Fr. Barnard was hurrying past the brothel when a stranger caught his eye. The man was just standing there, as if examining the place. The priest stopped and turned back. His eyes sought out and found Karissa nearby. She had approached the stranger and, for some reason, this bothered the priest immensely. He was suddenly fearful for her.
She appeared cold and tired as she looked up and saw him. The man wandered off and Karissa quickly came to the priest’s side. He could see how distraught she still was.
“I was worried,” he began, indicating the man in the distance. “An unwelcomed stranger?”
She nodded. “He wasn’t interested.”
The priest felt the tension reduce in his chest, but he was still worried. “Aren’t you cold, out here in the dark?” he asked. She seemed to not want to leave his side as she glanced back at the lights in the windows of the brothel.
“I’d offer you my cloak but I didn’t bring it.” He wanted to distract her from what was on her mind. She turned and smiled, stepping perhaps a bit too close. He didn’t move, but just watched her.
“You shouldn’t be worried about me,” she said. “I can take care of myself. I always have.”
He nodded. He started to turn but looked back. “We have plenty of rooms if the .. house is too busy tonight,” he said, interrupted briefly by loud laughter coming from the building.
She slipped her arm into his and nodded, holding onto him as they walked up the stone path to the abbey. His hand cupped over hers and for a moment his mind went back to another place. When they arrived at the abbey, he showed her to the room reserved for the Abbess. The carpet was thick and rich and the room was spacious.
“Oh, no,” she objected. “I don’t deserve such a nice room.”
He looked at her strangely, trying to consider his answer.
“See,” she said, noting his silence. “Even you agree.”
“That’s not true,” he objected. “It’s you who deserve better. Better than this. Better than HIM.” He caught himself and drew up short, his dark eyes going wild. “Why?” he asked her. “You, Her. Both of you. Why him?” Distressed, he fled the room and went to the church to pray, muttering angrily to himself.
Karissa waited in the room for a bit, enjoying it’s luxuries, but she kept thinking about the priest’s strange reaction. She decided to go for a walk, to explore the grounds and to clear the air. When her wandering took her to the church, she was surprised to find the priest at prayer, his head buried in his arms, muttering. He raised his head and wiped tears from his cheeks, but didn’t see her. Instead, he went to the kitchen, staring at the walls as if they would evaporate..
As she approached the kitchen, she heard him cry out: “Mutter, warum bist du gestorben!”
To be continued….