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I Should Be at Church but I'm Raging on a Sunday

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After Arturo Ortecho witnessed a miracle, he informed the Vatican. 

Okay, even pious Arturo didn’t have a direct line to the Vatican, but he definitely informed his priest, who informed the Archbishop of New Mexico, who came down from Santa Fe with a Miracle Commission to verify. 

“I’m sorry, who are you?” Rosa asked the team who arrived, a nun, a priest, and a woman in a suit. It sounded like the beginning of a bad joke. 

“We’re here to verify a miracle. Are you Rosa Ortecho?” 

Somewhere in the diner, a milkshake slipped out of Max Evans’ hands, smashing to the floor in an equal but opposite interpretation of a peanut butter blast off. 

Rosa believed in God, genuinely. Aliens hadn’t shaken that faith, nor had being killed or resurrected by one. She had hoped this “Miracle Commission” would be easy to shake, but these were theological professionals, not televangelist Protestants who believed anything for a buck. 

“Of course Papi’s not as dumb as you think he is,” Rosa snapped at Isobel and Liz. 

They had of course been the ringleaders of the “Rosa’s return is a miracle from God” narrative. And now the whole thing had backfired. Obviously . Obviously fucking aliens made you stupid, too. That explained Maria and Alex, these days…

Dumb ass alien bitches!

“Look, what do they want? To look through your death report and talk to you. Prove San Cristobal interceded on Papi’s behalf to—” 

Rosa started laughing. “Oh, San Cristobal isn’t the one being investigated here.” 

That gave Liz pause. Liz didn’t believe in God, anymore, Rosa didn’t think, but she could talk a good game. Just like the scientist that had arrived with the nun and the priest. On the other hand, whether because she had been reading minds or just guessing more in the right directions, Isobel’s eyes grew huge in alarm. 

(Isobel definitely didn’t believe in God.)

“He’s got your uniform, Liz, with a bloody hole in it,” Rosa snapped. “That’s miracle number one, and I’m on my way to being freaking canonized!” 

Liz actually gaped. 

“...Unless you want to tell them Max did it?” Rosa asked, dripping with snide charm. “I could always….” 

“No!” Liz and Isobel said at once. Liz put a hand on her arm. “Please don’t do that!” 

“Rosa, you can’t,” Isobel begged, looking ready to believe in anything that would help her right now. 

“Oh, can’t I? Like you can’t fuck with my dad’s head and get pissed off when it backfires? You’re such a stupid bitch.” 

Liz frowned, but Isobel was better at handling Rosa’s ire, and managed a smile, if fake. “Now, is that any way for Santa Rosa to—”

“Okay, fuck you .” 

Kyle Valenti volunteered as the doctor to be on hand to verify that the miracle of her resurrection had no scientific explanation. He did believe in God, Rosa thought, though he wasn’t much of a church goer. She didn’t like the thought of people who weren’t Catholic involved in this process, for some reason, like this was an internal matter. It made it easier to keep the aliens totally out of it, even if throwing them to the lions would definitely relieve a headache right now.   

Kyle couldn’t verify Liz’s miraculous healing from a gunshot wound, since he hadn’t been there and kept mum about the handprint, but since Liz couldn’t well reveal Max did it and risk investigation into the aliens, Kyle did, after several tests and scans, actually discover signs of a perforated intestine and spleen that had since healed. Under questioning, Liz admitted, or was tricked into admitting, like some kind of reverse witch trial, that she had thought about, possibly even prayed to, Rosa when she was dying, and this, it was posited, could have facilitated the miraculous removal of the bullet and its damage from her body. 

“How many miracles do you need to be proven a saint, again?” Kyle whispered in a quiet moment after the Miracle Commission took a recess. 

Liz had her face buried in her arms. “I’m sorry.” 

Rosa patted her little big sister’s shoulder, though she wanted to withhold comfort because she was the reason she was in this mess. “I think it’s two.” 

“But don’t you have to be dead?” Kyle insisted, like it was something he learned long ago as an altar boy but had since forgotten. “They don’t canonize living people.” 

“I mean. I have died,” Rosa pointed out, and then groaned loudly. 

Her death records were paraded out, and Kyle was only barely able to “lose” the page with her abnormal alien protein reading. Luckily, the pictures of the handprint on her face from her death had been pretty well-buried by Project Shepherd, so it was “just” the drunken car crash narrative she had to relive. 

That revelation had the power to halt the canonization proceedings right away. 

“See? You can stop looking, right?” Rosa asked them, point-blank. “Saints don’t kill people accidentally.” 

“Oh, many saints have killed people,” said the nun wryly. She looked like she’d be a cool nun, under other circumstances. “Usually the wicked, nonbelievers, and mostly only the medieval ones. Smiting your enemies fell a bit out of fashion after the Crusades, as you can imagine.”

“I don’t suppose you can tell us anything about Katherine Long and Jasmine…” the priest began, but Rosa interrupted him. 

“They were bitches, but they didn’t deserve to die.” Rosa gave him a steel-eyed glare. “There. Are saints allowed to curse?” 

