Zendaya Returns

MarisStella_MIt was after the midday mass and the sanctuary was empty.  Father O’Reilly lingered in front of the beautiful wooden bust of the Madonna and Child.  He said a prayer and then blessed himself.  He stood there for several minutes.

He had contacted Aileen to tell her that he couldn’t officiate at her wedding in May and the reason why.  She was shocked but supportive.  She wished him all the best and expressed hope that he would still attend the wedding.  He informed her that he had arranged for Father Murphy to perform the wedding ceremony.   He was the priest who took over from him at the parish when he left Inistioge for Cape Town.

In two weeks he was going to be gone from this Parish and Cape Town.  Returning to Inistioge was bittersweet.  It would be nice to see the folks again and spend time on the hill overlooking River Nore but his heart would always remain in South Africa where Zendaya was.  Zendaya…He closed his eyes in despair.

“Good afternoon, Father O’Reilly.”

At first he thought he was imagining things but then he heard footsteps.  His eyes opened and he swung around.  His heart leaped in his chest, his expression becoming tense as he watched Zendaya slowly approach him.  All sorts of conflicting emotions raged inside him.  He ached to take her in his arms but it would be wrong, irreverent to do so there in the sanctuary.  He wanted to lash out at her for leaving.  His hands tightened into fists at his sides.  “Did you come to take your pound of flesh?” he muttered tightly when she reached him.

She looked up at him, confused.  “What do you mean?”

“Why are you here, Zendaya?”

“I heard that you were leaving.”

“I suppose I ought to be grateful that you came to say goodbye to me in person this time.”

“I didn’t come to say goodbye.”

“Why did you come then?”

“I wanted to see you, Cian.”

His eyes darkened when she called him by his first name and he took a step towards her.  “Zendaya…”  He froze when they heard voices outside.  “We should go somewhere else and talk.”

0a1f7e8df4d7c310e48df547dfda2143“Let’s go to the river,” she suggested.  How she longed to touch his face.

“All right,” he agreed and preceded her out of the sanctuary.  There was no one outside.  The coast was clear.  They left the church through the side entrance and made their way to the river.  It was a beautiful, sunny day.

When they got there, they stopped and faced each other.  Zendaya’s heart was racing as she met his penetrating gaze.  “Did you get my Christmas card?”

“Yes.  I would have sent you one but I didn’t know where you were.  Where did you go after you left the parish?”

“I went to Soweto and stayed with a family I met through Father Botha.  I spent Christmas with them.  How was your Christmas?”

“How do you think it was?  Do you have any idea of what you’ve put me through these past few months?”

“I’m sorry.  I explained in my letter why I had to leave.”

“You did what you thought was best for you.  You didn’t care about me or my feelings.”

“That’s not true,” she protested.  “I was thinking about you when I decided to leave.  You were a priest.  I didn’t want you to get into trouble on account of me.”

“You and I had been lovers for over two years and no one found out about it.  We were careful.”

“I felt guilty about what we were doing and I knew that there wasn’t any future for us so I had to do what I believed was sensible and right.”

“Do you still feel that way?”

She shook her head.  “No.  I went to Johannesburg and saw Father Botha.  It was he who told me that you were leaving the parish and the priesthood and the reason why.”

“I didn’t tell him whom I was in love with.”

“I think he knows that it’s me and that’s why he asked me if my reason for leaving was the same as yours.”

A muscle began to pulsate in Father O’Reilly’s cheek.  “Is it?”

She nodded.  “Yes.  I left because I had fallen in love with you.  You were the reason why I couldn’t marry Anesu but since there wasn’t any chance of a future with you,  I resigned myself to becoming a spinster.”

“Oh, Zendaya…” he moaned thickly and reaching for her, he pulled her against him, making her gasp.  And then his lips were on hers feverishly, urgently as all the pent up feelings gushed out.  She put her arms around his neck, her own response fierce.  In between frenzied kisses, he muttered, “I love you.”

They spent the rest of the afternoon up there on the hill just talking and making plans for the future.  That night, he went to  her room and stayed there until the next morning.  Several weeks later, they flew to Ireland.  He took her to his home in Inistioge where they stayed for a month before heading to Dublin.  There they got married.  Father O’Reilly left the Catholic Church to become an Anglican parish minister.  He happily adjusted to his new life.  As wife, homemaker and expectant mother, Zendaya’s life was now complete.

Source:  The Journal

Zendaya’s Visit to Johannesburg

streetstyle21522-webIt was late afternoon when Zendaya arrived in Johannesburg.  She took a taxi to the church where Father Botha was.  She had called him the night before to let him know that she was going to see him.  She needed to see him.  She wanted to see if he had any news about Father O’Reilly.  It had been two months since she left the parish and she was going crazy.  She couldn’t stop thinking about him and wondering how he was and what he was doing.  Was he constantly thinking about her too?  Many times she had been tempted to call the parish but thought better of it.

