A Matter of Faith: Chapter 1-7

Dead in bed

Friday.

It is time for another piece of A matter of faith.

Today we know a little more about Faith’s life.

Life is gonna change in a heartbeat.

Discover it now:

After this bloodbath, because believe me, it was a bloodbath, I recommend we focus again on the real protagonist: Faith.

It is understandable to believe that the vision of a resurrected body could have made her go crazy, but the truth was that she hadn’t taken it so badly. The return to life of catatonic patients that were declared clinically dead was weird, but it had happened before. The rational mind of men could believe such things over time and open a crack in the wall of the possibilities to be poured through it, a good stream of credulity. The really that occupied Faith’s mind was the disappearance of Santa’s body through the crematorium and his clothes changing colours. Faith was willing to admit to herself that she took it so easily. However, she could not discuss this with anyone. They would think she went mad in addition to not being able to explain the disappearance of a corpse. So, she was selfish and left the room without telling Willy. She knew that she would get him into trouble. He would be the one who would have to explain the absence of the body, but she did not seem to care too much. (If you want to know, in the end, the bureaucratic system engulfed the problem alone. No one identified the body, no one asked for it, no one came to pick it up, and nobody noticed that where before there was the body of a man of 140 kilos, weeks later, there was only a box of orange juice, and a ham, egg and tomato sandwich in a plastic bag with a note that said, “Willy’s Dinner. Do not touch it if you do not want to be the next occupant in the fridge).

Faith’s home was not far. She could have walked, however, she had taken the bus direction “John Wayne” airport near Long Beach. She had an important appointment and, as usual, she was late.

She spent the hour and a half journey remembering what had happened to the mysterious Santa Claus. She reached no conclusion and, like most people, she decided to park the event in one of the gaps of her memory where it was best to forget. Eight stops later, Faith got off the bus, and heard the shouting of children.

A wall surrounded the outer court of “Weeping willow” orphanage. It was a ridiculous name, but you have to admit that there is no name that would make a child who had no parents feel better. The street was littered with hundreds of candy wrappers and bits of terrifying Halloween decorations – remains from the night before. Faith knew it was a very special day for all those kids, because for the rest of the year they were orphans, but on October 31st, they could become whatever they wanted: cowboys, princesses, wizards, superheroes, children with parents… The bad news came the next day when all those dreams disappeared and they came back to reality. They take off their disguises, and then the hidden orphan inside appeares.

“Quick, quick, hide, she’s already here!” Faith heard.

She knew what was coming next. She would open the doors and they’ll all shout SURPRISE! She would pretend to be scared and their giggles would bring back a bit of joy for the moment. Every year it was the same.

At that time, Faith realized that she had not changed her clothes. Her coat smelled of vomit and had bloodstains on the underside. The dark circles under her eyes added several decades to her age. She looked like a witch, and Halloween was over. There was no option, so she grabbed the knob, took a deep breath and yanked it open.

“SURPRISEEEEE!”

Faith took her right hand to her chest and everyone looked worried. Thirteen children, who had shouted, now were laughing with her hands in their mouth and looking at each other satisfied by their small feat. Little Ruth, however, seeing Faith’s dress hid quickly behind the legs of one of the keepers. On the other hand, young Stuart, Calvin and Edward looked at each other whispering and giggling.

“What an idiot, she doesn’t know Halloween is over.” Edward said loudly.

A hand, quick as lightning, flew and hit him on his head. The boy rubbed his neck and looked around. His friends were laughing, but the priest who was staring at him from above did not show any symptoms of fun (although in fact it was quite funny). Despite the seriousness with which he tried to reprimand the boy, the priest could not hide the tenderness that inspired young people to him. Tanned skin of Father Jesus, his clear blue eyes and his youth, he was thirty, was far from the typical image of the old, ashen, crumpled priests children liked to call “crows.”

“What did I say about using bad words?” the father Jesus said holding boy’s ear.

“But… I just said “idiot.” Aaay!”

Father Jesus pulled the ear even more.

“What did I say?”

“I’m sorry,” the boy complained, “I won’t say it again.”

The young priest released Edward’s ear and then he ran towards a group of friends, who greeted him with jeers.

“You’re a bunch of idiots,” he said to Calvin and Stuart turning his head to make sure that father Jesus had not heard him. But he saw the priest’s glare and he was raising his threatening hand ready for another punishment.

The three boys ran while father Jesus smiled.

Faith watched everything with the same cheerful grin on her face. Jesus turned around and saw her. He smiled again and hugged her.

