She sat at the red light a few blocks away her mind not shutting off and heart aching so bad she could barely breathe. She always felt a cold brokenness whenever she left the church and had to walk away from him but tonight it was different, something felt different. Tonight there was a sense of dread and a feeling that everything was very wrong. Turn Around, something inside of her kept insisting and she bit her lip shaking her head. The rain poured down on the windshield of her beat up old car and as she stared at the light her thoughts seemed to drown out even the sound of the wipers. Something just wasn't right, she looked in her rear view mirror, but the massive church was already a few blocks away.
Turn around, the thought echoed through her mind for the hundredth time just as the light finally turned green. Taking a deep breath she made a quick and illegal U-turn before she could change her mind. Once she turned around a severe sense of urgency took over but the wet roads and dark streets prevented her from speeding.
She parked in front of the church and stared up at it, the alabaster angels that usually welcomed her entrance stared down from their pedestals with a look of what seemed like pure agony. She shivered and pushed the thought away statues didn't change. The church looked dark and empty and she considered driving away, just as she shifted her car back into drive a crack of lightening split the sky with a foreboding sound. She bit her lip and turned off the car before climbing out, she sprinted up the stone steps and slid a few times nearly falling down. She reached the large wooden doors and had to use all her weight to push them open and stumble inside, she closed the door behind her and took in the sanctuary, everything seemed normal. The hair on the back of her neck stood on end and her skin was covered in goosebumps just knowing something was wrong.
She moved up the aisle looking for any signs of Father Jude but saw nothing, the church was eerily quiet and twice as dark as normal. She saw something near the alter and even before it came into full view she knew what it was, her heart dropped and seemed to stop beating and her stomach clenched painfully, blood. There at the alter was a pool of blood, she covered her mouth with one hand to stifle a scream and felt a panic attack beginning to start up.
"Dante!" She called out to him, using his first name without even realizing it.
There was no reply and she ran towards the back corridor, passing the confessional on her way. She braced a hand against the stone wall as she stumbled down the corridor to where she knew his room was, maybe he was there. She pushed open the wooden door and found the room empty and spotless, his bed still made. The room was dark but she could still smell his cologne faintly hanging in the air, she had no idea what to do or where to look for him. Was he already dead? Was he in the hospital? How bad was he hurt?
A sob tore free and she collapsed to her knees in the middle of the room, she tried to take a deep breath and a panic attack slammed into her chest. She began gasping for air that her lungs couldn't purchase and she double over hugging herself.
"Please God, where is he? Please." She begged.
She heard the soft thud but it took a minute for her mind to process it, the second time she lifted her head. She tried to control her breathing and held her breath until she heard the thud a third time, pushing unsteadily to her feet she turned slowly towards the door.
She was afraid to go back out into the dark church for a fear that someone would harm her, but her desire to find Dante far outweighed any fear and she pushed herself forward. She moved back down the hallway and followed the thumps into the main hall, she paused listening but the noise fell silent.
"Dante?" She called his name again, softly.
Another thud had her turning towards the confessional, almost she moved towards it her heart beating so hard it hurt and her breathing erratic. It took twelve steps to bring her to the confessional and in those short steps she every minute they spent there together, every whispered confession, every secretive declaration of love replayed in her mind. She reached out and pulled on the wooden handle opening the door, a scream tore its way up from her very soul and she collapsed onto her knees.
Father Jude lay on the wooden bench his shirt covered in blood his hands gripping the wound at his neck.
She scrambled on her hands and knees closer to the bench and when he focused on her face she saw how disappointed he was to see her. She was shaking when she reached out to brush her hand through his hair.
"I'm here, it's okay." She said.
"A...a..."He tried to say her name and began to choke on blood.
"Shh, don't speak. I'm going to call 911." She told him.
She fumbled in her pocket for her cell phone dropping it from her shaky hands and fumbling with the buttons. It rang for what seemed like ages and she began to cry thinking that maybe they weren't going to answer.
"911, what's your emergency?" A lady asked in a monotone voice.
"I'm here with Father Jude, he's been...someone broke in...there's so much blood." She wailed into the phone becoming hysterical.
"Ma'am I need you to calm down." The lady said.
"He's bleeding to death! He's dying!"Anne shrieked.
"Where are you?" The lady asked her voice staying level and calm.
"I'm at the catholic church on fifth and park, right before second street." Anne said, casting a worried glance at Dante.
"Okay, I'll send an ambulance now. Stay on the line." The lady said, but Anne closed her phone and tossed it aside unconcerned with it now.