She had sent a Christmas card addressed to him with no return address on the envelope.  In the card, she had written, To Father O’Reilly and the Sisters.  I wish you all a blessed and happy Christmas.  May the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ bring you joy and comfort this season and always.  Zendaya.  She had considered sending him a separate card but what would she write in it?  Besides, hadn’t she left the parish because there wasn’t any future for her with him?  It was best to move on but that was easier said than done.  She didn’t want to be with anyone else.  She made up her mind that she would be a frustrated and lovesick spinster for the rest of her life.

Father Botha smiled when she walked into his office and he shook her hand warmly before inviting her to take a seat opposite his desk.  “How are you, my Dear and what brings you to my neck of the woods today?”dean-ogorman-canon

“I just wanted to say hello.”

“I’m sure you didn’t come all this way just to say hello.  I heard that you left the parish.”

Zendaya’s heart skipped a beat.  “How-how did you find out?” she asked.

“Your former employer, Father O’Reilly told me.”

“Oh.  How is he?”

“He’s leaving the parish.”

Kendaya swallowed hard.  “Why?”

“He called me about a week or so after you left and asked me to go to Cape Town because he needed to talk to me about something.  I went and stayed at parish for a couple of days.  He and I had a frank talk.  He told me that he was leaving the parish because he had fallen in love with someone but he didn’t mention who.  I have my suspicions.  Zendaya, you don’t have to answer this question but did you leave the parish for the same reason?”

She sighed.  It was no use denying it.  “Yes.”

“So, what are you going to do about it?  Continue running away from him or face him?”

“There’s nothing I can do, Father Botha.  He’s a priest.  There’s no future for us.”

“Perhaps when I told you that he was leaving the parish I should have also mentioned that he’s leaving the priesthood as well.”

Zendaya’s mouth dropped open.  “He’s leaving the priesthood?” she exclaimed.  “But where will he go?  What will he do?”

“Perhaps you should ask him that yourself.”

Zendaya stood up.  “I will, Father Botha.  Thank you.”

He stood up and shook her hand.  “God be with you, Zendaya.”

“Thank you, Father Botha.  Goodbye.”

“Goodbye.”  He watched her leave then, he picked up the telephone and called Father O’Reilly.

 

Next is, Zendaya Returns.

The Separation

c6bee777101682306e328b71dcc2d553Father O’Reilly had just returned from his visit to the orphanage when Sister Hughes rushed  over to him.  She looked very distressed. “Oh, Father O’Reilly, thank Heaven’s you’re back.”

He looked at her, concerned.  “What is the matter, Sister Hughes?”

“It’s Zendaya.”

He stiffened at once.  “What about her?”

“She’s gone.”

His face went pale.  “What do you mean she’s gone?”

“She left this afternoon.”

“Did she say where she was going?”

“No, Father.  I don’t know if it had to do with that young man–”

“What young man?”

“You know, the young man who visited the parish a couple of months ago.”

“He was here?”

“Yes, he was here today.  He wanted to see you but you were at the orphanage.”

“Did he see Zendaya?”

“Yes.  I told him to wait for her because she would be back from the market fairly soon and he said the strangest thing–”

“Did Zendaya leave with him?” he asked tightly.

Sister Hughes shook her head.  “No.  I saw him leave alone and he looked very upset.”

“Didn’t Zendaya say anything to you about where she was going or why she was leaving?”

“No, Father, but she did mention that she left a note for you in your office.  She was pretty upset.  This place will never be the same without her.”  Sister Hughes sniffed.  “Excuse me, Father,” she mumbled before she quickly walked away.

Father O’Reilly hurried to his office, closed the door behind him and went over to the desk.  He searched for the note but couldn’t find it.  Frustrated, he dragged his fingers through his hair while he tried to figure out where it could be.  Then, his eyes fell on his Bible.  Something white was sticking out of it.  He opened it and saw an envelope with his name written neatly on it.  He snatched it and sat down.  He used the letter opener to slit it open and then, with trembling fingers, he unfolded the sheet of paper.  His heart pounded heavily as he read the words on the page.

Dear Cian,

Before I explain why I left, I should tell you that Anesu came to the parish again today.  This time I spoke to him.  I lied and told him that I had left and then returned.  He wanted me to leave with him.  His plan was for us to go to his uncle’s house house in Cape St. Francis where we would stay until we got married.  I told him that I couldn’t marry him because I didn’t love him.  He asked if there was someone else.  I lied and said no.  How could I tell him about you–about us?

I gave him back his ring and he left.  He was really hurt and I’ll never forgive myself for that .  He’s a wonderful guy and deserves much better.  Marrying Anesu would have been a terrible mistake.  I would have been living a lie.  How could I be married to one man and thinking about another?  I know that I made the right decision where he’s concerned just as I know that I made the right decision leaving the parish and you.

