It had been two weeks since Molly’s funeral. Becca refused to answer her phone or go to work. She was crippled by her grief. She spent all day in bed and then all night walking the floor. She had taken to walking Kallie in the middle of the night, the woods were eerily quiet then, no one saw them. Kallie sensed this was what Becca needed, and true to her nature she allowed her master to lead into the darkness that reflected her soul.
Becca openly cursed Azrael over and over again. She dared him to show his unearthly face again, so she could spit in it. She hated him with a passion beyond words. He had taken everyone she had ever loved as a friend away from her. She hated Bill more, he was a lowlife and she knew he was truly responsible for her friend’s untimely death. If he had only let her keep the baby, became a responsible human being, but that’s wasn’t what he was about. He was all about control, he had spun his web and Molly had struggled and died in it. Becca would never forgive him.
Father Ian had called and called to no avail. He stopped by her apartment several times and Becca was either not home or refused to answer her door. Her nurse manager Lisa had even called him reporting her absence from work, requesting that he intercede as no one seemed to be able to reach her. He knew Becca needed him, he knew she needed him in a way he had to give of himself.
Darkness had fallen hours earlier, he sat in his study praying, suddenly he heard a voice, a distinct male voice say “Go to her, not as a priest but as a man.” The voice said nothing more and he sat for a moment contemplating. He was unsure of the voice, the voice of God did not sound like this, or hadn’t ever to him. This was an entirely different voice. He prayed some more and then gently placed his bible on the side table. He went to his room and dressed in ordinary street clothes, no collar. Silently and under the cover of a moonless night he walked half ran to Becca’s apartment.
He stood in front of her door and rang the bell. His body was electrified with nerves. He waited and waited but she didn’t answer. He tried the bell again with more urgency. He must see her, the voice had told him. He would wait all night if it came to pass.
Then he heard a soft shuffling, a dim light went on in the back of the apartment and a sleepy Becca stood in the doorway. Despite her dishelvedness she still looked beautiful to him. She blinked several times and stared at him. “Father Ian, what the hell are you doing here?” her voice was laced, with emotion, a mixture of sadness and awe.
“May I come in? Please, Becca, I have been so worried, you won’t answer your phone…” he trailed off as she let him enter. The apartment was tidy almost bare.
She stood looking at him with deep soulful eyes, she realized it was the first time she had ever seen him in regular clothes, he seemed different, just Ian.
He just wanted to hold her, console her, offering the peace she had given others. But when he touched her cheek with his hand she turned her face into it and the fire he had let smolder, that he tended so dutifully, that he had controlled with his passion for God, unleashed. He pulled her into his embrace and found her lips. She whimpered and responded with equal passion. He could feel her warm skin beneath her thin pajamas as she pressed her body against him. He forgot himself, he forgot God, he forgot his commitments and he found her.
He was inside her releasing his desire. She pulled him deeper, devouring his being, as they became one. She whispered his name, “Ian, Ian, Ian,” over and over again. He was no longer her friend, her confidant, the church priest; he was only Ian, a man who loved her.
They lay entangled, spent and confused. In that moment he only knew that he would give up everything for her. She didn’t know if she could ever love someone else more.
He brushed the strands of hair away from her face, “Becca, I love you, I truly, deeply, undeniably do.”
She kissed him tenderly, his passion reignited when she whispered, “Ian, I love you!”
No more words were spoken, the wee hours of the morning found them rising and falling with their newly found passion. They made love as if the world would end, as if the morning light would never come, as if he was not a priest.
When first light did come, Ian slunk away into morning mist, his guilt reemerging and slinking behind his every footstep.
For the next two months Ian would retrace those steps and spend the night making love to Becca. They fell deeply and hopeless in love with one another. The unspoken words lingered in the air; neither dared to broach the subject of what would come next. They lived in the moment of each night, they lived in each embrace, they clung to each other helplessly.
By day, Father Ian preformed his priestly duties. He tried to maintain his composure and continue with his daily routines. But something deep inside him was shifting, and he struggled internally with his guilt, his shame and his love for Becca.
Mrs. Costa came to mass daily, she adored Father Ian. She respected him but also felt a motherly affection toward him. So she was not all together shocked to see him coming out of that young woman’s apartment early one morning when she was out walking her beloved dachshund. She waited for him in the confessional, he slid the window open and she began, “Bless me Father for I have sinned, it has been two days since my last confessional.”
Father Ian couldn’t contain his smile, “Mrs. Costa, what on earth could you have done since our last meeting?” He had grown to love and adore this older woman.
“Father, I am afraid I have seen someone committing sin and I do not know what I should do about it,” she began.
“Yes, go on,” he said.
“Father, it seems someone I care deeply for has fallen from God’s grace and well, taken up with a woman,” she said slyly.
“Perhaps it is not your sin to shoulder. Why do you feel so compelled to tell me of someone else’s sin?” he asked still unaware she was talking about him.