“Saints do a lot of cursing, too, historically...” the nun smirked. “Though not technically the kind you mean.” 

Rosa grinned, ecstatic. 

“These medical phenomena are certainly unexplained,” the scientist said, having gone over the records with Valenti. 

“But they are not necessarily miraculous,” the priest said, mood soured. “We also plan to determine if these ‘miracles’ are caused by magic, or otherwise demonic power.” 

While the investigation was ongoing, word got out, and not in a way anyone expected. 

When Liz arrived from Max’s house for her early morning shift, she saw what she thought was trash dumped in front of the restaurant, piled up along the side street from where she had parked, and sighed. This again. It wasn’t even the anniversary of the crash or anything. Just plain vanilla hate crime trash, then. Great. 

She was already running late, so she pushed ahead inside and ran upstairs to change. 

“You’re late!” Rosa told her, already in uniform for once and lording it over her as she flipped the chairs down off the tables. 

“I know, I’m sorry!” Liz said. “I’ll take out the trash and start on house.” 

“I already took it out,” Rosa replied. 

“Well, there’s crap in the alleyway,” Liz said, after a short pause where she debated saying anything. She was done hiding the racist crap their family had gone through from Rosa, but Liz still didn’t want her to have to see it. “I’ll get it.” 

Rosa clenched her jaw. “Nah, I got it. Whatever. I still want you to work front of house.” 

Liz was half naked in the bathroom, so she couldn’t exactly stop her. “You got it!” 

By the time Liz came out, hair pulled back and ready for work, however, Rosa was still outside. She worried immediately that Rosa had been upset by what she saw, and she left the napkins unstocked as she ran out to join her. 

“Rosa—” 

Rosa was just standing there, staring at the wall. Liz realized there wasn’t just trash, but paint on the wall.  

“Oh. Oh .” 

“Yeah. 

“Oh. My God.” 

“Liz, I’m going to California and never coming back. You can come if you want to.” 

“I mean—it’s not... unflattering . It’s really good, actually. Weirdly good. I thought only you were supposed to be this good—” 

“Liz! There’s people drawing me as the Virgin Fucking Mary on Dad’s restaurant!” Rosa shouted. She reached down to pick up the trash, and Liz realized for the first time that it wasn’t trash. Rosa grabbed a fistful of saint’s cards and pictures and other papers and shook them at her. “There’s fucking votives here, Elizabeth! People’s genuine prayers ! To me !” 

“Okay, let’s….clear this up,” Liz said, and even though she didn’t really believe in God, and she definitely didn’t believe her sister was a saint, she also didn’t feel right shoving religious memorabilia into a garbage bag, so she just tucked them into her pockets and arms. “Do you...want me to get the hose? Spray this off?” 

Rosa pursed her lips, licking her teeth as she processed her anger. 

“No.” She was already pulling out a paint marker from somewhere. “I’mma need you to...ah. Cover me for like...half an hour.” 

“Virgin Mary with devil horns, eh?” Michael asked, leaning over the counter with an impish grin while Rosa made milkshakes and tried to ignore him. “I’m guessing the devil horns are your own addition?” 

Rosa turned around, walls up. “ Yeah . I’m trying to make the best of a shitty situation covering for your ass. Again.” 

Rosa hadn’t ever bullied Michael directly, she realized, or maybe she hadn’t about anything that mattered, because she was surprised by his reaction. She expected him to go all defensive or self-righteous like the other aliens, but Michael actually went white, eyes huge, posture wilting. It was enough that Rosa actually drew back, startled. 

I know ,” Michael said, apologetically. The Crashdown was slow enough that they could speak candidly, if quietly. “For what it’s worth, I thought the miracle idea was stupid. Your dad deserves to know the truth.” 

Michael reached for his wallet without even wheedling a little bit about paying her in trade. Either Maria and Alex were good for him, or he really did feel that guilty. He put money down on the counter, way more than the cost of the milkshakes.

Rosa put the money in the till and set out his change. He didn’t touch it. 

Michael looked like he wanted to bolt, but was making himself stay. “Ah, hey. I heard something, like, they’re gonna want to make sure it’s not...that you’re not...demonic? Or whatever?” 

Rosa furrowed her brow, but sounded bored when she replied. “It’s just something on a checklist, Guerin. They’re not going to find anything either way. Don’t worry.” 

“I just don’t want—if anyone starts talking exorcisms, you tell them whatever you need to about us. Give us some kind of warning, and we’ll just leave town—” 

“Exorcisms?” Rosa laughed. “Guerin! They sprinkled me in holy water and read some Latin at me. Nothing happened, man. Aliens aren’t demons. I don’t think that would have even worked to get Noah out of your sister, or Max out of my head or whatever. I actually tried holy water with him...” 

Michael’s face was still pale, and Rosa stopped laughing. 

She swallowed. “What kind of exorcisms you been to, man?” 

“Ones that didn’t take,” Michael said, pushing up the sleeve of his shirt to show her a faint but recognizable scar in the shape of a cross. 