I had to leave before you came back.  I couldn’t say goodbye to you face to face or I would have lost my nerve and stayed.  It’s no use.  There’s no future for us.  Your life is wrapped up in the church.  Leaving was the best thing for both of us.  I hope that in time you will see that I’m right.  Please take care of yourself.  

My deepest regards,

Zendaya

He crumpled the note and dropped it on the desk.  Leaning back in the chair, he closed his eyes.  How could she possibly think that leaving him was the best thing?  Did she have any idea of how not having her around, not seeing her or being with her was going to be torture for him?  Of all the foolish, selfish things to do…His eyes flew open and he sprang up from the chair.  He paced restlessly about the room, agitated and furious.  Granted, she hadn’t left with Anesu and had broken off her engagement to him but any satisfaction he might have gotten from that was squelched.  She was gone and he had no idea where she was.

He strode over to the desk and picked up the telephone.  He quickly dialed a number.  “Hello, Father Botha.  I hope I’m not calling at a bad time.  Has Zendaya been in touch with you?”

“No, she hasn’t.  Why?”

“She has left the Parish.”

“You mean she has left the parish for a while?”

“No.  She packed up and left.”

“That’s strange.  Didn’t she give you any notice at all?”

“No.”

“That’s not like her at all.  Well, if I hear from her, I will get in touch with you.”

“Thank you, Father Botha.  Goodbye.”

“Goodbye, Father O’Reilly.”

Father O’Reilly hung up and walked over to the window where he spent the next several minutes staring out of the window, his expression tense.  Where was she?

“What’s the matter, Zendaya?  Don’t you like the hat I made for you?”  Agetha asked, a concerned expression on her small face.

large-dd84c1eac5a3ce566f5fc6f5ae1a6763Fighting back tears, Zendaya hugged her and said, “Of course, I like the hat.  It’s very pretty.”  When she released her, she put the hat on.  “How does it look?”

“It looks really nice on you.”

“Thank you for making it for me.  It’s the best Christmas gift I ever got.”

“Why are you sad, Zendaya?”

Her question startled Zendaya.  “Sad?” she repeated.  “Do I look sad?”

Agetha nodded.  “Yes.  Are you sad because you’re not spending Christmas with your family?”

“I don’t have any family,” Zendaya explained.  “My father died when I was your age and my mother died two years ago.  I don’t have any brothers or sisters.”

“You can be a part of our family, if you like.  You can be my and Elsabe’s big sister.  I heard Mama once say that you were like a daughter to her.”

“I do feel like a part of your family and I always wanted to have sisters.”

Agetha smiled.  “Can I brush your hair?”

“Sure.  Go and get Elsabe.  While you brush my hair, I can tell you a bedtime story.”

Agetha ran off to get her sister.  Zendaya removed the hat and set it on top of the dresser.  She wiped her eyes on her pajama shirt sleeve.  Agetha was right.  She was sad.  By now he would have read the note.  Was he wondering where she was?  Was he furious with her for leaving?  She had no choice.  Still, it hurt to be separated from him and the thought of never seeing him again…The two girls bounded into the room and she turned to face them.  I mustn’t let them see that I am still sad.

 

Next is, Zendaya’s Visit to Johannesburg.

Zendaya Leaves

Zendaya sat on one of the stones in the woods that she sometimes cut through on her way to and from the market.  It was quiet, looked a bit eerie but she didn’t mind it.  Most people avoided coming here but not her.  She wasn’t afraid.  She felt that God would protect her anyway.

It was a cloudy day.  The sun seemed to be hiding its face but there was a cool breeze, a welcome relief from the heat of the past few days.  During those days, she had wanted to go down to the river and submerge herself in the water but Father O’Reilly had cautioned her against doing that.  It was as if he feared that Anesu would return to the parish despite his assertions that he wouldn’t.

She closed her eyes.  Poor Anesu.  She didn’t love him even though it wasn’t that long ago when she thought she did that was why she accepted his marriage proposal.  However, after she met Father O’Reilly things got muddled.  She never imagined that she would become attracted to another man–let alone a priest but try as she did, she couldn’t fight her feelings for him.  And now she was in an illicit relationship with him.  The only way to end this madness was to leave the parish.  Where would she go, though?  She couldn’t marry Anesu, that was for certain.  He deserved a woman who would love him in return.

Leave the parish?  It would be the proper and sensible thing to do but how could she?  She couldn’t bear the thought of leaving him but what future could they have together?  How could they continue with their arrangement?  What if Sister Hughes or one of the other nuns or residents discovered that they were having an affair?  He would be defrocked, humiliated, disgraced and she would thrown out.  She couldn’t let that happen.  She had to leave.

Her mind made up, although her heart was heavy, she got up, picked up the groceries and headed back to the parish.

“I’m afraid that Father O’Reilly isn’t here,” Sister Hughes informed Anesu.  “He’s visiting an orphanage.  He’ll be sorry that he missed you, though.”

“Please tell him that if he hears from Zendaya, to call me.  Here’s my number.”  He handed her a slip of paper which she took.

