“Oh, Grandma, I didn’t know that you had company.” Clara’s eyes shifted from her to Father Kowalski. “Good evening, Pastor Kowalski.”
It took a moment for him to reply because he was taken aback by how she looked, all dressed up. “Good evening, Clara.”
Mrs. Siri beamed. “You look lovely, Clara.”
“She’s going to Lyn’s engagement dinner. Lyn is her friend from high-school.”
Father Kowalski didn’t answer.
“Clara, do you have a jacket you can wear over the dress? The temperature will get cooler.”
Father Kowalski glanced at his watch. “Well, I’d better be going. I have one more visit to make before heading back to the church. Thanks, Mrs. Siri for the tea and the slice of carrot cake.”
“You’re welcome, Father Kowalski. Have a good evening. Clara will show you out.”
He stood up and followed Clara into the shop. She was a beautiful girl but this evening, she was breathtaking. He wanted to compliment her on how she looked but didn’t think it would be appropriate. “Incidentally, I returned your book.”
“What did you think of it?”
“It was very inspiring. The different stories were a reminder that God reaches each of us in different ways.”
“Yes, He does.”
“Well, goodnight, Clara.”
“Goodnight, Pastor Kowalski.” She moved forward, intent on walking past him to open the door when she stumbled.
He steadied her. Her eyes flew up to his face when she felt his fingers gripping her arms. They felt warm against her skin. The only light coming into the shop was from the street light. Anyone looking in, couldn’t see them, not even if they pressed their faces against the glass.
Her skin felt as soft as he imagined. He knew he ought to release her and leave but he seemed unable to move. His heart was racing like crazy and his breath had quickened. His eyes dropped to her parted lips. For him, they were the forbidden fruit and he couldn’t resist. His hands left her shoulders and cupped her face.
Clara watched, spellbound as his face got closer and then, her eyes fell shut as she felt his lips on hers. Her arms went around his waist as she responded. The kisses soon became passionate. She couldn’t believe this was happening.
The loud knocking on the glass jolted them apart. While he dabbed his mouth with his handkerchief, she gathered herself together before checking to see who it was. It was her friend, Maureen. They were going to Lyn’s engagement dinner together. Clara unlocked the door and pushed her head outside. “Hi Maureen. Give me five minutes.”
“All right. I’ll wait in the car.”
Clara closed the door and faced Father Kowalski. “It’s my friend, Maureen,” she told him. “I’m getting a ride with her to Lyn’s engagement dinner.”
“I must be going,” he muttered tightly. “Good night, Clara.” He opened the door and went out.
Clara closed the door and then hurried to her bedroom to get her jacket and black clutch bag. She popped into the kitchen where her grandmother was having a cup of hot cocoa. “Grandma, he kissed me!” she announced, almost beside herself with excitement.
Mrs. Siri looked startled. “Who kissed you?”
“Father Kowalski kissed you?”
“Yes! And do you know what that means?”
Mrs. Siri looked befuddled. “I’m at a loss.”
“Oh, Grandma, can’t you see? The kiss means that he has feelings for me too.”
“I can’t believe I’m hearing this.”
“I have to go now. Maureen is waiting outside for me. Goodnight, Grandma.” She kissed her on the cheek and hustled out of the kitchen.
Mrs. Siri sat there, shaking her head. “Lord, I don’t know what to make of this new development. You know all things. I just hope and pray that Clara doesn’t get hurt.”
It was a foolish thing to do but he couldn’t help himself. He had dreamt of kissing her for so long that when the opportunity came, he couldn’t resist. If they hadn’t been interrupted, he would have continued kissing her. The feelings she stirred in him, the raging desire scared him. Underneath the cassock he was a man–flesh and blood.
He dropped to his knees and clasped his hands. Closing his eyes, he opened his mouth and profound mutterings of deep contrition poured forth. “Father, there is something else deep within me, in my lower nature, that is at war with my mind and wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. In my mind I want to be Your willing servant, but instead I find myself still enslaved to sin. In my mind, I knew what I was doing was wrong but my heart and my body overpowered my reason. Forgive me, Father. Deliver me from evil and temptation. Have mercy on my wretched soul.”
He spent hours in prayer that night and every night after that. It was like a war was raging inside him. Love and desire warred against reason and piety.