“Father, I am afraid I will lose this person, he is wonderful at what he does, but he cannot continue if he wants to be with this woman,” she hinted.
Father Ian’s mouth went dry; surely she wasn’t referring to him. He tried to maintain his composure, “Mrs. Costa I do not feel comfortable discussing this in the confessional. Perhaps we should walk the gardens?”
The late autumn flowers struggled in their display; the cool nights had tainted them. The leaves clung in desperation to the trees as their colors drew yellows, oranges and reds. Mrs. Costa took Father Ian’s hand as they walked. She was a stout lady whose cooking was legendary. “Father,” she said in a muted whisper, “I saw you the other morning when I was out walking my dog. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to. It was just that, well, you looked like someone I knew and then I realized it was you in your street clothes. You were coming out of that young woman’s apartment, the one that you spend so much time with,” she faltered to say more.
“I cannot deny this,” he said stiffly. She squeezed his hand as they continued.
“Father Ian, you are a young man, a beautiful young man with a huge heart, you have done wonderful things for our community. God can work through you whether you wear a collar or not,” she implied.
“Mrs. Costa, I am a priest, it is my calling,” Father Ian said defensively.
“It may have well been your calling, but your heart, and other bodily parts are calling you elsewhere, aren’t they young man?” she admonished him.
He blushed; it was unusual to have his parishioners speak to him in this manner. He stopped walking, “I appreciate your concern, Mrs. Costa, honestly I do.”
“Well, my dear, you must know that I am not the only one who has realized that this is going on. I don’t know if the others would be so kind. Please be careful, please choose carefully. Discretion is the better part of valor, I believe is the saying.”
Despite his discomfort Father Ian laughed, “Yes, I do believe it is. Thank you, thank you for coming to me and not judging me.”
Mrs. Costa patted him on the cheek and smiled, “I saw this coming a long ways off, she is a beautiful girl, some men need woman. God will understand, Ian. If there is one thing you have taught me is that God forgives, don’t lose that lesson on yourself.”
He watched Mrs. Costa waddle away, caught in his own sin; he hoped her words were true, he hoped God would forgive him.
Father Ian didn’t wait until night fall; if they all knew he was headed to Becca’s he would do it in day light. She opened the door and saw his worried countenance; he was still wearing his collar and dark clothes. “Father Ian, what a pleasure, please come in,” Becca pretended.
Once she closed the door her concern shot at him, “Ian, what is it? Why are you here? What has happened?”
“Becca,” he began, but he stopped and embraced her, “We must talk.”
Fear shot through her, she was still fragile, still healing. His love had been the balm for all her wounds and now she feared the worst. “Ian, please, what is it?”
“We have been found out. Some of my parishioners know about us. I am sorry, I should have been more careful,” he was miserable. He loved her, but he loved God, he was being torn apart at the very core of his spiritual fiber.
Becca sensed this; in fact she had known all along it would one day come to this. “Ian, you know that I love you.” Tears escaped there was no stopping them, “I will do whatever you want. I don’t want to hurt you with my love.”
He pulled her closer, he smelt her hair, he nuzzled her wet cheeks and kissed her soft lips. He was lost, he knew. “Oh, sweet Becca, what has God done to us? I don’t know what to do.”
Something snapped inside her, Becca was wounded, she thought he would choose her, she was real, she was flesh, she was here giving her whole heart to him. Where was God? She had felt disconnected and void spiritually since Molly’s death, only Ian’s love had reawakened her need to live, not God.
“You don’t know what to do?” she echoed in disbelief. “ How can you even consider a concept over us? How can you choose some esoteric love in the sky to what we have? Did you ever love me Ian?” Her panic was taking over, followed by her anger. “How can you even question our love? Where is God, Ian? Where the hell is he? Where was he when Molly needed him? When Azrael came for Jannie? How can you put your faith in someone who isn’t even here? Who makes you do unnatural things? You wanted me, you wanted me for the longest time,” she paused. Ian knew she was right at least about that. “But your God says to love a woman is wrong, that you cannot love him if you love me? It doesn’t make sense. Please tell me you don’t believe this anymore, please Ian.” She looked at him in desperation.
He stammered, “The Catholic Church believes these things, and I am a Catholic Priest. I am sorry Becca. It is who I am, who I have always been. I should have never gotten involved with you,” he bowed his head.
She screamed, before she even realized she screamed, “You fucking hypocrite! Get out! Get out, you bastard!” And then she sobbed, slamming her bedroom door shut and locking him out. He heard her deluge of pain as she swore and slammed her dresser drawers, her closet door, the night stand. Her anger released on inanimate objects until her energy was spent. And then he heard the sobs, the moans, the pillow stifled screams. He stood in her living room and listened until she quieted. Then he silently opened the door and left with a tear stained face.