She frowned at him.  “What do you mean if he hears from Zendaya?” she asked.  “Zendaya’s just gone to the market.  She should be back any minute now.”

Now it was Anesu’s turn to look confused.  “You mean she came back?”

“Well, I don’t think she’s back as yet from the market but you’re welcome to wait in the parlor if you like.  I will let her know that you’re here as soon as she comes in.”

“I’m a little confused, Sister.  You see, I was under the impression that Zendaya left the parish and no one knew where she’d gone.”

“You’re mistaken.  Zendaya never left the parish.  She was here when you stopped by the last time.  Excuse me, I have some matters to tend to.  When Zendaya comes in, I will let her know that you’re here.”  She inclined her head and left the room.

BryanRashaun_Michael_final_01.jpgAnesu sat heavily down on the chair, perplexed.  What was going on?  Father O’Reilly had told him that Zendaya had left the parish but this nun just told him that she had been there all the time.  He couldn’t make heads or tails of this.  He was still sitting there, scratching his head when Zendaya went in.

For a moment, he stared at her as if he wasn’t sure that she was really there but when she closed the door in and moved towards him, he jumped to his feet.  He quickly closed the distance between them and pulled her into his arms.  He hugged her tightly.  “I’m so relieved to see you,” he exclaimed.  “I thought you’d left.  Father O’Reilly told me that you had.”

Zendaya hated lying to him but she had to.  She gently extricated herself from his embrace and looked up at him, her eyes meeting his in a steady stare as she said quietly, “I did leave and then I came back two days ago.”

“But the Sister said–”

“She wasn’t here at the time so as far as she’s concerned I never left.  Father O’Reilly didn’t want to upset her so we kept my leaving and the police involvement from her.”

“Where did you go?”

“I went to a cheap motel.”

“Did Father O’Reilly tell you that I came to see you?”

She nodded.  “Yes, he did.”

“Why didn’t you call or text me?  I was going to drive back to Johannesburg to look for you there.”

“I’m sorry,” she mumbled.  “I should have called you.”

“Well, I’m happy that you’re all right.  You’re looking well.  I was hoping to see Father O’Reilly before we leave but it seems like that’s not likely.”

“Leave?”

“Yes, I’m taking you to my uncle’s house in Cape St. Francis where we will stay until we get married.”

She swallowed hard.  “Anesu, I can’t marry you.”576064-500w

He stared at her.  “What?  Why not?”

“I don’t love you.”

“When I told you that I loved you, you told me that you loved me too.  That’s why I asked you to marry me.”

“Anesu, at the time I thought I loved you but I realize now that I don’t love you the same way you love me.  I’m sorry…”

“Is there someone else?” he demanded.

“No.  There isn’t anyone else.”  She slipped the ring off her finger and held it out.

He stared at it for a long time before he reached out and took it from her.  “So, this is goodbye,” he said tightly.

She nodded.  “Yes.”

“Goodbye, Zendaya.”  He walked past her, opened the door and left.

She went over to the chair and collapsed onto it.  Tears pricked her eyes.  For as long as she lived, she would never forget the expression on Anesu’s face.  She had broken his heart.  And from the moment she had walked into the room she had done nothing but lie to him, except for the part where she admitted that she wasn’t in love with him.  She panicked when he asked if there was someone else.   What if she had said yes and he demanded to know who it was?  She couldn’t imagine that he would guess that it was Father O’Reilly but she couldn’t take that chance.  Their relationship was a secret that she would take to her grave.

Getting up from the chair, she went into the office, got a sheet of paper and wrote a note to Father O’Reilly.  She put it in an envelope, sealed it and put it between the pages of His Bible.  By the time he got back to the parish, she would be gone.

 

Next is, The Separation.

The Visitor

327d50c8aed2c9fbb1c46606cee51177It 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.”

“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?”

young-professional-corporate-headshot-of-a-business-woman-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.”

614full-kai-newmanShe leaned against the wall, her heart pounding as her eyes met his in a 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.”

“Yes.”

“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.”

“Why?”

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.”

“Oh.”

He cupped her face between his hands, his eyes darkening on her upturned face.  “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.

Sources:  Come to Capetown; Love Capetown; Tripadvisor

A Powerful Force

Black woman praying in church

He watched her as she knelt in the pew.  Fortunately the church was empty.  If anyone else had been there, they would have disapproved of the way she was dressed.

Personally, he was happy to see her there.  After losing her fiance and son in a horrific boat accident, she had stopped coming to church.  For a long time, she was angry with God and the world.  He visited her but she wanted nothing to do with him or the church.  She reverted back to her old ways, going to bars, getting drunk.

On one occasion, he had to go to a bar and escort her out.  He took her home and made sure that she was all right before he left.  He was certain that his superiors would not have approved but as far as he was concerned, he was doing God’s work.