"They're coming, just stay with me." She begged sliding closer to him.
He choked on more blood and reached out with a free hand to gently stroke her cheek, she felt the warm smear of blood but didn't care. She cried harder as she watched the light slowly fade from his eyes.
"If only I'd came back sooner." She sobbed.
"N...n..."He tried to speak then gave up and slowly shook his head.
"I'm sorry, please don't leave me. I love you." She said, needing to say the words, needing him to hear them and praying that somehow they gave him the strength he needed to hold on.
He took a deep breath stroked her hair back and she watched him, her hands gripping his neck trying to stop the bleeding but it was a useless battle. He shifted slightly on the wooden bench and used his free arm to pull her head down, it took her a second to figure out what he wanted but when she realized his aim was to kiss her she willingly complied.
She had to lean down to his level but when her lips met his fireworks exploded in her brain, the situation wasn't the way she envisioned their first kiss and it wasn't perfect, but it was everything she thought it would be and more. His lips were soft yet, determined against hers and his hand gripped the back of her head preventing a retreat she had no intentions of making. His tongue slid across her lips and she allowed him access with a soft whimper, she instantly wanted more. A deep warmth settled in her body and a passionate want kicked in making her want things she couldn't have especially now. She tried to pull back first and he took that as initiative to nip at her lower lip, which turned her protesting into submission. Finally, he pulled away and his hand dropped from her head.
She knew by the look on his face and the way he had just kissed her that their time was up. Whatever happened next it was too late for them and the ambulance wasn't going to make it. She didn't know how long he had lay there bleeding after she left but it had just been too long and even with him applying pressure until she could it was too much blood to lose.
"I love you." She said softly.
He tried to speak and nothing came out and then with a suddenness that had her jumping back in surprise every muscle in his body contracted at once. She fell away from him and blood gushed from the wound where her hands had been holding it at bay, his body arched off the tiny wooden bench and he gagged, coughing on blood. She moved quickly trying to cover the wound with her hands but his seizing body made it next to impossible and she struggled to hold him down, all the time screaming at him to hold on.
The seizure lasted what seemed like hours but could only have been a few seconds and when it ended he lay motionless on the bench, at first she thought he was dead but upon closed inspection realized he was unconscious. She heard the ambulance roaring to a stop outside the church and a few seconds later heard voices shouting as they came through the door.
"Here, we're in here!" She called back, her eyes not leaving him.
The door opened and she heard the worker cursing under his breath as he stepped inside and another one pulled her to her feet and out of the way. She sat down numbly in the pew beside the confessional and listened to the men talking back and forth, she bit her lip trying to hold back her tears. Her entire body was shaking and she pushed her hands through her hair not caring about the blood stains the action would leave.
Who would do this to him? Why? The question burned in her head and then suddenly like a phoenix from the ashes her answer was there. She knew who did it and she knew why.
She stood up on shaky legs, her stomach feeling sick and her face pale. She moved around the stretcher and down the aisle her steps getting more sure with each one. In the commotion of trying to save Father Jude neither of the EMTs noticed her slipping out the door and getting into her car.
She drove home at an alarming rate, speeding on the wet roads and not caring when her car careened out of control nearly taking out a stop sign. She slammed it into park in front of her small single story house and saw Ed's truck sitting in the drive. She got out of her own vehicle and went straight to his and the gun she knew he kept in the glove box, she opened the passenger door opened the glove box and pulled out the revolver, she checked to see if it was loaded before tucking it in the back of her jeans and slamming the truck door closed.
Anne was never a violent person, she took what was dished out with a grain of salt. She kept her head down and her mouth shut, in all things Anne was a mild tempered pushover until now. Her brain had been taken over by a red fog that kept her from thinking straight and was fueled on by pain and pure adrenaline. Anne was finally going to stand up for herself once and for all.
She walked into her house and could hear Ed yelling at the television again. She pulled the gun out of her waistband and moved into the living room, standing behind him she waited for him to acknowledge her.
"Where have you been?"He asked without turning around.
"Turn around." She said, not recognizing her own voice.
"I'm watching the game." He snarled.
"I said, get up and turn around." She said firmer, cocking the gun.
"What? What the hell can you possibly want?" He asked.
"Stand up damn it!" She yelled.
He mad an animalistic noise of disgust and pushed to his feet when he stood up and turned to see her standing there holding the gun his face paled slightly but he put on an act.
"What are you going to do with that kill me?" He asked mockingly.
