‘We need to do this.’ said the High Priest. ‘The children need us to do it.’
The High Priest cut him short. ‘No, Dmitry, don’t let fear win. We are angels, we are sent by God to do justice. And nothing is going to stop us. Not even one of us.’
There was a slight tension between the five priests, as they acknowledged that there would be no other way, no going back.
They didn’t all approve of it, but they would all have to live with it.
Karen thought about her day while she was making breakfast. She would get Susan ready for school, prepare Tom’s rucksack for the day out with his grandfather, then take a shower, put on the black dress and go to church. She decided to go on this day because it was an important day. Ten years had passed since she got married. Ten hard years, but she was about to stop the torment now, with this confession. She needed it. She needed her soul back, her family back, she needed it.
Her husband left early for work and had promised her he would be home in time to pick her up. They would then go and celebrate...
‘Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.’
‘What did you do, my child?’
‘I have been unfaithful to my husband.’
‘Father, I need to tell you... I need to say it all.’
‘I’m here to listen, my child.’
Karen took a deep breath and with her hands numb in her lap began to tell her story.
‘I married my husband ten years ago. I was touched by his charm, his looks, his great ideas... I think I thought I loved him then. But something (just wasn’t there)(was missing). Maybe we got used to each other too fast and started to pay less and less attention to one another. Or maybe I never really wanted him as my husband, I don’t know.
After being married for six months, I met Steve, a geography teacher. We were just friends at first, but he knew how to slip a compliment into the conversation, in a way that makes a woman blush. He used to say things like nothing compares to my beauty or things like how I should be worshiped for the goddess that I am and the like. I fell for him. When I would make love to my husband, I fantasised that he was Steve. I used to say Steve’s name in my mind when asking my husband to do it to me harder. I would be cooking and ask myself what would he say about the dish? Steve was constantly on my mind. After a few months I decided to give in. So, when my husband went on a work trip, I called Steve and asked him to come over. That was the happiest night of my life. Nothing in particular happened but all the little things that did happened were perfect. We made love like you see in the films, we talked for hours, we had wine and cigarettes, and then we made love again.
It was like in that Romeo and Juliet play, when dawn came and I knew it was time for him to go... But he never really left me. Steve was my lover for eight years. I gave him two beautiful children that my husband thinks are his. Oh, I am a horrible woman, I know! But no one ever knew my secret. Not even Steve.
Two years ago he got a job in a different school and he needed to move further south. We tried to keep it going for a while but eventually we cut it off. I have suffered, I can’t lie, but now I think it all happened for the best. I want my family back; I want to love my husband and give our marriage a second chance. I know my husband never suspected me of anything, but it’s not him, I’m thinking about, it’s me... I’m unsettled, I need my peace. This is why I’ve come to you, Father, to release me of the pain I feel inside for hiding my double life all these years.’
The priest didn’t say anything for a while, and Karen saddened thinking maybe he left the confession room while she was talking. But then she heard him sighing.
‘How old are the children?’
‘Susan is nine and Tom is three years old.’
‘Will God ever forgive me?’
‘God will. God always does. It’s you who has to forgive yourself. It’s you who has to want to make it right. God forgives...’
‘But what about you, Father? What do you think?’
The church was ready for the Sunday Ceremony. The candles were lit, the carpets cleaned, the bread and the wine made ready. Karen and her family were outside the church, chatting about the week’s events.
‘Congratulations on your tenth wedding anniversary celebration!’ said Vicky.
‘Thank you. You’re not really far behind, though, are you?’
‘Not far at all, and with God’s will we’ll get there,’ said Vicky, holding tighter her husband’s hand. She and Karen shared similar stories. They’ve even convinced Tara to cheat on her husband, just to be a part of their wicked group.
‘Hey, have you received the funeral invitation?’ interrupted Tara.
‘Yes, I have!’ said Vicky. ‘What a strange invitation...’
‘I have, too. Who died? Mine has no name on it.’ said Karen, taking the invitation out of her purse.
‘Neither does mine. Let me see. Yes, exactly the same one. Who died, does anyone know?’ said Tara in a higher voice, maybe someone around there would tell them the answer.
‘Should we ask the priest?’ asked Vicky in a lower voice.