Despite her resistance and resentment, he didn’t give up on her but continued to visit her.  In the evenings, before retiring to his rooms, he went into the chapel and prayed for her.

He waited until she was finished praying before he went over to her.  She looked up as he approached.  Self-consciously, she pulled the sleeves up on her shoulders, her expression almost apologetic.  “Good evening, Father Martens,” she greeted him as she got off her knees and sat down.

“Good evening,” he replied.  “I’m very happy to see you.”  He tried not to stare but couldn’t help but notice that she was wearing false eyelashes.

“I know it has been a while since I came here.  You know why I haven’t been coming.  After losing and, I wanted nothing more to do with God or His church.  I was angry with Him for taking and away from me.  I thought He did it to punish me for my sins.”

“God doesn’t take away our loved ones to punish us.  He takes them when it’s their time to go.  We are all here for a time.  It just so happened that their time was before yours.  I know you miss them but they are in Heaven with God.  They don’t want you to be sad or angry anymore.”

She brushed away a tear.  “If it weren’t for you, Father Martens, I would still be bitter and angry.  Thank you for visiting and helping me.  I will be eternally grateful to you.”

He smiled.  “I was happy to do it,” he said.  “Does this mean that I will be seeing you on Sunday?”

She nodded.  “Yes.”

He wanted to tell her that she had to dress modestly whenever she came into the church, especially on Sunday but he trusted that the Lord would impress this upon her heart.  “Good.”

She stood up.  “I’d better be going now.  I’m working nights now.”

He looked surprised.  “Really?  Where?”

“At the Cyclone Bar.”

He didn’t like the idea of her working at a bar.  It seemed indecent, somehow.  “Our parish needs a receptionist.  How would you like to do that instead of working at Cyclone?”

“Are you sure you want me to work at your parish?”

“Yes.  You will work at reasonable hours during the day.”

“How soon would you like me to start?”

“As soon as you can.”

“I can start in three weeks.  I have to give my manager two weeks’ notice.”

“We’ll manage until then.”

She smiled.  “Thank you, Father Martens and God bless you.”

“Thank you.  I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.”

She nodded and taking up her handbag, she turned and walked out of the church.

He stood there for several minutes.  Yes, he looked forward to seeing her on Sunday.

Sunday came and she showed up, dressed modestly in a white skirt suit and yellow blouse.  No false eyelashes and the braids were gone.  Her natural hair was chin length.  He greeted her along with the rest of the congregation as they came through the doors, his gaze resting on her a bit longer than was necessary.   Fortunately, no one seemed to notice.

After Mass he wanted to talk to her but it wasn’t possible. He was flanked by church members as they left the church.  So, all he was able to say to her was, “Thank you for coming.”

A couple days later, he stood watching the wide open field and the hills beyond.  It looked like it was going to rain.  Perhaps he should head back now.

“Father Martens.”

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He turned and was pleasantly surprised to see her but very perturbed as well.  He had been thinking about her all week and looking forward to Sunday when he would see her again.  He tried to appear calm now but his heart was racing.  “What brings you here today?” he asked.

“I called the office and the lady told me that you had gone for a walk.  I remembered that you once told me that this is where you usually come for your walk so I knew that I would find you here.  We didn’t get a chance to talk on Sunday.  I just wanted to tell you that I was blessed by the service and that I will be coming again on Sunday.”

“I’m pleased to hear that.”  He couldn’t seem to take his eyes off her.  They were fixed on her face which looked beautiful in the dull light.  Just then a raindrop fell on his head, startling him.  He glanced up at the darkening sky.  “It looks like a storm is brewing.  I don’t think we’ll be able to make back to the parish in time.  There’s an abandoned shack over there where we can find shelter until the storm passes.  Follow me.”  He led the way across the field.

They reached the shack just in time.  As soon as they went inside lightning flashed across the sky, followed by a loud clap of thunder and then came the rain.  Fortunately, the windows and the door were still intact.  He closed the door and turned to face her.  Over their heads the rain beat relentlessly against the rooftop.  Hopefully the storm wouldn’t last long.

“It’s really coming down out there,” she said, glancing up at him.

“Yes, it is,” he agreed quietly.  Being here alone with her was a really bad idea.  He wished he hadn’t brought her here.  It might have been a better idea to bring her here and then run back to the parish.  “Hopefully it will pass soon.”

“It’s my fault you’re stuck here.”

“It’s not your fault.  I knew it was going to rain.  I should have stayed at the parish and come for my walk another time.”

“I shouldn’t have come, Father Martens.  It was selfish of me.”

“What do you mean that it was selfish of you.”

“I wanted to see you but I couldn’t wait until Sunday.”

“Why is that being selfish?”

“It’s selfish because I wasn’t considering that you are a priest and that there can’t be anything between us.  All I could think about was how much I wanted to be with you.”

He swallowed hard.  “We shouldn’t be having this conversation.”

“You’re right.  I’m sorry.  I should go.”

“But the storm isn’t over.”