"That's exactly what I'm going to do." She said, her voice low and even.
"You don't have the balls." He taunted.
She pulled the trigger and her first shot missed, just barely skimming his shoulder. He dodged to the right and let out a curse.
"Damn it Anne! Are you crazy?!"He yelled.
All the emotions that she had been kept so tightly bundled inside of her burst through like the breaking of a dam and came forth in a burst of hysterical laughter. She actually laughed. He scowled at her and she laughed even harder.
"Give me that thing before you hurt someone." He said moving towards her to take the gun.
"Get the hell away from me." She said, suddenly serious.
"Anne, what's gotten into you?" He asked.
"I've had it with you and this life, I'm tired of you forcing me to love you, beating the crap out of me, cheating on me. When I say no in bed I mean No!" She yelled.
"Oh yeah? How many times did you say no to your priest?"He asked.
"He was my friend."She said.
"Friend? HA, you were banging him and everyone knew it." He said.
"Screw you." She said through gritted teeth.
"What did you say to me?" He asked growing angrier.
"I said screw you, you bastard." She said.
Pulling the trigger a second time she delivered a shot to his shoulder that sent him back onto the floor. She thought maybe he was dead but with in a few seconds he was up and he stormed at her. He used his old football training to tackle her to the ground and she fired a shot into the ceiling. Ed punched her in the face and she saw stars and blackness, he crawled off of her body taking the gun with him and she rolled onto her side holding her face.
"You dumb bitch!"He yelled, kicking her in the side for good measure.
He tossed the gun onto their kitchen table and stalked into the living room and she knew where he was going. She tried to get up but her ribs ached and she knew one was probably broken again, she winced when she moved her head. She heard Ed coming back and this time she struggled to her feet, he punched her in the back of the head sending her back onto the floor, then he lit his cigarette and she knew what was coming, she braced herself for the sharp burn.
He grabbed her arm and pressed the lit cigarette onto her tender flesh, she smell of burning skin filled her nose and made her gag, her eyes watered and she bit her lip until it bled but she wouldn't scream or cry, she wouldn't give him the satisfaction. He rolled her over and blew smoke into her face, straddling her hips. He leaned down and using all his weight to pin her he crushed his mouth to hers, it wasn't like the kiss she shared with Dante and the thought of him laying in his own blood spurred back her anger. She bit Ed on the lip hard enough he pulled back and when he did she spit his own blood in his face. He dropped his cigarette still lit onto the floor and slapped her, when he stood to go to the sink she pushed to her feet again. She grabbed the gun as he spit blood into the sink from his bleeding lip.
When he turned from the sink he had a knife, she lifted the gun and he charged her firing another shot she clipped him in the stomach and the two of them collided onto the floor, her head hit the floor and everything went black.
Anne opened her eyes and the first thing she noticed was the smell of smoke, she turned her head slightly to see the living room of her home now completely engulfed in flames. She was confused until she remembered Ed, their fight and the cigarette he dropped. She moved and then realized that Ed was laying beside her on the floor, he wasn't moving and he was bleeding enough that even she was laying in his blood. She pushed into a sitting position and instantly cried out in agony, the pain in her side blinded her and she fell back onto the floor. Looking down she saw the knife sticking out of her side, her shirt was soaked with her own blood and the pain radiated through her entire body, it was now she noticed she had difficulty breathing. Taking a deep breath she gripped the edge of the knife and pulled it out of her side, she let out a small cry of pain and instantly put her hands on the wound trying to stop the blood.
Blood, leaking through her hands for some reason that seemed familiar but she didn't know why. She was confused, she had been fighting with Ed and he had beat her again, she got the gun but everything else was a blank. Why were they fighting? She managed to use the table to pull herself up to her feet but couldn't manage to stand upright, she pressed her hand to the wound and gave Ed a small kick. He didn't move and she knew he was dead, she had killed her husband. She looked around her burning house and it was then she saw the crucifix hanging on the wall above her stove, Dante.
The memory of what happened came flooding back at once, her going to the church and telling him it was the last time, her going back and finding him in the confessional bleeding and barely alive, the maddening drive home, the fight. A cry escaped from her throat and she moved towards the door clutching her side, she had to get to him.
She limped her way back out to the truck letting her house burning behind her and with it everything of her old life went up in smoke.
Driving to the hospital took longer than she ever remembered it taking in the past, when Ed drove her after breaking her ribs, smashing her wrist or busting her nose. The pain in her side jarred into her chest with every bump but she couldn't stop she had to get to him. Keeping one hand on the wheel and one hand on her side she pulled into the parking lot and fell out of the truck. She let the keys hanging in the ignition and the truck running, the door hanging open as she dragged herself into the hospital her legs so weak they could barely hold her own weight.