“What the hell, man?” Rosa asked, now genuinely worried about the guy. She grabbed his arm, staring at him intensely. “What the actual fuck. Who did that to you? I’m gonna find them and—” 

It was Michael’s turn to laugh, but fondly, like a 19-year-old girl had just offered to slash someone’s tires for him and he was a big boy who could in fact handle it himself, but like he appreciated the offer, anyway. “It was a long time ago, Rosa. Also I guess I’m starting to think Baptists do exorcisms differently than Catholics.” 

“They’re gonna burn in hell for what they did to you, Mikey,” Rosa promised him. 

“Yeah? How do you know?” Michael smiled so wistfully that for a brief moment she got why Alex and Maria both wanted to fuck him.

“Seriously, vato? You’re asking The Virgin Mary with Devil Horns, with direct access to God, and the power over life and death, how I know who’s going to hell?” 

Michael was still laughing as he left the Crashdown. Rosa got the impression that he didn’t believe in God, but only because he hadn’t been introduced to the real thing yet.  

… 

“Papi, okay, what the hell. Why would you even do this?” Rosa demanded, when they were finally alone for the evening, after another long day of interviews and tests. 

She definitely wasn’t saint material, obviously, so they were mostly still poking around for the real miracle-worker. Luckily, no one was going to be checking the Wild Pony for saints, so the Miracle Commission were as good as on their way out of town, with a very secular unexplained mystery to report to the diocese. 

Still, Rosa was tired, so she continued on her tirade. “We don’t need the whole Vatican researching us! And now they’re just bored so they’re gonna look deeper. What if they find out your papers are expired, or find out about Mom and Jim, or that Liz uses aborted babies in her—”

“Whoa! That’s not what stem cells are!” Liz interrupted. “And what are they even gonna do, double-defund me? Anyway, these guys are from Santa Fe, that’s a Sanctuary City. They’re priests and nuns, they’re not gonna report on Dad. The scientist has a Bernie 2020 sticker on her car.”

“Oh, right, because liberals are never racist,” Rosa replied. 

Liz stuck her tongue out at her. 

“It’s important that the world know about the miracle we were given. It will strengthen people’s faith,” Arturo said. He had his back to them, whipping up a batch of churro pancakes (though they were not as good, they had compromised on a recipe made with stevia and whole wheat flour). “We need to invite the Evanses to church this weekend, I think. And that Michael boy. They seem so lost…”

Liz and Rosa looked at each other, and a heavy silence fell. 

“Why...would you say they’re lost ?” Rosa pressed. “Like, those three specifically?” 

Liz raised eyebrows pointedly at her big little sister, warning her, but Rosa was sick of all this crap. Michael had basically given her permission, and right now she liked him a lot better than she liked the other two. 

Anyway, she was pretty sure her Dad knew, even before Arturo turned around and served up two churro pancakes, shaped like alien heads and decorated with huge chocolate syrup eyes and tiny mouths. “Let’s just say, when you’re a stranger in a strange land...you recognize the look.” 

“Papi!” Liz said, aghast, slouching back in her seat. 

“So you really did call the freaking Vatican to mess with us?” Rosa said, shrill, too, but for a different reason. 

“Not with you , no,” Arturo said, coming around the bar to sit next to them with his own pancake, with peanut butter on top. If Rosa and Liz didn’t know any better, they might have thought he was smirking . “I do not take kindly to my intelligence being insulted, is all. If Arturo Ortecho is a small man with a small religious mind who cannot accept aliens, well. He is going to behave like a small man with a small religious mind who—”

Papi !” Rosa laughed, and threw her arms around him. Suddenly all the interviews, the questions, the invasiveness and the prayer requests were all worth it, if they were basically all just to punk the aliens. “That’s so vindictive! I’m so proud of you!” 

“Papi, Max hasn’t slept for a week! You made Michael relive weird exorcism trauma! Isobel like gained fifteen pounds stress eating—” 

Liz was interrupted by a snort, and was appalled to realize it was her own. She smiled, and then frowned, and laughed. “It’s not funny! Dad, it’s not! They were really scared!” 

Rosa was cackling. “Worth it! So worth it!” 

Liz was still trying to be serious about this. “I owe you an apology, Papi. Isobel, too. We should have trusted you with the truth. I’m gonna make Isobel apologize, too.”

“Good. You can tell her I want a better website for the Crashdown.” Arturo, sweet, innocent, kind, godly Arturo, was laughing, too, in spite of himself. “And they can come to mass with us as part of their apology.” 

Rosa cackled at that. “Good. So, when did you know?”

“I suspected after the night the store was shot at,” Arturo mused. “I found the uniform. And never a bullet hole or bullet, not anywhere in the restaurant. And after that—they are not subtle, you know? Once I knew what to look for. Miguel came to fix the fryer and I saw him move something without touching it. And the night where your mother visited, and the power outage? Max. And Isobel...I started to remember conversations with her that we never had spoken aloud, and then there was all your sneaking around and whispered conversations, so I...I suspected.” Arturo shrugged. “Well. God works in mysterious ways, no?”

“How else does He get an alien to go to mass?” Rosa agreed.