“Happy birthday freckles,” he whispered.

Faith, still clinging to him, looked at the ornaments in the garden, children running and playing among the tables and chairs, people in charge of the orphanage trying to take control of the situation, a huge “Congratulations” poster hanging between the two old willows. But she didn’t find what she was looking for.

“I don’t see him anywhere,” she said releasing him.

“He is upstairs,” he answered losing the smile in his face. He wanted to come, but he’s too weak.

“So bad?”

“Enough to need to stay in bed, but not enough to stick me in the back when I forced him to stay.”

Faith tried to read the face of the priest, find something that was hidden in his words, something that would denote that he was lying. But other attendees wanted to congratulate the newcomer.

Claudette, the plump cook, embraced her like a wrestler would embrace his opponent. She pressed her back so hard she did not let her breathe. Old Charles, always with leaf rake in hand, kissed her loudly on the cheek. His beard left a tingling sensation and a blond cigarette smell told her he had ignored the orders of the doctor. Even Rudolph, the old cocker spaniel, whose copper-coloured nose had given it its name, came to congratulate her and slimed the low of the skirt.

She thanked, embraced and kissed everyone who approached her. Faith was glad to see them all, and meet new ones who joined the family in “Weeping willow”, but the face she was eager to see most awaited her inside. Thus, almost without realizing it, she found herself inside the old building. Father Jesus, who had opened the door, let her go first.

“Follow me. This way,” Jesus indicated her.

“I know,” Faith replied, “I still remember. No so long I left.”

Maybe the tone she used was not very condescending, because father Jesus stopped waiting for her.

They walked through the halls in silence. Both had spent their youth within those walls. And Faith could see their memories as chasing ghosts. Laughs and occasional tears were echoing in the corners. Next to the broom closet she slowed. One day, during a cold November, more years ago than she wanted to recognize, hidden between old Charles’robe, bald dirt and brooms, Faith kissed for the first time. And after that kiss would come many more, accompanied by soft caresses and furtive hands, inexperienced in dealing with the hooks of a bra.

She took a last glance at the door and head back to the front when she saw father Jesus smiling.

“You’re going to hell, you know it?” Faith said after punching him in the arm.

Father Jesus said nothing and continued walking without leaving behind her companion, without complaining and without giving up smiling. Faith grabbed the arm of his childhood sweetheart and continued his stroll through the past with a smile on their face.

The hallway led to stairs. Each floor led to another similar corridor, flanked by classrooms in the first floor, boys’ rooms in the second, girls’ in the third one and finally, on the fourth floor, staff rooms. Jesus took out a bunch of keys from his pocket, and they jingled in the silence of the hall. At the end of the last corridor, drawing a bend like an “L”was the principal’s office. People went there when had broken the most important rules of the orphanage. Faith had passed through that office more times than she could remember. She had always been naughty and rebellious. But that time she was not looking for the principal, this time was going to see her father.

When she opened the door, the air inside escaped, leaving a strong acid smell that plugged Faith’s nose. The huge wooden table on which the principal used to sit was gone, and his reclining chair that squeaked like a cat was gone too. There used to be an uncomfortable sofa where punished children sat in. Now, there was a thin mattress on a metal bed frame that seemed like it was from the Second World War. On it, thin, wrinkled and ill father Wright struggled to breathe again and again.

His lips were dry and the eyes mourned pus. She barely recognized his face hidden among so many wrinkles. The skin had so little meat to grip on that it was impossible to shave. Faith looked at him sadly and looked away almost immediately. Jesus held her tightly, and thanks to it Faith did not run away.

Father Wright stirred when fresh air from outside came in and instinctively he searched for more sheets to cover himself. But in his attempt, one of the two blankets that covered him slipped and fell off. Faith did not hesitate to stoop to pick it up quickly. And with care and affection she placed them on the fragile body again.

“Huuummm” father Wright moaned. His mouth formed what he intended to be a smile but it looked more like a wince. “You’ve come, child.”

Faith was surprised. He hadn’t opened his eyes. She did not believe he was even able to do so. Most likely he was blind. She knelt on the floor beside the bed and looked at her friend Jesus who was waiting at the door. He looked back and his lips moved silently, forming the words, “Talk to him.”

“I’m here, father,” Faith said taking his hand.

“Father, father,” old man replied spitting the words. “When you call me that I don’t know if you do it because of my title or if it comes from the heart.”

Faith glanced at Jesus who smiled and raised his shoulders with an expression on his face grimacing as any expert would have translated as: “I know, what else I can say?”