“It’s all right.  I’ll be fine.  It won’t be the first I’ve been caught in one of these.”  She started toward the door when he caught her by the shoulders.

“Please, don’t go.”

She stared up at him.  They were standing very close.  He was still holding her arm.  Her flesh felt soft against his fingers.  His eyes were restless on her face.  His chest rose and fell swiftly as all sorts of emotions ran rampantly through him.  He knew that he was treading on very thin ice but he couldn’t seem to resist what was about to happen.  Instead of releasing her, he drew her towards him.  His smoldering gaze dropped to her parted lips before his lowered his head and devoured them.  He moaned and trembled when he felt her eager response.  For several minutes they stood there, kissing wildly as the storm raged on outside.

This wild exchange of kisses lasted for several minutes and then he pulled away, breathing heavily, his face flushed.  “We can’t do this,” he muttered thickly.  “I’m sorry.”  He stumbled away from her and dropped to his knees.  With his back turned to her, he bowed his head and clasped his hands.  He remained like that for a long time.  When he turned around, she was gone.  He staggered to the door and leaned heavily against the frame for a few moments before he sprinted through the torrential rain back to the rectory.

The following Sunday, he looked for her but she didn’t show up.  Several Sundays passed and still no sign of her.  She didn’t show up for the job as the parish secretary either so he had to hire someone else in a hurry.  He tried to put her out of his mind and busy himself with his duties and community service but it was no use.  He had fallen helplessly in love with her and was desperate to see her again.  Finally, one night, he went to the Cyclone Bar.

As he walked in and made his way over to the bar, he attracted quite a lot of attention.  The bartender looked a bit taken aback to see him.  “Hello, Father,” he said.  “We don’t usually get priests in here.  What can I do for you?”

“Hello.  I’m here to see one of your waitresses who also happens to be one of my parishioners.”

“Oh, you mean Zahra.”  He glanced at his watch.  “It’s almost quitting time for her.  She’s over there.”  He pointed behind him.

Father Martens turned and when he saw her, his heart skipped a beat.  He turned back to the bartender.  “Do you mind if I wait here?” he asked.

“Not at all, Father.  Have a seat.  Can I get you anything?”

“No, thanks.”  It felt strange being inside a bar but he thought of Jesus who went to the homes of tax collectors and had dinner with sinners.  He looked around.  Jesus died for these people too.

“Father Martens?”

He swung around, his face flooding with color as he looked into her face.  “Hello, Zahra.”

“What are you doing here?”

“I came to see you.  The bartender told me that your shift will be ending soon.  I’ll wait until you’re done.  It’s rather urgent that I speak to you.”

“All right.  I will be finished in about ten minutes.”  She turned and walked away.

Twenty minutes later, they were leaving the bar and walking down the sidewalk.  “You haven’t been to church for several weeks now,” he said quietly.  His hands were shoved deep in the pockets of his cassock but they ached to hold her.

“I couldn’t come,” she replied.  “I thought it would be best if I stayed away.”

“I miss you, Zahra.”

“After what happened between us the last time we saw each other I didn’t think you’d ever want to see me again.”

He stopped and turned to face her.  “I tried to forget you and what happened but I couldn’t.  I can’t stop thinking about you and missing you.  That’s why I had to come to see you tonight.”

She sighed.  “So, where do we go from here?” she asked.  “You’re a priest.”

He ran his fingers through his hair.  “I won’t be for much longer.”

“What do you mean?”

“I think we should continue this conversation in a more private place.  We’re drawing attention.”

“All right.  We’re five minutes away from my apartment.  We can talk there.”

Five minutes later, she was letting them into her apartment.  “Do you live here alone?” he asked.

“Yes.  I moved in here a couple of months after I lost my fiance and our son.” She turned on one of the lamps.

“Do you still miss them?”  What he really wanted to know was if she still missed her fiance.

“I miss our son.  Would you like something to drink?”

“No, thank you.”

“You said that you won’t be a priest for much longer.  What did you mean?”

They were facing each other now.  His eyes were restless on her upturned face.  How he longed to reach out and touch her cheek.  “I’m thinking of leaving the priesthood because of you.”

Her eyes widened in shock.  “Me?  But in the shack you said…”

“I know.  It felt wrong.  I was a priest and I had no right to be feeling the way I did.”

“When I saw how broken up you were about what happened between us and you kneeling there, I realized that the best thing for me to do was to leave.”

“Perhaps it was the best thing at the time but when you stopped coming to church, I was distressed.  It’s true what they say you know about absence making the heart grow fonder.  Your absences from church made me realize that I loved you.”

Zahra swallowed hard, her heart racing.  “You love me?”

“Yes,” he admitted, moving closer.  “I think I have always known it but was afraid to admit it to myself.”

“I didn’t want to fall in love with you because you were a priest but I couldn’t help myself.”

