew that if I took it further than just a 'hobby', she would not be best pleased. Academics were important, creativity not so much. I'd accepted that though, and I wanted to make her proud. So I tried to keep my photography to a minimum, especially during the school term.
About 20 minutes later, my mother knocked on my door and I quickly saved and closed the photo before shutting my laptop. "Come in," I called, as I stood beside my bed, as though about to go to sleep.
"I was just checking you were getting ready for bed," she smiled. "It's a school night." I smiled and nodded, pulling back my duvet and climbing into bed.
"Goodnight, mother," I smiled, turning my bedside light off.
"Goodnight," she smiled, flicking my main light off and closing the door once again. I sighed once she'd left, glad that she hadn't decide to ask me what passage in the Bible I'd been reading. I stared at the ceiling for a while, not able to sleep yet. That was always the way. My mother insisted I be in my room by 10 o'clock, unless we had family time and we ran late, and in bed by 10.30. What other 16 year old had a bed time? I'm sure next to none. But I knew she was trying to help, so I loved her for it. About an hour or so later, I drifted off to sleep.