“Hi dad,” she finally whispered.

“Much better,” he replied, “Happy birthday, my child.”

“Thanks dad.”

Jesus stepped back in silence looking at the old father and his friend. He closed the door behind him trying not to make noise and left the two some privacy.

All the orphans were father Wright’s children in a figurative way, but of them all, Faith was always preferred. And she was in such a way that the principal of the orphanage decided, over twenty years ago, adopted her formally.

Why?

Before Faith came to the orphanage, father Wright suffered a faith crisis, and somehow, the girl changed his life, reformed and gave meaning to his work. The origin of the name, “Wright” came from Old English “wryhta” which means “worker” and it’s added to other names to define “someone who makes or repairs something.” The old priest repeated it to every child as a reminder that he had a mission to help repair the damage that the world had done to them, by forcing them to live there. Faith had repaired his life, and so he thought to give her his last name as a symbolic gesture.

She would be Wright.

“My child.”

“Yes, dad?”

“Would you pray with me?”

“Oh, for God’s sake!”

“How is it possible that someone with your name and your education can be an atheist?”

“You really wanna discuss that right now?”

“Daughter, you were a God’s gift.”

“Oh, come on…”

“I remember as if it was yesterday,” he continued.

“Dad, please…” Faith asked, but she knew she did it for nothing.

“It was a Halloween night,” he said with closed eyes and dry mouth. “Children had gone out with father Domingo. Or maybe it was father Clemence. Yes, Clemence was, I remember he had a wart on the nose. The children called him Krispie Clemence. A good man that Krispie Clemence.”

Faith settled herself sitting on the floor. She rested her head on the mattress and let the voice of her father tells the story repeated year after year.

“I had stayed in my office,” the old man continued. “I was writing my resignation and my request to get out of the order. I asked God so many times for a signal that answered my prayers. But I only got silence and wanted to throw in the towel. Then the doorbell rang.”

Faith moved into place. Next part was what made ​​her feel uncomfortable.

“I called Claudette, but I had forgotten she took the day off to attend to her nephews,” the old man said with emotion in his voice. “It took me a minute to get to the door. Surely children would want candy. I was wrong. Upon opening I found a little bassinet at my feet. And inside, it was you. The most beautiful creature I had ever seen in my life.”

Faith covered her face embarrassed.

“I looked around,” but there was nobody there, just a note in the basket that read, “WE PRAY GOD TO TAKE CARE OF OUR DAUGHTER. WE PUT OUR FAITH IN YOU” the letter said. I picked you up and I knew that God was sending me the sign I had been praying for. Those two lost souls put their faith in my hands, as the note said…

“So… I named you Faith. Ironic, isn’t it?” Faith whispered with her lips while her father was saying it aloud.

“Don’t make fun of your father,” he reprimanded her.

“How did you…?”

“I’m blind, child, but I still know when you’re making fun of me.”

“Sorry, dad.”

“Don’t be,” he smiled. “You are special, Faith. You’re meant to do great things.”

“Daaad…”

“Don’t talk back to an old dying man. A father knows these things.”

“All parents think the same of their children and that doesn’t make it true.”

“Oh, how stubborn you are! Listen to your father once in your life. You’re meant to do great things. I know it.”

“How do you know?”

“I just know. I have faith.”

“And you’ll always have me.”

Faith surrendered and embraced her father with love.

At that moment, surrounding her father she realized how thin he really was. She noticed his weak muscles trying to stand up, to hug her back, but losing the battle. He had trouble breathing. So much talking made him tired so she moved away quickly from him.

“You shouldn’t make efforts,” she said standing up.

“Talking to you is never an effort,” he said searching for the sound of her voice with his eyes closed.

“Lying is a sin, didn’t you know?”

“But you don’t believe in such things,” he replied. “As much as I try to make you understand.”

“Oh, shut up you old scoundrel.”

Faith kneeled to kiss the forehead of the elderly and noticed the fever.

“Sleep dad. Just a little,” she said as a farewell. “I’ll come back.”

When she closed the door, father Wright was already plunged into a deep sleep and father Jesus was patiently waiting outside of the room.

“He’s hot,” Faith whispered.

“I know,” Jesus replied. “We cannot lower the fever. The doctor said we cannot give him any more medication. I’m afraid we can only wait.”

Faith did not know what to say. So she said nothing and continued walking with her friend.

“I know you’re not a believer, but… you wanna go to the chapel for praying?”

“Jesus.”

“What?”

“Fuck off.”

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