He reached out and cupped her face between his hands.  “Love is a very powerful force,” he murmured huskily.  “It’s best not to fight it.” His eyes darkened as he gazed down into her upturned face.  Then, he lowered his head.  She closed her eyes when she felt his lips on hers.  They kissed passionately for several minutes and then, he released her.

“You have to go,” she said.

He nodded.  “Yes.  If I don’t leave right now…”

She smiled.  “I understand.”  She followed him to the door.  “When will I see you again?”

“Come to church on Sunday.  It will be my last service.”

“I’ll be there.”  She reached up and kissed him on the cheek.  When she drew back, she asked, “So, what do I call you when you’re no longer a priest?”

He smiled.  “Call me, Guus.”

“Good night, Guus.”

“Good night, Zahra.”

Guus Martens left the priesthood and returned to Amsterdam where Zahra and he got married.  Although he missed saying Mass, preaching and administering sacraments, he knew he had made the right decision.  He couldn’t continue to deny his love for Zahra nor hide his frustration over the sex scandals plaguing the Catholic Church and its social positions on issues such as divorce, remarriage and mandatory celibacy.  He got a job teaching in a parochial school while Zahra worked at a cafe where one of the regular customers was a member of  Amsterdam Black Women Meetup, a group she was more than happy to join.

She thanked God for blessing her with another good man and she had come to peace with the death of her son.  God took him for a reason but she knew that she would see him again and that gave her comfort.  She remembered her fiance with fondness.  She had loved him very much but she knew that if he had survived the accident, she wouldn’t have married him.  It wouldn’t have been fair to him if she had because she had fallen in love with the priest who had helped her through her grief.  God had blessed her with Guus and now they were happily married and expecting their first child.  Her favorite scripture verse became, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
And whose hope is the Lord.  

Love is a very powerful force and even priests are not immune to it.  

Sources:  Bible Gateway; Amsterdam Black Women MeetupDutch ReviewNorthwest50Plus

Sacred Vows

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His strategy for forgetting Justine Samuels was to keep busy with his work as the local parish priest but his efforts failed miserably.  No matter where he was or what he was doing, he couldn’t stop thinking about her and wishing that he could see her again.  He missed her terribly.  Against his better judgment, he had continued to see her even after he realized that he was in love with her.  His excuse was that her grandmother was one of his parishioners and it was his duty to visit her especially since she was unable to attend church.

On several occasions, he visited the elderly woman and prayed for her.  Then he would spend a few minutes in the living-room talking to Justine.  It was during one of those times that she broke down and confessed that she didn’t know how much longer she could continue to care for her grandmother on her own while worrying that she could lose her job because the company might be downsizing.  Her job meant a lot to her because she was able to work from home.  She had moved into her grandmother’s cottage after the elderly woman had fallen ill.

Touched with compassion, he offered to counsel her.  They met once a week in her grandmother’s bright and airy sun room and the sessions lasted for an hour.  Sometimes he would stay afterward and have a cup of tea or he would leave immediately after.

Soon he found himself dropping by even when they didn’t have a counseling session on pretext of checking on her grandmother.  Afterwards, he would feel guilty and go to the chapel and pray for forgiveness.  Try as he did, he couldn’t stay away and during the summer when the weather was pleasant, Justine and he would sit outside in the garden while her grandmother was taking a nap in the living-room.

One afternoon, they were out in the garden, sitting on the bench, talking.  Behind them was a climbing rose bush winding its way up the side of the house to second floor window.  He got up and went over to it.  “Whenever I see a rose, I can’t help but marvel at its beauty and intricacy.  Have you ever heard the quote:  Some people complain because God put thorns on roses, while others praise Him for putting roses among thorns.

She shook her head, getting up and going over to him.  “No, I’ve never heard that quote.  Which of the two categories do you fall into?”

“The second.  I praise Him for putting roses among thorns—beauty among the ugliness that exists in this world.”

“For me, the roses represent God’s grace among the thorns which are the trials in life.”

He reached out to pluck a rose from the bush and winced when its thorn pricked him in the palm.  As he reached into his robe for his handkerchief, she took his hand in hers and gently turned it over to examine the wound.  The touch of her fingers stirred feelings in him and mortified, he pulled his hand away.  She looked startled and when she would have reached for his hand again, he stepped back, putting some distance between them.  He pressed his handkerchief into his palm.  It wasn’t bleeding much.  The wound was the size of a needle prick.  “I must be going,” he said tightly.

“But you only got here ten minutes ago,” she protested.

“Yes.  I have matters I need to attend to.”

“Will I see you again tomorrow?”

“No, Justine.  We can’t see each other anymore.”

“But why not?”

“God help me, but I love you.”

Her eyes widened.  “I love you too,” she confessed.  “I’ve wanted to tell you that for such a long time.”

He dragged his fingers through his hair in agitation.  “There’s no future for us.  I’m a Catholic priest and I adhere to the church’s teachings.  I made a vow of celibacy that celibacy so I could identify with Christ who was celibate.   In an act of sacrificial love I vowed to give myself completely to the service of God and His church.”

