They stood together at the altar. Her sense of happiness palatable. If any from the happy congregation could have seen his face, and austere expression, it would have conveyed much about his thoughts.
He stared straight ahead. Not at her, and especially not at him, although he was aware of the self satisfied smirk. That look that said it all. The look that said, We have a secret. You will never tell, and I will get away with it.
He listened as he continued with the prayers, and the blessings. The hypocritical blessings and prayer’s from one so sullied with sin. It was sickening. In the quietness of the church, the creaking wooden door opened and he watched the priests face turn from arrogant self satisfaction to fear, and anxiety. Perspiration began to trickle down his face. His words became muffled and quiet, so much so, people strained to hear the ceremony.
He so wanted to turn around and see the cause of the priest’s unease. She sensed what he was about to do, and pulled hard on his hand, and briefly glared at him. Her angry eye’s told him all he needed to know. So to keep the peace, he continued to stare straight ahead, and wait for the priest to regain his composure. But that was not forth coming. The sun shone its warm healing rays through the many stained glass windows, brightening the church interior. There friends and families looked on with joy and happiness. many believing this was a coming together that was ment to be, from a very young age.
The stench of alcohol was pervasive, from he assumed the latest entrant into the church. The priest lamely continued with the ceremony. But his words were still weak. Barely audible, and he continued to perspire, and glance furtively and continually at the congregation. His anxiety plain to see.
Then it started, as expected, and brought with it a sense of relief. We all could sense something untoward was about to happen, and now the waiting was over.
‘You Bastard’, the words were loud, thunderous, and slurred. The ceremony stopped. Many in the congregation turned to see where the angry words emanated from. Some ignored the angry words, which were heavily laden with many years stored up emotion. Hoping things would quieten, the priest continued the ceremony. The priest rocked back on his heels, nearly knocked over by the force of the anger and venom, that the words were wrapped in.
‘You Bastard’, again the angry words revebatred around the peace and solemnity of the small country church. His anger directly aimed at the priest. There was loud shuffling among the seats, as a few of the others tried to contain, and control the drunken angry man. Tried to plead with him to see sense, and not ruin a young couple’s wedding day.
He broke free of those holding him, energized by his indignation and sense of righteous, and stood in the aisle, before the altar. His voice even louder this time. His face red, and tortured. Reflecting his years of alcohol abuse. His dark suit, shabby.
‘You did this to me’, he screamed at the priest, who again rocked back on his feet, as he absorbed the words directed at him.
‘Had you not taken my innocence as a child to satisfy your perverted sexual desires, I would have never ended up like this. Why do you think I’ve become an alcoholic, a drug user, Why ? he asked accusingly, never once lifting his gaze from the priest. ‘To hide those memories deep within my mind, and soul. To hide that shame, that has haunted me all of my life. That sense of filth and inadequacy I have felt since. Why could you not have let me be, Why ? You caused this, to me and many others, and I’m here today to call you out. To let the members of your congregation, and this small town and community know that you are not that helpful innocent soul, the do godder sent by God, to do his good works. You are a charlatan, a deceptive, sleazy lying manipulator, who in the past has taken the innocence of many young boys, and condemned them to a life of misery, addiction, chaos, abject life failure.’ ‘You’, he continued to point his shaking hand at the priest, ‘used your position and power, and our sense of deep shame, humiliation, and fear to satisfy your lustful desires at our expense. Satisfied in the knowledge that none would speak out and expose you. Well no more. You are, a destroyer of people’s lives ‘.
The congregation listened in silence to the man as he unleashed his vitriolic speech, swaying slightly in the aisles. The priest looked uneasy on the altar. The young couple turned around to see who was this intruder into their peaceful wedding day.
Then it stopped. The shouting, the anger. The loud angry man collapsed on the floor. None moved to help him. Just watched. The young couple at the altar turned round, and after a few moments, Jason, the groom went to the fallen body. The stench of urine, an unwashed body, alcohol and cigarette smoke that emanated from the man, was stomach turning. The long hair was unkempt and matted with dirt, and God’s knows what else. Those in the congregation watched in silence, as did the priest.
He moved closer to the fallen man, and moved the his long filthy hair away from his face, to check his breathing. The mans skin was in even worse condition close up. Pock marked with red sore’s, a few of which were leaching some disgusting poisonous looking liquid. His breathing was short, fitful, and strained. He called for a Doctor, a nurse among the congregation. For an ambulance to be summoned. He searched inside the mans crumpled dirty suit for some ID. In his hand the collasped man held with a tightened grip an object on a broken chain. Not knowing why, but Jason wrestled with the clenched hand to release the object. Eventually securing it’s release. He studied the object, wiping away the accumulated dirt and filth.
He recognised the silver coin, given to him by the older brother he so much admired. The coin from all those years ago, that held pride of place among his belongings, and which he treasured. A symbol of their togetherness and closeness, a bond which would never be broken.
‘Where did you get this’, he asked the fallen man urgently. His voice loud and urgent.
‘Tell me where, Goddam you. Answer me’. He shook the man’s shoulders hard. But no response.
He had searched over many years for the brother he so loved and admired. Never knowing what had happened to him, was worse than actually knowing. No contact for years. Nothing.
Jason lent over the older collapsed man, wishing him silently for his consciousness to return.
‘Where the hell is that ambulance’, he called loudly to no one in particular.
The wedding congeration looked on in silence.
The man continued to struggle to breath. His breath’s audibly becoming weaker, and fewer. Unable to fully expand his chest. He moaned quietly. Jason watched his face intently, and was helpless, as the last sign’s of life slowly ebbed from the man. His lips turning slightly blue. The failing weak breath telling its own tale. Jason closed his eyes, began to pray by the man’s his side, and wished him a safe passage to the next life. As he knelt beside the fallen man, with his head bowed in prayer, his hand was gripped in an iron clamp. He looked up and into the now open eye’s of the fallen man, and in that instant he recognized him. That slight smile, that twinkle in his eyes, told what he needed to know.
Then he was gone, life extinguished. In that small church on that bright summer’s day, not a sound was uttered.