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While researching a saint’s name for my novel I came across the story of Maria Goretti, a 12 year old girl murdered by a neighbour for refusing his advances. In 1950 she was canonised and is the parton of youth, young women, purity and victims of rape. I wrote this short piece from the point of view of the rapist Alessandro Serenelli, which is a bizarre story in itself. I promise to move into happier territory next week!

Lilies for Maria

Maria Goretti

Lilies burned for her. Went alight in the palm of my hands. I grabbed the awl and willed myself not to. My past self, the self past stopping.

Untouched, I wanted to touch her. My Maria, white and pure as a glass of milk. Each day I watched her tend to her sister, her slim fingers catching the sunlight with each needle rise and fall.

Her refusals stung, its spite a wasp’s tail so deep it got lost inside. I wanted her just as the flowers did, their stamens fuller and petals wider under her care.

Each of my awl thrusts made a crack, drained life from her in scarlet gluts and dribbles. She cried: “No! It is a sin. God does not want it.” But my arm kept moving and her prayers got snatched by the air.

Her ribs rattled “I forgive you”. Her last gasp a whistle through 14 punctures leaving just a shell.

Bars saved me from myself, a cage, my new skin. Maria lived on in my mind, a cellmate of my dreams filled with lilies.

Once free I found her mother. She was Maria wearing a life.
“Forgive me, because I cannot forgive myself.”
We shared a wafer in genuflects. I begged the church to take me in.

Each day is now filled with prayers for her. ‘My little saint’ nestled in God’s arms. I tend to her lilies, my scorched soul in wait.

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