The sliding glass doors slid open like the red sea being parted by Moses and she collapsed against the front desk. The nurse and the desk popped her gum and slid a clipboard to her without looking up from filing her nails.
"Fill this out and have a seat." She said.
"I'm looking for Father Jude." Anne said pushing the clipboard aside.
"Are you family?" The nurse asked.
"Tell me where he is." Anne insisted.
"I can't give out that information if you're not family." The nurse pointed out finally looking at Anne.
"I need to see him." Anne said, gritting her teeth against the pain in her side. She looked down and saw she was dripping blood onto the white tile floor.
"Are you okay?"The nurse asked standing.
"Just tell me where he is...please." Anne said.
The nurse looked her up and down and bit her lip, seeming to contemplate what to do. She finally gave a small nod and turned to the computer typing at the keyboard.
"He's down the hall in room 109, he's in bad shape." The nurse said.
Anne turned without thanking her and started down the hall, she had lean against the wall for support her feet tangling together she counted the doors, 103, 104, 105...1...0... Everything spun and she collapsed to the floor, shrouded finally in darkness.
Local priest Father Jude who was once the most respected priest in the city has been stripped of his title, after a couple is found dead and it was revealed that father Jude may have had intimate relations with the wife. Police say that last week...
Jude clicked off the television with the remote before throwing it back down on the hospital bed. He was packing his suitcase to go home, home to the country where he was born and raised. Not back to the church he was never going to preach again and he knew it. Outside there were dozens of reporters waiting for him to come out and he dreaded that moment but he was glad to be getting out of the hospital. Slinging his suitcase over his shoulder he took a deep breath and stepped out of his room.
Walking down the hall way was humiliating as nurses and doctors alike stopped to stare at him, the fallen priest. The man who gave in to the sins that he spent his job preaching against. He held his head high as he pushed out the side door and stepped into the blinding sunlight. Instantly reporters swarmed him yelling questions and shoving microphones in his face.
"Is it true you had sex with the victim before she died?" "Are you doing the funerals?" "Did you know her husband was beating her?" "How long were you intimate with the victim?" "What are you going to do now that you can't preach?"
He pushed his way politely through most of them feeling as if they were smothering him just from their nearness. He moved and the sea moved with him crushing down with their blinding lights and flashing cameras. He stopped at curb as a taxi pulled up beside him and he opened the door, he was going to get in when he decided he wanted to speak. His throat still hurt when he spoke to much or too long, and his voice was slightly rough and softer.
"I loved Anne, very much. I never touched her, what we had didn't need to be physical, it was emotional. I loved Anne, had I know this is how it would end I can't say I'd change it. It's just a title but she was everything." He said, he took a deep breath and climbed into the taxi before they could ask more.
He was going to go straight to his moms but he took a detour he stopped at his church, what used to be his church. Paying the cab driver to wait for him he slowly walked up the steps one last time and entered the large main room. He could see where the floors had been freshly repainted to cover his blood and he turned moving towards the confessional. He opened the door and stepped inside, it seemed smaller, emptier than it used to and he sat down on the bench leaning his head back against the wood. He could almost still smell her perfume lingering in the air, hear the sweet sound of her laughter.
When he woke up in the hospital he instantly wondered where she was, the next day he learned about her fight with Ed, her driving to the hospital, the internal bleeding and her final collapse just feet from his door. It brought him no comfort that instead of helping herself she tried to go to him. He couldn't help feeling he should have been there for her, and she had died just out of his reach.
But that's their story wasn't it? Always so close and yet always just out of reach.
"I'm sorry Anne, for what's it worth. I'm sorry." He said softly.
There was no reply of course and he felt tears roll down his cheeks, he was never going to love like he did her. He had been stripped of his title, his church taken, a nation and city turned against him, his name dragged through the mud but at the end of it all it was her absence that hurt the most and left him feeling broken.
"forgive me father, for I have sinned."
If he listened hard enough he could still hear her voice, that first time he allowed himself to confess his own sins, the first time he opened up to another human being and the first time that his God couldn't sway him away from temptation. He should have made love to her, he should have taken her and ran and he didn't and he had to live with it now. He had to live with her death and worst of all he had to live with his own life of emptiness, a life he once chose willingly now became his own choice and the life he thought he wanted had become his downfall.