‘No, no, I don’t think we should. Maybe we just didn’t hear about it, we wouldn’t want to offend him with our ignorance.’
‘True. We are going then. Are we?’
‘What else to do in a small village like ours...’ said Karen crookedly.
It was a cloudy day. Rain was wrapped in thick dark clouds hanging low over the cemetery. The priest and the clerk were waiting for the guests at the gates.
Karen, Vicky and Tara were coming from the valley, their husbands a few steps back and their children running around, dipping their shoes in the muddy grit on the sides of the road.
The priest nodded and the clerk lifted the tray holding wine glasses higher. As they were approaching, the priest welcomed them with a put-on smile.
‘Good Morning!’ said the priest, almost cheerful.
‘Good Morning, Father.’ responded the women, in one voice.
‘The grave is over the hill but I think we should wait here until everybody arrives. Take a glass of wine, and thank you for coming.’
‘Mom, can I have some?’ said little Susan.
‘No,’ answered the priest, ‘Your mother is having a bit of wine here, children are not allowed to drink wine, not before they turn sixteen years old. You can have some water. Do you want some water, Susan?’
‘No, Father, thank you,’ said Susan in an imperceptible voice, her face red with embarrassment.
‘Good girl!’ said the priest as he slowly tapped Susan’s shoulder.
‘Good, the men are here too, take a glass of wine while we wait for the others.’
‘Thank you, Father,’ said the men and promptly drank and emptied their wine glasses.
Tara was fidgeting around the priest, wanting to ask the question that was on her mind all morning. ‘Father, I wonder if I can ask you... we just don’t know... Who died?’
‘The bad, the unfaithful, the vile...’
Silence followed and Tara didn’t dare ask anything more, knowing that whoever it might be, was someone who deserved his fate.
‘Nobody else seems to be coming...’
‘Yes, we will start soon...’ said the priest.
‘I don’t feel too good,’ said Vicky, her thin delicate body slowly moving from one side to another. ‘It might be because I didn’t have anything for breakfast.’
‘Mother is waiting for us with lunch, let’s just go through this,’ answered her husband, rubbing her shoulders. Vicky met his eyes with a smile.
From over the hill a thick dark smoke rose up high, merging with the clouds. The priest rubbed his hands and called a start.
‘Let’s head towards the other side of the cemetery,’ said he and took the lead.
Karen looked at the thin line made by the slope where the stone crosses pricked the sky. All of a sudden the cemetery hill was more like a mountain and she found it impossible to climb. Her strength was fading away and her vision was getting blurry. She looked for her husband but he was kneeling, a few steps further down, his head in his hands. She stopped. Vicky was holding her stomach, white as sheet, Mark, her husband, crawling to get to her. Then she looked up. As her vision was getting even more blurry she could see an army of priests coming from the top of the cemetery hill. It could have been ten, it could have been two hundred, Karen couldn’t tell. ‘The children... where are the chil...’ were her last words.
Karen’s eyes were closed, she couldn’t find the strength to open them anymore, but she could still here hear some sounds around her. Some made sense, others didn’t. She felt her body being lifted, her back heavy as her hands and legs were grabbed. She wanted to cry, maybe she did cry, but no tear appeared on her waxy, cold face. Then she felt a crush and her body hit something hard.
It was dark.
When she woke up, her head hurt. She remembered being in the church, she remembered her anniversary and... The Funeral! She opened her eyes to find deep darkness. She barely could move her finger, but she would get up and understand what had happened. She lifted her hand to hit something velvety. She moved her hand along the delicate velvet fabric. Her silent scream dissipated in the depths of her chest in realisation. She was in a coffin.
‘Did you get them?’
‘Yes, High Priest.’
‘Good, Dmitry. How many do we have?’
‘Four, High Priest.’
‘And in total?’
‘Three hundred and forty-six. ’
‘Good. It’s an uplifting feeling to cure the world of these sinners, isn’t it, Dmitry?’
‘...Yes, High Priest. High Priest?’
‘What if these new parents will be the same?’
‘What do you mean, Dmitry?’
‘What if they will be unfaithful and gossipy and... like the ones... that no longer are?’
‘They can afford to be, Dmitry. They’ve already paid for their children. Let God judge them.’