It was Sunday and the church was quickly filling up. He stood there, smiling and watched as Zendaya walked in and found a seat in the third pew.
“Father O’Reilly,” a voice said behind him and he turned around. A tall, slender and attractive young woman was smiling at him. “Don’t you recognize me? It’s Aileen McCarthy.”
A big smile broke out on his face. “Oh, yes, now I remember who you are. The last time I saw you you were this high. How are you? How is your family? What are you doing here in Cape Town?”
“I’m fine, thank you. I recently moved to Dublin because of a new and exciting job opportunity and I love it. Dad, Mom, Sinead and Liam are all doing very well. They all send their regards. I’m here on holiday.”
“The service is about to start. Afterwards, we will go to my office and catch up some more, all right?”
She nodded. “Yes, Father O’Reilly.”
They parted company. He went up on the podium while she found a seat.
Zendaya had watched them talking and was filled with jealousy. They seemed to know each other. Who was she? What was she doing here? After the service, she wanted to go over to her and introduce herself but she left the sanctuary through a side door and went for a walk instead. When she returned a half-hour later, she went to his office to see him but the door was closed. She raised her hand to knock when she heard a woman’s laugh. She froze. He wasn’t alone. She was in there with him. Bristling, she turned and strode away. She went straight up to her room and slammed the door shut.
“I hope you don’t mind having sandwiches and coffee for lunch.”
“Not at all, Father.”
“Good. I thought it would be a good idea for us to have lunch while we chatted.”
“I guess it’s safe for me to tell you that I had a major crush on you and that’s why I used to come to church every Sunday.”
He laughed. “Whatever works, I guess. So, is there a young man in your life?”
She leaned forward in the chair. “As a matter of fact, there is. Do you remember Rory O’Connor?”
“You mean the last High King of Ireland?”
She laughed. “I see you haven’t lost your sense of humour, Father.”
He chuckled. “I believe good, clean humour benefits the soul. Yes, I remember Rory and as I recall, he was a fine lad.”
“We started dating from university and last week he asked me to marry him. I said yes. I was hoping that you would marry us. The wedding is next year May.”
“Congratulations. I will make sure that I clear my calendar.”
“Thank you, Father.”
They chatted for another hour and a half and then it was time for her to leave. He walked with her to the back entrance of the church where the parking lot was. They shook hands warmly. “It was really good seeing you, young lady. And I hope that the next time you’re in Capetown, you will stop by the church again to see me.”
She smiled. “I will,” she promised. “And I hope to see you in May.”
“You will hear from me regarding that. Please give my regards to your parents, your siblings and Rory. Goodbye, Aileen.”
“Goodbye, Father O’Reilly.”
He watched as she walked to her car and drove away before he went back inside the church and locked the door. He went to the rectory to change into his regular black cassock before leaving for his usual rounds of visiting the shut in members of the church and the sick. By the time he returned to the parish, it was time for supper.
Zendaya was in her room, trying to read a book of Devotions which Sister Roberts had lent her but she couldn’t concentrate. She kept thinking about Father O’Reilly and the young woman. She wondered how long they were together in his office. She knew that he wasn’t there right now. Every Sunday afternoon until evening, he would be out making his rounds, visiting church members at their homes or in the nursing homes. She would have to wait until later that night to see him.
The way she reacted when she saw him with the pretty stranger made her realize that her feelings for him were more than just physical attraction. She had never been jealous in her life–not even over Anesu, not that he ever gave her reason to be but she knew that if she were to see him talking and looking very cozy with another woman, it wouldn’t make her react the same way. She couldn’t remember a word of Father O’Reilly’s sermon. And when she went up to receive her communion, she avoided looking at him. And when she saw him give it to the young woman and the smiles they exchanged, she seethed with jealousy.
Frustrated, she closed the book and got up from the chair. She walked over to the window and looked out at the courtyard below. The sun was still high in the sky. She wondered if he and the young woman would see each other again. She tried not to think about them but it was impossible. She paced the room. She thought of going into town for a while but where would she go? Stellenbosch! She always wanted to go there and now was as good a time as any. She called for a taxi, said goodbye to Sister Hughes and left. It wasn’t until she was on her way that she realized that she hadn’t told Sister Hughes where she was going.
It took her 45 minutes to get there. She walked around like a tourist, drinking in the natural beauty and oak-lined avenues and the Cape Dutch architecture. She had lunch at the De Warenmarkt before visiting the Village Museum. By the time she left Stellenbosch, it was nine-thirty. It felt good to be somewhere she had never been before. By the time she got back to the parish, it was after ten and dinner was past. Fortunately, she had grabbed something to eat and had it on the drive over.
She had just entered her room and was about to change when Father O’Reilly walked in. He closed the door quietly behind him before he went over to her. He looked very serious. “I saw the taxi driving away as I came up the path. That means you just got back.”
She leaned against the wall, her heart pounding as her eyes met his steady gaze. “Yes.”
He glanced at his watch. “It’s after ten. According to Sister Hughes, you went out since 2 this afternoon. So, you were gone for almost eight hours.”
“Where did you go?”
“Didn’t Sister Hughes tell you?”
“She told me that you went out but she didn’t know where because you didn’t tell her. Where did you go, Zendaya?”
“If you must know, I went to Stellenbosch.”
Her chin lifted just a fraction. “I wanted to get away from the parish for a while.”
“Why go there? Why not go for a walk around here?”
“I’m tired of going for walks around here. Besides, I’ve always wanted to visit Stellenbosch.”
“Were you there alone?” he demanded. “Or were you there with him?”
“What does it matter if I was there alone or with Anesu?” She moved away from the wall and was about to walk past him.
His expression darkened and he caught her by the shoulders. Jealousy and anger flashed in his eyes. “It matters to me,” he muttered between clenched teeth.
She tried to pull away from him but he was too strong. “I was there ALONE. And for your information I haven’t seen Anesu since I came to Cape Town.” She struggled against him again and this time he released her.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I acted the way I did just now because I was jealous.”
She walked over to the window and stood looking out with her back to him for several minutes. Then, turning around she said to him, “This morning before Mass, I saw you talking to a young woman I’ve never seen before. Who was she?”
“That was Aileen. She’s visiting from Ireland.”
“How well do you know her?”
“I’ve known her since she was a little girl.”
“Well, she’s not a little girl anymore, is she? I came by your office to see you but she was in there with you.”
“Yes, we were catching up because we haven’t seen each other for years.”
“She’s very pretty.”
“Yes, she is.”
“So, are you planning to see her again?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact, I will be seeing her in May.”
“Are you attracted to her?”
He went over to her, his eyes searching her face. “Is this why you’re acting like this?” he asked. “You think I’m attracted to Aileen?”
Zendaya didn’t answer and she lowered her eyes so that he wouldn’t see what was in them.
“Zendaya, there’s nothing between Aileen and me. She’s just a girl I knew from my village. She’s here in Cape Town on holiday and came by the parish to see me, that’s all.”
“You said that you’re going to see her in May.”
“Yes, because that’s when she’s getting married. She wants me to officiate.”
“She’s engaged?” She raised her eyes to look at him then.
“Yes and to a very nice young man.”
He cupped her face between his hands, his eyes darkening. “Zendaya, you have no reason to be jealous of her or anyone else,” he told her huskily. “I don’t want anyone but you.” He lowered his head and kissed her fiercely, groaning when she responded.
They exchanged wild kisses for several minutes and then separated long enough to remove their clothes. Then, they were back in each other’s arms, kissing feverishly until he scooped her up and carried her over to the bed.
Next is, Zendaya Leaves.