“But where in the Bible does it say that priests aren’t allowed to fall in love and get married?” she asked, looking confused.  “Aaron and Caiaphas were high priests and they were married.”

“A Catholic priest follows the example of Christ who is our High Priest and He wasn’t married.  His gave His life completely to serving His Father and shepherding His church.  It was Christ who said in Matthew 22:30, ‘In the resurrection, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.’”

“But how do you explain what Paul said about some people forbidding others from marrying, teaching human doctrines and putting traditions above God’s Commandments?”

“Paul made it clear that being single allows a person to give his undivided attention in serving our Lord.  He recommended celibacy because he himself was celibate.”

“But wasn’t it Paul who said ‘let them marry for it is better to marry than to burn with passion’?”

“He was talking about those who can’t exercise self-control.”

“Tell me, Father Montgomery, how do I stop myself from burning with passion?”

“Marry Robert.”  Robert was a member of the church she used to attend before her grandmother became an invalid.  On a few occasions he had stopped by the house to see how she and her grandmother were doing.  “He cares for you.”

“Is that what you want?” she demanded.

His face went pale.  “It’s not a matter of what I want but what must be.”

“So, this is goodbye.  I’m never going to see you again.”  Her voice trembled and he could see the beginning of tears in her eyes.   “This is so wrong.  You and I should be together.”

“What would be wrong is for me to turn my back on my faith, my church and God because I love you,” he muttered between clenched teeth.  He reached out and his hand trembled as he touched her face.  She caught his hand and pressed her lips into the palm where the thorn had pricked him.  Groaning, he wrenched his hand away and bolted from her.  That was the last time he saw her.  He stopped visiting her and sent the Vicar in his place.

Now he was faced with a dilemma.  His love for Justine was affecting his life and his work.    He had to do something about it, but what?  He went into the chapel and spent the next few hours in prayer, pouring his heart out as he sought God’s guidance.

Where is he?  Justine wondered as she sat there in the pew, hoping to catch a glimpse of him.  He wouldn’t be pleased to see her, she knew that, but she had to come, if only to see him once more and to tell him that she had employed a live-in caregiver for her grandmother and that she had left her job for a better one.

As soon as the service was over, she went up to the Vicar.  “Excuse me, Vicar” she said.  “Where’s Father Montgomery?”

“He is no longer with the church.”

Her heart sank.  “Did he transfer to another parish?”

The vicar shook his head.  “No, he left the priesthood.”

She stared at him, in shock.  “He left the church?”

“Yes.  Everyone was shocked except me.  He had started to question the teachings of the church and his heart was no longer in what he was doing.  I suspect this had to do with a woman although he never said anything.  He was unhappy and I told him that whatever he decided to do, make sure it’s a decision he can live with.  After much prayer and fasting, he decided that the best thing for him to do is to leave the priesthood and the Church.  I wished him well.  Perhaps God will lead him in another direction where he can serve Him as faithfully as he has served him all these years.”

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Justine thanked him for his time and left.  She walked out of the church in a daze.  Father Montgomery had left the Church.  Where was he?  “Oh, Lord, You know where he is.  Please lead me to him.” As she got into her car, she got a strong impression to go to the park opposite where she lived.   After she parked her car in the garage, she crossed the quiet street and went into the park.  About ten minutes later, she spotted him sitting on the bench facing the duck pond.  Heart thudding she approached him.  “Hello,” she called.

He glanced up.  “Hello,” he replied, quietly, rising to his feet.  His expression was serious as he met her gaze.  “I was coming to see you.  Your grandmother’s nurse told me where you lived.  When I got here, I decided to come to the park first.”

“I heard that you left the Church.  What should I call you now?”

“John.  You can call me John.  How have you been, Justine?  I think about you every waking moment.”

“I’ve been miserable,” she told him.  “I missed you so much.  I went to the parish today just to see you but you weren’t there and the Vicar explained what happened.  Why did you leave, John?”

“I left because I had too many questions about the church’s teachings which contradicted what was in the Bible and—because of you.  I couldn’t hide from my feelings.  It’s funny.  I believed that the robe I wore would protect me from feelings I believed that I shouldn’t be having.  I realized that underneath the robe was a man—a man who desperately loved a woman who was right when she said that it was wrong for us not to be together.  Will you forgive me for running away from a love that no sacred vows could quench?”

She nodded, reaching for his hands.  “There’s nothing to forgive.  I know that it must have been hard for you to leave an institution you have known and served for most of your life but I truly believe that God has a great plan for your life.”

He pulled her closer and bent his head so that his forehead was resting against hers.  “Yes, I believe that He does and you are a big part of that plan.”

She closed her eyes as they stood there in the sunshine, silently thanking God for granting her the desires of her heart.

 

 

Sources:  American Magazine; Catholic Answers; Vox; EWTN; Catholic.com; Diocese of Trenton