“I’m not the one you should thank. Your Heavenly Father is responsible for this, not me. I’m just the conduit.”
Kyle dropped to his knees, praying quietly, giving thanks to God for Emily’s healing. He knew she was well, he could feel it. Underneath his joy, something lurked. There was the matter of payment that the priest had mentioned.
“You told me at the mission there was something I must do for you.” Kyle rose, his eyes wary.
“Yes. Gentlemen, I beg your indulge once more. I need to speak to Kyle alone.”
“Certainly, Father.” Pablo bowed respectfully, leaving immediately.
Sighing heavily, Dr. West followed him. Once the door was closed, Fr. Michael focused on the door for a moment before turning back to examine Kyle’s face.
“Before I begin, you have to promise not to lose your temper or raise your voice.”
“Why would I do that?”
“Because what I have to say is going to make you very angry.”
“If you’ve done something to hurt Emily….”
“No. No, son, nothing like that. If I had the strength to move right now, I’d take you outside, but I don’t. You have to promise.”
“Is it something I can talk to you about tomorrow?”
“No. This is the last you’ll see me.”
“For Emily’s sake, I promise.”
Nodding, the priest accepted the statement. Taking a sip of his wine, he tried to get his troubled thoughts aligned before he began.
“I have a story to tell you. It began, oh, about thirty-four years ago when I was a young man. I met a beautiful woman. She had hair like spun gold and the bluest eyes I’d ever seen. I fell into those eyes, drowning in her beauty. Then I did something very bad. I took that woman to my bed before we were married and she got pregnant. Both of us were Catholic. Determined to do the right thing, I married her. She gave me a son and we named him after me. I loved that child more than I had ever loved his mother. I was fond of her, but my son was the light of my life.
“A few years later, we had another son. By this time, the marriage was in trouble. We were so young when we married, barely eighteen, that we were completely different people by then. My wife and I had a horrible argument. We were furious with one another. I stayed out most of the night drinking with my friends. When I got home, she threw me out. I took a few possessions with me and left. I never went back, never explained, never apologized to my wife or my eldest son. He was seven at the time.”
Kyle’s lip trembled, tears fell from his eyes. His breath came in shuddering gasps as he heard the story. He said nothing, keeping a lid on his tumultuous emotions as he’d promised. He waited for the priest to finish, denying what he knew in his heart was the truth.
“I had our marriage annulled. There were grounds since we were coerced into marriage by her pregnancy. A short time later, I entered the seminary and became a priest. When this mission opportunity came available, I asked for it. I wanted to put as much distance between myself and my old life as I could.” He stopped, laughing weakly. “And then you walked in my study and my old life came back to haunt me with a vengeance.”
“Why didn’t you ever call? You never explained to Chris and me. Not that he’d have understood, he was three. You left me to pick up the pieces of our lives after you ran away. She didn’t even have a job!” He wanted to yell and throw things, but he’d promised not to get angry. “I always wondered what I would say to you if I ever saw you again. I had all these pretty speeches planned about how sorry I was that I drove you away. I blamed myself….”
“It was never about you or your brother. Your mother was a beautiful, selfish and demanding woman. Nothing I did was ever enough. Then I got the call to become a priest, something I had put off, thinking it wasn’t for me. It became too powerful to put aside anymore. God was calling me to do this work for Him. When I quit fighting, everything worked out.”
“Except for us.”
“I don’t deny that, son.”
“I’m not your son. You gave up that right when you annulled your marriage to my mother, declaring me a bastard.”
“I’m asking your forgiveness, Kyle. I need to hear you say it.”
“You can keep on needing it, Father Michael, because I’m never saying it. I thank you for what you did for Emily. That was the miracle she wanted. For that, I’m grateful. But I can’t find it in my heart to forgive you. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go before I really lose my temper and break my promise.”
© Dellani Oakes